The frustration of finding ruined banknotes in the pockets of freshly washed clothing will soon be a thing of the past. Well, if the note is a fiver at least. Today sees the Bank of England put a new plastic five-pound note into circulation – one that won’t tear and can survive the wash.
The new plastic notes are 15 per cent smaller than the old paper ones (these will cease to be legal tender in May 2017) and will feature Sir Winston Churchill, replacing the image of English prison reformer Elizabeth Fry. As the UK moves to washable banknotes, Director takes a look at four other great monetary innovations…
Ridge over troubled waters
Ever wondered why coins have little ridges round their edges? It’s not just to make them pretty. Sir Isaac Newton, who was warden of the Royal Mint between 1699 and 1727, came up with the idea to stop people shaving bits off and making new ones. To this day, the ridges remain to prevent counterfeiting – as it’s very difficult to manufacture coins with milled edges.
There’s been much recent debate about who should feature on the UK’s new plastic banknotes, but the practice of printing faces on money began as a way for rulers to demonstrate who was really in charge. Roman emperor Julius Caesar was one of the first people to have his portrait displayed on coins; it was imitated by his rivals and the practice spread around the globe.
Digital currency SolarCoin aims to incentivise the use of clean energy by rewarding people using solar panels. Launched in 2014, the currency is similar to digital asset and online payment system Bitcoin, but rewards people for the generation of solar power. People receive a certificate from their energy firm in return for generating solar power, which can then be traded for one SolarCoin. The coins are almost worthless at present, but the more they are circulated the more they will gain in value.
Pay in A heartbeat
Canadian tech business Nymi has developed a wristband that charts a person’s “unique cardiac rhythm” to establish their identity and unlock devices, allowing the user to make mobile payments. The wristband is being trialled in Canada but it won’t be available to consumers any time soon as the business is launching in the enterprise space first.