Bitcoin Exchange bitFlyer Hopes to Win Big With the Japanese Bankers Association

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While China tightens its grip on its cryptocurrency community, Japan is openly embracing cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, legalizing bitcoin, and encouraging and funding blockchain research.

Even Japan’s banks are onboard, working collaboratively to develop a blockchain platform specifically for the financial sector. With its 120 member banks, the Japanese Bankers Association (JBA) is creating a Collaborative Blockchain Platform and is actively looking for a company to supply its blockchain technology on an ongoing basis.

Experimenting with the Collaborative Blockchain Platform, the JBA will initially determine which financial services best lend themselves to the new platform, likely including settlement/transfer services, know-your-customer (KYC) systems and financial infrastructure such as their Zengin System and Densai Net System.

Japanese bitcoin exchange bitFlyer is stepping up to the plate to take on tech giants including Fujitsu, Hitachi and NTT Data to be the supplier of the blockchain platform that will be used by Japan’s banks.

Although it is one of the largest cryptocurrency and blockchain startups in Japan, the Tokyo-based bitFlyer has its work cut out for it if it wants to upset these three corporate heavyweights and win the right to supply the bankers with a blockchain platform using its miyabi technology.

The company’s COO Bartek Ringwelski told Bitcoin Magazine:

“bitFlyer is the only startup in the event, and we have only raised $36mm since 2014, but we have deep expertise in blockchain technology through our virtual currency exchange (the largest in the world by volume, including margin trading) and our ‘miyabi’ product.”

By way of comparison, Hitachi posted $83 billion in revenue in 2016, Fujitsu posted $47 billion on 2015 and NTT Data posted $15 billion in 2016.

Acknowledging a sea change in Japan’s attitude to cryptocurrency, Ringwelski noted that Japan is actively encouraging and supporting both cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology:

“Japan is emerging as a leader in blockchain adoption. Japanese consumers are embracing virtual currencies, regulators are proactive, and banks are recognizing the power that blockchain, and specifically miyabi, can bring to the financial infrastructure.”

Miyabi Blockchain Technology

The name “miyabi” was first coined between the 9th to 12th centuries by Japanese aristocrats to refer to the theme of elegance and refinement.

According to Ringwelski, bitFlyer’s miyabi blockchain platform is the fastest in the world:

“Based on our research, ‘miyabi’ is the fastest enterprise-grade blockchain technology, delivering 1,500 – 2,000 transactions per second on average, and in some cases, even faster,” Ringwelski said.

Their processing speed of 1,500 to 2,000 transactions per second compares with Bitcoin’s two transactions per second and Ethereum’s seven transactions per second. They also estimate that among the other three competing companies, the maximum speed to beat is 1,000 transactions per second.

When it launched the competition, the JBA made it clear that security and immutability were their first priority. In their view, only a private, permissioned blockchain could satisfy this requirement.

Going Global

BitFlyer’s CEO Yuzo Kano has said he wants the company to go global in the near future and will start by expanding to the U.S. market this fall, initially offering bitcoin trading but expanding to other cryptocurrencies within the next year. The company says it has received approval to start trading from 34 U.S. states.

In the meantime, Ringwelski says that they are eagerly awaiting the decision of the JBA:

“The partner ultimately chosen by the JBA will stand to become part of the core Japanese banking infrastructure — it would be a big deal. Beyond the value of gaining the JBA as a new customer, securing a JBA contract would help spread miyabi to new enterprise blockchain applications and customers worldwide.”

Investors in bitFlyer include SMBC Venture Capital, Mizuho Capital, Dai-ichi Life Insurance, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Venture Capital, Recruit Strategic Partners, Dentsu Digital Holdings, SBI Investment, GMO Venture Partners, QUICK and Venture Labo Investment.

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Blockchain Technology Plays a Critical Role in U.S. and International Open Government Initiatives

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On September 8, the U.S. government’s General Services Administration (GSA)’s program “Emerging Citizen Technology” hosted a workshop titled “Emerging Technology and Open Data for a More Open Government.” The participants in the workshop were directed to draft proposals that specifically use Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain technology and open data.

“Open data and emerging technologies — including artificial intelligence and distributed ledgers, such as blockchain — hold vast potential to transform public services held back by bureaucracy and outdated IT systems,” said Emerging Citizen Technology program manager Justin Herman. “We are opening the doors to bold, fresh ideas for government accountability, transparency and citizen participation by working with U.S. businesses, civil society groups and others to shape national goals for emerging technologies and open data in public services.”

