One of the beauties of the cryptographic Bitcoin concept is its lack of banks. You’ve noticed, from your bank statements, merchant account reports, and credit card bills that classic banks take a cut of your money every time they touch it.
Banks have argued for years that it costs them to relay dollars and cents from one institution to another, and another, and another, and to send the stuff electronically around the world a few times, store some of it for a few days in a mail sack, and buy beach-side houses for executives. Counting the stuff has been so exhausting that they need a bit of R&R.
Banks, historically, have needed to take their couple of percent to pay for all of this.
Bitcoin then came along, with its Internet-driven version of barter, and showed us that it was possible to use just a couple of electrons to achieve the same goal: I send electron with agreed value, you receive electron with agreed value.
Banks gone, theoretically all anyone is paying for in a crypto-financial transaction is some computing power and the Internet.
Bitcoin via radio
Well, one organization thinks it might be time to get even more mercenary—by cutting out the Internet element too, for a large chunk of the transaction.
Finnish software company Koodilehto has said that it has started to transmit Bitcoins through terrestrial television transmitters. It calls the experimental technology Kryptoradio.
How the delivery mechanism works
Kryptoradio uses DVB-T, or Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial, a common digital television broadcast standard in Europe.
DVB-T sends multiplexed compressed digital audio and video in an MPEG stream.
Ninety TV stations in Finland, operated by Digta, transmit the Bitcoin data simultaneously, and it’s then capture-able throughout Finland, except in the northernmost regions of Lapland and Aland. Bitcoin-ers use a DVB-T receiver attached to a Linux computer.
DVB-T receivers can be purchased on eBay or electronics retail outlets in countries where DVB is used.
The cheap OTA receiver connects between a computer’s USB port and a small, usually magnetic-mount antenna.
Koodilehto computers interface with the Bitcoin block chain and convert into a data stream in real time. That’s then broadcasted one way over the TV network.
The broadcasted data includes Bitcoin transactions, blocks, and currency exchange rates. One advantage of this method, over Internet, is that the user doesn’t need an Internet connection to receive Bitcoins.
And the U.S.?
Any FM or amateur radio subcarriers with digital error correction could be used as alternatives to DVB-T in parts of the world, like the U.S., where DVB-T isn't a standard. The U.S. uses a broadcast technology called ATSC.
If all this has got you wondering "why bother?" Well, firstly, there’s an argument which suggests that Bitcoin shouldn’t be as dependent on the public Internet as it is now—the Internet is not particularly hardened to attacks.
Alternatives might include encrypted Internet circuits, like Tor.
But the problem with squirting crypto transactions down secure, proprietary, software-driven Internet networks like Tor, for example, is that dedicated software and a learning curve lessens the accessibility of Bitcoin to new users.
So a medium found in virtually every home in many parts of the world like digital TV could provide an affordable, easy-to-use block chain system for crypto-currencies.
The main problem is, of course, that it’s only one way. But still, according to Koodilehto, it could be used for any cash payment terminals. Anything from a cash register to a coin-operated self-service laundry.
The user sends Bitcoins normally using the Internet, and the laundry reacts to the payment without having to buy a facility Internet ISP subscription—or pay banks.
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