In early November 2013, a computer programmer by the name of Rob Halförd launched the first cryptocurrency that ties the digital currency mining process and distributed computational scientific research. The innovative cryptocurrency was named Gridcoin. The idea behind the Gridcoin project was to create a cryptocurrency that is not just using up electricity in the mining process like Bitcoin and Litecoin, but create a whole new mining process that rewards miners based on how much useful work they have done for Boinc a scientific project of their choosing.
The Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) was originally developed by a team lead by David Anderson at the University of California as a management system for the [email protected] project which scans the cosmos for alien radio signals. The Boinc volunteer computing grid today is funded by the National Sciences Foundation and includes a wide variety of scientific projects in mathematics, medicine, molecular biology and climatology.
The first release of the Gridcoin wallet software was a hybrid between the Litecoin Scrypt client and custom code by Rob Halförd that attempted to dynamically alter the block reward based on how much CPU work was being done by the Boinc desktop client. Under Gridcoin classic, the maximum block reward was 150 coins. This simplistic approach was effective to some degree, but opened up many loopholes and various vulnerabilities that could be exploited by bad actors. As the Gridcoin system evolved, it became clear that the Scrypt mining portion of the network, necessary to maintain the integrity of the blockchain, was a big burden to miners and a significant amount of electricity was not being diverted to scientific computations. High electricity costs for the mining hardware and a very cumbersome setup process were just one of the few headaches miners had to deal with. A new idea was necessary to make Gridcoin more accessible and practical for the general public. The Gridcoin community took a vote and decided to transition the cryptocurrency to a new innovative and efficient algorithm named POR (Proof-of-Research).
The changeover from Gridcoin classic to Gricoin POR required that all existing classic coins be converted to the new system. A publicly viewable burning system was implemented to facilitate the conversion process and maintain full transparency. The burning mechanism will remain accessible to holders of Gridcoin classic until 20/04/2015.
The new POR algorithm is a mutation of the original Proof-of-Stake system first implemented in Peercoin. The new Gridcoin system does not require hashing work to maintain the blockchain like in traditional Bitcoin mining. The only requirements for a new user are, Gridcoin POR wallet client being open, a handful of coins to start the “staking” process and the user’s Boinc email address which is required for the Gridcoin wallet to check how much science work has been done by querying Boinc’s statistics servers. Gridcoin’s POR system allows miners to dedicate all of their CPU and GPU equipment entirely to Boinc science projects which was not possible under the Gridcoin classic system. One of the main drawbacks in Proof-of-Stake systems is the possibility of users with very large balances to take over the network and gain most of the daily blocks. Gridcoin POR has special “newbie” rules implemented that allocate a temporary boost to the ability of new users with low Boinc credit balances to stake blocks and get a reasonable chance for a slice of the pie. The likelihood of mining a block in the POR system is dependent on how much Boinc work the miner has accomplished, in contrast to the POS system, where the miner’s account balance is given full weight. The rationale behind the newbie rules was to foster a welcoming environment for latecomers and avoid the centralization problem that plagues the Bitcoin mining space.
Not only can Gridcoin deliver a sizable monetary incentive to users the world over to participate in advancing science, but a still untapped potential of Gridcoin lies in commercial Boinc projects. Customized Boinc projects such as 3D rendering and financial data modelling are but a few possible uses for the cryptocurrency system that has been designed by Rob Halförd. According to recent statistics displayed on the main Boinc site, there are roughly 200,000 volunteers and about 900,000 thousand computers crunching for various science projects. Those numbers do sound impressive, but are only a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the number of available computing devices in the entire world. What will happen to the pace of scientific breakthroughs if the user base of Gridcoin can grow to few hundred thousand or even a few million? To put this into perspective, the University of Texas Medical Branch in 2007 launched a dengue fever drug research program (Discovering Dengue Drugs – Together) that took several years and a few hundred thousand volunteer computers at the World Community Grid to screen three million compounds, several potential candidates that would kill the dengue virus were discovered. If the researchers had access to several million volunteer computers it would have taken them much less time. Gridcoin POR offers the promise of a cryptocurrency backed by real scientific progress.
Disclaimer: Traderman is an investor in Gridcoin.
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Image Source: http://www.gridcoin.us