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Alibaba Founder: Blockchain Meaningless Without Greener, Inclusive Future

The founder of Chinese multinational retail conglomerate Alibaba, Jack Ma, has said that blockchain needs to prove it can push a greener, more inclusive future forward for society, else it is ”meaningless”.

Speaking at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, China on Monday, Ma said that the ”data age” is a great opportunity for the supply side of the economy to transform the landscape of money and finance. Referencing artificial intelligence, blockchain and Internet of Things technology, Ma said that this modern reformation should not be promoted unless these innovations can bring a greener and more inclusive direction for society.

This is a big call coming from the man who founded the world’s number one company in terms of blockchain patent applications. Although it is reported that Ma has plans to retire from the company, his attitude will surely carry influence within the company and their own blockchain developments.

Ma has defended blockchain on previous occasions, earlier this year refuting claims that the technology is a bubble waiting to burst, although he did claim that Bitcoin in fact was. At this time he also referenced a concern for social improvement, saying new technologies should be questioned on ”what value can it bring to society, government, enterprises, and consumers in the data age”.

Social enterprise with blockchain

Some circumstances show that blockchain has already had a positive impact on social enterprises, with companies utilizing the new technologies to promote their causes of financial, social and environmental well-being.

In one case of this, Finnish start-up Moni created a blockchain-backed card that tackles the issue of refugees economic exclusion due to a lack of personal identification they hold. Each card is linked to an individual’s identity that can be used by refugees to purchase products, pay bills and receive payments from employers.

Swytch is an example of a blockchain company promoting the use of sustainable energy. Right now the pilot project is looking to distribute around 3.5Gw of solar, wind, hydro and bio-gas energy, enough to power over 500,000 homes.

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Chinese Justice Department Uses Blockchain to Track Parolees

Officials in the southern Chinese city of Zhongshan have instituted a blockchain system to track the movements of those on parole in the district.

The new blockchain network is said to improve the quality of community correction that the justice department can serve, upgrading its ability to track parolees activities around the clock. Monitoring the community prisoners previously had restrictions imposed, including regional and time constraints. The blockchain system, however, lets officials view data at any time from any location.

Changes to the electronic bracelets mean that wearers are no longer required to regularly report their own activities or require officers to make visits to check up on them, meaning less friction is created between parolee and officer.

The new blockchain system also employs data analysis that can detect the possibility of criminals re-offending through sharing the action trajectory and situation of the community prisoners with the Department of Justice. An analysis is done through an accumulative data check of the behavioral tendencies of the parolees and their current situation. If there are any indications that re-offending may occur, staff are triggered to make an early intervention and prevent any criminal activities from occurring.

In this specific use case for blockchain, the Chinese government is able to reduce the manpower required to supervise the offenders, creating both financial savings and preventing potential situations of conflict. Whether it is able to actually reduce the number of re-offending parolees is still a question as the network was only rolled out this month, but the potential to do so is certainly there.

It is not just the government in China committed to developing fresh blockchain solutions; a recent study shows that last year China was responsible for 56% of the world’s blockchain patent applications, with Chinese multinational holding conglomerate Alibaba claiming 10% of the overall total. The study also indicates that the number of blockchain patent filings has increased from just 134 in 2016, to 406 in 2017.

 

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Alibaba Responsible for 10% of World’s Blockchain Patent Applications

Research published by Thomas Reuters shows that Chinese multinational holding conglomerate Alibaba has filed over 10% of the total number of blockchain patent applications last year.

Of the 406 total applications in 2017, Alibaba claims 43 of them, leading China’s growing blockchain intellectual property claims. The data collected also indicates that China is responsible for 56% of applications in 2017, followed by the US with 22%, and shows that the number of blockchain patent filings has increased from just 134 in 2016, to 406 in 2017.

Last week, Alibaba’s payment subsidiary Ant Financial and Alipay revealed their latest blockchain application to ensure the authenticity of rice produced in Wuchang, in northeastern Heilongjiang Province. The project will be carried out in partnership with the municipal government.

Why are blockchain patents so important?

