Antshares Rebrands, Introduces NEO and the New Smart Economy

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At a gathering at the Microsoft headquarters in Beijing on Thursday, with about 200 people in attendance, Antshares, the first open-source blockchain platform developed in China, announced a complete rebranding of its blockchain solution, as well as a number of other developments detailing their ambitious plans forward.

One of the revelations was the platform’s new name and brand, NEO, which in Greek means newness, novelty and youth. The developers also highlighted the strengths of their advanced smart contract code, which will support decentralized commerce, digital identities and the digitization of many different assets. This rebranding of Antshares represents a new direction for the development of China’s blockchain community.

Currently, holders of ANS can now automatically generate Antcoins (ANC) in their Antshares wallets, which will be used as gas on the platform. The ANS asset symbol will become NEO in the 3rd quarter of 2017; meanwhile, the NEO team is working on new clients and a UI for the new NEO brand.

Throughout the day, there were presentations from participants including Microsoft representatives, NEO platform developers, and founders of partner platforms. Among the select attendees were several major potential investors, industry experts and blockchain enthusiasts, as well as members of the Chinese financial and mainstream media, including CCTV.

Presenters at the conference included: 

Da Hongfei, founder of NEO

After announcing NEO’s new brand and strategy, Da Hongfei elaborated on the future of blockchain technology, where every asset will be digitized and programmable with smart contracts. Calling for the transparency and openness of data, he introduced concepts of the “Smart Economy” and new smart contract system, and announced that he is building a new multi-chain protocol for interoperability.

Da Hongfei’s top revelations at the conference were that:

  • NEO is collaborating with certificate authorities in China to map real-world assets using smart contracts;

  • NEO has received a new patent for cross-chain distributed interoperability;

  • NEO’s recent new startup partners include Bancor, Agrello, Coindash, Nest Fund, and Binance, with more partner announcements to come.

Erik Zhang, Core Developer of NEO

In his presentation, Erik Zhang discussed the evolution of Smart Contracts 2.0, and explained the main differences between NEO and Ethereum. One big contrast of these competing platforms is their programming languages. Ethereum requires developers to learn to program with Solidity. Neo, on the other hand, will support almost all programming languages via a compiler, including those on Microsoft.net, Java, Kotlin, Go and Python, greatly lowering the difficulty for developers to write smart contracts. By making its programming languages more inclusive, NEO hopes to attract a larger community of developers. Zhang also explained the mechanics of the NEO Virtual Machine, its execution engine and interoperability.  

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Slide Of The NEO Virtual Machine

Tony Tao, CEO of NEO and Founder of Nest Fund

Based on the concept of Ethereum’s The DAO, a blockchain-based investment fund, Tony Tao is about to release a whitepaper for a similar project. Called Nest Fund, and built on NEO’s blockchain, this fund will make improvements on the failures of The DAO. By offering a global bounty reward for any hacker who finds bugs, Nest will be audited by a worldwide peer review, and will then release its token for decentralized investing.

Srikanth Raju, Microsoft’s G.M of Developer Experience and Evangelism for the Greater China Region 

According to Mr. Raju, blockchain technology will lead us into a new digital age, displacing traditional businesses and middlemen throughout many industries. He said that Onchain (the company that founded NEO) is “one of the top 50 startup companies in China”, and offered his support for their endeavors going forward.

 Mr. Han Feng, Tsinghua University I-Center 

Fostering innovation and entrepreneurship at the top university in China, Tsinghua University’s I-Center focuses on the large-scale integration of technology resources. Speaking for the university’s growing interest in supporting blockchain technology, Mr. Han Feng said that current systems of commerce are “outdated and insecure,” and that the internet is ready for an upgrade to a blockchain-based operating system. Calling for a fully-automated, blockchain-based, decentralized economy, he said we can expect a digital revolution in the years to come. This will include digital currency, decentralized storage, secure smart contract codes, IoT, AI, and many more innovations.

 Chen Cheng Qiang, founder and CEO of Innospace

Located in Shanghai, Innospace is a business incubation company, with office spaces, meeting spaces, cafes and living spaces. At today’s conference, Innospace CEO Chen Cheng Qiang announced a ¥200 million CNY ($29.3 million USD) incubation fund, a collaboration between his company and the NEO blockchain team. Plans for the fund include the establishment of a new blockchain space in Shanghai, combining working spaces, startup incubation and acceleration services. According to Mr. Qiang, his company plans to provide the most successful entrepreneurship acceleration services in China.

 Alex Norta, founder of Agrello

Coming all the way from Estonia, Alex Norta announced that his startup Agrello will be partnering with NEO to develop smart contracts for automation, self-execution, accuracy and transparency. Powered by AI, Agrello will be a platform for non-programmers to create their own legally binding blockchain-based smart contracts. Use cases for Agrello’s tech include renting and sharing, freelance contracting, orchestrating production flows, and reducing administration costs for multinational corporations.

Adam Efrima, CEO of Coindash

With offices in Israel and Shanghai, Coindash will be a social trading platform for crypto assets, offering portfolio management tools for digital asset investors. Features of the platform will include portfolio statistics and management tools, investment automation, an ICO dashboard, and insights into other traders’ successful investing strategies. In the upcoming development of Nest Fund, a blockchain-based smart fund by the developers of NEO, Coindash will offer advisory and prediction tools for Nest’s modern investors.

