Earlier in June we wrote about how Crypto Bikes May Hit The Road This Autumn. Looks like crypto-pedaling is not very far off in the future.
Matthias Steinig, a German developer whose focus seems to be on the development of Lightning Network-enabled technologies to serve consumers, has created two projects to date which are notable.
The first is an e-commerce solution which supports Lightning transactions in the traditional web store format. A demonstration of it is live here.
The second is perhaps more interesting and certainly more novel: a rentable electric bicycle that allows the user to pay for “boosts” (wherein the electric motor kicks in and the cyclist can do less work) for tiny amounts of bitcoin which is only possible because of the Lightning Network.
Steinig announced his invention on Twitter recently and published the code on GitHub
— Matthias Steinig ⚡ (@leblitzdick) October 10, 2018
Dubbed “Lightning Bike,” the system is simple enough: the user makes a payment of as little as 250 satoshis(currently less than 2 cents) for one minute, and the battery kicks on for a “boost.” That’s really the long and short of it from the user perspective.
In the words of Steinig himself:
“Once the payment has been made, the system will power on for the selected time and one can start riding the bike. After the end of the paid time, the system switches off and the power supply is interrupted – one can continue riding, but only with muscle power. The program returns to the home screen and you can book new time again.
Under the Hood
Lightning Bike’s software component is written in standard, modern Python, and all of the code used is open source. As to the hardware, the bike portion is best done on a Raspberry Pi Zero, as this is the smallest device that Raspberry Pi offers.
In the future, this could be replaced with a large-scale server for operations which actually wanted to implement this system with hundreds, or thousands of bikes involved. One thing is for sure, upkeep is low in a business like this.
The Power of Lightning and Micropayments
A long-standing debate in bitcoin circles used to be whether or not bitcoins should be used to pay for something as trivial as a coffee. One camp believed that the size of BTC blocks should be increased to accommodate this with low transaction fees, while the other camp figured that second-layer protocols, like the Lightning Network, made a lot more sense in terms of efficiency.
Steinig’s creation demonstrates that not only cups of coffee can be paid for, but much smaller transactions even, with the base unit in his e-bike system being less than $0.02 USD. The speed and efficiency of the Lightning Network and its ability to settle transactions in the blink of an eye — in a consumer-facing application such as Lightning Bike, even — is overwhelmingly evident in this seemingly simple invention.
The increasing popularity of rental bikes in metropolitan areas makes Lightning Bike a relevant, viable business model which has the opportunity to bring bitcoin into the consciousness of folks all over the place.
After all, it’s actually impossible to pay only 2 cents on a Visa or Mastercard transaction without the seller losing money, most such transactions having a fixed minimum fee higher than that. Even micropayments via PayPalwould not be feasible for transactions this small. Thus, in the case of Lightning Bike and services like it that will flourish over time, bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies fill a void that traditional financial infrastructures simply could not while still making money.