Could Proof-of-Activity Solve Blockchain’s Energy Problem?
Elon Musk’s recent criticism of Bitcoin’s excessive energy consumption caught many by surprise. After all, hadn’t the Tesla boss added $1.5 billion worth of BTC to the company’s balance sheet back in February? And hadn’t the company rolled out support for the asset a month later, with the world’s media excitedly reporting that crypto could be exchanged for an electric vehicle?
As it turns out, the volatility of the market is nothing compared to the volatility of Musk’s mood. In a May 12 tweet, the PayPal cofounder suspended vehicle purchases using Bitcoin citing concerns about “rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal”.
While reiterating his belief that cryptocurrency has a promising future, Musk burnished his green credentials by saying this could not come “at great cost to the environment.” Tesla would, he claimed, use bitcoin for transactions as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy.
Needless to say, the comments have reignited a long-raging debate about the environmental impact of not only Bitcoin but cryptocurrencies in general. Does the use of fossil fuels in mining operations detract from an asset’s decentralized credentials? Is Bitcoin’s energy-intensive proof-of-work consensus a tremendous waste of energy or a worthwhile tradeoff?
Is Hybrid Consensus the Answer?
Proof-of-work is the algorithm favored not only by Bitcoin but number-two network Ethereum, and its implementation sees miners rewarded in crypto every time they solve a complex computation.
The conversion of energy into hashes via proof-of-work solves the double spending problem but has also put Bitcoin (and to a lesser extent Ethereum) in the cross-hairs of environmental activists. While Bitcoin is locked into PoW, Ethereum’s transition to proof-of-stake via its much-vaunted 2.0 upgrade will, according to its Foundation, reduce its power consumption by over 99%, making it around 7,000% more energy-efficient than Bitcoin.
Proof-of-stake isn’t the only environmentally-friendly alternative. Proof-of-activity is another. The PoA algorithm used by the Enecuumblockchain involves a collective of ‘publishers’ who verify microblocks by reaching a consensus. Importantly, PoA is far less intensive when it comes to the utilization of storage and communications resources: unlike PoW, everyday mobile devices are perfectly capable of running a PoA node. The minimum requirements are Android 5.0, 1GHz CPU and 1Gb RAM.
Enecuum’s blockchain protocol for decentralized Web3 applications is actually based on a combination of proof-of-activity, proof-of-work, and proof-of-stake, with the former taking the lion’s share of responsibility for confirming transactions. Currently, there are 1,788 PoA nodes compared to 3 PoW and 23 PoS, spread across 22,803 accounts. As with Bitcoin, the nodes are scattered far and wide: Europe, North America, Australia, Africa, South America. Uniquely, transactions can be confirmed from virtually any device connected to the network, making the blockchain highly eco-friendly and attack-resistant.
Enecuum taps into the largely under-utilized computational power of smartphones around the globe to facilitate the validation process and decentralize storage; the more devices connect, the higher the network speed. With its hybrid consensus, smartphones power the network by executing proof-of-stake mining as part of a PoA paradigm. The involvement of proof-of-work, meanwhile, is minimal and mainly concerns the generation of blocks to obtain rewards for computational expense. While 65% of the ENQ emission is intended for PoA mining, 25% is ring-fenced for PoS and just 10% goes to PoW.
A research paper published last year noted that a PoW approach could be “potentially harmful to autonomous devices due to natural battery limitations,” but the use of “resource-constrained nodes” in PoA would have an impact similar to that of a common messenger application.
The researchers, from Finland’s Tampere University, Moscow’s National Research University, and the St Petersburg ITMO University, assessed the energy consumption of PoA-based applications using various metrics including battery output voltage and battery temperature. The team’s conclusion was that the “utilization of PoA systems on a smartphone does not significantly affect the lifetime of the smartphone battery while existing methods based on PoW have a tremendous negative impact.”
Like Bitcoin, Enecuum wants to bring blockchain and cryptocurrencies to the mainstream. But as this paper demonstrates, our energy credentials are such that we can keep the eco-warriors onside at the same time. Incentivizing millions of smartphone users to plug into the network and share their untapped processing activity – and compelling dApp developers to create fast, low-cost applications on the Enecuum blockchain – creates an energy-efficient network that is truly global in scope.
Debates around crypto’s energy consumption are likely to rage for many years, and no doubt Musk will pipe up periodically to offer his opinion. In the meantime, Enecuum is busy spreading the word about the Trinity Algorithm, a game-changer that promises to repair crypto’s environmental reputation once and for all.
Company: Enecuum Network Ltd
Contact: Mikhail Sayfullin