IBM is working on a new digital cash and payment system based on blockchain technology, according to a Reuters report citing unnamed sources at the company.
IBM has previously revealed that it is researching the use of Bitcoin technology for its Autonomous Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Telemetry (ADEPT) project. The joint project with Samsung is looking into various decentralized protocols to power the Internet of Things.
The most recent reports indicate that the envisioned system would work with existing fiat money. Instead of ledgers controlled by banks, the open ledger would be accessible to all participants of the network, much like Bitcoin. The source explained:
“When somebody wants to transact in the system, instead of you trying to acquire a bitcoin, you simply say, here are some U.S. dollars. It’s sort of a bitcoin but without the bitcoin.”
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IBM is reportedly holding informal discussions with a number of central banks, including the US Federal Reserve. If they would approve, IBM would build a secure and stable infrastructure for the project.
A similar project led by the Royal Canadian Mint, with cooperation from various technology providers, would have also introduced cryptographic protocols to manage fiat cash. Called MintChip, the Mint divested from the project around one year ago, its fate uncertain.
Since then, interest in such concepts has been casually expressed by governments and other businesses. Late last year, a Bank of Canada official said the government is looking into issuing its own digital currency, “like bitcoin”. A similar concept was proposed by a Filipino congressman. Ecuador’s government is also rolling out its digital form of the US dollar, a mobile-based system similar to bKash or M-Pesa, but not based on cryptographic principles.
The IBM source said that the project is still evolving and still in its early stages. The approach to fighting money laundering and other criminal activity, a major concern of authorities when it comes to digital currencies, remains unclear.