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Brexit Deal or No Deal: The Effect on UK’s Blockchain Industry

Brexit Deal or No Deal: The Effect on the UK Blockchain Industry

The United Kingdom’s impending exit from the European Union has the economy on edge. Parliament has yet to approve Prime Minister Theresa May’s exit agreement and a so-called “no deal Brexit” is a looking like a real possibility.

Just a few months away on 29 March, the UK is scheduled to leave, and nobody knows quite how the laws and regulations that the EU currently govern will be affected, what the situation will be for EU workers, or what trade relations will be in place for the rest of Europe.

With these instabilities in mind, here are some of the effects Brexit may impose on the UK’s leading blockchain industry.

Financial regulation

It is no secret that the City of London is Europe’s financial capital but many have questioned whether it can remain in this position when the UK leaves the Union. Many financial service providers are there, after all, to provide services to European clients from a location that adheres to all of the required regulation.

If the UK no longer follows EU finance regulations, it will likely fail to attract these international firms. Coinbase, for example, has already moved its European base from London to Ireland. Part of the blockchain industry’s success in the UK can be attributed to the existing infrastructure for firms and international talent that the City of London attracts. In this case, what is bad for mainstream finance also looks to be bad for blockchain.

However, Brexit also offers the UK a chance to create its own unique financial policies which have the potential to produce a more crypto-friendly environment than that imposed by the EU. While the Union requires firms to uphold strict know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) policies for their clients, Brexit would be the chance for the UK to create a more autonomous financial sector, although there has yet to be any indication of a move in this direction.

Another case that could work in the blockchain industry’s benefit is if the UK chose to adjust its DPA 2018 legislation (its version of Europe’s 2018 General Data Protection Regulations) which has caused much friction for operations built on immutable blockchains that do not readily allow the removal of data as the privacy regulations require. Any data regarding European citizens that is stored on a blockchain would still be subject to GDPR, although Brexit would give the UK an opportunity to create more flexible regulations compared to GDPR.

EU workers

The blockchain industry faces the same challenge as every other sector in the UK regarding migrant workers from the EU. While the government has just launched a scheme that would allow current EU residents to remain living and working in the UK after Brexit, the plan has faced scrutiny over its impracticality in registering residents. This owes to the facts that the application only works on the most recent versions of Android phones, and a fear that they are not doing enough to let people know they must register themselves.

Europeans who fail to register on the Settlement Scheme could find themselves deported from July 2021.

London, the UK blockchain hub, is compiled of 14% European workforce, with 26% of workers coming from outside of the EU.

Trade deals

As it stands, Theresa May has ruled out the chance of the UK remaining in the Single Market and the European customs union after Brexit.

This will impact both businesses that use blockchain to export or import products between the UK and Europe, as well as those that provide services of any kind within the region. Services account for 70% of economic activity in the EU and the Single Market gives companies the freedom to offer these services anywhere within the Union.

The last few years have seen cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance expand across Europe, but leaving the Single Market means they would have to operate with the UK’s own unique regulations. To keep up interest from exchanges, the UK will have to prove its worth the extra costs required to move operations locally.

Losing its voice

The UK has one of the leading blockchain industries in Europe, but Brexit could result in a loss of political power in drafting crucial legislation for the technology. For one, with no more Members of European Parliment representing the UK after Brexit, the country will no longer be allowed any official input in creating EU policy.

Pro-crypto MEPs such as Eva Kaili have proven how effective a positive voice can be in the governing body, with her efforts resulting in the crafting of the parliamentary Blockchain Resolution.

Blockchain and Brexit

It is not all doom and gloom for the industry, however. Blockchain has indeed been given a spotlight by the UK government for its potential in providing a solution to the customs crisis, being hailed as an opportunity to continue providing ”frictionless trade” with the EU.

Particularly valuable on the contentious issue of the Ireland border, blockchain has been hailed as a way for the government to track the movement of goods in a transparent, immutable, and non-invasive way. The UK’s finance minister Philip Hammond even called blockchain an ”obvious” solution to the problem.

An uptick in blockchain logistics solutions could well increase the levels of UK companies that adopt the technology, but financial services providers that utilize blockchain may find themselves having a more difficult time adjusting to the forthcoming new regulations.

