IBM Is Experimenting With a Cryptocurrency, Which It Says Is More Stable

It’s basically a blockchain-backed dollar — but you can’t convert your money to it (yet).

July 17, 2018

3 min read


Cryptocurrencies fluctuate wildly in value. If you’ve been following bitcoin since last fall, you’ve seen the value of one unit of bitcoin surge from less than $5,000 in early October 2017, peak at more than $19,000 in December and gradually make its way back down to the $6,000 range today, according to CoinDesk.

For transactions that do involve money, companies are seeking more stable cryptocurrencies, with all of the blockchain tracking benefits of crypto, minus the volatility and lost value and time in the conversion process. IBM is one company working to prove out what’s called a “stablecoin” solution, which means its value is based on the value of the U.S. dollar at any given time.

The 107-year-old legacy tech corporation has embraced blockchain, which underlies cryptocurrencies, in recent years — using it for applications including a cross-border payments network, tracking luxury goods such as diamonds and more.

Related: 15 Crazy and Surprising Ways People Are Using Blockchain

For crypto exchanges up to this point, IBM has relied on a currency called Stellar Lumens. But this week, the company announced it will begin testing Stronghold USD “to experiment with ways for financial institutions and other organizations to achieve faster, safer and more efficient transaction processing and money transfer throughout the world’s economy,” according to a press release.

For now, Stronghold USD is only available as a business-to-business cryptocurrency. Consumers can’t buy anything with it. But IBM’s adoption speaks to the trend and promise of cryptocurrencies with values based on and equal to the dollar.

Tether is one stablecoin that’s been widely adopted, though its true value is a matter of controversy. It’s “often the second most traded crypto asset after bitcoin,” according to Bitcoin.com. “Traders routinely trade in and out of it as they attempt to outmaneuver bitcoin’s price swings.”

Entrepreneur contributor Han-Gwon Lung wrote about the potential for stablecoins — and one in particular, Basis — in late May: “Figuring out how to create the world’s first true stablecoin (as did the guys at Basis, who raised $133 million from VCs like Andreessen Horowitz) would revolutionize finance as we know it.”

One small company that is dabbling in stablecoin is The White Company, a fine art and luxury goods dealer that allows purchases via cryptocurrency, from Super Bowl suite tickets to Lamborghinis. CEO Elizabeth White launched the White Standard, a stablecoin, in early June, so clients could convert their money to and from cryptocurrency more directly.

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