by Kieran Smith
Lightning Developer Igor Cota has submitted a proposal to connect Lightning with near-field communication (NFC) on April 5, to make everyday payments feasible with bitcoin.
The Lightning Network is billed as Bitcoin’s most promising scaling solution, but is still in the alpha phase and lacks a simple user interface.
By integrating Lightning with NFC, users could potentially make transactions using bitcoin by simply waving their smartphone over the payment device.
The developer said he would like to see a system that is both “instantaneous like the contactless bank cards of today” and also “encodes a fancy HTML receipt in BOLT 11 for the payers future reference.”
Moving Beyond QR Codes
In their present state, most bitcoin payment systems use QR Codes. Igor argues that these are unwieldy and impractical to scan, especially in the practical daily situation of grocery shopping with a trolley full of purchases.
To move beyond the pixelated black and white codes, developer Cota looks to create a standardized way of connecting Lightning with NFC.
He also proposes that any computer can be turned into a Lightning point-of-sale terminal by attaching a cheap USB attachment, a system that he has been experimenting with:
“To this end, I’ve been running an instance of c-lightning on Android […] and experimenting with payments via NFC. I set up a machine with an NFC USB dongle that acts as a point-of-sale terminal. So far so good!”
QR codes are also limited by an inability to accommodate more information – preventing retailers from adding more transaction data like receipts and coupons.
Cota explained further, “I’d like to see a system where the payment terminal sends a nice HTML receipt for the customer – that receipt has, say, a table list of your grocery shopping with subtotal, taxes, grand-total, perhaps a shop logo, some loyalty code or a coupon for future use.”
This would empower consumers to take control of their finances, and automatically keep a detailed record of their spending.
Lightning Bolts are the open-source GitHub specifications that developers have established to ensure that all Lightning implementations are compatible.
Writing up a standard specification to enable the acceptance of NFC-based Lightning payments on all NFC-enabled payment devices would ensure that the infrastructure is ready to use if the Lightning Network leads to increased bitcoin adoption.
Cota believes that the NFC functionality could be added to BOLT 11, which currently describes a standard for QR codes. This would allow the presentation of an NFC invoice to the user, in a similar way to contactless card readers.
The proposal was well-received by other Lightning developers, and Cota has proposed to call the system “Presto”:
“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!”