Category Archives: Apps & Software

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IBM and Marsh to Partner for Blockchain Insurance Platform

IBM and insurance broker Marsh are developing a blockchain-based platform to maximize efficiency in insurance verification. ACORD Corporation and ISN will also be working in partnership with them.

The system will be built on IBM’s blockchain platform as well as the Hyperledger Fabric code.

Why a blockchain-based insurance platform?

A blockchain-based insurance platform can help in reducing time, errors and finally costs. Distributed ledgers have the ability to reform the global insurance industry by maximizing efficiency, giving legal certainty and instant access to documents and mitigating the issue of a single point of failure.

The distributed ledger will replace dated, manual, paper-based systems or digital systems by making the records irrefutable as well as having multiple copies stored. Removing the need for reconciliations and other tasks from a central authority will further reduce costs.

In a world where interactions are time sensitive, instant access to data will result in higher productivity, benefiting businesses. Blockchain will allow multiple participants to view, record and add up-to-date records that will provide more legal certainty due to their tamper-proof nature.

Proof of insurance via a distributed ledger with timestamped transactions will contribute further to increased integrity.

With a decentralized system, there will be no single point of failure. If one party was to have downtime or connectivity issues all data is recorded on the blockchain as transactions and can be revisited upon reconnection.

A permission-based system will allow participants to decide who joins the chain to view or add data. The system will normally consist of the broker, the insurer and the regulator.

How will the system work?

The broker will create a policy while actively mining to contribute to the verification of transactions. The insurer can then create multiple offers based on the statistics from the broker. The broker will then accept the offer and create the insurance policy.

Each interaction is verified and recorded on the blockchain providing transparency among all three parties as they can instantly view the offers or tamper-proof policy.

How quickly will systems change?

Insurance companies are often slow in modernizing its business processes. With a general lack of expertise and awareness around blockchain, companies are outsourcing their IT needs to other firms such as IBM. As blockchain becomes more mainstream and companies develop competitive edges, there will be a wider adoption of the technology.

Expertise in blockchain and security will have to grow to match the demand for new systems, while companies will have to collaborate in order to migrate their interactions over to blockchain. With the current salary rising for blockchain developers, however, not all companies may be eager to migrate currently.

 

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Samsung Investing in Blockchain Shipping Technologies

Samsung is joining a number of other companies in exploring the idea of using blockchain logistics to streamline global supply chains. It is reported that the tech giant has already begun developing a distributed ledger system to monitor international shipments.

Recently, IBM has teamed up with Danish shipping giant Maersk and India’s JM Baxi, in order to digitalize their import and export process with blockchain.

Energy is one of the most frequently traded resources and the implementation of a more efficient system has captivated market leaders. BP was testing a gas trading platform, while E.ON and Enel, have also experimented with similar energy trading platforms.

Sinochem, one of China’s main oil companies, used blockchain to monitor and store data on a shipment of gasoline to Singapore.

Issues surrounding current logistics

The top 20 exporters of containerized cargo transport a total of around  127.6 million fully-loaded TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) globally a year. Countries with a higher level of human intervention can take up to 11 days to process logistics. OECD countries have managed to reduce this to about 9 hours but the process is still prone to human error.

Fraudulent goods are worth USD 1.4 trillion globally and tax avoidance continues to be an issue. Not only does this affect profits but health depending on the type of product and its use. There is a growing concern among consumers about imitations and problems with verifying the authenticity of a product.

Documentation can be held up or lost by middlemen, resulting in perishable goods being stuck in transit. This can end up costing up to a fifth of the total transportation costs as well as the price of the goods.

Benefits of blockchain logistics

Blockchain is set to help shippers, ports, customs offices and many other parties in the global supply chain by replacing paperwork with irrefutable digital records.

Blockchain could provide proof of provenance for goods by tracking them globally from the manufactures. Import details, fees, and taxes could all be programmed into smart contracts that release payments automatically once the conditions where met. Customers will see an improvement in services as the overall speed of the processes increase.  Tracking will include improved shipment data with timestamps and data being instantly accessible through a ledger.

Blockchain will benefit logistics by providing enhanced security and vendor management, as well as preventing the loss of goods.

