Have you ever visited a culture-rich country and found yourself lost in the crowd, not knowing what the best utilization of your vacation would be? Don’t worry, you are not alone.
Almost all of us have faced this, particularly in countries like Japan that are flooded with content like experiences, events, cuisines, ethnicities, and cultural history.
To solve all these hurdles that tourists often face while traveling to Japan and for creating a unique platform capable of fair ticket distribution, the Japan Content Token (JCT) project has commenced. From all things popular to the hidden classics, from the world heritage sites to the local wonders, this project lets users have access to all the critical content.
What further enhances the user experience is that the JCT project has been built using the distributed ledger technology, blockchain.
With such technical advancements, it adds various values of transparency, fairness, and security along with other process efficiencies. Unlike other blockchain projects, the Japan Content Token is the first one to be backed by real businesses, a robust development system, and a team with extensive experience and expertise.
The ecosystem that such a diverse pool of “content” can create along with all the untapped resources that are provided to the tourists is unimaginably efficient. Particularly reaching out to the rapidly growing economies of Asia, the synergies that can be created are huge and unique.
With 2020 Olympics scheduled for Tokyo, there are extreme gains that can be leveraged via the JCT platform.
Tourists visiting Japan and leveraging the Japan Content Token will have access to tickets, reservations rights, and extra credits. On top of all these benefits, the project also allows a resale of tickets and reservations. The platform that the project uses for ticket distribution is JaCKET. All the content is backed by DiscoverJapan, one of the most popular and reliable magazines for tourists as well as natives alike.
There is a lot that this project has to offer, and it is further validated by the founding team.
From people with content-rich expertise to blockchain industry experts, there is a unity in diversity. It is also supported by prominent venture capitalists who have several investment success stories to share. The team is leveraging its knowledge and experience to leverage blockchain and smart contracts for enhanced security, fair pricing, and tamper-proof transactions.
GIC Private Limited, a Singapore government-owned wealth fund, reportedly backed Coinbase’s $300 million funding round last year.
The news comes via a Bloomberg report on Thursday citing “people familiar with the matter.” This was possibly GIC’s first investment in the crypto space, the sources added.
The fund has more than $100 billion in assets in over 40 countries across various asset classes, the report adds, though the Sovereign Wealth Institute puts the total far higher at an estimated $390 billion.
Crypto exchange Coinbase announced the $300 million Series E equity round last October. At the time, neither the exchange nor GIC disclosed the fund’s participation.
The funding was led by Tiger Global Management, while Y Combinator Continuity, Wellington Management, Andreessen Horowitz, Polychain and others also participated. Coinbase said at the time that the raise gave it a “post-money valuation of over $8 billion.”
Large investment funds are increasingly starting to dip their toes in the digital assets space. Just last week, the University of Michigan, which has an endowment valued at about $12 billion, disclosed that it committed $3 million to Andreessen Horowitz’s cryptocurrency fund back in June. The university also said that it is considering further investment in the fund.
Yale University, which boasts second-largest endowment among educational institutions globally, also reportedly invested in Horowitz’s fund at the time, as well as backing Paradigm’s $400 million crypto fund last October.
Earlier this month, two public pension funds in Fairfax County, Virginia, backed Morgan Creek Capital’s crypto-focused venture fund that raised $40 million.
Further, Cambridge Associates, a pensions and endowments consultant, recently said that it’s time for institutional investors to consider getting into cryptocurrencies.
Square, the payment network from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, turned more Bitcoin revenue in Q4 2018 than at any time since it began support for the cryptocurrency.
Q4 BEATS BITCOIN RECORD
Data from the company’s Q4 earnings report this week confirmed its Bitcoin sales topped $52 million, beating Q3’s $43 million and far outstripping the $37 million from Q2.
Users of Square’s Cash app have been able to buy and hold Bitcoin since last year, a service which has proven surprisingly popular among the product’s mainstream US consumer base.
The figures are a boon for Dorsey, who this week hinted at impending integration of more Bitcoin technology into Square Cash.
“For the year ahead we continue to focus on three things and we will continue to strengthen our omni-channel offering,” Dorsey told CNBC in a statement February 27.
That means that we add strength to in-person payments, to mobile payments and also to online. We’re really excited about everything we’re doing in financial services.
BALANCING THE BOOKS
Revenue versus profit for Square remains tight on Bitcoin; the cost of buying up the cryptocurrency accounts for almost all the sales revenue due to the de facto lack of spread for users.
While not a source of profit in itself yet, Bitcoin functionality remains a preoccupation for Dorsey.
This month saw the Twitter mogul publicly state his enthusiasm for and plans to leverage Bitcoin’s Lightning Network within Square.
“We would love to make [Bitcoin] as fast and efficient and transactional as possible, and that includes looking at our seller base and register,” he told the Stephan Livera podcast.
“It’s not an ‘if;’ it’s more of a ‘when[.]’”
Dorsey further participated in the Lightning Torch transaction relay, reiterating his belief in Bitcoin as his bet of choice within the cryptocurrency industry. He added that he did not hold any other cryptocurrencies or hard forks of Bitcoin.
The hidden miner, which was sometimes even used to monetize news content on sites such as Salon, is closing ahead of a Monero protocol change in March.
Several economic factors led to the decision, including the rapid drop of XMR market prices, which makes the coin less attractive as a payout.
“The drop in hash rate (over 50%) after the last Monero hard fork hit us hard. So did the “crash“ of the crypto currency market with the value of XMR depreciating over 85% within a year. This and the announced hard fork and algorithm update of the Monero network on March 9 has led us to the conclusion that we need to discontinue Coinhive,” the team explained on its blog.
The Monero network will fork once again with a still unannounced change to the mining algorithm, creating the need for Coinhive to adapt anew. Monero is now dedicated to regular hard forks as ASIC or other specialized chip-based miners are catching up faster.
The Coinhive dashboard will be available until April 30 so that users with balances accrued could initiate payouts.
XMR market prices stagnated at $49.43, crashing from peaks of near $500 in January 2018. In the meantime, Coinhive mining had somewhat successful periods as it competed with ASIC and other mining devices, meaning lower payouts. Coinhive also had a bit of a poor reputation for slowing down websites.
Some news outlets, such as Salon, announced their usage of Coinhive but only performed a short-term test. Coinhive mining usually noticeably slows down consumer electronics and wears out CPUs.
The pending shutdown may also mean a drop in hidden
Blockchain-based home equity loan startup Figure Technologies has raised $65 million in a Series B round backed by Morgan Creek.
Announcing the news on Wednesday, Figure said the round was led by venture capital firms RPM Ventures and DST Global, with Ribbit Capital, DCM Ventures, Digital Currency Group, Nimble Ventures and others also participating.
The Series B investment brings the firm’s total equity funding to over $120 million, the firm said, adding that the new investment will go toward helping the firm strengthen its product offerings.
Founded last year, the firm launched its home equity loan product in October, which utilizes its native blockchain protocol called Provenance. The firm claims to provide loan approval in “as little as five minutes” and funding within five days.
Figure co-founder and CEO Mike Cagney said that the round “validates” its market potential, adding:
“We launched the fastest HELOC [home equity line of credit] in the market, and we originate, finance and sell every one of our loans on the Provenance blockchain, an industry first.”
Figure said in its announcement that it turned to blockchain tech for its “security, efficiencies and cost advantage” for loan origination, financing and sales.
A number of funds, banks and dealers are already using Provenance, it added. By mid-2019, Figure expects several other loan originators to use the platform by mid-2019. Other use cases, such as putting investment funds on the blockchain, will also be explored this year.
Figure said it has funded more than 1,500 HELOCs for customers across 36 U.S. states since September.
Mobile payments firm Square has reported over $166 million in revenue from bitcoin sales last year.
The company filed its financial results for Q4 2018 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Wednesday, disclosing that it made overall net revenue of $3.3 billion last year, 5 percent of which came from the cryptocurrency buying service within its Cash App.
While bitcoin sales brought in precisely $166,517,000, the cost of purchasing the cryptocurrency for the year was about $165 million. That left the firm with a net profit from bitcoin sales of 1.69 million.
Looking at Square’s quarterly figures, the bitcoin business was notably better in the second half of last year.
Specifically, the firm took $95 million in bitcoin revenues in the second half, compared with about $71 million in the first half. Profit for the second half was $1.047 million, and was $643,000 in H1.
The firm further disclosed that the carrying value of bitcoin held by the firm was $0.2 million as of Dec. 31, 2018. The firm said it assesses the carrying value at each reporting date and records an impairment charge if the carrying value exceeds the fair value. However, loss on bitcoin for the year 2018 was “insignificant.”
Square added bitcoin buying and selling option to its Cash App back in November 2017, initially only to a small number of users though. Later, in August 2018, the firm expanded the facility to all 50 U.S. states. The firm received a “BitLicense” from the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) last June, that allowed it to offer crypto services in the state.
Cryptography company Curve revealed its Institutional Digital Asset Wallet Service today, which aims to provide financial institutions and enterprises with a storage solution that makes their cryptocurrencies and digital assets instantly available — while also providing total autonomy and eliminating the need for private keys.
Curv claims that it is eliminating the need for somewhat-complicated private key access to institutional players looking to add cryptocurrencies and digital assets to their portfolios. The company says it is doing this via “a simple, distributed way to secure and sign transactions.”
More specifically, Curv uses “proprietary multi-party computation (MPC) protocols” that signs transactions “in a fast, secure, distributed” manner that “protect[s] against cyber breaches, physical damage, and insider collusion.” This solution is a software-only service based on cloud technology that offers “a flexible, enterprise-grade policy engine that allows institutions to define risk profiles and enforce granular controls for all employees, machines and wallets, assuring compliance with organizational policies across all digital assets.”
One may be forgiven for thinking the above information is simply a collection of impressive-sounding industry buzzwords which essentially states that ‘institutional investors don’t need to hold their own private keys.’
The statements made in the official press release are equally generic, with Curv founder and CEO Itay Malinger stating:
We are focused on unleashing the potential of blockchains with our revolutionary approach to digital asset security. We give customers a way to securely integrate and manage all their digital assets, so they can easily transact and thrive in the digital world.
