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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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Western Union Patenting Crypto Compatible Payment Technology

Western Union has filed a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office titled ‘Recurring Transfer Notifications and Secure Transfers that heavily mentions cryptocurrency integration.

The patent application describes an electronic system that processes secure payments, which is essentially what cryptocurrency already accomplishes. It describes how this electronic system can be used for recurring transfers. The patent specifically mentions cryptocurrency many times, including, “As noted above, in certain embodiments, electronic transfer network 100 may be a cryptocurrency network or other network using encryption protocols and techniques for performing transfers of cryptocurrency and/or other alternative digital currencies. Illustrative and non-limiting examples of such cryptocurrency networks may include a bitcoin peer-to-peer (P2P) payment network, a Litecoin network, a Peercoin network, and various other private digital cryptocurrency networks.”

The fact that the electronic system Western Union discusses in the patent is so similar to cryptocurrency may result in the patent not being granted. Every patent goes through patent prosecution, and if the examiner finds a patent is similar to existing technology, then the application is rejected. Even if this did happen, it doesn’t change the fact that Western Union is investigating cryptocurrency and might use it one day.

Western Union is one of the most reputable and widely-used money transfer services in the world. The service is available in over 200 countries and in 2016 it completed USD 80 billion of transactions for 150 million customers, generating profits of USD 5.4 billion. It can obviously benefit from integrating cryptocurrency, since cryptocurrency can be used to send payments across international borders instantly and securely.

Cryptocurrency can cut out intermediaries when processing international transactions, saving money and time. This has been successfully demonstrated by the We.trade platform which was set up by several European banks and uses blockchain technology to send cross-border payments between companies.

Western Union entered a partnership with Ripple to test the integration of XRP into its payments, but CEO Hikmet Ersek was unimpressed by the Ripple trials, saying, “We are always criticized that Western Union is not cost-efficient, blah blah blah, but we did not see that part of the efficiency yet during our tests. The practical matter is it’s still too expensive.”

Although it appears Western Union has an aversion towards it, Ripple is just one of many different cryptocurrencies and blockchain platforms that can process payments, and it would be relatively simple for Western Union to find a cryptocurrency with low fees that fits their needs.

 

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Blockchain Technology Strengthens the Scientific Method

Blockchain technology has the potential to strengthen the scientific method by providing an immutable and transparent ledger system that scientists can use to store experimental data and share it with each other. This will make the scientific method more robust and efficient, accelerating the advancement of science and our collective knowledge of the universe.

An important part of the scientific method is to conduct multiple experiments to ensure that a result is accurate. In the past, experiments have led to incorrect theories being accepted as fact, only to later be debunked by further experimentation. With an immutable blockchain ledger, scientists will be able to inspect scientific data for errors and compare their experiments with each other, so that scientific theories based on solid evidence using proper experimental procedures can be developed.

Furthermore, storing experimental data in a blockchain ledger will allow other scientists to use the data for their own experiments, rapidly accelerating the sharing of scientific information. As it is now, data from scientific experiments is stored in many different locations and formats, making the sharing of data difficult and slowing down the scientific process.

Directed Acyclic Graphs (DAGs) are the most promising version of cryptographic technology that scientists can use to store data. They are like a blockchain, but better suited for large and complex data sets. CyberVein has already developed a DAG-based platform that scientists can use to store and share data, and it is more efficient than using the Bitcoin blockchain because it doesn’t require all nodes to store data. Also, it uses the Proof of Contribution algorithm, which is more efficient than Bitcoin’s Proof of Work algorithm. It is practically unfeasible to store large amounts of scientific data on the Ethereum or Bitcoin blockchains since it would cause blockchain bloat, and it would be very expensive to do in the first place due to transaction fees.

The spokesman for CryptoVein says, “On CyberVein, nodes are only required to store data shards relevant to their own transaction history and the smart contracts they are parties of. With this approach, CyberVein is able to store entire databases as smart contracts which are permissioned to their owners and participants, without congesting the rest of the ledger”.

