Sugi has invited Sofitto’s CTO Igor Ruzanov, one of the masterminds behind Sugi, to join us for an interview and to share his views on the groundbreaking new technology his team has developed.
Igor Ruzanov has rich experiences in IT and banking projects, and gained invaluable skills working for many masters of the industry like DeutscheBank, UmiCore, and Canon Europe.
In this interview, we discussed crypto payment systems, their challenges and solutions, and future potential of the cryptocurrencies and the digital payments sphere at large.
Igor, you know all the code behind Sugi; apart from its promoted functions like NFC chip and mobile app, what would you say makes Sugi not only special but groundbreaking?
I think the most important thing that we try to achieve is a healthy balance of the usability/simplicity and security. Usually, to achieve a good level of security requires the user has to take a lot of complex operations like creating strong passwords, manual backups, 2FA for every action and so on. This makes user experience quite hard and inconvenient and creates some barriers to even start using a product. We try to do our best to make the user experience when using the Sugi card and the Sugi Mobile Wallet as slick as possible without compromising the security of their funds.
What challenges do you currently see in the crypto payment space?
High barrier to entry for new people. By that, I mean the usability of current wallets and complexity when buying first crypto coins.
Also, most of the merchants prefer to cash in fiat currencies, not crypto.
Indeed, and Sugi is providing thorough payment and e-commerce solutions for merchants, too. Do you see them adopt this technology first to leverage a competitive advantage or do you think the majority of vendors will wait until the customers start demanding payments in crypto?
I think merchants are interested in having as many payment options as possible. From the customer side, there was not much motivation to spend crypto when Bitcoin price was growing. We will see more crypto payments in the bear market or when the prices would be stable.
With that forecast in mind, you are devoted to developing the payment cards technology combined with crypto payments. After a wider adoption of this technology in everyday use, what do you think is the next step for cryptocurrencies, following the payment cards? Mobile payments, QR codes etc.?
If we talk about cryptocurrencies and digital cash systems (for example the Swedish e-krona), where a customer has full control over his money, it is very important to keep the private keys in a secure environment. It does not necessarily have to be smart cards.
I hope in the future all the smartphones and smartwatches would have a secure element with open APIs for storing keys and signing transactions. This way, these smart devices can be used for secure payments. It is about a technical aspect.
From the conceptual point of view, now we can spend only the crypto assets that we have at the moment of purchase or locked (prepaid) in a payment channel. In the future, we will see Uber-like invisible payment experience and loans for the cryptocurrencies using smart contracts and other techniques.
How about transaction costs? The Sugi Card would run on a sovereign financial entity, independent from Visa or Mastercard. How is Sugi planning to compete with their monopoly, how much are people trusting newly emerged financial institutions?
We will build a trust providing a good service to our existing card holders so they can recommend us to the friends and family. I don’t think that Visa/MasterCard will see us as competitors. We also plan to issue a co-branded card with one of the international card schemes. The customer will be able to use the same card as a crypto hardware wallet and for the EUR payments even before we will get the appropriate license for the fiat currencies.
So, basically, Visa/Mastercard are used to make payments from bank accounts, and Sugi, from the other side, is used for digital cash systems like Bitcoin, e-krona and other stable coins.
What are your thoughts on the crypto market regulation — how could it influence the market on an everyday level? Would it make ordinary, non-tech-savvy people trust crypto more, or would it mean a bigger obstacle for the use of crypto for everyday payments?
High regulatory risk is related to the security tokens that are not used in crypto payments. Current regulations don’t have anything against using the base cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum for payments (at least in the developed countries).
From our side, we build a solution — a regular banking card with the integrated blockchain wallet, exactly for the non-tech-savvy people. They can use it for remittances or daily payments without thinking that there is a crypto-magic happening in the background. Just like regular banking card on steroids.
The whole crypto market is moving and evolving pretty fast. Do you feel any added pressure of being the first mover in the crypto payment cards space?
There are already big players in the cryptocurrency hardware wallet space like Ledger, Trezor, and Status with their Keycard. But indeed, as the first on the market, we made the EMV-compatible crypto payment card that can be used in traditional POS-terminals and ATMs. The most difficult for us is now to convince acquirers/merchants to support our protocol and start accepting crypto payments. And the biggest pressure we fell is that Sugi customers cannot use it for daily purchases and ATM withdrawals for now. The more Sugi Card holders there are, the easier would it be for us to add merchants to the Sugi ecosystem.
What is your vision for space, either short-term or long-term?
There is a big interest from the investors’ side to support infrastructure projects like Sugi. Some well-funded ICO projects are building interesting solutions. There are a lot of initiatives from the EU, like European Blockchain infrastructure. So I think the future is bright in the space.
The Sugi Card is now available at a limited-time Pre-sale discount.
Compare the features of Sugi to those of other hardware wallets and make an informed decision for your crypto assets.