At the workshop, several government agencies have indicated a strong government backing behind the development of blockchain technology. In particular, a representative of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) stated that the Trump administration was serious about and committed to this technology, and would not be deterred.

The initiative is related to the fourth National Action Plan (NAP 4), which the U.S. government is releasing this year in the the framework of the multinational Open Government Partnership (OGP) and its Open Government Declaration. It is aimed at empowering citizens and advancing the ideals of an open and participatory government.

The September 8 workshop follows the first U.S. Federal Blockchain Forum, organized by the Emerging Citizen Technology program on July 18 to discuss blockchain use cases, limitations and solutions. Financial management, procurement, IT asset and supply chain management, smart contracts, patents, trademarks, copyrights, royalties, government-issued credentials, federal personnel workforce data, appropriated funds, federal assistance, and foreign aid delivery were among the government blockchain use cases discussed at the July 18 workshop. Participation was restricted to federal agencies’ managers.

The Government Blockchain Association participated in the September 8 workshop and shared details, reported by ETHNews, on the topics discussed. In particular, three priority areas were examined: a national identity system based on blockchain and biometric technologies and interoperable across different agencies; an open government innovation initiative aimed at improving the internal operations of government agencies through blockchain technology; and a blockchain open-interface framework to connect government blockchain pilots with external data systems.

The Government Blockchain Association, open to all interested individual, corporate and institutional members, was formed to explore blockchain-based solutions to problems typically faced by government entities.

“We are currently seeing deep and informed interest in blockchain [technology] across many levels of the public sector,” said Gerard Daché, Founder and President of the Government Blockchain Association. “This time next year, I would not be surprised to see dozens of pilots, legislative resolutions, and even funding spread across the various states and high up in the U.S. Federal Government specifically for piloting blockchain based innovation.”

The Association believes that blockchain technology, Bitcoin, distributed ledgers and cryptocurrencies will fundamentally transform how the government interacts with its constituents.

“We don’t believe blockchain adoption in the public sector needs to take over ten years as some suggest it might,” Daché added. “There is an excitement that is palpable so, our goal is to harness this enthusiasm and direct it into working groups that actually influence national, state and large city governmental policies.”

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Blockchain in Trucking Alliance Seeks to Revolutionize the Transport Industry

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The Blockchain in Trucking Alliance (BiTA) announced its launch on August 16, 2017. According to the alliance, their goal is to utilize blockchain tech in the trucking industry — an industry that “has a reputation of being behind the curve on technology.”

“We formed the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance to develop common standards around blockchain applications in the trucking industry, from speeding up transactions to securing data transfers. The technology holds great promise, but to encourage its proliferation, we believe that developing industry standards were paramount. PS Logistics brings a depth of industry experience and full-service logistics knowledge to help our industry innovate with integrity through this new technology,” Craig Fuller, CEO of TransRisk and co-founder of BiTA, said in a statement.

By implementing blockchain technology, BiTA seeks to use triple-entry accounting, which the organization believes would solve some of the industry’s most pressing concerns. Some of the improvements would include immediate payment of drivers upon delivery; transparent and verifiable maintenance records; immediate and self-executing payments for things like fuel and parts; more efficient and fair processes for disputes and arbitrage over freight quality and claims; and immutable carrier history and safety records.

“Blockchain [technology] by its nature is distributed and owned by no single person. It is open source and requires collaboration and standards,” said Fuller. “We are helping to launch BiTA as a way to initiate dialogue between parties in the trucking ecosystem.”

According to the organization, the main difficulty they are currently facing is the integration of blockchain tech into the trucking industry. BiTA encourages the recording of physical transactions (i.e., a load being delivered) in a digital format. The organization believes the evolution of blockchain technology will bridge the gap between “analog and physical transactions to digital transactions and the blockchain.”

The members of BiTA are currently discussing the options and methods of blockchain technology’s implementation.

“We have relationships with many of the Alliance members that are not related to blockchain [technology], but the conversation around blockchain keeps coming up and many of them are exploring blockchain [tech],” said Fuller, “but most are concerned about making significant investments because of the lack of standards and commercial adoption.”

BiTA said, “We are engaging the brightest minds from the most influential leaders in transportation, finance, and technology. BiTA will build the first set of transportation industry–specific blockchain standards and promote the most transformative technology since the internet.”

BiTA has since announced the addition of PS Logistics as their newest member. According to BiTA, PS Logistics, as a charter member along with TransRisk, Triumph Business Capital and McLeod Software, will employ the use of smart technology and uniform performance standards in order to advance the transportation industry. The organization is currently listed as a logistics charter member along with the U.S. Xpress Inc. and Convoy.

