Bitcoin’s best funded startup offers marketplace for user collected data

21 Inc. is a privately-held bitcoin hardware company that launched in May 2015, having raised over $121 million in venture capital, more than any other company in the bitcoin space to date. The company's stated goal is “putting a bitcoin miner in every device and in every hand.”

The team has also been busy creating a tutorial library on their website recently, teaching not only how to use their hardware and software products, but how to use them to earn an income.

The latest project, sensor21, is a data-selling application. The project's tutorial involves adding a tiny sensor to a 21 computer, which can then measure air pressure, altitude, and temperature. That data can then be sold on 21’s open marketplace.

21 Inc sensor exampleThe project requires a $10 hardware sensor component (pictured) and a DIY 21 computer of some kind, which can be built for as little as $70.

21's flagship product, the 21 Bitcoin Computer, can also be used. The platform sells for $400, but it’s bitcoin mining hardware isn't required for this project.

“There are a number of other sensor types you might want to use to generate machine-buyable data,” the project page encourages, and a vast selection of sensors already exist. Many of these have already been added to inexpensive platforms, like the Raspberry pi and Arduino.

21 co“While there are many similarities in approach, each sensor manufacturer approaches communication, data capture, and data transmission differently. We will describe how sensor21 works so that you can apply the same concepts to another device.”

- 21 Inc.

The 21 marketplace is one of the first “virtual private marketplaces,” according to 21. Getting onto the network is free and there are only a few stipulations. “Every device in this network has 21 installed, has a supply of bitcoin, and has the ability to buy and sell with other endpoints,” the 21 website says. While the market is currently restricted to 21 users, the team is working to make the market more open and decentralised.

“The value from the sensor comes from the fact that it is not locked up in a datacenter like a cloud computer, but out in the real world and part of a compute grid. In this case, the specific location of the sensor is what adds value; put another way, the value is in the decentralization.”

- 21 Inc

“Sensor21 nodes have a lot of value in massive scales where data analysts can run operations on millions of data points and come to valuable conclusions,” explains Tyler Pate, 21 Engineer and author of the Sensor21 project. “On the other hand, an app like an eigenvalue calculator needs only one endpoint to provide valuable data.”

Tyler Pate“There are already a lot of devices in the world packed with sensors (cellphones for example), and it won’t be long before devs are hooking up bitcoin payable endpoints to all types of data.”

- Tyler Pate

Alongside Sensor21, a DIY 21 computer can run a multitude of other projects. Ping21 sells uptime monitoring data, and can be run simultaneously, generating multiple income streams from a single device. “The Ping21 and Sensor21 releases are designed to get developers excited about future applications with the 21 library and marketplace,” Pate explains.

Other than the hardware, a little coding knowledge is the only barrier to entry in order to make these projects work. They're as easy to deploy as simply adding the hardware, typing a few commands, and then choosing your price for the data.

Once a device is at full capacity a user can always add more inexpensive DIY 21 devices, or simply upgrade to a more powerful platform. The 21 operating system is already compatible with Mac OSX and Debian-Linux based systems. The company says that Windows, Android, and iOS are all in the works too.

However, as there are currently only 83 apps in the entire decentralized marketplace, generally supplying one or two types of data, the pricing structure and viability of earning an income have yet to be proven.

Pate refers to the new data type being sold as “graph data,” which is, unlike cloud data, generated in a distributed manner.  “Moving the collection of data from centralized organizations to individuals who can capitalize on geographic advantages is such a powerful concept,” he explained. “Eventually, the sensors themselves become commoditized, but the geographic location of the sensor holds all the monetary value.”

“The main point here is distributed data collection, or ‘data mining,’ whether the data is physical (sensor data) or digital (network latency from a specific location).”

- Tyler Pate

Gathering this kind of data may be core to 21 Inc.'s status as an Internet of Things hardware company. The Bitcoin incentive layer makes it much more likely that a large sampling of users will generate the data and sell it in an efficient manner. A peer to peer network with peer to peer money enables this level of data distribution, Pate explained, which opens up new doors and use cases we haven't imagined before.

With such a low barrier to entry, a range of new markets may arise “Take a use case where a car manufacturer like Tesla wants to get more information on usage of their vehicles,” Pate theorized. “A consumer could opt-in to anonymized data collection on usage statistics, and the car manufacturer can exchange this data for a small amount of bitcoin. It's very valuable data for training self-driving car algorithms, for example.”

“This use case becomes so much more powerful when parking meters are also bitcoin enabled, and your car can then use the bitcoin earned to autonomously pay a parking meter to use the parking space,” says Pate.

“The low-level intricacies of transacting bitcoin will be completely abstracted away from the user. From the user’s perspective, all you have to do is opt-in to sharing data, and you can get “free” parking.”

- Tyler Pate

Before graph data becomes big business, far more people will have to join the marketplace. One possible way that could happen is for entrepreneurs to sell appliances that are fully pre-configured, allowing anyone to plug them in and generate many small bitcoin income streams with no effort besides keeping them powered and online. “I could see this happening in the future,” Pate told BraveNewCoin. 

“As soon as we have the infrastructure in place to automate transactions and have our machines communicate and negotiate on our behalf, then this network will absolutely explode with usage and applications,” Pate contends. “Everything we are doing right now is working towards this autonomous, machine-to-machine payable infrastructure.” 

-Tyler Pate


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