Aussie bank explores blockchain potential to create ‘smart money’ for people living with disabilities

Katie McDonaldOctober 10, 2018

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and the nation’s scientific and industrial research organisation CSIRO have launched a trial to evaluate the opportunities blockchain could provide to re-envisaging payments.

The trial, called ‘Making Money Smart’, aims to enhance the financial wellbeing of participants and service providers involved in Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme by using blockchain technology to create ‘smart money’.

CBA and CSIRO’s data innovation group Data61 have already been working on a prototype app that looks at how blockchain can integrate with new payments technologies to deliver more choice, control and flexibility for conditional NDIS payments.

Under the NDIS, participants have highly individualised payment plans that contain various budget categories, each governed by different spending rules.

The prototype app enables NDIS participants to manage their payment plans; they can search, book and purchase services from NDIS providers without the need for paperwork or receipts.

By creating ‘smart money’, otherwise known as programmable money, conditions can be attached so that the smart money essentially ‘knows’ what it can be spent on and by who.

Users can access the Smart Money platform via an app, enabled by a blockchain token solution.  

“The potential of this technology for the NDIS is exciting, ranging from greater empowerment for participants, reduced administration costs for businesses and greater visibility for Government,” CBA innovation lab’s head of experimentation and blockchain Sophie Gilder said.

“It’s been rewarding to collaborate with Data61 on a project that could have such a large, positive impact for the community.”

The Smart Money prototype app is now undergoing user testing with NDIS participants and carers, with the proof of concept already benefiting from advice and feedback from government, industry and the fintech community.

Project reference group members include the National Disability Insurance Agency, the Reserve Bank of Australia, the New Payments Platform Australia, the Australian Digital Commercial Association and FinTech Australia.

CSIRO’s Data61 senior principal researcher Dr Mark Staples said the team were particularly interested in the broader research opportunity around programmable money.

“… it should reduce friction in business transactions, and enable companies to create new business models and innovative ways of delivering and paying for products and services,” Dr Staples said.

“This would benefit customers and reduces the administrative burden involved in managing payments.”

CBA and Data61 will release a co-authored Making Money Smart report in November, which is anticipated to outline the benefits and limitations of blockchain application for the NDIS use case, as well as include participants’ feedback and recommendations.


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