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Bitcoin Interview: Edge Wallet’s Paul Puey on the Future of Money

CCN had a chance to speak with Paul Puey, founder of Edge Wallet and veteran crypto entrepreneur. Edge Wallet was previously called Airbitz. In the early days of crypto, Airbitz was a Bitcoin-only wallet that featured a directory of brick and mortar businesses which accepted Bitcoin. It was one of the only mobile wallets which allowed the user to own their private keys without having to see them.

While it was very popular as Bitcoin wallets go, the era of Ethereum and beyond made it necessary to adapt to people who expect to be able to use more than one cryptocurrency.

Edge is AirBitz for the Multi-Asset Age

Today, its descendant is called Edge, a modern multi-asset wallet, modular in design, which is focused on user-friendliness.

Puey says that the Airbitz codebase was so ingrained in the Bitcoin architecture that they had no choice but to rebuild much of it from scratch, keeping intact the core security model: Edge servers never see your private key, you own your coin and can take your private key with you between devices and even wallets.

The security model is what we rallied around. It was contrary to a lot of the enterprise models. So we called it the Edge security model of securing data. When we transitioned to Edge, we said this is the model we’re going to use, while also making it a platform for other apps to use.

Puey also explains during the call that while the business directory was one of the most popular features of Airbitz back when it took a lot of manpower to maintain. “As soon as we added one Bitcoin business, three more would stop accepting it – and we wouldn’t even know about it,” he tells us.

“You could find out pretty easily when a company started accepting cryptocurrency, but nowhere could you find out when a merchant stopped accepting it.”

CCN remembers a very notable example of this: Rakuten made headlines across the cryptoworld when it acquired a Bitcoin wallet company and integrated Bitcoin on its flagship store. Then one day it stopped accepting crypto and no one noticed. Same thing with Expedia and others.

In-Person Crypto Usage Still Ways Off

This sparks a discussion about the lack of in-person adoption of cryptocurrencies. Puey believes that the real problem is reliable point-of-sale systems which seamlessly integrate cryptocurrencies.

Businesses don’t want to have to care about what method of payment their customers are using. They want convenience and integration with their existing inventory and business management systems. Puey believes that a crypto-native firm, rather than a firm already embedded in the point-of-sale industry, will be the ones to make this a reality.

Where we are today is definitely not where we expected the industry to be from the perspective of merchant adoption when we entered the space back around 2013/2014. While we believe firmly that that is how we will interact with crypto going forward, we’ve realized we’re in a different phase. It is in a phase of speculation because, number one, many people just don’t know what will succeed. Sure, Bitcoin’s on top, but there are a whole lot of bets saying it could be another currency. And in that sense, people have a little bit of discomfort saying well, okay, we’re going to really hang our flag on this or that one.

Acceptance Is Only the First Part of the Merchant Conundrum

This reporter said that FIO (Foundation for Interwallet Operability) should help with businesses having to choose a cryptocurrency. Puey disagreed, saying that while FIO might make it easier to accept funds, it doesn’t make it easier to integrate cryptocurrencies into a business model. He said:

This is the biggest answer to your question. The biggest missing piece in merchant adoption is that there are no tools to incorporate cryptocurrency into their entire business model. The point of sale is only the start of it. And even there, there are no great options available.

The essence of the thing is that the killer app for merchants will be a superior point-of-sale system that can do it all – to include dealing with the post-payment aspects of accepting cryptocurrency. Some grand combination of Node40, a cash register, and a smart payment kiosk which supports all relevant forms of payment is required.

Simply developing such a product would not be enough, either. The merchant would also have to see an advantage in using it – such as lower fees and a wider customer base. While it’s far from impossible, in today’s market it simply isn’t where the focus is.

Augur Uses Edge

Puey says that Augur makes use of Edge code without Augur users necessarily needing to know as much. Augur is not their only partner, but it’s one of their more recognizable name brands.

On the business-to-business side of things, Edge is a code development powerhouse, creating enterprise-grade software on a security model that is philosophically consistent with crypto natives. They work on the borderline: users can be their own bank but still have a degree of convenience that’s hard to attain with standard wallet implementations.

One of our flagship partners, Augur, integrates our Edge platform inside of their app. It lets people use Augur much like Airbitz, where you just create an account and login. Private keys are created, encrypted, and backed up automatically.

He says that Edge is infinitely expandable at this point. Blockchain development teams can use the Edge SDK to build mobile products. Edge can more easily integrate new blockchains than it could have in the Airbitz days, when even forks of Bitcoin were hard to do.

Every blockchain is now a plugin. In most cases you can just find another blockchain that’s similar to it, copy and paste, and change the code to query that blockchain, and create and sign transactions on it.

Being open source, companies are able to use a white label version of the product, and Puey says that several currently are.

Core Member of the Foundation for Interwallet Operability

Edge is part of the Foundation for Interwallet Operability, along with wallets like Mycellium and BRD. As we previously wrote about FIO:

The Foundation for Interwallet Operability is a standards body of sorts and it governs the FIO Protocol, a protocol that “will provide an enhanced layer of usability features for existing and future wallets and exchanges.” Its goal is to increase blockchain adoption and the userbase of cryptocurrencies generally by encouraging ease-of-use of lack of friction in wallet and exchange designs.

Puey says of Edge’s membership in FIO:

As one of the founding members of FIO, all of the wallets that are founding members are getting the implementation of FIO added to the wallet. So by the time it hits mainnet, you’ll have FIO support on almost half a dozen major wallet sin the industry. […] The idea of sending to a name is not a new idea in the industry. Many different projects have tried to do this. But their biggest issue is they had a faltering on business development. They didn’t convince the industry to adopt those standards. And I think this is what FIO did right. They really focused on the business development.

Enabling Easier Acquisition and Storage of Cryptocurrencies

Edge, since it was called Airbitz, has always focused on the user experience. Their core belief is that mass adoption doesn’t happen when the user is required to do too many things they are not used to doing.

They strive to serve as many use cases as possible. The Edge wallet integrates Changelly and other exchange platforms. It also has Simplex, which enables users to acquire cryptocurrencies with credit cards and bank accounts.

Puey says when a user goes to make an exchange, the wallet will figure out which platform is best to use for their use case. It checks between Changelly, ShapeShift, and ChangeNow to see which service will best meet the user’s needs. Users who don’t want to create accounts are directed to exchanges that don’t require them, although Puey says most will in the long run. While Edge is not the only wallet to have built-in exchange capabilities, it is one of the few which US users can use with no friction.

Edge is available for Android and iOS. It is not available for the desktop at present time, although its open SDK could be used to develop a wallet for desktop compatible with Edge private keys.

Featured image and other noted images from Shutterstock. Screesnhots provided by author.

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