Changes in the flow of business, government and finance have led to an evolution in currency and the way that people use their finances. Debit and credit cards, ATMs and even checks all transformed the way payments were performed. E-commerce sites such as eBay were arguably fueled by PayPal, which enabled a quick method for people to conduct transactions online. It also created a layer of protection between buyers, sellers and credit card or bank information.
With more people invested in their online lives though smartphones, social media, a greater reliance on e-commerce and widespread broadband and WiFi, the online financial environment has no choice but to change once again. This has led to the introduction of Google's mobile wallet, bitcoin and a variety of other digital-based currencies. Although they have been adopted to a degree, none of them have the widespread popularity of credit cards, PayPal or cash. Mobile wallets often rely on special equipment to use, such as bardcode or in some cases near field communication (NFC) readers. Meanwhile, the significant ups and downs in bitcoins' value, along with its lack of regulation, has negatively affected its perception.
Canada enters the digital currency environment
As alternative, digital currencies struggle for legitimacy, though, one currency has promise: the MintChip. As the name indicates, the virtual money exists on a chip, and as noted by Financial Mail, the MintChip has two advantages over other options. For one, it's backed by the Royal Canadian Mint. Secondly, it can be redeemed for cash.
As the virtual money initiative continues to develop, Marc Brûlé, CFO for the Royal Canadian Mint and head of the MintChip project, addressed a number of questions about the currency to the Financial Post.
Describing the currency, Brûlé told the interviewer, "It's kind of like a pre-paid product, and it's virtual so it can work in a cloud environment, and can be used in all the channels for bricks and mortar, it can be used online and it can also be used in peer-to-peer payment."
However, for many consumers security is a primary concern about any currency. Credit and debit cards are known quantities, while PayPal has a decades-long reputation. To assure people about the MintChip's safety, Brûlé mentioned that it uses a cryptographic message to ensure security and thus payments can be made without any issues.
According to Brûlé, the matter of confidence will be the only impediment to the MintChip's widespread acceptance. He addressed that the technological infrastructure for the currency can be solved with time and money. Once established, users could purchase items with the MintChip online, in brick-and-mortar stores or even for person-to-person payments, Brûlé noted. The lack of convenience with payment methods like Google's mobile wallet has arguably prevented the technology from gaining popularity, but MintChip would be easier to use than even credit cards, as the stored value on the chip could complete a payment without needing the approval process associated with traditional cards.
Of course, privacy issues are a big deal for some people, which is another advantage to the MintChip. The technology enables privacy respected payments, so that consumers can avoid releasing personal details online or to strangers during a transaction – thus mimicking cash in regard to anonymity. This is another way that the chip enhances security and privacy.
While the digital currency is not ready for release yet, Brûlé informed the Financial Post that the developers are still updating the MintChip's business model and updating the technology for MintChip 2.0.
Because of the nature of MintChip, it may provide most, if not all, of the advantages associated with cash: legitimacy, privacy and a level of security that's hard to match.