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Coinbase CEO: Virtual Reality and Crypto Next Big Combo

Coinbase CEO: Virtual Reality and Crypto Next Big Combo

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong has said that cryptocurrency has the potential to turn Virtual Reality into a full-time job.

Armstrong suggests that virtual spaces could create their own currencies or even make use of existing ones such as Bitcoin or Ethereum by integrating the means for users to spend crypto in the same way as they are currently using fiat.

Developers would see more time spent on such games, according to the Coinbase boss, taking it much further into the realms of Sci-fi by suggesting that players could use the virtual world to support themselves in the real world, cashing in their accrued gaming funds for “real” use, such as paying rent. He speculates:

“Perhaps we’ll see virtual bank buildings with pillars, virtual bank vaults that spin when you open them, and virtual tellers with glasses.” The exchange magnate, clearly a follower of the gaming and VR world added, “Ready Player One had a great visual of coins being collected in the game, and spilling out of characters when they were killed (leaving a big pile of loot on the ground).”

Clearly, Armstrong has seen the potential of turning VR ownership into the real thing via some of his own exchange-listed cryptocurrencies. But in reality, there’s still a long way to go – crossing the bridge from virtual into reality.

Armstrong appears to be in touch with the man on the street, if not through gaming and VR, then certainly in terms of what reality actually means for many of the world’s “have-nots” these days. This was shown by his recent personal $1 million giveaway through his charity project called GiveCrypto.

The project is a global enterprise which will give out cryptocurrency donations to worthy recipients, who will then be able to make personal choices in whether to keep their donations as cryptocurrency or exchange them for fiat. GiveCrypto wants to raise USD 10 million by the end of 2018 and grow to a fund of USD 1 billion over two years. Donations will hopefully come from wealthy donors who have amassed wealth through cryptocurrency, passing on their good fortunes to those in need of financial help. Suggested cryptocurrencies for donations are Bitcoin, Ripple, and Zcash.

Ripple’s co-founder Chris Larsen has already put in an undisclosed donation into the Armstrong charity hat. This may not be all that Ripple will be putting into Coinbase’s coffers if recent news that Coinbase plans to list XRP on its exchange becomes reality…. that’s not a virtual one by the way!

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New Social Messaging, Trading Apps Attempt to Solve Dapp Dilemma

A new decentralized app called DappGram has been launched with claims to enhance communication among global blockchain users. It joins a slew of similar recent blockchain-based social messaging apps such as TronChat, Status and LINE, each hoping to reinvigorate flagging public interest in decentralized applications (Dapps).

Dapps were commonly seen as a practical means to take blockchain technology to the mainstream, with some experts predicting their popularity would one day surpass that of applications built by giant corporations, due to their increasing utility, userbase and network valuation.

However, the thousands of Dapps already created have seemingly failed to achieve the much-touted utility even with superior incentivization models, transparency and decentralized features.

According to its developers, DappGram promises to address the imbalance of information between users and blockchain companies by offering a full range service such as real-time transaction, information access, and other features.

Zerion founder, Evgeny Yuttaev, suggests that most ICOs seem to be in search of the next Bitcoin or Ethereum in search of massive profits, but what is really needed is projects which can change peoples lives, and for this to happen, Dapps need to become mainstream.

The new app hopes to revitalize interest in Dapps by offering more focused features than popular cloud-based mobile and desktop messaging app Telegram. DappGram promises trading quotes, transactions, crypto wallet facilities, and chat with community projects, therefore, enabling the monitoring of the cryptocurrency market in real time. An extra useful function enables users to register with simply their mobile number. In a company statement, it said:

“DappGram is more than an ordinary social network based Dapp, it has been projected to become the largest and best-connected platform in the blockchain industry and aimed to help blockchain players as much as possible.”

Currently, there are 1,565 decentralized apps built on the Ethereum blockchain alone, unsurprising given Ethereum’s historical place in the development of blockchain solutions. However, according to a study by crypto research publication Diar, the usage of decentralized apps on Ethereum has been declining sharply, with users declining 56% from January 2018 to July 2018.

Dapp detractors include Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, who feels similar apps which pose a challenge to Ethereum consistently fail, although such a view is hardly surprising given where the network originated from – a smart contract exploit.