May’s latest update in Parliment on Monday 21 January included a commitment to sticking to the 29 March Brexit date so there is not long left to see what the deal will look like, if there is one at all.

 

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UN Report Praises Crypto as “New Frontier” of Global Finance

UN Report Praises Crypto as

The United Nations (UN) year-end report has called Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies the “new frontier” in global finance with massive potential to revolutionize business.

Even before the release of the World Economic and Social Survey 2018, it remains no secret that the International Assembly has already invested heavily in blockchain through the International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF).

The UN itself is not new to working with companies which apply the latest technologies such as blockchain.  Binance’s head of blockchain charity has indicated in the past that the technology would bring “transformative solutions to social problems, and help bridge the UN Sustainable Development Goals funding gap in fast and innovative ways”.

The UN’s latest report refers to the advantages of crypto, blockchain and distributed ledger technology and suggests a value token under consideration called ClimateCoin, which may be a way of addressing carbon emissions in the future, a major concern to many nations at present arguing, “Cryptocurrencies represent a new frontier in digital finance and their popularity is growing. The decentralized networks for cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin being a well-known example…”

ClimateCoin is being seen as one solution using cryptocurrency that would allow P2P exchanges of carbon credits allowing devices to calculate emissions and offset them accordingly by purchasing further credits.

UNICEF recently received a boost with companies including Atix Labs, Onesmart, Prescrypto, Statwig, Utopixar, and W3 Engineers being awarded the challenge of building prototypes for global issues such as health-care delivery, affordable access to mobile phone connectivity, and the ability to direct finances and resources to social-impact projects.

The UN’s main body expressed interest in “the new frontier” in May 2018 when it announced a collaboration with IOTA to increase the efficiency of United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) operations.

 

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Jersey Exchange Swamped with Bitcoin Demand as UK Squabbles Over Brexit

jersey, cryptocurrency, binance

Hong-Kong based Binance is experiencing a huge response for Bitcoin at its newly opened trading platform on the Island of Jersey.

CEO Changpeng Zhao has reported crazy demand for new registrations on the new exchange since its opening last week which is based in the self-governing UK dependency. The overwhelming amount of applications for KYC is thought to be a direct result of the current uncertainty on the UK mainland over Brexit.

With UK prime minister Teresa May’s crushing defeat of her deal with the EU for an orderly exit from the European Union, the country is now faced with numerous options, none of which can be agreed upon by politicians charged with the responsibility of delivering Brexit. Binance’s Chief Financial Officer Wei Zhou explained why the mad rush for Bitcoin in Jersey:

“Expanding the cryptocurrency exchange markets with fiat currencies in the European region is opening new economic opportunities for Europeans as well as freedom from looming Brexit uncertainty where the pound and euro are also in concern.”

Zhou goes on to explain that in his view, broader cryptocurrency adoption can be achieved by bridging the “crypto-fiat channel for Europe and the UK.” Binance has maintained for a while that Brexit could well impact on Jersey in terms of it becoming a driving force within Europe’s crypto market which has lagged behind Asia and North America.

Data provider CryptoCompare recently identified Europe’s sluggish performance compared to other markets, returning less than 4% of the global volume last year. Last week, UK Finance warned of the catastrophe that would occur within the country’s financial system if a no-deal Brexit was the final outcome on 29 March.

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Crimean Blockchain Cluster Attractive to Foreign Investors, Says Muradov

Crimean Blockchain Cluster Attractive to Foreign Investors, Says Muradov

A press release published today by major local news media RIA Novosti says there is an increase in the demand for blockchain products and services within the Crimean region by foreign companies.

Vice-Premier of the Crimean Government Georgy Muradov told the news agency that the blockchain hub and their potential is of particular interest to the Chinese. He said: “Our Chinese partners are particularly interested in these projects, as there are a large number of startups in the field of cryptocurrency, crypto equipment manufacturing and those who work in the blockchain technology field in China.”

According to the press release, Muradov further explained the blockchain state in the peninsula with respect to mother Russia, he said: “While in Russia, at the legislative level there are no regulations governing the blockchain and the cryptocurrency market, the introduction of these technological solutions is postponed. Nevertheless, we have a project to create a cryptocurrency investment fund that can ensure the implementation of various investment programs in the Crimea.” He added saying, “we are talking about creating an investment fund in cryptocurrencies and a cryptocurrency exchange.”