Mr. Zhao Chang Peng, CEO of Binance 

The former CTO of OkCoin, Mr. Zhao Chang Peng is starting his own digital asset exchange, hoping to compete with platforms like Poloniex. Calling his new platform Binance, this new exchange will only deal in coin-to-coin transactions, avoiding fiat pairs and therefore avoiding Chinese regulations. In order to maintain a standard in mature digital assets, Binance will only list coins that meet its strict criteria. With a launch planned for later this year, the platform’s first traded assets will be bitcoin, ether and NEO. 


From the looks, sounds, and energy of the event, NEO has built up some strong momentum going forward. They have one the top blockchain development teams in all of China, with 50 million ANS ($325 million) to support their funding needs and a growing list of partners now aligning by their side. While it may take some time to steal the spotlight from Ethereum, we are sure to see more from this platform in the months to come.  

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Op Ed: Three Technical Requirements to Connect Blockchains Without a Token

Op Ed: Three Technical Requirements to Connect Blockchains Without a Token

In my last post, I was talking about how connecting all blockchains is the final stepping stone for mass-crypto adoption. Here I want to outline the technical building blocks with which this idea can be implemented.

Since I see a lot of downsides to having one large uber-blockchain connecting all others, I will focus on a token-LESS solution. This would have several advantages:

  • No need for an additional token.

  • Users can “remain” on their blockchain.

  • No need to trust a centralized third party.

There are a couple of downsides to such an approach however. Since there is no uber-blockchain or a centralized party ensuring the connection, there needs to be enough liquidity between two blockchains to be connected. If I want to transfer funds from the Ethereum to the Bitcoin blockchain, for example, I need someone who, at the same time, wants to go from bitcoin to ether. For these two large blockchains, you will always find someone willing to go in either direction, but what about from Ethereum to a smaller blockchain or a small blockchain to another small blockchain? While I will be laying out a way on how that could even be solved, I want to stress that liquidity is the key economic factor in such a cryptographically secure multi-asset network.

Basic Building Blocks

Let’s look at the three very basic building blocks that are needed to connect any two blockchains:

  1. Multisignature feature (Multisig);

  2. Hashing functionality; and

  3. Time-lock functionality

Let’s work through each of these three and combine them into a larger single picture.

1. Multisig is an old and well-trusted concept that can be compared to a shared checkbook with multiple required signatories. A multisig transaction allows for the enforcement of arbitrary joint signature rules. In the case of a cryptographically secure, off-chain, multi-asset, instant transaction network (COMIT) one would use 2-of-2 multisig transactions for which both signers have to sign a transaction to become valid and be accepted by the network (an example of this will follow right after). This means a multisig transaction established between two parties needs to be signed by both so that its outcome becomes valid and can be accepted by the network.

In the picture below, a transaction was created with 1 BTC as input; however, in order to get it out, both parties (Alice and Bob) have to sign the transaction:

 

2. Hash functions are standard cryptographic concepts. These are one-way functions to convert arbitrary data (in our case a secret “s”) into a unique hash “h.” This hash h can then be shared safely without anyone being able to compute the secret s used to create it. This allows us to build a hash-lock transaction which will only unlock the funds with the knowledge of the secret s. In order to route across different blockchains, we need the same cryptographic hash function available in the smart contracting language of each blockchain participating on such a route.

In the picture below, someone put 1 BTC into a contract, but Alice can only take it out once she has the secret (which she normally would get from Bob).

3. Time-lock is a simple requirement for funds to be locked up until a future date. Blockchains are found to have two different time-locks: relative and absolute. Absolute time-locks will lock a transaction output until a fixed point in time in the future, whereas relative time-locks will lock a transaction output relative to an event or a point in time. That is to say, a relative time-lock rather defines a time span than a specific point in time. Time-locks are a requirement for trustless payment channels, and relative time-locks are recommended as they allow for indefinitely open payment channels.

In the example below, someone put 1 BTC in, but in order for Alice to get it out, she has to wait a predefined time. 

Putting It Together 

If we go ahead and combine these three building blocks, we get something called HTLCs (Hashed Time-Lock Contracts) whose states can be updated on a multisig basis. HTLCs combine the concept of a time-lock for refund purposes with a hash-lock. If the recipient can provide the secret s for the hash-lock before the expiry of the time-lock, he will be able to retrieve the funds. Otherwise, the sender can safely reclaim the funds. In case one party wants to update the HTLCs state, he needs the other party’s approval (signature). This is how the multisig function comes into play.

In the example below, Alice put 1 BTC into the contract with Bob. Bob can either take the 1 BTC out if he gets the hash from Alice within a predefined time, or Alice will get the funds back automatically after that predefined time has past.

Two HTLCs can be coupled with each other resulting in something called atomic transactions. To do so, the recipient first generates a secret s and computes its hash h. Subsequently, the recipient will share this hash h with a sender who in turn creates the first conditional transaction, i.e., its output is (hash-)locked by h. This output can only be redeemed with the knowledge of the secret s.

In layman’s terms, this would mean that if Bob wants to send Alice 1 BTC and wants ETH in return, they could open two payment channels (one with BTC and the other with ETH) and couple them with a hash h. Bob sends Alice BTC as long as she sends him ETH. In case either one backs out, the original amounts would just be returned.

