Centi and HandCash develop Handshake Protocol for in-store payments

In-store customers will soon be able to make point-of-sale (POS) payments in Bitcoin SV (BSV) thanks to a new partnership between HandCash and electronic cash payments firm Centi. The arrangement was possible thanks to a new “Handshake Protocol” the companies developed, allowing Bitcoin software to communicate with existing POS systems.

The companies’ main aim was to develop a system that integrates into existing POS systems without any hassle for operators, customers or shop staff. The system also converts BSV into the store’s local currency and aims to be fully compliant with all local regulations.

The problem with POS

Point-of-sale systems for Bitcoin and other digital assets have existed in other forms over the years. However, due to Bitcoin’s QR code and “push transaction” methods of making payments, they required specialized hardware and training for staff to understand and operate them. Customers usually made payments by scanning a QR code that appeared on the POS device’s screen.

Anyone who’s made such a Bitcoin payment can tell you it isn’t always a smooth process—often the hardware isn’t operating properly, or the only staff member who knows how to operate it is away. Then, as has happened in at least one case, the hardware operator goes out of business, rendering the specialized hardware useless.

Centi, a Swiss startup, explained the hows and whys of the Handshake Protocol on its blog. For more “traditional” in-store mobile payments (such as bank direct debit, Google/Apple Pay) the POS terminal must make a “handshake” with the mobile device’s wallet software, which that software then approves and pays. With Bitcoin, though, the payment details are usually displayed in a QR code the sender scans with a camera.

The companies didn’t give specific technical details on how Handshake Protocol works, but described it as a way Bitcoin wallets and POS devices could interact with a similar “handshake” method. After a brief exclusivity period, they will make Handshake Protocol available to other developers to build into their systems.

Using this method has a number of advantages over existing systems, generally solving the problems described above. It doesn’t require any specialized hardware or changes to existing POS interfaces, and shop staff don’t need training to use it (in fact, they don’t even need to know there’s a difference). Additionally, there isn’t any change to the way a HandCash user makes a payment.

Centi is working in partnership with HandCash at the moment, but is inviting other Bitcoin wallet providers to express their interest and work with them in the future. It also insists on merchants converting their BSV to local currency—though in most newcomer cases this is the preferred option anyway.

HandCash always trying to make Bitcoin payments easier

HandCash’s goal is to make Bitcoin payments as easy and familiar to users as possible. To this end, it has developed a series of features that distinguished it from Bitcoin wallets of the past. First there were HandCash $handles, allowing users to pay each other (and publish their payment details) with social media-like tags. It has also developed keyless HandCash to protect users’ funds without having to remember a seed phrase, and the HandCash Connect SDK platform for developers to build other applications.

HandCash is currently the most popular wallet for Bitcoin BSV users. The company expects to launch version 2.5 of its mobile wallet in October 2020, and is working on a desktop/web version as well. CEO Alex Agut has said fiat-to-Bitcoin onramps are a key challenge his company would like to see solved, and that he’d also prefer to see more collaborations in the Bitcoin industry, rather than everyone trying to solve the same problem separately.

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