Switzerland’s University of Zurich Tests ‘Touchless’ Bitcoin Payments Solution

University of Zurich integrated a new bitcoin payments solution developed by its students.

Photo: Wandering Tattler/Flickr

Photo: Wandering Tattler/Flickr

The students of the University of Zurich in Switzerland presented a new bitcoin payments solution that will enable all students to use digital currency at cafeterias during a two-week trial.

The mobile payments platform, dubbed CoinBlesk, will use two-way near-field communication (NFC) technology. CoinBlesk wallets could be loaded online or at a new bitcoin ATM that will be installed at the university.

In an interview to CoinDesk, professor Dr Burkhard Stiller, the project’s advisor, commented: “The bitcoin ATM makes the trial phase easier for people willing to pay with NFC-based bitcoin transactions, since they can buy them locally.”

The bitcoin ATM, operated by Swiss bitcoin broker SBEX, will be installed near the dining facility Mensa UZH Binzmühle that will accept virtual money. CoinBlesk was developed by a group of nine members, which involves faculty members and university doctoral students.

Speaking to Coindesk, Dr Thomas Bocek, one of the project developers, said that the project stemmed from his lecture in 2013. At the time, Bocek discussed the subject of bitcoin payments system that would enable the cashier to easily send payment request for bitcoin buyer.

Still, Bocek noted that it was three students that liked the idea and turned it into a project. As original NFC testing is difficult, the new host card emulation (HCE) technology introduced by Google finally gave the team of developers the needed technology.

Bocek said: “This application was tested in an early test run in February 2014, but few Google devices had Android 4.4 at that time. We learned a lot from this test run and we focused further work in the following areas: improving our NFC payment protocol and improving the user interface.”

The product will provide an easier point-of-sale (POS) experience for traders and buyers. In order to realize the transaction, only one party have to be connected to the Internet.

The project demonstrates a success of bitcoin startup SBEX based in Geneva. It has also recently received an approval from the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) to install a number of bitcoin ATMs in spite of certain difficulties.

Head of business development at SBEX, Romain Braud, told CoinDesk that the project was highly supported by the university. He also said: “We made a special deal with them because we trust it’s a great project that it can be in the future in all universities of Switzerland.”

Braud also added that discussions with the university on expanding bitcoin payments initiative are ongoing. University of Zurich is now the largest higher education facility with over 25,000 students.

Notably, last year researchers at the university published a paper assessing whether cryptocurrency could facilitate faster transactions at POS.

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