NFC Enabled Banknote

Japan’s SBI group is actively investing in crypto-related technologies

Japan’s SBI group, a leading financial services company, has been actively investing in Cryptocurrencies and Artificial Intelligence since last year. The latest being an investment of $15 million in the Swiss start-up – Tangem. Tangem is the maker of a highly secure “smart banknote for cryptocurrencies” and digital assets. The smart banknote is a plastic card that is the exact same size as a credit card with copper wiring around the edges, connected to an embedded chip. This NFC antenna based card systematically works the same way like the physical currency in the people’s pockets that is in use today. The only notable difference is that these smart banknotes need to be loaded with the cryptos that they are built to support, before use, and they are not issued by the central bank of any country.

These smart banknotes, that have a limited storage capacity, are loaded with cryptos by connectecting them to our NFC-enabled smartphones. Based on the technology from Samsung & Arm (Softbank), the biggest advantage of these cards is that it allows off-chain physical transaction of the cryptos. Also, these cards are reliable as their security and performance is audited by the Kudelski Group, a listed company in Switzerland. Thus, it simplifies the crypto transactions with zero transaction fees, immediate validation and no digital trace. More importantly, the smart banknote is always under the control of its physical holder (just like a real currency note), and is not controlled by its manufacturer.

Sample of Tangem’s smart banknote for bitcoin. Photo courtesy Tangem.

Yoshitaka Kitao, representative director, president and CEO of SBI Holdings says – “The Tangem hardware wallet which is highly secure and affordable, is an important tool to mass adoption of digital assets and blockchain. We believe utilizing Tangem will help stimulate the demand for other blockchain services provided by SBI”.

This investment is in line with the long-term goal of the SBI group of expanding its technology into the retail transaction space. The group is banking heavily on the prospect of cryptos being the most preferred mode of monetary transactions in the future. In that regard, investment in Tangem is a smart move as it opens up new areas for expansion, like – Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), tokenized asset offerings, etc. Moreover, Tangem, being the first of its kind smart banknote, is bound to be more popular among the masses in the future once its popularity increases.

The SBI group has always recognized the power of Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence. Since last two years, it has been continuously investing in firms and start-ups that deal in Artificial Intelligence, Cryptocurrency, Crypto derivative market and even launched its own in-house cryptocurrency exchange – VCTRADE which is Japan’s first bank-backed crypto exchange. Before that, the SBI group had invested $15 million in AntWorks, an artificial intelligence based start-up. It invested another $15 million in December 2018 in Gorilla Technology, a Taipei-based company that specializes in Artificial Intelligence. It has also purchased a 12 percent stake in Clear Markets, a swaps trading venue, on July 2018. It has also invested a substantial amount (in this month itself) in Breadwinner AG, a Switzerland based company, which specializes in crypto related products and is the developer of the mobile crypto wallet BRD.

The SBI Group’s crypto exchange has also implemented the deposits of Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) & Ripple (XRP) as of December 2018. Thus, the SBI group is continuously investing in all kinds of crypto related activities and actively promoting the blockchain technology for its mass adoption. Being a financial services provider, availability of funds is not a constraint and it is using these funds to lay a strong foundation for future business activities, which is bound to reap rich dividends.

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