The electrical crisis that Venezuela is experiencing continuously since the general blackout in March prompted Randy Brito to focus on the Locha Mesh initiative, which is an open source project that works to allow private messages and payments without an Internet connection.
During the mentioned blackout, it became clear to Brito that electrical failures and poor Internet infrastructure in the country are important barriers to the adoption of cryptocurrencies in the country. Also, he noted that it was necessary to create an alternative payment method to cash (either in national currency or dollars) that does not require an Internet connection.
So far, Locha Mesh has created two hardware prototypes, called Turpial and Harpy. They act as small routers that do not require a local WiFi network. Instead, they pass messages around the “mesh” until an exit finally has an Internet connection. This resembles the work done by GoTenna, a startup based in New York.
According to Brito, these devices “allow trading during a blackout by making it possible for users to send and receive payments using the Bitcoin network.” Also, they are easy to transport and hide for security reasons.
Brito also noted that, in March, these devices created an experimental system that actually worked for 22 consecutive hours, even connecting Harpy devices to the Blockstream satellite and transmitting that connectivity to other users through the Turpial device. Next, we focus on allowing small and fast payments using a scale solution called Lightning Network.
“The Lightning Network requires you to be connected, otherwise you wouldn’t know if your counterpart is lying,” said Brito. “Those nodes, these devices are always connected to the Lightning Network.”
Brito presented its latest mesh-network hardware tools for such transactions at the 2019 Lightning Conference in Berlin, because Locha Mesh is looking for investors and donors. Its six-person team aims to start selling these devices in the first quarter of 2020.
According to Luis Ruiz, CTO and co-founder of Locha, the team’s expectations are focused on providing an accessible and secure form of communication for anyone in the world.
It should be noted that the creation of alternatives to use Bitcoin without electricity or Internet access is becoming widespread in countries in crisis, from Venezuela to Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.