The Full Route 

Now we can stack an arbitrary amount of transactions onto each other as every node in this chain can safely use the same hash to create a transaction which is also conditional on knowing the secret s. This hash is initially shared with the sender, who will then subsequently send a conditional payment to the first node requiring knowledge of the secret s to redeem it. Each node in the route can then safely forward the transaction while adding the same condition to the transaction redemption. Through the use of HTLCs we can guarantee that either all of the transactions via this route get fulfilled or all payment channel transactions will be unredeemable. No trust has to be put in any of the nodes in the middle of the route. In the end, you have a chain of transactions which all depend on the same secret to be fulfilled. When the receiver takes the last transaction and uses the secret to redeem the money, every other node will see the secret that was used and can then fulfill their own incoming transaction.

After the secret s has been shared across the route, every payment channel will then settle the transaction back into the channel. This is done by updating the payment channel’s state to the final balances and then invalidating the HTLC transactions by revealing the invalidation key k to the payment channel counterparty, which will eventually make the transaction complete.

The time-lock mechanism is used as a refund mechanism in case of an intermittent routing failure. The time-locks need to be stacked from receiver to sender to make sure no one is able to cheat by having a shorter period than someone after him/her and thereby being able to pull out first.

Conclusion 

These transactions can span within the same blockchain, but can also go cross-chain as long as you find someone who is willing to transact on both blockchains. This is where the concept of liquidity and routing comes in. To go back to the beginning where we thought about connecting two low-liquidity blockchains we see now, that we actually don’t necessarily transact between those two directly. By using stacked payment channels one after the other, money could flow from one low liquidity chain to a high liquidity chain and then to the final low liquidity chain. 

This concept connects payment channels to a large network that is now:

  • Cryptographically-secure (relies on cryptographic standards),

  • Off-chain (like the Lightning- or Raiden-Network) ,

  • Multi-Asset (cross-chain),

  • Instant (no need for a transaction to settle on the blockchain as updates only happen between the parties until it gets broadcasted)

  • A Transaction Network, such as COMIT.

In the next blog post, I will talk about the concept of liquidity and Liquidity Providers (LP) and also on how routing through such a network could work.


This is a guest post by Dr. Julian Hosp, the co-founder of TenX and co-author of the whitepapers of TenX and COMIT. The views expressed are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Bitcoin Magazine.

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E&Y Report: How the Wealth Management Industry Could Benefit from the Blockchain

E&Y Report: How the Wealth Management Industry Could Benefit from the Blockchain

Blockchain technology has morphed from a popular buzzword to a technology that is in the process of revamping a wide range of operational and business processes within the financial service industry. A segment of the financial industry that could benefit greatly from the implementation of the distributed ledger technology is the wealth and asset management sector.

The global accountancy firm Ernst & Young published a report on the benefits of blockchain technology for the wealth and asset management industry titled ‘Blockchain Innovation in Wealth and Asset Management.’ The report states that the implementation of blockchain technology would likely result in reduced operational expenses, elimination of redundant yet time consuming functions and more opportunities to better the client experience. More specifically, using blockchain technology in important areas such as the client onboarding process, the creation of model portfolios, the settling and clearing of trades and compliance processes related to AML regulations can all be improved by implementing distributed ledger technology-based solutions in the wealth management industry.

Blockchain Use Cases in Wealth Management

In this report, Ernst & Young highlights two use cases as examples of the benefits of the blockchain.

Firstly, blockchain technology can be applied to digitize and streamline the customer onboarding and profiling process. Strict regulatory requirements require wealth managers to collect information such as proof of identification, marital status, residency, sources of wealth and political ties from new potential clients. This can be a cumbersome, long-winded and, therefore, costly process.

If, instead, high net-worth individuals’ data were to be stored on a distributed ledger to which permissioned parties could gain access with the individual’s approval, then this would greatly reduce the time and cost of onboarding a new customer. Furthermore, due to the immutability and auditability of the blockchain, an audit trail could easily be kept for each client.

Secondly, the blockchain could facilitate the creation of portfolios and the communication of portfolio changes to clients. Currently, wealth managers use a variety of different platforms to create and maintain portfolios and most of these platforms do not enable direct communication with the client.

Hence, by developing and implementing a blockchain solution that allows wealth managers to create and manage portfolios according to clients’ stored investment constraints that also allows for direct communication with regarding portfolio changes, the entire investment process would be made substantially more efficient and client relationships could be deepened due to an increase in direct communication between the wealth manager and its clients.

There Will Be Hurdles for Adoption but First-Movers Will Benefit

The report also highlights the challenges of adoption that the technology is likely to encounter. Scalability, interoperability with legacy systems, security and accordance with technology standards were the largest issues raised by the firms polled by Ernst & Young.

In addition, wealth and asset management funds do not exist in a bubble and are usually interconnected with other firms. Therefore, a wide-scale adoption would likely take a long time, considering there would have to be a consensus as to what type of blockchain solutions the whole financial industry chooses to adopt. Due to these factors, most firms are currently only willing to test blockchain technology on a small scale before considering a broader adoption of the tech.

Ernst & Young, however, believes that firms that are the first to adopt blockchain technology will reap the lion’s share of its benefits. As the success of financial blockchain solutions depends on its participants, E&Y encourages firms to begin the innovation process early as first-movers are likely to benefit the most.

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Will Blockchain-Based Gun Control Keep Your Family Safer?

Gun Safety on the Blockchain

Gun violence continues to be a hot topic. Gang violence in neighborhoods, terrorist attacks in cities, accidental gun discharge among kids, mass attacks at schools and businesses — these and other forms of gun activities are leading to calls for reform throughout the world.

