Category Archives: Blockchain news

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Crypto Skeptic India May Apply Tax Laws on Crypto in Possible Turning Point

Anonymous sources in India are suggesting that the crypto-sceptical nation may be at a turning point with the possibility of a goods and service tax (GST) on cryptocurrency trading.

Bloomberg reported that the government might be applying an 18% GST as there is a chance that the Indian government could classify cryptocurrencies as a supply of “intangible goods” and, therefore, making them subject to the tax levy with separate laws to be introduced that address the use of cryptocurrencies for illicit activities.

The proposal is reportedly being considered by Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs which, according to the anonymous source, will be presented before the GST council one it is finalized.

The source makes the case that the income tax department had realized critical nature of taxing digital currencies sooner than later. This is due to the digital asset markets growth which can build up significant liabilities, making recovery difficult in the future.

Early turbulence

The news is oddly contrasting with previous reports that have emerged from India, with April a particularly turbulent period. Earlier in the month, Bitcoin News reported that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was prohibiting all banks and financial entities from “facilitating transactions involving cryptocurrencies”, a move that sparked a petition that received 17,000 signatures, backed mostly by younger users who were employed in the blockchain industry.

Bitcoin bull Tim Draper chimed in during the April maelstrom, suggesting that the Indian government’s prohibitions against cryptocurrency would be “stifling innovation”. With that said, in May, Bitcoin News reported that despite the clampdowns, India has a wealth of crypto-savvy software developers that are more than capable of pushing innovation in the country. A study made by Indian HR company, Belong, brought to light the 5,000-strong developers who could drive the industry forward for India.

Efforts to create the taxation and regulatory frameworks were underway in late March when the largest tax filing platform began making inroads toward building appropriate regulations; the attempt to clarify cryptocurrency laws came shortly after exchanges and cryptocurrency traders came under significant pressures from the RBI and other banks.

Tackling cynicism

The decision to apply the taxation laws on cryptocurrencies hinges largely on the outcomes of the ongoing regulatory efforts being made by the department of economic affairs. Indian crypto exchanges believe a complete ban would be “futile” as the RBI not allowing for banks to transact with them would force buyers and sellers to other means of settling trades. This could contribute to illegal activities and, therefore, cause the ban to come down even harder on the industry.

Treating cryptocurrencies as goods and services may allow for the undeniably lucrative market to stay in force in India. Classifying them as currencies, however, would require changes in the law.

Should a positive consensus be reached through the appropriate classification, taxation and consequently, regulation standards, then India could soon follow in the footsteps of other countries embracing the technology.

 

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Singapore Central Bank to Revamp Regulations for Blockchain Industries

A recent consultation paper from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) makes proposals for existing regulations to be changed; this comes in light of emerging blockchain-related business practices on the city-state island.

The report comes shortly after the Singapore government and MAS made preparations to launch a pilot blockchain proof-of-concept project to conduct inter-bank payments utilizing blockchain technology.

Revamping old regulations

MAS, the central bank of Singapore has had regulations for recognized market operators (RMOs) in place since 2002, and it finds that’s the “single tier” regulatory framework fails to meet the demands of the “changing landscapes.”

“A multi-tier RMO regime with gradated requirements can better accommodate the emergence of new business models such as blockchain-based or peer-to-peer trading facilities, and lower the cost of entry for start-up operators,” writes MAS.

The proposition is to now expand the single tier into three separate tiers that cater to the needs of smaller-sized exchanges entering the market.

MAS has introduced the tiers within the RMO framework in the belief that it would allow for market operators to choose a regulatory tier that better matches “their risk profile and business model”.

Flexible regulations

Tier 1 addresses the requirements of “market operators that wish to target retail investors, but which are smaller in scope and have far less retail investor participation than traditional stock and derivatives exchanges”.  This tier is for operators that don’t pose systemic risks and will be allowed to serve retails investors should they meet additional retail investor protection requirements.

Tier 2 is aimed at market operators who already qualify under the present RMO regime but don’t pose system-wide risks and serve only non-retail investors.