 

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Robinhood Phone App Introduces Secure Streamlined Bitcoin Trading

Popular mobile phone app Robinhood is looking to offer the ability to trade cryptocurrencies in addition to stocks on US exchanges. The app initially set out to bring investments in public limited companies to a wider demographic without the limitation of fees and minimum balances. The app uniquely collects interest on balances similar to a bank instead of taking a commission on trades. It offers a variety of features, a few of which are security measures and real-time market data.

Robinhood Crypto

Robinhood Crypto was launched in February, supporting real-time market data for 16 cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin and Ethereum are the only two currently trading on the application, with a view to support more. A spokesman did say to “keep in mind that supporting market data for individual cryptocurrencies does not necessarily mean we plan to add buying and selling”.

Access is limited to customers in Montana, California, Missouri, Massachusetts and New Hampshire with more states available later. The company hopes to release the application globally, with plans initially for Australia. By bringing all investments together in one application which is more accessible, this could encourage integrity in the cryptocurrency market. Having a familiar application could make the transition to larger exchanges less daunting and also providing a streamlined solution for round the clock trades for those with experience.

Robinhood Crypto will not support ICOs at this time, which could contribute to safer investments for newer traders, mitigating the need for thorough research.

Features and security

Buy or sell orders can start at any amount above 0.00001 BTC and 0.001 ETH. Traders have several order options with additional functionality. Market orders can be protected from price moves with order collars (up to 1% for buys, 5% for sells). Limit orders can be placed in USD or fractional amounts.

Coins traded on the platform will be stored in a combination of cold or hot (offline or online) storage to provide enhanced security. As of now, Robinhood does not support withdrawing or depositing crypto to external wallets as a preventive measure against illegal activities. There is a view to allowing withdrawals in the near future.

Various steps have been taken by the company to provide enhanced security. Rotation of security staff, restricted access, and regular third-party security tests will look to ensure user investments stay safe.

Security is a growing concern in the crypto market with the limited availability of qualified staff. In recent months, the industry has seen some large-scale hacks to exchanges, such as the recent ones of Coincheck and Coinsecure. Exchanges’ inabilities to store clients investments securely could have a detrimental effect on the market.

 

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Santander’s Application Takes Blockchain Mainstream

Santander has claimed that its upcoming blockchain phone app One Pay FX can speed up international payments between multiple countries, in a process that will require “3 clicks and 40 seconds” to complete.

It is set to be initially available in the UK, Brazil, Poland, and Spain with plans to expand to more countries in the near future.

Santander’s blockchain application development

One of the world’s largest banks, Santander’s UK business sector and San Fransisco-based Ripple have been developing the international payment app since 2016. Back in January, the company released a presentation with details of a phone app and the use of blockchain and distributed ledger technology.

Ripple, a cryptocurrency built for enterprise and banking, aims to provide fast global payments, low transaction fees and other beneficial factors like blockchain security. It also looks to implement more bespoke functionality for the industry, which isn’t necessarily required by other coins.

xCurrent is the financial institution software solution currently provided by Ripple, offering end-to-end tracking and bi-directional messaging. Ripple claims many other features and qualities such as scalability which make it well suited for the banking industry.

Santander's Blockchain phone App
Credit: Santander Presentation – www.santander.com/csgs/Satellite/CFWCSancomQP01/en_GB/pdf/Earnings_Presentation_ENGLISH_4T17.pdf

Future banking built on blockchain

Although Santander is at the forefront of the technology, plenty of others are already working towards similar solutions using blockchain. With PKO Polski recently creating a partnership with Coinfirm and Toronto-Dominion (TD) bank applying for blockchain patents, there is a growing transition of organizations moving towards crypto-space.

A consortium in Japan is currently looking to bring in some 60 banks which are responsible for the majority of the countries financial assets (80%) to the blockchain age using Ripple’s technology.

Current bank transfers take two to four days to clear due to checks for fraudulent behavior, but blockchain looks to speed up the process while maintaining security. The use of blockchain also presents the opportunity to implement artificial intelligence which can now work with encrypted data as well as monitor and analyze transaction patterns.

 

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Finney the Blockchain Blackberry

Foxconn is going to assist Sirin Labs with the development of its new Finney blockchain phone.

The blockchain Blackberry

Finney, the “state-of-the-art mobile device for the Blockchain era”, is rumored to ship in October for a target price of USD 1,000. Sirin has currently received 25,000 preorders, with 2018 sales expected to exceed 100,000 units, with the possibility of reaching several million. The device is due to initially go on sale in stores located in active crypto communities such as Vietnam and Turkey. As sales increase, the intention will be to expand distribution to common mobile retailers.

