There are different types of blockchains. The only true use case for a blockchain, at the current time, is Bitcoin. Nonetheless, many of these other blockchain models, still experiments, could power finance, and some experts believe relatively quickly.
The second largest blockchain crowdsale of all time is Ethereum. Ethereum is a blockchain system based on smart contract technology which seeks to remove humans from the nature of contracts. It is run by a virtual machine, which is a distribution of computing power run in a Bitcoin-type network. Miners in this distributed network are rewarded in ether, a Bitcoin-inspired digital currency that Ethereum proponents refer to as the “fuel” of the network. This is similar to how Bitcoin miners are rewarded with Bitcoin.
Loyalty Pays Holdings has purchased all assets related to the once defunct Royal Canadian Mint project, MintChip.
MintChip represents a digital currency developed by the Mint meant to be similar to cash. Royal Canadian Mint began developing the technology after the digital currency Bitcoin had gained global attention. The new owner of the technology, nanoPay, has purchased a technology much different than Bitcoin, however; MintChip offers support compliance of regulatory standards, including anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) laws. MintChip can be denominated in multiple national currencies and value can be transferred without intermediary, both offline and online.
“This transaction, which was conducted through an open, transparent divestiture process, allows MintChip to move to its natural next step of commercialization in the private sector,” said Bob Zintel, Senior Director, Finance at the Royal Canadian Mint. “Canadians can now look forward to the evolution of MintChip as nanoPay explores the full potential of this digital payment technology in the global marketplace.” NanoPay is excited about the new technology they’ve acquired.
“Digital currency is inevitable and our newly-acquired MintChip platform delivers a digital cash future to consumers, businesses and governments today,” said nanoPay Founder & CEO, Laurence Cooke. “Digital cash will transform payments globally, from the unbanked to the largest financial institutions, and MintChip will help easily transition to the reality of cashless payments.”
MintChip was used by RCM in a six-month internal trial. The technology has been granted five patents, with five additional patents going through the patent process. The platform is fully functional today and will be commercially deployed in the coming weeks.
NanoPay’s next pursuits are expanding partnerships with central banks, commercial banks, telcos, acquirers, and retailers so as to further the use of the technology.
RCM made headlines in 2013 when it introduced its MintChip project. That year, software engineers at the 105-year-old Crown corporation will commence testing its very own digital currency.
At the time, they stated that MintChip “has the potential to revolutionize how we do business.”
“Where we’re going is not a road that has been travelled,” said Marc Brûlé, who heads up RCM’s virtual money project.
“The challenge for most companies trying to do this is they are not a federal mint,” said Catherine Johnston, chief executive of ACT Canada, a payments industry advocate. “What they’re really doing is giving a digital representation of money, and it really requires a federally regulated body to be able to do true digital currency. So I see the Mint as having everything they need to make it a reality.”
MintChip can be held on a smartphone or other electronic device. “We’re at the very beginning of this, you know. But I believe that smartphones are very powerful devices and very popular. You miss your wallet in a couple of hours but you miss your smartphone in minutes,” Mr. Brûlé said when the project was first announced.
Little is know about the security protecting these wallets, but the MintChip project was originally going after micro-transactions and is expected by officials to be adopted by the underbanked. The MintChip is designed to be a digital form of cash and change. The Mint maintains that MintChip maintains “the capability for anonymous, efficient and almost instantaneous transactions.”
Compared to physical cash and change, the Mint argues, the cost of managing MintChip is much lower.
“It will be fun to watch it but i don’t think we will see anything substantive from it.,” Trace Mayer said about MintChip when it was first announced. “Anything MintChip can do, Bitcoin can do, and we can do it securer because we have the processing power to do so.”
The producer of Nirvana’s landmark record, In Utero, levied some interesting critiques of blockchain technology in an interview long before the technology had captured the attention of some of the world’s largest corporations in 2015.
In a discussion with the podcast Decentralize.FM, Mr Albini seemed suspicious of blockchain technology. The Shellac guitarist did not understand why, if an open source community like Bitcoin and blockchain were trying to change, if not get rid of, modern institutions, why they would try and mimic the institutions themselves?