Tier 3 applies to significantly smaller market operators in comparison to established exchanges; operators in this tier will be subject to more flexible capital requirements, technology risk management, and outsourcing.

The MSA explains, “This new tier is designed to facilitate new entrants that develop solutions for wholesale market participants or market operators that have reached the end of their sandbox tenure and are commercially viable, but whose businesses are not able to meet the requirements of the existing RMO regime.”

Earlier this year the MAS chief fintech officer Sopnendu Mohanty revealed his concerns regarding the speculative cryptocurrency investors. He is of the belief that it is negatively impacting on experimentation with blockchain technology.

In an interview with CNBC, Sopnendu said: “But the speculators and the people who are making money out of this speculation of the cryptocurrency (market) are perhaps negatively impacting the whole experimentation of cryptocurrency.”

Furthermore, the MAS is interestingly working on its own blockchain initiative called Project Ubin. which was announced in late 2016 and will contribute to Singapore’s overall advances toward understanding how to regulate cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies.

 

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Parker-Fitzgerald, UK Finance Report Sheds Light on Institutional Attitudes and Approaches to Blockchain

Banks have been flocking to disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), cloud technologies as well as blockchain technologies. A recent joint report from UK Finance and Parker Fitzgerald warns of the “systemic risks” attributed to the three technological innovations.

New challenges

More specifically, the three-part report goes on to identify the risks attributed with distributed ledger technology (DLT) and blockchain technology. For starters, the paper makes a note of the growing scale of “experimentation and potential adoption” within the industry; it holds the belief that blockchain technologies will require “industry scrutiny,” which is because of issues regarding privacy, scalability, security, and competition.

The paper argues that while the technologies will benefit banks as they can move away from their archaic, inefficient legacy systems, they still carry new risks. For instance, the report harbors concerns with privacy as blockchain anonymizes data such as the keys or certificates of each transaction.

This causes trouble for smaller financial institutions as the transactions will be easier to identify within a smaller network and gives them right to be “understandably concerned” running a network that allows for even their competitors to see the anonymized transaction records.

New solutions

However, it also goes on to state that “technological solutions are possible”; the implementation of ‘cross-chains could address the concerns surrounding privacy by “allowing each participant to maintain a separate bilateral chain with all other participants. To increase security and address privacy others have suggested the potential of storing data ‘off-chain’”.

Though it continues to admit that this could reduce the benefits of using the technology as using cross-chains slows “the clearing of transactions” and in the instance side-chains are used, “reducing the ability to test and confirm the veracity of information on the ledger”.

Some conclusions are made and are generally rather optimistic, acknowledging that despite challenges ahead, embracing the emerging technologies carries far-reaching benefits and will catalyze the enablement of efficiencies and new economies as detailed in the report.

Timing is everything, Poland, and the GDPR

Furthermore, the paper was published a week after Poland became the first country to move banking records on a gigantic scale onto blockchain and recently, “temporarily” suspended tax collection for digital currencies.

It also comes just days before the new EU General Data Protection Law (GDPR) guidelines around data protection were released; the legislation which has been in the works for some years is to be implemented on 25 May 2018 in all EU member states.

In the build-up to the legislation, there had been some knee-jerk responses, fear, and uncertainty, though it is argued that blockchain technology can be used to authenticate user identity as opposed to storing it, which can be a helping hand in meeting the new GDPR provisions.

It appears as though the global conversation surrounding blockchain technology is reaching a pivotal moment, one in which the global community acknowledges the validity of the tech and works hard to ensure it can be safely, securely and effectively utilized.

 

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Seoul Mayor Doubles down on Blockchain Pledges Ahead of Local Elections

Ahead of the Seoul mayoral elections in June, the present mayor of the South Korean capital Park Won-Soon has made manifesto pledges to increase blockchain developments, among other high-tech industries.