Though hard details are not provided in the company’s press release, it did manage to raise $6.5 million in seed funding from the likes of Team8, Digital Currency Group, and others.
The product will be available as a subscription in less than one month, on Mar 25, 2019. Maybe then we will actually be able to see what it is.
New Zealand-based cryptocurrency exchange Cryptopia has given an idea of the losses arising from a hack on its platform last month.
After being almost silent since the breach, the firm published a series of updates via Twitter on Wednesday. Most notably, Cryptopia provided an update on how much of the total assets held by the platform was lost in the cyber-attack, saying:
“We are continuing to work on assessing the impact incurred as a result of the hack in January. Currently, we have calculated that worst case 9.4% of our total holdings was stolen.”
It did not provide an idea of that amount in monetary terms.
Cryptopia went offline on Jan. 15 saying it had suffered a “security breach which resulted in significant losses.” The exchange did not provide any specific information at the time and has since said it cannot comment while an investigation by the New Zealand Police is underway.
A blockchain data analytics firm estimated after the attack that as much as $16 million in ether and ERC-20 tokens could have lost. Notably, hackers still had control over Cryptopia even after the police had been brought in and reportedly stole an additional 1,675 ether from 17,000 wallets – an amount worth about $181,000 at the time.
In Wednesday’s tweets, the exchange said it is “securing each wallet individually” to ensure it is “fully secure” when resuming trading.
Cryptopia also warned:
“As a result of the new wallets please immediately refrain from depositing funds into old Cryptopia addresses. We have more updates to come tomorrow, keep an eye on our page.”
New Zealand Police said on Feb. 7 that it expected to complete the inspection of Cryptopia’s premises by mid-month. Cryptopia confirmed in a tweet on Feb. 14 that the police had given them access back to its building, while the investigation was continuing.
Detective inspector Greg Murton of the New Zealand Police said at the time that the case is “progressing well and advancing on several fronts,” adding:
“The focus is on identifying those behind this offending and retrieving the stolen cryptocurrency. This investigation is expected to take a considerable amount of time to resolve due to the complexity of the cyber environment.”
Two Japanese tech giants have teamed up on an initiative using blockchain to provide educational records that cannot be faked.
Announced by Sony on Wednesday, Sony Global Education, Fujitsu Ltd. and the Fujitsu Research Institute have launched a field trial to evaluate the utility of blockchain tech in the management of course records and exam grades. Also collaborating on the trial is Human Academy, an educational institution that serves foreign students.
The trial will see foreign students aiming to study in Japan take a course preparing them for the Nihongo Kentei language proficiency test.
Students will use Fujitsu’s Fisdom*2 digital learning platform as part of the course, with data including study logs and test grades being immutably stored and managed on a blockchain. The data will be provided to students as an “unfalsifiable” digital certificate, Sony said.
Growing numbers of foreign workers and students are coming to Japan, and many must provide the results of Japanese classes and exams taken before arriving in the country to take start employment or education.
However, Sony said that it’s not always easy to confirm foreign students’ course results.
“In terms of language ability, this has led to issues as appropriate instruction suited to a person’s ability was not provided after coming to Japan, and the institution was subsequently unable to offer job search support,” the company explained.
Educational data provided over a blockchain can potentially provide educational institutions with a more reliable idea of a prospective student’s ability at speaking Japanese, Sony explained, as well as verification that the student actually took the course.
The news marks Sony’s latest initiative to utilize blockchain in education. In 2017, the company developed a new educational platform in partnership with IBM that uses blockchain to secure and share student records.
It filed for a related patent the same year, setting out how nodes on an education blockchain network could be run by teachers, students or other parties that might need access to those records. “Educational experiences” would be cemented on the chain after being signed by the relevant users and could be exchanged, transacted and transferred via the blockchain as a “smart property.”
Capital markets blockchain startup Nivaura has raised a total of $20 million with the closing of its second seed extension round led by the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG).
Announced today, other investors in the latest round include Santander InnoVentures, the Spanish bank’s VC arm; law firms Linklaters and Orrick; Transamerica Ventures, part of pensions and asset management giant Aegon; MiddleGame Ventures; Digital Currency Group; and Spencer Lake, formerly head of global markets at HSBC.
Nivaura closed the original seed round in October 2017 and the first extension round in January 2018. The firm did not provide a breakdown of the three rounds but said the one that just closed was “significantly larger than the preceding two,” meaning most of the $20 million is freshly raised. The proceeds will be used to increase headcount “significantly across all areas” (including hires in machine learning and natural language processing) expand into the U.S. and Asia, and invest in further R&D, Nivaura said.
The company’s big idea is using public blockchains to automate the entire life cycle for the issuance of financial instruments – bonds, equities, derivatives – so that humans don’t need to touch anything and a corporate can do a self-service issuance.
Nivaura CEO Dr. Avtar Sehra said that, this year, Nivaura plans “a series of high-profile, large-scale projects with high-caliber partners to demonstrate our platform as a valuable solution across the full spectrum of capital markets primary issuance activities,” adding:
“We’re seeing growing appetite from major financial institutions for practical innovation that goes beyond buzzwords and conceptual PoCs in ‘digital investment banking.’”
Nivaura is also beefing up its board, adding Nikhil Rathi, the CEO of the London Stock Exchange, and Lake, who is also joining as an advisor.
“The investment strengthens our existing relationship with Nivaura and underlines the Group’s partnership approach in innovating to support our clients in accessing global investment pools,” Rathi, who is also head of international development for the exchange’s parent company LSEG, said in a press release.
The investment also represents a deepening of Nivaura’s ties with LSEG. Previously, the exchange operator worked with Nivaura on the issuance of tokenized securities as part of the regulatory sandbox program of the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Through this work, Nivaura has acquired expertise in arcane but important regulations such as the European Union’s Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) and the FCA Client Assets Sourcebook (CASS), which apply both to traditional market infrastructure as well as using tokenized instruments and blockchains.
“What we are doing is not magical. We are technologists and financial engineers, but we also understand regulation very deeply. We work within the existing regulation rather than try to drive change in regulation because that’s very hard. To change legislation takes decades.”
Figuring out how tokenized securities can be traded in Europe under the Central Securities Depositories Regulation (CDSR) has meant Nivaura needed to also increase its legal firepower. To that end, it’s made a senior hire: Richard Cohen, a seasoned debt capital markets lawyer, is moving from Allen & Overy to become Nivaura’s general counsel and head of strategy.
Sehra explained that working with CSDR and MiFID is very complex in and of itself and the firm needed to bolster specific expertise in compliance, as well as in financial instruments, to complement what it does with technology and engineering.
“We re-engineered some of our key workflows to make tokenized instruments compliant under CSDR. Then it doesn’t matter which blockchain you use – a private or public one – ultimately the token created on that chain will comply under CSDR and can be traded on a regulated trading venue,” he said.
The work Nivaura has publicized so far with tokenized securities has all been done on public blockchains, first the bitcoin blockchain and then later using ethereum.
Sehra pointed out the official position of the company is blockchain-agnostic, just as traditional market participants are not beholden to any single clearing house.
“Like, we don’t say you can’t go into Clearstream if you use Euroclear,” said Sehra, adding that clients can use a software development kit (SDK) to plug into any clearing system they like, blockchain-based or otherwise.
Currently, the business that’s generating revenue for Nivaura is its workflow management and automation platform for primary capital markets, couched in traditional market infrastructure, noted Sehra.
But while that work pays the bills, the company is preparing for the financial industry’s transformation, he said, concluding:
“The blockchain aspect we are considering, it’s not something banks and other firms will want to use right now. But ultimately we think that’s where the future is and that’s why clients are working with us.”
Ether price volatility could spike in the days ahead, courtesy of an upcoming ethereum upgrade scheduled for Thursday.
The Constantinople hard fork, a planned two-part upgrade to the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, is scheduled to occur once block 7,280,000 on the ethereum blockchain is mined. At the time of writing, ether’s block height is 7,272,826, meaning the fork should occur in the next 24 to 48 hours, given that roughly 4,200 blocks have been mined per day for the past two weeks.
However, the change could draw the interest of more than just developers and users, as historical data shows ether price volatility tends to spike hours before a software upgrade.
For instance, ether price volatility picked up with the Byzantium hard fork release on Oct. 16, 2017, with the resulting uncertainty forcing traders to sell ETH and unwind their long positions leading to a 20 percent price slide
As shown in the chart above, traders on that date were unwilling to invest amid a change to the underlying ethereum protocol.
The Chaikin Money Flow (CMF), used to gauge momentum as well as buying and selling pressure, demonstrated a break into bullish territory (a move above 0) on Nov. 14, 2017 after a brief visit below when prices went through a 20-day consolidation period.
Overall, it took a total of 34 days for ether’s price to break above the sideways channel after the fork occurred, so if history repeats itself, ether prices may be destined for a multi-week sideways trend after the Constantinople upgrade takes place.
Still, it’s also worth noting current trading conditions and the overall bear market for cryptocurrencies at present.
ETH/USD witnessed a considerable sell-off Sunday when its price dropped 17 percent after having clocked a three-month high earlier in the day. The CMF on the daily time frame was still printing a value above zero, so a bearish view is not yet confirmed as per the indicator.
However, if bears continue to drag price lower, the sell-off would likely be short and fast unless the amount of selling volume increases substantially, in which case it would add credence to the fall and put the price at risk of falling below the prior support level $123.
If the Constantinople fork aftermath resembles that of what transpired in ether markets following the Byzantium fork, ether prices should not exceed a drop beyond 20 percent. It’s also possible that delays in the scheduled update could impact the market, and traders may want to be prepared accordingly.
The Constantinople hard fork was delayed in January of this year due to unforeseen mistakes during testing, a move that caused a slight drop in the ether price, as reported by MarketWatch at the time.
Disclosure: The author holds no cryptocurrency at the time of writing.
SoFi, a millennial-focused online lending platform, will allow its customers to buy cryptocurrency through a partnership with Coinbase starting in the second quarter, CNBC reported Tuesday.
“Our target audience wants to see what the price of cryptocurrency is, and to buy it,” SoFi CEO Anthony Noto was quoted as saying in the CNBC report. “They have a desire to do that and in many cases they already are.”