Through the use of smart technology, the startup Blocksafe seeks to deliver a blockchain-centric solution for gun ownership and their safe use. Its core premise is predicated on a key issue tied to firearms, namely the danger they pose when they migrate into the hands of non-owners.

With the support of the Blocksafe Foundation, an organization evangelizing smart-gun technology and gun-ownership freedoms, an innovative device and decentralized network is advancing in its development. Its mission is to create a safer world through weapons tracking and accountability, preventing guns from falling into the wrong hands and being utilized by unauthorized gun users.

Citizens, law enforcement agencies and armed security firms will have 24/7 real-time access to the secure and anonymous Blocksafe network, thereby allowing them the ability to self-monitor their supported firearms devices. Owners can receive notifications if shots are fired by an unauthorized user of their guns. Moreover, they have the ability to locate and disable a stolen weapon, all through the Blocksafe app or web portal.

It should be noted, however, that Blocksafe cannot identify the actual shooter who is utilizing the firearm. Rather it’s more of a tracking mechanism for both individual owners as well as gun store owners, giving them peace of mind as to where their firearms are at all times.

By way of example, an adult at work might remember that his gun is possibly accessible to his kids at home. Blocksafe can help him track where the gun actually is and even remotely disable it. Again, the goal is to offer some semblance of control to the owner in the event that the firearm ends up in the hands of an unauthorized user, which often results in a gun tragedy.

Another illustrative use case: A gun owner whose house is robbed while she is away can remotely disable the stolen firearm, rendering it unable to be resold or used later in a crime.

Pulling the Trigger on Innovation

Kevin Barnes, founder and chairman of Blocksafe, is an honorably discharged U.S. Army veteran, blockchain developer and passionate advocate of gun ownership. He is also a tech coder of 20 years.

Raised among liberty-minded gun lovers, he was taught to embrace the U.S. constitutional right to bear arms first and foremost. As he listened to and read about politicians pushing smart-gun efforts in the media, he feared a loss of life or liberty due to risks inherited by a centralized smart-gun infrastructure. These concerns led him to launch Blocksafe.

In this interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Barnes discusses the evolution of Blocksafe and his greatest hopes around the future of gun safety worldwide.  

Can you describe the moment when the Blocksafe idea first struck you?

Being an avid gun lover, I was at a range teaching my wife to shoot various firearms and she began thinking about what to do if she was overpowered by a thug while she was armed. At that moment the concept of “Blocksafe” was born. 

In layman’s terms, what is Blocksafe?

I tend to think of Blocksafe as a light version of particle.io for enhanced firearm technology. It is a full-stack IoT device network that gives innovators what they need to enable users to securely manage their devices and data. Blocksafe can also facilitate an innovator’s use case in IoT development, expediting their roadmap to the market with security and anonymity for the user and sensor data being the major area of focus.

Blocksafe enables innovators to develop a myriad of solutions to solve the problems associated with firearms — such as malware and ransomware risks — that were not possible before without compromise.

How does this benefit the gun industry?

Decentralized applications (DApps) can be developed in a way that greatly benefits companies in the gun industry. For example, a third-party device is created by a manufacturer. They could install a custom-built DApp onto it, so the manufacturer can easily track its inventory and distribution.

What about the economics of your solution?

Economically, revenue can be generated from the upsale of enhanced add-on devices to firearms. With the cost of the IoT infrastructure greatly reduced, innovators can focus on improving their product to meet market demands, especially those from a newer generation who are always connected. Innovators can also better meet government and commercial needs for these enhancing devices.

What sorts of other use cases are being bantered about?

Here are a few that might align with the Blocksafe model.

Litigation: enhancing the authenticity of a camera video allowed in court proceedings.

Product Theft: a gunstore can recoup their firearms if stolen.

Insurance: armoured trucks and security companies in general can better monitor and manage the firearm usage of their employees.

Training: Instructors can use analytics to study shooting skills to better train students, thereby reducing the likelihood of accidents.

What are Blocksafe trigger tokens and how will they work?

Triggers are the appropriately named “tokens” that power every event from smart devices to the Blocksafe network. The token is an ERC20 (which may become ERC223 later), which will be introduced during demonstrations at CoinAgenda in Las Vegas later this year.

What else are you currently introducing?

Soon we will be demonstrating with the TrackingPoint M400 to our  smart-gun network. There are many sensors, a smart trigger and a smart scope on the firearm that make it a great candidate to use in demonstration.

We will also be introducing another DApp use case made for mobile phones and tablets called “Gunshot Spot.” It’s a free gunfire-mapping app and token wallet that sends notifications of gunfire and its proximity. Users will have the option to anonymously share the data to the app community, which will be used to populate gunfire mapping within the app using Blocksafe. Think of it as SpotCrime for gunfire.

What steps have you taken to garner support from the gun industry?

We have provided a pilot signup page for our network’s web portal. We are also in talks with many firearm and accessory manufacturers, some of which we met at the recent NRA show in Atlanta. A quarter of them expressed positive interest in Blocksafe as they recognize that nothing is stopping the progression of defense tech and the launch of Blocksafe. One exhibitor summed it up in one sentence: “Blocksafe’s use case is that it enables use cases development for enhanced firearm solutions that were never possible before.”

We’ve also received a lot of support from organizations that support the firearm industry such as Smart Tech Foundation, which we plan to join in their effort to support startup innovators entering the enhanced firearm space.

