Blockchain firm Ripple has developed a payment app that settles transactions instantly, in partnership with a consortium of 61 Japanese banks.
The San Francisco-based company said Wednesday that the app, called "Money Tap," will first go live in the fall. It will initially be available with three banks included in the consortium — SBI Net Sumishin Bank, Suruga Bank and Resona Bank — before being rolled out to the rest of the consortium.
Blockchain, which is distributed ledger technology, is more commonly known as the tech that underpins cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. It maintains a growing list of transactions or other data across a decentralized network.
Ripple's own blockchain technology is known mainly as the underlying network for its cryptocurrency, XRP, often referred to itself as ripple. But it is also used more generally for real-time transaction settlements.
Due to its decentralized nature, blockchain networks remove the need for an intermediary, such as a large bank, to clear and settle money transfers.
Ripple said that the app would make it easier for banks to settle round-the-clock domestic payments in Japan. Consumers will require a bank account, phone number or a QR barcode to use the app, Ripple said.
The banking consortium is led by SBI Ripple Asia, a joint venture between Ripple and SBI Net Sumishin Bank's parent company SBI Group.
"Together with the trust, reliability and reach of the bank consortium, we can remove friction from payments and create a faster, safer, and more efficient domestic payments experience for our customers," Takashi Okita, CEO of SBI Ripple Asia, said in a statement Wednesday.
Ripple has attracted a number of critics among the cryptocurrency community, however. While cryptocurrencies are hailed as a decentralized means of exchange, some cryptocurrency enthusiasts have cited the firm's partnerships with banks and its majority stake in XRP as a cause for concern.
The company has partnered with some financial institutions to let them use its digital asset as a means of speeding up payments. One of its most notable partners is U.S. money transfer giant MoneyGram, which is testing the cryptocurrency through Ripple's payment network xRapid.
Last week, Ripple said another partner, Cambridge Global Payments, would pilot XRP for payment flows through xRapid. Cambridge Global Payments is a business-to-business (B2B) payment firm of New York-listed finance company Fleetcor.
Japan is home to a huge market for fintech, or financial technology — particularly in the areas of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
It officially recognized bitcoin as legal tender last year, and has also recognized a number of cryptocurrency exchanges.
But Japan's financial regulator has grown more wary of the sector in recent months, after a huge cryptocurrency heist saw more than $500 million worth of the virtual currency NEM stolen from crypto exchange Coincheck.
Other Asian nations, such as China and South Korea, have placed increasing pressure on the digital currency market. In January, China was reported to have a plan to block domestic access to cryptocurrency platforms that allow centralized trading. Later that month, South Korea implemented new rules that prevented people without real-name bank accounts from trading cryptocurrencies.