Pinedale Rally | Blockchain, Cryptocurrency Initiatives Gaining Momentum at UW

LARAMIE-The state, city, and University of Wyoming are increasingly focusing on some of the newer fields of technology that some hope will be a major economic booster for Cowboy State: blockchain and cryptocurrency.

On the heels of state legislative efforts to make the state more supportive of an emerging industry, UW began teaching blockchain courses three years ago and opened its Center for Blockchain and Digital Innovation next year. . Its director, Steven Lupien, said the impact of the technology on future generations could be similar to that of the Internet.

“There’s hardly any place in UW that won’t be affected by the blockchain,” Lupien said.

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In other words, a blockchain is a data sharing system that works by sharing information between multiple computers or groups of computers. The information is stored in groups called “blocks” that relate to each other.

The technology is widely known as a record and security system for digital currencies such as bitcoin, although it could also have important applications in education, ranch management, emissions monitoring and healthcare, he said. by Lupien.

Since 2017, the state has opened the door to cryptocurrency development, passing at least 24 laws intended to open up the sector and ultimately give Wyoming a reputation as the “Wild West” of cryptocurrency, according to Fortune. .

The changes largely came from the advocacy of Caitlin Long, a UW alum who is Lupien’s wife and CEO of Avanti Financial Group, a cryptocurrency banking firm.

Cryptocurrency is known to be extremely volatile with dramatic changes in value, which raises concerns about its security and reliability. Bitcoin is known to fluctuate 30% a day, according to Forbes.

Others, like Long and Lupien, respect it as a dynamic financial investment that will help create jobs in Wyoming and fill the gaps left by the state’s declining coal industry.

At UW, blockchain and cryptocurrency initiatives are gaining momentum. The university has already established itself as a leader in the field as the first Division I University to offer a degree program in digital assets and the first to have bitcoin miners on campus (there are now 12).

Last month, the university received a $ 645,000 donation from Ripple, a leading cryptocurrency and blockchain company.

The money, to be provided over three years, will create the on-campus Ripple Blockchain Collaboratory to be housed within the Center for Blockchain and Digital Innovation. The new sector includes students from the School of Law and the School of Engineering and Applied Science who want to learn more about cryptocurrency, blockchain and cybersecurity, according to a press release.

The initiative brings the university and state closer to their goal of using the industry to earn more money, Lupien said. It also benefits industry companies looking for cities with skilled workers and the necessary infrastructure to set up their operations.

“(The industry) wants to build the infrastructure it needs to be successful,” Lupien said.

He also hopes the growth could hamper the number of students who earn tech degrees at UW and immediately leave the state to look for jobs.

“It’s about jobs and opportunities for Wyoming,” Lupien said. “We need to embrace the businesses that come here and we need to embrace the workers.”

The Laramie Chamber Business Alliance also sees potential in the sector, although the group is focused on recruiting tech companies that look at intellectual property and infrastructure rather than the actual act of data mining. — even, it says by President Brad Enzi.

There are currently no cryptocurrency or blockchain companies in Laramie, but some are using blockchain technology as start-ups, Enzi says.

A tech company with a data mining aspect is considered to set up shop at Cirrus Sky Technology Park, a tech business area in Laramie.

The company needed access to more electricity than was available at the Laramie site, which led to it choosing Pine Bluffs after signing a letter of commitment for the local lot. The area was originally expected to have more than 70 megawatts of electricity, but some of that electricity was reserved for other uses before the company could reserve it for itself.

Enzi shared this information with Laramie City Council at a meeting on May 24, noting that the lack of adequate infrastructure has resulted in a loss of opportunity in the city as the company will create new high -paying jobs in the region. of the city.

The power problem surprised city council members, some of whom were also relieved that the company chose to look elsewhere.

“I feel there is a real disconnect between our stated goal to reduce electricity emissions in the town of Laramie and the arrival of a company that uses (too much energy),” said board member Erin O’Doherty . “I’m not too excited about bitcoin mining and data mining and everything that will boost our carbon emissions.”

The technology trend data website Digiconomist predicts that a bitcoin transaction consumes 2,221 kilowatt hours of electricity – the same amount that an average U.S. household would use in 76 days – and emits 1,239 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

The energy consumption of cryptocurrencies comes from the methods used to lend them their value. Cryptocurrencies undergo one of two possibly complex verification processes: proof of employment or proof of stake.

The greatest power consumption comes from proof-of-work methods, which require supercomputers to run around the clock to solve very complex math problems, Lupien says. Each time a problem is solved, a piece of cryptocurrency is created and a block is added to the blockchain, where the transactions are stored. Bitcoin is the most well -known cryptocurrency that uses this system.

Some currencies use a proof-of-stake method, which can be completed with a normal home computer and consume less electricity.

In addition to pollution concerns, cryptocurrency mining centers across the country have received complaints from residents about noise pollution caused by industrial fans used to cool supercomputers.

Although Enzi did not describe any specific environmental or community considerations used by the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance when recruiting businesses in Gem City, he said the group only recruits businesses that will work within state and local regulations.

The City of Laramie allows cryptocurrency and other tech businesses as long as they follow the rules and regulations already written in city ordinances. Businesses will only be allowed in industrial zones and will undergo the review process, planning director Derek Teini said.

“Almost every crypto company is looking to buy cleaner, greener energy,” Enzi said. “There are companies that use a lot of energy but still buy green energy.”

Lupien said that while currencies that use the proof-of-work method are raising concerns about energy consumption, the industry is moving toward greener methods of verification.

“I believe Wyoming needs to accept this asset class,” Lupien said. “Such is the world.”

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