CyberVein brands itself as a universal network of decentralized databases that doesn’t require centralized storage providers. It has a native cryptocurrency, CVT, which appears to be fairly active with a market cap of USD 60 million and daily trading volume in excess of USD 250,000.

 

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Cross-Border Commercial Trades Successfully Completed on European Banks’ Platform

A blockchain-based platform managed by several European banks, We.trade, went live on 3 July 2018 and has successfully completed seven commercial trades between ten companies in the past five days using four different banks. We.trade is built on the IBM blockchain platform, and claims that these are the first commercially-viable trades that harness blockchain technology.

Chief operating officer Roberto Mancone said, “The We.trade platform is a live, blockchain-based trade platform. These transactions prove that we.trade is a robust and commercially viable proposition… The next step will be getting buy-in from additional banks and their customers in Europe and further afield”.

Parm Sangha from IBM, which developed the technology, believes the platform demonstrated blockchain application in an enterprise setting, converging a large network of banks to give them efficiency and greater transparency in live transactions.

We.trade was established by HSBC, Deutsche Bank, KBC, Natixis, Nordea, Rabobank, Santander, Societe Generale, and UniCredit. Currently, it is available in 11 European countries: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

 

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The Evolution of Bitcoin According to Darwinism: No ‘Eureka Moment’

The development of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can be viewed with some clarity using Darwinism and evolution as an explanation, writes Shanna McEachern in the Global Banking and Finance Review.

McEachern refers to the massive numbers generated by cryptocurrency, seemingly out of nothing, to predictions that the digital currency market will evolve to USD 2 trillion by the end of this year. She asks, “is this the natural step in the evolution of capital markets?”, or are they in danger of extinction following in the dinosaurs’ unfortunate demise in another era of giants.

As McEachern points out, evolution occurs through the survival of small, inheritable mutations that render a species better able to survive and flourish through slow change and impact of initial change makers. There is no “eureka” moment, she claims. This is true as, over time, careful research ideas are developed, considered, tested and finally released into the public domain. Such was the case with Newton, only releasing his theories on gravity 20 years after he commenced his research.

It was exactly in this way that Bitcoin was born, emerging from the technology of DLT behind it after years of development. Although official records will inform that Bitcoin was invented by an unknown person or group of people using the name Satoshi Nakamoto and released as open-source software in 2009, it came from a much earlier seed. Some of the more colorful commentators even claim that it was created through rogue AI but if it was one person’s brainchild, it was the result of much time, thought and development before its exposure.

McEachern draws an interesting analogy to woodpeckers making holes in trees, later inhabited by another bird species, as an example of “ecosystem engineers”, as one species supporting one another without intent to do so; a kind of natural by-product. She draws this comparison to Bitcoin, fundamentally changing, in this case, a financial environment, which in turn benefits other aspects of it through DLT and blockchain, thus creating another evolving world.

“From Bitcoin, the ecosystem thus evolved to include a diversity of other species: from thousands of other cryptocurrencies to coin-based economies and blockchain technologies,” McEachern argues.

Where does this leave Bitcoin in the evolution of things? Returning to the dinosaur analogy, is there a financial cataclysmic event followed by its evolution facing dramatic closure or is it to evolve again into something even more innovative born from the original idea? McEachern indicates it could more than a beginning than an end, as social interaction and the desire for development and innovation perpetuates change:

“…just as molecular and organismal interactions bring novelty in the world of genetics, our media and social interactions (even when they feel redundant) bring innovation in modern ideas and technologies.”

McEachern concludes that it will be institutions that play the major role in cryptocurrency’s survival by investing in the “wealth” of concepts created by its evolution.

 

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UK Food Services Agency Pilots Blockchain for Food Regulation

The United Kingdom Food Services Agency (FSA) has successfully piloted the use of blockchain technology in a slaughterhouse, marking the first time that blockchain has been used as a tool to regulate the food sector.

FSA’s head of information management, Sian Thomas, says, “We thought that blockchain technology might add real value to a part of the food industry, such as a slaughterhouse, whose work requires a lot of inspection and collation of results. Our approach has been to develop data standards with industry that will make theory reality and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to show that blockchain does indeed work in this part of the food industry.”

