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Ledger: Market Still Here for Hardware Wallets

Ledger: Market Still Here for Hardware Wallets

Eric Larchevêque, CEO of French hardware wallet manufacturer Ledger, has said that he is optimistic for the future of the cryptocurrency industry, as he prepares for “a whole new generation of consumers”.

However, Larchevêque claims that education is still an area of concern when it comes to storage of cryptocurrencies, and many users fall short of protecting their funds adequately. Referring to the Cryptopia hack and various other losses in 2018 which amounted to almost USD 1 billion, Ledger’s CEO believes that people still don’t know how to protect their funds.

Speaking about the current volatile situation on the streets of some of France’s major cities in protest of current government moves to regulate industry working guidelines, Larchevêque said that the media had really hyped up the Bitcoin factor:

“I think that this call to take the money out of the banks and the protester with the ‘Buy Bitcoin’ sign is something that’s been exaggerated a lot by the media… The yellow vests do not really know about Bitcoin and they do not really think that cryptocurrency will solve their problems.”

He says that France is still not at the forefront of cryptocurrency adoption but government regulations are at least moving in the right direction. As for his own company, he admits that the bear market has impacted on product sales, but due to the cyclic history of cryptocurrency the company has simply scaled down ahead of the next bull market.

Given that Black Friday sales of the Nano S in November 2018 were almost on a par with 2017, the CEO admits that “the situation is still quite good”. He adds, “There is still a need for a new generation of hardware wallet and consumers are still ready to invest and buy new products. The market is still here.”

 

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New Yorkers Can Now Buy Bitcoin at ATMs With Debit Cards

New Yorkers Can Now Buy Bitcoin at ATMs With Debit Cards

With cryptocurrency ATMs on the rise around the world with machines globally passing the 4,000 total at a rate of five installations a day, both New York and Chicago are showing continued US dominance in the sector.

New York now offers customers the opportunity to purchase Bitcoin using a regular credit card at machines supplied by ATM provider LibertyX. The company now has selected ATMs across the city able to provide the new service. It has been installing crypto ATMs across the US since its first opened in Boston in 2014, later providing campus machines at Harvard and MIT.

The debit card ATMs having been finding homes across the US since last year, but have only just come to New York City having just gained approval from New York’s Department of Financial Services (DFS).

A customer can use one of the new ATM debit card facilities by simply downloading a LibertyX mobile app and then registering their account. Once done, users have access to Bitcoin withdrawals to the tune of USD 3,000 a day by using their debit card. The move is hoped to encourage more widespread use of cryptocurrency ATMs by illustrating the ease of access to crypto funds.

The windy city has no plans to be left behind, and Chicago is currently undergoing its own battle of the ATMs with many providers vying for trade. The latest provider to hit town is Atlanta-based Lux Vending which has now added 30 of its own machines already across the Chicago area this year, taking its total in the city to 200.

Other companies in the race for planting their machines across the nation include home-based Red Leaf Chicago, who, apart from having 60 machines across the city, has another 120 machines across 21 states, including Iowa, New Jersey, Florida, and California. Another Chicago-based company has gone worldwide choosing to place its ATMs internationally, with only three in Chicago. With 65 machines across the US, it has found many of its 100 remaining machines doing huge business in Colombia and Argentina, a trade which could increase dramatically given the current economic and political unrest in the region.

 

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Google Ads Allegedly Blacklists Ethereum Keyword

Google Ads Allegedly Blacklists Ethereum Keyword

It has been reported that Google is now blacklisting keywords mentioning Ethereum on its Google Ads advertising platform. The first indication of this would-be policy buster by the internet search giant appeared in a Tweet by smart contract auditing startup Decenter before the weekend.

We are seeing a hard stop on Google Ads containing “Ethereum” as the keyword in the last two days. Is anyone else noticing the same change? Where there any new policy changes introduced @GoogleAds? #ethereum pic.twitter.com/P5XMGphdiV

— Decenter (@DecenterTeam) January 10, 2019

The current situation following Google’s initial ban on all cryptocurrency-related advertising last June was revised and updated in September 2018, allowing some businesses to advertise on its platform providing that any ads for cryptocurrency exchanges must be limited to targeting the US and Japan.