SoFi did not specify which cryptocurrencies would be available for purchase when the service launches, according to CNBC.
In addition to enabling such purchases, the partnership will let SoFi customers track the prices for various cryptocurrencies, similar to an arrangement Coinbase has for retail customers of Fidelity Investments, though the latter tie-up does not allow crypto trading. (Fidelity separately plans to launch trading of digital assets for institutional clients through its own platform this year.)
SoFi was founded in 2011 with a goal of making college more affordable to students with consolidation loans provided by alumni, according to The New York Times. In that sense, it has roots in peer-to-peer finance. The company later branched out into mortgages and investment products.
Coinbase and SoFi both declined to comment.
The 100 largest wallets (holding 10,000-100,000 BTC) excluding exchanges accumulated over 150,000 bitcoin in the past two months.
DO THE BART
In all the woe and misery of the crypto-winter, we can often find some
Last week saw some interesting movement in bitcoin, with the price $3857.16 -0.15% jumping first to $4000, then again on Saturday to briefly hit $4200. Unfortunately, Sunday saw a reversal, with price dropping back to $3800. Still a good $200 more than it had been trading at, but not the breakout hoped for.
Of course, it wasn’t all bad news, as those who sold at the peak, or with cash to spare, could buy back in at the lower price. Which is exactly what the Bitcoin whales (holders of large amounts of bitcoin) did. In fact, that’s pretty much what the whales have been doing for this entire bear market.
In the past two months alone, holders of the 100 ‘fattest’ bitcoin wallet addresses have managed to accumulate over 150,000 additional coins, or well over half a billion US dollars.
52 CARD PICKUP
The five largest wallets belong to exchanges (Bittrex, Bitfinex, Bitstamp, Huobi, and Binance) which all hold over 100,000 bitcoin. In the two months from December 17, 2018 to February 25, 2019, these added 2879 BTC, making a total holding of 573,958 BTC.
According to data from BitInfoCharts, the next 100 largest wallets (holding 10,000-100,000 BTC) accumulated over 150,000 BTC in the same period. In fact, at
CALL ME ISHMAEL
So where have all these additional bitcoin come from? Well, according to the data the only bracket whose wallets have less BTC is from 1,000 – 10,000. One would imagine that the bulk of this move comes from wallets accumulating bitcoin and moving up into the next bracket.
Unless the whales had recently sold at the peak, they would have been financially better off buying at $3600 a week earlier than at $3800 after the drop. Nevertheless, whenever there are unexplained price movements, it is perhaps somewhat comforting that we can always blame the whales. Bloody whales!
Blockchain startup Electroneum has just launched a dirt-cheap Android smartphone that mines cryptocurrency.
Announcing the news on Monday, the firm said its new M1 is a Google Mobile Services (GMS)-certified smartphone that comes with a cloud mining technology integration enabling users to earn crypto through an app.
The $80 smartphone, however, will at launch mine only Electroneum’s native token ETN, with a claimed monthly return of “up to $3.” Once set up, mining can be carried out offline, the firm said.
The ETN tokens earned by users can be utilized to pay for services such as mobile top-ups, online services and shopping. It’s also tradable on exchanges, with 1 ETN worth around $0.0073 at time of writing, according to data from CoinMarketCap. It has a market capitalization of around $65 million currently.
The M1 offers 4G, 8 GB–32 GB of storage and two SIM slots, and is powered by a Quad Core 1.3 Ghz processor. Cameras are a less than overwhelming 5 megapixels (rear) and 2 megapixels (front).
The device is apparently being offered at the price of “reconditioned handset” because Electroneum is looking to target developing countries and grow the adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrencies. In some countries, the firm may price the phone even lower, at around $60.
“To start with we will be selling the M1 in South Africa, as this is our first launch market,” Nick Cook, head of operations at Electroneum. “The M1 will be sold through local vendors.”
Cook further said that the device will also be sold over Amazon in South Africa in the coming weeks.
Electroneum’s founder and CEO, Richard Ells, said in a separate statement shared:
“South Africa was an obvious choice for us. We carried out a large survey in the country and found that 97 percent of those who responded said they would like to use ETN to pay for mobile airtime and data.”
Electroneum has partnered with cybersecurity firm HackerOne, which is also used by the U.S. Department of Defense, to secure its network, Cook told.
Accenture has announced a prototype blockchain-based supply chain app designed to reward business practices that conserve natural resources.
Announced today, the consulting firm said it’s working with Mastercard, blockchain startup Everledger and humanitarian aid organization Mercy Corps to encourage the introduction of the so-called “circular supply chain.”
A circular supply chain is a way to organize production so that the materials get recycled as much as possible, with discarded goods captured and components and materials re-used.
Accenture envisions its app will allow consumers to easily track the provenance of the goods they are buying and see if a producer has a certification for sustainable practices. Consumers could also use the app to send tips as a reward for responsible producers.
This reward can be sent in a form of a blockchain-based token or a fiat transfer powered by Mastercard payment rails, Accenture’s global blockchain lead David Treat told.
He added that Accenture is aiming to enroll small farms across the world and allow them to register their certificates of ecologically conscious practices on a blockchain as a part of their digital identity, allowing consumers to see who produced the goods they are buying and how that business is managed.
The company is also working with farmers’ associations in Africa and South America that might want to participate in the system, Treat said. The associations will be responsible for maintaining cloud-based nodes on behalf of their farmers.
Mercy Corps plans to contribute its experience working with farmers’ communities across the globe to the project, Ric Shreves, a senior advisor to the Technology for Development team at the NGO, told.
“In this stage of the project, we are exploring possible agricultural programs in our current program portfolio to pilot Circular Supply Chain. We think it will be best suited for boutique consumer goods, for example single origin coffee, as opposed to bulk goods.”
Accenture has built a prototype on Hyperledger Fabric, Treat said, and is looking to onboard more partners to participate. Mastercard can contribute its expertise in blockchain and payment systems, as well as access to communities it’s already working with. However, the role of the payments giant in the new joint project is not yet finalized, he said.
Tara Nathan, executive vice president for humanitarian issues and development at Mastercard, said in Accenture’s announcement: “Through our work with smallholder farmers in Kenya, India, Mexico and elsewhere, we’ve deployed digital solutions helping to drive commercially sustainable social impact – and we understand that collaboration is essential for this journey,”
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett thinks blockchain technology “is important,” but remains far less bullish on bitcoin.
Speaking to CNBC’s Becky Quick, the chairman and CEO of the multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway reiterated his long-held views on bitcoin, calling the way some people perceive the cryptocurrency “a delusion.”
“It’s ingenious and blockchain is important but bitcoin has no unique value at all,” Buffett said. “It doesn’t produce anything, you can stare at it all day and no little bitcoins come out or anything like that.”
Acknowledging that bitcoin and blockchain were explained to him by others, Buffett added:
“People get their hopes up that something like that is going to change their lives, and it’s a very ingenious thing to figure out how to have a limited supply and make it harder and more expensive to create them as you go along and all that sort of thing but it doesn’t, the function … blockchain does not depend on [bitcoin].”
He did not elaborate on why he sees blockchain as being important.
Buffett did, however, note that JPMorgan Chase is launching its own dollar-pegged cryptocurrency, the JPM Coin. It is unclear how the so-called Sage of Omaha feels about this particular use case.
Like Buffett, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has long been a bitcoin detractor, famously calling it a “fraud”in 2017 (though he later said he regretted the comment, despite continued reservations).
‘Rat poison squared’
Buffett’s views on bitcoin are well-known: as far back as 2014, he was warning investors to avoid the cryptocurrency.
Last May, he referred to bitcoin as “rat poison squared,” noting that it was a “nonproductive asset” during the annual Berkshire shareholder meeting.
Bitcoin’s price is dependent on individuals wanting to pay more for each coin than was previously paid, he said.
Similarly, he predicted that bitcoin would come to “a bad ending” in January 2018, and emphasized that Berkshire would not hold a position in bitcoin futures.
Japanese telecom SoftBank is exploring blockchain tech as a way to improve upon current centralized and fragmented ID and authentication services.
The firm announced Tuesday that it has partnered with U.S.-based blockchain startup TBCASoft for the initiative and has created a working group within an existing blockchain consortium of telecom carriers, the Carrier Blockchain Study Group (CBSG).
SoftBank aims to utilize TBCASoft’s application framework, the Cross-Carrier Identification System (CCIS), to enable blockchain-based identification and authentication services.
TBCASoft’s CCIS system uses zero-knowledge proof (ZKP) cryptography and distributed ledger technology (DLT) that enables the issuing, storing and authentication of users’ identification in a private and secure way, SoftBank said.
The effort aims to address the problems that users of current identification and verification services need to place trust in a centralized organization, and must disclose their personal data to multiple entities which is stored on different internet databases.
The CCIS system can give users “freedom from creating multiple accounts and remembering countless passwords to protect their personal information from identity theft,” the company said.
SoftBank vice president Takeshi Fukuizumi explained:
“We envision that individuals should create encrypted digital identities, instead of using and storing multiple usernames and passwords on databases here and there with various qualities of privacy protection. We have been working with TBCASoft on solving identification and authentication problems, and have an answer with CCIS.”
TBCASoft and SoftBank are also looking to collaborate with other telecom operators under the CBSG consortium for the initiative.
The CBSG consortium was launched back in September 2017, with other major operators including U.S.-based carrier Sprint and one of Taiwan’s largest telecom operators FarEasTone. The consortium has already successfully tested blockchain systems for mobile payments and topping up prepaid phones across different carriers using TBCASoft’s platform.
Similarly, SoftBank and TBCASoft previously worked with with Nasdaq-listed Synchronoss Technologies to complete a blockchain proof-of-concept that allows peer-to-peer mobile payments across different carriers.
Cryptocurrency non-profit, the Fusion Foundation, and the Automotive eXchange Platform (AXP) are joining forces to bring the U.S. second-hand car market and its insurance and financing to a blockchain.
The first step in the partnership, according to a Monday announcement, is to integrate Fusion’s blockchain platform and digitize AXP’s current database of 10.5 million automobiles, so they can be properly tracked and audited.