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Central Bank of Papua New Guinea Adopts Blockchain Technology

Central Bank of Papua New Guinea Adopts Blockchain Technology

The number of countries with banks experimenting with blockchain technology is growing rapidly. The Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea (PNG), north of Australia, has joined the movement with its own central Bank of Papua New Guinea running blockchain trials.

Central Bank Governor Loi Bakani, known as a champion of new technologies as a way to enable financial inclusion, recently hosted a conference to showcase his country’s commitment to blockchain technology, with participants from at home and around the world, including Abt Associates, Paycase, Othera, IDbox, Pacific Markets, UCash, Seso and ADCCA.

At the conference, Bakani described the blockchain trials underway at the Bank of PNG and introduced the PNG Digital Commerce and Cryptocurrency Association for the growing number of Papua New Guinea tech entrepreneurs and businesses interested in blockchain technology.

Bakani said, “This will allow PNG to join the Global Blockchain Forum, which gets PNG a cutting edge in discussions about Blockchain at a global level, along with Australia, Canada, U.S.A., Dubai, UK and Japan. There is no reason why PNG can’t be a leader for emerging markets.”

There are already central banks experimenting with blockchain technology around the world, including Bank of America, HSBC, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Bank of England, People’s Bank of China, Bank of Canada, the National Bank of Cambodia, and the Central Bank of India.

Elizabeth Genia, Assistant Governor of the central Bank of PNG said, “It is the new innovations that can change people’s lives — almost 85 percent of our people live outside the banking system.”

According to Abt Associates’ Jane Thomason, who helped manage the conference, 85 percent of PNG has little or no access to banking services and accounts, and the island is among the most expensive remittance corridors in the world, with nearly 10 percent of all funds transferred going to fees alone.

Thomason told the conference that blockchain-based technologies offer developing nations a way to leapfrog conventional technological advancements, similar to the adoption of cell phones in much of the world.

She noted, “In 30 years working in PNG, I have never had so much optimism that we are working with something that really will change the lives of poor Papua New Guineans.”

PNG’s IT Minister Francis Maneke told the conference, “Papua New Guinea is an ideal proving ground for these applications. In fact, there is a possibility that we will leapfrog many developed nations in our use of this sort of smart technology, giving us a competitive edge as early adopters.”

Conference speaker and Paycase CEO Joseph Weinberg told Bitcoin Magazine that the conference looked at ways that blockchain technology could be used in all sectors of PNG’s economy.

“The conference included the creation of frameworks, roadmaps and deployment strategies. In order to make anything of this magnitude work, you need proper planning between the government, regulators, commercial partners and the Central Bank. Corporations in particular need to be engaged as they will enable much of the infrastructure needed to make it happen. This is where PNG is headed.”

Bakani also expressed the hope that blockchain technologies could be deployed in many sectors of PNG’s economy.

“When looking at large-scale deployments of this magnitude,” said Bakani, “we truly value our international panelists and partners and look forward to further discussions as the Bank establishes the next stages of its blockchain implementation.

“The government, along with the necessary stakeholders here in PNG not only recognize the challenges they face, but now see the clear opportunities that blockchain-based systems can enable for their country and people.”

In closing the conference, Maneke said, “We in the O’Neill government are determined to bridge the digital divide to ensure our people can participate in the global economy, and not be excluded from it.”

Funding for the conference was provided by the Australian Government and was managed by Abt Associates.

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Visa Files Patent for Blockchain-Based Digital Asset Network

Visa Files Patent for Blockchain-Based Digital Asset Network

Last week, the United States Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) published the details of Visa’s new patent application. The credit card giant’s plans for the digital asset network are quite broad; however, it might be possible that the company is planning to file a patent for the Visa B2B Connect.

The blockchain enterprise company Chain and Visa announced their new partnership in October 2016, in which the two firms decided to develop “a simple, fast and secure way to process B2B payments globally.” The Visa B2B Connect platform’s pilot is expected to launch in 2017, thus indicating a connection between the USPTO digital asset network patent and the new B2B solution.

“A method and system are provided for transferring digital assets in a digital asset network. Network users can be centrally enrolled and screened for compliance. Standardized transfer processes and unique identifiers can provide a transparent and direct transfer process. Digital assets can include sufficient information for ensuring that a value will be provided, including one or more digital signatures, such that value can be made immediately available to recipients,” the four Visa employees who filed the patent summarized.