Alex Batteson, an editor in the IP & IT practice area at Thomson Reuters Practical Law, explained why the patent race is crucial to success as it can attract investors by ensuring a business’ intellectual property is legally protected. Batteson sees blockchain as ”the next frontier of financial services technology architecture”, and an attractor of substantial financial investment. He noted that companies are eager to protect their work first as the technology and adoption rates advance.

While China has a blanket ban on cryptocurrency trading and initial coin offering (ICO) fundraising, the country’s blockchain efforts have been significant. President Xi Jinping himself described that the technology is “substantially reshaping the global economic structure“. The US may have more blockchain patents overall but the Asian nation is quickly catching up.

Taiwan-based IP specialist and Eiger Law partner John Eastwood spoke to the Nikkei Asian Review on China’s progress, saying that it will most likely be extremely profitable for local companies to secure as much blockchain-related intellectual property rights as they can. He said, ”Holding several patents helps to give an aura of legitimacy that helps many companies in the blockchain field to attract investors or acquirers.”

 

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The United Nations’ Secretary-General Has Blockchain Firmly on the Agenda

The United Nations has put together a panel of 20 experts in order to investigate how blockchain can impact global economics.

The panel was initiated by The United Nations’ (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres. The group which comprises of 20 figures from major sectors including industry and academia will examine digital technologies in general with a particular focus on blockchain technology.

Executive Director and co-chair of the UN secretariat Ambassador Amandeep Gill, commented the new body, called the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation:

“You cannot look at ‘web 3.0’ without looking at blockchain or without looking at AI (Artificial Intelligence) […] our hope is that through discussion of these various digital domains […] in terms of human rights, in terms of privacy, in terms of subversion of democracy, we are able to come out with some common principles…of strengthening cooperation across borders.”

It was also revealed that Melinda Gates, founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba Jack Ma were invited to co-chair the new panel. It is thought that Ma was selected due to his work with blockchain, including his raising of $14 billion for development projects.

Secretary Guterres has said that digital technologies are affecting society at an “unprecedented scale” with Ma conceding that “that the impact of blockchain on the future of humans may be far beyond our imagination.”

The UN itself has been implementing humanitarian programs using blockchain for a number of years but admits it can do far more. There are currently 25.4 million refugees in the world and some 3.1 million asylum seekers around the world, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Blockchain solutions are in place in many poorer countries working to improve the lives of individuals at community and national levels, but it is noticeable that the worldwide refugee crisis hasn’t as yet been significantly impacted by new technology.

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Bitcoin Still Best Bet, Says Wall St Crypto King

Bart Smith, Wall Street’s very own ‘Crypto King’, has said in an interview on CNBC’s Fast Money that Bitcoin is still the best option for crypto traders.

Smith, who launched a crypto desk which buys and sells millions of dollars in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, maintains this is primarily because people are out there using it. Therefore, its functionality makes it stand out from the range of available cryptocurrencies available today.

The head of the digital asset group at Susquehanna International Group remains upbeat on Bitcoin despite the falls of the last day. The future he says, is positive, recently suggesting that institutional investors will re-stimulate the cryptocurrency market once more regulatory clarity is provided. He commented:

“If you want to own the asset that you can actually use today and that people are functionally using, it’s Bitcoin… The use case for Bitcoin is valid today, which is the currency of the internet.”

He pointed out that cross-border exchanges using Bitcoin is a major use of the digital currency today. This makes it a significant usable medium of exchange.

Only recently, Alibaba Group’s Ant Financial reported that it intended to use blockchain technology to lower the cost of overseas payment after failing a bid to buy over MoneyGram. The Chinese multinational e-commerce conglomerate says the move will benefit the Filipino expatriate population of Hong Kong. They systematically send funds estimated to be HKD 4.4 billion (USD 561 million) annually back to families in the Philippines.

Talking of traditional cross-border payments, Smith argued:

“They use Western Union, traditional banks; It is slow and it is expensive… and there are people that can stop you from sending that money, whether that’s good or bad. With Bitcoin, I can send money. It’s fast. It’s cheap. And frankly, no one can stop me.”

As for other coins, Smith suggested that this may be the future but it isn’t now. He argues that new tokens will face difficulties establishing new “technological advancements”. Hence, despite the initial excitement, it will be Bitcoin that will be continued to be used for practical purposes.