The auto industry has long struggled with a lack of transparency and widespread information inaccuracies from titles all the way through financing, said Max Kane CEO and co-founder of AXP, adding,
“There’s a million vehicles on the road that have ‘washed’ titles, which means there is fraud there. The insurance industry is hit with billions in fraud because of missing information, drivers providing the wrong information and inaccurate reporting.”
The AXP network encompasses some 25,000 independent car dealers across the U.S. and this extends to relationships with counterparties in finance and loan origination, Kane said.
John Liu, chief product officer at the Singapore-based Fusion Foundation, said the pilot, which is now underway, could be extended to state-based government agencies and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The system, which will go live by the first half of this year is expected to handle $60m–$100m of car financing loans, he said.
Fusion is known for having raised over $40 million in an oversubscribed token sale a year ago (many investors were turned away and the sale had to be stopped after 24 hours). The firm has ambitious goals when it comes to tokenizing assets, having previously partnered with firms involved in asset management and car financing – opening up a potential $12.3 billion in assets, Reuters reported.
Fusion’s founder, DJ Qian, said the blockchain his company has built was inspired by ethereum and will have both public and permissioned components. “We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” he said.
Lui added that “spinning up a node will be as easy as in something like bitcoin or ethereum,” but said only a select group of validators will be running such nodes to begin with.
“We don’t need the government or dealers to worry about running a node yet. We want them to use an application that they are familiar with. The number of nodes will be as much as we need to support a secure blockchain.”
If employers want to compensate workers in an unconventional way, they may think about doing so with bitcoin. It’s an option some companies have pursued, but it’s not always as straightforward as some enterprises may assume.
WORK WITH A SPECIALTY COMPANY OR ACCOUNTANT
Bitwage is a company that has specialized in the emerging desire that employers have to pay their workers in bitcoin.
Taking this approach does not require employers to go through an onboarding process, and employees get their wages in less than 48 hours no matter where they are. The company made headlines recently by adding the option for U.S.-based employers who receive W-2s to opt for getting paid in bitcoin.
As of 2017, about 200 employers used Bitwage, and approximately 95 percent of those used the service to pay international workers.
BitPay is another company that got into the bitcoin payroll realm. In 2014, it launched an application programming interface (API) that allowed employers to pay people in bitcoin. However, the current version of the BitPay website doesn’t mention that offering anymore. That likely means Bitwage is the only option for now.
Alternatively, some companies that set up the possibility for people to get paid in bitcoin consulted with accountants who knew the cryptocurrency landscape and helped employers navigate it. If employers are looking for the most straightforward way to go about this type of payment, working with a company like Bitwage is the best bet.
POTENTIAL REASONS TO HOLD OFF FOR NOW
Although the option to pay people in bitcoin exists, some caveats could make them want to stick with traditional forms of payment. For example, if companies have remote workers in other countries, the tax implications for bitcoin vary depending on where a person pays taxes.
Also, as the above section shows, assistance is still limited if employers have questions about how to get started. Some businesses may decide that trying to pay their employees with bitcoin $3986.02 -0.01% is more trouble than it’s worth.
That’s an especially likely conclusion to make if a company leader doesn’t believe there is sufficient interest in bitcoin payments. At Coinbase, for example, people can choose that payment type, but less than half participate.
When employers want to give their workers other options for getting paid, setting up an employee share ownership plan (ESOP) could be a more viable choice. It offers several advantages, including letting employees own stakes in a company through a trust fund and having the ownership amount go up as seniority grows.
Student loan payoffs are another popular but unconventional way to compensate employees. The perk could be especially attractive if loan debt is a significant source of stress for workers.
WHICH COMPANIES HAVE PAID IN BITCOIN?
It should be evident by now that idea of getting paid for work in bitcoin is still an emerging option that many companies are still only exploring. However, some pioneering enterprises have moved forward by offering it to their employees.
One is GMO Internet Group. It’s a Japan-based internet company that announced the option for people to get their wages in bitcoin would start as of February 2018.
There’s also Earn, which gives gig economy workers the chance to get paid in bitcoin for completing tasks. Working for Bitcoins is a similar site that helps freelancers find clients that will pay them in bitcoin.
STILL NOT A MAINSTREAM CHOICE
When employers want to pay their workers with bitcoin, a company such as Bitwage will likely be the most seamless way to do it.
Although some companies let people receive bitcoin payments, the option is still not common in the workplace.
Enterprises should keep that in mind as they consider whether now is a good time to investigate paying in bitcoin or if they should wait to see if a larger adoption rate occurs.
Fidelity Digital, the digital assets arm of Fidelity Investments, has become the first financial institution to receive the so-called bitcoin payments ‘torch’ that is being relayed from user to user around the globe via Bitcoin’s Lightning network.
FIDELITY BECOMES FIRST BANK TO TAKE THE #LNTORCH
With more than 27 million customers, Fidelity manages $7.2 trillion dollars in total assets. It’s the United States leader in 401(k) retirement savings plans and is one of the largest 403(b) retirement plan providers for not-for-profit institutions.
The investment giant announced it had received the #LNTorch on Friday, February 22nd from Tokyo-based and self-proclaimed ‘Bitcoin Maximalist’ who’s “interested in mining/trading,” Twitter user @Wizwho received it from Bitcoin entrepreneur, Charlie Shrem.
“Who wants to be the next torchbearer?” tweeted Wiz. “Reply with a LN invoice for 3.64M sats and I’ll choose who I deem to be the most trustworthy.”
The 3.64 million satoshis equate to about $142 USD at current market BTC price.
Fidelity Digital Assets then replied:
We and our research team at the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology have received the #LNTorch from @Wiz.
“Who should we pass it to? #LNTrustChain,” Fidelity asks, which is expected to launch its Bitcoin custody service next month.
FIDELITY BECOMES 229TH TORCH BEARER
Lightning Torch has gained a surprising level of recognition in the few weeks it has existed. The initiative involves passing a lightning payment between nodes, with each receiving user adding 10,000 satoshis ($0.34) and passing on to a new node.
Fidelity Digital Assets becomes the 229th entity overall to get the torch, according to the official tracker website. Previous bearers included BitMexResearch, Binance CEO ‘CZ’ Changpeng Zhao, and TRON’s Justin Sun.
But, more importantly, Fidelity becomes the first financial institution to get its hands on the digital ‘torch.’
This may not be surprising, however, as Fidelity has been spearheading the institutional plunge into cryptocurrencies over the past few months. In October 2018, the investment giant announced it would open cryptocurrency trading to its 27 million customers.
Therefore, participation in this payment relay will likely provide some valuable experience for Fidelity Digital assets that is looking “to create a full-service enterprise-grade platform for digital assets,” according to its founding head, Tom Jessop. He adds that:
…[f]amily offices, hedge funds and other sophisticated investors are starting to think seriously about this space.
It will also be interesting to monitor whether this nascent, albeit rapidly growing second-layer network, will be able to handle the relayed BTC payment as it changes hands and snowballs.
(Though, perhaps that may be the entire point of this whole thing, i.e. bringing awareness to this new technology as it’s already producing some unique use-cases.)
According to monitoring resource 1ML.com, there are currently 6561 reachable nodes and 29,777 channels on Lightning, offering a total payment capacity of 718.25 BTC ($2.85 million). The figures represent an impressive monthly growth of 26 percent in network capacity.
WILL ELON MUSK BE NEXT?
Bitcoinist reported that participants in the ongoing transaction relay have been urging Tesla CEO Elon Musk to paste an invoice and receive the torch.
This follows after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey became the bearer to much fanfare earlier this month while hinting that Bitcoin Lightning payments may be coming to Twitter. (But you can kind of try this already.)
Cryptocurrency exchange ShapeShift is shifting around its management team ahead of a major revamp.
The startup is looking for a new chief financial officer to succeed Justin Blincoe, who is taking on a new role at the company, chief marketing officer Emily Coleman told CoinDesk.
“ShapeShift is constantly evolving as an organization, and we are preparing for our next phase of dramatic growth,” Coleman said. “To do this effectively, we are working to bring in new expertise and talent. Mr. Blincoe is helping lead this initiative, and will ultimately move into a different senior finance role at the company, while remaining CFO in the interim.”
Coleman didn’t provide further details as to what Blincoe’s future role would be.
Last week, ShapeShift announced the beta launch of a new version of the exchange that would offer greater interoperability with ShapeShift’s other products, namely the hardware wallet KeepKey and the pricing tracker CoinCap. For now, it’s available only to a select group of users.
The changes are coming amidst challenging times: ShapeShift is among the many blockchain startups that had to make severe staff cuts during the crypto winter. In January, CEO Eric Voorhees announced the company had laid off 37 employees, a third of its staff, calling it “a deep and painful reduction, mirrored across many crypto companies in this latest bear market cycle.”
In addition to the harsh market conditions, ShapeShift has recently suffered some reputation blows after it introduced KYC in September and later was featured in a Wall Street Journal article claiming the exchange was instrumental in money laundering practices — allegations Voorhees called “factually inaccurate and deceptive.”
The Thai government is moving to allow blockchain-based securities to be issued and traded in the country.
According to a report from Bangkok Post on Friday, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly has approved an amendment to the Securities and Exchange Act legalizing the issuance of tokenized securities such as stocks and bonds.
As a result, the nation’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), has amended the act – a change that will come into effect later this year. The SEC will reportedly issue detailed guidelines and rules for tokenized and electronic securities in the coming months.
SEC deputy secretary-general Tipsuda Thavaramara said in the article that the legislative effort clears the way for tokenisation platforms in the future, and will help develop the digital asset ecosystem.
The amendment will also allow businesses to be licensed to operate as depositories of securities and digital tokens. Previously this was business restricted to Thailand Securities Depository Co Ltd, a subsidiary of the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET), the Bangkok Post said.
Crypto businesses in Thailand are regulated under the Emergency Decree on Digital Asset Businesses B.E. 2561 (2018).
Whether a security token offering will be regulated under the royal decree or the securities act will reportedly be decided by the SEC. It “will depend on features of rights and obligations associated with that token,” said Pariya Techamuanvivit, director of corporate communication department at the SEC, in Friday’s report.
