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Venezuelans Made Lightning-Savvy Hardware to Use Bitcoin During Blackouts

Electricity crises have become an everyday problem for Venezuelans. It even inspired an open-source project the Locha Mesh initiative to enable private messages and payments without an internet connection.

The project is developed by Venezuelan Randy Brito when he realized that crypto adoption was poor in the country due to poor internet infrastructure.

Lack of Infrastructure and Low Crypto Adoption in Venezuela

During the blackouts, people were using dollars not because they preferred cash but they alternatives.

“In Venezuela, cryptocurrency adoption can be very complicated,” Brito said, adding:

“People can have trouble even downloading a wallet because of the lack of infrastructure.”

Loca Mesh created two types of hardware prototypes:

  1. Turpial

  2. Harpy

Both of which acts like small routers that don’t rely on local WiFi. Messages are passed around the “mesh” until one outlet finally has an internet connection.

“These devices allow commerce [during a blackout] by making it possible for users to send and receive payments using the bitcoin network,” Brito said, describing the devices as “easy to carry and hide” for safety purposes.

Lightning Network

An experimental system was done created by these small devices that worked consecutively for 22 hours, even connecting Harpy devices to the Blockchain satellite and relaying that connectivity to other users via the Turpial device. Next up, came a focus on enabling small, fast payments using a scaling solution called the Lightning Network.

“The Lightning Network requires you to be connected, otherwise, you wouldn’t know if your counterpart is lying,” Brito said. “These nodes, these devices are always connected to the Lightning Network.”

The struggle in using Bitcoin has been prevalent across markets ranging from Venezuela to Lebanon, to the Palestinian territories.

The mesh network hardware tools for transactions in these conditions were presented at the 2019 Lightning Conference in Berlin. Loca Mesh is currently looking for investors and donors. The device will be sold from the first quarter of 2020.




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