LONDON (InsideBitcoins) — One question surrounding Bitcoin surfaces again and again: What, if anything, can I do with it? At its heart Bitcoin is a currency; it can be used as an exchange for goods and services, it can be mined and it can be held back as an investment. Like any other currency, it is volatile and volatility in any business creates opportunity.
And yet, opportunity also creates risk, you might buy Bitcoin low and sell high and then again, it might just as easily work the other way round. Surely, aside from the costly and technical process of mining there must be some way to mitigate risk and still accrue Bitcoin?
All over the world, bitcoin enthusiasts are turning their thoughts to just that problem and Richard Green, a UK-based entrepreneur, thinks he may have a solution.
Small payments add up
“It’s small payments that all add up,” he told Inside Bitcoins. “Credit cards and debit cards are great but nobody wants to use them for the really small transactions, it’s just not worth the effort. “
Green’s solution is ingenious in its simplicity; anyone with access to broadband can sell that access, for bitcoin. With a background in both IT and Finance that stretches back 20 years. Green’s interest in Bitcoin began less than two years ago — too late to see some of the huge profits of the early adopters.
“I realised it was revolutionary and though there are questions about whether it can fulfil its promise, there’s no denying that it seems to be working, so I set myself the task of making some money from it,” Green said.
Bitcoin for bandwidth
“I use a device called a raspberry pie which you can just plug in to your laptop. Whether you’re at home or in a coffee shop, there will always be people wandering about in need of an Internet connection. Clicking on your Wi-Fi will open your page in their browser asking you to pay a small fee for using your bandwidth.”
The raspberry pie is tantalisingly cheap and smaller than a cigarette packet and, after Green has loaded his software on to it, costs around £35. By utilising existing technology and crating a piece of software that effectively runs itself, Green has managed to turn your computer into a Wi-fi hotspot visible to all within range – and moving your subscription fee from a loss, into a potential profit.
“It does depend where you are. If you’re the kind of person who likes to camp in a London coffee shop all day getting some work done, then you can make some money without lifting a finger; you can charge what you like but more importantly you can undercut everyone else.”
Micropayment profit possibilities
“There’s no subscription fee, no monthly charges no anything,” he added. “So if you want to go to a busy airport and make some money — that’s more than do-able. People will pay you, let’s say 50p or so for using your Internet for an hour and that money is yours to do with as you will.”
An obvious barrier to making any real money from this is the still relatively niche clientele base of people who are actually in possession of Bitcoin. However, since all signs point to the fact that a popular culture breakthrough is imminent, the market can only grow.
Travelling back on the train from the Inside Bitcoins London conference I was greeted with an all too familiar splash screen offering me hour-long Internet for a rather steep £3.50. Green’s device can’t help me yet but the possibility of splitting the cost of this service via a sneaky bitcoin transaction certainly crossed my mind. The idea of a bitcoin-compensated micropayment services like, but not limited to Wi-fi, certainly raises some interesting questions.
Ian Jackson is an Inside Bitcoins correspondent based in the U.K.