Muradov made it known that the idea of cryptocurrency could help circumvent the limitations of relying on the dollar and also facilitate breaking away from the restrictions of banking policies. In this regard, he said: “The fact that the cryptocurrency turnover system is capable of solving the problem of avoiding the dollar and existing banking restrictions, which is relevant for the Crimean projects, is of no small importance.”

Talks of a blockchain cluster were first discussed in April last year when the project CryptoCrime was introduced during the fourth Yalta International Economic Forum. This was an opportunity to discuss the prospects of initiating cryptocurrency investment funds around the peninsula which was aimed at avoiding sanctions, as well as a cryptocurrency exchange.

The Russian Federation continues to be an attractive site for crypto-related businesses, as seen with the expansion of largest Chinese-based exchange Binance and that of Singapore Huobi into the Russian market. Russia is also home to some of the bright minds in the industry, as seen with the case of Ethereum developer Vitalik Buterin and Pavel Durov developer of the most preferred crypto-related community messaging app Telegram, which last year raised USD 1.7 billion in a seed funding round for its Gram cryptocurrency.

However, Russia has been somewhat slow to adopt a working regulatory framework for its blockchain and cryptocurrency industry with its drafts bill undergoing several edits, yet, a final draft is not ready to be passed. The peninsular Crimea may overtake the mother state in advancing the industry through its blockchain cluster as interests grow towards the region.

 

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Binance CEO Displays Christmas Optimism

Binance CEO Displays Christmas Optimism

The CEO of Binance, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, has continued with his optimistic slant for the company as the new year approaches.

Terming 2018 as the “year of correction”, Changpeng Zhao is maintaining that current prices are a real boon for investors and this fact along with the increasing volume of DLT applications being produced by developers will push the adoption of cryptocurrencies even further forward in 2019.

Zhao sees worldwide regulation of blockchain cryptocurrency space as a positive claiming that this has been long overdue. He maintains the correct legislation will have the effect of promoting and encouraging the industry rather than slowing down growth.

The company has led from the front ending the year with some major projects., particularly since the launch of its labs program. Binance Labs, the venture wing of the largest cryptocurrency exchange, supports new blockchain startups and cryptocurrency projects through technical assistance and direct investment. Binance describes the project as an initiative to incubate, invest, and empower blockchain and cryptocurrency entrepreneurs, projects, and communities.

The initiative to support early-stage blockchain projects has already yielded results, with right projects emerging from the program.

Zhang has also revealed that Binance Labs will launch new incubator programs in Berlin, Buenos Aires, Lagos, Singapore, and Hong Kong from March 2019, offering the same 10-week course. Regarding the inclusion of Buenos Aires and Lagos, Zhang commented:

“Those two emerging markets have native blockchain and crypto use cases. So we hope to find teams solving local problems like payments, the instability of local currencies, or remittance problems.”

Even today at this late stage of the year, Christmas has been put on hold although clearly represented with Zhang announcing that the Binance Charity Foundation, the exchange’s philanthropic arm, had launched a blockchain powered charity project to support youth in Malta. This project will support terminally ill patients and disadvantaged children in Malta and Gozo.

 

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Iranian Students in UK Use Bitcoin to Bypass Sanctioned Banking

Iranian Students in UK Use Bitcoin to Bypass Sanctioned Banking

Iranian students studying at British universities are turning to Bitcoin to circumnavigate imposed sanctions on the SWIFT banking network.

In November, SWIFT suspended several Iranian banks from its service after the imposition of United States nuclear sanctions on Tehran. This has resulted in difficulties for Iranian students in the UK when obtaining cash. Many universities are now advising to return to Iran and return to the UK with sufficient cash funds to pay for courses and living expenses.

For many students, this is wholly impractical, involving crossing borders with large amounts of cash, notwithstanding the problems of personal security in doing so. There seems to be little option for students as universities payment systems can’t overcome the problem caused by the SWIFT sanction.

Consequently, some Iranian students have turned to Bitcoin, which was always intended to be a payment system obtaining their fiat funds through crypto exchanges. Maziar Bahari, editor of Iranwire, a news portal for Iranian citizen journalists based outside the country, suggests that students are now “…using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in order to get money” after struggling to get banking services in the UK.

