- LNMesh allows offline Bitcoin transactions via the Lightning Network.
- The method was created by Florida International University researchers.
- No need for internet connectivity for Bitcoin payments.
- The potential for widespread cryptocurrency accessibility.
- Challenges remain in coordinating channels for seamless transactions.
Devoid of internet connectivity, the ramifications extend beyond the mere inability to peruse Twitter or indulge in the latest heartwarming feline feasting on corn-on-the-cob spectacle. It also entails the impossibility of conducting Bitcoin transactions.
The quest to circumvent this quandary has preoccupied researchers for some time, especially in contexts like natural disasters or regions plagued by unreliable internet access. Ahmet Kurt, a wireless computer researcher, cited the 2017 hurricane in Florida as a poignant case in point. People suffered greatly during the prolonged power outage, he claimed.
Without ready cash, how could they facilitate transactions? It was an exceedingly vexing predicament,” as recounted to Decrypt. One Potential solution being explored is the Lightning Network, which could enable off-chain Bitcoin transactions even in challenging connectivity scenarios.
In their comprehensive research publication titled “LNMesh: Who Said You Need Internet to Transmit Bitcoin? Offline Lightning Network Transactions Leveraging Community Wireless Mesh Networks,” scholars from Florida International University, specializing in “post-disaster” inquiries, delved into the prospect of effecting Bitcoin transactions via the Lightning Network sans internet connectivity.
The Lightning Network, a swifter and more cost-effective sibling of Bitcoin, is frequently heralded as the digital currency’s future.
Their innovative approach involved eschewing the conventional internet and adopting local “mesh networks,” wherein nodes establish direct connections through Bluetooth and WiFi technologies, thereby creating a localized Lightning Network christened LNMesh.
The results of their efforts? They assert that subject to favorable conditions, offline Lightning Payments can be deemed plausible.
“Our proposed methodologies exhibit commendable efficacy and can attain success rates approaching 95 percent within expansive mobile wireless mesh networks,” elucidates the research paper—albeit contingent on the availability of sufficient liquidity within the Lightning Network channels.
Delving into the intricacies of their investigation, their initial discovery unveiled that no modifications are requisite to the existing Lightning Network protocol or its code to facilitate offline transactions.
Subsequently, they embarked on their experiments. They were first charged with creating a network of Bitcoin and Lightning Network nodes, which make up the core framework of the world of digital currencies. Nodes form the bedrock of both Bitcoin and Lightning Network. A connection to a node is required each time a user initiates a Bitcoin transaction.
The scholars deployed these nodes on eight Raspberry Pis—compact, autonomous computing devices that come at a cost of less than $100 each.
They then distributed these nodes throughout their academic institution. However, instead of interconnecting these nodes via the internet, as is customary, they interlinked them within a local mesh network employing WiFi and Bluetooth technologies.
Fortuitously, even in these unassuming circumstances, they adeptly executed Lightning transactions reciprocally among the nodes.
Since these transactions take place outside of the main blockchain and are not added to the Bitcoin ledger, the Lightning Network protocol allows for their settlement. Consequently, as long as nodes can communicate with one another utilizing wireless modalities like WiFi or Bluetooth, they have the capacity to conduct offline LN payments,” elucidates the research publication.
The researchers have generously released their source code and findings, inviting intellectually curious individuals to undertake the experiment firsthand.
Kurt et al’s study diverges from prior research on asynchronous transactions, which also present a variant of offline payments but under distinct circumstances.
Asynchronous transactions enable an online node to dispatch payments to a momentarily disconnected node, thereby enhancing the user experience within the Lightning Network. As asynchronous payments seamlessly integrate, users gain the ability to transmit funds to others even when they are offline, thereby obviating the dreaded occurrence of a “payment failure.”
LNMesh, conversely, takes a more advanced stride. It elucidates how the Lightning Network can function even when all nodes are in an offline state, showcasing the feasibility of configuring channels and conducting transactions exclusively through WiFi and Bluetooth.
Nonetheless, as elucidated by Kurt, the intricacy lies in the coordination of these channels from inception. The research paper expounds: “Our quandary distills to the subsequent conundrum: Within a community of individuals navigating a neighborhood throughout a day, how can we determine who initiates a Lightning Network channel with whom to ensure the overall success rate of network payments remains satisfactory in the absence of internet access?”
Users must discern a method for efficaciously establishing Lightning Network channels with other users. Within the paper, they explore diverse approaches for scrutinizing users’ “mobility patterns,” or their whereabouts in relation to other Lightning nodes, merchants, or markets throughout the day, with the aim of making informed decisions regarding channel openings, thus enhancing the likelihood of connectivity. In the future, such coordination may potentially be automated.
Therefore, while Kurt and his colleagues have contributed to the demonstration of the viability of Lightning Network payments, substantial effort remains requisite to refine their seamlessness and practicality.