Alex Tapscott, CEO of NextBlock Global, a venture capital company investing in blockchain technologies, announced in a press release yesterday that he is canceling their plans to go public through a reverse takeover (RTO) of Nobelium Tech Corp., a c…
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The SegWit2x hard fork is drawing closer by the day. Within little over two weeks after the publication of this article, a group of Bitcoin companies and miners plans to double Bitcoin’s block weight limit as per the New York Agreement.But it curren…
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A report titled “Consumer Digital Payments — US,” which was released on October 11 by Moody’s analyst Stephen Sohn and team, reassures the payments sector that blockchain technology is a distant threat. Moody’s thinks that blockchain technology is a…
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Philip K. Dick Award finalist (R)evolution, a 2015 near-future science fiction thriller by PJ Manney, ends with the main character’s consciousness transferred to a supercomputer, accompanied by the otherworldly notes of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”:…
Today, Scaling Bitcoin, the international engineering conference focused on Bitcoin and blockchain research, released its program for the 2017 edition. The conference, to be held in Stanford, California, in the first weekend of November, will also i…
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It’s forking season.After Bitcoin Cash (Bcash) forked from the Bitcoin blockchain to create a new cryptocurrency (BCH), and ahead of the SegWit2X fork that may do the same thing, a third Bitcoin fork is in the making: Bitcoin Gold (Bgold; BTG). But …
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Sweden’s central bank, the Riksbank, is considering whether the country should introduce a purely digital form of government-backed money, perhaps using distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) similar to the blockchain technology underlying Bitcoin. This move is part of a recent trend: around the world, nations are considering cryptocurrencies issued by central banks; and recently, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave a speech hinting at its interest in the concept.A September 2017 report titled “The Riksbank’s e-krona project” outlines a proposal for a digital complement to cash, dubbed e-krona, which would be guaranteed by the state. “This is as revolutionary as the paper note 300 years ago,” Cecilia Skingsley, deputy governor at the Riksbank, told the Financial Times in November 2016. “What does it mean for monetary policy and financial stability? How do we design this: a rechargeable card, an app or another way?” Skingsley added that the type of technology to be used is under discussion.“With regard to DLT including blockchain technology, this is relatively new and untried technology that does not yet have any applications similar to the e-krona described in the report,” states the new Riksbank report. “Considerable research and development is being performed in DLT and many central banks are making efforts to research the technology, but there are only a few more significant DLT applications currently in production. This is partly due to the technology being so new and to it having some weaknesses, such as limitations in performance and a lack of standards and regulations. Development in DLT is progressing incredibly rapidly, however, and many major players are taking part in it.”The report notes that an important difference between cryptocurrencies and fiat currency is that a cryptocurrency that is not backed by a central bank has no inherent value but only speculative value, which implies a high volatility.According to the Riksbank, a digital central bank currency should work as a means of payment, unit of account and store of value. The proposed e-krona, targeted at the general public, combines these three functions. In particular, since the e-krona is a claim on the Riksbank and guaranteed by the government, it also fulfils the function as a store of value. The report assumes that the e-krona will be broadly available to the general public, but states that “it will not necessarily be a cryptocurrency, as this will depend on the choice of technology.”“A cryptocurrency issued by a central bank can either be made available to a broad general public or limited to large and time-critical payments between banks,” continues the Riksbank report. “If anonymity is not a decisive/desirable quality of the currency, the general public can instead be given access to accounts with the central bank to obtain access to cash in digital form.”Reading between the lines, it seems evident that the Riksbank does not consider anonymous transactions as a desirable feature, and would insist on filtering and managing the citizens’ access to a possible blockchain-based implementation of the e-krona. Of course, there’s nothing surprising here. The Riksbank’s move is partly motivated by the fact that the use of cash in Sweden is rapidly falling, with more and more people using private and often mobile e-payment means. The e-krona could be an alternative to private e-payment providers, but anonymity is not one of the features of cash that the central bank wants to emulate. On the contrary, the e-krona, especially if blockchain-based, would give the government the means to easily monitor all transactions.Global Interest in National Digital CurrenciesThe Riksbank isn’t the only central bank to consider issuing its own digital currency. The central banks of Singapore, Papua New Guinea, Canada and others are