 

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Air Canada and Winding Tree Combine to Boost Blockchain Air Travel Options

Air Canada has become yet another airline along with Air France, KLM, and Lufthansa to partner with the blockchain-based travel distribution platform Winding Tree.

Winding Tree has created an open blockchain-based marketplace where travel agents can arrange flights while also setting their own commission rates. The company boasts of enabling agents to remove intermediaries that currently charge excessive fees and act as gatekeepers.

Along with flights, travel agents using the blockchain service can also offer a range of ancillary services to travelers based on their past travel preferences. Air Canada has commented that this will open up greater competition in the market and encourage further innovation in the air travel sector. Keith Wallis, Director of Global Product Distribution for Air Canada, commented that such projects which integrate blockchain solutions are “giving blockchain-savvy users the ability to access our content directly from the source.” He added:

“As Canada’s largest airline and a global leader in innovative airline distribution solutions, Air Canada recognizes the importance of leveraging this next generation technology.”

Winding Tree suggests that it puts suppliers, sellers and travellers in control of their own data, determining who sees their inventories, and by opening up their platform allows entrepreneurs to experiment with new business models in a safe and secure way. Pedro Anderson, Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Winding Tree says that by becoming the first North American airline to work with, the Winding Tree public blockchain platform Air Canada “is showing itself to be a real leader in innovation,”

Payment transactions on the Winding Tree platform will utilize their Lif cryptocurrency token, although as yet Air Canada hasn’t confirmed if it plans to receive Lif payments as flights are organized through the platform. In the meantime, Winding Tree has said that it will be continuing to develop its programme of smart contracts for airline services with plans to launch its own mainnet towards the end of this year or possibly in 2019.

For many travellers though, blockchain tech is needed once flights are booked; the airport is a clear point of stress for many, having to endure endless ticketing and immigration queues, followed by baggage check-ins, then the sheep pens of passport and visa checks. Face recognition is beginning to be adopted, but inconsistently, and retinal scans and fingerprinting offering maximum security in this age of heightened terrorist activity, are rare to non-existent.

Decentralized digital identities remain the realm of fantasy movies such as Mission Impossible but in the real world,  travellers must make do with sagging outmoded systems. Airports are still way behind, when it comes to adopting these developing technologies.

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Should Ethereum Be Worried About Token Migration?

Although Ethereum is the ICO favored go-to platform, there is a trend emerging towards migration away from its native ERC20 token to home-baked alternatives once projects get underway.

Despite Ethereum’s undisputed dominance owing to the ease of setting up ERC20 tokens to facilitate ICOs, issues such as scalability and transaction speed problems, along with network clogging, have had the effect of driving ICOs to look elsewhere for a better solution.

Ethereum’s ERC20 technical standard has essentially been used by startups as a kind of incubator, it being the primary tool that allows creating tokens for trading.

One of the latest to take this route is the Kin Foundation, which boasts some 300 million monthly users of its Kik Messenger app. A spokesman for the Kin Foundation has explained that the company has been talking to exchanges to allow users that transfer their tokens from wallets to exchanges to forfeit the original ERC20 tokens to Kin’s own native KIN token on its own blockchain, although users can still sit hold their tokens on Ethereum as long as they wish with no time restraint.

KIN’s promotional PR suggests “incredible speed and scalability” along with security and scalability after the shift to its own blockchain. The concept of migrating in this way, of course, is not new. Others who have made this move, notably EOS and Tron, also took the migration route away from the Ethereum blockchain which got them up and running.

Since the launch of the EOS mainnet earlier this year, EOS have scooped up EOSBet, Medipedia, Tixico, Billionaire Token, Insights Network, WAX and Sentinel Protocol. Justin Sun, Tron’s founder and CEO, said that their shift from ERC20 protects their user’s interests.

T-21 days until Mainnet launch! #TRON will be one of the most competitive mainstream blockchains with the most users. We graduated #1 from the ETH platform with 1.08M+ users, more than OMG and EOS combined. ETH was just a prelude. Now for the main act 🎵😎$TRX pic.twitter.com/Oyj4XN1T7l

— Justin Sun (@justinsuntron) May 9, 2018

Sun added, “We will compete face to face with Ethereum, and we have confidence we will build a large ecosystem; a much large ecosystem than the Ethereum.”

