The irony of the diffusion of human advancement has created a situation where more than a billion people have ready access to smart phones and the global Internet, but no reliable place to store their funds. The issue of poverty is complex, but investors who concern themselves with social issues have always believed it’s actually the biggest opportunity. Humans, after all, are a resourceful breed of primate. Given the right tools and motivation (another day of abject poverty), “pulling up from the bootstraps” is not impossible. But it can be near impossible when the risk of theft is so high as to discourage saving; the risk of government seizure is normalized; wages are depressed due to being limited to accepting local currencies and participate only in localized exchanges, among other reasons.
To this end, enter Humaniq. Nowhere near the first “third world banking” app, Humaniq, on first glance, is an attempt to learn from the mistakes of previous efforts. Kenyans have had the option of M-Pesa (“mobile money”) since 2007-8, and it has grown to be a common way for people to receive salaries and pay bills. Much of the developing world still had no reliable telecom system by the time mobile adoption was on the rise in the west, so they skipped over landlines and mobile phones are normalized. After several years, second tier services were added to the M-Pesa network, including the ability to save money. A few years after that, services like Bitwala and Bitpesa were introduced to allow people to use Bitcoin to pay M-Pesa customers. These services have had a bit of a rocky road, with Bitpesa eventually having a dispute with the owner of M-Pesa and subsequently losing access to the network.
Humaniq aims to provide the services that M-Pesa, Bitwala, and Bitpesa provide all in one app. One obvious drawback to losing the centralized clearing house of transactions that M-Pesa acts as is that it will take more engineering to ensure that transactions can be safely done with phones which do not have whole operating systems (non-smart phones).
Our aim is to empower a market of 2 billion people who currently don’t have access to banking across the world. Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day. More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening.
The purpose of Humaniq’s initial coin offering is, allegedly, an altruistic measure. In the White Paper, author Alex Fork claims that Humaniq’s team already has the funds required to complete development, but that they want everyone to have a fair chance to invest in the platform. Using the ICO model, in this regard, is a way of gauging community interest and offsetting costs that will come out of the firm itself. Humaniq has a detailed road map at the investors page, outlining what they will do if they reach certain goals. Alex Fork is the Russian author of Bitcoin: More Than Money as well as the controversial holder of a patent on “Bitcoin” in Russia.
The ICO is accepting Ethereum and Bitcoin in exchange for the token, which has a symbol of HMQ. Unlike most cryptocurrency-related projects, only whole coins are allowed on the Humaniq network. This is explained in the whitepaper as follows:
Any Humaniq balance cannot be fractional. It can only be integer. We’re targeted at providing undereducated people with modern finance, and we don’t expect all of our users to be great at fraction calculus. The integer amount of coins makes it easier for people to count their money.
Presumably, Humaniq is not a “direct” competitor to M-Pesa or other existing networks in impoverished areas. Instead, in theory, it should be able to interact with them, being an open network. So if someone wanted to send funds from Humaniq to M-Pesa, Bitpesa, Bitwala, Western Union, MoneyGram, or any of the others, then the firms would simply have to build third-rail plugins to allow as much. The history of financial firms interacting with each other is plagued with self-interested chaos monkeys, but ultimately the big networks like SWIFT and Interbank, among others, should also be able to interact with Humaniq when registered agents of those networks decide to make it possible.
For its part, however, Humaniq is focused on making it easy for the global unbanked to secure their funds and take part in the global economy.
What is unique with Humaniq?
But what is novel about Humaniq? What makes it unique? The answer: biometrics.
A big part of the problem for the banking industry and the underbanked are international regulations which require people to be “extremely vetted.” Especially in regions where extremist terrorism is common, banks are wary that anyone might be proxy banking for a terrorist group. They therefore often require more documents than a given citizen can provide, compounding the trouble for these people. Humaniq has no need of such lengthy sign-up processes because it intends to utilize biometrics to secure accounts. Using facial recognition and voice recognition, user funds can be secured against warlords and corrupt government thugs. To be repetitive, Humaniq also enables people in these situations to participate in the global economy, which subsequently creates market opportunities for other start-ups.
Humaniq’s application is already in the alpha stages, available for download and testing on both major mobile app stores. Here is what it looked like at time of writing:
Given that the technology is already in development, the concept is already tried and true, Humaniq is probably a good investment opportunity. On a scale of 1-10, this author will give it a 6.5 in terms of safety. Potential risks include local market penetration proving difficult, governmental interference (it’s trivial for governments to ban a mobile application in their region), or adoption being slow enough that it never really takes off.
The ICO runs until April 26th. The earlier people invest, the bigger a bonus in Humaniq they can receive. The current bonus is 25%. To invest, go here.