Microsoft and the “666” patent that has caused much discussion

 Curated by Sara Kasa

It has been some time since the patent ” WO2020060606 – CRYPTOCURRENCY SYSTEM USING BODY ACTIVITY DATA ” or patent “666” published by Microsoft on 03/23/2020 on the website of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) (the agency of Unite responsible for the treaties concerning copyright, patent and trademark laws) has sparked discussions. Some disclosures made by conspiracy theorists who have even nicknamed it “patent 666” , a number obtained by removing the “zeros” from the ID in reference to the satanic symbol, have become viral.

Going to read the code in question as it should be, the final number “A1” of the ID means that the patent has not actually been granted yet because the approval process can last from 18 to 30 months from the date of publication. Furthermore, there are serious doubts that it can actually be approved due to ethical and legal issues behind it. This patent focuses on monitoring human body activity via “smart” wearable technology and makes no mention of “implanted microchips or nano-technology tattoos to control the mind” as some conspiracy theories claim.

Human body activity associated with an activity provided to a user can, in turn, be used in a process whose purpose is to mine cryptocurrencies . On the patent page the graphical representation of the process is as follows and it can be seen how clearly “User device” is marked separately from the user and not integrated:

In fact, the original document mentions among the “user devices” devices capable of processing, storing data / information and communicating over the network such as personal computers, mobile phones, tablets, smart devices (such as smartwatches) .

What exactly is meant by “mining cryptocurrencies”?

Microsoft patent 666

Lately we hear a lot about making money online with digital currencies through cryptocurrency mining: the latter, in a nutshell, is a system used to generate new credit through virtual currencies with a special algorithm that requires an enormous energy resource . One of the most famous cryptocurrencies is Bitcoin. The fulcrum of the process, however, is also to guarantee a system of protection and anonymity (which is why we speak of “cryptocurrency”) which is the basis of the capacity of blockchain technology .

Blockchain-based cryptocurrencies are decentralized in the sense that they lack central control : it is a data structure that serves as a database of public financial transactions. It is thanks to this decentralized system that it becomes more resistant to cyber attacks and operational incidents because it continues to operate even when one or more nodes stop working. The transactions are grouped into blocks and each of them (except the first) refers to or is linked to a previous block in the blockchain; certain IT assets maintain the blockchain and cryptographically validate each new block and the transactions contained in the corresponding block.

Proof-of-Work (PoW) refers to the consensus algorithm behind this validation process, and users who compete with each other in processing trades are called miners who receive a reward in return. The whole process is mining and can take huge amounts of computational energy.

What innovation would Microsoft’s “666” patent bring?

Microsoft patent 666

The central node of the patent would be this: instead of the enormous computational work required by conventional cryptocurrency mining systems, the data generated based on the user’s body activity can be used as proof-of-work that can unconsciously solve the difficult problem from the computational point of view done by miners, making the whole process even faster.

An example could be a brain wave or body heat emitted by the user when performing an activity ordered by an Internet service provider , such as displaying advertisements or using certain services. In addition to brain waves and heat, the patent suggests that “body fluid flow” and “organ activity and movement” can also be used to track a range of activities such as using social media, search engines, email, visiting certain websites or using chatbots.

Going back to wearable devices, Microsoft’s “666” patent mentions different types of sensors attached to the user’s body that can be used to measure, detect body activity or scan the human body. These are “functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners or sensors, electroencephalography (EEG) sensors, near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) sensors, heart rate monitors, thermal sensors, optical sensors, radio frequency (RF) sensors, ultrasound sensors, cameras, or any other sensor or scanner ”.

Based on these activities, the cryptocurrency system assigns the user an amount of cryptocurrency corresponding to the task performed by the user . Additionally, the system can award cryptocurrency to the internet service provider as a reward by allowing users free access to paid content (such as video and audio streaming) or by sharing information or data with them.

It is not known if the patent will ever be approved or will never see the light for ethical and legal issues, but if so, would it be a good reason to encourage companies to venture into the world of cryptocurrencies?

The Microsoft article and the “666” patent that caused so much discussion comes from TechCuE .