Phygital Cash is a secure and portable hardware wallet that stores and transfers digital cash in an offline setting. The hardware wallet is designed to be used for daily, small expenditures. At the same time, it aims at addressing the underbanked population, by giving them access to digital payment methods irrespective of a bank account.
The project is based on an industry challenge given by Tata Consultancy Services at Cornell Tech.
Project Type: Group project
Team: 2 Electronic computer engineers, 1 Business associate, 1 UX Designer
Role: Research, Concept, Visual Design, Prototype, User Testing
Duration: 3 months
Tools: Figma, Xcode, Swift
The process for this project was defined according to the project scope, needs and challenges.
How might we create a 'Phygital Currency' that includes the capabilities of both physical and digital currencies.
As a solution, we built a dedicated hardware using the offline transfer protocol that incorporated the proximity technology of an NFC tag. At the same time, we built a simple UI that's secured by biometric authentication.
We started working on the solution by first understanding the current adoption and problems with cash and digital payment methods.
Current Concerns with Cash:
For businesses and individuals, cash doesn't not provide enough security
Cash is not digitally compatible
Cash payments are clunky
Governments and banks have to deal with counterfeit cash problems
Cash is costly for banks and a burden for governments combatting the black economy
Current Concerns with Digital Payment Methods:
Digital Payment methods are on a rise, but there are too many players and steps involved. Currently, these methods are only available for the banked population. According to Global Findex Database, 1.7 billion adults worldwide are underbanked. There is no current digital solution that serves them.
Completing transactions on the phygital device can be more convenient than existing digital solutions and close to the convenience of cash.
We purchased and tested cheap, programmable NFC tags to 'hold' digital cash offline. These were placed on 3d printed plastic 'coins' to test.
We also built a working, prototype app to load and unload 'cash' from the NFC tags. The NFC tags store theoretical 'value' on an offline network.
We want to test the convenience of our offline, hardware-based approach versus cash and existing digital payment solutions. To test convenience, we will equate convenience to time. We are assuming that if the user saves time, then our approach is convenient.
Test loading 'cash' ($5) onto the Phygital coin from the mobile app two times in a row.
Test unloading 'cash' ($5) from the device two times in a row to buy a pen from another person. The seller of the pen will be instructed not to hand over the pen until they see the money in their account. This simulates a p2p payment or in-person purchase.
Sample Size: 9
Interviewees: Venmo and Non Venmo Users
Duration: 5 mins
Our prototype is faster than Venmo and slower than Cash
Our experiments yielded valuable qualitative behavioral data in addition to quantitative data
Older users were more wary of their money
Reliability is key - it’s hard to beat the reliability of physical cash
We consider our hypothesis validated, as phygital cash turned out to be faster than Venmo for payments and close to physical cash. However, our product does not beat physical cash for its convenient and prompt peer-to-peer transactions. Our next step would be to bridge this gap by beating the next best digital payment method. Since Phygital Cash will add offline support as per our prototype, we will consider this a valid breach into the realm of making 'Phygital' currency and can continue with other experiments.