What is your response to libertarians and others concerned about gun privacy and anonymity?

What I say to them is that enhanced firearm tech is going to continue to develop no matter what. When I was following the smart-gun mandates from President Obama and his administration, all I could picture was my wife, kids and future grandkids with a weapon that some third party could share control of.

As a programmer of 20 years and a Bitcoin enthusiast, I realized the only solution was to bring to market a network that would prevent that nightmare. At the same time, we can use the blockchain to save lives by enhancing the very tool that has been protecting our freedom in such a way that the device owner keeps full control of the device features and data.

As is the belief of many libertarians, I have the liberty to choose how to defend myself and my family. It is our human right. Whether it is using a 25-year-old revolver or a TrackingPoint AR, we all have the liberty to choose our firearm of choice.

But how do you think these arguments will sit with the government?

We spend millions to politically protect our legal rights to defend ourselves. We must also focus on making sure the technology is not used against us — as, without an alternative, the chances of technical tyranny is a threat too great to chance — regardless of the laws.

Plus, I think it is cool not being able to be shot with my own weapon.

What is your long-term, grand vision for Blocksafe?

Simply to continue to help grow the enhanced-firearm space including expanding the consortium globally. We will try to incubate startups and launch Smart Gun News to showcase the innovators and aggregate news in the space. We also endeavor to work with nations to adopt blockchain tech and their smart city efforts in general. Ultimately, as I see it, it’s about promoting a safer and more peaceful world full of liberty.

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“The Future Is Here”: Singapore Tokenizes Fiat Currency on the Blockchain

The Future Is Here: Singapore Tokenizes Fiat Currency

In a report entitled “The Future Is Here,” Singapore’s central bank announced that it has completed the first phase of a project involving the development of a tokenized version of the Singapore dollar (SGD) on an Ethereum-based blockchain.

Project Ubin, which began in November 2016, is an attempt to create a functional replacement for Singapore’s interbank payments network using tokenization and blockchain technology.

The first phase of the project was successful, developing a proof-of-concept replacement of the MAS Electronic Payments System (MEPS+), the Singaporean analog of the Clearing House Interbank Payments System (CHIPS) in the United States, which handles the settlement of interbank debts.

In the prototype model, MEPS+ transfers simply become transfers on a private Ethereum-based blockchain. Although it is still in the early stages, Project Ubin promises a future in which bank customers can send and receive payments and exchange currency without lengthy processing times, fees or intermediaries. In the long term, Project Ubin could herald the overthrow of fiat currency by tokenized cryptocurrency.

It is important to note that the prototype, if implemented, would not affect the net money supply, as all tokens are backed by Singapore dollars held in “custody” by the central bank and which can be freely exchanged back to fiat currency.

In June 2016, the Bank of Canada partnered with R3 and several major banks on Project Jasper to develop a blockchain-based competitor to the country’s current interbank payments solution, the Large Value Transfer System (LVTS).

On May 25, the Bank of Canada announced that a blockchain-based solution was not a viable substitute for the LVTS and abandoned Project Jasper.

However, much of the code and architecture developed for Project Jasper made its way into Project Ubin. In turn, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) says it plans to make the Project Ubin prototype available to students and professionals in order to further development and innovation.

Other central banks have considered or experimented with tokenization, including the Bank of England, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) and the Central Bank of Russia.

In February, the PBOC began testing a prototype cryptocurrency that has been in development since 2014.

The Central Bank of Russia is currently testing an Ethereum-based blockchain solution to process online payments and perform customer verification. President Vladimir Putin met with Ethereum’s creator Vitalik Buterin at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum last week and reportedly encouraged efforts to advance blockchain technology in Russia.

Many other countries are already on the blockchain bandwagon; however, if Singapore’s project is fully implemented, it would mark the first tokenized fiat currency and the first blockchain-based interbank payments system.

But Project Ubin is not over yet. The first phase was successfully completed on March 9, and the report only summarizes its conclusions and outlines the goals of the second phase.

The project’s next goal, according to the report, will be to test the viability of a tokenized blockchain-based solution to domestic and international securities transactions — such as the global stock exchange — and cross-border interbank payments.

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How to Slip Some Blockchain Exposure Into Your Portfolio

How to slip some Blockchain exposure into your portfolio

Over the past year, there have been fortunes made with winning investments like bitcoin, ether and ripple. And yet many people don’t know how to buy a single bitcoin. If you are new to digital assets, you may find it a tap dance just to get your money in, between digital wallets, online exchanges and questionable regulations. If you are perplexed by blockchain technology and feel more comfortable having your money in traditional markets, there are companies you can invest in to get the technology in your portfolio. Companies like IBM and Microsoft are betting heavily on blockchain tech, and are positioning themselves as leaders for the Internet of Everything.

Here are some familiar, publicly traded companies that have invested in blockchain technology:

Microsoft (MSFT), Nasdaq 

Microsoft has been sponsoring blockchain technology and is now a founding member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), along with dozens of other companies including J.P. Morgan and Toyota. The alliance was formed to create standards for Ethereum in business use cases and to collaborate for a blockchain-based online marketplace. Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service platform also supports Ethereum, offering Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) tools for app developers.

Quoted in the MIT Technology Review, Marley Gray, who leads Microsoft’s blockchain efforts, said, “We see a huge opportunity here. Enterprise-scale and enterprise-grade infrastructure is going to be vitally important for this financial infrastructure that will be woven using blockchain over these next few years.”

