Whatever The Public Think About Digital Currency, It Is Coming

Whatever the public think, digital currency is coming and some innovative thinking will be required to deliver it as a genuine cash alternative into mass markets.

The Dutch bank ING is piloting a peer-to-peer payments app that uses ultra-wideband (UWB) technology to let users transfer money by simply pointing one handset at another. They are working with Samsung and NXP Semiconductors on the ‘Near’ app to implement these payments for consumers.

UWB means interesting new products and services. Just to recap, UWB is not really a new technology. The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) standard on UWB (802.15.4) came out many years ago, but it never really gained traction for communications. Wi-Fi worked well enough and it got faster pretty quickly, but there was a pivot when engineers found that the radio pulses that UWB uses have an interesting characteristic: they allow devices to determine location very accurately indeed. Much more accurately than you get from signal strength estimation (as with Bluetooth proximity applications). This means that with UWB it is possible to measure distance to a couple of inches and since apps can get this information a few times every second they can also tell whether another device is stationary, approaching or receding.

The technology already started to make inroads into the world of payments when the Japanese operator NTT Docomo teamed up with Sony and NXP Semiconductors to trial technology that lets shoppers make NFC payments without having to take their phones out of their pockets. They are using UWB to follow user movement and positioning with location accuracy of a few centimeters. This took UWB into the transaction space, alongside the existing Wi-Fi, RFID/NFC and Bluetooth links.

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