A progressive power

Park has been mayor since 2011 and is now aiming to secure a third term. In the past, he has put forth encouraging proposals for urban redevelopment under his aspirational ‘smart city’ plans which have been in motion as early as 2014.

As reported by local news outlet The Korean Herald, Park had highlighted “six strategic sectors that the city hopes to expand, including the Internet of Things, AI, big data, and bio-health, while creating more jobs in less affluent neighborhoods to promote ‘balanced regional development’”.

CoinDesk Korea also reported that he is doubling down on his commitment by furthering efforts to create a center for blockchain incubation in the city district of Mapo. His words will undoubtedly chime well with the swathes of millennials in South Korea who are investing in cryptocurrencies and are soon to be part of a “cashless society” pilot project conducted by the Bank of Korea.

Park’s blockchain commitment, which was announced on 20 May, is a pledge to turn the Mapo Fintech Lab into a dedicated hub for blockchain and fintech development. It is the first proposal in history from the Seoul Metropolitan Government to back blockchain technology.

South Korea appears to be moving past its skeptical views of initial coin offerings (ICOs) and cryptocurrencies at an accelerating pace. Fresh regulatory stances, taxation laws and the push to legalize ICOs have put South Korea at center stage of blockchain advancements, and Park’s propositions are putting him at the epicenter of further industry attention.

In early April, Bitcoin News reported that the mayor had announced plans to further implement blockchain technology in the capital city, citing economic benefits, savings on utilities and providing new work opportunities for the young and unemployed populace of Seoul.

S-Coin and beyond

The mayor has also put forth even bolder plans to introduce a cryptocurrency for the city. Park is working towards creating appropriate institutional frameworks for Seoul to have its own digital currency, ‘S-Coin’, which will be used in city-funded social benefits programs.

With it, he is keen to address the scrutinous views presently held by the South Korean government. Park suggests that with evidence of success, further developments will follow soon after.

In an interview with CoinDesk Korea, Park said, “As Seoul is the world’s leading city in the field of information and communications, including the Fourth Industrial Revolution, I think we should study new technologies such as blockchains.”

The news has received international attention and should the mayor attain his third term, Seoul could become the blockchain capital of the world, challenging highly favorable crypto-friendly nations like Switzerland.

 

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Japan’s Largest Bank Partners with US Tech Giant for Blockchain Payment Service

The biggest bank in Japan has partnered with a US tech company to design a blockchain capable of handling 1 million transactions per second, boosting speed and reducing transaction feeds through distributed ledger technology.

MUFG and Akamai partnership

The Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) partnered with US-based Akamai to deliver a new global payment network service, which is intended to be available from 2019 and will be compatible with Internet of Things (IoT) style payments and other emerging technologies.

“MUFG and Akamai, using Akamai’s globally deployed high-speed and high-security platform, will utilize this new blockchain’s high-speed processing and secure value transfer abilities to promote pay-per-use, micropayments, and other new IoT generation payment methods, and to support the diverse payment options of the sharing economy by offering an open platform,” reads the 21 May press release.

The new blockchain developed contrasts with the original cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which was built on the first blockchain in the world and can only process seven transactions per second; the distributed ledger developed by MUFG and Akamai is “permissioned”, which means that verified computers are the only ones able to join the network.

Risk and reward

MUFG and Akamai detailed the growing interest in blockchain technologies and highlighted its capacity to “strengthen protection against falsification of transactions and drastically lower costs”, as well as the fact that financial institutions across the globe are partnering with tech companies to also test proof of concept designs.

While the technology is reported to “create new risks for banks”, the Japanese financial giant has embraced it with Akamai, which according to the press release is “the world’s largest and most trusted cloud delivery platform”.

Blockchain has been receiving surging amounts of interest from governments and institutions since ICOs and cryptocurrency markets exploded in 2017. Industry heavyweights such as IBM, Amazon, Microsoft, and JPMorgan are making bold steps toward adopting the disruptive technology, which will only contribute to the future successes of the blockchain industry.

