The Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) has been actively monitoring the evolution of currency and payment technologies, for a number of years.

Over the past ten years electronic transactions have significantly increased. These transactions target high-volume, low-value payments at the physical point of sale, an area traditionally serviced by coins and bank notes.

The emergence and growing popularity of micro and nano-transactions and the explosion of mobile commerce suggest there are new opportunities in the virtual space for an innovative currency option.

Recently, the Mint has dedicated part of its research and development funds to improving the efficiency of currency. This research has led to the development of MintChip, the evolution of currency that could become the digital equivalent of the coins we use every day.

Using innovative technology, for which the Mint has prototypes and five patents pending, MintChip uses a secure chip to hold electronic value and a protocol to transfer it from one chip to another.

The emerging digital economy must be able to accommodate small-value transactions, such as micro transactions (under $10) and nano-transactions (under $1). The Mint hopes that software developers and entrepreneurs will use MintChip to ignite trade and commerce for these very-low-value markets.