Category Archives: Application

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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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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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Walmart Applies for Blockchain-Managed Smart Appliance Patent

US multinational retail corporation Walmart has recently applied for another blockchain-related patent, this time looking to manage the use of smart appliances via blockchain technology.

The application filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office covers the use of this tech on a number of devices, including televisions, computers, laptops and portable media players.

Patent details

The smart device paired with the computing system would receive a transaction request which, once accepted, transmits a configuration instruction for the appliance to be operated by the user via one or more nodes in the network needed for validation. The smart device holds the private key needed to authorize transactions.

Management of the device includes the ability to customize access and control in order to secure the system, with the blockchain server network utilizing an Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem that allows multiple smart devices to be managed. The computer system would include a memory device to store the smart appliance’s usage data, as well as a processor capable of executing a variety of instructions.

The patent application details how the technology could be utilized in creating an entire smart home system, including control over energy and healthcare environments.

Walmart’s eclectic blockchain patents

The patent request was filed on 26 January following several other similar appeals from Walmart.

In June, the corporation filed an application for blockchain technology for use with life-saving medical wearables. The device would allow paramedics to gain information about a patients ailment should the individual be unconscious or unable to communicate their problem.

In another case, Walmart filed an application that would utilize blockchain in the receipt of goods at the point of delivery from autonomous ground vehicles, while allowing automated vehicles to have safe travel access. Walmart cites in the patent proposal that one-day parcels may be delivered to the company via automated vehicles that operate on blockchain technology.

 

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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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Twitter Plagued by Fake Ether Giveaways in Growing Scam Worth Over $4M

Twitter has become a target for online crooks promoting fake “giveaways”, according to Bleeping Computer. Such activities are estimated to have tricked people out of ETH 8,148, currently worth around USD 4.3 million, much of it through social media, according to statistical data compiled in EtherScamDB.

John Backus, co-founder of crypto-related startups Bloom and Cognito, concurs, making his own “back of an envelope” calculation that ETH scam giveaways have returned around ETH 8,148 – which happens to be exactly the same amount estimated by EtherScamDB, writes Bitcoin.com.

EtherScamDB tracks online scamming which centers round Ethereum and associated assets and was established by the team behind MyCrypto wallet.

As the figures illustrate, fake Ether giveaways are growing exponentially, and Twitter has become one of the scammers’ favorite utilities. Criminals use well-known ecosystem names to target Twitter members, using mirrored accounts complete with avatars. Posts invite targets from the fake personalities’ following to participate in free crypto programs, which then separate the target from their funds.

An example of how the scammers operate is best illustrated by Forbes writer Laura Shin’s recent experiences on Twitter, covered in an article on Bitcoin.com, when she came across an interesting Tweet by Ari Paul, investor guru of Blocktower hedge fund fame.

She came across “fairly elaborate ether (ETH) come-ons, fake giveaways using mirror’d (sic) accounts” as a result. No sooner than she realized this, she discovered that she had been compromised.

“Someone with the account @XaedenJ was using Ms Shin’s professional reputation and likeness to tacitly approve a 10,000 Ethereum giveaway, and it directs readers to a website asking for payment,” read the report.

The “new” Laura Shin was then seen to be Tweeting, “If you’re late for this event… you’ll get your investment back at once!”. The Forbes writer did some further research and discovered that her scam post had received 28 likes, although Shin suggested that they were probably bots created to give the scam some credibility. The @XaedenJ address was later removed by Twitter.

In order to prevent such activities and falling foul to such scams, MyCrypto wrote a support document that recommends several protective measures including using hardware wallets, using cold storage or running wallets offline. It also recommends looking up ETH addresses on Etherscan.io to check for bad reviews, and to not trust any messages promising free ETH or hack alerts.

 

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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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World’s Largest Archive Testing Blockchain for Record Management

The National Archives (TNA), entrusted with national record management of the UK government, is on the verge of testing the blockchain for record keeping and sharing. The project, termed Archangel, is meant to investigate the use of blockchain to address archiving challenges faced by TNA.

The world’s first archiving research project on blockchain is led by the University of Surrey and bankrolled by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Reports indicate that the council of research spend USD 800 million on research projects related to technology, mathematics, and material science annually. Additionally, the Open Data Institute is another key partner with an interest in project Archangel.

On Tuesday, Alex Green, the digital preservation services manager, wrote in a blog post:

”How can we demonstrate that the record you see today is the same record that was entrusted to the archive 20 years previously? …How do we ensure that citizens continue to see archives as trusted custodians of the digital public record? To address these questions, Archangel is exploring how we can know that a digital record has been modified and whether the change was legitimate so that ultimately it can still be trusted as the authentic record.”

Being the largest and oldest archives, TNA has set standards and best practices in the field. Being an 18-month project, Archangel is set to prototype a distributed ledger technology that will collect robust digital signatures for born-digital and digitized physical content, reports Green.

TNA has acknowledged the challenges imposed by the changes in technology and is working on a solution.

 

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Northern Trust Patents Blockchain Tech to Record Business Meetings

Northern Trust won two patents from the US Patent and Trademark Office on 5 June 2018 for blockchain technology which will record business meetings on an immutable blockchain ledger. Northern Trust is a financial services company headquartered in Chicago, Illinois that has over USD 100 billion of assets and brings in over USD 1 billion profits annually.

The first patent describes systems and methods for digital meeting management within a blockchain. A first smart contract is generated at the beginning of the meeting to authenticate and record attendees in the digital meeting using biometric information from attendee’s devices. A second smart contract is generated during the meeting to record actions of attendees including date, time, and location.

After the meeting, a third smart contract is generated which stores post meeting documentation including meeting minutes. A hash is then generated for this documentation, and it is stored permanently on a blockchain after being reviewed by meeting attendees.

Once added to the blockchain the meeting minutes become immutable, providing a permanent record of who attended the meeting, what occurred during the meeting, and promises and decisions made during the meeting. This record is cryptographically secure and cannot be hacked or manipulated at a later time.

The second patent complements the first patent; it describes the technology which will be used to store biometric identification information and documents on the blockchain by generating one-directional cryptographic hashes.

This technology will help reduce fraud in business and ensure that meeting attendees stand by their commitments. It will also help bosses and employees keep track of what happened at each meeting, since they can go back to the blockchain at any time for any meeting in the past. This will be particularly helpful for people that miss meetings.

The digital meeting blockchain technology described in these patents will be helpful for any business or organization that has meetings and is yet another example of an ever-expanding list of real-life uses for blockchain technology.

 

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