Last year, bitcoin miners earned a record $4 million in revenue per hour as the price of bitcoin skyrocketed to an all-time high of $69,000, according to Bitcoin Evolution Data by blockchain analytics company Glassnode. The amount was the highest hourly miner turnover in Bitcoin history. Since then, the price of Bitcoin has fallen to $39,827 at the time of writing.
Bitcoin mining is about solving complex mathematical problems to create new bitcoins. Bitcoin miners are later rewarded with a fraction of Bitcoin for each problem solved.
Bitcoin mining will consume 120 gigawatts (GW) per second in 2020, according to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index. That works out to about 63 terawatt hours (TWh) per year and thus increases annual CO2 emissions, which leads to global warming. The CBECI further notes that the amount of energy consumed by bitcoin mining today is equivalent to Argentina’s annual carbon footprint.
To address the environmental impact of bitcoin energy consumption, Microsoft is proposing to develop a cryptocurrency mining system that would allow people to mine cryptocurrencies by “monitoring people’s brain activity and other personal biometrics.” Microsoft’s idea will eliminate the need for specialized cryptocurrency mining equipment.
In 2018 Microsoft filed a patent entitled “Cryptocurrency system using body activity data”. The patent can be found on the Google Patents website. According to extensive documentation, the latest crypto mining method would use the data obtained from a person’s physical activity using the latest Proof-of-Work system. The patent reads:
“Instead of the massive computational work that some traditional cryptocurrency systems require, data generated based on the user’s physical activity can be proof of work, and therefore a user can solve the computationally difficult problem unconsciously.”
In 2020, for unknown reasons, Microsoft decided to abandon the patent. Is it possible that Microsoft’s decision has something to do with the number of bitcoins left to mine? As of April 2020, 19 million bitcoins have been circulated and two million have yet to be mined.
The patent describes an “overarching system” in which a blockchain provides a server with a computational task that is passed to a sensor attached to a person. The mining system would involve connecting a device to various sensors on the body that detect the activity required by the user to generate the cryptocurrency. The “sensor” can be a heart rate monitor, thermal sensor, camera, fMRI scanner, or “any other sensor or scanner capable of measuring or detecting physical activity or scanning the human body.”
Microsoft describes different brainwaves (gamma, beta, theta, delta) and how they can be measured “to assess the electrical activity of the brain, such as B. deep concentration”.
“For example, a brain wave or body heat emitted by the user when the user performs the task provided by an information service provider, such as B. showing an ad or using certain internet services, are used in the mining process,” the patent states.
After being assigned a blockchain proof-of-work task by the server, the user device solves it based on the “physical activity data” generated by the person. The patent states that certain data could be generated, for example, by watching an advertisement for a certain time or by using a certain social network or website.
The data is then fed back to the cryptocurrency system, which uses the user-generated hash, for example, based on “whether the vector(s) received from [the] User devices have one or more mathematical properties set by [the] Cryptocurrency System/Network”.
This could be done by determining “whether the physical activity vector(s) bears a resemblance (or relationship) to a legitimate vector (or a baseline vector) established by an algorithm of [the] cryptocurrency system.”
If everything falls into place, the user will be rewarded with cryptocurrency for their work. The patent also included a diagram of all the parts tied together.
“Human body activity related to a task provided to a user can be used in a mining process of a cryptocurrency system. A server may provide a task to a user’s device communicatively coupled to the server.”
A diagram from Microsoft’s patent describing the overall system.