The National Basketball Association (NBA) and Dapper Labs are teaming up to announce the launch of a digital platform for blockchain-based collectables, NBA Top Shot.
According to the companies, fans of the game can buy, sell, and trade digitally collectable in-season moves like “Kevin Durant’s 3-point shot or Joel Emiid’s dunk.” Digital collectables can be used for on-chain games or tournaments.
Similar to current products like NBA 2K, Dapper’s NBA Top Shot allows users to acquire players and build rosters with an additional hook: purchasing specific moves from the prior season.
Dapper Labs next product comes two years after the launch of CryptoKitties, the number one blockchain-based game, and months after a pre-sale and of its second major game, Cheese Wizardz.
The National Basketball Association is joined by the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), a player’s union founded in 1954. Speaking on the matter, NBPA commerical executive Josh Goodstadt touts Dapper’s product as “an entirely new way for fans to connect with their favorite athletes.”
“We believe blockchain technology creates a truly unique product that fans can collect, manage and engage within a fun environment.”
NBA Top Shot Collectibles is set to launch this fall in time for the NBA’s regular-season tip-off, with the full game going live in early 2020. Per an email, Dapper Labs says they are “working directly with the [NBPA] to make sure players benefit from the experience.”
Dapper’s product is not the first introduction between blockchain and major league sports: the Cleveland Cavaliers recently signed UnitedCoin as its official cryptocurrency with the Miami Dolphins signing with the Litecoin Foundation last month.
Kyoto University and the University of Tokyo have joined Ripple’s University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) per CoinDesk Japan. The 2018 program now boasts 33 participants including Princeton University, Carnegie Mellon, and the National University of Singapore, among others.
Ripple committed $50 million toward the project to develop blockchain, cryptocurrency, and digital network programs. Funds sent to the Japanese universities will fuel undergraduate, graduate, and PhD studies. The University of Tokyo will also issue scholarships with the funds.
“University partners will continue to increase positive awareness of the transformative impact that blockchain technology will have across various industries,” SVP of Global Operations at Ripple Eric van Miltenburg said. “As the industry matures, the academic community plays a pivotal role in paving the road for innovative companies and entrepreneurs leveraging blockchain technologies and digital assets.”
Price of XRP over the last 30 days via CoinDesk data.
Academia continues to play a role in Ripple’s roadmap. The payment network announced commitments to the Brazilian Universities of São Paulo and Fundação Getulio Vargas in June as part of a greater South America investment strategy. At the time, Ripple reported it was adding two to three financial institutional partners to RippleNet per week in the region.
Competition for the firm is greater than ever, however. A recent testing report from dominant financial network SWIFT showed quickening settlement speeds. Test runs through 17 participants averaged 25 seconds per transfer. The fastest settlement took all of 13 seconds.
Still, quarterly sales for Ripple’s XRP are on the rise. Ripple’s Q2 numbers were up 50% with $251.51 million XRP sold. Following inflation criticisms, Ripple plans on slowing its sales across the board in Q3.
Two groups seeking to promote blockchain technology in the Asia-Pacific have officially merged.
Announced July 22, the Australian Digital Currency Association (ADCA) and Blockchain Australia (BA) signed documentation that will see the two groups formally combine efforts under the BA logo and brand.
ADCA is the industry’s leading network for businesses seeking to implement blockchain solutions while BA is the industry body that represents domestic organizations participating in the crypto asset economy.
Bitcoin versus the Australian dollar via CoinDesk data.
The announcement, as well as the unveiling of the group’s new logo, took place at the Annual APAC Blockchain Conference in Sydney.
Further, the news was presented by the assistant minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology, the Hon. Senator Jane Hume, demonstrating government support for the merger and future developments from the Australian blockchain community.
“I’m absolutely delighted to see that ADCA and BA have decided to merge, having a consistent and united voice advocating for the responsible adoption of blockchain technology,” Hume told attendees. “We need to recognize the potential for Australian blockchain businesses to tap into the demand that’s deriving from Asia’s growing middle class.”
The official merger was hosted by the Sydney Stock Exchange (SSX) and witnessed by directors and members from both organizations.
Nick Giurietto, CEO and managing director of BA, told CoinDesk:
“Bringing the two organizations together will allow the whole Australian blockchain community to speak more clearly and consistently to key stakeholders including governments and regulators and will strengthen the connections between all parts of the Australian blockchain ecosystem.”
“The merger of our two organizations creates a stronger and more united voice,” added Adam Poulton, director on the newly formed organization’s board.
Those involved in the new organization hope the merger will open pathways for greater opportunities and advancement in the APAC region.
Yesterday, ethereum celebrated its fourth birthday.
Four years ago, on July 30, 2015, the world’s first general-purpose blockchain platform went live. Called ethereum, the platform was the first of its kind to feature a Turing-complete virtual machine and native programming language able to deploy code of any algorithmic complexity.
