[Comment from Filament added at 18:10]
Penniless Roomba docking stations, we have good news. Blockchain “enterprise solutions” firm Filament has graciously devised a way for Roombas—you know, the AI-controlled hoovers—to remunerate their docking stations for electricity-granting services rendered.
We’ll be honest, here. Until now, we were blind to the monetary iniquities faced by non-sentient docking stations. We didn’t know—and did we even care?—that they have lives too, outside of the nine-to-five drudgery of being plugged into the wall.
Jk. The actual purpose of the blockchain/Roomba intersection is to demonstrate, at small scale, how an autonomous car might auto-fund electricity refill stations, or whatever dystopian car-chargers will be called. Per Filament (added later into the piece):
Great! So, anyway, how does this thing work? It’s pretty simple. When finished vacuuming, Filament’s specially programmed Roomba automatically returns to its docking station to recharge. So far, so Roomba. Where this particular vacuum differs is a USB-stick attached to the robot, called a “Blocklet Enclave,” that lets the Roomba access Hyperledger Fabric, BigchainDB and Ethereum-based “blockchains platforms.” It is also equipped with a wallet, which for the purposes of this experiment was presumably credited by the researcher. (Unless the Roomba works night-shifts as a pole-dancer.)
The vehicle’s computer then activates an Ethereum-based Smart Contract, which sets up an off-chain (i.e. on a private, centralized server, which reduces fees) escrow account for tokens intended as the docking station’s wage. The Smart Contract guarantees that a number of tokens directly proportional to “kilowatts consumed” by the Roomba will be credited to the wallet of the docking station’s own Blocklet USB.
Once the delinquent Roomba has signaled, via the contract, how much it is willing to cough up—and the docking station’s onboard computer independently verifies this—the charging begins. As charging takes place, microtransactions are made from the Roomba’s wallet to the docking stations’, via the escrow account. Once it’s over, crypto is exchanged and the Roomba unmoors, continuing its mission of whizzing around, terrorizing animals, and otherwise going about its unsung, heroic business.
So what other uses might this have? As Redditor Larceniii suggested, drones—in a hypothetical future—could use the system to effectively pay privately owned docking stations for electricity. Absent a middleman, it would be like a quick cash transfer, between robots. We wonder whether Scott Scheper’s cat will get involved.