considering similar moves. A recent research paper issued by the Bank of Canada, which considers a possible Bitcoin standard similar to the gold standard, is especially interesting. Even China’s central bank is cautiously testing a digital currency.The Bank for International Settlements (BIS), an international financial organization owned by 60 member central banks, has published a paper titled “Central bank cryptocurrencies” in its BIS Quarterly Review.The paper makes a distinction between a “retail” central bank cryptocurrency (CBCC) and a “wholesale” one that would be used only by banks, and concludes that all central banks may eventually have to decide whether issuing retail or wholesale CBCCs makes sense in their own context. Here again, anonymity isn’t likely to be considered as a desirable feature, unless the citizens really want it. “The main benefit that a consumer-facing retail CBCC would offer, over the provision of public access to (centralized) central bank accounts, is that the former would have the potential to provide the anonymity of cash,” argues the BIS paper.Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), gave a speech at a Bank of England conference titled “Central Banking and Fintech — A Brave New World?”Lagarde uses the term “virtual currency” essentially as a synonym of “cryptocurrency.” According to Lagarde, virtual currencies such as bitcoin pose little or no challenge to the existing order because they are too volatile, too risky, too energy intensive and because the underlying technologies are not yet scalable. “Many are too opaque for regulators; and some have been hacked,” she added.On the other hand, continued Lagarde, current technical challenges could be solved and the use of virtual currencies could grow exponentially, especially in countries with weak institutions and unstable national currencies. Virtual currency could also open the door to better payment services and new models of financial intermediation.“[Citizens] may one day prefer virtual currencies, since they potentially offer the same cost and convenience as cash — no settlement risks, no clearing delays, no central registration, no intermediary to check accounts and identities,” concluded Lagarde. “If privately issued virtual currencies remain risky and unstable, citizens may even call on central banks to provide digital forms of legal tender.”The post Central Banks and the IMF Warm Up to (Centralized) Digital Currencies appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.
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Governments and central banks all over the world are gradually warming up to the idea of leveraging the unique advantages offered by blockchain technology — low-cost transactions permanently recorded in tamper-proof distributed ledgers — to modernize their financial systems.According to sources familiar with the matter, the Indian government is considering a proposal to introduce its own cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin, Business Standard reported last week. The new cryptocurrency would be managed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and could be called “Lakshmi.” Other central banks are exploring similar ideas.Of course, that will take time, and the governments are unlikely to support important features that make Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies appealing to end users, such as mining and near-anonymous, paperwork-free transactions. Therefore, Bitcoin, Ethereum and at least some altcoins are likely to continue to prosper.But some governments, such as China’s, don’t seem to like that. After banning Initial Coin Offerings (ICO), the Chinese government is moving to close the cryptocurrency exchanges operating in the country.It appears that governments love blockchain technology but hate Bitcoin itself, as well as other “crypto-anarchic” digital currencies. Some governments are reacting in a panic because they are starting to realize that they can’t stop Bitcoin from becoming an alternative to their monopoly on currency, both as a means of exchange and a store of value. Centralized cryptocurrency exchanges are especially vulnerable, and other governments could follow China.A Role for Decentralized ExchangesDecentralized exchanges that use peer-to-peer (P2P) technology to bypass the need for a central exchange provider are an interesting option that could make blockchain-based digital currencies much more resilient.Decred recently introduced atomic swap support for exchange-free cryptocurrency trading, showing that, at least for crypto-to-crypto trading (for example, exchanging bitcoin for litecoin), it’s perfectly possible to operate without exchanges. However, this doesn’t solve the problem of crypto-to-fiat and fiat-to-crypto trading, which is arguably of top concern for cryptocurrency users.