Robot dogs and AI to recoup £168M BTC from landfill?
Do you remember the Tom and Jerry episode featuring Robocat, a robot cat meant to replace Tom? Well, the future is now, but with robot dogs.
James Howells, an IT systems engineer and resident of Newport, accidentally threw away a hard drive with nearly 80,000 Bitcoin (BTC), equivalent to almost £168M at the time of writing.
The incident occurred in 2013, and for ten years, Howells has been in constant dialogue with the Newport City Council to help him retrieve his lost crypto fortune, but to no avail. The council refuses to permit him access to the landfill site.
Howells has had enough. He plans to retrieve his BTC from the site using AI-powered mechanical arms and robot dogs for security (to drive away scheming thieves).
Robot dogs and AI: what is Howells' plan?
While the Sony Aibo is as cute a rendition of a puppy as it gets, Howells does not intend his robot dogs to be cute and fluffy. Think of the robot dogs he intends on employing to retrieve his Bitcoin to look and behave more like the robotic guard dogs featured in the Metalhead episode of Black Mirror - fierce.
It all started in 2013 when Howells placed the hardware from an old laptop, containing a whopping 80,000 BTC, in a black trash bag in his hallway. He was doing a "clear-out" of his "office" and "put a lot of items" into the black trash bag.
His ex-partner, bless her soul, took the bags to the landfill site the next morning. Howells refuses to blame his ex-partner and says she was doing him "a favour". Better communication could have gone a long way in avoiding this mishap.
Over the past decade, the Newport City Council has refused Howells access to the landfill site. In a last roll of the dice, he has employed a legal team who recently wrote to the local authority seeking legal access to the site.
If this ploy bears fruit, Howells will utilise an AI-operated mechanical arm to sort the enormous piles of rubbish. The rubbish will then be sifted through by hand to retrieve the lost hard drive. He also plans on using robot dogs as a security measure to drive away opportunistic thieves.
Howells has already employed a team of data recovery and environmental health experts to lead the charge. He will cover all costs related to the search and, if successful in recovering his lost Bitcoin (provided he is legally allowed to access the landfill site in the first place), has a noble cause in mind.
Newport: UK’s first crypto hub?
A quarter of the areas in Newport, a city in Wales, are among the most deprived 10% in the country. If successful in his recovery mission, Howells intends to give 160,000 Newport residents £50 each in Bitcoin.
While this will not solve the underlying problem of deprivation, “the idea is then people will have to learn how to use” the cryptocurrency, and this education will “help them” in the long run.
Howells will also set up a blockchain education centre where anyone can come to have a face-to-face chat with an expert to learn about crypto. He feels learning about new technology, such as blockchain on your phone or laptop, can be daunting, and having somebody to teach you the basics in real life is ideal.
Finally, Howells will also install crypto point-of-sales devices at strategic locations. This will enable the local community to use crypto on a day-to-day basis.
According to him, this will "get a crypto economy going in South Wales". For a single man to drive such change in the crypto world is unheard of.
It is to be seen whether Howells will be granted his wish. Legal action was Howells' last resort, and if the judge on duty refuses his request, his dream will be all but over.
Howells' cause is noble. Let us hope for the best!
Author: Surajdeep Singh
Surajdeep Singh has been working in the tech sphere as a marketing guru and journalist for over 6 years, with his speciality laying in blockchain and Web3. He has donned several hats in marketing and journalism over the years and worked with many reputable brands. Feel free to reach out to him on LinkedIn!