Sergei Vasilchuk, Attic Lab CEO, presented the company’s innovative solution for banks and businesses dubbed OpenBankIT at the recent Blockchain UA conference. The solution, which is based on the principles of OpenSource, Free and UserFriendly, seeks to build a whole stack of solutions for e-money and other assets.
However, AtticLab didn’t stop at that. The company is at the final stages of development of OPIum project which is to become a center for mutual settlements for businesses in order to minimize involvement from banks. Mr. Vasilchuk told ForkLog more about the future project’s features.
ForkLog: In a few words, what OPIum is about?
Sergei Vasilchuk: There’s a concept of OPI, which means ‘operator of payment infrastructure.’ My fellow coders called the project OPIum as a joke, yet the designation caught on, and we can’t think of any other name.
Imagine there are two suppliers, say a drugstore and a gas station, who issue commodity coupons, which are their promises to supply goods. Thanks to OpenBankIT the supplier, i.e. the issuer, may create commodity promises in a private blockchain network that ensures security, reliability, availability and convenience levels higher than those offered by most bank accountancy systems.
Essentially, it is assets with limited circulation. An individual may buy them (issuance), exchange them (P2P), or exchange them for a commodity (settlement). As we can see, thus enables the supplier to interact with the customer without involvement from banks yet executing most financial operations. The euphoria caused by intuitive finance ends when owners of drugstore coupons try to use them at a gas station. Theoretically speaking, the gas station worker could accept drugstore coupons yet fiscal authorities wouldn’t be too happy about it as it classifies as ‘illegal financial operations.’
In plain terms, if users of ledger one give values to users of ledger two, there is a debt of ledger one before ledger two. There has to be processing so that the ledgers would interact, and that’s what we call OPIum. It is a kind of a bridge between private networks. It covers calculation of debts, which is the essence of clearing.
Thus, OPIum does two things: ensuring technical interaction possibility for private ledgers; and, in legal and accountancy terms, equalizes balances in the end of a business day, thus clearing it. If the ledgers are connected to Prostir, the clearing will be executed by the transfer bank, which is the National Bank of Ukraine. In a different payments system, the same function is executed by a commercial bank.
FL: Why is it profitable, and will it be convenient for regular users?
S. V.: Private issuance is okay with financial intermediaries as they simplify understanding and management of finances. Manufacturers don’t pay banks for credits, customers don’t pay service fees, and it sums up to around 30 per cent of saving. Imagine a mobile app stores 100 liters of milk you’ve bought for 7 hryvinas a liter instead of ten. Everybody but the bank is happy, the manufacturer gets cheap assets to develop their business while the customer just pays less.
Straightforward launch of such a financial paradigm is nearly impossible. First, it’s complex even in theory: it requires everyone to negotiate and integrate with everyone else. Second, there has to be a transparent legal and financial model. But effectively, it’s no rocket science, and the first step here is to make the technology available. That’s why we make our license for industrial software free, and open our source codes. We urge businesses not to be afraid of experimenting and to create their own mini banks. Rest assured, every member of such a system will find it convenient and profitable.
FL: We’re all accustomed to cards sticking out of our wallets. Will there be any general solution at this level? Or it’s more likely to be a mobile app?
S. V.: It’s a secondary issue to me. It should be considered as a part of some particular problems. There are lots of options like magnetic strip cards, chips, RFID, NFC, and lots of others. You might issue any card and link it to a wallet’s public key, or use a mobile app that identifies a user by their nose print. Online settlements prefer mobile apps, NFC prefers stores, while plastic cards are about ATM’s. It’s not so much about the access tool as the type of the managed assets.
FL: What’s the difference between OPIum and your other product, OpenBankIT?
S. V.: OpenBankIT is a private blockchain for banks or businesses. It may issue values like money, values or promises. There’s a mobile app and API in the same bundle so that everyone could become a mini bank, or even a full-fledged one under certain conditions.
You need OPIum is there are two companies deploying independent OpenBankIT-based networks in order to enable users of different networks to execute settlements. I recall back at school, there were local networks in your apartment connected to a different household with a cable so that your friends and yourself could play games. In this case, a local network is OpenBankIT, while OPIum is a telecom provider ensuring connectivity between such networks.
FL: Has anyone become interested in the project yet?
S. V.: It’s the customer requests that caused us to develop a cross ledger. The most exciting thing is that the list includes both a completely digital entity of Polybius Bank and classic banks like Alliance. Geographic issues, different legislations and diversity of accountable items can’t be an obstacle for exchange between completely different issuers.
The settlement center could be, depending on the area, a central bank or bitcoin network. It’s fantastic actually, sometimes I even find it hard to believe such things are possible. I recently told about OPIum with a conservative banker, and he was like “dude, you’re nuts or watched too many James Bond movies.”
FL: How will banks exchange things? Will there be some sort of tokens?
S. V.: It’s not that important. We just call it assets. They could be hryvnias or dollars, they could be a promise or a bond. It could be a liter, a meter, a yard, an hour, a pound, a kilogram or a kilowatt. It could be anything that has a numeric value and isn’t prohibited by law or common sense.
FL: So, in fact it’s an invitation to banks, businesses and everybody else to join an hierarchic system of exchange of everything for everything?
S. V.: It’s my deep belief that this is the financial system of tomorrow. These days, banks do too much. The entire settlement relies on them. However, most things we do every day don’t need banks. If you’ve got something like OPIum with two banks and three manufacturers, there could theoretically be counterflows where city dwellers need milk while country people need shoes. These are natural exchange examples. Some produce goods and export them abroad, while others work abroad to feed their families yet they have to pay unthinkable transaction fees. It all could be much easier and simpler by connecting the required links of the entire chain with software. It’s like Uber for finance.
FL: So, you mean it’s a predecessor of a new economic system that needs no banks and uses barter instead?
S. V.: It’s not very likely. Fiscal authorities won’t be too happy about such initiatives. However, the customer’s never-dying desire to save money combined with businesses’ need to optimize their software and processes could create a serious impetus for changes. Blockchain, in its turn, has a chance of becoming a tool for collective risk management. Even a minor deception could entail disastrous consequences. If such distributed network properly covers settlement and risk management functions, banks will only have to be financial supervisors, which isn’t very profitable.
FL: Is it consistent with legal requirements?
S. V.: Yes, though the exchange will use transactions in multiple private blockchain networks instead of cards. It would make the chain of events traceable and transparent. There will have to be a properly licensed bank to run accountable operations. The bank’s license should cover asset exchange operations under the rules understood by fiscal and other supervisory bodies.