Although those that timed their Bitcoin mining right will have made a decent chunk of money, the benefit for the rest of us is a little less clear now the currency is established, and the same goes for all the copycat crypto-currencies.
However, one new currency is looking to actually use our collective computing power for more than just wealth creation.
Permacoin rewards miners for actually doing something useful: backing up important data to your hard drives. For instance, the national library or even the wayback machine could be distributed to the millions of computers around the world, providing a secure backup for if the main data source goes down.
The data would be encrypted and validated using a ‘proof of reliability’ check.
Permacoin is just a prototype for now but researchers think a 100 Petabyte data pool could be created is users spent the same on storage that they have on expensive mining rigs.
The researchers point out that a conservative estimate of Bitcoin rig spending would by £80million on specialised equipment, while the ongoing power usage is 35MW, or the equivalent of a small power plant – quite the waste of energy.