Royal Canadian Mint Announces Digital Currency

Challenges developers to build apps and vet the technology for $50,000 in bullion.

Did you know the Royal Canadian Mint, the agency that produces Canada’s money, has been “actively monitoring the evolution of currency and payment technologies for a number of years”? They have! And they’ve developed their own digital currency, the MintChip.

Apparently the Mint recently diverted some of its research and development funds—who knew mints had these?—into coding MintChip, which uses NFC technology similar to Google Wallet. Today the Mint announced a competition for developers in North America. Build apps with MintChip, which is still in the experimental phase, and you can win $50,000 in gold bullion.

The Mint has prototypes and five patents pending on its technology, says the Mint. The system is designed to work well for microtransactions under $10 and “nano-transactions” under $1. “The Mint hopes that software developers and entrepreneurs will use MintChip to ignite trade and commerce for these very-low-value markets,” the Mint says on the website for the competition. The Mint’s chief financial officer will give a keynote about MintChip on April 17.

Iowa-based Dwolla is growing by leaps and bounds. Developing world favorite M-Pesa has had revolutionary impact in Africa, serving as a bank for 15 million people. Barclays in the U.K. has introduced a mobile payments called Pingit. And of course, Bitcoin keeps trucking along. Meanwhile, Popmoney, a mobile payments partnership between Moneygram and payment system Fiserv, recently popped up. But this is, as far as we know, the first time a government has sponsored a digital currency.

The MintChip competition is powered by hometown startup ChallengePost and sparked a debate when it was posted to Hacker News with the inflammatory title, “The Royal Canadian Mint just announced a new alternative to BitCoin.”

Royal Canadian Mint Announces Digital Currency