The Canadian government has announced that it will end its MintChip electronic payment system, and that it will look to sell the business to the private sector.
Announced in 2012, MintChip was not a digital currency akin to bitcoin, but rather a digital payment mechanism meant to function as an electronic cash that could be transferred between users.
Still, MintChip was widely viewed as an alternative to bitcoin that was famously criticised by Bitcoin Foundation director Jon Matonis for "missing the point" of the technology. A spokesperson for the Canadian Mint confirmed the news to The Wall Street Journal, stating:
"The Mint is currently working with the [Canadian] Department of Finance to explore divestiture options. The Mint is also in the process of completing development of MintChip to package the assets for divestiture."
The news is surprising given that as recently as this past September, the government was reportedly working on a second version of its MintChip concept.
Further, the development is notable as it was theorized by some in the community that Canada's potentially harsh rhetoric regarding bitcoin regulation was meant in some way to promote the government-made MintChip, though such a connection was never established.
How MintChip works
MintChip used a silicon chip with a unique ID as a store of value, which was then to be sent to brokers who would trade them to consumers and businesses.
Users could embed MintChip devices onto USB sticks, wallets, laptops and tablets, or store their digital cash with a third-party service provider. A value of '1' on the chip would equal one Canadian dollar.
For a more detailed overview of MintChip's design and how it could be used to facilitate payments, click here.
Bitcoin in Canada
The news comes as Canada continues to develop a robust bitcoin ecosystem. Home to the first bitcoin ATM in Vancouver, bitcoin's profile has been growing within the local community, even as major Canada-based bitcoin exchanges face operational resistance from financial institutions.
Just last week, the most recent version of Canada's 2014 Federal Budget Implementation Act mentioned potential regulations for bitcoin, though the only provision would apply cash-like controls meant to restrict the movement of sums of digital currency of more than $10,000.
The country's domestic bitcoin exchanges have reported difficulties since meeting their banking needs recently, a development they attributed to statements made by the Canadian government, which, like most countries, has yet to introduce bitcoin regulation.
Image via Wikipedia Commons