Five fintech, payment and e-commerce firms will create front-end prototypes for the digital euro that will not be used in the later stages of the CBDC project.

The European Central Bank, or ECB, has announced that it will collaborate with five companies to develop potential digital euro user interfaces.

In an announcement on Friday, the ECB said it had selected the “Big Four” tech company Amazon, fintech firm Nexi, Spanish digital bank CaixaBank, French payments platform Worldline and the European Payments Initiative, or EPI, to focus on developing a prototype based on specific use cases of the digital euro. According to the central bank, the firms will build front-end prototypes that will not be used in the later stages of the digital currency project.

Together with the ECB team, each of the selected companies will focus on a specific use case of the digital euro:

  • peer-to-peer online payments – CaixaBank;
  • peer-to-peer offline payments – Worldline;
  • payer-initiated point-of-sale payments – EPI;
  • payee-initiated point-of-sale payments – Nexi;
  • e-commerce payments – Amazon.

The ECB selected the five companies based on their fulfillment of “special capabilities” compared to the 50 other front-end developers that responded to the central bank’s call in April. Officials planned to complete the project in the first quarter of 2023 as part of a two-year research phase on the digital euro, which is expected to end in October 2023.

As interest in central bank digital currencies grows globally, ECB officials are exploring the potential impact of a digital euro on Europe, but remain unclear if or when the bank will publish a CBDC. The central bank commissioned a series of focus groups on digital payment methods in September 2021, which suggested that the use of digital currency online and in physical stores could be a key feature of the digital euro. An earlier public consultation also noted that privacy was seen as “the most important feature of a digital euro by both citizens and professionals”.

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