Bitt Reveals Big Plans for Cross-Caribbean Blockchain Settlement Network

A new partnership could be step one in a larger bid to unite some of the Caribbean's biggest financial institutions with blockchain tech.

AccessTimeIconMay 23, 2017 at 1:03 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 1:23 p.m. UTC

For Barbados-based blockchain startup Bitt, creating a Caribbean-wide settlement network is a challenge that will be fraught with legal, technical and social challenges. However, thanks to a new partnership with Netki, one hurdle may have just gotten easier.

Announced today at Consensus 2017, Bitt revealed it will use identity tools developed by California blockchain startup Netki to improve and automate its customer onboarding.

While it may sound like a small step, according to Bitt co-founder Oliver Gale, the upgrade will serve to advance a larger bid to connect regional central banks and commercial banks using digital fiat currencies and blockchain tech as a new kind of payment rail.

"Across more than 7,000 islands, the Caribbean has 13 sovereign island nations and 12 dependent territories, most with their own financial system and currency," a press release from the companies explains.

Bitt revealed it is already working with the Central Bank of Barbados on "pilot initiatives" behind the concept. (The Central Bank of Barbados declined to comment, but will be speaking later at Consensus 2017 today).

Gale told CoinDesk:

"We're offering Bitt as a payment network. The vision is connecting the Caribbean with a settlement network."

In this way, Gale framed the solution for conducting AML and identity on a public blockchain as one that would enable it to take this concept "to the next tier", satisfying concerns that a open digital currency network wouldn't normally include identity features natively.

For Netki, the announcement also marks a major product milestone, serving as an extension of a digital identity standard it first made public at Consensus 2016 last year. At the time, it likened the service to the certificate authorities that today provide trusted transactions in online commerce transactions.

As such, Netki CEO Justin Newton explained to CoinDesk that the partnership serves to highlight the work it is doing to bring blockchain to the enterprise.

"One of the reasons that I think the partnership we have with Bitt will be so successful is that it is addressing these digital identity with open standards. Using an open, permissionless network gives them the most flexibility for the future," he said.

Public-private design

As put forward by Bitt, the partnership is one that finds it seeking to solve real-world challenges with blockchain tech, in a way that builds on its past work and helps position it as a licensed financial institution that can solve big regional challenges.

Specifically, this news builds on a 2016 announcement that Bitt would launch a digital Barbadian dollar on the blockchain in partnership with blockchain startup Colu.

The idea is that the cryptocurrency would be pegged to real, government-backed currency, which could then be sent between peers with the freedoms similar to what bitcoin today provides its global user base.

Gale concluded:

"The end-game solution is that central banks will be able to use legal tender issued on the blockchain, with all the checks and balances you'd have with regulated financial institutions."

Hammock image via Shutterstock


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