[Bitcoin-development] Bitcoin at POS using BIP70, NFC and offline payments - implementer feedback

Andy Schroder info at AndySchroder.com
Sun Feb 22 22:37:16 UTC 2015

Hello Jan,

Regarding a few of your questions:

Andreas and I had a number of private discussions regarding the 
payment_url parameter. I had suggested a "additional_payment_urls" 
repeated parameter, but he didn't seem to like that idea and I 
personally am indifferent, so that is why we decided to just change 
payment_url to a repeated field. The spec is simpler without the 
"additional_payment_urls", but the wallets have to be a little bit 
smarter finding the right url they want to use in the list. It's maybe 
not a bad idea for the wallet to try all payment_url mechanisms in 
parallel. Should we add this as a recommendation to wallets in TBIP75?

I had heard from Andreas a few weeks ago that the multiple r parameters 
was not yet implemented. Maybe your interest can motivate him to do so!

I actually also happen to be using nfcpy. I am having some reliability 
issues as well with it. What exactly are your problems?

I have seen your video before. I guess I'm wondering how your prototype 
works with bitpay and bluetooth. Doesn't bitpay sign the payment request 
for you with an https based payment_url? If so, how do you add the 
bluetooth payment_url while keeping their signature valid? In your video 
it looks like the phone still has cellular and wifi reception (it is not 

You mention workflow options 1,2,3. You forgot to mention that options 
1,2 are not backwards compatible with older wallets.

Regarding the NFC data formats. I would like to clarify that the wallets 
are having those events dispatched by the android OS. The "URI" and 
"mime type" events are sent to the application in the same way as from 
other sources such as a web browser, e-mail, stand alone QR code scanner 
app, etc.. So, I don't think the wallet actually knows it is receiving 
the event from NFC. That is one reason why so many existing wallets 
happen to support BIP21 payment request via NFC. Andreas can correct me 
if I am wrong on these statements. I'm a little weary sending the "mime 
type" based format over NFC because of backwards compatibility and 
because of the long certificate chain that needs to be transferred. You 
want that tap to be as robust and fast as possible. A bluetooth 
connection can have a retry without any user interaction.

I don't really understand why Mike Hearn has the objections to the h 
parameter. It seems like you should already be ready to produce the 
BIP70 payment request at the time when the URI is generated. I'd also 
like to clarify that the h parameter is for more than just unsigned 
payment requests. You can have a signed payment request with the wrong 
signer. There is way to much brainpower required to verify that the 
signer is actually the merchant you are doing business with. Just think 
how many times you shop at a store that you don't even know the name of. 
Also, the store may contract their payment processing out to another 
party, or they may have multiple store names but use the same payment 
processing system for all their stores, and the parent company has a 
different name. It's good to have both the h parameter AND the signed 
payment request.

I don't really like the Airbitz proposal. Figuring out if your selecting 
is the right one is a real nuisance. The idea is neat in a few 
applications, but I just don't think it is going to work for people as 
the most efficient and trouble free option day to day. I realize they 
are probably doing it to work with Apple's limited functionality phones 
(and BLE is a new buzz word). However, I don't think we should base 
bitcoin around what Apple wants us to do. They've already had their war 
on bitcoin. They are going to do whatever they can to protect their NFC 
based payment system. We need to make their platform the the less 
desirable one if they are going to play the game that way. If that means 
an Airbitz like proposal is implemented as a fallback, maybe that is 
fine and POS systems need to support both, but I just don't think we 
should limit what we can do because of Apple's products capabilities.

There is also the "ack" memo that I mentioned in reference [2]. I think 
we can improve upon this really. Can we make a new status field or 
different bluetooth message header? I know Andreas didn't want to change 
it because that is how his app already works, but I don't think the way 
it is is ideal.

I'd like to see some discussion too about securing the bluetooth 
connection. Right now it is possible for an eavesdropper to monitor the 
data transferred. I'd personally like to see if wrapping the current 
connection with SSL works or if we can run https over a bluetooth 
socket. There was some criticism of this, but I don't think it has been 
tested to know if it is really a problem or not. If we just run https 
over bluetooth, then a lot of my concerns about the message header 
inconsistencies will go away and the connection will also be secure. We 
don't have to reinvent anything.