Google’s response to Decenter’s Tweet was that clearly, the ad must have been targeting countries other than the US and Japan, thereby resulting in the rejection of the Ethereum Google Ads keywords. When the startup pointed out that they were simply doing smart contract security audits and seeing errors when keying in “Ethereum development services” and “Ethereum security audits”, Google responded:

“Although we wouldn’t be able to preemptively confirm if your keyword is eligible to trigger ads, we’d recommend that you refer to the ‘Cryptocurrencies’ section of our policy on Financial products and services.”

Decenter’s Reddit post explained that the team had tested keywords such as “ethereum smart contract audits” and “eos smart contract audits” and only the EOS keyword yielded advertising as a result of the keyword search.

Reddit’s Ethereum community team came back with their response: “Any of the keywords that contain “ethereum” in our campaigns are no longer showing ads as of January 9th…”.

A Reddit user put his own case, clearly bemused by Google’s double standards: “Google has various political and economic agendas, and they are quite willing to use their various services to promote their preferences. AdSense and Youtube are notorious for this, but there have been some incidents regarding the play store as well.”

 

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Google Forces Samourai Wallet to Remove Key Security Features

Google Forces Samourai Wallet to Remove Key Security Features

Internet search giant Google has forced Samourai, the privacy-focused Bitcoin wallet, to remove key security features from its app.

Google claims that Samourai risked breaching its so-called unofficial “walled garden” policy which is designed to prevent app manufacturers and designers creating closed systems where the service provider controls all operations in the system including applications, content, and media.

The new app has had to remove three key features in order to continue using Google’s distribution service, Google Play. Stealth mode, SIM switch defense, and remote SMS commands have all been taken down from the app in line with Google’s request. Samourai commented that:

“Users of Samourai might have noticed that they are no longer getting notifications on when they receive Bitcoin. That’s because if you want to use notification services you have to route everything through Google services.”

Despite the enforced changes, Samourai maintains that users are still getting “maximum amounts of privacy” unsurpassed by other Bitcoin wallet apps. However, the company says that it hopes that the decision may be reversed by Google or find a compromise. Developers have promised to re-implement all disabled features.

3/ Features disallowed by Google will be re-implemented as soon as possible, either as workarounds or by other means.

— TDevD aka “Crud”, [No BC.i][No KYC] (@SamouraiDev) January 9, 2019

The removal of “stealth mode” can be an issue as it masks the presence of a Bitcoin wallet on a users mobile device and is, therefore, a security issue. Another missing feature under Google’s instructions, the remote SMS commands, normally ensures that a stolen phone can be wiped via on SMS, thereby protecting user information.

 

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Samsung Files for UK Crypto Trading Wallet Patent

samsung, blockchain

Electronics giant Samsung appears to be turning its direction towards cryptocurrencies as it continues to develop the next generation of phones.

This time it is targeting the UK market, with an application already filed with the U.K. Intellectual Property Office for its ‘Samsung Crypto Wallet’. The suggestion is that Samsung is planning to begin building cryptocurrency facilities into its popular range of phones which retail at around $750 in the US.

The trademark application states that Samsung is to develop: “Computer software for use as a cryptocurrency wallet; Computer software for cryptocurrency transfer and payment using blockchain technology; Computer application software for smartphones, namely, software to allow users to transfer cryptocurrency based on blockchain technology and pay via 3rd party’s application software.”

Speculations have been circulating for some time about whether the South Korean giant plans to take the cryptocurrency route, particularly since its filing of three EU trademark applications for blockchain- and cryptocurrency related software in December of this year.

The area of blockchain is one as yet which has been little explored by major phone developers and manufacturers. The first move into the sector was made by Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer HTC recently when the company developed a decentralized bowser called Brave on its HTC Exodus phone calling it the “the first native blockchain phone.” The Exodus provides support for Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) networks.

Also in November of this year, Sirin Labs’ developed its new smartphone, Finney. The smartphone will compete with the likes of HTC’s Exodus DLT phone and other non-blockchain phones for a market share of the trillion-dollar-plus smartphone industry.

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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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