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IoT Startup Filament Hits Milestone for Blockchain Hardware

Filament, a startup that focuses on Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, announced Monday that it has successfully created a USB-compatible form factor for its blockchain semiconductor.

Co-founder and CEO Allison Clift-Jennings told CoinDesk that the device, based on Filament’s existing technology, allows technologists to launch blockchain projects simply by plugging it into a compatible port. The blockchain-native semiconductor was first announced in January and offers “the ability to sign and verify transactions at the silicon level.”

The new “Blocklet” device, she said, builds on that, allowing blockchain processors to interface with existing infrastructure.

“Many products, not all, [have] the ability to connect [to] USB. These are for manufacturing lines – we have a version of a USB product that plugs into the [on-board diagnostics] port in vehicles. It’s very much trying to drive toward machines being transactive in nature,” Clift-Jennings said in an interview.

Stepping back, the Filament chief executive said that there has been a shift in how people perceive blockchain in the last several years.

“A couple years ago we had the blockchain-native capability, but it was to sell IoT devices as sensors and we’d Trojan Horse the blockchain into it. We had a hard time getting people to commit even when they knew about blockchain,” she said, continuing “now we’re trying to massively hire more engineers and we want that chip in our product line.”

The move is similar to announcements made by IBM and Microsoft, she said, noting that IBM has announced a blockchain hardware chip and Microsoft has been promoting its Azure cloud computing framework.

That being said, “both of these chips don’t exist, so we don’t know” what the companies are specifically planning, according to Clift-Jennings. By contrast, “our devices can hold up to 16 keys, so you can have 16 blockchain implementations simultaneously.”

“We can deploy solutions on Microsoft Azure or IBM Bluemix, but that doesn’t give you the application you need. It doesn’t give you the smart contract to write things,” she said.

The startup has already produced a small number of the devices, but is in the process of ramping up production, Clift-Jennings said, adding “probably [in third quarter] people can have as many as they would like.”

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