Imagine a way to expand bitcoin payments to millions per second. Now, imagine a clunky, command-line interface.
That’s the extent of the divide between the vision enabled by bitcoin’s best-yet scaling solution, the lightning network, and the current state of its design. But while that’s daunting, developers are moving ahead on designs to make the payment system easier to use, with one recently submitting a proposal for connecting lightning with a payment technology that could make it feel as futuristic as it’s touted.
That payment technology, near-field communication, or NFC, would allow a user to pay for an item just by holding their smartphone an inch away from the device it’s paying.
Not a new idea in bitcoin or the payments world at large, NFC-based payments have caught on throughout Asia and Europe – not only on smartphones, but also through chips embedded in payment cards. And while the U.S. might be lagging behind in NFC adoption, bitcoin’s early adopters might just be the right target audience.
As such, the proposal, submitted by developer Igor Cota, looks to standardize a way to connect lightning with NFC.
Invoking the name of his lightning wallet that uses NFC, Presto, Cota told CoinDesk:
“I want the payments to be instant just like with the contactless cards we have here in Europe. A user would simply tap on the payment terminal and presto!”
Further, Cota imagines turning any computer into a lightning point-of-sale terminal through the use of a $29 USB attachment, a route that has proven successful in his early tests.
Replacing QR codes
Given the success, Cota’s proposal is about standardizing what he’s created, adding it to the many other standard rules that describe how each lightning software implementation should operate.
Many bitcoin payments implementations tend to use QR codes – those pixelated-looking black-and-white squares that encode data that can then be scanned and consumed by smartphones. And while Presto supports QR codes alongside NFC, he believes the latter provides a much better experience.
QR codes not only can be a bit finicky, but they also can become “unwieldy,” Cota said, especially when more information is added…