The Ministry of Finance already issues digital asset business licenses, awarding the license to four crypto firms and rejecting another two in January. The SET was reported to be planning to apply for a license from the ministry to operate a new digital assets exchange platform the same month.
Jesse Lund, IBM’s VP of Blockchain and Digital Currencies, as the VP of the blockchain division is bound to have some optimistic thoughts on the cryptocurrency space. But in an interview at Think Conference, he made a particularly bullish prediction for Bitcoin.
The interview, a lengthy one with entrepreneur Fred Schebesta, touched upon several subjects in the discussion. But the most notable statement arrived when Lund was asked about the future of cryptocurrencies.
I have a long-term outlook.… It goes back to that discussion about the utility of the network with a higher price. I see Bitcoin at a million dollars someday. I like that number because if Bitcoin’s at a million dollars, then the satoshi is on value parity with the US penny. And that means there’s over $20 trillion of liquidity in this network. Think about $20 trillion in liquidity and how that changes things like corporate payments.
That’s no small sum – even the most ardent of Bitcoin enthusiasts like Tim Draper have more conservative targets for Bitcoin, $250,000. Lund’s short-term outlook is a little different though, saying that Bitcoin’s value by New Year’s Eve should be closer to the region of $5,000.
IBM has begun using Stellar’s token XLM (for which Grayscale Investments has launched a trust), and Lund believes that it will be ideal for cross-border settlements:
Once that happens, and that happens really fast, then we send the value along with it. That transfer of value is made possible by digital instruments, settlement instruments, of which Lumens is one. So we see Lumens as a viable settlement instrument in this ecosystem of cross-border payments.
IBM uses the Stellar protocol in its World Wire product, which hopes to make cross-border payments happen in near real-time. Indeed, cross-border payments are considered to be one of the most applicable areas for cryptocurrencies and IBM is looking to be a part of this change.
IBM is on the whole very enthusiastic about blockchain, also working with SeaGate to reduce hard drive counterfeiting. Lund also said that IBM is keen on working with different assets, seeing benefits in an ecosystem of assets that assist cross-border payments.
Banks once refused to work with blockchain companies in Brazil. Now, BTG Pactual, Latin America’s largest standalone investment bank, is launching a security token of its own.
A WAVE OF CHANGE IN BRAZIL
There seems to be a wave of change happening in Brazil. reported just a few days ago that Santander Bank was ordered by a Court to keep open Bitcoin Max’ checking account. Banks that were once hesitant to work with cryptocurrency exchanges are being forced to eat humble pie.
That marked a small victory for the cryptocurrency space in this part of the world. And now, it seems that financial institutions here are realizing the worth of digital assets within their own portfolios.
BANCO BTG PACTUAL SA IS LEADING THE WAY
Brazil’s Banco BTG Pactual, the largest standalone investment bank in the region, has announced that it will be entering the cryptocurrency space with its own security token, the ReitBZ.
With a plan to raise up to $15 million in its token sale, STO, initial offering, or whatever terminology you prefer, the bank will launch a security token backed by distressed real estate assets in Brazil.
The ReitBZ token will use blockchain technology. And investors will be able to buy it using the Winklevoss twins’ Gemini Dollar or ETH. The token is indisputably a security token since investors will receive dividends periodically from the recovery of the distressed assets.
HOLD UP, WHAT ARE DISTRESSED ASSETS?
A distressed asset is one that is put on sale at a reduced price because its owner has been forced to sell it. This may be due to excessive debt, bankruptcy, or regulatory constraints. And it’s especially common when it comes to real estate, a market in which during times of financial crises, people often fail to make their mortgage payments.
Distressed assets are an excellent opportunity to buy into a devalued asset and make gains as the market recovers. They’re not so awesome for the person forced to sell, of course, but this is capitalism, after all.
The BTG distressed real estate assets will be managed by a BTG subsidiary called Enforce. The ReitBZ token will be available worldwide. With the notable exception of the U.S. (surprise, surprise), and Brazil.
Wait, so investors around the world will be able to profit from the rising housing crisis in Brazil–but not the Brazilian people themselves? Right. How’s that for messed up?
BTG, however, assures that once the regulatory landscape clears up in Brazil, the ReitBZ will be open to its country’s citizens and maybe even the United States as well.
THE OPPORTUNITY FOR HIGH YEARLY RETURNS
According to the bank, investors can expect yearly returns from these assets between 15-20 percent. Moreover, BTG will be providing market-making services for its token to ensure that investors have sufficient liquidity to sell when they want to.
CTO Gustavo Roxo told Bloomberg:
BTG is deploying its own capital to provide liquidity because it really believes in the crypto business… We came up with this structure because we think investors in the digital world have a higher risk-taking appetite.
By using a crypto asset, BTG can maximize returns from its distressed assets and allow investors to enter the market in a cheaper way. The initial sale period of ReitBZ will last for approximately 90 days and proceeds will be reinvested into the portfolio.
BANKS AND CRYPTOCURRENCIES STARTING TO GAIN MOMENTUM
The announcement comes off the back of the news last week that JPMorgan became the first U.S. bank to launch its own ‘cryptocurrency.’
With CEO Jamie Dimon well-known for ‘Bitcoin bashing’, JPMorgan introducing its own digital coin to accelerate payments was a shock to many in the industry.
However, JPMorgan and BTG are not the only horses in this race. It seems that the banks haven’t been falling asleep at the wheel when it comes to cryptocurrency after all. Japanese Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group started working on plans for their own token back in 2016. And now Brazil has stepped up to the plate.
BTG’s partner and initiative head of the ReitBZ Andre Portilho said:
We knew we needed to dominate this technology, so we started experimenting with it a few years back… We thought Bitcoin and other currencies were turning too volatile, but we saw an opportunity with this token to try something new–but also with our skin in the game.
If you invested in the proprietary token offered by the now-defunct crypto exchange BitConnect, the FBI wants to hear from you.
In a notice on its website Wednesday, the federal law enforcement agency said those who invested in the BitConnect coin (BCC) token can voluntarily reach out to the agency by filling out a questionnaire.
The FBI said investors’ responses would be “useful” as it investigates the case, and that it may reach out to respondents for additional information.
BitConnect closed down its crypto-lending platform in January 2018 following the issuance of cease-and-desist orders from Texas and North Carolina securities regulators, which claimed the company was engaging in an unregistered securities sale through its initial coin offering (ICO).
As a result, BitConnect’s BCC token plunged more than 90 percent, falling from over $400 to less than $20 in the first weeks of 2018. Crypto market data site CoinMarketCap now no longer lists the token.
The sudden loss in value led to several lawsuits seeking restitution for investors who saw their holdings become almost worthless, citing fraud and securities sale laws.
The FBI said in Wednesday’s statement:
“Bitconnect guaranteed investors up to a 10 percent total return per month on their investment, following a tiered-investment system based on the sum of an investor’s initial deposit.”
Back in March 2018, Trevon James, former BitConnect investor and promoter, said that the FBI was investigating the case and that he had spoken to the agency about the exchange and his involvement with the project.
“I’m glad that I don’t know anything, so that means there’s no proof that I knew anything,” James commented at the time.
In August 2018, the Criminal Investigation Department of the Indian state of Gujarat police arrested former BitConnect India head Divyesh Darji after receiving an alert from the country’s immigration agency.
The BitConnect case is now running as a single legal effort in the U.S. In October 2018, an Amended Consolidated Class Action Complaint was initiated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida that also named additional BitConnect owners and promoters who were previously not part of any lawsuits.
The University of Michigan, which has an endowment valued at about $12 billion, is considering further investing in Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto fund, a16z.
According to a board of regents meeting agenda published on Tuesday, the university previously committed $3 million to Horowitz’s $300 million crypto fund in June 2018 and is now looking at follow-up investments. However, it did not disclose an exact amount.
The meeting agenda further added that “as opportunities related to crypto networks transition from being undefined to becoming more visible and sharply defined, the need for a separate thematic fund may recede.”
Andreessen Horowitz launched the $300 million fund last year to focus on investing in cryptocurrency-related technology companies at different stages. The fund also reportedly attracted participation from Yale University.
Chris Dixon, Andreessen Horowitz’s general partner, said at the time of the launch that it “plans to invest consistently over time, regardless of market conditions,” adding: “If there is another ‘crypto winter,’ we’ll keep investing aggressively.”
Michigan’s endowment value climbed to about $12 billion last October. Its chief investment officer Erik Lundberg said at the time that the performance was “sufficient to sustain and grow the endowment in real terms, net of spending.”
Endowment and pension funds are increasingly starting to invest in the blockchain and crypto space. Just last week, two public pension funds – Fairfax County, Virginia’s Police Officer’s Retirement System, and Employees’ Retirement System – backed Morgan Creek Capital’s crypto-focused venture fund that raised $40 million.
Morgan Creek’s new fund also includes investments from a university endowment, a hospital system, an insurance company, and a private foundation, learned at the time.
Last week, Cambridge Associates, a pensions and endowments consultant, reportedly said that it’s time for institutional investors to consider getting into cryptocurrencies.
Patrick Byrne, the CEO of Overstock, believes a market boom for its security trading platform tZERO lies just around the corner.
Speaking in an interview Wednesday, Byrne said he expected volumes to soar after the year-long lock-up period for the
So far, the daily volume on the platform has been fluctuating between 7,000 and 30,000 units of TZROP – the sole listed asset for now. At current prices, that amounts to less than $200,000 a day, hardly Nasdaq levels.
Still, Byrne is planning additional updates that will help boost liquidity on the exchange, first envisioned in 2014 as a kind of alternative stock market and now realized as an alternative trading (ATS) system for crypto tokens. Specifically, tZERO is also looking into getting more broker-dealers to work with, other than Dinosaur Financial Group, which is maintaining the trading exclusively now.
“I’m looking forward to you writing, ‘they’ve gone from 30,000 tokens to 300,000 tokens a day,’” Byrne told.
However, to introduce new broker-dealers, tZERO will have to get approvals for each one with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Byrne said, which could slow down the process.