As Microsoft adds development tools and industry expertise, its early bets on blockchain tech should grow in years to come. The stock is now sitting at a 52-week high in the $72 range, with a trailing annual dividend of $1.53 per share.

IBM (IBM), NYSE 

With a different approach, IBM has joined Hyperledger in its foray onto the blockchain. Governed by corporations, Hyperledger has five blockchain and distributed ledger projects in incubation. The one that IBM is most invested in is called Fabric, a blockchain layer for enterprise solutions, which also has support from companies including Accenture, Airbus, American Express, CME Group, Intel and others.

In 2016, IBM focused specifically on introducing blockchain technology to the company’s artificially intelligent computer named Watson. Potential applications include machine-to-machine communications and payments, machine self-diagnostics, and machine self-learning.

Similar to the Microsoft Azure developer platform, IBM also offers blockchain building tools for corporations. Shares of IBM are now trading around $152, with a trailing annual dividend of $1.40 per share.

Overstock.com (OSTK), Nasdaq  

In 2014, Overstock.com started a VC fund to manage investments in firms leveraging blockchain technology. Named Medici Ventures, the fund now owns a 2.5 percent stake in Factom, which may become a leading data hashing company. And in April 2017, Medici invested $428,000 in Bitcoin company Ripio, a leading digital wallet and exchange in Argentina. Medici has also invested in several platforms related to equity trading.

Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne has long been a proponent of Bitcoin and blockchain technology. In 2016, he announced a new subsidiary blockchain-based equity trading platform named t0, which he thinks could revolutionize equity trading. t0 combines cryptographically secure distributed ledgers with existing market processes to reduce time and costs, and increase transparency, efficiency and auditability.

Medici continues to invest in promising blockchain startups. The company’s stock is trading in the $14.50 range, with a market cap of only $363 million.

FastForward Innovations (FFWD.L), London Stock Exchange  

FastForward Innovations is a VC firm investing in emerging technologies. In 2015 FastForward made a £279,000 ($431,300) investment in Factom, which in 2016 was revalued at £560,000 ($709,800) after another successful funding round. The latter round included funds from well-known investor Tim Draper, who stated, “Governments also need better security from hackers, and the blockchain avails them of better security than they currently have. I believe that the Factom team has the opportunity and the potential to build a company greater than Oracle and Palantir and IBM combined.”

FastForward is also invested in digital gaming, wearable technology and online media. The company’s stock is currently trading at £12.65 ($16.24).

Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC), OTC  

If you want exposure to bitcoin and only bitcoin, you can buy into the Bitcoin Investment Trust through your traditional brokerage account. A financial product of Grayscale, which is owned by Digital Currency Group, GBTC is meant to track the bitcoin market price on behalf of investors, who then don’t have to buy and safekeep bitcoins for themselves.

The fund’s bitcoins are kept in deep storage vaults with Bitcoin company Xapo, where they are protected by intense cryptographic and physical security. With $390 million in assets under management, the fund has a market cap of $882 million on Yahoo Finance. Recently, the price of the fund has soared above the market price of bitcoin, which shows an active demand for a bitcoin investment vehicle. Currently trading at $516, GBTC is up from $101 just six months ago.

Blockchain Capital  

Though not publicly traded, if you would like to dabble in digital assets but don’t know which projects to invest in, Blockchain Capital offers an interesting way to play this space. Calling themselves the “First Ever Digital Liquid Venture Firm,” Blockchain Capital invests in promising blockchain projects and the platforms that support them, and now has what looks to be a strong portfolio. Their holdings include industry leaders Blockstream, Bitfury, Coinbase, Ripple, ShapeShift, Qtum, BitPesa and more.

What is unique about Blockchain Capital is that they have their own digital token called BCAP, which represents an indirect fraction of non-voting interest in their Digital Liquid Venture Fund. By buying the BCAP tokens, you will own a share of the fund of companies that Blockchain Capital invests in. When the fund released these tokens to the public earlier this year, the entire offering of 10 million BCAP sold out in less than six hours, raising a total of $10 million USD at $1 per token. Today the token trades on Liqui.io for $2.25.

This article is for general information purposes only and should not be taken as investment advice. Investors should conduct their own due diligence and consult with a qualified tax/investment professional before attempting anything described in this article.

The post How to Slip Some Blockchain Exposure Into Your Portfolio appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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Private Capital Market Ecosystems Meet the Blockchain

Private Capital Market Ecosystems Meet the Blockchain

In a move signaling blockchain technology’s continued advancement in the financial world, Hong Kong–based PrivateMarket.io and NY-based Symbiont announced an agreement to build an alternative investment marketplace for closed-end funds utilizing Symbiont’s SmartSecuritiesTM software. The parties anticipate that the marketplace will go live in late 2017.

PrivateMarket’s strategic intent is to ensure that a new generation of wealth managers are able to access, analyze and seamlessly execute primary and secondary market transactions online. Through technology, they deliver concrete solutions that foster a more transparent and efficient private capital market ecosystem.

In a statement, Loïc Engelhard, founder and CEO of PrivateMarket.io, said he welcomed the partnership, noting that the security and privacy elements being delivered by Symbiont are of paramount importance for his company’s success. In particular, he touted the ease of integration and fit of Symbiont with their own internal processes at PrivateMarket.  

