Fintech Friday #5
Welcome to the fifth edition of Fintech Friday! From now on you can find the archive of all previous editions on the official website.
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The majority of mass adoption this week is a result of business partnerships, media coverage and development of accessibility towards average users. It's obvious that blockchain technology has no intention of slowing down, despite shocking new implications of ecological stress.
Partnerships and enterprise adoption
The week started out with the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo advertising a new ICO on their platform. This feature has existed since December 2017 when Indiegogo was originally forced to cancel a successful ICO of 5.2 million USD after SEC problems. The new ICO being advertised on Indiegogo is a real estate token serving as an equity in the St. Regis Aspen Resort hotel. It's important to note that Indiegogo isn't the actual platform selling the tokens - they only provide the landing page and branding. They're there to redirect visitors to Templum who make sure all investors are accredited, thus limiting the investor pool dramatically.
Yahoo! Finance now lets its USA visitors buy cryptocurrencies directly from its crypto pages through their partner TradeIt. For now, this option is only available through the iOS app, but it's coming to desktop, Android and web.
The blockchain startup Civil entered a partnership with one of the oldest names in publishing - Associated Press - for the sake of licensing and tracking written material and fighting plagiarism and fake news. Their platform is still under development, funded by an initial funding round of 5 million USD from ConsenSys.
In partnership with IBM, Australia intends to launch a national blockchain on which businesses could execute transactions between one another and IoT devices while staying in the limits of Australian regulations.
The financial arm of Siemens is building a banking guarantees system on the R3 Corda blockchain solution for Standard Chartered, a multinational banking giant. At the same time, Samsung SDS - a subsidiary of the tech giant - is building BankSign, a certification platform for South Korean banks based on the blockchain. This platform serves to cross-authenticate users in between different banks, so that authentication via one mobile banking app can, for example, be considered valid in another.
In Russia, the S7 Airline company tested the implementation of blockchain technology and smart contracts with their refueling partners Gazprom Neft. The system is based on the AFSC (Aviation Fuel Smart Contract) blockchain which is probably a private version of Ethereum, but we can't confirm this as not much is known about it. The point of the implementation is instant settlement of refueling costs without bank guarantees and pre-payments, essentially eliminating a lot of paperwork. Also in Russia, plans are in place to revamp the failing pension system and work contract system with a blockchain based one. In 2017 alone, $293 million in fines was doled out to small and medium enterprises for breaking employment contracts, while the system as a whole is inefficient and full of "camper employees" which need to be pruned as dead weight. In one fell swoop, Russia aims to fix both those problems with a blockchain based system for public and transparent overview of work contracts.
Rather than ask for permission to sell securities, the US exchange Bittrex decided to enter a partnership with Rialto Trading who have been doing that exact thing in the traditional finance market for a long time, offering fixed income services. Bittrex is planning to sell tokens through Rialto which it is not allowed to sell on its own due to SEC regulations.
The Japanese New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) under guidance from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is working on a blockchain solution for shipping container tracking and logging, as well as dissemination of this data among interested parties. If you remember, last week we reported on the first ever successful blockchain-trace of a shipping container which ended up in Slovenia. Likewise in Japan, Fujitsu announced that they would use IOTA to track manufacturing of components. This is IOTA's first real-world major use case.
In China, Alipay launched blockchain tracking of the famous Wuchang rice the counterfeit versions of which have dramatically expanded over the country. By tracking the authenticity, buyers can verify the the origin of a supply but the truth of this, of course, still depends on the honesty of those doing the data input and rice packaging. At the same time, Yuanben - a Chinese blockchain startup - signed an agreement with Maritime Silk Road Platform, a company for international shipping. It would seem that the shipping industry across the world is the one most desperate to blockchainize its systems.
On the Bahamas, the Blockcerts program has been launched for verification of educational documents and certificates. The program is supported and tested by government institutions and serves to validate credentials and CVs, with a planned expansion of applicable context.
