Bank of Canada's blockchain tests spotlight challenges

Fri Feb 10, 2017 8:08pm EST
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By Solarina Ho

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Bank of Canada's early experiment on a blockchain-based payment system highlights challenges such as cost-efficiency and data privacy, according to an article by a senior bank official published on Friday.

"The experiment will be ongoing until later this spring, but already it has taught us a lot about how the technology would have to improve to win a horse race with our current Large Value Transfer System (LVTS)," senior deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins wrote in an article published on

LVTS is the Canadian system for electronic wire transfers of large sums of money.

Known as "Project Jasper," the blockchain experiment launched last year is a joint initiative between Canada's central bank, Payments Canada and R3, a consortium of the world's largest financial institutions, including Canada's biggest banks.

Originally used to underpin digital currencies like bitcoin, blockchain is a distributed record of data or transactions, maintained by a network of computers without the need for approval from a central authority.

Banks and other large financial institutions have been ramping up efforts to develop blockchain-based technology to run some of their most burdensome back-office processes, such as the clearing and settlement of securities.

Wilkins said the experiment shows cost-savings are unlikely to come directly from the core system itself, but rather through reducing the need for data reconciliation.

While the shared, or "decentralized," nature of distributed ledger technology may cut security risks, core payment systems used by financial institutions still require "a substantial amount of centralization," she wrote.   Continued...

A man is reflected in a window while walking past the Bank of Canada office in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie