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MobileCoin ($MOB) – Digital Cash on Your Phone

MobileCoin was designed to be used as digital cash on your phone and ensure near-instantaneous transactions

In this article, we are going to take a look at MobileCoin, a privacy-focused payments network, which has its own currency, MOB, that was designed to be used as digital cash on your phone and ensure near-instantaneous transactions. We will cover the features that make all this possible and how MobileCoin works.

 

What Is MobileCoin?

The project is still in its early stages of development, but the idea behind it is to create a cryptocurrency that can be transferred quickly and easily via a mobile app. It is thought out in such a way as to make it possible for a mobile messaging app like WhatsApp or Signal to integrate with a MobileCoin wallet.

While MobileCoin works on desktop, it is mobile-first, a feature that many users will likely appreciate, given the current mobile-centric lifestyle. 

 

MobileCoin – History & Goals

The project’s whitepaper was released in 2017 by Josh Goldbard, the current MobileCoin CEO, and advisor and Signal founder Moxie Marlinspike. MobileCoin Inc. was founded by Josh Goldbard & Shane Glynn the same year. 

The MobileCoin Protocol was open-sourced in 2020. The network went live on December 7th, 2020, with the team now testing its functionality as a transactional cryptocurrency being used on a messaging app.

What the team wants to build is a cryptocurrency payment system that is compatible with popular mobile messaging apps and that is fast and easy to use. But that’s not all, it aims to deliver all that while ensuring user privacy and thus to hide everything from everyone, leaving no or fewer opportunities for abuse.

 

What Sets MobileCoin Apart?

In order to deliver all we’ve just mentioned, MobileCoin features an interesting mix of characteristics as we will see shortly. 

The developers of MobileCoin based it on the open-source Stellar Consensus Protocol platform, a Proof of Reputation protocol, aiming to create an end-to-end encrypted ecosystem similar to the messaging apps WhatsApp and Signal. It is important to mention here that both these apps use the Signal protocol that Marlinspike developed.

To ensure speed and efficiency, the team behind MobileCoin chose to use the Stellar blockchain. Regarding the consensus mechanism, MobileCoin uses Byzantine Fault Tolerant, which means that the verification nodes must be approved by the MobileCoin Foundation. However, there is no mention regarding the requirement to run a node, other than the above-mentioned approval. Nothing about a staking requirement or any incentive rewards for the node operators.

 

Nodes and Software Guard Extensions (SGX)

Speaking of nodes, here is something worth taking a closer look at. The network’s nodes must run on a machine that’s been built using an Intel processor component known as Software Guard Extensions or a “secure enclave.” 

This component is a sequestered portion of a processor that runs just like any other. What sets it apart though is the fact that the software inside it cannot be accessed or changed by a device’s broader operating system. While computers can still check whether an enclave is running the right software to validate it before connecting, node operators and MobileCoin users can’t decrypt and view the enclave. 

The thing with secure enclaves is that their processing capacity is limited, and when it comes to a payment network and a cryptocurrency which aim to be fast, that creates some challenges. In the case of MobileCoin, the SGX is used only for sensitive computing that needs to be shielded. So the system does as much data processing as possible outside the enclave, which ensures efficiency. 

These enclaves hide the cryptocurrency’s indelible ledger from view, and they store and shield the users’ private keys. What all this means is that, since sensitive data is not exposed to the nodes, much more can happen off of a user’s device, all while ensuring privacy as well as fast and easy transactions on mobile devices. 

For those of you interested in learning more about the technicalities of this project, the book MobileCoin released, “Mechanics of MobileCoin,” is worth reading.

 

Transaction Privacy 

MobileCoin is described as being privacy-focused, so to deliver as promised, the team layered the platform with additional protections. Therefore, it does not rely solely on SGX in order to maintain transaction privacy. 

