Bitcoin Box Crowdfunding

Raising 31 BTC / 9200 USD to finish the "Bitcoin Box", a point of sale terminal based on a Raspberry Pi. It supports NFC and offline payments and also displays QR codes. The funds will be used to complete the software and release it as open source, provide build instructions for the box and engage in standardization work where necessary.

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What is the idea?

You are walking into a small coffee shop. Credit cards are not accepted here, because of high processing fees, but this shop did make the one-time purchase of a piece of commodity hardware - a small box which sits next to the cash register. “I’d like to pay with Bitcoin please”, you say and after another button press on the cash register the box comes to life. You tap your phone on it, confirm the payment details in your favorite wallet and moments later the merchant sees your payment. You are done and enjoy your coffee!

I hope I can get your support to finish the first step of this vision: Build that small box - the "Bitcoin Box". It will be a standalone device at first, but with a focus on making integration with cash registers easier down the line.

Why is it needed?

Most Bitcoin point of sale solutions are software-only, usually targeting Android devices. This makes sense in many situations, as Android phones are cheap and ubiquitous. But having to support a mix of devices makes it hard to really optimize the process. In many cases the state of the art still is displaying QR codes of Bitcoin addresses and listening for unreliable broadcasts on the Bitcoin network. NFC is an especially weak point, as low-end devices either do not have it or the antenna is inconveniently located for a checkout situation. All this often ultimately results in the impression that Bitcoin is a clunky way to pay in person.

I feel it would therefore be beneficial to have a "reference system" of sorts, which implements all best practices, all the latest standards and invents them where they are still missing. The aim is to showcase how fast, reliable and convenient a Bitcoin payment can be.

On top of that, one additional important advantage of the Raspberry Pi is that it has an Ethernet port, which will make it possible to connect it to cash registers. This kind of integration will not be part of this crowdfunding round, but it would be the next logical step.

What is the Bitcoin Box?

The video above shows the current state of the Bitcoin Box. It is a standalone Bitcoin point of sale terminal, which is build around NFC to provide contactless payments and also displays QR codes alongside. It increases reliability of in-person payments, by allowing wallets to send payment via Bluetooth. As a result, wallets can even be completely offline and still be able to complete a transaction. The box makes use of BitPay's service to provide merchants with payout in various currencies, including bitcoin.

Who is doing the work?

My name is Jan Vornberger, I have been interested in Bitcoin point of sale solutions since 2011, when I released one of the first prototypes in that area as open source. I was the founder of Instawallet and Bridgewalker (precursor to Bitreserve/Coinlock), coined the term 'green address' and do Android development for Hive. I believe that I bring the necessary skills and connections within the Bitcoin community to the table to successfully complete this project.

What will the funds be used for?

  • Finishing the software that makes the Bitcoin Box tick, getting it to a production ready state in terms of reliability and robustness and releasing it under an open source license.
  • Instructions, including a list of components, on how to build a Bitcoin Box.
  • Standardization work: Coordinating with the Bitcoin developer community to agree on and document the technical standards used by the Bitcoin box. TBIP74 and TBIP75 are two proposals that are already underway in this area (see this thread for the current state of the discussion).

What is Lighthouse?

Lighthouse is a new approach to all-or-nothing fundraising directly on the blockchain. Using advanced features of the Bitcoin protocol, it is now possible to create Kickstarter-style fundraising initiatives without the need for a middleman. Instead, the Lighthouse software allows you to create special Bitcoin transactions that are only valid if enough other people also contribute.

In that way, you remain in full control over your funds, up until the moment the project is fully funded. Before that point is reached, pledges can be undone at any time without the involvement of the project creator.

How to pledge using Lighthouse?

Unlike other crowdfunding platforms, Lighthouse is not a company, website or service. It is an open source desktop app you can download and run. You are always in control of your own money and fundraisers.

Follow these steps to pledge via Lighthouse:

  1. Download the Lighthouse app and run it on your computer. It might ask you to restart at least once, and you'll need to wait until the "Synchronizing" progress bar disappears.
  2. Download the Bitcoin Box Lighthouse project file and double-click it or drag it into the Lighthouse window or onto the Lighthouse icon. You should then see the project displayed inside Lighthouse.
  3. To make a pledge, you need to transfer the funds to Lighthouse's internal wallet first. Send the amount you want to contribute to the address you see in the top-left corner of the window - click one of the icons next to it to copy the address or show a QR code. The minimum pledge amount is 10 mBTC / 3 USD.
  4. Wait for the bitcoins to arrive in the Lighthouse wallet - this shouldn't usually take more than a few seconds. Then, with the Bitcoin Box project selected, click the "Pledge" button on the right.
  5. Click "Maximum amount possible", or enter an amount manually. If you want to be listed as a crowdfunding backer on the website, enter a name (note: this will be visible for everyone on the project page) or an email address (will not be displayed). You can also enter an optional message (also public). When you're ready, click "Confirm".

I hope that with your help this project can be realized! Lighthouse fundraising does not have an end date by default, but I would like to let the campaign run only until April 10, 2015 to have a clear cut-off date. It would be great if you could maintain your pledge until then. Thank you for your contribution!

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Update 11/2016

The campaign was unfortunately unsuccessful. As I occasionally get asked about it, I have decided to open source the half-finished prototype that can be seen in the video. The code can be found on GitHub.