Is it possible to handle bitcoin transactions without the internet? Not entirely right now but there have been some progress to accomplish that. In this article, I want to give basic information about why do we need offline bitcoin transactions with some projects related to this subject.
Internet is great! We all agree on this. So why bitcoin enthusiasts would anyone want to handle bitcoin transactions in an offline environment. Here are some reasons for that:
1.To be able to make offline bitcoin transactions would minimize both trust and dependencies for 3rd party software and hardware. At first it might seem like when you make a bitcoin transaction the only thing you use is a computer with a wallet app within but there are more hardware and software involved in between: computer, tablet, smart phone, ISP and bandwith, hardware, paper and metal wallets, modem, operating system, browser if web is the environment, node’s hardware and software, software of the exchange if used, auth software that exchange uses, other malicious softwares on the computer etc… Only the one of the hardware and software showing malicious behaviour may give you a lot of headache and raise problems that is irreversible or solvable. Main reason for that is bitcoin transsactions being unchangable /irreversible ,once they are verified by the bitcoin miners and added to the chain. Experienced bitcoiners never trust but verify and also know that number of the intermediaries are inversely proportional to the security level. Bitconi without internet is important because it removes many of these intermediaries from the equation.
2.Even though internet is now spread everywhere and widely used in developed countries, 52% of the population have access to it in the world and also considered as an expensive service especially if we look at low income of the people in developing counteries. When there is an internet connection, quality and bandwith of that is very poor. Considering all these negative issues, making offline bitcoin transactions might liberate people living in those places in a way. In addition, making a bitcoin transaction would be good when there is no internet around.
3.During a natural disaster like a flood or an earthquake or you are living in a country that is run by a dictator, all infrastructure might crash instantly. In these situations offline bitcoin transactions can be your saviour.
4.Internet service providers(ISP’s) collect all kind of informatiob of you without asking or informing you. Being offline prevents your information to be collected by a third party and also makes you and your node invisible if you are using one.
So, what do you need to make a succesful bitcoin transaction?
-A bitcoin transaction is considered to be done succesful if the required hash is delivered to the miners.
-These offline transactions should be able to be done with low energy consume from the related hardware especially in environment with no electricity.
-Bandwith and node’s bandwith can be a limiting factor for these offline transactions.
Projects about offline bitcoin transactions
Blockstream has 4 satellites all over the world which allow users to get the latest transactions and download the bitcoin database. These satellites are placed in such a way that they cover almost all of the world, lets the users download the bitcoin database just like getting a simple TV signal. It is a one way street, meaning you can’t send your transactions to the nodes -for now- to be approved by the miners to add the transaction to ledger. Required hardware to be able to recieve signal from Blockstream: a television satellite dish, SDR to listen frequencies over computer and a raspberry Pi. This hardware bundle costs $100. This is a highly reasonable price considering what you are accomplishing. When you are done with setting up the hardware, rotating the dish to a proper angle and downloading the required software, you are good to go to receive the bitcoin database.
It works with a computer or an android device by a bluetooth or usb connection which is used to send bitcoin transactions to the bitcoin network offline. goTenna accomplishes that by connecting to an another goTenna device that is in the 6 km range and has an internet connection. All goTenna’s are connected to each other within a range which a bitcoin transaction data is travelled trough them until there is a goTenna with an internet connection to be able to send the transaction to the bitcoin network through a node. I should state that to be able to use goTenna like that; 1. there should be other goTennas near you(within 6–10 km range) and also it requires an internet connection at the end, so the workflow is not entirely “offline”.
Data that is being sent to bitcoin network is divided into few parts and forwarded to a bitcoin node through few SMS’s. It can’t be done in one sms because sms character limit is not enough for a transaction data.
As you can see, even tough there is still an internet connection is needed in some part of the bitcoin transaction, with the help of developers that are focused on offline bitcoin transactions, that look like to change in a short period of time, as software related to offline transactions will be faster and easier to use, hardware will be smaller to provide a better user experience. Although bitcoin is born as a second layer application that is run on top of internet, sometimes it can be a stone wall for bitcoin to operate because of centralised structures and sometimes a spy web that is bad for anyone’s privacy. Now it is more clear that this revolution cannot be blocked or stopped in any case. Bitcoin has a bright future ahead.