Financial derivatives and Stable-Value Currencies
Financial derivatives are the most common application of a "smart contract", and one of the simplest to implement in code. The main challenge in implementing financial contracts is that the majority of them require reference to an external price ticker; for example, a very desirable application is a smart contract that hedges against the volatility of ignite (or another cryptocurrency) with respect to the US dollar, but doing this requires the contract to know what the value of IGT/USD is. The simplest way to do this is through a "data feed" contract maintained by a specific party (eg. NASDAQ) designed so that that party has the ability to update the contract as needed, and providing an interface that allows other contracts to send a message to that contract and get back a response that provides the price.
Given that critical ingredient, the hedging contract would look as follows:
  1. 1.
    1.
    Wait for party A to input 1000 ignite.
  2. 2.
    2.
    Wait for party B to input 1000 ignite.
  3. 3.
    3.
    Record the USD value of 1000 ignite, calculated by querying the data feed contract, in storage, say this is $x.
  4. 4.
    4.
    After 30 days, allow A or B to "reactivate" the contract in order to send $x worth of ignite (calculated by querying the data feed contract again to get the new price) to A and the rest to B.
Such a contract would have significant potential in crypto-commerce. One of the main problems cited about cryptocurrency is the fact that it's volatile; although many users and merchants may want the security and convenience of dealing with cryptographic assets, they many not wish to face that prospect of losing 23% of the value of their funds in a single day. Up until now, the most commonly proposed solution has been issuer-backed assets; the idea is that an issuer creates a sub-currency in which they have the right to issue and revoke units, and provide one unit of the currency to anyone who provides them (offline) with one unit of a specified underlying asset (eg. gold, USD). The issuer then promises to provide one unit of the underlying asset to anyone who sends back one unit of the crypto-asset. This mechanism allows any non-cryptographic asset to be "uplifted" into a cryptographic asset, provided that the issuer can be trusted.
In practice, however, issuers are not always trustworthy, and in some cases the banking infrastructure is too weak, or too hostile, for such services to exist. Financial derivatives provide an alternative. Here, instead of a single issuer providing the funds to back up an asset, a decentralized market of speculators, betting that the price of a cryptographic reference asset (eg. IGT) will go up, plays that role. Unlike issuers, speculators have no option to default on their side of the bargain because the hedging contract holds their funds in escrow. Note that this approach is not fully decentralized, because a trusted source is still needed to provide the price ticker, although arguably even still this is a massive improvement in terms of reducing infrastructure requirements (unlike being an issuer, issuing a price feed requires no licenses and can likely be categorized as free speech) and reducing the potential for fraud.
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