Cryptocurrency accessibility

Cryptocurrencies have grown in popularity but in terms of everyday convenience, there hasn’t been much progression. Most people store cryptocurrency on hardware or software wallets which tend to require PC access, or hot wallets such as Coinbase. Although mobile wallets are available, they aren’t necessarily as secure. Bitcoin ATMs are increasing in number, but are not as abundant as their fiat counterparts and are limited to trading a few currencies. Having a secure, intuitive mobile designed from the ground up around blockchain would bring cryptocurrency use to the mainstream.

Tech specifications

Current smartphones have several underlying issues in their ability to deliver a secure crypto experience. Sirin Labs’s mission with Finney is to provide the functionality and usability of an Android. Their flagship will shift towards enhanced security via its suite of cybersecurity technologies, providing reliable access to the blockchain. Finney’s physical security switch is a cool addition to the hardware as a preventative measure.

Finney Blockchain Phone

An app store for distributed apps (like ysigns messenger app) will streamline accessibility and provide a competitive marketplace for developers. The ability to make easy purchases from crypto-friendly sites like Overstock and Newegg with quick conversions from cash to crypto may encourage a more widespread adoption from customers and retailers alike.

Secure future

It’s time for innovation in the outdated mobile market shadowed by ever-growing cyber threats. With more personal details being stored on our mobile devices, a future with secure mobile trade and communication is imperative. Mobiles need to take on the responsibility of safeguarding our data so we don’t have to worry as much.

 

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Virtual Reality and Blockchain The New Matrix

What are virtual and augmented realities?

Virtual reality (VR) and Augmented reality (AR) are two up-and-coming technologies that will be soon shaping the future. VR is a computer-generated, three-dimensional environment rendered to replicate an existing or imaginary place. Users are completely immersed in this cyberspace and as the technology evolves, it will no longer be limited to the primary senses of sight and sound. Newer systems are finding ways to emulate touch, taste, smell and even emotions. AR is similar to VR but is an overlay of the simulated environment on top of our own reality.       

How can virtual reality benefit from blockchain?

VR and AR are finding their way into more real-world applications. As their uses grow, certain issues arise regarding data infrastructure and licensing. Currently, applications are centralized and suffer from server speeds bottlenecking their performance when too many users are logged in. With a decentralized solution, audio and visual data can be stored in the blockchain to alleviate these issues. User data for accounts encoded into smart contracts will create an unforgeable contract of ownership because of network verification.

VR is heavily dependant on the quality of its visual and auditory samples as these depict realism. As VR becomes more widely adopted, these resources will need to copyright protection, and have details of their ownership rights and authors readily available. VR/AR is a new technology, without a standardized set of codecs to use. This is the perfect time in the technology cycle to implement a new standard that will reap the benefits of what blockchain has to offer. Blockchain could create a database of sensory samples with the rights of the developers and any other information cryptographically encoded within the sample. Seen as the blockchain is in a constant state of synchronization the sample information would always be up to date. Timestamps on financial transactions would keep a record of events such as royalties being paid for a sample.

A new world

Dot Blockchain Music has already designed its own codec and is taking steps to make blockchain the security that the music and audio industry needs. Metadata in standard codecs isn’t always easily accessible. Dot Blockchain Music will bind metadata to the music which will be verified by the network and be rendered unplayable without that information. With licensing information embedded in the song and the use of smart contracts, this could change the way in which royalties are collected and how security regarding user rights of material is achieved.

In future, getting to work may be as simple as going to the study and putting your VR headset on. In your VR environment you would earn cryptocurrency for your completed tasks and your funds would then be available in the real world. Jobs such as teaching, entertainment and design are perfect for VR as they are remotely accessible. ImmVRse is one of the many companies in the industry that have already adopted blockchain technology in this manner. 

Decentraland is a virtual platform powered by the Ethereum blockchain, using smart contracts to verify ownership of land in the virtual world. Users can go about creating their own in-depth world to visit casinos, attend workshops, shop with friends or even drive a car.

With the rapid advancements in these sectors, the world as we know it today will become indistinguishable from the heavily augmented/virtual world of tomorrow. One thing is for certain, there’s a need for a stable, secure infrastructure for this metaverse and blockchain promises to be that solution.

