The Monero hardware project completed the first phase in late April and developed the internals and boards. The next stage is to develop a suitable housing, perform injection molding and other fine-tuning. Around 25 percent of the project’s financing target has already been achieved. BTCManager spoke to Michael Schloh von Bennewitz, Monero’s hardware team leader, to find out more.
BTCManager first reported on the Monero hardware wallet project in September 2017. After the board was complete and ready to be included, a new funding proposal was submitted to the Forum Funding System (FFS) on May 2nd with the creation and distribution of hardware wallets compatible with Monero, another goal is to forcing the hands of other hardware wallet makers to add the unrealized altcoin.
The work the team did over six months between September 2017 and April 2018 was on time and on budget, which means the next phase will likely also be delivered on time and with the proposed funds. The target funding for this phase is 498 XMR, and mechanical engineers will work on the case and do their own 3D printing, which is made from a magnesium alloy and takes up around a quarter of the funding.
The hardware wallet card is complete. The next step is to develop enclosures with the design shown above. Image: Taiga
Bennewitz will travel to China in mid-May to present the hardware wallet technology at the country’s DefCon. Later in August, when DefCon takes place in the US, there will be a demonstration of circuit boards and cases.
While some things went smoothly, other aspects were challenging. For example, the manufacturers who make chips, active components, microcontrollers, etc. are upgrading their inventories and developing new products so the Monero hardware team never knows when they will get what they ordered. In these cases, workarounds and backup plans have been established to meet the schedule.
On the other hand, von Bennewitz says that the firmware progress has been more than satisfactory. A team of three to five people work on compiling the firmware. Budgeting for the previous cycle also worked well, according to von Bennewitz. As last time, a 20 percent buffer is being put in the funding to mitigate the failure. However, a test version will be shown at DefCon in Las Vegas in August 2018 in a presentation of the project’s success to date.
NFC radio test version will be demonstrated at DefCon
The trial version of the Monero hardware wallet is a wirelessly connected device that stores any data such as a secret spending key or a public address. The prototype is an NFC badge that can transfer the stored data to a smartphone. There are some protective features that prevent the badge from being used once it comes into contact with NFC-enabled devices. Most importantly, you have to press a button for the device to transfer data.
The badge consists of two halves, two separate devices on a circuit board. First, there is a radio circuit that does not require a battery. Second, there is a battery and 16 LED lights in a matrix to give the device a certain aesthetic and to flash the color orange.
What the NFC wireless tester will look like. Image: screenshot
Hundreds of these test devices could be ready by the time DefCon was launched, but according to Bennewitz, the NFC wireless test version will only be available to VIPs for the time being, as they have decided how quickly the devices can be available as needed is unknown at this point.
A break to the end product
The test device is a “break” in the final hardware wallet and cheap enough to hand out. In fact, von Bennewitz said in his conversation with BTCManager that this is part of the reason he’s traveling to China in May and picking up three or four devices to test and see how they work. In terms of manufacturing, von Bennewitz says it is sold worldwide, with operations in China, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, the USA, and the enclosures are made in Belgium.
If everything fits nicely with the cases, “the next step would be to attract even more investors to create a real company independent of the FFS.” However, this would come with problems of its own. For example, the involvement of investors may force the project to raise the price, which goes against the goals, as BTCManager previously reported that the team wants the device to be inexpensive and priced at $ 20.
A look under the hood of the developer and consumer editions
We also learned about the differences between the developer and consumer editions. The Developer Edition has twice as many circuits and has not yet been sent to testers. The developer version is used to introduce and experiment features before adding them to the consumer edition, which serves as the merging point.
The circuit is displayed for the Consumer Edition. Image: screenshot
For example, a feature highlighted by Bennewitz was an ambient light sensor for exceeding boundaries that can detect whether the wallet case has been removed. In order to add many more functions, BTCManager was told that it is not difficult but “time consuming” to find additional space on the circuit board to add more functions.
The circuit board for the Developer Edition is more populated compared to the Consumer Edition. Image: screenshot
The feedback from the Monero community has also been positive. Many people requested more products from the hardware team, such as: B. a carrier bond similar to Opendime. Unfortunately, von Bennewitz stated: “We couldn’t go on. There is overload; We cannot have six projects in parallel. “What’s more doable, he says, is two or three in parallel, including the developer and consumer editions of the hardware wallet, the NFC wireless tester, and a steel crypto storage product that can hold your private keys.
If everything goes according to plan, we should see a demonstration video of a closed device running an immutable bootloader by the end of September 2018.
It also appears that the hardware wallet project is paving the way for others to follow suit. Von Bennewitz told BTCManager that Purism would like to develop a smartphone that has the capabilities of a hardware wallet – a dedicated, multi-purpose security element that can be used to sign transactions. The Monero hardware team leader also said he looks forward to speaking with the Purism team.
When it comes to progress, von Bennewitz says that purism is “a little further behind than us” and that the technology company is the perfect partner for the Monero hardware team. He believes this will become a symbiotic relationship and hopes that they will work together as if they were a team.
Purism announced in October 2017 that it would partner with the Monero project and deliver a smartphone that had Monero wallets pre-installed. While the Monero hardware project is on friendly terms with all of the hardware wallet companies like Ledger and Trezor, Purism is “kind of the same people” as the Monero project, and von Bennewitz suggested they may even be team members in the future.
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