A Venezuelan group is developing Locha, a decentralized network that does not depend on the Internet to conduct transactions with Bitcoin, Cointelegraph reported on Tuesday, January 21.
The system, which uses radio waves to allow transactions, was born in response to frequent interruptions in the supply of electricity and internet in Venezuela. Locha Mesh is an open source project led by Randy Brito, a member of the Bitcoin Venezuela organization.
The group is developing two devices, called Turpial and Harpia, that will allow anyone to connect to the Bitcoin blockchain using long-range radio waves. Turpial is the simplest version of the radio transmitter, which operates at distances of one to two kilometers in urban areas. Harpia is a more limited radio module for use in small computers, such as Raspberry Pi.
Both devices were developed to be portable and run on batteries. Your application is not limited to Bitcoin: any other blockchain can be integrated with it, as well as messaging and file transfer systems, such as IPFS.
Realistic internet alternative
Locha Mesh devices work as an alternative method to transfer data to the Internet. Its main use case is for critical situations, such as in Venezuela and Iran, where infrastructure problems or government restrictions generally lead to prolonged Internet interruptions.
But although the physical inability to perform transactions is one aspect, censorship resistance is another. Brito developed a discussion about the system with members of the Monero community:
"We are creating something for situations where you do not have Internet, due to lack of infrastructure, selective censorship or if you want to remain anonymous, so as not to expose your residential / telephone IP address, this is linked to your identity," he explained.
Despite selling its own devices, Locha aims to make it possible for technology enthusiasts to create a compatible mesh transmitter. The software is open source and accessible to all.
Obstacles to adoption
A weakness in Locha Mesh's proposal is that it still requires access to the Internet at some point in the network to connect to global cryptocurrency nodes. Although, even during the Internet shutdown in Iran, some remained connected to the global network, it is unclear whether a complete Locha network would continue to work.
Brito explained that the network would not necessarily depend on the nodes connected to the Internet through a landline. Users with satellite dishes could also act as gateways and transmit data within the Locha loop.
When asked if users in countries in crisis like Venezuela could buy and access the device, Brito replied:
“We do not expect the price to be so high, our goal is to make the device as portable and accessible as possible. It will be possible to buy them from any country. In places where it cannot be sent, we will have a lot of documentation so that people can create theirs and some people may want to take some of our Turpial devices to places where they cannot reach ourselves. ”
However, team progress remains slow. A device ready for production is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2020, after which an additional delay in manufacturing configuration is expected. Currently, the team is seeking financing, and Brito points out that additional resources would accelerate the development of the project.
"We think so. With more funds, we could obtain hardware and software ready for production before, in the same way that we were able to obtain our own hardware revisions and the necessary software firmwares with the investments and donations we received throughout 2019. ”