A developer team claims to have successfully carried out what they say is the first powerless, offline crypto transaction using just a portable hard drive, a solar powered battery and a shortwave radio. They speculate this could be used as a communication method by survivors in disaster- or war-zones when normal communication infrastructure is down.
Ever thought of other use-cases for crypto apart from as a payment system? This might give you cause for thought. A team of developers have announced from a twitter account under the handle @nixops, that they have successfully transacted using Burstcoin on the blockchain without using an internet or a mains electricity connection. They speculate that this could be used as a “proof-of-life” identifier for disaster survivors or those living in war zones, for whom normal communication methods are down.
Whilst this isn’t the first time crypto has been sent using a radio burst, it is believed to be the first time it has been done without a fixed power supply. The team posted an intriguing picture on twitter displaying the hardware they used to make the transaction – a curiously analogue set of equipment consisting of a solar battery, a portable hard drive and a shortwave radio.
— "Daniel Jones" (@nixops) September 16, 2018
The ins and outs of the technical side of actually making this happen haven’t been disclosed by the team, however in a subsequent blog post, “nixops” have expanded on what they believe the value of such a use-case is.
The post’s author writes that surviving hurricane Katrina in 2005 served as a lesson in showing them how tenuous the systems we live by are. The use-case is highlighted as the ability to communicate from a location where normal channels are – for whatever reason – not open, i.e. warzones or disaster zones. The former is seemingly more the focus of Nixops than the latter.
“Most of us take for granted living in an environment of freedom and peace among those things that we take for granted is communication technology … What if under guise of oppressive government regime, any and all transmission of data we take for granted could cost someone their life, disclose their safe place, or worse disclose others that may be with them.”
The project was devised as an answer to the CallForCode challenge, which challenges developers to use existing technologies to create relief solutions for natural disasters. The post stresses that certain systems are already in place in known disaster areas. However, this use of crypto would potentially make fairly ordinary devices into potential SOS signal technologies, broadening the abilities of many to be able to communicate with loved ones through disaster situations.
The notion is that the sender would use crypto, in this case Burstcoin, to send a predetermined transaction over shortwave radio frequency to a family member with an optional message in order to show that they are alive. The importance of the immutability of the blockchain is highlighted here; once the message is broadcast the recipient has immutable proof that the sender is alive.
Whilst the philosophy is admirable, you can’t help thinking this requires a lot of pre-planning on the part of those involved in anticipating the situation which might require such “proof-of-life” signals to be sent, not to mention a hell of a lot of swotting up on how to actually do it. On the other hand, with natural disasters set to rise as the global temperature increases, fate might just reward those who take the necessary precautions to safeguard themselves ahead of time. If you’ve already started digging that bunker in your garden in preparation for the scorching heatwaves, hurricanes or nuclear winter that may be on the way, you might want to think about adding a shortwave radio, a solar battery and a portable hard drive to your supplies list as well.
Image Source: “Flickr”
Alex has been putting words on paper since he was old enough to hold a pen; when he bought his first bitcoin in January 2017, those words discovered their place within crypto as well. He holds a master’s degree in international relations from Leiden University in the Netherlands, and his special expertise lies in European cryptocurrency regulation.