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'Minting' electronic cash

Electronic equivalents of traditional cash payment systems are being launched worldwide

16 min read
'Minting' electronic cash

The interest in electronic replacements for traditional forms of payment has exploded in recent years. In addition to many field trials for value stored in chips on plastic cards (smartcards), many major software, telecommunications, and financial services organizations are working on their own electronic payment techniques. While most of these aim at enhancing credit cards, a few companies have gone further and developed electronic replacements of traditional cash payment. However, the extent to which the different systems succeed in preserving the unique benefits of traditional cash and exploiting the new medium's advantages varies substantially.

Traditional cash money is a bearer instrument. It allows instantaneous payment from person to person. Cash payments are not normally traceable by a third party and therefore offer privacy. On the other hand, transporting, protecting, and refreshing coins and bank notes make them very costly for banks to handle. Bank notes can be forged on sophisticated color copier machines, coins are too heavy to carry around in any large number, and both are easily lost or stolen. Because coins are virtually indistinguishable, and coins and bank notes can be passed from person to person many times without the involvement of a bank or other third party, cash is the preferred method of payment in criminal activities like extortion, money laundering, and bribery. Another inherent shortcoming has become particularly confining of late: the requirement for physical proximity of payer and payee.

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Make IEEE Your Home Base

The association offers networking opportunities and professional development programs

3 min read
group of young people smiling at the camera

These IEEE members connected with each other at this year's IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, held in London.


The word home evokes a sense of belonging and welcoming. IEEE aims to create a similar feeling by offering services for members at every stage of their career and by building a community among them.

IEEE President and CEO K.J. Ray Liu is committed to making IEEE the professional home for members. As he announced in his March column in The Institute, he’s doing that by “examining ways in which the organization could evolve to best meet the needs of all technical professionals in the years ahead.”

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Home Heating With Hydrogen: Ill-Advised as It Sounds

Several studies reveal serious drawbacks

3 min read
Two white boilers mounted on a wood wall, with pipes and tubes.

An old central heating boiler [left] and a hydrogen boiler inside the Hydrogen Experience Center, in the Netherlands.

Sem van der Wal/ANP/Getty Images

Hydrogen, if it comes from splitting water with renewable electricity, has its role as a climate-friendly energy source. It could help decarbonize challenging sectors like heavy industry, shipping, and aviation.

But hydrogen makes absolutely no sense for heating homes and buildings, according to a new review of several international studies. It is simply much too expensive and inefficient for that purpose, says Jan Rosenow, Europe director at the Regulatory Assistance Project, an energy think tank in Brussels, who authored the commentary published in the journal Joule.

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