“Atomic swaps are the first sign in a new wave of decentralization,” Decred project lead Jake Yocom-Piatt told Bitcoin Magazine. “As trustless exchanges between pairs of cryptocurrencies, they offer new efficiencies for users who don’t need the formality of the traditional exchanges. It is going to be interesting to see how the trend develops, since for larger and more complex transactions with fiat currencies, LocalBitcoins and established exchanges are still the place to be.” Coinffeine is developing an open-source, P2P Bitcoin exchange platform that will enable users to buy and sell bitcoins securely and anonymously, without having to rely on a centralized exchange. The project seems promising, but it hasn’t shown much activity recently.Bisq (formerly Bitsquare) provides an open-source desktop application that allows users to buy and sell bitcoins anonymously in exchange for national currencies or alternative crypto currencies. To protect users from fraud, both traders are required to place security deposits into a multisig-based escrow mechanism; the deposits are refunded after a trade completes. To handle disputes, Bisq features a decentralized and open arbitrator system. Bisq is now preparing to launch a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) and an ICO for its BSQ token, a colored coin on the Bitcoin blockchain.Decentralization and FreedomBitcoin Magazine reached out to Bisq developer Chris Beams for comments on government attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges, likely attack vectors and the impact of decentralized exchanges. Beams also offered a passionate and forceful defense of individual liberty against government over-interference.“The panic has to set in at some point,” argued Beams. “But it will do so at different times for different governments, and will produce a range of responses from them when it does. I don’t think China’s recent actions — whether they’re the product of panic or something more strategic — will necessarily cascade into similar actions in the U.S. or Europe. Shuttering all exchanges by diktat is the kind of textbook totalitarianism the world has come to expect from China, but a similar attack wouldn’t work as well in the U.S. Even if it would, it would be a blunder for the U.S. to attack Bitcoin with such a blunt instrument. It would be suboptimal, a bad use of available resources. It would strengthen the decentralized exchanges that already exist and it would incentivize the creation of better, even more censorship-resistant ones.”According to Beams, the U.S. in particular has much more effective tools at its disposal, especially Know Your Customer (KYC). The U.S. government forces nearly every centralized exchange, on day one of operation, to collect personal identity information about their users and to correlate trading activity with those identities. Beams explained that U.S. corporations tend to take compliance seriously and actually do cooperate with these rules, meaning that U.S. regulatory agencies have, in principle at least, access to enough information to de-anonymize a large and growing percentage of all Bitcoin transactions. And plausible traceability of transactions is all they need to keep the threat of tax collection in force.“If I were the U.S., I’d be ushering new Bitcoiners through the Coinbase cattle gate just as fast as they can be prodded,” said Beams. “If I were the U.S., I would have long since concluded there’s nothing fundamental I can do to stop Bitcoin itself, so if I can’t beat ’em, I’ll at least make sure I can continue to tax ’em.”The recent John Doe summons delivered to Coinbase by the IRS shows that KYC is the attack vector of choice for the U.S., which could result in billions in taxes reported by people who fear that their Bitcoin activity can be audited. KYC appears to be a much more effective long-term attack vector than heavy-handed shutdown orders.“So yes, by all means, let’s bring on the decentralized exchanges,” said Beams. “But they’d better be really and truly decentralized because if a government can stop them, they will — at least once they get big enough to become worth the effort. The attack vector with decentralized exchanges won’t be KYC, though, because any decentralized exchange that implements KYC will instantly be abandoned by its users.”The attack vector for decentralized exchanges, said Beams, will be “the good ole four horsemen of the infocalypse.” In other words, decentralized exchanges will be vilified as tools for drug dealers, terrorists, pedophiles and money launderers. “It’s the same script every time a government is interested in talking people out of their own freedoms. This attack vector won’t work for the exchanges that have achieved escape velocity levels of decentralization, but it may stop some and will make life difficult for others.”Beams suggested that the only way to really stop decentralized crypto-fiat exchanges would be to outlaw Bitcoin trading altogether. “This would force people to think twice about every trade, and to consider whether their counterparty might be an agent, which would result in a profound chilling effect.”However, he thinks that this sort of heavy-handed attack seems unlikely to be attempted in the U.S. or Europe because there are just too many vested interests in Bitcoin now. It’s more likely that the authorities will continue to insist on KYC, tolerate compliant centralized exchanges and demonize the decentralized ones.“With all that having been said, I’m actually optimistic,” concluded Beams. “Attacks by state actors — real and threatened — are making every part of this ecosystem stronger. Bitcoin has proven itself anti-fragile as hell thus far, and by the time all the battles have been waged, what will emerge on the other side are alternatives to existing financial institutions — money, banks, exchanges and all the rest — that are actually better in every way than their traditional counterparts. “We are being forced by the threat of state violence to design crypto-economic systems with the highest degrees of security, privacy and censorship resistance baked in from the protocol level up. That very pressure is what is propelling these solutions forward, I think, into a bright future of genuine financial freedom for people. I wouldn’t be working on this stuff if I thought otherwise.”The post How Decentralized Exchanges Make Bitcoin More Resilient (and Us More Free) appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.
