Listen to the interview with Daniel Jones and Tamara, the Proof of Life developers, on the 9 October 2018 edition of the BitcoinNews.com Daily Podcast
Bitcoin users Daniel Jones and Tamara have developed what they call “Proof of Life”, a completely off-grid method to send cryptocurrency transactions using a Raspberry Pi which runs a full node of the Burst cryptocurrency, a solar panel, and a pair of shortwave radios.
Speaking to Bitcoin News in an exclusive interview, Jones and Tamara described their success in completing a cryptocurrency transaction without connecting to the network via usual channels like the internet.
Jones said, “Proof of Life with a chain has been done before… the difference here is this is solar-powered and it uses a device which anyone can obtain, and therefore anyone can do this for a reasonably cheap price”.
According to Jones, Bitcoin itself has been sent with a radio in 2009, 2011 and attempted by businesses in 2014, although the attempts were poorly documented. The technology is already available on code repositories to send Bitcoin over radio, if people wanted to.
However, Bitcoin is not ideal for Proof of Life. One of the points of Proof of Life is it can mine the Burst cryptocurrency on the Raspberry Pi, helping secure the network. Burst uses Proof of Capacity, which just requires hard drive space, while Bitcoin’s Proof of Work needs computer processing power. Proof of Capacity is much less energy intensive than Proof of Work, which is important when using a solar panel as a power source.
Sending crypto without broadcasting one’s location
Proof of Life is a way to send cryptocurrency without connection to a power grid or internet connection, however, a gateway back to the internet is required at some point for the transaction to propagate back to the network and validate. Theoretically, it might be possible to create a cryptocurrency that completely functions on full nodes that use radio, such as in a remote village or in developing economies where infrastructure is limited.
However, sending crypto off-grid isn’t the main point of Proof of Life. Jones says, “This is just for a deadman’s switch in an environment where you don’t want to disclose where you are because if you turn your cell phone on, someone might blow your house up because you’re in Syria”.
In war situations, the internet is often down and there’s no way to contact family without a radio but if it’s a particularly contentious situation, disclosing names and locations over radio can be a risky decision. With Proof of Life, a user can send a crypto transaction with no other info to show that they are alive.
In protracted situations of distress, a user of Proof of Life can keep sending a single transaction periodically to prove that they are alive. Should the transactions stop, it could be a way of alerting family or friends that something has happened and it’s time to go look for them, or time to enact that person’s will and testament. This is the concept of a deadman’s switch. People generate deadman’s switches in their everyday life without realizing it, such as posting regularly on Facebook, or ordering a pizza from the same store at a regular frequency.
Asked if this technology could be used for space applications, Jones claims that crypto has already been sent to space and there are satellite nodes. He said, “Wherever you can send a packet (with radio) you can send crypto”. Therefore, crypto can reach space technically but the difficult part is establishing a gateway back to the main internet at the receiving end. Additionally, latency due to the large distances in space is a problem, which would cause crypto transactions to take arduously long to confirm.
Radio laws have some extreme gray areas according to Jones, especially since sending encrypted packets over radio is 100% illegal in the United States. This limits what can be done with crypto over a radio to the most vanilla transactions involving crypto going between public keys, and unencrypted messages attached to the transactions are also allowed. Additionally, conducting business over amateur radio is 100% illegal. Jones sent 1 Burst for the Proof of Life test, and that alone raised some controversy since it’s technically a monetary transaction, although only worth USD 0.01.
Jones says he’s looking into combining the Raspberry Pi, shortwave radio and the solar panel into a single device so people can buy it and be able to conduct Proof of Life transactions. He stresses he is not doing this for business purposes and hasn’t made any money on doing this.
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Image Courtesy: Daniel Jones