Entire cities are going digital

UK & Israel based technology company Colu has signed a deal with UK’s Belfast City Council to launch a new city cryptotoken called Belfast Coin. This will be a city currency, designed to empower residents, local businesses, city authorities, and partners, bringing them together to help Belfast develop and thrive – to boost the city economy and help meet environmental goals.

Colu’s mobile payment app currently operates in four cities across UK and Israel, including Tel Aviv (where this cryptotoken has been adopted by around one-quarter of the city’s population so far). Essentially, they’ve created a digital currency ecosystem, designed to be used as a payment method via a digital wallet.

Like Tel Aviv, Belfast Coin will operate as a rewards platform, encouraging the Belfast public towards impactful behaviours to further improve the city. Unlike the Chinese Social Scorecard system however, this looks to be largely based on positive reinforcement.

Join

To join, city residents will be required to simply download the Colu app and connect a payment card as a funding source. Once the city currency has been earned for a variety of actions, residents will then be able to pay with it. Meanwhile, local businesses interested in pre-registering can do so here.

Earning

Residents will accumulate Belfast Coins in return for activities such as shopping at local businesses, volunteering, civic activity and beyond. By shopping via the Colu platform, they claim that members will get discounts and local offers. By motivating Belfast residents to make a positive difference, the Belfast Coin is thought to strengthen their connection to the city they live in.

What I find most interesting about this project is that participating residents (members) are rewarded in Belfast Coin for more than simply transactional activities within the merchant network, which is typically the proposition in any large-scale coalition loyalty program. It’s certainly positioned as a wonderful community play, but it remains to be seen whether it’s embraced by the population en masse and if there’s any actual value in it.

Redeeming / Payment

The coin will be accepted as payment at local businesses across the city, including shops, cafes, restaurants and more.

Funding

The retailers will be funding a percentage of the transaction back in Belfast Coin, while the Belfast City Council will likely fund all other coin earning activities spanning volunteering, civic duties and beyond. It would be interesting to peek under the hood of the commercial modelling, to see how much coin earn is forecasted to take place outside of merchant transaction activity.

Circling back to the fact that this is actually a floated cryptotoken; like so many other blockchain companies, the drop in value of Colu’s token has been significant, falling from a high of USD $0.065c in June 2018 to USD $0.0049c currently. Given that it’s live across 4 cities and one quarter of Tel Aviv is apparently using it, the exchange demand of $590 in the past 24 hours does not bode well for the future of this project.  

Max Savransky is Loyalty Director of Loyalty & Reward Co, a leading loyalty consulting firm based in Sydney. He has 10 years’ experience within the loyalty industry including roles at Mastercard Loyalty (Pinpoint), Silverneedle (Next & Sage Hotels) and Pureprofile. As Loyalty & CRM Manager at HOYTS, he launched the highly successful partnership with Qantas Frequent Flyer, including a world-first Qantas Points in-store redemption proposition. Max consults on program design, commercial modelling and lifecycle strategy, across both traditional and blockchain loyalty projects.

Max is an active cryptocurrency trader and a key contributor to www.blockchainloyalty.io, a global resource centre for everything blockchain loyalty.

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