Amazon, the technology giant has recently won a blockchain proof of work patent, which could bring in important improvements in the consensus algorithm. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has recently awarded them this patent.
The patent assumes importance in view of the computing and energy-intensive “proof of work” (POW) requiring some much-needed improvements. Famous cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum use POW for transaction validation.
POW involves solving a complex cryptographic challenge. The transaction validation processes in blockchain networks using POW is known as “Mining”, and the nodes, i.e., computers participation in this process are known as “Miners”.
The cryptographic challenge doesn’t require skills, however, it involves trying out one number after another quickly. This is a computing power-intensive process, and miners execute this process in a competitive environment.
Such computing-intensive processes at a large scale consume a lot of electricity. The cumulative energy consumption by crypto mining is very high, and it’s even higher than the total electricity consumption of many countries.
When the crypto market experiences a downturn, such high energy expenses also reduce the profit of miners. These factors, combined with the negative publicity pose a question mark over the long-term viability of cryptocurrencies relying on POW.
The consensus algorithm could use some efficiency gain! This is where the new blockchain proof of work patent from Amazon comes into picture.
Amazon’s solution envisages a different kind of blockchain proof of work
The lowest levels in this data structure are known as “leafs”. The intermediate levels are known as “branches”, and they are cryptographic hashes of the leaves under them.
The highest level is the cryptographic hash of the entire tree-like data structure, and it’s called the “root hash”. In a blockchain network like Bitcoin, blocks are important data structures, and they contain the hash of the previous block.
This way, one block is linked to the previous one, thus forming a virtual chain. Solving a block as part of mining requires finding the hash of the earlier block too, in addition to solving a challenge.
Amazon‘s patent describes a solution where a client will ask for access to computing resources. A service provider will ask the client to solve a challenge before the client can get this access.
As part of solving this challenge using POW, the client will generate a Merkle tree, which is also called “hash tree”. POW mining anyway involves finding the hash of the previous block, therefore, including the creation of a Merkle tree could make the process more efficient.
Technology giants rooting for blockchain!
Amazon had earlier won a patent for live-streaming Bitcoin transaction data, moreover, the company also has its “Blockchain as a Service” (BaaS) platform, called “Blockchain on AWS“. In another example of a technology giant trying to improve the technology, Intel plans to make Bitcoin mining more efficient. Technology giants focusing on improving blockchain can only be good for the technology in the long run!