However, despite such fighting talk from Tron’s top man, the sheer size of the Ethereum blockchain means that it is unlikely that any sleep will be lost just yet for Ethereum backers but migration from ERC20 is a space well worth watching.

 

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Taipei Hospital Goes Blockchain in Line With Its “Smart City” Promise

A hospital in the Taiwan capital of Taipei has developed a blockchain powered platform for record keeping, in-line with the government’s latest healthcare policy.

The new Taipei Medical University Hospital’s “Healthcare Blockchain Platform” will support the Taiwanese government’s drive to improve patient referral services and to enable healthcare networks to facilitate patients accessing their records through a mobile app.

Taiwan’s capital had already announced its desire to become a “smart city” earlier this year. It is planning to integrate blockchain to provide pollution sensors and health history tracking to its population. In February, the governor of Taiwan’s central bank, Yang Chin-long, stated that it was also exploring blockchain.

The new project at the Taipei Medical University Hospital involved over 100 clinics which have been using blockchain to improve the transfer of information to patients. The platform will further enhance current systems by enabling patients easy access to their complete medical history, including images. Likewise, hospitals and medical centers will be able to access these same records using smart contracts

Hospital superintendent Chen Ray-jade sees security as another aspect which can be much improved using the blockchain app, suggesting that:

“blockchain technology not only helps to combine electronic medical records with electronic health records from multiple hospitals and clinics, it also incorporates the additional security feature of notification and consent before any transfer takes place.”

The medical profession has taken to blockchain very quickly, recognizing that such data sharing and record keeping facilities offered by new technology are a huge improvement on many of the outmoded paper-driven and digital systems employed in hospitals today,

In Germany, for example, the use of blockchain in national healthcare has been much discussed over the past few years. Dr. Christina Czeschik, physician and specialist in medical informatics, suggests that the current system of electronic health records (EHR) has many disadvantages that blockchain could bypass, such as those centering around economy, risk, and trustworthiness.

She argues that argues that there are “few other industries in which so many different viewpoints and agendas need to be reconciled to achieve a common goal” – which, in this case, is good patient care.

In the US, Mount Sinai Hospital’s New York-based medical school has established a blockchain research center to explore its medical use case applications. The Center for Biomedical Blockchain Research is set to be part of the hospital’s Institute for Next Generation Healthcare. The institute currently hosts 50 specialist researchers studying progressive healthcare solutions, including the application of robotics, artificial intelligence, wearable medical devices, sensors, and genomic sequencing.

With the US reportedly spending near to 20% of its GDP on healthcare, blockchain technology might be called upon sooner than later to streamline and improve services in the industry.

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Dapps Usage Sees Sharp Decline

According to a study by crypto research publication diar, the usage of decentralized apps (Dapps) on Ethereum has been declining sharply, with users declining 56% from January 2018 to July 2018.

There are Dapps built on other platforms, but this study focuses on Ethereum Dapps, which is the most widely used platform for launching them.

Ethereum is the original blockchain and cryptocurrency used to develop Dapps and is the second cryptocurrency by rank with a market cap near USD 28 billion versus the Bitcoin market cap of USD 109 billion. Ethereum has complex and efficient smart contract technology, which is why it’s so conducive for Dapp development. However, the numbers show that they are not maintaining their user base and shriveling up over time.

This may be why Ethereum’s price has dropped to USD 270 from a high of over USD 1,300 in January 2018, combined with a strong bear market. Ethereum is declining much faster than Bitcoin, indicating that declining users account for the rest of the price drop. The more users, the more Ether is purchased to interact with Dapps, so Ethereum’s price is directly influenced by the number of people using them.

The top Dapps are actually ponzi scheme scams called Fomo3D and PoWH 3D, which have nearly 100,000 users versus the total of 325,000 users in July 2018. The study didn’t include these ponzi schemes in its data, probably because they could be considered illegal activity. If including the ponzis  then total users has only declined 38% since January.

The top 3 Dapps are decentralized exchanges, like IDEX, Fork Delta and Bancor. The userbase for these exchanges hit a peak and then dropped off sharply, perhaps showing a preference for more user-friendly centralized exchanges.

Games are another top category on Ethereum. CryptoKitties, for example, became a sensation in the crypto space when it had over 14,000 users and raised USD 12 million. Today, it only has 510 users which is a 96% drop. Decentraland has seen a similar user drop of 86%.

The drop in Dapps usage paints a bearish long-term outlook for Ethereum. However, when the next crypto rally happens, perhaps usage will rally as well. There is probably a solid connection between the state of the crypto markets and interest in Dapps.

 

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Germany’s Biggest Ethereum Meetup Goes 100% Dapps

Germany’s biggest Ethereum meetup in Berlin has announced that is to cover the whole event using decentralized applications (Dapps).

The event ETHBerlin will use Dapps for all services including ticketing, live streaming, hotel booking and raffles.  The event will be held at Factory Berlin, which will be held in two venues from 7 September. One is in the central district of Berlin, Mitte. The other brand new Factory venue is in the middle of the city’s startup scene, Gorlitzer Park.

Currently, there are 1,565 Dapps built on the Ethereum blockchain alone, unsurprising given Ethereum’s historical place in the development of blockchain solutions. Carl Bennet of Status.im suggests that 2019 will become a new dawn for Dapps, suggesting:

“We will see more developers and designers focusing on creating simpler and more familiar user onboarding experiences for mainstream use we’ve come to expect from the applications we use and an overall lower barrier to entry into the crypto ecosystem.”

The suggestion is that Dapps will be the key to widespread crypto adoption, beyond the payments system created by Bitcoin, offering users the ability to interact with cryptocurrencies, while navigating user-friendly mobile and desktop applications, thus bringing digital currencies to the “forefront of social consciousness”.

For this event, ETHBerlin has elected to use an Ethereum-based video streaming app along with a decentralized hotel and apartment booking platform accepting Ether. Raffles, ticketing and event management will also be covered by Ethereum based Dapps. The ETHBerlin team suggests that it is “raising the bar” with Dapps, stating:

“ETHBerlin stands strong, we think that Dapps are the future, so we’ll do whatever it takes to push adoption, and inspire you to build more of them. There is room for all… As a responsible, global community, in constant evolution, as is our ecosystem, we need to understand that it is not enough to absorb these teachings and foundations and just replicate.”

Dapps are clearly on the march this year, mainly because of the influx of funding through ICO token sales enabling further development and testing of new ideas and applications. Within the Ethereum community, there is a general feeling the Dapps are the future replacing intermediary-based centralized systems.

Critics suggest that there are scalability issues, with some suggesting that the Ethereum protocol will need a massive scaling boost to support larger platforms demanding huge transactions.

 

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IBM, Barclays, Citi Create Blockchain App Store for Financial Services

American technology corporation IBM has teamed with banking giants including Barclays and Citi to create an app store style platform for financial blockchain services.

The LedgerConnect project aims to increase efficiency in banks’ ability to access and utilize blockchain solutions from fintech and software developers, offering services in areas of market data, know your customer (KYC) processes, collateral management and sanctions screenings. Nine financial institutions were part of the proof-of-concept of the app for use by their peers.

Trying something new

Those behind the LedgerConnect project say it will benefit users by pre-approving and certifying applications as secure to be used, potentially saving research costs for banks looking for blockchain services. Dr Lee Braine of Barclays noted that a hub such as this gives banks a chance to try something new in the area, allowing them access to the various deployment options of distributed ledgers in banking, and experience in combining infrastructure-hosted and bank-hosted nodes in the private network.

The hub itself runs on IBM’s blockchain platform, offering just Hyperledger-based applications for the time being, although the founders are looking into hosting alternative blockchain solutions, citing R3’s Corda and Quorum as viable options so long as they meet the security specifications.

A good thing for start-ups?

Should the hub find success in the sector, it will not only be beneficial for the banks using it, but also for the blockchain companies whose services are being advertised. By addressing a connectivity gap as the project says it is, the number of blockchain trials by big banks such as those the Bank of Canada has become known for may decrease, allowing smaller start-up firms to have their own solutions employed by those entities.