“Before ethereum, developers had to design and write extremely complex software,” blockchain researcher Mihailo Bjelic told CoinDesk. “Ethereum introduced a generic programmable layer which abstracted this whole process and enabled developers to build decentralized applications by only writing their applications’ core logic.”
There are roughly 800 monthly active developers building on the ethereum blockchain, according to new data from investment firm Electric Capital.
“This means that the ethereum ecosystem is experimenting an order of magnitude more than almost every other ecosystem,” said Electric Capital founder Avichal Garg.
Ether prices over the last 12 months via CoinDesk data.
That said, ethereum is no longer the only general-purpose blockchain in the world, nor even the most active by some metrics. The most recent quarterly report from Dapp.comshows that while ethereum is still the first choice for developers, other decentralized application (dapp) platforms such as Tron and EOS surpass ethereum in the number of active dapp users.
That leaves many industry observers wondering where ethereum will be in another four years. Will it retain its lead as a general-purpose blockchain platform in the face of a fast-rising competition?
Eric Conner, founder of information site ETHHub and product researcher at blockchain startup Gnosis, said:
“I think in four years, Ethereum will be moving past the hardest parts of its ambitious goals around proof-of-stake and scaling. At that point, the network will be able to onboard more users and we’ll start to grow beyond the use cases we are seeing today.”
Both proof-of-stake (a comparatively more eco-friendly version of the current consensus algorithm on ethereum) and scaling are bundled into an ambitious upgrade called ethereum 2.0 that many, not just Conner, envision to be completed in the next four years of ethereum’s existence.
Said Anthony Sassano, marketing and growth lead at ethereum-based startup Set Protocol:
“I believe that ethereum will achieve the original ‘world computer’ vision within the next four years because Ethereum 2.0 will have completed its roll-out. We will have mature scaling solutions (at all layers) and we will have proper privacy solutions.”
Ethereum’s future as money
At the same time, it’s not just core bottlenecks in the technology limiting transaction throughput and efficiency that experts say will need to be resolved about ethereum in coming years. Others both within and outside of the ethereum community say in the next four years, ethereum will also have to overcome challenges associated with its monetary identity.
Yaz Khoury, director of developer relations for the Ethereum Classic Cooperative (which helps build the protocol for ethereum’s sister chain, ETC), said:
“[Ethereum] is still struggling with a monetary identity. It’s not so much a cryptocurrency as much as a dapp market and network.”
Prices for ether classic over the last year via CoinDesk data.
To this, Ryan Sean Adams, founder of another crypto investment firm called Mythos Capital, sees ethereum establishing itself as a digital currency in four years time.
“Four years from now, it’ll be obvious that ETH isn’t a utility coin, it’s money. A programmable store-of-value money,” he said. “Lending, borrowing, trading, saving. Each of these will be public protocols in the ethereum economy.”
As such, MakerDAO’s Conti thinks ethereum 2.0 and scalability challenges aren’t all that important to the immediate future of the protocol.
The continued growth of decentralized finance applications, on the other hand, is.
Mariano Conti, the MakerDAO Foundation’s head of smart contracts, said via email:
“I honestly believe that even if Ethereum 2.0 is significantly delayed, what we have right now is good enough for proper Decentralized Finance in the next three or four years. I expect more companies paying their employees streaming salaries in DAI. … I also expect (dread) the first big DeFi hack to happen soon, and this’ll be something to watch out for.”
What ethereum investors are saying
On the flip side, major investors in ethereum say they aren’t worried about how the platform will transform in the next few years. On the contrary, progress in the last four years of ethereum’s existence has only proven to cement the technology’s lead.
“Ethereum has progressed significantly in making it easier for developers to build,” said Scalar Capital founder Linda Xie. “There’s improved language, tooling and infrastructure. It’s still a work in progress but it’s much easier to build an application now than in the early days.”
Mythos Capital’s Adams estimates that close to $15 billion worth of tokenized assets have been generated on ethereum thus far. These assets will continue to snowball in popularity and generate even greater value for the ethereum platform in future years, says Adams.
“We’re also seeing a first generation of [decentralized finance] protocols [on ethereum], with $500 million locked in lending and exchange protocols over the last 18 months,” Adamas said via email. “These protocols will form the banking layer of this new open finance system.”
2019 alone has been and will continue to be an inspiring year for ethereum, said Paul Veradittakit, a partner at Pantera Capital, the oldest U.S. bitcoin investment firm which has invested in over 20 different ethereum-based startups to date.
“The Ethereum community has stayed focused during bull runs and kept faith during the crypto winter,” Veradittakit said, adding:
“That focus on building is really paying off, and the ecosystem is healthier and richer because of it. So many great Ethereum projects are set to launch this year, and it’s been incredibly inspiring to watch.”
