Australia tests blockchain to ease settlement of insurance claims

The government of Australia and an Aussie Big Four bank are exploring blockchain to create "smart money" that would help people with disabilities with their insurance payments

The Aussie government has joined forces with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) to test a blockchain technology app which makes it easier for people with disabilities to settle insurance claims.

As part of the project, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and CBA have developed the application to explore the potential for blockchain to create “smart money”.

This is designed for use in the country’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and is aimed at enhancing the “experience of participants and service providers in the NDIS through the creation of ‘smart money’ – also known as programmable money”.

In a press release, CISRO explains that “by attaching conditions, the ‘smart money’ knows what it can be spent on, who it can be spent by and when it can be spent”.

A blockchain token solution

The organisation says that smart money is enabled by a blockchain token solution that could integrate with Australia’s New Payments Platform, and is accessed through a user-friendly app.

“The NDIS was selected as the first case study for the proof of concept, as it involves highly personalised payment conditions,” CISRO says “In the NDIS, participants have individualised plans that can contain multiple budget categories – each with different spending rules.”

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The app supports participants to manage their plan by enabling them to find, book and pay for services from NDIS service providers without the need for paperwork or receipts, adds CISRO.

The proof of concept has benefited from advice and feedback from government and industry leaders, and is currently undergoing user testing with NDIS participants and carers, it says.

Changing how we think about money

Sophie Gilder, head of CBA’s Experimentation and Blockchain, Innovation Lab, states that “programmable money represents an opportunity to re-envisage how we think about money and how payments function across the economy”.

Gilder also says the platform has the potential to empower participants, reduce administration costs for businesses and provide greater visibility for the government.

The proof of concept combines CBA’s Blockchain Centre of Excellence with CISRO’s Data61’s research expertise in the blockchain, smart contracts and software engineering.

Blockchain and payments

Dr Mark Staples, the senior Principal Researcher in the Software and Computational Systems program at Data61, says “this has been a really interesting research project into how blockchain technology can integrate with new payments technologies to provide more choice, control and flexibility for conditional payments for NDIS participants and service providers”.

He explains that smart money has the potential to reduce friction in business transactions and enable companies to create new business models and innovative ways of delivering and paying for products and services. “This would benefit customers and reduces the administrative burden involved in managing payments,” Staples concludes.

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