In short: IMDEA Networks Institute researchers want to create an incentive-based smartphone resource sharing program built on the blockchain called DisCoEdge, according to a recent announcement from the organization. The system would work as a "market broker," allowing smartphone users to sell their unused resources to create an edge-driven IoT that shares storage, memory, and processing. That would allow various businesses, projects, and services to spread the workload out over millions of devices worldwide that simply aren't fully utilizing the hardware in their smartphone or other portable connected devices. With funding from the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation, and Universities, DisCoEdge would also be able to enhance individual experiences by spreading those tasks over a wider network where available. As of this writing, there don't appear to be exact dates, localization information, or other details available for the ongoing endeavor.
Background: In the meantime, there are several recent and at least one long-standing technological advancements that have led to the concept of DisCoEdge. From a chronological standpoint, neither edge computing or the inspiration behind the idea – Moore's Law – are new. However, as computer hardware and optimizations continue to be enhanced year after year, many users are unable to use all of the potential found in a modern handset. Manufacturers' achievements and boosts to performance, battery life, storage, and other aspects of a smartphone may be slowing but the steady march of technology is certainly not stopping. Edge computing is a newer concept but recent upticks in its use are being driven primarily by increasing competition in implementing 5G mobile networking. That and blockchain-based solutions are basically the two technologies that would ultimately allow something like DisCoEdge to work in the real world.
That's because a user-driven network of storage and processing resources really requires both top-of-the-line security measures and a very fast connection rate. 5G networks are both expected and being shown to surpass current portable networking speeds and reliability by leaps and bounds. Those will also bring latency down substantially if current testing translates to real-world use. Meanwhile, the tamperproof digital ledgers that blockchains are comprised of offer a security benefit that could be incorporated to prevent or discourage malicious activity, IP theft, and many other possible misuses of DisCoEdge.
Impact: Of course, this is not the first time that distributed computing or resource sharing has been put forward by a company. For example, the Berkeley SETI Research Center's mobile and PC applications allow users to share some of their memory and processing power to collectively assist its scientists in looking for strange radio signals or extra-terrestrial life. The mobile application for that project has been available since 2013. However, this is the first time a company has proposed a multi-device network of more general use over blockchain. What's more, devices aren't limited to smartphones but can include any connected smart device with resources to spare. So there's a good chance more news will be forthcoming on DisCoEdge at some point in the next couple of years, as partnerships are formed and the solution is further refined and built out.