Its also rumored that the Islamic Republic of Iran itself may be circumventing the US-led economic sanctions in its own small way. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a bureau of the United States Department of the Treasury, claims that “since 2013, Iran’s use of virtual currency includes at least USD 3.8 million worth of Bitcoin-denominated transactions per year”.

It now remains to be seen if Iran goes through with its plans for the imposition of a national cryptocurrency to bypass economic sanctions. The new Iranian state-backed cryptocurrency would be pegged 1:1 with the Iranian rial (IRR) and will initially be used by commercial banks in Iran once the Central Bank of Iran approves the cryptocurrency. Approval is likely, considering this cryptocurrency was developed by the Informatics Services Corporation at the request of the Central Bank of Iran.

International crypto exchanges, including Bittrex and Binance, have also begun complying with the sanctions against Iran and have stopped dealing with Iranian clients. This will make the travails of UK universities’ Iranian students even more complicated moving forward in the 2019 academic year.

 

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Binance Labs Incubator Hatches Eight New Blockchain Projects

Binance Labs Incubator Hatches Eight New Blockchain Projects

The Binance initiative to support early-stage blockchain projects has yielded results, with 8 projects emerging from the programme.

Binance Labs, the venture wing of the largest cryptocurrency exchange Binance supports new blockchain startups and cryptocurrency projects through technical assistance and direct investment. Binance describes the project as an initiative to incubate, invest, and empower blockchain and cryptocurrency entrepreneurs, projects, and communities.

From 500 applicants, Binance narrowed the projects down to eight, each of which received USD 500,000 in funding. The programme reports that seven projects have shipped working products and signed on users, while three of those teams have paying customers as well. The eight projects will participate in the San Francisco incubator this year.

The projects selected include SafePal, Torus, Nym and market prediction startup Deaux. Earlier this year, Binance Labs reportedly invested millions of dollars into the decentralized digital content ecosystem Contentos, a platform aiming to offer transparency and monetization of content without third-party censorship or removal of content.

The Lab’s programme is part of Binance’s commitment made earlier this year to launch a USD 1 billion “social impact fund” to aid blockchain and cryptocurrency startups. The initial concept was to contribute over USD 1 billion via 10 installments of USD 100 million each, creating both funds for further investment into blockchain related funds, and direct funding of individual projects.

The first project chosen for the funding scheme was a blockchain ride-hailing initiative co-founded by Chen Weixing, CEO of app developer Funcity. Ella Zhang, head of the exchange’s incubator programme at Binance Labs commented about the breadth of its initiative:

“We believe it’s a disruptive social experiment. Binance Labs hopes to work with more aspirational projects to explore blockchain applications and together move forward the growth of the industry,”

Zhang has also revealed that Binance Labs will launch new incubator programmes in Berlin, Buenos Aires, Lagos, Singapore, and Hong Kong from March 2019, offering the same 10-week programmes. Regarding the inclusion of Buenos Aires and Lagos into the programme Zhang commented:

“Those two emerging markets have native blockchain and crypto use cases. So we hope to find teams solving local problems like payments, the instability of local currencies, or remittance problems.”

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UNICEF Blockchain Roll Call Funds 6 New Companies, 20 Tech Startups

UNICEF Blockchain Roll Call Funds 6 New Companies, 20 Tech Startups

United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) is to go ahead with a program which will see the organization invest USD 100,000 into six blockchain companies.

In its continued efforts to leverage blockchain tech into its programmes, UNICEF will also include 20 other tech startups as part of the same project. The six companies named are Atix Labs, Onesmart, Prescrypto, Statwig, Utopixar and W3 Engineers.

These companies were selected from 100 applications from across the world. Their challenge is to build prototypes for global issues such as health-care delivery, affordable access to mobile phone connectivity, and the ability to direct finances and resources to social-impact projects.

Chris Fabian, Principal Adviser, UNICEF Innovation, says that his organization is glad to be in at such an early stage at the development of blockchain technology, explaining:

“…there is a great deal of experimentation, failure, and learning ahead of us as we see how, and where, we can use this technology to create a better world. That’s exactly the stage when UNICEF Innovation Fund invests: when our financing, technical support, and focus on vulnerable populations can help a technology grow and mature in the fairest and equitable way possible.”

