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MintChip shows it works

TORONTO -- The Royal Canadian Mint's ambition to launch a secure system to send and spend digital currency, nicknamed MintChip, has passed a new milestone.

While still in research and development mode, MintChip's first proof-of-concept implementation -- an integration with a retail point-of-sale terminal made by Paris-based Ingenico -- is being displayed this week at the National Retail Federation's annual convention in New York.

First launched in April 2012, just days after federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced the penny's days were numbered, MintChip was introduced as a potential way for consumers to digitally exchange money in small denominations in transactions of about $10 or less.

It could be used in place of cash to buy a coffee or fast food, and online it was envisioned to enable easy transactions for such purchases as music, news articles, or add-ons for video games.

Consumers could use MintChip with a mobile device at a cash register or send money with a text message, email or potentially a social media message.

"We call it a digital cash-like product and we like to dub it as a product that's been architected for the 21st century," said Marc Brulé, the Royal Canadian Mint's chief emerging-payments officer.

"I think one of the target markets or demographics for a product like MintChip is the digital native, the millennials who grew up with the Internet and grew up with digital-type products. This will be just another arrow in their quiver in terms of ways of paying (for their purchases) that will be easy and fast."

Brulé said the next step for MintChip is further testing of the proof-of-concept implementation within the Royal Canadian Mint. External testing is expected to be launched later in the year, although he wouldn't say where or when that would happen.


Weak demand a worry

OTTAWA -- Growth in the U.S. is helping lift the economy, but corporate Canada remains concerned about weak demand and domestic uncertainty, the latest business outlook survey by the Bank of Canada suggests.

"The winter business outlook survey provides some positive signs for the economic outlook, notably for exports and investment, although responses do not yet appear to suggest a significant strengthening," the bank said.

"For many businesses, weak demand and domestic uncertainty continue to temper sales expectations and expansion plans."

The survey by the Bank of Canada, done between Nov. 18 and Dec. 12, found 34 per cent of those surveyed saw sales growth during the last 12 months, while 37 per cent saw lower sales.

However, 51 per cent said they expected sales to improve over the next 12 months compared with 22 per cent who expected sales to fall.

The balance of opinion also suggested more firms expected to increase investment in hard assets and hire more workers.

The survey found 42 per cent of firms expected investment spending on machinery and equipment to rise, while 23 per cent expected to spend less. Meanwhile, 53 per cent expected to hire more employees, while 11 expected to have fewer workers over the next 12 months.

The more optimistic outlook for the Canadian economy follows a weaker-than-expected jobs report last week that found 45,900 jobs were lost in December.


Globe, Postmedia cut jobs

TORONTO -- The Globe and Mail says it's offering buyouts for 18 positions across the media company.

Publisher Phillip Crawley says the reductions will be determined through a collective agreement with its union.

The targeted cuts include six full-time editorial jobs -- copy editors and photographers -- and one part-time position in the department, Crawley said. Other departments affected include advertising and circulation.

Also Monday, Postmedia, owner of the National Post and various other big-city dailies, announced it will close its classified advertising call centre in Calgary and outsource the work, laying off most of the 48 employees.

The company said the decision is part of its strategy to lower expenses and focus more on other priorities, which include its digital business.


-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 14, 2014 B8

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