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Blockchain healthcare company Patientory has been busy since Bitcoin Magazine first covered the organization in May.The company, which is putting electronic medical records (EMRs) on an Ethereum-based blockchain for better security, has obtained funding and partnerships to help promote its concept. By the time it launches its enterprise solution, the company wants to give medical practitioners healthcare at their fingertips — and easy account settlement for patients and healthcare payers alike.Patientory released its payment token, “PTOY,” on May 31. The three-day token sale raised $7.2 million from over 1,700 purchasers. The company is using the funding to launch its smart contract-based platform for EMR storage and patient payment processing. “The healthcare system is fragmented,” explained Chrissa McFarlane, CEO of Patientory. As McFarlane pointed out, Patientory “really brings together the industry as a collective toward reducing costs and improving not only the U.S. healthcare infrastructure but the global healthcare ecosystem.”Since its crowdsale, the company has focused on integrating with other networks to help build a decentralized ecosystem for healthcare participants. One of the most significant developments for Patientory came in late August when it announced its partnership with the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger initiative. Hyperledger follows the Linux Foundation’s model of building reference platforms for commonly-used technologies. What it did for Linux, it hopes to do for the blockchain. Just as there are multiple Linux distributions, the project will spawn a family of blockchain frameworks using code from a single reference platform, making it easier for the frameworks to interoperate with each other.A key part of a smart contract-based platform is an oracle, an agent that derives information from a third-party information source; which Patientory will build to communicate with Hyperledger’s code.But Hyperledger won’t be the group’s only such partnership. “The future of the blockchain is that there will be multiple chains out there,” explained McFarlane. She expects to build oracles for those, too.One of Patientory’s key goals is to integrate disparate processes in the healthcare system to produce end-to-end visibility. “If we’re going to use the blockchain to really be the foundational layer for that interoperability, then the chains have to interact with each other and provide the same functionality,” McFarlane said.The company is paying similar attention to payments integration. Blockchain-based digital cash network Dash has partnered with blockchain web services company BlockCypher to offer a grant program for organizations integrating their services. Patientory announced its participation in that program in August. “Dash is purely digital cash, so we’re able to spearhead and accelerate the usage of digital currency for transactions in the health industry,” said McFarlane.With this integration initiative, Patientory is focusing on healthcare payers. They can use the network for claims processing, finding patients securely and processing their claims transactions. Patients will also be able to use the system for settling payments. Using the blockchain for payments between providers will drive efficiencies into a traditionally complex and bureaucratic system. Patientory “decreases their transaction fees and overhead from an administrative level,” said McFarlane.Patientory has been busy building relationships in other ways, too. McFarlane now chairs a blockchain working group; and July saw the company win an “innovation mention” in the #Patient2Consumer challenge organized by start-up network 1776 and the MedStar Institute for Innovation. Patientory is also active on the conference circuit and is involved in the Distributed: Health conference currently taking place in Nashville.On the technical side, Patientory established its genesis block in July and launched its Alpha testnet.Perhaps the biggest task facing the company now, though, is educating the market: It hopes to do so through the Patientory Foundation, the organization that orchestrated the crowdsale.“A part of that at the Foundation level is to host events,” McFarlane said. “We promote the concept and providing an avenue for people to ask questions and learn about the process and how everything works in this space.”The company is hoping to launch its enterprise solution and beta the 1.0 version of it by the end of this year. Its focus now is on proving its concept, scaling the platform and fostering adoption. The first half of 2017 may have been busy, but for Patientory, much is still to come.The post Patientory’s Journey to Change Healthcare appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.