During the pilot both the slaughterhouse and FSA had access to data in the blockchain, improving transparency of the food supply chain. More importantly, this creates trust across the supply chain, since blockchain ledgers are immutable and highly resistant to manipulation or hacks. Therefore, the FSA and other participants in the food supply chain know that the data in the blockchain hasn’t been tampered with and is accurate.

In July 2018, the FSA will be conducting another pilot where farmers can access the blockchain and view data about their farm animals. If this is successful, blockchain technology will be implemented across the entire food supply chain that is under FSA jurisdiction. However, they note that data from FSA is limited to inspection reports, and the industry would need to lead the way for full adoption.

Blockchain technology will provide transparent and trustworthy data about the food supply chain, revealing inefficiencies, ultimately leading to a shorter and stronger food supply chain that provides fresher food at lower costs.

 

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MIT Media Lab’s Enigma Pioneers Blockchain-Based Secret Smart Contracts

Enigma is a blockchain-based platform developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab that facilitates secret smart contracts. On 30 June 2018, Enigma announced the launch of its testnet, which developers can use to start experimenting with secret smart contract technology. The MIT Media Lab is not forking any existing blockchain; instead, it is building Enigma from scratch.

The goal of Enigma is for decentralized applications to become widely adopted, and the Enigma team believes the development of secret smart contract technology is essential for this to occur. Enigma secret smart contracts hide the origin of a transaction and can be executed on the blockchain without being decrypted. This is beneficial since it will ensure that no government, organization, or hacker can view the inner-workings of decentralized blockchain-based apps, let alone interfere with them or manipulate them.

On the testnet, nodes will not be allowed or necessary since this is just an experimental phase. When the mainnet goes live, users will be allowed to run nodes to secure the network and earn fees in the process, and there will also be security deposits to reduce bad behavior. At this point, Enigma cannot be integrated with Ethereum-based decentralized apps, but when the mainnet goes live, that is expected to be possible.

Ultimately, the Enigma team foresees that secret smart contracts will become the new standard, and this will help decentralized apps transform from novelties into necessities.

 

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Crypto Mining Malware on the Rise as Ransomware Declines

A new study by Kaspersky Lab has found that incidents of cryptocurrency related ransomware declined 30% since 2016 from 2.58 million to 1.81 million, while simultaneously cryptocurrency mining malware incidents have risen 44.5% from 1.9 million to 2.74 million. Kaspersky Lab suspects that there is a direct causation between these statistics, they say cybercriminals have turned their backs on ransomware and are embracing cryptocurrency mining. This is because cryptocurrency mining malware supplies botnet masters with a consistent long-term income, as opposed to one-off rewards from ransomware that are much less frequent and come with much higher legal risk.

The main reason crypto mining malware is overtaking ransomware is because Bitcoin and cryptocurrency prices have gone up 1,000% since last year. This price increase has made it possible for hackers to make an easy living off a crypto mining malware botnet. Now they can infect 10 times fewer computers and make the same profits.

Cryptocurrency mining malware harnesses the processing power of an infected computer to generate cryptocurrency via the proof of work (PoW) algorithm. While mining cryptocurrency with a CPU or GPU is mostly obsolete at this point, it can be very profitable for botnet masters who are mining with hundreds or thousands of computers at once and not paying for electricity. All they have to do is create a script that uploads a cryptocurrency miner to a computer and sends the profits to a cryptocurrency address they control, and then spread the file. Often they spoof files to look like movies or popular software and put them on peer to peer torrent sites. When a user downloads the spoofed file nothing happens from their perspective, but the miner downloads in the background.

The unfortunate side effect of crypto mining malware is that a computer’s fan will tend to be on all the time, causing lots of noise, and even with constant fan usage, the computer can still overheat, shortening its lifespan. Also, an infected computer will use much more electricity than normal, directly causing loss of money for the victim, although probably not enough of a difference to notice on the bill.

All things considered though, crypto mining malware is not as bad as ransomware. A keen computer user can simply monitor the running processes on their computer to spot the mining malware and then delete it. Quite the contrary, ransomware seizes up the entire computer, and in the best case scenario, a user has to wipe the whole computer clean. In the worst case scenario, if they need their files, they have to actually pay the ransom to unlock their computer. Hackers design crypto mining malware so it runs quietly in the background, they want their victims to be able to use their computers smoothly so the mining malware stays running long term.