In India, the Democratic Party entered a partnership with MiVote, a digital democracy effort and group in order to create blockchain-based politics for the Party. The aim is to have voting and memberships of the Party represented on the blockchain for full transparency. Whether this will see more adoption down the line remains to be seen.
It is now possible to send Bitcoin via SMS through four different solutions: Coinapult, Blockchain wallet, Cointext and Ponydirect.
On the education front, Coinbase performed a survey of universities and their students on crypto which made the internet rounds after being typically misinterpreted by CoinDesk who said that 18% of students own cryptocurrency.
As usual, CoinDesk were going for the hype effect and hoping to clickbait their way back into relevance, thus pushing the fact that this number applied only to the students who actually enrolled in a blockchain course to the bottom of the article. 18%, while sounding extreme for general population, is in fact very low for an all-blockchain-students group.
While we're on the topic of education, the aforementioned Coinbase survey showed unprecedented desire for growth and formalization of blockchain education in the world. The survey shows that 42% of the top 50 universities in the world now offer some type of blockchain content. Oxford, for example, just opened a blockchain research center, while - according to Quartz - Cornell University offers the most blockchain and crypto courses in the world right now. Likewise, Malta's University and MITA (Malta Information Technology Agency) announced an intent to form a 300,000 euro scholarship fund for funding courses that carry at least 30 ECTS points and focus on DLT. Joshua Broggi, an Oxford researcher wants to take this idea further and open a dedicated Blockchain University on Malta. It looks like blockchain expertise is becoming more and more valuable. So much so that Hong Kong even added blockchain skills to the list of skills that make immigration easier.
Enjin Coin, a blockchain focused on video games, announced recently that their system will be used by 6 different studios building 6 different games to bring them together in a virtual world. In other words, the OASIS from Ready Player One is coming one step closer to reality. Imagine wearing a virtual coat from one game on your avatar in another.
The Loom company which has been working on Zombie Battleground now has 3 sidechains in production: GameChain is spinning Zombie Battleground, SocialChain is running DelegateCall, their Q&A platform, and PlasmaChain is there to facilitate moving of tokens from the game or DelegateCall to the main Ethereum blockchain. What's really pushing mass adoption here is the fact that Zombie Battleground is running fully on the blockchain without ever once mentioning wallets, transaction costs, gas, or even the blockchain itself to the user. It's fully transparent and extremely accessible - even on mobile.
Another big step forward in mass adoption and accessibility is Wyre's approach to on-chain KYC. They're planning to, in accordance with regulation, offer KYC of specific addresses on-chain, which would effectively act as Twitter's blue "verified" checkmarks. This would let some Ethereum address owners bypass the KYC process of certain platforms and projects, bringing legitimacy to Ethereum identities.
In Japan, the social messaging giant Line has launched its own blockchain called LINK. The blockchain will serve the purpose of a platform for launching dedicated LINK/LINE apps, much like Facebook's apps once upon a time.
In a further chase of accessibility towards those on the fringes of the crypto space, a site called CryptoMoms appeared. It's intended for - mothers. We don't know what education mothers need specifically that doesn't apply to everyone else, but OK.
Media coverage and celebrities
Hackers broke into Elon Musk's Twitter account last week and started running an Ethereum scam through it. After reclaiming his account, Elon himself tweeted that he wouldn't mind some ether, which sent Twitter and Reddit into a frenzy.
The BBC covered Decentraland in a new report. Decentraland is a cryptocurrency project which deals with unalienable virtual space in a virtual environment - virtual real estate. They're building the world's first virtual reality world with actual real estate properties from the real world. The project has been around for a while, but BBC's attention brought them new users.
With this kind of progress, it's no wonder so many people decide to enter the crypto waters through our sponsor: Coinvendor.io. Coinvendor is a platform for hedged purchases, where you buy at price X today and pay price X tomorrow or when convenient. Your crypto coins are instantly ready and waiting for you at the original price, regardless of volatility.
