Updated Apr. 8 at 4:06pm ET by Candice So to include comments from Ingenico S.A.
The Royal Canadian Mint is stopping work on building a digital currency, and putting its current efforts up for sale – and that could be a good thing for cryptocurrency enthusiasts.
On April 4, the Mint announced it was going to stop work on the MintChip, a project it first unveiled in 2012. The idea was to allow Canadian consumers to pay for goods and services by using a microSD card housed inside a smartphone, instead of having to carry cash. Essentially, the microSD card would have been a way to carry Canadian dollars in digital form.
Hearing the project is now moving into private hands is welcome news to Anthony Di Iorio, executive director of the Bitcoin Alliance of Canada. He says he feels Bitcoin, as well as other cryptocurrencies, are the true currencies of the future.
“The MintChip is basically just a more digital way to have the money we have now. With Bitcoin, it’s not actually distributed by any central authority or controlled by any central authority, which I think is a much more powerful system,” he says, adding he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the Mint dropped the MintChip because it’s obsolete, compared to the cryptocurrencies already out there.
“I never saw any results, I never fully understood exactly what it was. I don’t think the Canadian public is really following it that much, or really cares.”
He adds the Bitcoin Alliance most likely would not be interested in buying the MintChip business. The Mint has not said whether there are any takers so far.
In January, the MintChip went into a pilot phase, allowing its employees to pay for purchases with it in the Mint’s own cafeteria. The Mint had also been in talks with developing countries looking to import a similar digital currency.
In 2012, it unveiled a $50,000 contest for developers to build mobile apps for the MintChip, and it had a partnership with Ingenico S.A., a payment solutions provider based in France, to build a wireless point-of-sales terminal to allow consumers to pay for purchases using the MintChip in brick and mortar stores.
“Ingenico is aware of the Royal Canadian Mint’s intent to transition the MintChip project to the private sector. We will be able to assess our opportunities when the transition is complete,” said Ingenico in an emailed statement.
And as recently as February, the Mint announced it was partnering with SecureKey Technologies Inc., contracting the Toronto-based company to develop software to bolster security on the MintChip. In the wake of the announcement of its potential sale, the company is going to continue to provide the Mint with technical support and access to its software development kit, a SecureKey spokesperson said by email.
Still, while the move may appear abrupt, the Mint says a plan to involve private business was always in the works.
“The Mint always anticipated that the private sector would have to play a role in MintChip’s market introduction,” said Christine Aquino, the Mint’s director of communications, in an emailed statement.
“As MintChip’s research and development efforts have matured at the Mint, the government of Canada has moved the project to its natural next steps, including moving further development and commercialization to the private sector.”
She added the Mint was working with the federal department of finance to figure out its options for selling its digital currency.