Banknotes, Bitcoin and the Hope Beyond Speculation

Crypto, now for use in the offline world?  In ways that involve physical notes — the ones you (gasp) keep at the ready, poised to hand to merchants?

Friday brought the news that bitcoin has made inroads into the tangible realm.  To be specific: bitcoin notes are coming to Singapore.

This may or may not change the landscape for cryptos. Will it mean uptake of bitcoin that will skyrocket beyond mere speculation, to become utility and utilitarian?

The mechanics thus far, as reported by sites including Yahoo Finance, are that the “smart” notes are being launched through Tangem, a firm focused on developing hardware and software.  The official name is the Tangem Note.

The notes are denoted in bitcoin, specifically in 0.01 and 0.05 of bitcoin — defined by a chip that holds those values.

The chips are developed by Samsung (which, of course, in its most recent results has said that it got a boost from making chips that are tied to crypto mining).

The hope is that mass adoption is in the offing, and Tangem will look to produce millions of notes through 2018.  Tangem has said that it is launching the notes through pilot sales, immediately, at the Megafash, Suntec City Store in Singapore.  The hope, said the company in a release, is that the notes will “improve the simplicity and security of acquiring, owning and circulating cryptocurrencies both for sophisticated and incoming users.”

The notes are not really paper-based, but come in card form. The tech that houses the chip, Tangem has said on its web site, is billed as being “safe and reliable,” with 20 years of storage of digital assets (perhaps employing future use cases beyond currency) that cannot be cloned, copied, or “double spent.”  The company has also said that notes need only be touched with a NFC capable smartphone, which ensures the note is 100 percent valid.

This is not the first shot across the bow when it comes to cryptos rendered for those who prefer at least some tangible experience.  There are, of course, cryptocurrency ATMs — and one company, Coinme, said at the end of last week that it has added eight of those machines in California, and across the nation counts 50 locations.  Using those machines, customers can buy and sell bitcoin via Coinme wallets.  And in Japan, merchants continue to embrace bitcoin for transactions.

Earlier this year, the St. Louis Fed released a report that stated that a near term and rapid adoption of cryptocurrencies will drive out cash, in the event that scaling efforts are substantial and successful.

To borrow a phrase from vaudeville: Will it play in Peoria?  It’s no secret that bitcoin costs a fair amount to mine, and supply and demand economics have kept the crypto expensive to use in transactions.  Transaction fees have come down to below $2 recently, and off markedly from multiples of that as recently as last year.

But the extreme volatility in pricing that is still the hallmark of bitcoin means that the value of holding a percentage of bitcoin should cause the value of the note to fluctuate wildly, too.  To spur adoption as an actual currency, some stabilization needs to be in place as to the stored value of that note – hardly bitcoin’s hallmark, at least for now.



New PYMNTS Report: Preventing Financial Crimes Playbook – July 2020 

Call it the great tug-of-war. Fraudsters are teaming up to form elaborate rings that work in sync to launch account takeovers. Chris Tremont, EVP at Radius Bank, tells PYMNTS that financial institutions (FIs) can beat such highly organized fraudsters at their own game. In the July 2020 Preventing Financial Crimes Playbook, Tremont lays out how.