Status Quo and Regulation
The current status of cryptocurrency and blockchain regulation is described in a recent post on Bitfalls.com, but current movements go beyond this as you'll see below.
The banks are, apparently, relaxing a bit towards blockchain technology if nothing else. Five big banks: The Brazilian National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES), the State Corporation Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs (Vnesheconombank), the Export-Import Bank of India, the China Development Bank, and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding about development of blockchain technology in the effort to improve the digital economy. Each of the banks had its own active blockchain projects and experiments so there's no doubt this partnership will foster innovation (and, undoubtedly, some good patent trolling).
Apart from that, the Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten (CBCS) partnered with Bitt to develop a national cryptocurrency whereas the Reserve Bank of India opened a separate research department for investigating the use and technological potential of blockchain and cryptocurrency. This unit will also be in charge of drafting regulation proposals.
Some banks are even being forced to adopt cryptocurrency. In Venezuela, a country ravaged by corruption and inflation, President Maduro is reported to have ordered both private and public banks to display account balances of their customers in both Bolivar and the Petro currency.
In Poland, crypto regulation is being given a new look as new decisions about taxation are being made.
In the USA and Canada, around 200 cryptocurrency investigations are in progress regarding illegal or unregistered activity, whereas Russia is discussing criminalization of unreported cryptocurrency trades and transactions. This is hot on the heels of Russia announcing that it plans to launch a blockchain auto-analysis software by the end of 2018 - something similar to Audithor's.
As usual, we'll let you judge the good guys from the bad guys in the world of patents of open technology. This week's protagonists and antagonists are:
- RedHat is trying to patent blockchain tracking of cloud service usage. The idea is to log cloud resource use in a blockchain for easier audits and billing.
- Bank of America is trying to patent secure storage of cryptocurrency. Their ex-VP says they have always been and remain openly hostile to cryptocurrencies and that these patents are just for show and patent trolling and an illusion of innovation.
- Square managed to patent payment via cryptocurrencies in stores.
Danger, wet floor!
As per feedback from some of our readers, the Crime and Punishment section has been renamed and will now focus only on active scams and technical slip-ups you may encounter, rather than list everything that went wrong in the past week.
The week started on a positive note as cryptocurrency exchange Kraken openly squashed any rumors of ever listing OneCoin and publicly proclaiming the project a Ponzi scheme. Remember - OneCoin has been "planning" to launch a blockchain in October of this year for years now, but even now their pyramid approaches are running rampant. If you happen to run into a rumor that "OneCoin has a blockchain now", keep in mind that even if true, it still took them 4 years longer than everyone else to learn how to launch a worthless token on Ethereum, and that their previous income was all completely illegal. This pyramid will fall soon, there's no doubt about it.
There are many active scams and while we believe you would all easily recognize frauds like Icon Classic, we also feel obliged to warn you about USI-Tech which is trying to save the pyramid from collapsing by launching an ICO. POSMiners is a pyramid scheme and cloud mining mix that's also best avoided, and Holiday Coin Club is a pyramid scheme that looks and feels like it was plucked from the good old days of the 90s. Switzerland and Australia have also warned about the Ponzi-scheme-nature of AladinCoin.
Security and Privacy
John McAfee, the most ruthless current criminal of the cryptocurrency sphere, opened an account on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. If by some chance you're reading this in China, please know that every word spoken and written by that person is uttered exclusively with the purpose to take as much of your money as possible.
While on the topic of frauds and scammers, this Chrome extension will flag potentially scammy ICO websites.
Tech Advancements and New Software
From a tech perspective, other than the fact that after much discussion we've learned that Ethereum's block reward is being decreased from 5 to 2 Ether per block, a lot of new software popped up - from tools, to new version of existing libraries, to applications.
- Hydroswap is a web widget for web apps and dapps which allows users to easily and quickly exchange tokens on the decentralized 0x protocol. It's like a mini decentralized DEX in your app. Full explanation here.