Symbiont is largely known for a smart-contracts platform that tethers to institutional applications of distributed ledger technology. Its growing number of disclosed users include 19 financial institutions for Smart Loans™, arranged by Credit Suisse and executed via Synaps; its syndicated-loans joint venture with Ipreo; the State of Delaware for Smart Records™; a major European insurance company for Smart Swaps™ in the catastrophe insurance market; and Orebits, a provider of asset digitization services. The company’s technology has also been used in markets for syndicated loans and digitized gold claims.

Symbiont was started in early 2015 by Mark Smith, Adam Krellenstein, Evan Wagner and Robby Dermody — all of whom have extensive track records in the Bitcoin/blockchain space as well as in fintech. Prior to Symbiont, the trio of Krellenstein, Wagner and Dermody founded Counterparty, the “Bitcoin 2.0” open-source project targeting digital representation of non-bitcoin assets on the Bitcoin blockchain.

In August of 2016, Caitlin Long, a Wall Street veteran of over 22 years, joined Symbiont as chairman of the board and president, assuming responsibility for Symbiont’s commercialization, business strategy and client relationship efforts.

In an interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Long discussed how Symbiont’s new partnership with PrivateMarket is designed to provide an enhanced and efficient approach to private capital markets, with private equity and real assets as a main focus.

“The implementation of our blockchain and Smart Contracts solution will increase efficiency, transparency and the speed of the transactions in the antiquated over-the-counter market. It will also improve greatly the security of the private equity market by simplifying complex and highly manual bilateral contracts.”

She also noted that unlike the current state in private equity, where unlisted (investment) vehicles exist, Symbiont’s solution will greatly improve the liquidity of asset classes through the implementation of its SmartSecurities solution.

“We see blockchain technology having a significant positive impact on the investment world, and it starts with the fact that the foundational document for any investment — the registration of a company — will likely soon be possible to do on a blockchain in Delaware.”

Long says that when securities are issued natively on a blockchain, not only can they be administered via smart contracts, but issuers and investors will be able to communicate directly. In addition, she says, payment of dividends can be handled directly, proxy voting will be clear and accurate, share repurchases and tender/exchange offers for bonds will be easy to execute, and the roster of security owners will always be accurate and up to date.  

Long says that amid these advancements, there are also significant opportunities for improvement of business processes in the fund administration business — whether it be mutual funds or private asset funds.  

“At the end of the day, all of these benefits will accrue to end investors, who we’ve always said should be the biggest beneficiaries of blockchain technology in the financial sector.”

The post Private Capital Market Ecosystems Meet the Blockchain appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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China’s Interest and Investment in Ethereum’s Blockchain Expands

China's Interest and Investment in Ethereum's Blockchain Expands

Copyedit by DoEun

Ethereum Is Dominating in China

Bradley Fink

When we first heard Vitalik Buterin was learning Chinese, it was a clue to his ambitions in China. Less than two years later, the platform he co-founded is now a growing force in the Middle Kingdom. Since he joined the ChinaLedger Alliance (May 2016) and announced the expansion of BlockApps, an Ethereum building-blocks platform, in China (September 2016), there has been a movement in cities and among companies in big industries all throughout China. This is in some part due to the efforts of Wanxiang Blockchain Labs, which has made it their mission in China to bring Ethereum to the mainstream, and also in part to the savvy and persistent efforts of Buterin himself.

At a recent Ethereum meetup in Hong Kong, Buterin said that “Wanxiang Blockchain Labs are making good inroads into China.” Headquartered in Hangzhou, Wanxiang has led the Ethereum charge in China for more than a year. Having partnered with Ethereum early on for the Global Blockchain Summit following Devcon2 in Shanghai in July of 2016, Wanxiang is now China’s top funder of promising blockchain projects.

With its BlockGrantX sponsorship program, it has allocated funds to Ethereum startups including iEx.ec (for fully distributed cloud computing), Proof-of-Identity (for KYC, wallets, multisig, voting, authentication and reputation systems), Golem (P2P computation), Casper (a proof-of-stake consensus protocol), the Raiden Network (an Ethereum off-chain state network) and Micro Oracles (blockchain identity verification). And this month, Wanxiang launched its WanCloud platform for Chinese developers, giving them access to tools for building applications on open-source blockchains.

Since the recent Global Blockchain Financial Summit in Hangzhou, China’s rapid technological developments on the Ethereum platform has been garnering attention. One blog post in particular, from ConsenSys’s Head of Global Business Development Andrew Keys, gave some insight into the rapid rate of Chinese adoption. Highlights of the post, titled “Ethereum Growing Exponentially in China,” include:

  • The creation of an Ethereum Laboratory at Peking University, to work on applications for improving supply chain management and energy markets

  • The Royal Chinese Mint experimenting with a digital RMB on the Ethereum blockchain

  • Chinese companies such as Baidu, Ctrip, JD.com and Meituan utilizing Ethereum technology for aggregated payments services

  • Establishment of the Jiangsu Huaxin BIockchain Research Institute (JBI) in Nanjing, which Keys writes “will be a powerhouse in the Ethereum ecosystem and will become a beachhead for corporations outside of China.”

  • Experimenting with Ethereum technology by Ant Financial, Alibaba’s $60 billion financial arm, to improve their global payment platforms

In Hong Kong, there has also been a surge of new interest in Ethereum. Jehan Chu is the founder of the Ethereum meetup there and a partner at Jen Advisors, a Hong Kong–based early-stage blockchain VC firm. Though the technology is still very young, Chu has seen a huge uptick in activity.

