Developers are moving ahead on designs to make the Lightning Network (LN) payment system easier to use, with one developer recently submitting a proposal for connecting LN with a payment technology that could make it as easy to use as a credit card, or Apple Pay on your phone.
That payment technology, near-field communication (NFC) would allow a user to pay for an item just by holding their smartphone an inch away from the point of sale device.
NFC-based payments have caught on throughout Asia and Europe through chips embedded in payment cards and smartphones. And while the U.S. might be lagging behind in NFC adoption, bitcoin’s early adopters might just be the right target audience.
A proposal submitted by developer Igor Cota, looks to standardize a way to connect lightning with NFC and Cota is confident combining LN with NFC technology can be a more than valid approach moving forward
Invoking the name of his lightning wallet that uses NFC, Presto, Cota is developing a Lighting Wallet called Pretso that uses NFC:
“I want the payments to be instant just like with the contactless cards we have here in Europe. A user would simply tap on the payment terminal and presto!”
Cota imagines turning any computer into a lightning point-of-sale terminal through the use of a $29 USB attachment, a route that has proven successful in his early tests. Cota’s proposal is about standardizing what he’s created, adding it to the many other standard rules that describe how each lightning software implementation should operate.
Cota is convinced he can make Bitcoin payments more mainstream. Getting rid of QR codes and webpage-based payment options is certainly an important step in this regard. While QR codes are still pretty popular, it’s not necessarily the most convenient solution either. QR codes can be a bit finicky, but they also can become “unwieldy,” Cota said, especially when more information is added to them. In this way, merchants won’t be able to add much information such as itemized receipts and coupons to QR codes, he said. NFC, though, doesn’t have this hurdle.
“I’d like to see a system where the payment terminal sends a nice HTML receipt for the customer – that receipt has, say, a table list of your grocery shopping with subtotal, taxes, grand-total, perhaps a shop logo, some loyalty code or a coupon for future use,”
In Cota’s mind, this would give consumers a more detailed record of their spending habits, empowering them to take even more control of their finances.
“Imagine a wallet that can tell you how much you’ve spent on broccoli last month? With crypto you’re always in control, but with these digital receipts you are even more so.”
In order to do this, Cota is trying to get his NFC implementation added to the standards that lightning network developers have established in an effort to make sure all implementations are compatible with each other.
These standards are called “BOLTS,” and Cota believes NFC should be added to BOLT 11, which explains how “invoices” – describing how much a person owes – should be encoded and presented to a user. It’s a similar process to that of the credit card reader at Starbucks showing you that you owe $4.50 for a mocha latte. At the moment, BOLT 11 only describes a standard for QR codes.
Already, Cota has come up with a rough standard, putting together a Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) type, which is a format for sending data; an NFC application ID, which indicates the payment method is lightning; and a “very simple protocol to forward socket data.”
Though these pieces weren’t so hard to come up with, Cota said he thinks it’s important to write up a standard, whereby all NFC-enabled point-of-sale devices can accept any NFC-based lightning payment, now to be ahead of the game should NFC-based lightning payments take off.
“For the sake of interoperability, it would be great if we agreed on some standards,”
And already, most of the public technical feedback has been positive, with Lightning developers ZmnSCPxj and Corné Plooy responding favorably to the proposal on the mailing list.
Bridging the gap between NFC and Lightning technology will not be all that easy. The implementation must be added to the current standards introduced by the lightning developers so that the integration is as widely adopted as possible. The idea may still be ahead of its time as so few retailers are currently using LN, but as with most technologies the adoption curve will be very steep if the idea proves popular.