“FINRA and SEC made it clear that they want to see this work with one broker. We’re into an incremental disruption, not like you millennials that want everything burned down tomorrow.”
tZERO, the favorite child of Overstock and its subsidiary Medici (which owns 80 percent of tZERO), is led by former executives of the Overstock-Medici team: CEO Saum Noursalehi, who previously was the president of Overstock, and president Steven Hopkins, who used to be Medici’s general counsel and COO.
Medici’s team in general is actively involved in helping the portfolio companies to strengthen the weak parts and lending its staff when needed, Byrne told. For example, Medici’s team of developers has been helping some startups with technical expertise, while different specialists helped build business operations, he noted.
“At Medici, there are different kinds of talent, and we’re pushing it to the companies as they need it,” Byrne explained. “A lot of these companies are young kids with an idea and maybe some money, but not much more. And they haven’t built a company: they don’t have lawyers, HR people, they might not even have senior engineers.”
But that’s a challenge faced not only by Medici’s holdings but by the industry this 57-year-old CEO has embraced. As he put it:
“People in blockchain are used to building sort of little science experiments. They don’t know how to build something that a million of people are going to use.”
In the meantime, two important deals that are supposed to boost tZERO and the entire Medici portfolio with cash seem to be stumbling so far.
The first one is the sale of the online retail business, Overstock.com, announced in November and expected to get finalized by February. Asked if the process was advancing in any way, Byrne told that he’s “running the business as if I’m going to own it forever.”
Although “there is a process going on” regarding the projected sale, Byrne won’t say more but promises an optimistic future for the online retail business.
“We’re switching from the conventional internet strategy of growing and losing money, and we will have a positive cash flow in retail this year,” he said.
Another important deal for tZERO that seems as though it could be delayed is the one with the Hong-Kong-based firm GSR Capital that was going to invest up to $404 million in Overstock and tZERO, announced at the end of last year.
In December, GSR asked for an extension to close the deal, and the deadline was moved to Feb. 28. Asked about the status of the deal on the stage of the Oppenheimer Blockchain Summit in New York Wednesday, Byrne said that the two parties “have been staggering over the documents,” refusing to go into details.
Even if Overstock ends up keeping the retail business a little longer than expected, the company has already evolved into a blockchain play in investors’ minds. Since Byrne became actively involved in the space a few years ago, Overstock’s image has become closely connected to the cryptocurrency market, even though the company never announced large investments in crypto.
Overstock’s shares, which fell throughout 2018, followed the crypto bear market. Byrne says that according to the Overstock team’s estimate, the price of the stock is now 87 percent correlated with the price of bitcoin.
“Clearly people are confused. We don’t own significant bitcoin,” he said.
The upheaval continues at enterprise blockchain company Digital Asset (DA), with the news that Gavin Wells will step down from his role as head of Europe next month.
Oliver Hugh-Jones, head of business development for Europe, will assume all of Wells’ client-facing responsibilities, a spokeswoman for DA confirmed on Thursday. Wells’ departure was reported earlier by Risk, a financial industry publication.
“I joined Digital Asset to learn about the technology, but I stayed because of the people I met there,” Wells told the magazine.
It is not clear where he will go. Before joining the company, Wells had senior foreign exchange positions at British clearing house LCH and global megabank Citigroup.
Just over a week ago revealed that James Powell, CIO
These moves came in the wake of CEO Blythe Masters stepping down in December. Her departure surprised many in the enterprise blockchain industry, since the Wall Street veteran was considered the very personification of DA, and, to some degree, of the distributed ledger technology (DLT) space itself.
DA is seen as something of a bellwether for industrial-grade DLT upgrades and integration thanks to its undertaking to replace the Australian Stock Exchange’s (ASX) CHESS clearing and settlement system. Although the deadline for that project has been pushed back to early 2021, ASX told in an interview last year that Masters’ departure would not impact its timeline.
The 175-employee DA has also been hiring. Zohar Hod, a trading technology veteran, was brought in as its chief strategy officer, coinciding with Powell’s departure. Hod reports to co-founder and chief operating officer Yuval Rooz.
In September 2017, the Bank of America Merrill Lynch branch asked 200 institutional investors what they believe is the most popular investment. Most of them said “Long Bitcoin.” That said, this doesn’t mean these investors have put money into the digital asset. However, it does show the government how vital cryptocurrencies are in the long run. But, that doesn’t change the fact that the crypto market needs institutional investors to take off. Thankfully, there is some hope in that regard thanks to recent developments.
Prepping For The Future
In September 2017, the Bank of America Merrill Lynch branch asked 200 institutional investors what they believe is the most popular investment. Most of them said “Long Bitcoin.” That said, this doesn’t mean these investors have put money into the digital asset. However, it does show the government how vital cryptocurrencies are in the long run. But, that doesn’t change the fact that the crypto market needs institutional investors to take off. Thankfully, there is some hope in that regard thanks to recent developments.
Prepping For The Future
As of this writing, “established financial institutions” are finally preparing to work with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Groups like Fidelity, one of the biggest asset managers in the world, revealed it would start supporting crypto trading and offer custody platforms within the next few months. Then, we have the Intercontinental Exchange which is getting ready for a Bitcoin futures exchange called Bakkt. Later, other places like American universities such as MIT and Harvard are creating cryptocurrency funds. This is just the start.
It remains to be seen, then, why the value of Bitcoin hasn’t taken off despite these accomplishments. Instead, market optimists are looking for any small positives we can find.
Unfortunately, Bitcoin broke the $6,000 low investors had established for it late last year and is now stuck around $3,000. Whales are holding steady, but new investors are failing to enter the market. Plus, we need institutional investors over smaller common ones.
Of course, a significant limitation here is a lack of any framework for investors to follow regarding Bitcoin. P.A.I.D. Strategies recently released a report that claims 68% of Bitcoin exchanges across the United States and Europe aren’t even compliant towards know-your-customer policies. Plus, a decent amount of these exchanges can’t even liquify Bitcoin or other assets. That’s not a good pitch for new investors with lots of money to enter the market.
John Devlin, a head analyst at P.A.I.D. spoke on this:
“Cryptocurrency wallets and exchanges want to enjoy the same trust as the wider financial services, but for this to happen they need to rise above the sometimes-dubious reputation of cryptocurrencies’ past and be seen as ‘model citizens’ of the economy.”
Of course, this burden relies mostly on cryptocurrency exchanges, as these are key entry points into the digital asset market.
Doing Their Part
Fortunately, Tony Sio, the head of surveillance and marketplace at Nasdaq, recently spoke on the matter, saying that crypto exchanges are doing what they can to improve their offerings.
He goes on, speaking to Business Insider and saying that a decent amount of exchanges are asking Nasdaq to use their SMARTS Trade Surveillance system. This network is used by traditional exchanges, brokers, and regulatory officials to watch over trading and keep an eye on possible market manipulation.
That said, because Nasdaq screens platforms before allowing them into the SMARTS platform, Sio claims that he’s seen a good amount of crypto platforms with poor KYC/AML policies.
To be fair, these barriers aren’t always easy to implement. “If you are a startup, it is quite hard to set up because it requires a fair bit of work to set it up fully in place,” says Sio. “That is probably one of the sticking points.”
Nevertheless, some crypto exchanges have been approved by Nasdaq. Those in the green are utilizing surveillance technology, trading engines, clearing engines, and more. This is a great sign, as it shows exchanges are putting effort into showing themselves as ideal candidates to follow. If this continues, institutional investors will be more likely to jump into the market despite volatility and other longstanding issues.
DOVU, a startup from London with goals of becoming the world’s leading marketplace for transport data, has reportedly commenced a working relationship with rail company Go-Ahead.
The working relationship has some serious investment interests behind it. DOVU launched two years ago and is backed by both Jaguar Land Rover’s InMotion Ventures and U.K. government-backed fund Creative England. Go-Ahead, likewise, is listed on the FTSE 250 — an index that contains the 101st to the 350th largest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange — and boasts more than one billion passenger journeys per year.
‘INCENTIVIZING CHANGES IN PASSENGER BEHAVIOR’
According to a report from TechCrunch, the rail company plans on using DOVU’s blockchain-powered reward platform “to learn more about its customers and to incentivize changes in passenger behavior.” What kind of data will be collected has not been detailed, but it is known that customers will be able to earn loyalty points in the form of cryptocurrency for sharing said data.
BLOCKCHAIN OR BUZZWORD?
From the sounds of it, DOVU and Go-Ahead’s plan sounds like a prime example of a ‘blockchain‘ project that aims to further centralize an already-centralized industry, as opposed to disrupt or decentralize it. It also appears that ‘blockchain technology’ is being used as little more than a buzzword tacked on to traditional rewards points for completing post-ride surveys.
Very little seems revolutionary about this news. However, it nevertheless serves as an example of how ‘blockchain technology’ continues to permeate into the post-2017 Bitcoin world.
Bitcoin has officially entered the longest stretch of declining prices in its 10-year history.
The world’s oldest and most valuable cryptocurrency achieved an all-time high of $19,764 on Dec. 17, 2017 Bitcoin Price Index and has printed a series of lower price highs ever since, making February 2 (as per UTC time), the 411th consecutive day prices have been in decline.
As such, bitcoin’s latest stretch surpasses the duration of the infamous 2013-2015 bitcoin bear market, which spanned 410 days from its price high to low.
Bitcoin’s Historical Price Declines
Indeed, bitcoin’s most recent stretch of declining prices is the longest in duration ever witnessed by the cryptocurrency, but it has yet to become the worst in terms of total depreciation.
As can be seen in the chart above, bitcoin’s first significant bear market in 2011 spanned just 163 days but remains the worst performer to date.
From its price high of $31.50 to $2.01 low, bitcoin’s price fell slightly more than 93 percent, which is a steeper drop than the subsequent 2013-15 bear market when prices fell 86 percent from the previous high. The current bear market still has yet to exceed a depreciation of more than 84 percent from its all-time high, while its current prices near $3,400 register an 82 percent decline.
No one can be certain if or when bitcoin’s record decline will come to an end, but whether it be the market’s subdued response to the withdrawal of a highly anticipated bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) proposal or bitcoin’s next deflationary halving event slowly approaching, it does seem evidence is beginning to mount for a bitcoin bottom occurring in the not too distant future.
