While Bitcoin, a decentralised form of electronic money, has so far failed to enter the mainstream, the future of the technology behind Bitcoin, such as Blockchain, has never really looked better.
The Blockchain, a distributed “public ledger” system that records all transactions publicly and in numerous places, allows Bitcoin to avoid the “double spend” problem (one Bitcoin can’t be used repeatedly, like physical currency once you spend it its gone), lending it credibility and security. More importantly, it also negates the need for a “man in the middle”, such as a bank or a government to verify and process transactions.
21, a Bitcoin startup backed by legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel and firm Andreessen Horowitz has been cooking up some interesting projects based on Bitcoin and the Blockchain for a while now.
Earlier this year, 21 released a Bitcoin chip to allow anyone with an “internet-connected device” access to the network, turning all of us into Bitcoin miners (Bitcoin miners run the public ledgers and receive Bitcoins as payment):
Because bitcoin mining is embarrassingly parallel, mining can scale down to one core or up to hundreds. We’ve used this observation to develop a single core version of our technology that can be integrated into an existing chip. This means any vendor can take a chip performing a normal function (say video decoding or networking), add 21’s BitShare technology, and thereby enable the chip to continuously generate revenue simply by being connected to power and internet. Because this technique can replace or augment traditional methods for silicon monetization (namely chip sales and IP licensing), it has the potential to revolutionize the way chips are built and sold.
Whether someone with a small device and BitShare chip could really compete with professional miners running giant computers is an open question. But the chip opened up some interesting opportunities, such as defraying the cost of devices or subscriptions, or harnessing the combined power of underutilized devices (such as friends pooling their devices, all running chips, to mine bitcoin).
Now, 21 have released the 21 Bitcoin Computer.
Ostensibly, it’s a standalone computer, but it has a whole load more potential:
You can use the 21 Bitcoin Computer as a standalone machine (it’s a full Linux box), or you can leave it plugged into the wall to provide a steady stream of Bitcoin for an existing Mac, Windows, or Linux machine. We’ve bundled everything you need to get started, including a WiFi adapter, RPi 2, power supply, USB-to-laptop cable, and 128GB SD card.
It’s a computer that can be turned into a Bitcoin node – it comes installed with the Blockchain for your mining pleasure, but it is also a platform for you to build upon. 21 view it as the first step in a network of micropayments for services and machine to machine payments, just waiting for the internet of things.
But the technology is ultimately just a tool. Our long term goal is to return economic power to the individual. Specifically, we want to make it possible for you to turn your bright idea into passive income by selling Bitcoin-payable goods, games, and services over the Internet through a 21 Bitcoin Computer. And we want to use the success of the 21 Bitcoin Computer to help make Bitcoin the next fundamental system resource…
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