The patent application details the major issue financial institutes are facing with third parties. According to Visa, using third-party payment or transfer providers during wire transfers can create uncertainty in the system, resulting in the banks adding extra days to complete a transfer. Furthermore, this uncertainty can also result in higher costs. The writers of the document added that, in reality, there are often more than three parties participating in a single transaction.

“Most financial institutions only have a few correspondent bank relationships. Thus, for an international wire, it is likely that the sending financial institution does not have a direct correspondent bank relationship with the receiving financial institution.”

When this lack of relationship is spread among three or more parties across international jurisdictions, the process becomes even more complicated and costly.

“For example, an international transfer may involve one or more domestic transfers in the sender’s country, an international transfer and one or more domestic transfer’s in the recipient’s country before finally reaching the recipient’s account.”

According to the Visa employees, a digital asset network can be the solution for the issue. The company plans to launch a platform (possibly linked to Visa’s B2B Connect) using blockchain technology to allow the transfer of digital assets between clients. These transfers can be used to make payments, or provide access rights and login credentials and more. The firm emphasized that the participants of the platform will be “legitimate organizations” who will be screened for compliance with the rules of the network.

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Op Ed: A Cryptographic Design Perspective of Blockchains: From Bitcoin to Ouroboros

A Cryptographic Design Perspective of Blockchains: From Bitcoin to Ouroboros

How does one design a blockchain protocol? Back in 2013, while in Athens, I set out to design a non-proof-of-work-based blockchain protocol motivated by the debt crisis in Greece, looming bank liquidity problems and the increasing discussions about the possibility of having a parallel currency. The new protocol had to be based on proof of stake to make sure that it can run even on cellphones and be secure independent of any computational power existing that is external to it.

Very soon it became clear that the problem was going to need much more than a few months’ work. Fast-forward three years to 2016: I was at the University of Edinburgh and had joined forces with IOHK whose CEO, Charles Hoskinson, was poised to solve the same problem. The protocol, “Ouroboros” as it would be eventually named, was there but the core of the security proof was still elusive when my good friend Alexander Russell visited me.

Together, we tackled the problem of proving the security of the system. Whiteboards were filled over and over again until we felt we mined a true gem: a clean combinatorial argument that enabled us to argue mathematically the security of the scheme. 

Diving Into the Mindset of a Cryptographer

Security is an elusive concept. Take a system that is able to withstand a given set of adverse operational conditions. When can we call it secure? What if it collapses in the next moment when it is subjected to a slightly different set of conditions? Or when it is given inputs different from any that have been tried before?

Security cannot be demonstrated via experiment alone since attacker ingenuity can rarely be completely enumerated within any reasonable timeframe. Cryptographic design, thus, has to somehow scale this “universal quantifier”: the system should be called secure only if it withstands all possible attacks.

In response to this fundamental problem, “provable security” emerged as a rigorous discipline within cryptography that promotes the co-development of algorithms and (so-called) proofs of security. Such proofs come in the form of theorems that, under certain assumptions and threat models that describe what the attacker can and cannot do, establish the security of cryptographic algorithms. In this fashion, modern cryptographic design pushes the “burden of proof” to the proposer of an algorithm.

In the world of academic cryptography, gone are the days when someone could propose a protocol or algorithm and proclaim it secure because it was able to withstand a handful of known attacks. Instead, modern cryptographic design requires due diligence by the designers to ensure that no attack exists within a convincing and well-defined threat model.

This approach has been a tremendously powerful and inspiring paradigm within cryptography. For instance, the notion of a secure channel has been studied for more than 40 years. This is the fundamental cryptographic primitive that allows the proverbial Alice and Bob to send messages to each other safely in the presence (and possibly active interference) of an attacker. Today’s provable security analysis, even using automated tools, has unearthed attacks against secure channel protocols like TLS that were unanticipated by the security community.

Back in 2009 though, the blockchain was a concept that was presented outside regular academic cryptographic discourse. A brief white paper and a software implementation were sufficient to fuel its initial adoption that expanded rapidly. In retrospect, this was perhaps the only way for this fringe idea to ripple the waters of scientific discourse sufficiently and force a paradigm shift (in the sense of Thomas S. Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions”) in terms of how the consensus problem was to be studied henceforth.

As the shift settled though, a principled approach became direly needed. The newly discovered design space appears to be vast and the avenues of exploring it too numerous. The “burden of proof” needs to return to the designer.

Blockchain protocols need to become systematized, as they have gradually become one of the dominant themes in distributed consensus literature. The blockchain is not the problem; it is the solution. But in this case, one may wonder, what was the problem?

In 2014, jointly with Juan Garay and Nikos Leonardos, we put forth a first description of “the problem” in the form of what we called a “robust transaction ledger.” Such a ledger is implemented by a number of unauthenticated nodes and provides two properties, called persistence and liveness. Persistence mandates that nodes never disagree about the placement of transactions once they become stable, while liveness requires that all (honestly generated) transactions eventually become stable. Using this model, we provided a proof of security for the core of the Bitcoin protocol (a suitably simplified version of the protocol that we nicknamed the “bitcoin backbone”).

Given this proof, a natural question a cryptographer will ask is whether this protocol is really the best possible solution to the problem. “Best” here is typically interpreted in two ways: first, in terms of the efficiency of the solution; and second, in terms of the relevance and applicability of the threat model and the assumptions used in the security proof.

Efficiency is a particular concern for the Bitcoin blockchain. With all its virtues, the protocol is not particularly efficient in terms of processing time or resource consumption. This is exactly where “proof of stake” emerged as a possible alternative and a more efficient primitive for building blockchain protocols.

So, is it possible to use proof of stake to provably implement a robust transaction ledger? By 2016, with our Bitcoin backbone work already presented, this was a well-defined question; and the answer came with Ouroboros: our proof-of-stake-based blockchain protocol.

Ouroboros

The unique characteristic of Ouroboros is that the protocol was developed in tandem with a proof of security that aims to communicate in a succinct way that the proposed blockchain protocol satisfies the properties of a robust transaction ledger. Central to the proof is a combinatorial analysis of a class of strings that admit a certain discrete structure that maps to a blockchain fork. We called “forkable” those strings that admit a non-trivial such structure, and our proof shows that their density becomes minutely small as the length of the string grows.

With this argument, we showed how there is an opportunity for the nodes running the protocol to converge to a unique history. The protocol then dictates how to take advantage of this opportunity by running a cryptographic protocol that enables the nodes to produce a random seed, which, in turn, is used to sample the next sequence of parties to become active. As a result, the protocol facilitates the next convergence step to take place; in this way, it can continue ad infinitum following a cyclical process that was also the inspiration for its name. Ouroboros is the Greek word for the snake that eats its tail, an ancient Greek symbol for re-creation.

Having the protocol and its proof in hand gave us the unique opportunity for peer review, i.e., asking fellow cryptographers to evaluate the construction and its associated security proof as part of the formal submission process to a major cryptology conference.

Peer reviewing at the top cryptology venues is a painstakingly rigorous process that goes on for months. Papers are first reviewed independently by at least three experts, and afterward a discussion for each paper rages on as the three reviewers, as well as other members of the scientific committee, get involved and try to converge on the intellectual merits of each submission.

As a result of successfully passing this rigorous peer review process, Ouroboros was accepted and included in the program of Crypto 2017, the 37th annual cryptology conference. Crypto is one of the flagship conferences of the International Association for Cryptologic Research (IACR) and is one of the most exciting places for a cryptographer to be, as the program always contains research on the cutting edge of the discipline.

Furthermore, Ouroboros will be the settlement layer of the Cardano blockchain to be rolled out by IOHK in 2017, making it one of the swiftest technology transfer cases from a basic research publication to a system to be used by many thousands in just one year.

While all this may seem like a happy conclusion to the quest for a proof-of-stake blockchain, we are far from being done. On the contrary, we are still, as a community, at the very beginning of this expedition that will delve deep into blockchain design space. There are still too many open questions to solve, and new systems will be built on the foundations of the research that our community is laying out today.

The views expressed in this op ed are those of its author, Aggelos Kiayias , and do not necessarily reflect those of Bitcoin Magazine or BTC Media.

Ouroboros image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Blockstream Satellite: Broadcasting Bitcoin from Space

Blockstream Satellite: Broadcasting Bitcoin from Space

Yesterday a video teaser from blockchain technology company Blockstream created waves of excitement among enthusiasts of both cryptocurrencies and space. Most participants speculated that Blockstream was about to implement the idea, promoted by Bitcoin developer Jeff Garzik (among others), of a satellite system that streams the Bitcoin blockchain to the whole planet from space. The speculations were, indeed, correct.

Today, the company is announcing Blockstream Satellite, a new service that broadcasts real-time Bitcoin blockchain data from satellites in space to almost everyone on the planet. Blockstream Satellite covers across two-thirds of the Earth’s land mass and, according to the company, additional coverage areas will soon come online to reach almost every person on the planet by the end of the year.