Weekly chart and halving history
As part of bitcoin’s deflationary monetary policy, the rewards per mined block get cut in half every four years or 210,000 blocks, as a result slowing the creation of new bitcoins.
The event is now known as a “halving” and has long been considered a bullish catalyst for bitcoin’s price since the existing or growing demand for the cryptocurrency is likely to outweigh the slowing production of supply. Simply put, since demand is greater than supply, it creates a higher valuation for the underlying asset, regardless of the market.
As the tweet below from Markets shows, bitcoin’s price trend tends to bottom out and rise substantially several months in advance of the actual halving date.
Here's your #bitcoin halving and price guide.
– 1st halving (11/28/2012): Price bottomed 378 days before then rose 510%
– 2nd halving (07/09/2016): Price bottomed 539 days before then rose 309%
– 3rd halving (~05/25/2020): Roughly 497 days until halving
— CoinDesk Markets (@CoinDeskMarkets) January 31, 2019
While the sample size is small, bitcoin’s price finding a floor 378 days before the 2012 halving and 539 days before the 2016 halving create an average “bottom” date of 458 days or one-and-a-quarter years before an actual halving event.
With the next halving likely to occur in late May of 2020, bitcoin is now just under 500 days away, so a potential bear market ending bottom date may not be too far off if investors preemptively price in the deflation of supply like they have in the past.
Disclosure: The author holds BTC, AST, REQ, OMG, FUEL, ZIL, 1st and AMP at the time of writing.
Developers contributing to the ethereum protocol are electing to hold off on a decision to submit code that would stifle the advantage of high-powered ASIC miners competing for the network’s rewards.
During a public call Friday, which included Hudson Jameson, Lane Rettig, Afri Schodedon, Martin Holst Swende, Danno Ferrin and Greg Colvin, among other notable developers, a tentative decision was reached to postpone the so-called ProgPow upgrade in favor of conducting continued audits.
These third-party audits will look to verify that implementing the algorithm will reduce ASIC efficiency so as to make them less competitive against GPUs, a cheaper and more consumer-friendly mining technology.
A number of the call’s participants expressed discomfort with providing a firm decision on whether to execute the algorithm, leading to the delay.
The decision stems from a push to avoid a consolidation in the number of participants verifying transactions on ethereum. If implemented, the algorithm would theoretically allow for a greater number of miners to participate in the network.
Jameson, a communications officer with the Ethereum Foundation, said a third-party audit will likely answer many questions the community still has about the update.
“If we can get to a point where we say, ‘This will work and here’s why it will work,’ that would help a lot,” Jameson said of the audit, later adding:
“If we find no [issues] … that should give us enough confidence that the decision should be made for us.”
Software engineer Ferrin concurred, saying the audits will provide more data about how the update might impact ethereum than is available at present. There is no clear timeline yet on when the audits might conclude, with Jameson saying he expects March or early April to be realistic targets.
Colvin called for greater clarity around when a decision may definitively be made.
“We are all so very tired of this,” he said, adding:
“I would happily decide today, but I’m not the expert. I’m happy to wait for the audit but I’m not happy to make this decision in May or something. An awful lot of people would like to know so they can get on with their business. ‘Am I going to spend $1,000 to buy a rack of CPUs or not?’”
Separately, the developers agreed to gather more input from the ethereum community at large. “We still haven’t explored all the possibilities about exploring community feedback,” Jameson said.
The group will also look into miner signaling specifically, though Rettig noted that the vote “will likely be asymmetrical,” explaining that while a “strong vote” in favor of executing ProgPoW would obviously be a clear sign of support, a lack of a vote against might not necessarily mean anything.
A recently discovered form of malware steals browser cookies and other information on victims’ Apple Mac computers to steal cryptocurrencies.
Researchers at cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks published a report on Thursday, saying that the malware, dubbed “CookieMiner,” intercepts browser cookies related to cryptocurrency exchanges and wallet service providers’ websites visited by the victims.
The malicious code targets exchanges including Binance, Coinbase, Poloniex, Bittrex, Bitstamp and MyEtherWallet, as well as any website having “blockchain” in its domain name, the researchers found.
It also tries to steal credit card information from major issuers, such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover, as well as saved usernames and passwords in Chrome, iPhone text messages that are backed up to iTunes and crypto wallet keys.
If successful at stealing those details, hackers can gain full access to victims’ crypto exchange and wallet accounts to steal funds.
The researchers explained:
“CookieMiner tries to navigate past the authentication process by stealing a combination of the login credentials, text messages, and web cookies.”
The malware has another string to its bow too – it changes a victim’s system configuration to maliciously load crypto mining software. The coinminer is similar to a variant that mines monero, but instead targets a lesser-known cryptocurrency called Koto, the researchers said.
The researchers suggested that cryptocurrency users should keep “an eye on their security settings and digital assets to prevent compromise and leakage.” They also noted that the malware checks if an application firewall program called Little Snitch is running on a victim’s computer. “If so, it will stop and exit,” they said
Monero is by far the most popular cryptocurrency among hackers, though. Last month, a study by college researchers showed that hackers have mined nearly 5 percent of the total monero in circulation.
Deployments of crypto-mining malware are rapidly growing in number. A study from McAfee, published in December, showed that there were nearly 4 million new mining malware threats in the third quarter of 2018 alone, compared to less than 500,000 in 2017 and 2016.
The U.S. government may be open again, but don’t hold your breath for regulatory approvals of crypto investment products.
The shutdown, which began on Dec. 22, 2018 and ended on Jan. 25, forced federal agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), to shutter their doors. This in turn delayed product launches and caused some companies to pull proposals.
Now that they’re back to work, though, the SEC, CFTC and other regulators have five weeks of work to catch up on. And the industry’s advocates in Washington, D.C. are under no illusions that a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) or similar applications will get expedited treatment.
Kristin Smith of the Blockchain Association likened the reopening to starting a car after not driving it for an entire winter, explaining that it would take time for the various regulators and agencies to begin operating at full strength again:
“Everything still works but you need to give it time to warm up. It’s been frustrating, but I think at worst you’ve seen companies delay rather than cancel plans and now folks are eager to pick up where they left off.”
SEC chairman Jay Clayton announced in a public statement that the regulator was “returning to normal operations.” During the shutdown, the agency monitored markets but only took action “to prevent imminent threats to property,” he noted.
That being said, while the agency’s 4,500 employees are back on duty, he noted that the leaders of the SEC’s various divisions needed to determine how best to transition back to business as usual. Some of these divisions would, therefore, be making their own separate announcements about how they might do so.
The shutdown – which was the longest in U.S. history – will likely have “some repercussions for the space” as well, said Steve Ehrlich, chief operating officer of the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance.
The foremost issue, he said, is the fact that the reopening may be short-lived. The truce between Congress and U.S. President Donald Trump is temporary, and if the two branches of government cannot agree to a permanent budget and a compromise on the proposed border wall by February 15, the government will shut down again.
“I can’t imagine any company trusting that the government will not be shut down again following the 21-day reprieve,” Ehrlich told via email. “Until there is more certainty that the government will not get shut down again in 21 days, federal regulators will focus their activities on serving the broadest segment of the population and addressing their highest priorities, which may not include crypto.”
Indeed, the Senate and House conference committees only began meeting Wednesday to discuss how to avoid shutting down the government again.
More broadly, companies looking to conduct business or base themselves in the U.S. might have second thoughts, Ehrlich said, adding:
“Without the comfort of knowing that the political climate will be calmer for the indefinite future, there will be companies that seek to avoid domiciling themselves in the U.S. or will de-risk themselves by avoiding serving U.S. customers … Those companies that are committed to the U.S. will also face challenges.”
Templum Markets CEO Vince Molinari told that the SEC “made an incredible effort to keep up with their immense workload,” but given how few staffers were on duty during the shutdown (fewer than 300), a 21-day reprieve would not “materially affect” the agency’s backlog.
“It would be impossible for any agency to catch up immediately after so many weeks sidelined, despite their best efforts,” he said.
Indeed, while NYSE Arca and Bitwise Asset Management have filed a rule change proposal for a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF), the SEC has not yet published the document for review in the Federal Register. This indicates the regulator is not currently examining the document and there is no timeline for when a decision approving or rejecting the proposal may come.
Too late for some
The shutdown has already resulted in several planned product launches or hoped-for approvals being delayed.
“Conversations that had been ongoing between startups and relevant regulators such as the SEC (including its newly created FinHUB) about business models and plans have likely lost critical momentum and will take time to recover,” Ehrlich added.
Indeed, the VanEck/SolidX bitcoin ETF proposal was withdrawn by Cboe earlier this month. VanEck CEO Jan van Eck cited the government shutdown as the reason for this decision, explaining that while the companies behind the proposal had been working with the SEC to answer questions about the space, those conversations had been put on pause when the government shut down.
The ETF was re-filed on Thursday, but like NYSE Arca’s, it has not yet been published in the Federal Register.
Bitcoin futures exchange Bakkt, developed by the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, is perhaps the other most-anticipated product launch, but it too is dependent on regulatory approval. The company is waiting on the CFTC to green-light its proposal, but first, the commissioners must release it for public comment. After the 30-day public comment period concludes, the commissioners must then vote to approve Bakkt’s offerings.
As such, there is currently no timeline for when Bakkt may go live. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment when reached.
Similarly, trading platform ErisX is waiting on the CFTC to grant its derivatives clearing organization application. Conversations between the firm and the regulator halted, though CEO Thomas Chippas told during the shutdown that he looked forward to “re-engaging with [CFTC] staff” once the government reopened. ErisX declined to comment on what the reopening would mean for this effort.
In another example of the lingering aftereffects of the shutdown, Ehrlich said he expected that anticipated guidance on token sales from the SEC would be delayed, adding:
“Plus their restarts could be delayed by the mountains of paperwork that officials will need to address.”
The New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) has granted yet another Virtual Currency License (BitLicense) to one more NY-based bitcoin ATM company.
COTTONWOOD VENDING GETS THE GREEN LIGHT
In a tweet on the official page of the NYDFS, the regulator announced that it has granted a BitLicense to Cottonwood Vending LLC, a Bitcoin ATM company in New York.
