OTTAWA, ON, Canada -- Last month, Canada announced that it plans to stop minting 1¢ coins. This month, the Royal Canadian Mint is using gold, one of the oldest forms of currency, to attract software developers to its MintChip Challenge, which aims to transform the country’s remaining coins into digital currency.
MintChip is the latest move by the Canadian government to move money into the digital age. Canada, which has a history of innovative currency policy, is now taking the lead in providing what just may prove the future of money and the use of electronic cash for even small purchases. Since Canada replaced $1 and $2 banknotes with coins some time ago, MintChip is intended to pay for low-value items, anything worth less than $5 to $10.
The MintChip Challenge, conducted by ChallengePost, is open to North American software developers who want to create innovative mobile payment applications using the MintChip technology. MintChip is more a protocol and system than a physical device. The Royal Canadian Mint, which is sponsoring the competition, said the system could be included in mobile phones or remain entirely on servers for consumers only interested in online transactions. In physical form, the MintChip does not require an Internet connection for payments and, unlike debit and credit cards, its transactions are not run through third parties.
The contest, which kicked off on April 4, was originally scheduled to run through Aug. 1. But the Mint has already stopped accepting entries "due to a very high level of interest." That's likely because of the lure of gold: the Mint will distribute about two pounds of the precious metal in total with a value of about $50,000 to the MintChip Challenge winners.