Day one of the Bitcoin Finance 2014 Conference and Expo (Bitfin) in Dublin today featured discussion on the basics of bitcoin, the wider opportunities of digital currency and a world first.
Jeremy Allaire kicked off the first day’s events with a talk focused on digital currency’s potential to revolutionise traditional financial systems. The Circle CEO explained in his opening keynote speech that bitcoin is creating new standards for global consumer finance, but it still has a long way to go to “cross the chasm” and enter the mainstream.
Allaire explained that he’s particularly interested in developments in person-to-person payment services that utilise digital currency, stating:
“Person-to-person payments present a huge opportunity and I believe that, in five-to-10 years, sending money person-to-person will be as common as text messaging.”
A bitcoin milestone
Today’s panel sessions and presentations were very much aimed at educating delegates about bitcoin and other digital currencies, with the morning sessions including talks titled ‘Introduction to Bitcoin’, ‘Common Questions About Bitcoin’, and ‘the Economics of Bitcoin’.
However, the main event offered something new, even for established industry observers. Gareth Murphy, director of markets at the Central Bank of Ireland, took the stage in the afternoon, becoming the first government-backed bank representative to speak at a digital currency conference.
In his session, he explored the innovation bitcoin could bring to global finance, but also highlighted the negative pressure it could apply to economies. He said:
“Central banks, [out] of necessity, have monopolized the exercise of these functions. Virtual currencies pose new challenges to central banks’ control over these important functions.”
Murphy went on to say that, while some countries are widening existing laws to include bitcoin, it is possible that specific legislation relating to digital currencies could be created in the not-so-distant future.
Local leaders debate regulation
A legal and regulatory panel further explored this theme later in the day, with panel members from Circle and the finance committee of the States of Alderney, the Government of the Isle of Man and the UK Digital Currency Association sharing their views – moderated by Paul Rodgers of Vendorcom.
The panellists discussed their views on how bitcoin regulation should be developed and which region or nation should or could take the lead.
Peter Greenhill, from the government of the Isle of Man, said he feels bitcoin could really start to boom in smaller jurisdictions, as the process of progressing legislation through parliament is much quicker and less complicated than it is in larger states.
He added that since his government announced it is to set up a licensicng scheme/register, it has received a lot of interest from bitcoin companies across the world looking to relocate to the island.
CoinDesk senior sub-editor Grace Caffyn later moderated a panel on investing in bitcoin. Panellists Jeremy Kandah of TeamBlockChain, Karl Gray of StartJoin and Christina Gorlick of CloudHashing joined Nic Cary of Blockchain and Simon Dixon of BankToTheFuture.com.
The closing keynote was delivered by Colm Lyon, CEO of Realex, a European payment service provider. Lyon’s company processes 45 payments per second on behalf of 12,500 businesses, processing around EUR 28bn per year.
He said that if he had to summarise the current payments market in one word, he would say “mayhem”.
Lyon believes that bitcoin is just what the current system needs, explaining that it’s completely separate from the existing system and not just another product on top of it. He believes the development of bitcoin as a payment system will bring much needed competition to the space and, ultimately, provide better services for consumers and businesses.
Tomorrow, the conference will feature talks by BTC China CEO and Bitcoin Foundation board member Bobby Lee, Jumio sales director David Pope and Stripe CTO Greg Brockman. Additionally, panel discussions will focus on such topics as the potential applications for bitcoin in traditional banking and improving consumer access to bitcoin.
For a complete schedule of the day’s events, click here.
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