“Bitcoin is a powerful and transformative internet native digital money that has blazed a trail of disruption, with its full potential yet to unfold. Because it’s permissionless, Bitcoin enables anyone to freely create new financial applications and other innovations that use the blockchain that haven’t been possible before,” said Blockstream co-founder and CEO Adam Back.

“Today’s launch of Blockstream Satellite gives even more people on the planet the choice to participate in Bitcoin. With more users accessing the Bitcoin blockchain with the free broadcast from Blockstream Satellite, we expect the global reach to drive more adoption and use cases for Bitcoin, while strengthening the overall robustness of the network.”

The Blockstream Satellite network currently consists of three geosynchronous satellites at various positions over Earth that cover four continents: Africa, Europe, South America and North America. Blockstream is leasing bandwidth on existing, commercial, geosynchronous satellites: Galaxy 18 (covering North America), Eutelsat 113 (covering South America) and two transponders on the Telstar 11N satellite (one covering Africa and one covering Europe).

Ground stations, called teleports, uplink the public Bitcoin blockchain data to the satellites in the network, which then broadcast the data to large areas across the globe. Additional satellites and teleports are being added to achieve worldwide coverage by the end of the year.

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The Blockstream service is expected to be especially useful to people in remote regions of developing world with poor internet connectivity.

“When I first heard of Blockstream Satellite, I immediately recognized its great potential to bring Bitcoin to regions of the world where internet access is either unavailable or expensive,” said Tim Akinbo, who runs the only bitcoin node in West Africa. “Not to mention providing redundant access when internet access is temporarily unavailable.”

Blockstream Satellite uses GNU Radio, an open-source software development platform for Software-Defined Radio (SDR), expected to reduce costs and streamline development by eliminating the need for specialized hardware. Blockstream Satellite utilizes the Fast Internet Bitcoin Relay Engine (FIBRE), an open-source protocol backed by several years of history operating and studying the Bitcoin Relay Network. “Together, these open-source technologies power the Blockstream Satellite network enabling Blockstream to provide this free service reliably and cost effectively,” noted the Blockstream press release.

“Anyone can receive the signal with a small satellite dish (similar to a consumer satellite TV dish) and a USB SDR (software-defined radio) interface,” notes the Blockstream Satellite FAQ. “The total equipment cost for a user is only about $100. The software is free. The software interface is the open-source GNU Radio software, which is the receiver. GNU Radio will send data to the FIBRE protocol, which is the Bitcoin process and is where the blocks reside.”

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NEO Completes Rebranding; Announces Blockchain Partnerships

NEO rebrand part 2

On June 22, Bitcoin Magazine reported that Antshares was embarking on a new rebranding strategy as part of its effort to lead blockchain development in China and around the world.

Now, on August 8, NEO Blockchain, China’s first original public chain project, has announced the completion of rebranding efforts from its former Antshares identity. Furthermore, NEO has upgraded its blockchain nodes, technical documents, social media, official site and exchange name worldwide, representing the transition from Antshares 1.0 to the NEO smart contract system 2.0.

NEO now is the top 10 cryptocurrency in terms of market value. It hopes to capitalize on its Chinese connections by calling to mind the success stories of other Chinese behemoths like Alibaba and Tencent. Whereas a month ago NEO may have been trying to “steal the spotlight from Ethereum,” it now seems to be trying to carve its own path forward.

Compared with Ethereum, NEO claims its smart contracts perform better in terms of determinism, high scalability and compatibility. The developers of smart contracts can use JAVA, C/C# and GO to write smart contracts without the need to learn new languages like Solidity, making it attractive to the global developer community.

Powered by the Community

In the press conference held on June 22, Antshares announced its rebranding of “NEO” with an emphasis on upgrading itself to a smart economy platform with an integration of digital assets, digital identity and smart contracts. It has also introduced notable new features like a cross-chain protocol, quantum-resistant cryptography, a distributed storage protocol and a secure communication protocol.

Other new additions include PC web and mobile apps, as well as an introductory video about the project.

Da Hongfei, the founder of NEO, told Bitcoin Magazine:

“NEO’s development hinges on two important teams: one is the Shanghai-based development and management team, while the other is an international team called “City of Zion,” purely supported by the community, thanks to a huge number of volunteers for NEO.

