Bitcoin's price volatility has long been viewed as one of the biggest barriers to mainstream consumer adoption, but while a long-recognized problem, the issue has yet to be addressed by any specific market solutions.
That could be set to change, however, with the introduction of a new service from Panama-based bitcoin wallet provider Coinapult. Called LOCKS, the offering allows users outside the US to peg the value of their BTC to the price of gold, silver, British pounds, US dollars and euros.
Coinapult CEO Ira Miller told CoinDesk that despite suggestions that consumers in the developed world may be less concerned with bitcoin's volatility, this doesn't mean that the bitcoin industry shouldn't move to address this potential pain point in a bid to better court the market.
"I think that [global consumers] have a higher tolerance for [price volatility] because they have been forced to suffer through a lot more volatility from their own currencies. It's not necessarily because bitcoin is volatile and that's something they're comfortable with, it's that they look less volatile compared to their national currency and if they had access to something like gold for instance, maybe they'd prefer that over either."
Of course, Miller sees the solution as broadly appealing, mentioning the potential usefulness of LOCKS for bitcoin businesses that want to better manage their supply chain as well as the growing number of employees that are paid in bitcoin, adding:
"People can't really afford to hold bitcoin for very long. You've got to pay rent at the end of the month in euros or dollars, you may even at this time convince your landlord to pay rent using the bitcoin network, but at at the same time, you may have market action that happens during those 15 days that means you can't cover that anymore."
Founded in 2012, the release marks the first new consumer offering from Coinapult in some time. Miller explained that Coinapult has been primarily focusing on B2B solutions, merchant processing and other verticals that position it to better serve Latin America, as well as its SMS and email-based bitcoin sending solutions.
Miller added: "We think that these new consumer-facing services are going to be really big in Latin America and we see Latin America as the hottest emerging market for bitcoin all around."
How LOCKS works
When users first log in to their Coinapult wallet, they can navigate to the 'My Locks' screen for the option to lock a certain portion of their wallet holdings to a selected asset.
Coinapult charges no fees for using the locking service, and does not sell bitcoin to consumers. At the point a user locks in a value or unlocks the value of their BTC, Miller explained, Coinapult quotes the user for a certain number of coins at a certain price.
"If you exercise [locking or unlocking the funds], we're guaranteeing that we'll provide you a certain number of coins at that price," Miller said. "If I lock 0.0085 BTC to the price of the US dollar, I will always have $5 worth of bitcoin to spend. What that specific amount is at the time is dependent on the market, but it will always be the same. It will always be [$5 worth of bitcoin]."
All funds are only redeemable in bitcoin, meaning users who peg a certain amount of BTC to an ounce of gold cannot receive an ounce of gold from Coinapult.
Users can also increase or decrease the amount of their lock should they want to access their holdings for expenses or other purposes.
"Let's say I think the pound is strong and I think I'm going to have expenses in pounds coming up. It takes me to a confirmation page. I click 'Yes'. At this point it's made me a quote, it's giving me a price for this transaction."
Miller further clarified: "If the BTC-to-[dollar] exchange rate doubles, then tomorrow I get half as much bitcoin back."
Using Miller's $5 example, a user who locked in this value at current market prices would be redeemable for 0.0042 BTC in this circumstance.
Easing introductory conversations
Though Coinapult does not sell bitcoin to new users, Miller still sees his tool as one aimed at helping to onboard consumers to the bitcoin ecosystem.
For example, he described Coinapult as a service that could appeal to consumers in Kenya who want to settle a debt at a bar or restaurant, saying:
"You buy a drink for your friend and he says 'I don't have cash, why don't I just send you some bitcoin?'. If that guy doesn't have a wallet already, it can be kind of a challenge to actually get him to accept the payment. Even if he's willing and curious, he still needs to get set up and you need to work through some logistics to make that initial payment."
Miller sees LOCKS as a solution to this issue, one that would allow the bitcoin sender in the scenario with a way to introduce the receiver to bitcoin while preserving the value that he paid in the original transaction.
"They can receive their first bitcoin payment and immediately lock it to gold or their local currency, and at that moment they've experienced bitcoin the payment network for the first time, and hopefully the locking action will eliminate one or two of the things that will be very new and uncomfortable for them about that experience," Miller said.
First to market
Given that finding solutions to bitcoin's price volatility could prove integral to increasing adoption, Miller also discussed why he believes his company was the first to come to the market with a solution.
For example, Miller noted that gold-backed bitcoin initiatives have fallen short for consumers due to their inability to find a middle ground between fiat and digital currency.
"The fundamental misunderstanding is that gold is gold and dollars and euros are centralized assets, so you can't decentralize them, you need a central party to be a steward of whatever the centralized asset."
The CEO also went on to state that Coinapult's willingness to operate outside of the US market was a factor, as regulation there, he said, makes it unclear whether such a solution could be provided.
Miller also believes that bringing the solution to market is a testament to what his team has achieved, adding:
"We think we've hit a sweet spot on the legal front, nothing like this has existed before. And where we choose to operate from, that's all very fine balance that we spent a lot of time working out."
Images via Coinapult
Disclaimer: This article should not be viewed as an endorsement of any of the companies mentioned. Please do your own extensive research before considering investing any funds in these products.