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Bitcoin startup Gem has launched a private beta of what it says is a highly scalable and security-focused API for bitcoin app developers.

The Gem API was designed from the ground up to streamline app development while delivering enhanced levels of security by encrypting and backing up bitcoin storage and building in technologies such as multi-signature authentication.

The platform was showcased and launched at the ongoing TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco.

Encrypted data

Gem chief executive Micah Winkelspecht said the platform offers an extra layer of security compared to competing solutions.

Gem does not hold actual bitcoins. Instead, it stores encrypted files that can only be accessed using a private key (or multiple keys in a multi-signature setup), creating a framework that the startup states is capable of eliminating single points of failure. Should a hacker gain access to the servers, they would gain nothing without the private keys.

Developers opting to use the Gem API would not need to store bitcoins on their own hardware. Instead, they could simply hand out keys to their users, removing the need to maintain – and secure – a centralized storage server.

Battlefield showdown

The API also lowers the threshold for bitcoin developers who choose to use the API, as they can build apps without having deal with complex technical aspects themselves.

“Right now, if you want to build a bitcoin app, you have to be an expert in cryptography and security. We give you a very consumable platform and a client library,” Winkelspecht told TechCrunch.

Gem claims the API can be used to build digital currency apps in a matter of minutes, with a few lines of code, thus allowing developers to focus more time on the app itself rather than the underlying infrastructure.

Winkelspecht and his team demonstrated the API at the TechCrunch Battlefield competition, developing “one of the best” Android wallets on the market in a matter of weeks, he said.

Free version likely

Regarding pricing, Winkelspecht said the company has not finalized its strategy yet, but that a free version of the API will be available for small developers. Big bitcoin companies will have to pay for the service and pricing will depend on the level of usage.

Gem is based in California and managed to secure $2m in a seed funding round earlier this year. The firm indicated it is already in talks with third-party developers about its API and plans to become an all-in-one platform for bitcoin apps.

Startup Chain is also developing an API to take the hard work out of bitcoin app development and has raised $13.7m in funding so far.

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