More on Blockchain in VR/AR:

PR:LUCYD AND INDE FORM STRATEGIC ALLIANCE INDE to Provide Augmented Reality Apps for Lucyd

PR: Lucyd and Roomful Form Strategic Alliance— Roomful to Provide Their AR/VR App Platform for Lucyd Smartglasses

PR:A Hybrid-Decentralised Marketplace And Content Sharing Platform Poised To Disrupt The Virtual Reality Industry

Vivid Announces Release of World’s First Social AR Crypto Management Tool

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Snowden Leaks Indicate NSA Spies on Blockchain

Leaked documents point towards a controversial move by the American NSA (National Security Agency) in monitoring blockchain activity, hinting at the importance placed by the government there on Bitcoin and other blockchain assets.

Snowden leaks have shown the blockchain community that surveillance remains at the top of US agenda. It hardly comes as a surprise to most, understanding that governments do and will always have a vested interest in monetary transactions and where that money ends up.

NSA Playbook

Using a protocol called “MonkeyRocket”  NSA analysts were able to find a vulnerability which enabled them to track down senders and receivers of Bitcoin. This all to aid their mission of looking at organized crime and cyber targets that utilize online e-currency services for illicit activities, despite Bitcoin providing users access to a certain degree of anonymity.

The Snowden leaks indicated that examining public transaction ledger (Blockchain) was just the tip of the iceberg, with the NSA obtaining and storing sensitive data, such as the users MAC addresses, users passwords, network ports, and timestamps.

The documents suggest that Bitcoin users were being targeted for mass surveillance, giving weight to the claim that the NSA was not just using their MonkeyRocket, but using the infamous XKeyScore system. The XKeyScore system is one of the most intrusive methods on the planet and covers the entire globe with the widest of reaches. NSA analysts require no prior authorization for the collection of online data.

Snowden stated in the Guardian:“I, sitting at my desk, could wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email… Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s internet activity.”

The NSA is adamant on suppressing Bitcoin users, as part of a counter-terrorism advance, monitoring their transactions, while subverting their privacy. The source of Bitcoin and Liberty Reserve monitoring, MonkeyRocket, has been governed by overseas surveillance authority known as “EXECUTIVE ORDER 12333”. The order was signed on 4 December 1981 by then-president Ronald Reagan; it was intended to extend powers and responsibilities of US intelligence agencies and direct leaders of the US and federal agencies to cooperate fully with CIA requests for information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blockchain For the Future, A Brave New World

The future of all technology is in sight, the blockchain revolution, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Anybody watching this space knows that it is growing at an exponential rate. The boundaries of technology are being pushed on a daily basis. Token generation events are going live on a regular basis. What is it about these technologies that catches the eye of the everyday user? Is it decentralization, transparency, anonymity or is it all just a big bubble that’s about to burst?

A Decentralized Future

An immutable fact about blockchain is that it is entirely transparent, with nearly all blockchain projects being open source, enabling any developer to modify or add sections of code to the project. Altering logged data throughout a blockchain is virtually impossible. Everything is traceable, with countless amounts of eyes prying on the space at any one time. It gives complete trust back to the everyday user.

Some projects look to enhance anonymity, not entirely possible with a blockchain open ledger. Although an address is linked to one person, that person’s identity remains unknown, except with sophisticated blockchain forensics following the transaction trail. A variety of blockchain projects have opted to have multiple ledgers, public and private ledger options. Could this be a defiance of the point of decentralized and transparent space?

“Privacy is not something that I’m merely entitled to, it’s an absolute prerequisite.”

Marlon Brando –

Specific modern-day problems arise with complete anonymity and a lot could be said for being able to transfer a large number of funds from point A to point B without transparency. Does society need to establish a firm base on the moral standing of this matter? After all, nobody wants to see blockchain technology fund terrorism, money laundering or trafficking.

Secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of power… its enabling force. Transparency is the only real antidote.  

Glenn Greenwald –

Decentralization plays an integral part of blockchain technology, with no central data hub in use. The blockchain uses predetermined variables to manage each transaction. The blockchain runs these through nodes (people’s computers) which are all connected via the internet. Eliminating the central data hub could, of course, cause mayhem for central banks and big tech giants if this technology is to see global adoption.

Quantum Problems

Will artificial intelligence and quantum computing help restore order, will they enable a new era of blockchain technology? Or will quantum computing render blockchain technology completely useless? There is already a quantum computing blockchain project in the works. Who knows what will come with quantum resistance, and whether it will enable or disable.

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