“The community just volunteered to translate the video and other materials into multiple languages. Furthermore, the technical white paper has also been translated by the community into English, Spanish, Japanese and Korean. We are especially grateful to the community, which will remain the core of NEO’s development in the future.”

New Partnerships Underway

SInce its successful upgrade, NEO has added full smart contract support, attracting a range of blockchain startups to work with its platform. Bancor, Coindash and Agrello are among some of the first to have reached agreements for technical cooperation with NEO.

Meanwhile, Red Pulse and other projects have announced that they will join the NEO ecosystem and adopt its smart contracts.

Red Pulse, an event-driven Chinese market research company, will build a research sharing platform built on the NEO 2.0 smart contract platform. It will allow readers to guide market research and to use digital currency to reward analysts and contributors directly and fairly, disrupting the current financial research market models. The project will also release a new token, $RPX, powered by the NEO platform.

Elastos, launched by Rong Chen, Jihan Wu and Feng Han, is a new blockchain-powered operating system. According to an announcement made in July of 2017, in cooperation with NEO, Elastos will “explore the technological values and applications of blockchains in the new internet operating systems to further the development of a Smart Economy.” Elastos plans to become an “OS for the blockchain,” while NEO will enable developers to create blockchain applications quickly and easily.

Furthermore, the Nest Smart Fund, based on NEO smart contracts, will be a brand-new form of investment fund that will eliminate (as much as possible) the high thresholds, high risks, inefficiencies and moral hazards often associated with traditional fund intermediaries. Backed by blockchain technology, Nest will allow anyone to participate transparently and easily in the Nest fund.

As NEO Council Secretary General Tony Tao told Bitcoin Magazine:

“The core of the platform-level blockchain lies in the establishment of the ecosystem. For the next step, we will launch the NEO Seed Project, hoping to inspire the global community and to encourage traditional technology developers to use the NEO Smart Contract platform.”

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Bloq Outlines Blockchain Solutions for Trade Finance and Supply Chain Management

Bloq Outlines Blockchain Solutions for Trade Finance and Supply Chain Management

Bloq, a Chicago-based blockchain developer and software startup, has joined IBM and Microsoft to develop blockchain platforms and best practices for one of the most promising use cases for blockchain technology: trade finance and supply chain management.

Interest in the use of blockchain for trade is growing rapidly as companies and organizations like IBM, Microsoft, Hyperledger, JP Morgan and Walmart recognize that antiquated trade systems are long overdue for a complete restructuring and that blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the systems that make up global trade.

A common problem with current trade systems is fraud. The trip from farm or factory to store shelves involves numerous opportunities to falsify shipping documents and alter shipping container records or contents with little accountability.

“Global supply chain management has drastically changed in the last 10-15 years,” William Nieusma, Vice President, Government Strategy at Bloq told Bitcoin Magazine: “Regulatory mandates, operational complexity and data security concerns have ramped up the pressure to overhaul these outdated systems.”

Nieusma is one of the authors of Bloq’s recently released white paper, “Accelerating Global Trade Processes with Blockchain,” designed to introduce their new project to develop a model blockchain network for companies involved in trade.

“But it’s not all doom-and-gloom; adopters of blockchain-based systems can cut costs, improve customer service and find new, verified business partners,” added Nieusma.

Alan Cohn, attorney and consultant and advisor to Bloq told us:

“Global trade is an area where blockchain can play a transformative role, not just for industry but also for government.”

Nieusma noted that Bloq believes that in the future, the most significant and valuable business systems, including trade, will run on blockchains.

IBM has recognized the potential of blockchain and trade. In partnership with seven European banks, it is building a pilot blockchain trade program with Hyperledger to enable companies like Walmart and Maersk to use blockchain technology to better track the movement of farm and factory products to the store shelves.

Microsoft is also building a model trade program using the Ethereum blockchain in a pilot project with JPMorgan.

Blockchain Tech and Trade Are a Perfect Fit

Trade finance and supply management lend themselves well to the particular advantages of blockchain technology. The Bloq white paper states:

Blockchain technology holds considerable promise to substantially improve supply chain security and transparency. Blockchain’s inherent architectural attributes solve several weaknesses in current trade IT systems and processes to ensure information immutability and transaction auditing, thereby increasing trade value capture and value creation.

Bloq’s model trade platform promises companies high levels of cybersecurity, reduced waiting times, transparency, ease of revenue payments, low infrastructure investment, easily auditable transactions, efficient accommodation for additional participants, immutability and automatic bonding and payments through smart contracts.