Blockchain, banking, and a cryptocurrency

Earlier in May, the Japanese financial giant reported that it had intentions of trialing its own cryptocurrency in 2019, which lines up perfectly with the intended release date for the new blockchain service.

As reported by Japanese local news outlet NHK, the fifth largest bank in the world by assets will be rolling out a trial app to approximately 100,000 MUFG account holders who can install the app on their smartphones and convert their deposits into the MUFG coin; one MUFG coin will be worth one Japanese yen. Users will also be able to use the currency wherever they so please and transfer the currency to accounts of other participants.

It is a clear indication that the global stance on blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies is shifting toward the mainstream. Should the partnership and digital currency trial be successful, it will prove a transformative moment for the industry, financial institutions and society.

 

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Thai Focus Group Hearing Clarifies ICO, Crypto Stance

The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) of Thailand made several clarifications on cryptocurrency and blockchain when hosting a focus group meeting on cryptocurrency. Broadcast on 21 May on Facebook Live, the SEC discussed its present and future approaches to crypto-related enterprises and initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Clarity in conversation

As reported by local news outlet Siam Blockchain, the SEC clarified its role as being an overseer to ICO operations as well as cryptocurrency-related business such as exchanges, brokers and traders.

The focus group hearing also shed light on how ICOs should be allowed to raise funds, concluding that ICOs can only accept the national currency, Thai baht, and other digital currencies that are permitted by the SEC, those that “have enough liquidity and are not associated with money laundering”.

Furthermore, the SEC ICO Portal of Thailand will not be able to list international ICOs and nor will it involve itself with the ICOs of stable coins, which the national bank is to regulate. Projects that are operating an ICO must complete applications in 60 days and will be held to stringent Know-your-Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) standards.

The idea of an “approved ICO portal” came about in mid-May after the SEC held a public hearing for “drafted notifications and criteria” under an emergency decree on digital asset businesses which came into effect on 14 May.

SEC secretary-general Rapee Sucharitakul stated: “The legislation also aims to protect investors from risks of fraud and deception by dishonest persons, money laundering and exploitation of digital assets to facilitate illegal financial transactions, while ensuring regulatory clarity to facilitate legitimate uses of digital assets.”

Regardless of the feedback received from the blockchain community, the SEC set the legal conditions for digital tokens to only be offered by a company after a tight application process. While the new frameworks have the consumers best interests at heart, the community fears the move may be restrictive and cause Thailand to become an unattractive space for the industry.

Thai crypto classifications, taxation and regulation

Bitcoin News reported earlier in May that Thailand’s ministry of finance had proposed taxation and regulatory frameworks for cryptocurrencies; a 15% capital gains tax for digital asset operators and 7% VAT charge for all crypto-trades made in the country were considered to be too high for blockchain businesses and traders.

Later on in May, the SEC revealed that ICOs would not be allowed until fresh regulations were finalized in June; the decree required seller and operators to register assets to the SEC within 90 days with hefty fines and jail time for unauthorized transactions.

The recent moves display Thailand actively addressing the regulatory question that many countries are tackling; it is a remarkably positive step that in time could change and shift toward the desirable standards set by countries considered to be more “crypto-friendly”.

 

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Chinese Ministry of Industry and IT Anticipates Big Year for Blockchain

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) released a whitepaper on 20 May 20th detailing the accelerating growth and prospective future of blockchain industries in the country.

China has notoriously been a slightly cryptocurrency-friendly environment; stances in the country seem rather juxtaposed. For example, initial coin offerings (ICO) and trading are banned entirely, but the nation still promotes blockchain technologies with e-commerce and tech giant Alibaba being a notable example of bullish attitudes toward blockchain technology in China.

The value of blockchain in China

However, the report from the ministry reveals that there have been 249 investment deals in blockchain companies in China to date. In 2016, there had been 60 funding rounds, in 2017, nearly 100 and so far in 2018,68 have been registered in the first quarter.

By the end of March 2018, there were 456 Chinese blockchain companies in China, nearly double that of 2016 which ended with 256; the white paper notes: “The industry is developing rapidly with more and more entrepreneurs and capital entering the market.”

