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Interviews

Can blockchain enable payments and data security? Alastair Johnson, Nuggets says yes

Monday 2 July 2018 | 10:21 AM CET

The Paypers interviews Nuggets’ Alastair Johnson to find out more about the company, its ecommerce initiatives and how blockchain enables payments and data security

Could you please share with our readers a little bit about Nuggets?

Nuggets was founded in the UK by myself and Seema Khinda Johnson. The idea came to us as a result of my own payment details being stolen and fraudulently used (as well as the subsequent ordeal of needing to remedy the damage).

Nuggets harnesses the power of blockchain technology and zero-knowledge storage to allow its users to safely upload their payment details and ID into a sort of ‘private cloud’ (no one, Nuggets included, can access this without the requisite biometrics). When it comes to the point-of-sale, the user authenticates the transactions via the app, without having to share their data with the merchant.

At the moment, our team is still relatively small, at around 20 members, although we are scaling as we speak.

Can you tell us more about some of the partnerships and initiatives you have been working on?

We are excited to say we’ve got quite a few partnerships coming together with other ecommerce and retail initiatives. We recently announced that we’d be working with Storiqa, a blockchain startup also aiming to disrupt the sector – in this case, by lowering barriers to entry for SME businesses (pushing cryptocurrency adoption and putting an end to fake reviews). I look forward to furthering a symbiotic relationship with Storiqa as we begin to roll out the Nuggets platform.

Nuggets has partnered with QFPay, the Chinese payment provider used by WeChat and Alipay, which serves 800 million WeChat users and 400 million Alipay users. We’ve also been talking with former executives from Alibaba, Huawei, Xiaomi and a major Chinese telecommunications operator, as well as the Chinese internet company Tencent and the 360 Finance Group under Qihu 360.

Recently, the UK Department for International Trade, the Mayor of London and the City of London, have selected us for the prestigious Access India Programme and started product workshops.

With iOS and Android versions of the product available, we’re also in discussions around enabling PoCs across a number of verticals including telco, ecommerce and security.

There’s another handful of solutions we’re working with, which we’ll be announcing shortly. We’re constantly looking to partner with teams that can complement the work that we’re doing, and vice versa.

Since the Nuggets platform is free of charge for consumers, and merchants are paying just a small fee every time someone uses it, how do you monetize from it?

Blockchain technology is seminal in building secure infrastructures to evade the inherent problems that come with centralised systems – trusting third-parties with sensitive data puts it at risk of theft in the case of a breach. Nuggets’ ethos embraces the concept of self-sovereignty, where users are put back in complete control of their own data.

There are many payments platforms, identity solutions and password managers already out there. However, what makes Nuggets unique is the fact that users don’t have to share or store their data again after first registry, our platform combines ecommerce payments and ID in one place and shoppers can earn Nuggets Tokens and use it with any participating merchant.

Nuggets is free to consumers and they get rewarded in Nuggets every time they login, pay or verify their identities. We also reward users when they refer the product to others.

Businesses pay a small transaction fee for product usage.

You have already released the Alpha of the Nuggets product. Could you share more details about it, its success? Where there any challenges?

Currently, we’re enabling Nuggets Alpha platform in the UK and China. Many of the merchant and payment partners involved in the launch are global players, and Nuggets is also exploring new partnerships in other markets.

It’s great to get a product out amongst real users, as the whole point in doing this is to bring change that benefits both consumers and merchants. It's even more important in the world of blockchain to prove that there is substance to your vision.

Whenever you are dealing with a nascent technology, there are always challenges when interfacing with existing technology, but also when you are driving a new ethos of privacy and security.

Looking at the next 5 years, what are the main plans for your company? How do you see the space of data and payments security evolving?

I think the utmost priority at the moment is processing the feedback we’ve received from the alpha. Seeing what users liked, what needed to be improved and any suggestions for additional features that we can then go and implement. We’re particularly focused on providing a safe means by which consumers can interact with retailers on the payment level, but we’ve got other key goals that we’ll be investigating in time – notably, cross-merchant reward points and identity verification.

I think the floodgates have been opened insofar as to how data is being handled now. Some very high-profile data breaches have cast light on a problem that can no longer be ignored: trusting third-parties with user data is not a viable option. We’re seeing developments like GDPR in Europe appreciating the importance of keeping data secure. The regulatory agenda is developing at a time where it has the technology to support a radical shift away from centralisation, which can only be a good thing in eliminating single points of failure. I think blockchain is key to furthering a new and more secure architecture for safely storing personal information.

About Alastair Johnson

Alastair is a tech entrepreneur and innovator and advocate for blockchain technology. He believes in decentralisation to enable the private, secure exchange of data. This inspired the founding of Nuggets, a blockchain payments and identity platform, which enables online transactions without sharing or storing personal information.

Alastair has transformed high-level concepts from design to delivery including global product development campaigns for brands like Microsoft, Skype, Xbox, the BBC and Disney.

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