It seems one of the long-awaited “killer apps” of Bitcoin is almost here. A new video on YouTube shows off a Bitcoin Wi-Fi hotspot that can receive Bitcoin payments.
This means that anyone with a connection to the Internet could soon be able to share their connection with complete strangers in exchange for bitcoins. Although the demo of the concept in the video is quite basic, it gives us a glimpse of how Bitcoin may be able to feel the mesh networks of the future.
Right now, the Bitcoin Wi-Fi hotspot is based on a Rasberry Pi. The small, cheap computer is plugged into a home router, and a Wi-Fi antenna enables it to share that Internet connection with anyone else within the antenna’s range. When someone on another computer attempts to connect to the hotspot, they’ll be prompted with a message requesting a Bitcoin payment before they can access the Internet. The current demo allows for payments for various time frames, such as a few hours or a few days, but it’s possible that payment channels could improve options for Bitcoin Wi-Fi users in the future. It should be remembered that this project is still a work-in-progress.
Users are mainly thinking about sharing their Internet access with their neighbors or strangers in the park right now, but it’s possible that this sort of technology could be used to bootstrap much larger mesh networks in the future. One of the main issues with mesh networks right now is there is not much of an incentive to join the network unless you’re someone who is extremely interested in the idea of cutting out ISPs. If this kind of system were implemented on a massive scale, it could create the right incentives for people to allow others to connect easily to their devices for the purposes of routing traffic to someone else. While these kinds of mesh networks would likely start on a small scale in larger cities, it is unknown how large they could grow once people realize they can get paid for routing traffic on a new, decentralized network.
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