Ireland’s Big Banks Pilot Domestic Payments on Ethereum-Based Blockchain

              

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Two of Ireland’s colloquial ‘big four’ banks are part of a group established to pilot domestic payments over an Ethereum-based blockchain in Ireland.

Ulster Bank, a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS), Allied Irish Banks (AIB), personal financial services firm Permanent TSB and services firm Deloitte make the group of four establishing a pilot project to explore blockchain technology in domestic payments, according to a report by the Irish Times.

The working project is titled Project GreenPay and will use ‘Emerald’, an Ethereum-based blockchain developed by the Royal Bank of Scotland, which sees Ulster Bank as a subsidiary.

Emerald is described as a ‘Clearing and Settlement Mechanism (CSM) based on the Ethereum distributed ledger and smart contract platform’, in a technical paper [PDF] released by RBS in September 2016.

Tests between 6 simulated banks at the time revealed a throughput of 100 payments per second, a single trip mean of 3 seconds and a maximum length of 8 seconds. A level ‘appropriate for a national level domestic payments system,’ RBS developers stated at the time following testing.

Notably, the developers pointed to certain tweaks performed with the Ethereum blockchain to achieve these results.

RBS developers wrote in a summary:

Ethereum required some modifications to tune its focus from a hugely distributed, public system to a faster moving, private ledger aimed at speed and throughput.

Today’s report reveals that Project GreenPay has already been tested in a Dublin lab, with trial dummy payments passed around the banks to test the blockchain-based process for performance, accuracy, and stability.

While banks’ blockchain trials have become commonplace around the world, this particular effort sees two of Ireland’s biggest banks by market cap and competitors in AIB and Ulster Bank, joining forces toward piloting financial technologies.

PTSB group operating chief Toby Clements points to the banks’ collaboration as “vital to offering customers the very best banking experience,” possibly hinting at a commercial deployment in the future.

Still, Ulster Bank’s chief administrative officer Ciarán Coyle added that the trial was merely a research project, with no guarantee of a blockchain powering domestic payments going into production or future deployment.

Japan is a notable example of a marked wider effort among the entire banking industry to test domestic fund transfers over a blockchain in an effort to replace the existing national payments system. In a separate effort, 47 Japanese banks completed a money transfer pilot earlier this year using Ripple’s blockchain.

Meanwhile, Ireland is aiming to establish itself as a hub for FinTech development. To push the agenda, a blockchain advocacy group took shape in December 2016. Its efforts didn’t go unnoticed, as ‘big four’ services and accounting giant Deloitte opened its ‘blockchain lab’ in Dublin, Ireland, housing a team of 25 blockchain developers and designers cat launch in January this year. By the end of 2017, Deloitte expects to staff 50 exclusive blockchain developers to cater to clients in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) by the end of the year.