Consumer finance startup Circle has unveiled Cent Routing Exchange (CENTRE), a new open source project that aims to use blockchain technology to allow disparate digital wallets – consumer wallets and merchant wallets – to exchange money and value directly, cheaply and safely.

The CENTRE Network will enable wallet interoperability both for person-to-person and person-to-merchant payments and will be built on existing technology developed by Circle.

Founded in 2013, Circle started as a bitcoin exchange platform and wallet service but pivoted in late-December 2016 to mobile payments. Today, the company offers a mobile payment platform called Circle Pay that allows users to hold, send and receive conventional currencies.

Explaining the vision behind CENTRE, Circle founders Sean Neville and Jeremy Allaire, wrote in a blog post:

“We can text message and email each other nearly instantly, for free, even if we use different mobile carriers or email services — even if we’re in different countries. The idea of a cross-border email is nonsensical. So why can’t we use Circle Pay to send money to someone in China who uses Wechat Pay, who can then pay someone who uses Paytm in India, to pay someone who uses any other social payment or messaging app or bank or wallet — instantly and safely anywhere in the world, with no cost?”

The technology behind CENTRE was initially established by Circle as an internal method for transacting in both cryptocurrencies and fiat. CENTRE plans to create a new implementation of these protocols that is not proprietary and which will be deployed on the Ethereum network.

CENTRE will consist of an open source suite of protocols and network scheme that “allow money to flow between wallets the same way information moves between web browsers and servers, email between mail services, text messages between SMS providers” regardless of the service providers, according to the whitepaper.

These protocols include support for transmitting conventional currencies over blockchain implementations, a service provider mechanism to support trust and identity decisions, rules for payment settlement and reversals, and the exchange of KYC/AML-related information to meet compliance obligations.

Wallets that implement the CENTRE protocols will be able to exchange value to each other. Business and organizations will be able to support direct payments from compatible digital wallets either directly by implementing CENTRE protocols or indirectly by working with merchants acquirers.

All participants will be required to support the CENTRE token (CENT) for settlement. These tokens will also be required for transactions involving service provider features such as compliance and KYC, secure storage, risk analysis, foreign exchange pricing analysis, and other services made available to the network.

While initially a wholly owned subsidiary of Circle, the CENTRE operations and team members are expected to be transferred to a new dedicated non-profit organization to be called the CENTRE Foundation. The CENTRE Foundation will be responsible for providing support, governance, and ongoing research and development for the CENTRE open source software.

Image credit: Smart Phone Mobile Payment by ProStockStudio, via Shutterstock.com