CSIRO and CBA collaborate on blockchain app trial

CSIRO’s Data61 and Commonwealth Bank are trialling blockchain technology through an app that creates “smart money” to enhance the experience of participants and service providers in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

This proof of concept project for the blockchain technology provides NDIS users with access to smart money – otherwise known as programmable money – which retains and tracks data of what is spent on, who it can be spent by and when it can be spent.

The NDIS was selected as the first case study for the proof of concept, as it involves highly personalised payment conditions. In the NDIS, participants have individualised plans that can contain multiple budget categories – each with different spending rules.

The prototype app supports participants to manage their plan by enabling them to find, book and pay for services from NDIS service providers without the need for paperwork or receipts.

The proof of concept has benefited from advice and feedback from government and industry leaders, and is currently undergoing user testing with NDIS participants and carers.

Sophie Gilder, the head of experimentation and blockchain at the CBA Innovation Lad, said that programmable money represented an opportunity to re-envisage how money and payments function across the economy.

“The potential of this technology for the NDIS is exciting, ranging from greater empowerment for participants, reduced administration costs for businesses and greater visibility for Government,” Gilder said.

“It’s been rewarding to collaborate with Data61 on a project that could have such a large, positive impact for the community.”

Dr Mark Staples, senior principal researcher in the software and computational systems program at CSIRO’s Data61, said that the project was interested in looking into how blockchain technology can integrate with new payments technologies to provide more choice, control and flexibility for conditional payments for NDIS participants and service providers.

“We’re particularly interested in the broader research opportunity around programmable money, because it should reduce friction in business transactions, and enable companies to create new business models and innovative ways of delivering and paying for products and services,” Staples said.

“This would benefit customers and reduces the administrative burden involved in managing payments.”

A report co-authored by CBA and Data61 will be released in November and will detail the design benefits and limitations of the blockchain based system for the NDIS use case, including user feedback and recommendations on future applications.