Andy Schroder

On 02/22/2015 02:08 PM, Jan Vornberger wrote:
> Hi everyone,
> I am working on a Bitcoin point of sale terminal based on a Raspberry Pi, which
> displays QR codes, but also provides payment requests via NFC. It can optionally
> receive the sender's transaction via Bluetooth, so if the sender wallet
> supports it, the sender can be completely offline. Only the terminal needs an
> internet connection.
> Typical scenario envisioned: Customer taps their smartphone (or maybe smartwatch
> in the future) on the NFC pad, confirms the transaction on their phone
> (or smartwatch) and the transaction completes via Bluetooth and/or the phone's
> internet connection.
> You can see a prototype in action here:
>    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7vKHMoapr8
> The above demo uses a release version of Schildbach's Bitcoin Wallet, so it
> works as shown today. However, some parts - especially the Bluetooth stuff - are
> custom extensions of Schildbach's wallet which are not yet standard.
> I'm writing this post to document my experience implementing NFC and offline
> payments and hope to move the discussion forward around standardizing some of
> this stuff. Andy Schroder's work around his Bitcoin Fluid Dispenser [1,2]
> follows along the same lines, so his proposed TBIP74 [3] and TBIP75 [4] are
> relevant here as well.
> ## NFC vs Bluetooth vs NFC+Bluetooth ##
> Before I get into the implementation details, a few words for why I decided to
> go with the combination of NFC and Bluetooth:
> Doing everything via NFC is an interesting option to keep things simple, but the
> issue is, that one usually can't maintain the connection while the user confirms
> the transaction (as they take the device back to press a button or maybe enter a
> PIN). So there are three options:
> 1. Do a "double tap": User taps, takes the device back, confirms, then taps
> again to transmit the transaction. (I think Google Wallet does something like
> this.)
> 2. Confirm beforehand: User confirms, then taps and everything can happen in one
> go. The disadvantage is, that you confirm the transaction before you have seen
> the details. (I believe Google Wallet can also work this way.)
> 3. Tap the phone, then establish a Bluetooth connection which allows you to do
> all necessary communication even if the user takes the device back.
> I feel that option 3 is the nicest UX, so that is what I am focusing on right
> now, but there are pros and cons to all options. One disadvantage of option 3 in
> practice is, that many users - in my experience - have Bluetooth turned off, so
> it can result in additional UI dialogs popping up, asking the user to turn on
> Bluetooth.
> Regarding doing everything via Bluetooth or maybe BLE: I have been following the
> work that Airbitz has done around that, but personally I prefer the NFC
> interaction of "I touch what I want to pay" rather than "a payment request comes
> to me through the air and I figure out whether it is meant for me/is legitimate".
> ## NFC data formats ##
> A bit of background for those who are not that familiar with NFC: Most Bitcoin
> wallets with NFC support make use of NDEF (NFC Data Exchange Format) as far as I
> am aware (with CoinBlesk being an exception, which uses host-based card
> emulation, if I understand it correctly). NDEF defines a number of record types,
> among them 'URI' and 'Mime Type'.
> A common way of using NFC with Bitcoin is to create a URI record that contains a
> Bitcoin URI. Beyond that Schildbach's wallet (and maybe others?) also support
> the mime type record, which is then set to 'application/bitcoin-paymentrequest'
> and the rest of the NFC data is a complete BIP70 payment request.
> ## Implementation ##
> To structure the discussion a little bit, I have listed a number of scenarios to
> consider below. Not every possible combination is listed, but it should cover a
> bit of everything.
> Scenarios:
> 1) Scan QR code, transmit transaction via Bitcoin network
>     Example QR code: bitcoin:1asdf...?amount=42
> 2) Touch NFC pad, transmit transaction via Bitcoin network
>     Example NFC URI: bitcoin:1asdf...?amount=42
> 3) Scan QR code, fetch BIP70 details via HTTP, post transaction via HTTP
>     Example QR code: bitcoin:1asdf...?amount=42&r=https://example.org/bip70paymentrequest
> 4) Touch NFC pad, fetch BIP70 details via HTTP, post transaction via HTTP
>     Example NFC URI: bitcoin:1asdf...?amount=42&r=https://example.org/bip70paymentrequest
> 5) Touch NFC pad, receive BIP70 details directly, post transaction via HTTP