- Mythril Platform API is a new Software as a Service platform from the makers of the Mythril code analysis tool for improving the security of Solidity code while programming.
- Eth-kvstore lets you bind arbitrary data to an Ethereum address and restore it later or have others read it. It's a simple storage mechanism for Ethereum addresses and their metadata.
- Browseth is a new library for quickly getting off the ground when building a new web3 or wallet project. If you're starting something new, give this tool a go.
- PeaceBridge or how to connect Ethereum and Ethereum Classic
- Cardstack published a tool with which a RESTful interface can easily be auto-generated for a smart contract
- Etherlime is now at version 0.9
- Cardano announced the availability of its Marlowe programming language for writing financial transaction
- Sect War is a territorial tower defense game on the NEO blockchain
- Cryptories is a territorial land-buying game on the Byteball platform
- Ether Kingdoms is an army-battle strategy game with character upgrades that's planning to integrate with CryptoKitties and bring these kittens to war
- Zombie Battleground now also has a mobile alpha version which works like a charm (I am a tester)
- IOTA has a new beta version of the Trinity wallet
- Lisk Core is finally at version 1.0 (VIDEO of migration)
- Town Square is a fully decentralized blog/forum platform built on Ethereum and hosted on IPFS, and it's open source
- Ethtective is a tool for visually investigating the Ethereum blockchain
- Spark is a new GUI for c-lightning, Bitcoin's Lightning Network
- The NEXT wallet is lightweight and open source and supports several coins
- A list of awesome resources for token curated registries
- An EIP for tokens that represent recurring subscriptions on the Ethereum network
- A Proof of Concept of Attestations on the Blockchain (with code)
- Using LibSubmarine to temporarily hide transactions on Ethereum. Useful for on-chain voting when you need to hide your vote until everyone has voted.
- Here's how to programmatically register an ENS domain and implement the lookup into your own application
- VIDEO: a tutorial of trading tokens on the Kyber decentralized exchange
- VIDEO: a tutorial on how to read Ethereum blockchain data with Golang
- Ethernauts LVL 8 or how to read private variables from smart contract storage
- Learn from examples - the source code of 600 of the most popular tokens
- 5 best web locations to learn Solidity
- Using state-less smart contracts for dramatic price improvements in smart contract execution
- Official guide on getting started with Drizzle and React
- An example of code for authenticating into a PHP app with the MetaMask wallet
More interesting links
- A simple explanation of
- A list of Ethereum obituaries
- Localethereum published their technical whitepaper, firing shots at useless ICOs with pointless tokens
- Aragon / Enter the World of Personal DAO - a method of making crypto wallets accessible to and usable by everyone, regardless of technical literacy levels
- The Ethereum blockchain can now be searched in Google's BigQuery, allowing for complex investigations without hosting your own node
- Can we replace centralized browser plugin stores with a "dextension" ecosystem?
- Progress report on the Ethereum Moon project
- The most up to date report on the state of the Ethereum protocol
- Cryptoeconomics Study is a free and open source course about the economics of tokens, and about building your own blockchain, consensus mechanism, and plasma chain.
- What is a Bitcoin Mixer and what is a Cryptocurrency Tumbler?
- Cryptocurrencies can now be stored in DNA (not your DNA!) - but you'll need a DNA sequencer or the help of a lab to decrypt them again
- Ethereum - the missing piece of the internet
- How a 51% attack actually works and what it makes possible
- ENS workshop retrospective - what we've learned
- How Coinbase secures its cryptocurrency: Faraday cages
- DAI reward rate increased for multi-collateralized contracts
- How Plasma Debit works
- Solidity.wtf - what NOT to do when coding Solidity
That's it for this week. From next month onward, every other edition will come with extra content for all premium subscribers - a recommendation of a new project to pay attention to, investment-wise or otherwise.
From October onwards, we're planning to make a cut between the free and premium version of the newsletter in order to have premium subs get not only additional content, but also a weekly newsletter instead of a bi-weekly one. More on that in a future edition.