“Ethereum in Southern China has been on a rampage of growth,” Chu told Bitcoin Magazine, “with the local HK meetup growing by 50 percent to nearly 800 members in the last six months, and ether trade skyrocketing. Banks, corporates and even casual investors have all heard about Ethereum’s white-hot growth and mounting challenge to Bitcoin dominance. More importantly, Ethereum startups worldwide from Status.im and Ox to Golem and MakerDao have made HK’s environment of high-level industry professionals a can’t-miss stop on their Asia business development and capital raising tours.”

Recently the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), connecting Fortune 500 enterprises, startups, academics and technology vendors with Ethereum, announced its expansion into China with a new office in Hangzhou.

At the Global Blockchain Financial Summit in Hangzhou, EEA China said that its main objectives are to “explore and develop new standards and technologies using blockchains, so that Chinese enterprises can more easily meet domestic market needs.” Founding members of the EEA include JP Morgan, Banco Santander, CME Group, Microsoft, Intel, Accenture and blockchain startup ConsenSys.

Over the past week, the price of ether has surged from $85 on May 17 to a high of around $211 on Coinbase on May 25. While many credit this rise to the announcements of the EEA, it is also notable that ETH trading was added to some of China’s digital asset exchanges. On May 14 CHBTC.com added an ETH/CNY trading pair, and on May 16 Yuanbao.com added ETH trading to its platform. It has also been confirmed that China’s top Bitcoin exchange OKCoin will soon add ETH trading.

The post China’s Interest and Investment in Ethereum’s Blockchain Expands appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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Hyperledger Moves Blockchain Frameworks Sawtooth and Iroha Forward, Adds Members

Hyperledger Moves Blockchain Frameworks Sawtooth and Iroha to Active Status

Hyperledger, the open-source, cross-industry collaborative effort focusing on blockchain technology, has advanced the status of its Sawtooth and Iroha blockchain frameworks from “Incubation” to “Active” status.

The green light was given by Hyperledger’s 12-member Technical Steering Committee (TSC), chaired by Christopher Ferris, CTO of Open Technology at IBM. It followed an extensive review period during which each project was evaluated based on exit criteria that include legal compliance, community support, test coverage and continuous integration support, documentation, code reviews and more.

Ray George, senior director of PR at the Linux Foundation, told Bitcoin Magazine that “there is no difference [between Incubation and Active status] when it comes to how the projects are expected to run and how the TSC works with them to ensure a healthy community continues to be built.

“The most tangible difference is how this is presented to the public — not as projects whose communities are still finding their bearings, but as communities ready for new contributors and whose users can depend upon those communities persisting for the long term.”

Hyperledger Iroha, which was initially proposed by Soramitsu, Hitachi, NTT DATA and Colu, is a business blockchain framework inspired by Hyperledger Fabric. It was designed to be simple and easy to incorporate into infrastructural projects requiring distributed ledger technology, and aims to provide a development environment where C++, web and mobile application developers can contribute to the Hyperledger Project.

Hyperledger Sawtooth was initially contributed by Intel and designed to explore scalability, security and privacy questions prompted by the original distributed ledgers.

The modular platform allows organizations to build, deploy and run complex distributed ledgers, and includes a novel consensus algorithm, Proof of Elapsed Time (PoET), which targets large distributed validator populations with minimal resource consumption.

Sawtooth and Iroha follow Hyperledger Fabric, the first project to graduate in March 2017. These projects, alongside five others, all fall under the Hyperledger organization umbrella, which focuses on bringing together software developer communities to develop open-source blockchain and smart contract related technologies.

Projects currently in Incubation include Hyperledger Cello, a blockchain module toolkit; Hyperledger Composer, a set of collaboration tools for building blockchain business networks; and Hyperledger Explorer, a blockchain explorer for viewing, invoking, deploying or querying blocks, transactions and associated data.

Hyperledger’s Membership Expands

The news of Sawtooth and Iroha moving out of Incubation broke on Monday at Consensus 2017, a major blockchain-focused event taking place this week in New York, during which Hyperledger also announced the addition of eight new members, bringing its total membership to 142.

New members joining the Hyperledger Project include Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Schroder Investment Management, AlphaPoint and Change Healthcare, one of America’s largest healthcare IT companies and the first healthcare organization to join at the top membership level.

Change Healthcare’s CTO, Aaron Symanski, will be joining the Hyperledger Governing Board, chaired by Blythe Masters, CEO of Digital Asset, and consisting of representatives from 20 members of the Hyperledger membership.

“Blockchain [technology] is a promising and exciting new technology for secure online transactions,” said Symanski. “But it is crucial that healthcare leaders step up to champion innovation to help take blockchain [technology] from its early implementations to tomorrow’s healthcare IT solutions.”

In October 2016, Hyperledger kicked off a Healthcare Working Group to advance blockchain development in the healthcare industry. The group now has more than 425 technologists and executives representing the likes of Accenture, Gem, Hashed Health and IBM.

Another company that has joined the Hyperledger Project is FZG360 Network Co. Ltd., a leading real-estate portal and trading platform in China, which aims to “enhance the application of [blockchain technology] to a higher maturity level,” particularly in the area of real estate.

Hyperledger was founded in December 2015 by the Linux Foundation and counts among its members leading firms representing various industries including blockchain technology, finance, healthcare, the Internet of Things, aeronautics and real estate, among several others.

The post Hyperledger Moves Blockchain Frameworks Sawtooth and Iroha Forward, Adds Members appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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