>     Example NFC MIME record: application/bitcoin-paymentrequest + BIP70 payment request
> 6) Scan QR code, fetch BIP70 details via Bluetooth, post transaction via Bluetooth
>     Example QR code: bitcoin:1asdf...?amount=42&bt=1234567890AB
>     Payment request has 'payment_url' set to 'bt:1234567890AB'
> 7) Touch NFC pad, fetch BIP70 details via Bluetooth, post transaction via Bluetooth
>     Example NFC URI: bitcoin:1asdf...?amount=42&bt=1234567890AB
>     Payment request has 'payment_url' set to 'bt:1234567890AB'
> Scenarios 1 and 2 are basically the 'legacy'/pre-BIP70 approach and I am just
> listing them here for comparison. Scenario 3 is what is often in use now, for
> example when using a checkout screen by BitPay or Coinbase.
> I played around with both scenarios 4 and 5, trying to decide whether I should
> use an NFC URI record or already provide the complete BIP70 payment request via
> NFC.
> My experience here has been, that the latter was fairly fragile in my setup
> (Raspberry Pi, NFC dongle from a company called Sensor ID, using nfcpy). I tried
> with signed payment requests that were around 4k to 5k and the transfer would
> often not complete if I didn't hold the phone perfectly in place. So I quickly
> switched to using the NFC URI record instead and have the phone fetch the BIP70
> payment request via Bluetooth afterwards. Using this approach the amount of data
> is small enough that it's usually 'all or nothing' and that seems more robust to
> me.
> That said, I continue to have problems with the NFC stack that I'm using, so it
> might just be my NFC setup that is causing these problems. I will probably give
> the NXP NFC library a try next (which I believe is also the stack that is used
> by Android). Maybe I have more luck with that approach and could then switch to
> scenario 5.
> Scenarios 6 and 7 is what the terminal is doing right now. The 'bt' parameter is
> the non-standard extension of Andreas' wallet that I was mentioning. TBIP75
> proposes to change 'bt' into 'r1' as part of a more generic approach of
> numbering different sources for the BIP70 payment request. I think that is a
> good idea and would express my vote for this proposal. So the QR code or NFC URI
> would then look something like this:
>    bitcoin:1asdf...?amount=42&r=https://example.org/bip70&r1=bt:1234567890AB/resource
> In addition the payment request would need to list additional 'payment_url's. My
> proposal would be to do something like this:
>      message PaymentDetails {
>          ...
>          optional string payment_url = 6;
>          optional bytes merchant_data = 7;
>          repeated string additional_payment_urls = 8;
>            // ^-- new; to hold things like 'bt:1234567890AB'
>      }
> TBIP75 proposes to just change 'optional string payment_url' into 'repeated
> string payment_url'. If this isn't causing any problems (and hopefully not too
> much confusion?) I guess that would be fine too.
> In my opinion a wallet should then actually attempt all or multiple of the
> provided mechanisms in parallel (e.g. try to fetch the BIP70 payment request via
> both HTTP and Bluetooth) and go with whatever completes first. But that is of
> course up to each wallet to decide how to handle.
> TBIP75 furthermore proposes to include an additional 'h' parameter which would
> be a hash of the BIP70 payment request, preventing a MITM attack on the
> Bluetooth channel even if the BIP70 payment request isn't signed. This would
> have also been my suggestion, although I know that Mike Hearn has raised
> concerns about this approach. One being, that one needs to finalize the BIP70
> payment request at the time the QR code and NFC URI is generated.
> ## Questions ##
> My questions to the list:
> 1) Do you prefer changing 'optional string payment_url' into 'repeated string
> payment_url' or would you rather introduce a new field 'additional_payment_urls'?
> 2) @Andreas: Is the r, r1, r2 mechanism already implemented in Bitcoin Wallet?
> 3) Are there other comments regarding 'h' parameter as per TBIP75?
> 4) General comments, advice, feedback?
> I appreciate your input! :-)
> Cheers,
> Jan
> [1] http://andyschroder.com/BitcoinFluidDispenser/
> [2] https://www.mail-archive.com/bitcoin-development%40lists.sourceforge.net/msg06354.html
> [3] https://github.com/AndySchroder/bips/blob/master/tbip-0074.mediawiki
> [4] https://github.com/AndySchroder/bips/blob/master/tbip-0075.mediawiki
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