“What most of the underground culture has been based on is not finding an alternative version of something in the mainstream culture, like in [the Bitcoin] example, finance, but making those things we find repellent about the mainstream culture irrelevant,” Albini told Tony Sakich of Decentralize.fm. “It’s not let’s have our own lawyers and contracts and our own automated version of bill collecting; let’s not have lawyers, let’s not have contracts, let’s not have bill collecting, and not let’s have our own version of exclusive relationships that we police, but let’s not have exclusive relationships and not have any police.”
He points out that Bitcoin is merely mimicking the ways things have always been: “Bitcoin is creating equivalents to items that exist in the material world but in the digital ether, and my point, and probably the fulcrum of my existence, has been to eliminate those things from my life, not create an alternative version I could cherish as my own invention.”Albini highlights how his personal philosophy differs from this. He leveled some interesting criticisms at smart contracts, and contracts in general, at the time.
“I’ve made contracts irrelevant and unnecessary in my life,” he said. “I don’t use contracts in business, I literally do not use them. I’ve had a successful and extended career based on the idea that I’m only dealing with people I can trust and who can trust me. I’ve never signed a piece of paper; never even had a verbal understanding of the details of our relationship…”
While Bitcoiners champion how blockchain technology means we can do away with trust in the modern world, Albini thinks some trust is a good thing.
“In the terrified straight world people say, ‘Well aren’t you afraid of someone taking advantage of you?’ Like someone books a bunch of studio time and then cancels it…Well that happens very rarely and it happens very rarely because we do a good job at vetting the people that we’re working with. We spend a little bit of energy making sure the people we’re dealing with are trustworthy, and building a personal relationship with them, then we don’t have to spend an extraordinary amount of time structuring agreements, and contracts and collecting on payments that people are reluctant to make.”
One year later, smart contracts have been adopted by Microsoft, IBM, and the world’s major banks. At conferences for blockchain technology, representatives of some of the world’s most influential corporations discuss how the blockchain can be applied to modern systems. They debate whether or not blockchain technology can streamline the criminal justice system, banking systems and even the Internal Revenue Service.
At a Blockchain Conference in 2015, some members spoke openly about their visions for blockchain technology.
Former Mechanics Bank CEO Christa Steele, Boardroom Consulting LLC, Founder & Managing Member, pondered how the Blockchain could be used for criminal justice.
“Why don’t we just overhaul the whole criminal justice system?” she said.
“[My husband is a police officer] and when he pulls someone over right now and they have a felony, there’s no way to figure out what type of felony,” she lamented. “I’d want to know that if I pull someone over. He pulls someone over there’s no way, so they have to check into five or six different systems to access the information. What if we were to tie all that information together? What would the worth in the scheme of things? Because then you [must] incorporate the whole criminal justice system as far as prosecution, going to jail and a whole slew of steps along the way.”
John Wolpert, product lead on IBM’s blockchain efforts, said at the same conference: “Compliance is a big issue we talk about on our team. A lot of people talk about regulation of blockchain. Most of the time they’re really thinking about [the regulation of something in banking we’re building on the blockchain].”
Wolpert continued: “You can instrument Dodd Frank on the blockchain. [And] you could instrument the tax code. I would love to never have to file taxes, any transaction is just ‘hashtag taxes,’ and it just [automates the process], and all the rules get written to the chain.”
Despite his caution, Albini still likes the Bitcoin technology: “I appreciate bitcoin as a technological innovation.”
1 Coinbase – The San Francisco Based Coinbase is one of the top Bitcoin companies. It’s created a PayPal like Bitcoin exchange that is incredibly easy-to-use. You mom could figure it out. What’s more, in a partnership with Shift Payments, Coinbase created the Shift Card, which interfaces with your Coinbase account.
Bitwage – BitWage allows employers and employees to handle payroll in Bitcoin, local currency and even some commodities. BitWage released its Bitcoin payroll system in July 2014. CEO Jonathon Chester outlines to Forbes the business:
Argentine freelancers were waiting five days, giving up 40% of their income during that process, and some times their payments were simply lost in an opaque, slow moving system. Their only other alternative to losing 30% of their wage was getting on a boat to Uruguay to pick up their funds. Through us, Argentine freelancers were receiving wage payments from the U.S. or western Europe to Argentina in a day, at a cost of 1% of the amount, from the comfort of their home. After receiving their wages, the freelancers would figure out how to get their local currency on their own
In August 2015, BitWage processed more than $1 million in payroll transactions.
