At the recent Meridian conference, hosted in Madrid by the Stellar Development Foundation (SDF), one thing stood out: The crypto bear market has indeed been for building.
The event’s focus was clear. The theme, “Unlocking Human Potential,” highlighted the role that streamlined, low-cost and flexible payments play in empowerment and opportunity. The takeaway is that blockchain technology is about more than issuing tokens and trading assets. It is also about utility, helping individuals and businesses around the world connect and transact with each other.
To that end, the SDF showcased the progress made by the Stellar ecosystem in building the tools to make global disbursements and remittances cheaper, faster and more transparent. In a gorgeous setting and in front of an audience of international organizations, small businesses, developers and users of all types, the SDF introduced new upgrades and affiliations, and highlighted the evolving functionality and transparency of its unique distributed system.
Below, we highlight some of the recent innovations that featured heavily in presentations and conversations at the event. More detail can be found on stellar.org.
Many of the Meridian announcements were to do with the upgrade and expansion of developer tools, such as the Anchor Platform, the Stellar Wallet SDK and the Stellar Asset Sandbox.
One of the key announcements at the Meridian event was the expansion of the Anchor Platform suite of tools to further facilitate the implementation of on- and off-ramps between fiat and crypto assets. Via Anchor, companies can now access low-cost and fast cross-border payment rails, and can benefit from streamlined conversion to local fiat currencies via two on- and off-ramp standards. This brings greater flexibility and efficiency to local solutions in one integration, and closes the gap between blockchain solutions and real world utility.
Dozens of startups building with Anchor were in attendance, showcasing their implementations and services. One example was Flutterwave, a Nigeria-based fintech providing payment infrastructure across Africa, which highlighted how the Anchor platform powered its remittance services. Another was Banxa, an Australia-based financial technology platform focusing on Web3 services, which shared details of how the Anchor platform enables it to connect to ecosystem wallets and a broader universe of users.
Stellar Wallet SDK
The Meridian 2023 event also saw the announcement of the new Stellar Wallet SDK (software development kit), a suite of self-service tools designed to simplify the construction of solutions that solve local and global needs. Businesses can now easily spin up Stellar-based wallets that access the network without piecemeal customization and without requiring deep technical expertise.
Stellar Asset Sandbox
The Stellar Asset Sandbox, a testing ground for exploring asset tokenization on the Stellar network without intricate coding, also received new features. These include custodial solutions, expanded token management, role-based access control and treasury services. It will also support Stellar’s smart contract network Soroban, currently in testnet. This enables users to engage with and builders to trial a wide range of DeFi applications.
Other key features of the event involved significant partnerships and products:
The Stellar stablecoin system expanded in terms of reach and flexibility. Stablecoin issuer Circle announced the launch of its Euro stablecoin EURC on Stellar to broaden the utility of fast, global blockchain-based payments. Users have been able to send Circle’s dollar-pegged USDC stablecoin around the Stellar network since 2021, supported by MoneyGram and key crypto exchanges such as Coinbase and Coinme. Now, users can also use Circle’s euro-pegged EURC to facilitate conversion into fiat, depending on their location.
Building on its successful partnership with the SDF in connecting fiat on- and off-ramps to the convenience of the Stellar blockchain, global payments company MoneyGram recently announced plans to launch a non-custodial digital wallet built on Stellar. This is expected to go live in the first quarter of 2024, and will enhance the security of digital asset holdings for users around the world while offering the same level of fast-payment convenience.
The Meridian event also served to showcase the recent upgrade to the Stellar Disbursement Platform (SDP), a payments interface that runs on the Stellar blockchain.
SDP enables blockchain-based batch payments around the world for remittances, payroll, contractor payments and the distribution of aid. Today, recipients across Ukraine receive disbursements of aid directly to their mobile devices thanks to the platform’s use by humanitarian organizations such as the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.
As of August, the SDP platform is now open source, enabling anyone, anywhere to build the services they believe the network should have. What’s more, app developers and users can take advantage of over 300,000 fiat on- and off-ramps in more than 180 countries around the globe.
In September, the SDF revealed the first third-party custodian to connect with the SDP disbursement platform: Zodia Custody, an institutional-grade digital asset custodian majority-owned by the multinational bank Standard Chartered. Zodia’s participation enables organizations that don’t want to set up blockchain integrations to benefit from the low-cost and transparent ease of sending bulk disbursements to thousands of recipients at once, with the assurance of secure asset custody solutions.
Beans and Boss
The versatility of the SDP was further showcased by the announcement that two new wallets, Beans App and Boss Money, have integrated with the platform.
Beans App is a Netherlands-based, remittance-focused service that offers savings accounts as well as instant and free cross-border transfers in over 50 currencies with QR support and a simple interface.
Boss Money, owned by US-based fintech and telcom provider IDT Corporation, is a pan-African, Stellar-based wallet that does not require a smartphone, enabling US senders to reach a broader demographic.
With these integrations, users of Beans and Boss can interact with an even broader audience, reaching any SDP user, anywhere. And any SDP user can send to Beans and Boss users, even if the sender doesn’t have the relevant app installed. This broadens the range of potential services for businesses and individuals to include aid disbursements, saving and investing initiatives, payroll, payments to suppliers and more.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Meridian event, however, was the passionate drive to improve opportunity and financial access for everyone. The optimism and determination rippled through the venue, on stage, in the hallways, in the breakout rooms and by the coffee tables, as attendees focused their attention and vision on real-world blockchain utility.
The platforms and protocols developed by the SDF using Stellar blockchain technology have created a flexible set of tools for builders to amplify. The big-name partnerships, well as the variety of integrated applications, broaden the potential utility even further.
The past year in the Stellar ecosystem has been one of careful user-focused expansion. Since the coming year will bring more development, more applications and even more cross-industry collaboration, Meridian 2024 is likely to be even more uplifting.