MobileCoin transactions employ CryptoNote one-time addresses, as well as one-time ring signatures. To put it simply, even if an attacker compromised the SGX and could view transactions on the network, these additional protections would still maintain transaction privacy through these unlinkable addresses. They would thus prevent the attacker from being able to trace and link events. 

What’s more, thanks to the Stellar Consensus Protocol, the nodes don’t necessarily store the full transaction history of the blockchain. Instead, they can discard most data after each transaction is completed. These features render MobileCoin more resistant to surveillance, whether it’s coming from an attacker or a government. 

To level up the privacy ensured, MobileCoin conceals how much is being sent behind cryptographic constructs, which makes all currency flows opaque. 

 

MobileCoin and Signal 

Moxie Marlinspike is the creator of the encrypted messaging app Signal, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that the Signal app chose MobileCoin instead of ZCash or Monero. Given that smartphones cannot store too much data, blockchain transactions, data storage, and everything related must be done differently. 

Earlier this year, in April, to be specific, Signal announced that they had begun testing a new P2P payment system that allows users to send cryptocurrency to other users privately. The new service is known as Signal Payment, and it only supports the MobileCoin wallet and the MOB token. 

Considering the way MobileCoin is designed, the Signal app does not have access to a user’s balance, funds, or transaction history. If the beta test on Signal works well, it is likely for other messaging apps to implement it, and if the use of MOB over such apps becomes commonplace, then it could revolutionize the use of cryptocurrency.

MOB Token 

The native token of MobileCoin is MOB and has a maximum supply of 250 million, all of these tokens being pre-mined. At the time of our research, there was no information regarding the circulating supply. 

Only a handful of exchanges have listed it, including FTX, Bitfinex, Hotbit, and BigOne. Binance has not listed it, which seems at least unusual, given that Binance Labs led the crowdfunding round for MobileCoin in 2018. At the time, it promised that the new cryptocurrency would enjoy “priority consideration” for being listed on Binance, which hasn’t happened so far.

The token’s price has had quite a trajectory. While it traded around the $2 level in 2020, the price reached the $39 mark in March, hitting its ATH of nearly $70 on April 6, 2021, when Signal announced the addition of MOB to its platform. At the time of this video, the token trades at the $16 level. 

 

Team & Investors

The MobileCoin board of directors includes Joshua Goldbard, CEO of MobileCoin Inc. and the co-inventor of the MobileCoin protocol, Sarah Novotny, Dr. David A. Bray, Renée DiResta, and Alex Feerst. The project benefits thus from their expertise in software engineering, mobile systems, cryptography, leadership, and marketing, and you can find more about each member on the project’s official website. 

What’s worth mentioning is that MobileCoin has recently raised $66 million in Series B funding from a long list of investors, including prominent venture firms, entrepreneurs, and cryptocurrency technology companies. Some of them are Alameda Research, Coinbase Ventures, Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures, and General Catalyst.

 

MobileCoin Community & Roadmap

According to the project’s roadmap for Q3 2021, the team behind MobileCoin is set to work on implementing optimizations that improve performance and scaling and adding new features that do not compromise the MobileCoin core values.

The currently available version of the MobileCoin wallet is a desktop-only version, for Mac and Linux, yet the mobile one should be available soon, based on the information available on the project’s website. 

After the Series B round, MobileCoin said that they would use the funding to further develop their core crypto offerings, such as their MOBot, which is described as the “first cryptocurrency chatbot payment system,” and expand their merchant services.

The MobileCoin community seems to grow at a steady pace, with the project’s Twitter followers exceeding 10k. Now, with the Series B funding results and so many big names supporting the project, it is likely for the community to grow even further.

 

Conclusion 

The project’s mission and goals are worth praising, but it’s still early days for MobileCoin and a long way to go before mainstream apps adopt it and thus put it in everyone’s hands. 

With smartphones being such an important part of many people’s lives these days, it only makes sense to build a cryptocurrency that can be easily and quickly transferred via a mobile app. We’ll therefore keep an eye on how the project develops over time. 

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