The UN itself is not new to working with companies that apply the latest technologies such as blockchain. Binance’s head of blockchain charity indicated in the past that blockchain technology would bring “transformative solutions to social problems, and help bridge the UN Sustainable Development Goals funding gap in fast and innovative ways”.

The release accompanying the news of this latest project suggested that investments into blockchain companies and other tech organizations were in line with the direction that UNICEF is taking; using smart contracts, creating distributed decision making and working to build a better knowledge of DLT.

This changing view and leaning towards emerging technologies were illustrated early this year when UNICEF France followed up on previous cryptocurrency-related initiatives it adopted this year, to add nine popular digital currencies to its website donation portal.

 

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Binance Adds Sub-Account Features to Attract Institutional Investors

Binance Adds Sub-Accounts Features for Institutional Investors

Top cryptocurrency market shareholder by daily trading volume Binance announced today through its blog post that it is creating a sub-account support feature to help with accommodating institutional investors.

It’s widely acknowledged that there’s a growing interest from the institutional sectors in cryptocurrency and some believe that the next phase of cryptocurrency development will be facilitated by these entities.

Binance seems to be preparing itself for this expectation by adding features to improve its services. “Binance is thrilled to announce the launch of our long-anticipated sub-account feature, which brings improved managerial control and asset audit tools to institutional account holders”, the blog post reads. It further touts this development as “one step closer to a comprehensive, full-stack offering for institutional clients”.

Binance further explains that “the new sub-account feature is available to corporate users and individuals with VIP 3 tier (or higher) accounts”. That is based on the already established institutional account system.

These sub-accounts are designed to allow institutions to have flexible handling and access control to multiple trading accounts for different firms. Different account levels will be provided to these institutions and they’ll have control over each sub-accounts of the firms. According to the exchange, “the original/main account has sole control over the movement of assets… different access levels for up to 200 sub accounts”.

The blog also infers that sub-accounts are properly compartmentalized with enhanced with security features to minimize risks of tampering. More so, the accounts have unique APIs with different access privileges.

The perceived coming influx of institutional investments has prompted similar service providers to adjust their operations to accommodate these significant changes when they happen. About a week ago, Coinbase launched over-the-counter (OTC) trading for institutional clientsIn Israel, an investment house plans to launch the first dedicated digital coin investment platform for institutional and accredited investors.

 

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Binance Releases Preview of Binance DEX, Launches Own Blockchain

Binance Releases Preview of Binance DEX, Launches Own Blockchain

Binance, the #1 spot cryptocurrency exchange in the world with USD 0.5-1 billion of daily trading volume, will launch the Binance decentralized exchange (DEX) in early 2019.

A video preview and the launch of its own blockchain has seen a major rally for its native token, BNB, with its market cap increasing USD 150 million, rocketing it to #13 on CoinMarketCap with a market cap of USD 800 million. This is likely because speculators expect that Binance DEX users will be buying up BNB in order to pay for trading fees and voting on the Binance DEX.

The Binance DEX will allow users to completely control their crypto assets in their own wallets, issue new assets, suggest trading pairs which will be voted on by the community and potentially added to the DEX, and trade for any cryptocurrency on the Binance DEX without having to hand over any identification information.

Its own blockchain, the Binance Chain, will be the backbone of the Binance DEX and all trades on the exchange will be recorded on the blockchain. It appears the Binance Chain has an extremely fast block time of 1 second or less, facilitating instant confirmation of trades. Binance Token (BNB) will be the native cryptocurrency of the Binance Chain and the Binance DEX, and will be used to pay trading fees.

Aside from issuing tokens, trading cryptocurrencies, and proposing new trading pairs, users on the Binance DEX will be able to send and receive tokens peer to peer, burn tokens, and freeze tokens. Binance DEX will be community run, and is intrinsically decentralized since it runs off of the Binance Chain. At this time, based on the video, it appears no know your customer (KYC) information is needed to create an account, preserving the anonymity of users.

The developer in the video says new features will be added to Binance DEX before launch. The true degree of decentralization and anonymity of the Binance DEX will only be known once it launches.

 

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