Earlier this month, NYDFS issued a BitLicense to LibertyX, which became the first regulated company to allow New Yorkers to buy bitcoin from traditional ATMs.
This marks the third BitLicense issued to a bitcoin ATM company. Before LibertyX and Cottonwood Vending, the NYDFS issued the regulatory permit to Coinsource back in 2017, following a lengthy three year application period.
88 MORE BITCOIN ATM LOCATIONS
Following the latest BitLicense, New Yorkers now have 88 more Bitcoin ATM locations where they can purchase the cryptocurrency using cash.
According to the official website of Cottonwood Vending, the 88 locations are concentrated mainly in the the five boroughs but also a few locations in Long Island. Several locations also support both buying and selling (2-way) bitcoin.
BTM tracking website, Coinatmradar suggests that there are now 2577 locations in the US alone, with the overall number surpassing 4270.
Additionally, the NY regulator appears to be determined to continue advancing innovation in New York. Following the approval of LibertyX last month, Superintendent Vullo said:
DFS continues to lead the way in responsibly supervising and advancing innovation in New York’s flourishing financial technology sector through a strong state-based regulatory regime.
Ethereum startup Aragon is considering building a second network on the blockchain interoperability protocol known as Polkadot.
While the firm stressed that it still intends to launch the Aragon Network on the ethereum blockchain this year, CTO Jorge Izquierdo revealed at its Aracon conference this week that it may additionally launch aragonOS, a framework to build smart contracts, on Polkadot.
“The idea is to make most aragonOS transactions almost free and very optimized, so users can seamlessly run [decentralized autonomous organizations] in a cheaper and faster way,” said Aragon CEO Luis Cuende in interview.
Cuende emphasized that the company is still “very bullish on ethereum and its ecosystem,” adding that “in terms of the Aragon Network, the plans are still to deploy it to ethereum during 2019.”
The idea of launching aragonOS on Polkadot is “still very early research,” Cuende said.
Indeed, going so far as to add a “speculation disclaimer” to the presentation, Izquierdo highlighted in his slides that “the Aragon Chain is on an early research phase.” Aragon’s exploration of a possible Polkadot network launch will run parallel to its continued research on the coming upgrade to ethereum known as Serenity, he said.
Those caveats aside, Aragon’s openness to alternatives to ethereum is seen in some corners as a wake-up call for the world’s second-largest blockchain, which is working to overcome scaling limitations.
Ethereum developer Lane Rettig told that he hoped the nascent research project would “light a fire” in the ethereum community to speed up scaling efforts, saying:
“Aragon has not said they’re migrating off ethereum, just that they’re exploring options … But I do consider it an early warning sign, from one of the most important app ecosystems on ethereum, and I think we should heed the warning.”
‘Early warning sign’
Stepping back, Polkadot is designed to coordinate “consensus and transaction delivery” between different blockchains, as stated on the official website.
Developed by ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood, the protocol is presently live on a test network. Expected to launch officially near the end of this year, the project also announced Friday that it was looking to raise $60 million through a token sale, following an earlier initial coin offering which raised $145 million.
The fast development of the Polkadot network since its inception back in 2016 is seen by some ethereum developers as “an early warning sign … that ethereum risks losing its edge,” Rettig said on Twitter,
This sentiment is also echoed in an earlier “Ask Me Anything” Reddit forum about ethereum’s scaling roadmap. The highest ranking question to the research and development team about Serenity – also called ethereum 2.0 – was this:
“The Polkadot team has stated their chain might launch by the end of the year. Why should people/devs bother to go to the Beacon or to wait for its full sharding when they can just go to the Parity chain or somewhere else?”
Other developers such as Afri Schoedon – release manager for ethereum client Parity – are less convinced there’s a need for concern or worry from the ethereum community at present.
“In the end, we will see how application developers embrace the Polkadot network [once launched],” said Schoedon in interview with CoinDesk. “Currently, ethereum has by far the most dapp engineers, but that can change any time with new tooling being available in future.”
On the other hand, the team behind Polkadot – overseen by Parity Technologies and the Web3 Foundation – is adamant that their technology is not meant to act as a competitor to ethereum.
Jack Platts, director of communications at the Web3 Foundation, told that the protocol should be seen as “complementary” to ethereum. He added:
“We at the Web3 Foundation think about these blockchains as being interoperable and of there being many more blockchains in the future than there are in the past.”
Adding that the organization is “betting on this multi-chain universe,” Platt highlighted that one of the Web3 Foundation’s present initiatives was funding “the development of ethereum-compatible technologies.”
To this end, the foundation announced Tuesday the first recipient of its grants program – ChainSafe Systems – which, along with building a fully-fleshed out ethereum 2.0 client, is now expected to develop a portion of the Polkadot environment in the programming language Golang.
“What we generally do for our clients is implement sidechains and then bridge those sidechains to the ethereum mainnet. What Polkadot does is build a future in which we’re able to do that in a much more optimized way where we’re able to utilize technology that’s been built to do the things that we do every day,” ChainSafe Systems CEO Aidan Hyman told CoinDesk.
“I’m personally – beyond this grant – extremely excited to see what Polkadot brings to the future of blockchain.”
The amount of the grant to ChainSafe Systems was not publicly disclosed.
B2C2, an electronic OTC trading firm and crypto liquidity provider, has just got the green light to offer crypto derivatives in the U.K.
The London-based firm announced Thursday that its subsidiary B2C2 OTC Ltd. is now authorized and regulated by country’s financial watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), to arrange and deal in crypto contracts for difference (CFDs).
Crypto CFDs allow traders to predict the future price change of specific cryptocurrencies, and in turn, provide an opportunity to make profit in both rising and falling markets by going long or short.
B2C2 OTC’s CFD product offers exposure to bitcoin (BTC), bitcoin cash (BCH), ether (ETH), litecoin (LTC) and XRP, according to the announcement.
Max Boonen, B2C2 founder and CEO, said that, with the firm’s offering, “eligible counterparties and professional clients can now gain derivative exposure to the cryptocurrency markets” and avoid the “risks associated with crypto custody.”
The FCA’s authorization of a crypto derivatives product is a notable one, as in the past it has issued warnings over CFDs. In November 2017, the authority said: “Cryptocurrency CFDs are an extremely high-risk, speculative investment. You should be aware of the risks involved and fully consider whether investing in cryptocurrency CFDs is appropriate for you.”
Last April, though, the FCA said that it was likely to authorize crypto CFDs providers given that these products may be financial instruments under current directives. It said at the time: “Firms conducting regulated activities in cryptocurrency derivatives must, therefore, comply with all applicable rules in the FCA’s Handbook and any relevant provisions in directly applicable European Union regulations.”
The regulator has been moving to tighten oversight of the crypto space. Just last week, the FCA set out proposed guidance for how crypto assets should be regulated in the country. Yet, while aiming to protect against the perceived risks of the tech, it has taken a more positive stance on blockchain innovation, including accepting crypto startups into its regulatory sandbox.
IBM has completed a trial of blockchain technology to track a shipment of mandarin oranges from China to Singapore.
Announced today, 28 tons of mandarin oranges, or 3,000 cartons containing approximately 108,000 fruits, were delivered ahead of Chinese New Year celebration on Feb. 5 (mandarin oranges are a symbol of prosperity, IBM explained). The main shipping document, the bill of lading, was recorded on a blockchain.
This document serves as a proof of ownership of goods, as a receipt of goods and a contract of the shipment, and normally it’s mailed to all parties involved in the shipment, including banks providing trade financing. For the pilot, IBM created an electronic bill of lading, or e-BL, which helped reduce and speed up administrative processes “to just one second” as the document flow is automated, the company claims — while the standard paper-based procedure takes five to seven days.
“By using the e-BL, we have seen how the entire shipment process can be simplified and made more transparent with considerable cost savings,” Tay Khiam Back, the chairman and CEO of fruit importer Hupco, said in a press release.
Along with saving time with the document processing, the trial showed that a blockchain-based electronic system can cut operating costs like electricity used for refrigerated cargo containers while they wait for collection at the port, storage costs and other expenses, IBM said. It also made for a better handling of information, providing a traceable and tamper-proof storage of records for the maritime shipment industry, where document fraud accounts for 40% of all fraud.
“To-date, we have received very positive feedback from the industry and authorities, and we are enthused by the possibilities of how our blockchain developments can transform and inject a much-needed boost in efficiency and innovation into the industry,” Lisa Teo, Executive Director of Pacific International Lines, said in the press release.
Earlier this month, IBM announced another blockchain-powered supply chain pilot, which would track the trip of cobalt mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, going through a Chinese refinery and a Korean battery factory to a Ford Motors plant in the U.S.
Most significantly, IBM’s Food Trust blockchain went live last year, with Walmart participating.
Financial services provider Fidelity, which has some $7.2 trillion in client assets under management, said Thursday that its anticipated crypto trading and custody platform is in its “final testing” phase.
The company noted in a blog post late Thursday that it had on-boarded “a select set of eligible clients” already, while it worked on building Fidelity Digital Asset Services (FDAS). Fidelity first announced it would be launching a digital asset service last October.
At present, the company is working with auditors to polish its existing policies and procedures, as well as “to set new benchmarks for this aspect of cryptographic and blockchain-based finance.”
Without giving a firm timeframe for a formal launch, the post noted that:
“Our initial clients are an important part of our final testing and process refinement periods, which will eventually enable us to provide these services to a broader set of eligible institutions.”
While the update did not explicitly confirm a Bloomberg report that FDAS was planning to launch publicly in March, it is consistent with the company’s earlier statements that the platform would go live in the first quarter of this year.
The storage component is already custodying assets on behalf of its initial customers.
Further supporting optimism about a near-term launch, FDAS put out a call for prospective clients in its post, writing that “over the next several months, we will thoughtfully engage with and stage prospective clients based on their needs, jurisdiction and other factors.”
The company’s trading and custody solutions are at roughly the same stage of development and are expected to launch around the same time. At launch, FDAS will support bitcoin and ethereum with “institutional-grade custody,” alongside other services.