 

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Blockchain Is Becoming China’s Darling, but Crypto Suffers From Beijing’s Distrust

Last week’s comments by China’s president Xi Jinping that the “blockchain was 10 times more valuable than the internet” clearly highlights the direction that the Chinese government is taking regarding the cryptocurrency space, according to Cointelegraph

Adding to those comments, the president referred to blockchain as “a part of the technological revolution”. If this “revolution” is already underway, where exactly does that leave bitcoin, following cryptocurrency’s trading ban in the country enforced earlier this year? Under the ban, Chinese residents can hold cryptocurrencies, but can’t currently trade them.

Add to that the prohibitive attack on China’s mining industry by regulatory bodies and things don’t look too bright for Bitcoin when juxtaposed to China’s new enthusiasm for blockchain.

Given these current conditions, China is still a major Bitcoin player with 50 to 70 percent of global mining taking place in the country, although this number is not comparable with its far more significant figures before the ban was actually put in place. Many miners have relocated under China’s crypto skeptical regime and the bans have made their mark on global markets when Bitcoin dropped to its lowest level in more than a month, with Ethereum (ETH) declining 19% and Ripple (XRP) collapsing 29%.

In 2013, banks and financial organizations were prohibited to carry out any crypto-related operations, and all companies offering any services involving Bitcoin were obliged to register with the relevant authorities and to follow know-your-customer (KYC) procedures to prevent money laundering and tax evasion, as Cointelegraph points out.

The situation has deteriorated even further now that ICO’s have been clamped, and exchanges shut down. With 15  closing, some moving to Hong Kong or staying on and becoming fiat free, to avoid the governments no trade for fiat regulations. Despite this and a further increase in regulation, China still boasts the top 20 cryptocurrencies in the global market in terms of valuation.

No such problems for blockchain, as exemplified by Xi Jinping latest stance, and his proclamation that the internet pales into insignificance alongside the new technology:

“The new generation of information technology represented by artificial intelligence, quantum information, mobile communication, internet of things, and blockchain is accelerating breakthroughs in its range of applications.”

Hangzhou is fast becoming blockchain’s Chinese Mecca, the city where Alibaba was founded, with its new Blockchain Industrial Park and $1.6 bln innovation fund. Also, Hangzhou will gain from the construction of a research institute established to provide academic support for the development of blockchain tech in the city.

Recently Blockchain was heralded for its internet-crushing-value on a China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast by the state-backed TV channel tagging it as being “the machine that generates trust” whilst in the same program making further attacks on cryptocurrency.

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Chinese E-Commerce Giant Says Blockchain Not A Bubble

Founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, Jack Ma, has commented recently that he doesn’t see blockchain as a bubble, unlike sees bitcoin, which is something he has no plans to pursue.

The e-commerce boss made the comments at the 2nd World Intelligence Conference, which was held in Tainjin in Northern China on May 26th. At the conference, he reflected on research that he’d been involved in over the years, saying that DLT has the potential to address data privacy and security at all levels, both private and governmental. He also referred to the current fintech space as an “era of big data.”

Alibaba reported $39.9 billion in its latest Q4 earnings, with a trading volume of “trillions of transactions.”  Its founder went on to say that he was disappointed by the fact that much of the blockchain industry’s interest still comes from speculators, who view the technology as a “huge gold mine”. Speaking with CNBC Shanghai, Ma said that he was wary of bitcoin, even at its recent hiatus back in December 2017, stating:

“I don’t know about Bitcoin at all. I’m particularly puzzled. Even if it can really work, the rules of global trade and the financial system will be completely changed. I don’t think we are ready. So I’m still paying attention to Alipay… to the US dollar, and the euro. We have a team that studies blockchain, but Bitcoin is not something that I want to pursue. We don’t care about Bitcoin.”

Last year, Ma became the richest man in Asia, according to Bloomberg, with his net worth surging to $41.8 bln. Alibaba’s mobile payment app AliPay, reportedly has 450 million users. However, the company hasn’t embraced cryptocurrencies and has recently seen one of its subsidiaries, Taobao, ban ICO related advertising.

Alipay, now the Ant Financial Services Group, introduced blockchain technology in 2016 to improve its accountability while working with the Chinese charity industry.

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