Researchers have found out that the technology used by Bitcoin, a virtual currency or cryptocurrency, could help people cut their electricity bills. It has been observed that a smart plug, developed by technologists working at Accenture using the blockchain technology employed in Bitcoin, has the ability to adjust the power consumption on a minute by minute basis.
The blockchain technology can be defined as the automated ledger that strengthens the Bitcoin and keeps track as to where Bitcoin is being spent or swapped. The smart plug works in a similar manner. It shops for power suppliers, identifies one that provides power at a cheaper tariff and then signs up with the chosen supplier. According to Accenture, people that earn low incomes and pay for their power directly could benefit by using it.
Head of the team at the research laboratory in France that worked on the smart plug project, Emmanuel Viale, said that the plug employed a modified version of the basic blockchain technology used in Bitcoin in order to make it more responsive and active. In fact, the work carried out by the Accenture team has been to modify the Bitcoin technology to enable the smart plug to negotiate deals on behalf of the owner instead of just performing resolution and confirmation of transaction records.
The blockchain is essentially a public record of all of the Bitcoin transactions executed so far. It grows continuously as new transactions keep getting added to it when blocks of transactions are completed. The Bitcoin blocks get added to the existing blockchain not only in a linear manner, but also in a chronological order. Mr. Viale noted that everything depends on how a logic or business behavior is programmed into the blockchain. He added that it essentially boils down to embedding a smart contract into the plug using the Bitcoin technology.
The prototype of the smart plug that has been created also works well with other household gadgets that need to track the use of electricity. During times when the demand is high or low, the plug searches for energy tariffs and makes use of the modified blockchain technology to switch over from one supplier to other if it identifies a supplier that provides energy at a lower rate.
Mr. Viale also pointed out that the system created by Accenture may only be a proof of the concept, but it has the potential to help many people in the lower income group who pay their energy charges based on meter reading. Accenture’s research shows that the ability of the smart plug to change suppliers quickly would lower income people in the UK save more than £660m annually.
According to Mr. Viale, the blockchain-based systems that are capable of acting on behalf of their owners might also prove themselves to be useful as the “Internet of Things” becomes more omnipresent. This is because the management of a number of gadgets is a tricky issue and calls for the implementation of a more centralized system.
Martin Garner, a mobile services expert, working with the CCS Insight, an analyst firm, said that blockchain technology has started finding use in a number of different areas, which includes share trading, land registry claims and fishing rights databases. According to him, there are two reasons as to why this technology is found to be attractive as far as the “Internet of Things” is concerned.
The first and foremost reason is that the Bitcoin technology eliminates the dependence not only on one supplier, but also an ecosystem, especially because some users have expressed concerns about key players on the Internet creating potential dominance, for example, the Amazon-of-Things or the Google-of-Things.
According to Martin Garner, the second attraction is the ability of the Bitcoin technology to enable autonomous trading between things. For example, the appliances that you have in your home could be set up to place order for supplies (or re-order supplies) from an approved list of suppliers.
Of late, the blockchain technology that supports Bitcoin has been making a great deal of news. Banks think that the technology could impact the financial transactions in the future, while diamond miners are hopeful that it could contribute to stopping the conflict diamonds trade. Further, the chief scientific adviser in the UK has encouraged the government to make good use of the Bitcoin technology.