Japanese multinational technology giant Sony seeks to patent two technology solutions to make crypto mining easier and blockchain security better. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has recently published these two patents. These patent applications mark Sony’s entry into the crypto mining hardware space.
Famous cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum use the time-tested ‘Proof of Work’ (POW) consensus algorithm, which provides the best security. In this algorithm, nodes on the blockchain network compete to solve new blocks, whereas all nodes participate in transaction validation. Read about POW by following this link.
The transaction validation process is called ‘Mining’, or ‘Crypto mining’, whereas ‘Miners’ are the nodes competing to solve blocks. Miners compete to solve a complex cryptographic puzzle which requires high computing power, hence they often use specialized hardware, for e.g. Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) along with their CPUs.
Crypto mining is very energy-intensive, and you can get an idea of its’ energy requirements in “Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index“. However, the current lot of crypto mining hardware isn’t designed for this purpose. Miners run their inefficient hardware for long durations because crypto mining has financial rewards, which adds up to the energy bill.
Purpose-built crypto mining hardware can certainly help crypto communities by improving efficiency. Sonys’ first patent application seems to address this area. They have named this application “Electronic Node and Method for Maintaining a Distributed Ledger.”
Sony has clearly highlighted in their patent application that the distributed ledger may mean blockchain. They have also clearly referred to the mining process, including a cryptocurrency reward.
Sony is also proposing “compressed blocks” in this patent application, where they imply that nodes producing smaller blocks will get a higher reward. This points to an improved crypto mining hardware and mining method.
Security of public blockchains using POW algorithm improves when more nodes join the network. Hackers need to overpower a majority of the nodes in a blockchain network to launch a ‘Distributed Denial of Service’ (DDoS) attack. If a blockchain network has many nodes, hackers find it very hard to hijack 51% of the computing power.
This follows that a smaller blockchain network, for e.g. one that has just launched, is vulnerable. A small number of nodes in the network makes that blockchain an easier target for hackers. They will find it easier to hijack the majority of computing power due to fewer nodes.
Sonys’ second patent application addresses this area, and they have named it “Device and System”. This patent application proposes adding several virtual nodes to the network, which will guard against the risk of too few nodes.
Sony has proposed a device and method in this second patent application that can add 10s, 100s, or even 1,000s of virtual nodes. Effectively, this will create many more nodes than the number of physical devices acting as nodes in the network. The POW algorithm is already highly secure, and with a large number of virtual nodes now, hackers will find it hard to attack such a network.
From the information available at the time of writing, it’s not clear whether Sony will launch their own cryptocurrency or mining operations. Sony had earlier filed a patent to build a blockchain-powered ‘Multi-Factor Authentication’ (MFA) system, which is a blockchain use case. The latest patent applications indicate their foray outside of use cases, and into the crypto mining hardware space.