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Identity and payments in modern world. How our client Bitt is changing the world?

Bitt is a payment system provider with a mission: to empower people financially, foster economic growth, and promote social inclusion. They intend to do this through revolutionary, cashless payment solutions, which can be especially valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bitt is an official partner of the CBDC pilot for the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, and they’re looking at bringing positive change to the global fintech market. iRonin.IT’s developers offer crucial support to Bitt’s core team.

Bitt is a fintech innovator that uses cutting edge technology, including blockchain, to provide secure peer-to-peer cashless transactions. Their goal is to offer a safe, simple, usable and attractive payments system for multiple user groups, including citizens, merchants and banks. They intend to build a solid foundation of economic growth to empower future generations. As socially responsible innovators, Bitt’s team bring a lot of positive potential to the world of finance and technology.

A core partnership

iRonin.IT became Bitt’s trusted technological partner through delivering software solutions on time and guaranteeing a high quality of service. Our developers work closely with Bitt’s internal team, extending their skillset and improving overall efficiency. Because of our transparent cooperation methods, the client has direct contact to all developers working on their project (as opposed to having to coordinate their involvement through a project manager, as is often the case in other companies). Thanks to this approach, the client can (and does) make requests for particular experts’ continued involvement in the project. The client knows exactly what each developer works on, and this empowers them to make informed decisions regarding team composition.

Security and identity

Issues such as the security of their solutions, privacy, data management, and digital identity are crucial to Bitt. As such, they recently participated in the Medici Advance 2019 training - and they decided to invite one of our developers along. The course’s main subject was the issue of online identity, and the methods used to protect it. The trainers from the Sovrin Foundation do not believe that logging in with a password is safe enough.

Confirming a person’s identity isn’t as straightforward as we might think, either. Institutions and organization need to confirm the identity of their users, but the users also need reliable methods of making sure they’re dealing with a legitimate organization. Sovrin offers methods for safe and private confirmation of either side’s identity with a high degree of certainty. They use unique connections between subjects, a distributed system and modern encryption to facilitate secure data exchange witout making any of the data public. This means that data can be verified as legitimate without ever becoming accessible to any third party.

The trainers also spoke about methods of invalidating stolen identity (to make it useless to the thief), as well as Hyperledger Aries, Hyperledger Indy and the cryptographic intricacies of Hyperledger Ursa (which empowers safe data exchange through methods such as zero-knowledge proof). The impact of blockchain technologies on security was also discussed, as it allows users full insight into the transaction history of the any data they interact with. Additionally, blockchain guarantees that the data cannot be forged or changed.

Security today and in the future

Consider how easy it would be for someone to take out a loan in your name. All they need is a photo of your ID. It’s difficult to prevent this from happening - people are people, and we make identity theft easy at times. Besides, we need to carry our IDs with us most of the time, which makes them difficult to protect. Moreover, there is no way to globally invalidate your stolen ID before it can be used, even if you report the theft right away. The burden of proof often rests on you in such cases - i.e. the burned of proving that it wasn’t you who took out the loan. The situation is far from ideal.

Sovrin’s model comes with a different proposition, one allowing people to immediately (within minutes) send out information with a global reach. This would make identity theft pointless. Additionally, the data of the ID wouldn’t have to be changed. Instead, the ID’s owner would receive a recreated ID with a new digital signature, and the old ID’s data could no longer be used by anyone. All their connections (e.g. with their bank) would be invalidated, and need to be reestablished.

The rise of digital currencies

The uproar caused by Bitcoin might have died down, but the technology behind cryptocurrencies (blockchain) is still being developed. You’ve probably heard about Libra, the new global cryptocurrency championed by Facebook. Bitt’s currency for a nation’s central bank is also an innovative proposition. There’s a reason why corporations and governments are so interested in the prospect - digital currencies are cheap (cheaper than fiat money) and easy to make available to anyone who owns a mobile device, as they don’t require to be physically produced or transported.

Bitcoin isn’t perfect. It’s a distributed currency. Consensus on whether a transaction is valid or not can be achieved when the majority (of those responsible for the machines that cryptographically “sign” each block in the chain) agree on what the current version is. This is why Bitcoin requires a lot of processing power, making it fairly expensive. Additionally, there are some risks related to Bitcoin that make it, or any other cryptocurrency, not a viable solution for a government or central bank. What if anyone else than a central bank could control what data is written into the blockchain?

Bitt’s model is different. Their currency will be entirely in the hands of the organization controlling it (the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, though in the future, this platform could be used for internal currencies, e.g. as points in a retail loyalty program). This organization becomes the final decision maker, and the guarantor of their currency’s security.

The power of blockchain

This is not something unique to Bitt, as the distinction between public and private, permissionless and permissioned blockchain already exists. Permissioned blockchain networks require users publishing blocks to be authorized (by a centralized or decentralized authority). Not everyone can access the blockchain data or issue transactions. Permissioned blockchain networks use consensus models for publishing blocks (while making them faster and less costly than permissionless blockchain networks can).

This technology will work for organizations that need tighter control and better security, as well as for groups of organizations that need to cooperate in a scenario of limited trust (as they will determine the consensus model themselves). If transparency is the focus (e.g. for audits), permissioned blockchain networks will work well. They also offer the ability ”to selectively reveal transaction information based on a blockchain network users identity or credentials”.

The organization controlling the currency will, therefore, be aware of all transactions, as well as of the full amount of money introduced into the circuit. This leaves no room for tax scams, for example. Receipts or any other separate proof of transaction could become unnecessary. Invoices and receipts could be stored in the blockchain itself, connected to appropriate transactions. This has the potential of simplifying taxation, leading to further cost reductions, and it could be a powerful weapon in the fight against corruption.

Keys for each unit of the currency will be known, connected to a specific LFI (licensed financial institution), and traced in time. Theft without the knowledge the user and the bank will be impossible. The operator of the blockchain will be able to send money back from the perpetrator’s wallet to the victim’s wallet.

Bitt’s global potential

iRonin.IT’s team has been cooperating with Bitt on this project for quite a while. We’re helping to build the platform for the currency - one that may eventually become availalble for other banks and organizations and their local currencies. Bitt provides the software, while the client organization oversees the currency.

The value here is simple: a new digital currency without a physical version. Such a solution could have an immense positive effect in certain areas. There are countries (e.g. in Africa) where taking out money from an ATM is impossible, or requires a long trip (hundreds of kilometers) to a neighbouring country. The internet and mobile devices are much more available globally.

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