After weeks of listless trading, Bitcoin has rallied over the past 24 hours, shooting up from the high-$6,000s to the mid-$7,000s in a move that has brought new energy to other leading cryptocurrencies. Coincidentally, Mastercard Inc. on Tuesday was awarded a patent for a system that could allow users of blockchain-based currencies to access those assets similarly to how they spend dollars today with plastic cards and mobile wallets.
Reasons for the sudden market move are unclear, but Bitcoin is clearly on the rise. The coin jumped nearly 10% in the span of about an hour Tuesday morning, breaching the $7,000 level for the first time since June 10 and settling near $7,400, according to tracking by CoinMarketCap.com. It was trading just above that number at mid-morning Wednesday.
Trading volume has been relatively heavy, leading some experts to feel confident the trading gains may stick. The rally has also spread to a number of other major cryptos. XRP, the currency offered by distributed-ledger provider Ripple Labs, has jumped 8% in the past 24 hours, for example. Bitcoin Cash, a Bitcoin offshoot that emerged a year ago, has risen 9%, as has Litecoin, another Bitcoin-like product.
Even so, Bitcoin remains far from the near-$20,000 height it climbed to in December in the midst of a trading frenzy over the nearly 10-year-old digital currency.
As this rally unfolded, Mastercard gave crypto enthusiasts something else to ponder with the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s award of a patent to the network for a system that aims at slicing transaction time for blockchain-based currencies while beefing up their security.
At least for now, blockchain transactions take too long, Mastercard says in the patent document (U.S. patent number 10,026,082), a problem it proposes to remedy with the use of networking assets. “It often takes a significant amount of time, around ten minutes, for a blockchain-based transaction to be processed, due to the computer processing time and resources required to verify and update the blockchain,” the document reads. “Conversely, traditional fiat payment transactions that are processed using payment networks often have processing times that are measured in nanoseconds.”
The system, which Mastercard calls a “Method and system for linkage of blockchain-based assets to fiat currency accounts” envisions a network that can access and manage two accounts, one storing fiat currency and the other storing cryptocurrency. Transactions would tap either account depending on account profiles and other indicators included in the transaction message.
How this would work in the real world, and how soon, remains to be seen. Patent applications don’t always indicate future directions, and awarded patents can be used for defensive purposes as much as to support planned products. But it’s clear the inventors were thinking ahead. The application to the USPTO for what became patent number 10,026,082 was filed more than three years ago.