Anthony Levandowski’s newest moonshot is a peer-to-peer telecom community powered by cryptocurrency • TechCrunch


A brand new cell information community — accompanied by the quinfecta of a website, Medium submit, white paper, devoted subreddit and Discord channel —  quietly launched late Tuesday night in San Francisco, promising a brand new method to trade information anonymously and at excessive speeds with out counting on legacy carriers, and at a less expensive worth. The peer-to-peer open supply wi-fi community known as Pollen Cell will incentivize its customers with cryptocurrency to run their very own mini cell towers and construct out the community’s protection within the Bay Space the place the service is initially launching.

Anthony Levandowski’s autonomous car know-how startup Pronto AI is launching the undertaking. Levandowski, a polarizing, early pioneer within the autonomous car trade, was pardoned final 12 months by former President Donald Trump after being sentenced to 18 months in jail on one depend of stealing commerce secrets and techniques.

Why is an autonomous car startup making a decentralized telecom incentivized by cryptocurrency? The catalyst of Pollen Cell stemmed from Pronto’s want for dependable, reasonably priced cell connectivity for its autonomous automobiles, Levandowski, who remains to be CEO of Pronto, informed TechCrunch in a textual content message dialog. Pronto has been utilizing Pollen internally for its AVs for months.

“The explanation why is straightforward, we wanted dependable, reasonably priced cell connectivity for our AVs and we couldn’t discover it,” he wrote. “So we constructed our personal and realized it may very well be one thing others need.” He added later: “Necessity is the mom of invention.”

The distributed Pollen Cell community, which plans to start its preliminary launch within the coming days, depends on a community of knowledge transmitters it considerably oddly calls flowers, bumblebees and hummingbirds — code for radio towers, connectivity validation units and cell phones.

An FCC rule change in 2020 allowed the corporate to construct its personal cell towers and create mini-mobile networks for the websites the place its autonomous automobiles function, in response to its post on Medium.

“We bought to occupied with all the opposite issues that folks don’t like about current cell corporations. We noticed a possibility to construct one thing actually revolutionary — one thing that tackles what we see because the “4 Horsemen” of cell networks,” the Medium weblog submit states. These “4 Horsemen” are an absence of privateness and anonymity, poor protection, excessive prices and no consumer voice.”

Small cell towers known as “flowers,” which vary from the scale of a pizza field to as much as six toes tall, present protection of between just a few blocks as much as one mile. These flowers are put in by “flower homeowners” of their houses or workplaces and connect with the web and supply protection to different Pollen customers. Flower operators earn PollenCoin (PCN) from the neighborhood of customers relying on the protection space, service high quality and quantity of knowledge transmitted, in response to data the corporate posted on its Discord channel.

Operators pay the upfront price for the bodily information transmitter {hardware}; the most affordable (and smallest) flower prices $999 whereas the biggest and strongest transmitter prices greater than $10,000. Justifying the excessive upfront price means operators taking a leap of religion that the community will succeed and the worth of PCN’s mounted provide will enhance.

Pollen Mobile

Picture Credit: Screenshot/Pollen Cell

One of many many open questions for the nascent endeavor is how or if ISPs will reply — the distributed community can be piggybacking onto flower operators’ dwelling web and can be channeling peer-to-peer information by these networks.

The community presently has greater than a dozen radio towers working within the Bay Space, in response to the corporate’s community tracker.

Pollen Cell will ship smaller units known as “bumblebees” that acquire information in regards to the power of the community’s protection. These units, which validate “flower” protection, are additionally owned by customers and will be positioned of their automobile, drone or bike. Bumblebee homeowners additionally earn PCN primarily based on the variety of distinctive protection validations supplied every day.

Lastly, there are the “hummingbirds,” that are the cell units that use the Pollen community. Telephones would require an eSIM obtain to hook up with the community, and different units like laptops can join by way of a particular adapter (known as “Wings”), the corporate stated. Customers pay for connectivity utilizing PCN.

Ultimately constructing out a community of customers keen to pay for a knowledge community in its earliest levels will rely on promoting the imaginative and prescient of a extra nameless cell community which doesn’t promote or log buyer information. The information-only community additionally received’t enable for telephone calls or SMS messages, and customers paying for the service received’t get a telephone quantity.

Pollen has to date been operated internally by Pronto as a subsidiary. Levandowski stated it will likely be turned over to a decentralized autonomous group, or eDAO, and run independently from there. The group will ultimately govern how the community evolves and dictate how and the place customers are incentivized to construct out protection.

“We’re not controlling the place flowers go,” Levandowksi informed TechCrunch. “We designed the community in order that the neighborhood and market forces will decide the place rewards circulate.”



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