Bloq plans to build a “permissioned, federated network” built on the Bitcoin blockchain that, depending on the client’s needs, will also support Ethereum and Hyperledger. Nieusma said:

“Bloq believes that the future is a multi-chain, multi-network world and that interoperability is a guiding principle in network buildout.”

The Bloq program will connect all parties involved in a trade including buyers, banks, sellers and transporters so that information about a shipment is distributed among all involved parties at the same time.

As the white paper states:

“Trade can be safer, more secure, and more profitable with less human error. We hope this discussion leads to an evolution in trade that benefits all stakeholders.”

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Decent Launches Global Media Distribution Platform

Decent Launch

Free and open communication has long been an essential component of a successful democracy. Unfortunately, money, power and influence over time have stifled today’s media environment adversely impacting both content producers and consumers alike.

In an effort to democratize creative content, DECENT has officially launched its blockchain-based, global media distribution platform. The name is an acronym for Decentralized Network; Encrypted & Secure; Content Distribution System; Elimination of 3rd Parties; New Way of Online Publishing; Timestamped Data Records.

Designed to bring more transparency and fairness to the media industry, DECENT allows artists to seamlessly distribute digital content for immediate payment and without hefty fees. Peer-to-peer in its orientation, consumers decide the merits of a certain piece of content posted through a Yelp-like community rating system. The content, however, cannot be censored or removed.

This blockchain initiative endeavors to disrupt the legacy world of media distribution by allowing artists more freedom and control over the ownership and distribution of their content, all without compromising on security. It represents a potential gamechanger for the massive global media and content distribution industry — one that’s estimated to grow from $1.7 trillion in 2016 to over $2 trillion in 2019.

DECENT was founded in 2016 by two friends, Matej Michalko and Matej Boda, from Slovakia. It sprouted from a shared vision that blockchain technology could fuel a coordinated system of digital content publishing and sharing throughout the world.

Funding for DECENT was fueled by an ICO campaign last summer, which raised more than 5,881 BTC, at that time valued at $4.2 million USD. There were 4,300 ICO participants in total and no other key funding partners.

Michalko recounted the journey leading up to his own personal discovery of blockchain technology and its potential uses for the content distribution space. “I’ve been extensively involved in Bitcoin since 2011, even mining it from my own laptop at the beginning. I quickly realized that the innovative technology behind Bitcoin had the potential to change the modern world.”

When Michalko started to delve further into blockchain technology, he found a seemingly endless list of use cases the new technology could support. “I became determined to use blockchain technology to create something revolutionary that would be beneficial for people on a global scale. A short time later ongoing discussions between myself and our future co-founder Matej Boda quickly led to DECENT being born.”

He says that DECENT Network is a reaction to the issues that the majority of content producers face nowadays in the entertainment and media industry. “There is too much artificial complexity and too many barriers in the industry affecting both the access to market and income of the content owners.”

DECENT’S digital model allows artists to distribute any form of content, including written, music, videos, ebooks and pictures. These distribution channels are free of third-party influence, meaning that artists can also manage their intellectual property rights and set their own pricing.

One of the innovative adaptations that distinguishes DECENT from other blockchain platforms is the network’s reputation management system. This allows content creators who share their digital work on the platform to build a lifetime reputation, based on ratings from those who purchase content on the platform. DECENT Network also allows content creators to instantly receive payment when someone downloads their content, without any middleman interference.

Michalko believes that DECENT can break the trajectory in which a majority of power is concentrated in the hands of a few players controlling the industry. “Artists, filmmakers and writers lose control over their work and depend on the mercy of the ‘big guys.’ We designed DECENT Network to do away with all that and bring more transparency and fairness to the digital content industry.”

DECENT estimates that writers, for example, lose a healthy 30–75 percent chunk of their earnings when publishing with Amazon. Similarly, musicians, through licensing agreements, lose around 30 percent when selling a track on iTunes. Blockchain technology therefore serves as a mechanism that helps writers and musicians keep more money, while connecting with their audiences directly.

Michalko says that artists will be paid for their downloaded content through DECENT’s own cryptocurrency called “DCT,” which will be launched together with DECENT Network. Other payment options, he says, will be available in the future. “Artists will no longer have to wait months before seeing a penny from their work. And at the time of launch, DECENT Network will be a completely free-of-charge service for artists.”

Michalko hopes that by  2020, DECENT Network will have become the number one worldwide media sharing platform. “We hope to bring more transparency and fairness to the digital content industry for both creators and consumers. I hope that with our launch people will realize the advantage of DECENT Network over other content distribution platforms.”

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