Many security-conscious Bitcoin users consider cold storage – on a system physically disconnected from the Internet – as the safest way to store their coins. The downside is that, if you keep your coins on an offline PC at home, you lose access when you leave home. Enter Bitsmart Wallet, a cheap, secure, open source DIY hardware wallet prototype developed by Bitcoin entrepreneur and software developer Ronald Bell. The Bitsmart wallet is powered by two Raspberry Pi credit-card sized computers – one for cold storage and one for online transactions.
“The BitSmart Wallet device is two small computers in one package. One computer connects to the internet via WiFi and is used for generating and broadcasting transactions. This is the ‘hot device.’ The other computer is the ‘cold device’ which stores encrypted copies of all of your private keys and is used for signing transactions. The cold device is never connected to the internet, which keeps your coins safe from hackers and thieves.
The two devices communicate with each other via a shared Database, where transactions are prepared for broadcast to the Bitcoin network. This system of isolation prevents hackers from remotely installing wallet-stealing software on your machine and accessing your private keys. Private key encryption also keeps your Bitcoins safe if your BitSmart Wallet device is ever lost or stolen. (Ronald Bell)”
The Raspberry Pi – which can be bought online from the Raspberry Pi Foundation site or via distributors, for less than 50 dollars – runs Linux and several programming languages, with Python supported as main development language.
“It is a capable little computer which can be used in electronics projects, and for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn how computers work, how to manipulate the electronic world around them, and how to program. (Raspberry Pi Foundation)”
Rendell has released a first video demonstration where he shows how to use the portable Bitsmart wallet to send Bitcoin and pay Bitcoin-friendly retailers on the spot. The device offers a user experience that is similar to an Android or iOS wallet app, while maintaining the security of an offline wallet.
Of course this first prototype is still bulky, with a non optimized form factor, and not ready to be released as a consumer product. However, this open source DIY device built with inexpensive but robust and proven off-the shelf components could trigger a wave of innovation and evolution in secure, user friendly Bitcoin wallets for consumers.
“I think this kind of system could be the future of Bitcoin wallets, because it’s both secure and convenient, and it’s simple enough for non-technical users,” says Rendell in the video. “I am going to release all the source code, hardware information, and a build guide next. Feel free to build your own, test it out, play around with the source code, and see what you think of this type of hardware wallet solution. For updates you can follow me at rdbell on Twitter.”
Photo courtesy of Ronald Bell and Shutterstock.