Of these companies, 295 focus on blockchain applications with 86 utilizing blockchain for financial services and 109 are giving their attention to applications in real economic sectors.

These new heights for blockchain investments and enterprise growth are setting 2018 up to be a favorable year for the industry; the exponential growth of blockchain related startups can be attributed to the growing trend of equity financing for blockchain ventures. The whitepaper reads: “Our blockchain industry is currently at a high-speed development phase – entrepreneurs and capital are pouring in, and the number of enterprises is rapidly increasing.”

It further notes an acceleration of blockchain application as a new round of business model changes is promoted, resulting in “cost reduction” and “improvement of efficiency”, leading to a formation of an “integrity industrial environment”.

Bans but a promising future ahead

The report comes shortly after the MIIT released its monthly public blockchain ratings index, which lists 28 blockchain platforms and the cryptocurrencies backing them; which from China, is somewhat contrary to their ICO and crypto-trading stance.

Domestic exchanges, cryptocurrency trading, and ICO related websites are blocked, despite China identifying blockchain as a vital part of the future and promoting investment in the technology.

The paper overview also details six trends in China’s blockchain industry that indicate an exciting future in the skeptical country, reading:

“Thirdly, the blockchain will be widely used in the real economy in the next three years, becoming an important support for the construction of digital China. The fourth is blockchains to create a new platform economy and open a new era of sharing economy.”

 

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Federal Trade Commission to Hold ICO Scam Workshop

The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be hosting a cryptocurrency workshop to address the critical concerns of scams as well as consumer and investor security within the industry.

Educational workshop

The Decrypting Cryptocurrency Scams’ workshop will be comprised of law enforcement, research organizations, consumer groups and the private sector to discuss the exploitation of consumers and explore means to protect consumers.

The FTC has been working on creating adequate protections for consumers in the age of new emerging financial technologies for quite some time. The educational workshop should lend itself toward easing the already restrictive US laws and legislation that are in place, that is, if the workshop manages to make a serious impact.

Complications in the US

The United States has some rather mixed, directionless stances on cryptocurrencies and initial coin offering (ICO) regulations. In July 2017, the SEC classified ICO tokens and cryptocurrencies as “investment contracts” and, therefore, as securities based on the Howey Test, though there appear to be no regulatory guidelines for digital coin developers to comply with.

Due to these grey areas, legal uncertainties and strict investment regulations, US citizens will also struggle to find an ICO that they can participate in; many ICO operators and companies have made a choice to ban US investors from offerings.

The SEC has also been slightly aggressive in the pursuit of gathering data on the industry; having recently issued 80 subpoenas the SEC is charging ahead with firm investigations which may be perceived as potentially having a negative impact on the industry but actually, the tough stance is not without progress.

An FTC and SEC crypto education

Despite the somewhat negative stories emerging from the US, the SEC has also taken the educational approach and launched a website that for a fake Howeycoin ICO, designed to show what a scam or hoax token offering should look like.

Following this and hopefully, the combined efforts of the SEC and FTC can keep cryptocurrency and blockchain related discourse on the table and hopefully push decision-makers towards creating a more definitive framework for ICOs and their accompanying cryptocurrencies.

 

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Switzerland, Gibraltar, Malta Podium Finishers on Most Crypto-Friendly European List

Switzerland has come out on top in a BlockShow Europe study which ranks the most crypto-friendly European countries. Scored on their regulatory frameworks and blockchain related projects among other attributes, Gibraltar and Malta also ranked favorably.

Broad observations

In total, 48 European countries were examined for their existing regulations of initial coin offerings (ICOs) regulations, cryptocurrencies as a payment service and crypto taxation policies. Furthermore, the study took into consideration recent news stories and developments; this is due to ongoing advances in countries that do not yet regulate cryptocurrencies but have plans to do so.

With Gibraltar in second place and Malta third, Switzerland topped the charts ahead of the rest of the pack.

Home of the ