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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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Bitcoin Tech Supporting and Educating Small Farmers Worldwide

Bitcoin’s underlying technology blockchain is beginning to have an impact in supporting farmers and smallholders around the world, writes the BBC.

The Olam Farming Information System (OFIS), not to be confused with the EU body The Organic Farming Information System (OFIS), is an organization which offers transparency for small farmers in 21 countries around the world.

With 100,000 small hold farmers now registered with OFIS across Asia, Africa, and South America, the organization has developed a system which allows easy access and information sorting for the user to get to know more about the farming communities who supply their ingredients.

By using blockchain technology, OFIS collects the relevant data in order to recommend how individual farmers can increase their yields and track their products and trade online. A good illustration of how the project supports the small farmer selling such crops as cocoa, coffee, and rubber, while also often living at subsistence level, is Muhammed Adams, a cocoa farmer from a remote region of Ghana.

Adams from Sefwi Madina had been growing his crops in the same way for the past 25 years until he was able to tap into the OFIS system which has not only enabled him to triple his output but also helped to reduce his reliance on chemical pesticides.

Now, by using apps for text messaging and digital payments, smallholders are for the first time able to use banking services and microloans. Adams can now use the apps blockchain tech to deal directly with advisers, learning that chemicals aren’t the only solution to dealing with diseased crops.

As OFIS states on its website, support for such farmers has been exhaustive in the past as field staff have had to painstakingly collect data using pen and paper, limiting use and scalability, but not now with new mobile technology.

Christian Ferri, chief executive of BlockStar, a blockchain investment adviser, says “there are endless possibilities“, but the technologies required might be beyond the reach of some farmers, adding that “the good news is that I believe we will see the cost of these technologies decrease as adoption spreads”.

Blockchain-related technologies are not simply limited to farmers in developing countries. In the highly developed UK farming community, digital mobile technologies can support small farmers there too, such as Rowie Meers, who runs Purton House Organics, in Swindon discovered.

“Supermarkets are continuously driving prices down, causing many smaller farms to go out of business,” said Meers.

She is now linked directly to the farmers that supply her through mobile tech, thus achieving 70% of the retail price, twice the amount she would expect from supermarkets.

 

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Apple Bows to Public Pressure over Crypto-Unfriendly Apps

Apple has made a number of store revisions in order to loosen its guidelines for crypto apps, reports Investing.com. A group known as the Developers Union had recently made requests to Apple to allow every app on the platform to free trials before July 2019, among suggestions for other improvements.

The union is an unofficial body which says that its aim is to “bring developers and supporters together for better App Stores for all”. It currently only has 400 members but hopes to stretch its membership to 20,000 this month according to The Register.

It appears that the IT multinational has been listening given its recent announcements, also noting how its apps are currently:

“Changing the world, enriching people’s lives, and enabling developers to innovate like never before. As a result, the App Store has grown into an ecosystem for millions of developers and more than a billion users.”

Telegram backer and self-proclaimed “global entrepreneur” Pavel Durov has blamed a lack of updates to his app on Apple “not siding with us” in the ongoing furore in Russia over the crypto-chat platform. He was forced to apologize to his customers due to features of the latest iOS 11.4 not working, alleging that Apple had prevented updates to Telegram. He has also blamed Apple for Telegram being unable to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation due to the alleged block on updates.

Apple’s latest announcement regarding cryptocurrency states: “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.”

This is a significant move from Apple’s position five years ago when the IT giant reportedly asked companies to remove cryptos from their apps. Regarding ICOs, Apple says that apps must facilitate transactions from established banks, securities firms, futures commission merchants and other approved financial institutions.

Apple specifies that apps can’t mine for cryptos “unless the processing is performed off device (e.g. cloud-based mining)”.

 

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Startup Wins Prize to Partner Volkswagen on Car History App Project

German automobile giant Volkswagen has offered a Lithuania-based company a role in its Dresden center after a successful pitch in a manufacturers competition, writes Cointelegraph.

The company, carVertical, has developed a platform for used car history reports enabling users to verify details of a car’s past before making a purchase. The competition held in Riga, Latvia saw carVertical’s pitch as the most inventive.

The decision was announced after numerous teams of entrepreneurs presented their pitches at an event organized by German-Baltic Chamber of Commerce. As winners, carVertical will begin work in Die Gläserne Manufaktur, Volkswagen’s innovation hub in Dresden in September of this year, with EUR 15,000 in financial support.

The outcome of the project is the joint development of blockchain-based solutions, intended to place Volkswagen as the leader for future mobility applications, also providing carVertical with valuable resources and expertise.

“In connection with the program, Die Gläserne Manufaktur also offers the assistance of mentors and coaches, an attractive working environment at the facility, high-quality IT infrastructure, contacts with Volkswagen research and development employees and decision-makers, professional advice by Sächsische Aufbaubank (SAB), close proximity to the start-up scene and both financial and personnel support from the City of Dresden,” says the press release.

CarVertical’s history records app is designed to prevent used car frauds by using the app to locate a car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) located in its technical passport or on a car’s body.

The car’s VIN is the identifying code for a specific automobile. It serves as the car’s fingerprint, as no two vehicles in operation have the same number. A VIN is composed of alphanumeric 17 characters that act as a unique identifier for the vehicle. It displays the car’s unique features, specifications, and manufacturer. The number can also be used to track recalls, registrations, warranty claims, thefts, and insurance coverage.

CarVertical claims to be most successful automotive-based initial coin offering. The team raised almost USD 20 million during its coin offering in January 2018.

“Our goal is to enable every car buyer around the globe to get authentic and non-faked information about the specific vehicle and to help consumers in the maintenance of their vehicles,” states the carVertical website.

 

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Facebook Reportedly Considers Own Crypto, but First Blockchain

According to online media company Cheddar, an anonymous source has reported that social media juggernaut Facebook is considering creating its own cryptocurrency in order to simplify online payments.

This consideration, apparently with little regard to its recent banning of cryptocurrency advertising, is surprising given that insiders have claimed that the company has no plans to hold an initial coin offering (ICO) and will almost certainly not launch any cryptocurrency in the coming year.

What is more likely though, given that large companies are adopting blockchain technology in increasing numbers, is that Facebook takes this direction long before it considers its own cryptocurrency.

Early Bitcoin investor, Messenger’s David Marcus, who has overseen Facebook development since 2014, in a shakeup at Facebook HQ, now heads up group tasked with exploring blockchain technology on behalf of the company. It was reported that an internal post this week announced the company’s blockchain initiative to employees, although it was non-specific.

When questioned, Marcus, who has now joined the board at giant crypto exchange Coinbase, refuted any immediate plans to integrate cryptocurrency into the FB machinery, commenting:

“Payments using crypto right now is just very expensive, super slow, so the various communities running the different blockchains and the different assets need to fix all the issues, and then when we get there someday, maybe we’ll do something.”

Bridget van Kralingen, IBM’s senior vice president of global industries, platforms and blockchain, suggests: “It’s a technology that fits very well with some of the business model challenges that they’re actually facing, and I think they’re very right to take this very seriously.”

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week ordered major administrative changes to the social network, giving more responsibility to his chief product officer and launching the blockchain division.

 

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