Humaniq is a new money transfer service, which is based on ethereum’s blockchain and targets developing economies.
By building on ethereum, Humaniq is looking to bring financial services to the world’s 2 billion unbanked people.
The goal of the platform is admirable, but one big outstanding question is whether fair and adequate access to the world’s economy is really an issue that can be solved by technology (let alone blockchain).
A little context here: Banking 2.0 and Banking 3.0 chart the evolution of massive model shifts that have unfolded in the banking industry over the past decade or so. Bank users have moved from actually visiting physical branches for handling transactions to instead using mobile and digital technology to handle for most banking needs.
At the same time payments services have moved from the check and credit card style to a number of apps and services that allow new and different kinds of transactions (like sending money to a friend from a bank app on your phone, or signing up for a service that automatically rounds transactions and deposits the remainder in an investment account, for example.)
All of these technological and behavior changes primes the pump for Banking 4.0, according to Humaniq’s founder, Alex Fork. In Banking 4.0, digital bank services will be extended beyond the normal customer base in the developed world to include users in emerging economies.
The ubiquity of mobile phones, the logic goes, as well as other technology such as biometric security and universal mobile apps, will help open financial services to previously underserved markets.
From Humaniq’s website: “The key is that the app will be simple to use. Biometric ID for registration and verification of transactions, and an image based interface rather than text-based, making it very easy and inexpensive to introduce the app to regions and countries with wide variations in written languages and literacy.”
It will be interesting to see how some of the field work goes in testing this idea and how Humaniq proposes to overcome challenges related to different technologies (like different kinds of mobile phones and carriers in different parts of the world, and what, if any, cultural issues might apply here.
While other mobile payment apps have been successful in emerging markets (M-Pesa comes to mind), I kind of wonder if designing one solution for 2 billion will work?
How cryptocurrency and blockchain fit in
Humaniq’s services will be underpinned by cryptocurrency that is based on ethereum’s blockchain.
Transactions will be routed and confirmed using blockchain, which capitalizes on the technology’s efficient money-moving system.
Humaniq’s first offerings sound like they will be very traditional blockchain services, such as currency transfer and a wallet-like account for holding assets.
Later, the system can be built upon to include more advanced transactions and services, such as lending and insurance.
What’s interesting about Humaniq’s attempt to bring banking to the most marginalized emerging economies, is the idea of incentivizing the system’s adoption by offering coins to new users.
Here’s what founder, Adam Fork, said in an interview with Cointelegraph about the incentive plan: “
“Users are incentivized with tradable tokens that can be exchanged for local currency through mobile cashiers or traded for Ether, Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. It is about breaking down the traditional barriers and making it easy. We also have launched a Humaniq Ambassadors program and have already signed up members of the crypto communities to help propagate our services and act as local liaisons to teach new users how to connect and use the Humaniq services.”
As I mentioned before, I’m really interested in they idea of using cryptocurrencies as an incentive to use or support a platform.
Humaniq begins an ICO on April 6, more details can be found on their website.