IoT & Bitcoin

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There’s renewed interest in  Bitcoin , one of the most popular crypto currency created since 2009, especially the technology behind it called the “block-chain”. With uncertainty in most financial markets, no surprise that more & more people are looking into bitcoin investments. You can check out the current price of BTC here.  bitcoin-infographic_5029189c9cbaf

The technology concept underlying of using thousands  of distributed network computers to perform number crunching , sharing computation resources is not new. One of the earliest effort is,  the Internet’s first general-purpose distributed computing project. The first challenge solved at 13:25 GMT on 19-Oct-1997 was RSA Labs’ RC5-32/12/7 56-bit secret-key problem , where after 265 days, 4000 active teams were processing over 7 billion keys each second at an aggregate computing power equivalent to more than 26 thousand Pentium 200’s or over 11 thousand PowerPC 604e/200’s from over 500 thousand unique IP addresses. In all,  34 quadrillion keys were computed, before finding the winning key. Bitcoin “mining” process uses another encryption calculation called SHA-256 hash  (more on crypto),  is intentionally designed to be resource-intensive and difficult so that the number of blocks found each day by miners remains steady. As you can imagine in the previous example, it will probably take many years for a few computers to crunch the numbers to come with the correct “key” , so very large distributed computing power is networked together to create massive computing pools, the Bitcoin network . The total computing power needed is so great, there are estimates that the total power consumption of the Bitcoin network is 215 Megawatts (MW) per day,  or enough to power 173,000 average US households for a day. The cost of electricity & mining hardware ,therefore, might be higher than the value of the bitcoins mined. However, power consumption vs computing power problem is continuously being address by “miners” moving from different rigs or hardware architecture, from regulars PC’s, to GPU’s and recently to FPGA’s & ASIC. In the era of IoT, small computing devices if loaded with the specific Bitcoin software can perform  the calculations during their idle time & at the same time acquire data from sensors periodically. This is already being trial & tested by IBM IoT blockchain. More testing & proof-of-concept is required , where the same technology can be the “holy grail” to address other issues like security, identification & also building a very secure IoT inter-operable network.

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