As the Internet of Things (IoT) creates new devices for a variety of remote monitoring capabilities, the question naturally arises: how will the costs for these capabilities be covered? A Medium entry offers an example of how a device, the 21 Bitcoin Computer, can pay on demand for a service it provides.
The mining chip integrated into each 21 Bitcoin Computer turns electricity into digital currency by sending a service up to the network (hashing) in return for a stream of bitcoin.
The concept of a bitcoin-payable API creates the possibility for machines to provide services over the network in addition to hashing to earn bitcoin. Some services could prove more profitable than mining on a per-watt basis. Others could prove to be preferable to mining by relying on a distinctive property of the machine, or the machine’s operator.
The bitcoin-payable API is explained on the 21 Bitcoin Computer website under the “Marketplace” tab.
An application called Ping21.com is a way to rent machines on the grid for bitcoin.
By renting a group of machines with different IP addresses, it is possible to do things that can’t be done directly from a laptop. When running a website, it can be helpful to know if the website’s performance is uniform for its users. This is why companies like Pingdom run a global machine network — empirical data is the only way to know if a site is working as expected.
The Pingdom.com website notes: “Pingdom has a network of 60+ probe servers to test your website from all over the world, as often as every minute. We always double-check issues to filter out false alerts. When something breaks, you’re immediately alerted. Once alerted, our root cause analysis will help you identify what caused the issue so you can prevent any recurrences.”
With bitcoin-payable APIs, it is not necessary to own many probe servers to create such as service. The user can simply rent them for bitcoin.
With Ping21, a client (the buyer) sends an aggregator (in this case, the 21 Marketplace) an IP address along with bitcoin in exchange for distributed ping statistics from an aggregated network of small Ping21 servers. Each server is thereby monetizing its distinct IP, earning bitcoin by offering a service over the Internet. The individual servers are providing a service to earn bitcoin other than bitcoin mining.
Is it as profitable as mining? Uptime statistics usually have to be gathered on a second-by-second basis so that each server gets something like 86,400 pings per day or millions per year. Pingdom did 273 billion tests in 2015, a hefty bit of demand, even if each request is at a low price point. Knowledge of uptime and latency is commercially valuable, which justifies an enterprise SaaS subscription.
Ping21 could be the simplest example of renting a group of machines over the Internet for bitcoin and orchestrating them to perform a useful action. The action in this case is to determine what customers are experiencing on a given website by having their machines or nearby machines ping certain IPs to return aggregated statistics on uptime and latency.
The same task could not be accomplished solely by renting servers in the cloud, the homogeneous set of servers operating in centralized datacenters. Those servers have uptime characteristics and Internet connections likely to be different from those in offices and homes. To get this kind of data, it is necessary to also rent machines over the grid — the heterogeneous network of machines in offices and homes. Measurements from the cloud and the grid are complementary.
To get started buying and selling Ping21 calls, open a prompt on the 21 Bitcoin Computer (or download the soon-to-be-available free client) and execute the command to buy three distributed pings to the bitcoin.org website.
One command will issue bitcoin micropayments to three computers on the grid — in New Jersey, San Jose, and Montreal — to gather data on their uptime and latency vis-à-vis the bitcoin.org website.
In only a few lines of code, one can add a machine to the Bitcoin 21 Marketplace and be set to help others do latency monitoring and uptime in exchange for bitcoin. The Bitcoin 21 Marketplace code expects some downtime on residential connections, and it will return only successfully completed results to the buyer.
The ping21 performs the economically useful task of uptime monitoring and is generalizable to other distributed network applications. It further shows bitcoin has a bright future as the IoT wallet.
Images from 21 Inc.