Circle Is Building a Master Mobile Payments Network on Ethereum


Blockchain startup Circle has unveiled new software aimed at connecting the world’s digital wallets.

Known as ‘CENTRE’, the project seeks to create a way for digital wallets (like Venmo, Alipay or the startup’s own Circle Pay) to communicate with one another. Put more simply, CENTRE as envisioned would let the companies behind those apps to transmit and settle funds between them.

At its heart, the project targets the so-called “walled garden” issue, wherein different platforms – whether they be a social media site like Facebook or a payments app like Venmo – exist largely within their own ecosystems. Circle is aiming to build a bridge between them, betting that it would make for a more inclusive consumer payments environment.

Circle released today a new white paper outlining the specifications and intended use for CENTRE, which notes that the project has grown since being established as an internal method for transacting in both cryptocurrencies and fiat currencies in digital form. Notably, the startup is planning to develop a new implementation of CENTRE on top of the ethereum network, complete with its own ERC-20 token, the CENT.

CENTRE makes further use of the token standard, however, as node operators – whether they be an app operator, a bank or another financial institution – could issue their own ERC-20 tokens tied to a particular fiat currency to send between other parties on the CENTRE network.

Transactions between nodes would be settled through smart contracts, or self-executing pieces of code that trigger when certain conditions are met. That the startup would move in this direction is perhaps unsurprising – last December, Circle revealed its work on “Spark”, a smart contract platform it uses to settle transactions.

CENT, according to the paper, is meant to act as a common medium of exchange between apps that originally use entirely incompatible currencies. This means that while nodes aren’t required to accept, say, a USD-tied token issued on ethereum by another party on the CENTRE network, they do, by default, have to accept the CENT.

The startup explains:

“The CENTRE Token, in addition to its other uses (such as accessing the service provider protocol), provides a way for wallets which have no fiat tokens in common to transact, as they will be able to use CENTRE Tokens to obtain the needed fiat token in common to transact, as they will be able to use CENTRE Tokens to obtain the needed fiat token.”

Circle is planning to create a CENTRE Foundation to spearhead development of the initiative, and the establishment of that nonprofit group is expected to happen in the coming months.

Though it’s unclear who will make the shift, the startup said that “several key Circle employees” are expected to form the foundation’s early leadership team.

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Circle.

Network effect image via Shutterstock

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