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Nasdaq Develops Blockchain Tech for Rapid Collateral Delivery for Margin Calls

Nasdaq has developed a distributed ledger blockchain system that optimizes the use of securities as collateral for margin calls. A network is built between collateral givers, collateral takers, and intermediaries, and the system rapidly transfers collateral to central counterparties (CCP) round the clock.

The CEO of Nasdaq Clearing, Julia Haglind, said, “As both a leading market technology provider and a CCP operator, Nasdaq is uniquely positioned to bring efficiencies to collateral management. We believe that blockchain technology brings with it a huge potential to transform markets everywhere, and this project is an excellent showcase of this.”

This blockchain system is especially necessary after 6pm CET when central banks and depositories close for the night, drastically decreasing EUR liquidity, leaving securities as one of the only options for collateral. In the past, securities have rarely been used since delivering securities is complex and inefficient, but with this new blockchain technology the securities collateral can be delivered and the margin call handled within minutes. Therefore, this new technology will make margin calls much more fluid after hours.

Nasdaq developed the distributed ledger blockchain technology and the network, and Euroclear’s Central Securities Depository processes transfers of collateral to ensure compliance with regulations and finality of settlement. EuroCCP, ABN AMRO Clearing, and Nasdaq Clearing wrote the code to integrate the new technology into their existing trading interfaces.

The CEO of EuroCCP, Diana Chan, said, “We are excited to be partnering on a proof of concept that is extremely useful for transactions that are not already well-served by market infrastructures. With a solution like this in place we will be able to efficiently provide counterparty risk protection of equity trades after hours while reducing operational complexities. Today we are limited by European banking hours or arrangements in other time zones.”

The global head of treasury at ABN AMRO, Coen van Walbeek, said, “With a faster and more globalized market, it is essential to make the processing of collateral more efficient. Expanding the possibilities to use securities as collateral will make clearing through CCPs more attractive and cheaper for buy-side market participants. This is a breakthrough for the CCP model.”

This continues the trend of blockchain technology adoption across global financial markets. The immutable nature of distributed blockchain ledgers increases security and trustworthiness of data, and combined with ease of use blockchain technology makes transactions faster and more efficient.

 

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Giant Pacific Tuna Fishery to Integrate Ethereum Blockchain

Pacifical tuna, the largest sustainable tuna fishery in the world, has announced at the Seaweb Sustainable Seafood Summit in Barcelona, Spain that it will be launching the first large-scale blockchain initiative in the USD 42 billion per year worldwide tuna industry. It will be partnering with Thailand blockchain company Atato which uses Ethereum blockchain smart contracts in combination with IPFS decentralized file storage.

Pacifical tuna is caught by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), which includes the territory of Tokelau and eight countries including the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. A quarter of the world’s tuna and half of skipjack tuna, the most commonly canned tuna, is caught by PNA countries.

About 35 million tuna fish are caught by the PNA per year, which is a tightly controlled number since it is a sustainable fishery and overfishing is not allowed. Atato’s blockchain services will cover 100 large fishing vessels which will provide transparency. Tuna fishing data will be stored on an immutable blockchain that cannot be manipulated, allowing officials as well as the public to easily audit the tuna catch to ensure that it really is sustainable, and that there isn’t illegal overfishing.

PNA tuna is manufactured into 200 million consumer items per year under the Pacifical brand, and these will be tracked in the blockchain through the entire supply chain from ocean to grocery store shelf. All products will have a unique tracking code that can be queried in the blockchain database, so customers and merchants will be able to determine where the tuna was caught and how fresh it is.

This blockchain data will help prevent fraud in the tuna supply chain; it won’t be possible for fraudsters to lie about the origins or authenticity of the tuna. Another benefit is tracking the entire tuna supply chain in a blockchain ledger will reveal inefficiencies across the supply chain, leading to improvements which could increase the average freshness of tuna and lower the price.

 

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