A team of former Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) engineers is bringing trading and settlement of digital assets, including cryptocurrencies, to a private blockchain network originally developed for enterprise.
Revealed exclusively to CoinDesk, London-based LAB577, led by ex-RBS innovation lead Richard Crook, is rolling out its first platform offering, the Digital Asset Shared Ledger (DASL, pronounced “dazzle”). DASL is built on top of the Corda Network, the open-source blockchain system created by R3, a bank consortium that once personified the “blockchain, not bitcoin” ethos of 2015-2016.
As such, it’s a sign of how much the industry has evolved that DASL will be used to facilitate the trading of bitcoin, ether, and the like.
Crook told CoinDesk:
“Crypto is clearly converging with blockchain. We spent quite a lot of time in 2015 separating the two, to make sure we could have a conversation about blockchain, and now here we are converging the two back.”
Ether prices over the last 12 months via CoinDesk data.
LAB577 is working with prime brokerage BCB, which will park its clients’ assets, both fiat and crypto, with custodians; mirrored representations of these assets will trade on Corda, in a process known in blockchain parlance as layer 2 settlement.
(A similar arrangement is in the works to bring ethereum tokens onto the architecture R3 is building for Swiss stock exchange SIX.)
In this way, investors will be able to conduct both legs of a trade, whether fiat-to-crypto or crypto-to-crypto, on the same system, and have them settle instantly and simultaneously, instead of waiting days for a bank transfer, or minutes (sometimes hours) for a public blockchain confirmation.
BCB says it has a pipeline of clients to bring to Corda via DASL including a couple of big banks.
Oliver von Landsberg-Sadie, BCB’s founder and CEO, said his firm is already live with a couple of beta clients, settling ethereum and British pounds bilaterally in a kind of closed environment.
“It is live in the sense that it’s using the live Corda network and live Corda nodes, but not yet a released product out in the wild,” he told CoinDesk. (Crook said BCB will be migrating from its old tech stack over the coming months.)
Apart from speed, Crook said plugging a crypto prime brokerage into the Corda Network (the free, open-source version of R3’s tech) makes sense because you have to be a known legal entity to operate on that network.
Richard Crook on stage at TechXLR8, image courtesy of LAB577.
In other words, banks and financial institutions can rest assured they are meeting things like anti-money-laundering and sanctions compliance.
“DASL wants to assist those regulated financial institutions to be able to deal with digital assets,” said Crook. “It could be something they want to issue themselves like debt or equity. It could be cash. And some of them do want to handle crypto.”
For prime brokerages, a core challenge of crypto is negotiating a host of network structures, wallets, proprietary blockchain protocols and so on. Similarly, on the fiat side, a unified settlement layer is lacking, said Landsberg-Sadie. The U.K. has a leg up with its Faster Payments system, he added, but firms still have to deal with a mishmash of payments systems in different jurisdictions.
Landsberg-Sadie pointed to certain operational challenges around storing and moving crypto safely, and also accounting for it in a unified way, adding:
“What we have always been on the lookout for is something which is a credible institutional bridge and a kind of settlements layer for cash and for crypto.”
To be fair, similar sorts of off-chain settlement arrangements have been created recently. These include tie-ups between custodians and trading firms (BitGo with Genesis Trading; Kingdom Trust and OTCXN) and networks built by crypto-friendly financial institutions for their clients to trade with each other (Silvergate Bank; Signature Bank; and Prime Trust).
In the DASL solution, BCB parks crypto in cold, or offline, storage with Volt, a crypto custodian which works with insurance broker Aon. The equivalent in the fiat world is physical bank accounts, which in the case of British pounds will be BCB’s banking partner, ClearBank, said Landsberg-Sadie.
Using Corda as a settlement layer also addresses the scaling problem which has dogged the cryptocurrency industry for years, added Landsberg-Sadie. Two counterparties exchanging a bunch of litecoin, for example, would be unaffected by the transaction time of the public blockchain to settle.
“You don’t need to move the physical litecoin out of its cold storage, you can just represent these as ledger entries on Corda,” Landsberg-Sadie said.
Stepping back, settling the fiat side of trades on a blockchain instantly with cash on the ledger is an alluring proposition well beyond the crypto markets.
A lot of work is being done to bring digital fiat to distributed ledgers, with projects like Utility Settlement Coin drawing a lot of attention.
Crook, whose team started the work of building bridges between public and private blockchains while at RBS with projects like Cordite, said the likes of BCB and also SDX coming on Corda creates a rising tide which will also lift pure enterprise plays being built on the network.
“In the case of trade finance, you want to have stores of value on-chain which the Marco Polos and the TradeIXs of the world can use,” he said, referring to a Corda-based trade finance consortium. “So you can get the goods and services to flow one way across the ledger and the payment for those goods and services to flow the other way on the same ledger.”