Purse – Purso.io markets its service to people looking to shop on Amazon. People can save as much as 25% on Amazon. Users looking for something on Amazon deposit Bitcoin onto Purse then share their Amazon wish list. Individuals looking to buy bitcoins then shop for you on Amazon. As soon as you receive the Amazon products, the bitcoins are released from escrow and the individual who purchased your goods receives his or her bitcoins.
Bitcoin ATMs – The Bitcoin ATM industry – led by players like Genesis, General Bytes and Lamassu – has quietly grown into one of the stalwarts of the digital currency space. Hundreds of locations throughout the world offer you the possibility to buy and sell bitcoins at a physical location. These machines can be found in liquor stores, high end retail locations and in the most popular centers in the US and Europe. With the vast majority of these machines in the US and Europe, they’re not quite the remittance-mediums people once hoped for, but the unbanked are being served by this market based on TDV research.
Local Bitcoins – LocalBitcoins bring buyers and sellers of bitcoin together. Looking to make some part-time money? Perhaps trading bitcoins on LocalBitcoins – within the purview of the law – could help pay the rent. The best use for LocalBitcoins is meeting up for a bitcoin/cash deal at a local coffee shop.
Ethereum – Ethereum has received a lot of press for its smart contract platform. Ethereum has become a key component of blockchain experimentation led by R3 CEV and the Linux Foundation/IBM. Many businesses, experts believe, could be built on top of the Ethereum model. The firm raised approximately $18 million in crowdsale giving it a distinct advantage over other “Bitcoin 2.0” projects.
Satoshi Dice – This popular betting game represents one of the first “blockchain-based betting” games. It’s been operating since 2012, offering off chain based bets since 2014. The service itself determines if wagers win or lose. The first operator of Satoshi Dice, Eric Vorhees, went on to found the popular ShapeShift.io.
ShapeShift – ShapeShift is one of the newest pieces of the digital currency ecosystem. It markets itself as the “Google Translate” of digital currencies. As the website boasts, “from start to finish you can change currencies in under ten seconds, no account required.” The website describes the process of transferring digital currency:
Select Bitcoin as the input and Litecoin as the output
Provide your Litecoin address in the box, then click the Start button
ShapeShift will generate a BTC deposit address for you. Please send your BTCs to this generated address. (Don’t send more than the Deposit Limit).
There are no emails nor passwords needed to use the site. That means no accounts. ShapeShift wants to become “the fastest, most private, and most convenient way to swap digital currencies, and the exchange rate will always remain competitive.”
ChangeTip – The San Francisco-based ChangeTip specializes in online micropayments which function as tips, most often for quality content. In 2015, the average micropayment was just over $1. The firm received financing after going viral. 10,000 tips in one day were executed. November 2014 saw a new community called “Millionaire Makers” whereby each ChangeTip user would donate $1 each.
Gyft – Gyft found an exciting and untouched niche in the Bitcoin space by offering popular gift cards for the digital currency. Gyft’s business turned into a Bitcoin-forward business seemingly overnight with the addition of Bitcoin payments. Over the course of the past two years, Gyft has experimented further with blockchain technology, and is close to implementing a decentralzed gift card exchange.
OpenBazaar – OpenBazaar has been a much anticipated addition to the blockchain space. The distributed e-commerce solution strives to replace websites like Amazon and eBay. What differentiates OB from eBay/Etsy and others is the concept of a moderator, which is a third party that oversees the transaction process. Moderators do not sell goods nor services. They also are not buying goods nor services. But, rather, they are providing value to the users of the network.
While eBay charges 10% for such services, OB’s moderators are option, and they choose their own rate. Many are currently offering for such services for just one percent.
1Broker – 1Broker enables its users to trade gold, silver, the DAX, Down Jones 30 Industrial (Dow 30), S&P 500 indices, Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG), and Microsoft Corp (MSFT). Through a vehicle known as the Contract For Differences or CFD. CFDs are contracts between two parties in which the seller pays to the buyer the difference between the current value of an asset and its value at contract time.
1Broker’s CFD’s essentially function as derivatives for well-known financial markets. As the website founder once told me, “Our primary goal was to make trading as simple and transparent as possible.
The CFD instruments on 1Broker basically conncet Bitcoin with other global markets, enabling individuals to invest or speculate on 1Broker’s markets.