- Amsterdam-based blockchain firm Bitfury is redirecting 6,000 GPUs to simulate coronavirus protein structures.
- Ontario is taking part in a blockchain experiment to better leverage solar and wind power in the province’s power grid.
- While crypto spending has dropped in the pandemic-driven recession, the reduction is far less than experts initially predicted.
- When consumers were given a blockchain definition in a survey, 50% claimed they would use it to learn about food, drink, and nutritional supplements.
With the coronavirus pandemic threatening so many, blockchain miners are dedicating their computing resources to the problem. The latest example is Amsterdam-based blockchain firm Bitfury, which redirected thousands of mining GPUs to Folding@home calculations. This computer simulation project uses donated processing power to render coronavirus protein structures that may help develop treatments and a vaccine.
The company joins its rival GPU mining operator CoreWeave, which announced on March 19 that it had dedicated some 6,000 GPUs to the Folding@home project.
Bitfury’s stock of ASIC rigs — a far more powerful form of mining computer — will continue mining the Bitcoin blockchain. While GPUs are versatile, ASICs are highly specialized and cannot easily be shifted to other projects.
Bitfury said its GPUs had performed more than 1,300 calculations for Folding@home since they started work on March 20. The company says that it plans to “scale-up its contribution significantly over time.”
The Canadian conservation and technology firm Insolar is conducting a blockchain experiment for renewable energy management. If successful, this process will let Ontario better leverage solar and wind energy in sustainable power grids. Ontario’s current long-term energy plan is to reduce growing gaps in energy supply and replace 30% of traditional power sources in 15 years.
To securely manage the flow and exchange of energy from renewable distributed sources within existing electric power systems, blockchain can serve as a critical piece of infrastructure, as STEP technical coordinator Gil Amdurski explained:
“It can connect and aggregate prosumer DERs, enterprise microgrids, and electric vehicles to the grid. Thus, the energy supply from renewables is managed optimally: it can be stored and redistributed when and where it is needed. This can stabilize grids, reduce peak demand, and make utilities future-ready without having to rebuild their infrastructure.”
Amdurski further outlined that renewables-powered electric vehicles “can act as batteries and feedback into the grid,” while their owners can in turn be “incentivized to charge outside of peak load times.”
While mainstream audiences remain unfamiliar with blockchain technology, there is widespread interest in applying its capabilities to improve grocery supply chains. In a survey of 26,000 shoppers, FMCG found that when given a blockchain definition, 50% claimed they would use it to learn about food, drink, and nutritional supplements. FMCG attributes this response to decreasing trust in food brands — something that blockchain-based supply chains might restore.
We can only speculate as to why merchant services activity hasn’t dropped as much as we’d expect. One reason could be that cryptocurrency users are buying essentials via merchant services that they can’t get elsewhere with fiat currency, and therefore their usage can only drop so low. The need for merchant services could be augmented by local business closures in areas hit especially hard by Covid-19. Business services such as web hosting, which tend to have recurring payment plans, are also widely available via merchant services — spending on those services from pre-existing contracts could also be backstopping the category as a whole.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted markets and crypto prices, but not quite in the ways we’d expect. In a new report examining crypto prices and crypto spending, Chainalysis noted that the correlation between merchant services activity and prices fell by half. This statistic implies token holders are buying more goods and services with crypto than expected in these economic conditions. The report goes on to evaluate similar correlations in the fields of crypto gambling and darknet spending.
When it comes to using blockchain, those who said they would use the technology said that they would research many areas to find out more about the product in question and its supply chain.
The most popular answer that consumers would investigate across the globe would be to check the level of carbon footprint omitted during the distribution of products (58 percent). However, the research also showed that consumers are interested in finding out about sustainability initiatives along the whole of the supply chain.
51 percent said it is important that brands monitor the supply chains of their suppliers to ensure that they are acting in an ethical and environmentally friendly manner.
That’s the roundup for April 4, 2020. Check in next week for the latest news of cryptocurrency innovation and regulation around the world!
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