Grid Vs. Cloud: Earn Bitcoin By Monitoring Environmental Data

Lester Coleman
May 27, 2016

The Internet has fostered the development of machines that can collect sensor-generated data and sell it in return for passive bitcoin payments, 21 Inc stated on Medium. There are presently two paradigms by which this process works: grid computing and cloud computing.

The grid refers to a group of heterogeneous machines in offices and homes that different economic actors manage. The cloud refers to the homogenous servers in data centers that single entities like Google or Amazon manage.

Since the launch of Amazon Web Services, the cloud has been the better-known of the two paradigms (cloud and grid) and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

What Hinders The Grid?

The grid concept has existed for decades, but it has not been adopted widely. The two best large-scale grid computing applications are SETI@Home and Folding@Home. These are academic projects that essentially “pay” status to a distributed network of volunteer computers by displaying a leaderboard of the top compute time contributors.

Grid computing is hampered by the absence of a workable micropayments system, according to one hypothesis. It was hard to have automated, speedy, global payments before digital currency came into existence.

But if it were possible to use micropayments to rent out bits of a machine’s time, and not only those in a Google or Amazon data center, new applications become possible.

The Value Proposition

Computers must have a distinctive value proposition to have something on the grid that is worth selling. The grid computers will not typically have better price/performance ratios for storage, memory or compute compared to their cloud counterparts. However, grid computers have the advantage of existing in the real world and being owned by real people as opposed to being isolated in data centers.

Someone with a working micropayments system could rent out grid computers to perform in the real world. Examples of this are:

• Software sensor. One could rent out a distributed set of real IP addresses that monitor web latency and uptime.
• Hardware sensor. It is possible to rent out a geographically distributed set of measurement devices that record sensor data on the environment. One example of this is sensor21.
• Software actuator. A distributed set of real IP addresses can be rented out to benchmark a website’s performance. This would require email validation to confirm domain ownership to shield against DDoS attacks.
• Hardware actuator. Drones owned by different operators can be rented to mass in a specific location. Fun settings for this scenario include drone races, movie shoots or cryptocurrency-powered super-villainry.

How To Make It Work

To allow such applications, the following are needed:

• A digital currency that is capable of fine-grained micropayments.
• A marketplace or discovery point for computers on the grid to buy and sell from one another.
• Client software on every grid node allowing the nodes to buy and sell services for bitcoin.

All of these things have been built. Consider how one would use bitcoin micropayments to rent out grid notes that sell sensor data.

Bitcoin For Environmental Data

Sensor21 offers a hardware/software package that shows how to store, measure and resell sensor data in exchange for bitcoin mircopayments. Sensor21 measurements are available with the free 21 software. The measurements can be sold if a hardware sensor has been deployed.

How To Buy Sensor21Data

Once 21 has been installed, one can buy sensor21 data by buying distributed sensor measurements at the command line.

In one example, the purchaser pays 100 Satoshis to purchase five units of pressure data in Pascals from a small bitcoin computer-connected weather station in the San Francisco area. It is possible to see which cities have active sensors by running this command, costing 0 Satoshis.

Also read: Earn bitcoins by wearing branded clothes and taking selfies

Selling Sensor21 Data

Buying sensor21 data requires only the 21 software and some bitcoin, but selling sensor21 data is more complex since a physical sensor attached to a computer running 21 is required.

Instructions for setting up a sensor on a bitcoin computer or a DIY bitcoin computer are available.

Once the hardware is assembled, commands are run.

After the commands are run, it is possible to collect sensor data and serve it on a machine-payable endpoint. It is possible to publish the endpoint to the 21 Marketplace.

Anybody with the 21 software can now buy your endpoint on the 21 Marketplace. Your measurements aggregate with others, so a buyer only has to hit one endpoint (

With this short group of commands, it is possible to turn a small sensor into a passive income stream. The sensor’s value comes from the fact that it is not isolated in a data center like a cloud computer is.

It is out in the real world, and it is part of a compute grid. In this particular case, the sensor’s location is what brings value. Its value is in its decentralization.

Numerous Possible Applications

The sensor21 represents an intentionally easy demonstration that involves only a longitudinal collection of pressure and temperature, but it is possible to generalize it to less perceptible metrics like water quality, air quality, radiation, pollution, and more. It is also possible to generalize it to buy and sell other types of sensor data that a large phone network or other IoT devices acquire.

As a hardware sensor grid computing application, the sensor21 complements the software sensor demonstrated.

Featured image from Medium/21.

Last modified (UTC): May 27, 2016 10:12

Lester Coleman

Lester Coleman is a media relations consultant for the payments and automated retailing industries.