In their meeting with members of the U.S. Congress, Coin Center had the opportunity to tell representatives what’s interesting about Bitcoin, discuss federal policy around the new technology, and address concerns about scaling, privacy, and tax collection.
But for Coin Center’s Director of Research, Peter Van Valkenburgh, and the center’s Executive Director, Jerry Brito, explanations are no substitute for demonstration.
They wanted to really show members of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus the magic and seamlessness of microtransaction payments using Bitcoin.
So they produced a Lightning-powered candy dispensing machine and let the congresscritters buy some candy with bitcoin.
The crypto vending machine was donated by a Swiss developer named David Knezić.
His Twitter profile adorably says :
“I like candy. And Bitcoin.”
And his Twitter stream is full of videos of his candy vending machine creations dispensing candy in exchange for micropayments of bitcoin made by smartphone.
Coin Center’s Neeraj Agrawal says :
‘One of the things made uniquely possible by cryptocurrency is microtransactions–tiny transactions without a middleman.
To visualize this concept, we used a lightning enabled candy dispenser.
We were able to show the process of sending tiny amounts of bitcoin from our phones to the vending machine and watch it dispense candy in real time.
The network fees were 1 satoshi per transaction. Real time demonstrations like these are always better than simply describing a process.’
1 satoshi per transaction. Beautiful. That’s probably less money out of your transaction than a lick’s worth of sugar off the hard candy shell of one of those M&Ms you get for it.
The Lightning Network speeds up the clearing time for a Bitcoin transaction enough to make it a viable way to charge customers for vending machine purchases.
It also increases the volume of transactions that could be handled by the Bitcoin blockchain, allowing for the scalability that would be necessary for every vending machine in the world and every point of cash exchange to accept bitcoin.
Imagine a world so seamless you don’t even have to get your phone out to make the purchase. You press a button on the candy dispenser and it senses your phone close by and charges an app the bitcoin for the candy. Or you just grab all your groceries or merchandise and just walk out of the store with it and one of your wallets is charged automatically.
This is the world that cell phone companies dreamed of with the advent of bluetooth technology, but there were still a lot of missing pieces to bring that consumer experience to market, and maybe one of them was cryptocurrency and the blockchain.
The microeconomy creates an entirely new world. Think of all the content online. Written words. Images. Videos. Some of it’s out there free and supported charitably like Wikipedia. Some is next to ads like on YouTube. Some is behind paywalls like the Wall Street Journal.
Soon Bitcoin and second layer technologies that are fine-tuning it into an infrastructure that can handle micropayments will enable a micro-subscription model.
It will be an entire new category of content that isn’t free, but costs so little that enough people are willing to pay it, spurring more productivity. This will continue the drive and acceleration of creativity and production in the digital marketplace.
My two satoshis: Probably the best thing Congress can do about cryptocurrencies is let the engineers, the entrepreneurs, and the artists lead the way.