What is e cash?
While many different companies are rushing to offer digital money products, currently e-cash is cash is represented by two models. One is the on-line form of e-cash (introduced by DigiCash) which allows for the completion of all types of internet transactions. The other form is off-line; essentially a digitially encoded card that could be used for many of the same transactions as cash. This off-line version (which also has on-line capabilities) is being tested by Mondex in partnership with various banks.
The primary function of e-cash is to facilitate transactions on the Internet. Many of these transactions may be small in size and would not be cost efficient through other payment mediums such as credit cards. Thus, WWW sites in the future may charge $0.10 a visit, or $0.25 to download a graphics file. These types of payments, turning the Internet into a transaction oriented forum, require mediums that are easy, cheap (from a merchants perspective), private (see Privacy), and secure (see Security). Electronic Cash is the natural solution, and the companies that are pioneering these services claim that the products will meet the stated criteria. By providing this type of payment mechnism, the incentives to provide worthwhile services and products via the Internet should increase. Another prospective beneficiary from these developments would be Shareware providers, since currently they rarely receive payments. To complete the digital money revolution an offline product is also required for the pocket money/change that most people must carry for small transactions (e.g. buying a newspaper, buying a cup of coffee, etc...).
The concept of electronic money is at least a decade old. [Hewitt 1994] demonstrates that check writing is a pre-cursor to E-cash. When one person writes a check on his bank account and gives the check to another person with an account at a different bank, the banks do not transfer currency. The banks use electronic fund transfer....