It could, in fact, encourage further research and applications be developed now there is an easier way for their work to be advertised and used by financial institutions.

 

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Google Play Follows Apple’s Lead and Bans Crypto Mining Apps

Google has updated its Play Store policy which will now bar all mining apps. The latest update follows a similar move made by Apple last month.

Apple’s new guidelines stipulated:

“Apps may facilitate transactions or transmissions of cryptocurrency on an approved exchange, provided they are offered by the exchange itself. Cryptocurrency Apps may not offer currency for completing tasks, such as downloading other Apps, encouraging other users to download, posting to social networks, etc.”

Google has followed suit by no longer allowing cryptocurrency miners on the Play Store. Many are currently available on the Store including apps such as MinerGate, Crypt Miner, NeoNeonMiners and countless others. Mining extensions were already prohibited from the store earlier this year. The new policy states:

“We don’t allow apps that mine cryptocurrency on devices. We permit apps that remotely manage the mining of cryptocurrency.”

However, the ban does not take in all software involved with mining virtual cash. Both Google and Apple have said that they would allow users to design apps for managing mining being done elsewhere – such as on cloud computing platforms.

Both the moves by Apple and Google follows some negative apps-related press from a range of sources recently particular regarding crypto mining. Russian cyber security company Kaspersky Lab reported recently of a huge 44.5 percent spike in crypto jacking over the past year.

Cryptojacking is defined as the secret use of your computing device to mine cryptocurrency. The hacking occurs when the victim unknowingly installs a program on a user’s computer which secretly mines cryptocurrency.

Also another report by Skybox Security that ransomware is fat being taken over by illicit currency mining od this nature, suggesting that miners now represent 32 percent of all cyber attacks.

Google has not simply targeted cryptocurrency, as its new developer policies have also included “multiple apps with highly similar content and user experience,” targeted at repetitive content, and “apps that are created by an automated tool, wizard service, or based on templates and submitted to Google Play by the operator of that service on behalf of other persons.”

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New Point-of-Sale Crypto Device Could Become Future of Retailing

Pundi X, a blockchain-based Point-of-Sale (POS) provider, has announced a partnership with Hong Kong group FAMA to improve retailing using cryptocurrency, writes Global Finance and Banking Review (GFBR).

The outcome of the partnership with FAMA, the organic food restaurant chain, will be a POS smart device enabling consumers to access easy purchasing using digital currency via cryptocurrency-to-fiat or crypto-to-crypto transactions.

Such solutions for mainstream consumers will simplify cryptocurrency transactions, enabling retailer outlets to install their POS devices for speedy acquisition or spending of major cryptocurrencies and could become the future for both retailers and consumers.

The Pundi X device will allow consumers access to BTC, ETH, NPXS, and other cryptocurrency using fiat money. According to GFBR, purchased cryptocurrency can be stored in the physical card wallet, or used to make cashless payments to top up phones, pay utility bills or buy goods, subject to local regulations in each market.

A promotion is currently underway in Hong Kong at four FAMA restaurants around the city: Locofama, Sohofama, SUPAFOOD and the Hive Café. Those trialing PundiX pass cards pre-charged with a pre-loaded giveaway will be able to use cryptocurrency to purchase coffee, snacks, beer or a full meal free of charge up to the value of each card using the preinstalled devices at one of the four restaurants.

Larry Tang, founder of the FAMA Group sees the POS system as a great boon for the company and the future of simple payments for services. He explained:

“Our restaurants celebrate traditional methods in our cuisine, but we also see ourselves as innovators and are pleased to be on the frontline in enabling customers to settle their bill with Bitcoin or Ether-based cryptocurrency by using a secure payment option such as the Pundi X POS.”

Pundi X co-founder and CEO Zac Cheah was equally optimistic amount the merger:

“This is the first of many partnerships that we will be setting up across Asia to encourage more widespread use of cryptocurrency in the retail economy over the longer term.”

Cheah explained that East Asian adoption of cryptocurrency was the highest in the world, but despite this, there were limited channels for spending digital currency. This was something that such devices would change, making retailing using cryptocurrency far more accessible to both seller and purchaser.

 

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