The Sweet Spot for Programmable Money

Bank of Thailand just announced a project to develop a prototype system for a CBDC issued on a blockchain, accessible to businesses.

This is meaningful to me for two reasons:

  1. I was part of the original team that created the Inthanon series of projects in 2018, and it’s great to see that these early pioneering efforts continue to be built upon.
  2. I think that they have hit the near-term sweet spot for programmable money. They really seem to get it.
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Three currency wars, not one

This short blog post describes three different types of currency wars that seem to be happening at the moment.

The phrase “currency wars” is not new – typically is has referred to deliberate devaluation of one’s own currency to increase competitiveness of exports.  If your currency is worth less, then your goods are cheaper to foreigners, so they buy more of them, which is generally good for your country.

Yet with increased discussion and relevance of fintech, wallets, central bank digital currencies, Libra, bitcoin, etc, it seems to me that there is more going on.  I’ve identified three distinct wars (battles? fronts?) being fought:

  1. Currency devaluation to increase competitiveness
  2. Offshore e-money supremacy
  3. Public money vs private money
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Colin G Platt On Peer-to-Peer

Last week I went out with for a beer and pizza with Colin G Platt of Blockchain Insider fame after we did a podcast interview about my book The Basics of Bitcoins and Blockchains at the 11FS office in Devonshire Square in London. Quite appropriately we settled down at the The Bell, a pub in east London and sometime home of the Ethereum London meetups, and talked about how peer-to-peer cryptocurrency payments are.

Here’s a summary of our conversation. Obviously it is heavily edited and we’re not as witty or eloquent as this in real life (well I’m not anyway).

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Frictionless Tokens Create Friction

We’re gonna need another intermediary…

In 2013-15 it was trendy for online merchants to pretend to accept bitcoin as payment. It was a very cheap way to get positive media mentions and seem innovative. Overstock, Dell, Tiger direct… they were all at it after they realised it was all media upside. Even Virgin Galactic accepted bitcoin as payment for trips to space at some point (Note: I think paying for a trip to space with bitcoins is actually quite cool).

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MAS just released Corda for Central Banks… so what?

I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to write about the open sourcing of Project Ubin Phase II, a key project that our team has been working on for the past seven months with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), ten banks, and our partner Accenture.

UbinPhase2
Ubin Phase 2 report

What is Project Ubin?  It’s probably the most advanced starter kit out there for anyone wanting to explore blockchains for banking:

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A Gentle Introduction to Interbank Payment Systems

How do banks pay each other?  In most countries, when banks want to transfer money to each other, perhaps upon instruction from a customer, they don’t put bundles of banknotes in vans, they pay each other digitally.  How does this work?

This post is intended as a primer about payment systems and explains correspondent banking, nostros, real time gross settlement (RTGS) systems and deferred net settlement (DNS) systems.  It supports other posts where I discuss decentralisation of these systems using distributed ledgers.

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