It’s been 10 years since anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto started a decentralized revolution with the Bitcoin (BTC) whitepaper, and over that time the peer-to-peer, open-source network has climbed to $112 billion in market capitalization. But digital assets that are settled via enterprise blockchain are beginning to enter the scene, giving consumers and investors a more traditional, albeit tokenized, alternative to borderless money.
IBM Blockchain last week unveiled the World Wire platform which will help settle cross border payments in near real-time. According to the New York-based Fortune 50 company, the enterprise-grade blockchain platform will use the Stellar protocol and integrate with existing payment systems of traditional financial institutions.
World Wire is unlike mainstream cryptos’ approach to tokenized money in that decentralized networks often skip trusted third parties altogether. IBM’s “Programmable Money” whitepaper suggested that’s an unrealistic approach given that global payment systems are constrained by central bank rules and government regulations. The whitepaper’s experts said that most banks are interested in distributed ledger technology (DLT), and in a digital economy they’ll continue to perform critical functions such as ID management, monitoring transactions for fraud, preventing money laundering and reporting suspicious activities to law enforcement.
Here’s how World Wire works.
Counterparties (such as two banks located in different continents) can agree to use stablecoins, central bank-issued digital currency, or other digital assets (such as Bitcoin or Ethereum) as a bridge between any two fiat currencies. World Wire will convert these agreed-upon digital assets into the counterparty’s fiat currency to complete transactions. Payments are immutably recorded on the blockchain.
An IBM executive said this week that the new platform is an alternative to legacy systems that have been in place for several decades such as SWIFT.
“When money can move in a secure way, in a way that still complies with what … regulators want to see, that’s huge. That’s a big differentiator from SWIFT [messaging system used by traditional banks],” said Jesse Lund, vice president of global blockchain market development at IBM Financial Services Sector in an Oct. 22 interview.
[IBM] World Wire takes a much more open approach to the selection digital assets. So we can support a native crypto asset [such as Stellar Lumens]. But we’re also leveraging our expertise and relationships with banks. And central banks around the world are actually trying to create an ecosystem of whole bunch of alternative settlement instruments that counterparties who use the network can actually decide together … what settlement asset they want to use.
For instance, counterparties can decide to use Stellar lumens (XLM), U.S. dollars, digital Euro, or central bank-issued digital currency. These can be converted to whatever sovereign fiat the counterparty prefers to send or receive. “We’re providing for the future of the swap of a whole range of digital instruments because that’s really the spirit behind [IBM] World Wire,” said Lund.
IBM’s “Programmable Money” whitepaper discussed how it’s all about creating a practical and realistic infrastructure that will allow frictionless cross border payments while complying with rules and regulations that banks are forced to follow. It lists several benefits of using World Wire including faster payments, lower costs, frictionless settlements and transparency.
Others argue that trusted third parties are no longer a necessity in the digital age.
“Blockchain technology has completely redefined the idea of a traditional transaction. Financial banking, credit card systems, and investment portfolios are all so integral to our society, but completely intimidating to the average consumer,” said Marshall Hayner, CEO of Metal, a San Francisco-based payment app, in an interview with Crypto Briefing.
We’ve become dependent on banks and third-party entities — largely because money as a concept is not fun or easy to think about, but something so essential to our being should be. We have discredited ourselves by neglecting the power of a peer-to-peer transaction. Blockchain as a framework, which does not warrant a third-party, has unlocked potential for an entirely new type of banking, and in turn, has the ability to strengthen us as a society.
As of press time, Crypto Briefing was unable to get comments from IBM Blockchain.
The author holds BTC which is mentioned in this article.