Carbon credits trading (also known as “cap and trade”) as a means to help mitigate the effects of global climate change has long been advocated by environmentalists fighting one of the most intransigent environmental challenges of the 21st century.Now ConsenSys and CarbonX Personal Carbon Trading Inc. have stepped up to enable the first-ever peer-to-peer carbon credit trading platform, built on the Ethereum blockchain.CarbonX Personal Carbon Trading Inc. is principally a Tapscott family enterprise, with CEO and founder William (Bill) Tapscott, co-founder and CMO Jane Ricciardelli, chair of the board of directors Don Tapscott, and director and board member Alex Tapscott. Bill Tapscott is a software engineer who has founded and co-founded a number of tech startups including IntelliOne, a cell phone geo-location and traffic data processing company; Maptuit, a navigation and optimization software company in transportation logistics; and Mountain Lake Software, a custom software development company with a strong financial services practice.Tapscott told Bitcoin Magazine:“My interest in carbon trading and clean technologies was piqued by being on the Investment Committee of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, a City of Toronto venture fund with a mandate to develop greenhouse gas reduction projects and companies.“CarbonX will engage millions of people in fighting climate change by materially rewarding responsible behaviors toward the personal consumption of carbon. CarbonX will achieve this by investing in carbon reduction projects and re-casting generated offsets as ERC20 tokens on an Ethereum Blockchain.“CarbonX’s ultimate goal is to become the global exchange for peer-to-peer personal carbon trading.”Don Tapscott, chair of the CarbonX board of directors said in a post:“… climate change is arguably the world’s most daunting challenge. Virtually every scientist now agrees that the debate is over. Rising average surface temperatures combined with rapidly expanding deserts, melting Arctic sea ice caps and ocean acidification now provide unequivocal evidence that human activities are fundamentally altering the Earth’s climate.”ConsenSys was one of the first startups to build practical applications for the Ethereum blockchain. Their mission is to create simplified and automated decentralized applications (dApps) to facilitate peer-to-peer transactions and exchanges, principally on the Ethereum blockchain.In a statement, ConsenSys founder and Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin said:“As one of the fastest growing companies working on Ethereum, a platform that is poised to reformat how the world organizes itself, ConsenSys is committed to enabling technologies to be built that will facilitate attention to externalities like pollution and critical new foundations like sustainability.“CarbonX has the potential to incentivize behavior that contributes to environmental sustainability, and is an excellent example of Ethereum-based technologies poised to make positive change,” added Lubin.The CarbonX Token CxTThe CarbonX initiative will buy carbon credits from environmentally sustainable practices like ridesharing and will invest in carbon reduction projects like tree planting and convert this value to Ethereum ERC20 tokens known as CxT tokens.CarbonX will be announcing a formal token launch in the near future. CxT tokens will be distributed through an open-loop-style loyalty rewards program. The CxTs will then be tradeable on the CarbonX platform and be able to be exchanged for carbon-friendly goods and services, other reward program points or other digital currencies.For verification, CarbonX will use industry-standard carbon offsets like the REDD and VCS offsets (for example, to apply to ridesharing) and will convert these into CxT tokens.Investments in carbon reduction projects that will generate offsets will use government protocols, such as those developed by the Ontario provincial government, for example. “The CxTs will be awarded by enterprises who encourage ridesharing, and brands/retailers who wish to feature products that are carbon-friendly. We will provide guidelines, and consumers/users will be able to track overall performance. In the example of rideshare, we plan to work with companies like Luum and their clients to incent carbon-friendly behaviors. There are many ways we can boost awareness and responsibility for personal action in the fight,” explained Tapscott.Well-known environmentalist Richard Sandor, chair and CEO of Environmental Financial Products and founder of the Chicago Climate Exchange, has endorsed the CarbonX initiative, saying:“Blockchain technology has the potential to further expand the applications of market-based mechanisms to help solve environmental concerns. I am pleased to support CarbonX as another positive step towards transparency, accountability and lower transaction costs.”The post CarbonX and ConsenSys Put P2P Carbon Credit Trading on the Blockchain appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.
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