Schemes and Initiatives

Project Ubin: Central Bank Digital Money using Distributed Ledger Technology

 

What It Is

Project Ubin is a collaborative project with the industry to explore the use of Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) for clearing and settlement of payments and securities.

The project aims to help MAS and the industry better understand the technology and the potential benefits it may bring through practical experimentation. This is with the eventual goal of developing simpler to use and more efficient alternatives to today’s systems based on central bank issued digital tokens.

Project Ubin is a multi-year multi-phase project, with each phase aimed at solving the pressing challenges faced by the financial industry and the blockchain ecosystem. The project is now in its fifth phase, and has since published 6 project reports.

Project Phases

Phase 1: Tokenised SGD
MAS announced on 16 November 2016 that it will be partnering R3, a DLT company, and a consortium of financial institutions on a proof-of-concept project to conduct inter-bank payments using Blockchain technology. The consortium includes the following financial institutions:
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • Credit Suisse
  • DBS Bank
  • Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) Limited
  • JP Morgan
  • Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group
  • OCBC 
  • R3
  • Singapore Exchange (SGX)
  • United Overseas Bank (UOB)

The consortium also included BCS Information Systems, which acts as the technology provider. 

Phase 1 successfully concluded on 9 March 2017. Deloitte was commissioned to produce a report that covers the aspects of DLT that are most suited to settlement systems and details the design principles used for the prototype. The report Project Ubin: SGD on Distributed Ledger (2.55 MB) will serve as an introduction to DLT, and provide an understanding of the prototype developed.

Phase 2: Re-imagining RTGS
MAS and The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) announced on 5 October 2017 that the consortium which they are leading had successfully developed software prototype of three different models for decentralised inter-bank payment and settlements with liquidity savings mechanisms. 

Financial Institutions

The consortium includes the following financial institutions:

  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • Citi
  • Credit Suisse
  • DBS Bank Ltd
  • HSBC Ltd
  • JP Morgan
  • Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group
  • OCBC Bank
  • SGX
  • Standard Chartered Bank
  • UOB

Technology Partners

The consortium also includes the following five technology partners, and their scope of appointment.

Technology partners Scope of appointment
Accenture Manage and develop prototypes
R3
Support on the Corda DLT platform
IBM Support on the Hyperledger Fabric DLT platform
ConsenSys Support on the Quorum DLT platform
Microsoft Deployment of prototypes on Azure Blockchain

MAS and ABS announced on 14 November 2017 that the report, Project Ubin Phase 2 Report: Re-imagining RTGS (3.57 MB), had been published and the source-codes and technical documentations have been released for public access under Apache Licence, Version 2.0. Central banks, financial institutions, as well as academic and research institutions are encouraged to tap on the open source-codes to facilitate their experiments, research and innovation.

Phase 3: Delivery versus Payment (DvP)
MAS and Singapore Exchange (SGX) announced on 24 August 2018 that it is collaborating to develop Delivery versus Payment (DvP) capabilities for settlement of tokenised assets across different blockchain platforms.

This will allow financial institutions and corporate investors to carry out simultaneous exchange and final settlement of tokenised digital currencies and securities assets, improving operational efficiency and reducing settlement risks. Three companies, Anquan, Deloitte and Nasdaq were appointed as technology partners for this project. They will leverage the open-source software developed and made publicly available in Project Ubin Phase 2.

The successful conclusion of the DvP project was announced on 11 November 2018. The project demonstrated that DvP settlement finality, interledger interoperability and investor protection can be achieved through specific solutions designed and built on blockchain technology.

Following its conclusion, MAS and SGX have jointly published an industry report, Delivery versus Payment on DLT (5.85 MB), which provides a comprehensive view of automating DvP settlement processes with Smart Contracts . The report also identifies key technology and operational considerations to ensure resilient operations, and defines a market framework that governs post-trade settlement processes such as arbitration.

Phase 4: Cross-border Payment versus Payment (PvP)
The Bank of Canada (BoC), Bank of England (BoE) and the MAS jointly published a report on 15 November 2018 which assesses alternative models that could enhance cross-border payments and settlements. The report examines existing challenges and considers alternative models that could in time result in improvements in speed, cost and transparency for users.

The report, Cross-border interbank payments and settlements: Emerging opportunities for digital transformation (4.4 MB), provides an initial framework for the global financial community to assess cross-border payments and settlements in greater depth. Specifically, it discusses how a variety of payment models could be implemented, from both a technical and non-technical perspective.

MAS and BoC subsequently linked up their respective experimental domestic payment networks, namely Project Jasper and Project Ubin, and announced on 2 May 2019 a successful experiment on cross-border and cross-currency payments using central bank digital currencies. MAS and BoC jointly published a report, Jasper-Ubin Design Paper: Enabling Cross-Border High Value Transfer using DLT (2.45 MB), which proposes different design options for cross-border settlement systems.

Phase 5: Enabling Broad Ecosystem Collaboration

MAS and Temasek jointly released a report on 13 July 2020 to mark the successful conclusion of the fifth and final phase of Project Ubin. The report Project Ubin Phase 5: Enabling Broad Ecosystem Opportunities (3.53 MB), provides technical insights into the blockchain-based multi-currency payments network prototype that was built and describes how the network could benefit the financial industry and blockchain ecosystem. The successful development of the network prototype was first announced on 11 November 2019.

Phase 5 continued the work from Phase 4 of Project Ubin (where The Bank of Canada and MAS collaboratively examined alternative models for cross-border payments using blockchain and central bank digital currencies) and explored the development of the multi-currency payments model. The Phase 5 network provides connectivity interfaces for other blockchain networks to connect and integrate seamlessly, and additional features to support use-cases such as Delivery-versus-Payment with private exchanges, conditional payments and escrow for Trade, and payment commitments for Trade Finance.

Beyond technical experimentation, this phase also aimed to explore and prove the business value of a blockchain-based payments network such as in enabling business opportunities that would benefit from or be made viable through greater cost efficiencies as compared to existing systems. Together with its partners, MAS conducted workshops and discussions with over 40 financial and non-financial firms to evaluate the potential benefits. The findings are captured in the Phase 5 report, which examines the use of blockchain technology in commercial applications across different industries, and how these applications could benefit from integrating with the blockchain-based payments network prototype developed.

Conclusion

The completion of Phase 5 marks the end of Project Ubin, a five-year journey of practical experimentation on blockchain technology with the industry and understanding how it could be applied to payments and settlements. The team appreciates the strong and continuous support from the industry across the 5 phases, and thanks all participants that have been a part of our journey together.

The payments network prototype, developed in collaboration with J.P. Morgan and Temasek, will continue to serve as a test network to facilitate collaboration with other central banks and the financial industry for developing next generation cross-border payments infrastructure.

Technical specifications for the functionalities and connectivity interfaces of the prototype network have been made publicly available to spur further industry development. We encourage participants from Project Ubin to look at how they can leverage the learnings, to develop meaningful applications that benefit them and their customers.