Fulmo Brought Lightning Hackday to New York City
Contributor: Yang Hua
While Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies stumble through its ups and downs, the craze for cryptocurrency is only on the rise in New York City. The Fourth edition of Bitcoin Lightning Hackday was held on October 27th and 28th on the second floor of Flatiron School in New York' Financial District, aiming to bring together those enthusiasts to network and collaborate during the intimate two-day event.
The Lightning Hackday series in New York was first launched at the beginning of this year by a Berlin-based Lightning start-up Fulmo. The previous three editions had all been held in Berlin.
“It is all about providing a platform to help people meet with those who share similar interests. The ones in Berlin have been going well, so we wanted to try different audiences. And here at New York, people have brought in many exciting projects,” said Jeff Gallas, founder of Fulmo and organizer of the event.
The hackathon focused particularly on lightning network for payments utilizing Bitcoin. “I’ve been looking at Bitcoin for a while and I think lightning network is a good way to scale, to drive cryptocurrency forward and to enable a lot of use cases. There is so much happening this year,” said Gallas.
Self-defined as an unconference or a barcamp that was mostly participant driven, the event was nothing at all like a traditional conference. The schedule depended for the most part on what attendees wanted to contribute. There was a whiteboard full of sticky notes listing all the presentations, demonstrations, improvised talks and brainstorming sessions throughout the day. The lineup of speakers included Christian Decker (Blockstream), Kenichi Kurimoto (Nayuta), Alkekos Filini (RGB Project), Chris Stewart (SuredBits) and other Lightning pioneers.
The coders working on projects took up residence on the dozen couches and large tables that filled the back of the conference room. “I hope this event helps to support the developer community. That’s one of the most important things we need to move forward in the Bitcoin space,” said Renée Leibler, founder of NYU Stern Blockchain Digital Asset Forum and co-organizer of the event.
The hackathon was a 24/7 event with food and drinks provided and participants welcomed to stay all night. “Lightning network is still at an early stage. I hope people can figure out their product, connect and get some feedback here,” said Gallas. “Some of the participants are here for the fourth time. They went to all the hackdays.”
Bitcoin’s slow transaction speed and high fees have been at the core of many debates. Launched in 2015, lightning has been hailed as one of the most promising solutions for the scaling problem. It creates a layer on top of Bitcoin, with the premise that the completion of payments will become near instantaneous and transaction fees will be minimal. If that’s the case, lightning transactions will have a huge edge over traditional payment methods.
Everyone is looking forward to witnessing how lightning will be adopted in the near future. The hackday has drawn in lightning enthusiasts around the world.
“It's very exciting to be here. You meet all these people with different projects. You talk to them and look at their codes. It could be very inspiring and helpful with what I’m doing,” said Alex Bosworth, who has been developing various Lightning Network applications. Bosworth flew in from San Francisco to attend a one-week lightning residency program in New York, which includes the hackathon.
Prat Sharma, who works for AlphaPoint, a leading provider of blockchain technology, considered the hackday as a great opportunity to learn. “This is my first hackathon. I’m very interested in the lightning area. This is like an academy to me. I want to learn more about this technology. I think many people are ready to get into the blockchain space. But scalability has been a big problem. With lightning, the problem is gone,” he said.
There was a bunch of interesting use cases of Lightning implementations during the hackathon. The first speaker, Christian Decker, talked about the infrastructure of his project at Blockstream. Blockstream just released the beta c-lightning 0.6 version, which is a complete rewrite of the previous implementation and a standard compliant release of c-lightning.
As one of the few available Lightning Network implementations on the market, Decker described the 0.6 version as the first version they feel comfortable sharing with a wider audience. “It’s compatible with specifications and now we’re able to talk to other implementations,” he said.
“In fact, it has been used for the entrance fees for this event. But we want to make it clear it’s still a testing setup. We don't want people to lose money when using this beta version. Nevertheless we’re very grateful that people are testing it and give us feedback,” he told OX3 Production.
Decker mentioned they have gotten back feedback that has run the whole gamut from “the most amazing software ever” to “why did I bother to download and install it.” They were also approached by several coders from the open community who would like to help them solve some of the issues.
“We’ll have a specification meeting in two weeks in Australia and will be discussing how we could improve. Mostly we want to make it easier for people to adopt lightning,” Decker said. “I don't want people to worry too much about what their channel is, what their balance is on their channel, and what they should do if something closes. I want to automate things as much as possible.”
“I think lightning is a new way for us to make use of the existing cryptocurrencies. It’s a way to deliver on the promises that were made when people were talking about Bitcoin 9 or 10 years ago,” he added.
Their channel capacity has grown tremendously since its release and is now at about 13,000 channels with the average size of a few dollars.
Based in Japan, Nayuta has been trying to combine IoT (Internet of Things) with Lightning Network. Kenichi Kurimoto, CEO of Nayuta, believes people and machines will be able to make real-time micropayments without fixed authority and it will enable automatic financial transactions everywhere.
“Many IoT applications need real-time responses and have large transactions per second. The reason we started with Lightning Network it that the technology is the most complete among various second layer technologies,” Kurimoto explained.
Nayuta is one of the first companies to work on the business side of Lightning. Earlier this year, Nayuta helped Japan’s third largest utility test Bitcoin on lightning with its in-house Lightning Network, Thunderbird. “We used the software very successfully to charge electric vehicles. We had a lot of meetings with them. I think it’s important to educate people about the network,” Kurimoto said.
However, Kurimoto admitted it is still too early and impossible to build much business around Lightning. “In the current phase, the most important thing is to make contributions to the network. Many talented people are working on it and we hope we can contribute too. There won’t be a big business opportunity unless it is widely adopted,” he said.
Currently, Nayuta is focusing on improving the Lightning Network software. “Though Thunderbird has achieved most of the functions, it’s not optimized in terms of scalability and speed. We have been rewriting source code and adding more functions. We plan to gradually shift the target to small factor hardware light node,” Kurimoto told OX3 Production.