It all started when I read "The Internet of Money" by Andreas M. Antonopoulos. In this book, he stated that the biggest reason Bitcoin would change the world was because of how it made money so easily accessible to the entire globe. Currently, only 1 billion people have access to banking, credit, and other standard financial services. The Bitcoin revolution isn't about the 1 billion; its about the other 6.5 billion. The remainder of the world operates in purely cash-based societies with absolutely no connection to international resources. Now thanks to the invention of Bitcoin, 2 billion of these people with Internet access can now start accessing more advanced financial services. Our mission is to connect the remaining population with SMS-only access to the Bitcoin network so that they can start accessing financial services they have never seen before. Andreas quotes that almost 3 billion people have access to cell phones and do not have access to safe drinking water. Think about that. What happens when you connect 3 billion people to a global economy without any barriers to access? Nobody knows because this is a level of connectivity that the world has never seen before.
What it does
Users can text our number in order to receive their own Bitcoin address. They can check their balance, receive Bitcoin payments, and send their Bitcoins to other bitcoin addresses or phone numbers. If a user sends Bitcoins to a phone number that isn't currently in the Bit-SMS network, then the recipient will get a text prompting them to sign up to access their funds. Phone-to-phone payments that stay within the Bit-SMS network are instantaneous.
How we built it
We used the Twilio API to control the SMS-delivery, Python's Flask to power our backend services, and thin Bitcoin client in order to receive/broadcast out-of-network transactions.
Challenges we ran into
We ran into some trouble in setting up the server with Twilio initially, but we eventually solved that problem. Finding a good thin-client was also a challenge because most programmable clients were either too complex and didn't have good documentation.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We actually implemented all the basic features we needed that would make Bit-SMS a viable Bitcoin solution for people who only have access to SMS.
What we learned
It's really hard to find a programmable thin-Bitcoin client that is well-documented and simple to use. In the future, we might decide to implement one in order to lower the barrier of entry for people who want to develop Bitcoin-related applications.
What's next for Bit-SMS
One feature we didn't have time to implement was the 'Request' feature. This would allow a user to request money from another user in the Bit-SMS network. Once the payer confirms the request, the requestor would receive their funds immediately. One a higher level, the next step would be to scale our application. Currently our application operates through just one U.S. phone number. In order to make the biggest possible impact, we need to deploy our application on at least one phone number in every country (so users don't have to pay international texting fees when using our application)