CSIRO and Commonwealth Blockchain “smart money” trial a success

A trial of blockchain-powered “smart money” by the CSIRO’s Data61 and the Commonwealth Bank has demonstrated that the technology could be used to help manage insurance payouts, budgeting and the management of trusts and charities in Australia.

The technology was trialled with 10 participants and carers in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) using a prototype app that shows how smart money could give participants more choice and control over their disability support services, while cutting administration costs, removing paperwork and reducing the risk of fraud or accidental misspending.

The results have been released in a report called “Making Money Smart”, which examines the design benefits and limitations of the blockchain-based “smart money” system for the NDIS and identifies other uses for the technology.

The NDIS prototype app aimed to test the functionality of smart money enabled by a blockchain token solution that could integrate with Australia’s New Payments Platform, which are new technology developments that have progressed considerably since the NDIS was first envisaged in 2011.

Dr Mark Staples, senior principal researcher in the Software and Computational Systems program at CSIRO’s Data61, said that the research project had been important for understanding the benefits and limitations of blockchain technology in the context of conditional payment environments like the NDIS.

“Our use of blockchain added new kinds of programmable behaviours to the smart money in the prototype system. This automation and flexibility could reduce friction and enable greater innovation in many payment environments and unlock network-effect benefits,” Staples said.

“This could include more directly connecting citizens to public policy programs, empowering people to optimise their spending through things like smart savings plans and smart diets, and reducing costs for businesses, including through the potential for self-taxing transactions.”

The prototype app was tested by 10 NDIS participants and carers in the CommBank Innovation Lab as well as a small number of medium-sized disability service providers.

Participants and carers estimated that the prototype app could save them one hour to 15 hours per week, while service providers estimated potential annual cost savings as a percentage of revenue of 0.3 per cent to 0.8 per cent.

Commonwealth Bank modelling indicates that – even if these estimates were applied conservatively across the NDIS ecosystem – the economic benefits would equate to hundreds of millions of dollars annually, if the proof of concept was developed and implemented as part of a full-scale solution across Australia.

Commonwealth Bank’s head of government and ADIs, Julie Hunter, said the results indicated that the technology could have wide application across the government, business and not-for-profit sectors.

“We look forward to exploring these opportunities with our partners and clients across Australia,” Hunter said.