3,389 people from around the globe flocked to San Francisco Blockchain Week earlier this month, with the two-day epicenter conference followed by the two-day security focused conference, CESC – accompanied by two hackathons; the Ethereum hackathon and the first major Bitcoin Cash hackathon hosted by Permissionless Ventures and BTC.com.
The Bitcoin Cash hackathon sought to bring together a comprehensive cross-section of blockchain engineers, Fintech entrepreneurs, Bitcoin Cash developers, tech entrepreneurs, designers, and scrum masters to best leverages the latest tools released for BCH developers, e.g. opcodes, big blocks, Wormhole tokens and smart contracts.
It presented an opportunity for those still new to the blockchain development community a first-hand experience to get their hands on software toolkits and build a live demo using the Bitcoin Cash blockchain. Michael Brink, a competitor with Team Armadillo, who flew in for the week gives a first-hand account of his experience.
“My teammate Bjorn and I live in South Africa, but were in San Francisco for some meetings. We’re not developers, but do work in the blockchain industry at a higher level. Because we were not developers going into the competition, we stayed up all night building and testing just so that we had a basic product to demo our proof of concept.” said Brink.
Their idea for the competition was to incentivize the Bitcoin Cash community to drive user adoption by funding a community wallet that issues rebates for goods bought using Bitcoin Cash. Merchants save on transaction fees, and service more customers by selling goods at a discounted rate. The increased usage of Bitcoin Cash should in turn run up liquidity for the community to fund the wallet issuing rebates.
“We tried out a few different software development kits (SDKs) and ended up using BTC.com because we were learning, testing on the fly and found it was the most straightforward for us to use and well documented.”
They built a live node.js web service and used Google cloud to deploy the wallet architecture and then setup a webhook directly out of BTC.com to watch incoming transactions on the merchant wallet and perform live address monitoring.
“We used one of the account balances libraries to check who the transaction came from and initiated an autopay response from the community wallet back to the user.”
Ahead of the upcoming Amstersam Bitcoin Cash Hackathon, the first European bitcoin cash hackathon, taking place on October 27-28, we interviewed Michael Brink to learn more about his project.
Q: Did any local conditions from South Africa factors into your economic incentives framework?
“Getting cash out of a bank gets difficult north of South Africa. If you can have a marketplace as a cashout instead of having to withdraw into fiat, it’s a great way for people to start finding value. In Africa 80% of salaries go toward essential goods such as food and bills; needs not wants. If salaries were paid in crypto, then a micropayment protocol can provide a lower fee marketplace to buy goods at more competitive rate.
There are other peer-to-peer benefits for informal markets where in South Africa 35 to 45 million people purchase data, air time, lottery tickets, and prepaid electricity. Not to mention the smuggling of rolled up bank notes in the bonnet of the car driving across the border because of how difficult it is to pull out cash in some countries north of us.”
Q: How do you see somewhere like South Africa’s infrastructure implementing this type of software solution on the ground?
“While data is still relatively expensive, mobile money has had a huge impact. In South Africa we have a Know Your Customer (KYC) standard called RICA that checks your name, surname, and ID number against an active mobile phone number registry. A security concern that the judges raised when reviewing our demo was, how do you prevent shop owners from buying their own product in order to make money off the rebates? Our response was to use existing KYC infrastructure, like RICA, to validate who is making the payment request to the communal wallet. This way we could make a whitelist of wallet addresses where authentication integrates with the existing mobile phone KYC network.”
Q: BTC.com’s wallet has a pairing feature that links your phone number to your addresses, and has a contact system whereby you can send money and record transactions with friends on your network.
“That’s awesome, we weren’t aware of that feature, because we’re not developers so we applied the SDK in its simplest form, but that would have been useful to integrate.
I met BTC.com at a blockchain conference in 2017, and it would be great if we could have another event now that there’s a better understanding on the ground. I think there’s going to be a lot of entrepreneurs and developers interested in Blocktrail’s SDK to start building betas on a test net.”
Q: Africa seems full of potential, but what are the important steps that still need to be taken to realize micropayments across a decentralized mobile marketplace?
“There’s one main constraint that we’ve see at Rehive that is a risk for businesses using our API-based platform. Even though the API doesn’t touch the blockchain, we work with vendors to sell prepaid crypto vouchers, and the issue comes down to explaining the volatility when ten dollars of crypto yesterday becomes worth only eight dollars a day later. Disputes of this sort can result in frustrated customers gathering outside of storefronts, and businesses simply can’t risk that kind of exposure.”
The approach that has garnered the most traction for us has been educational workshops, and last month we hosted South Africa’s largest blockchain hackathon. We spent the first half of the day explaining the fundamentals of bitcoin and the lockchain’s architecture. I was telling bjorn it would be great to have this level of participation in South Africa with industry leading brands, mentors, and high quality developers.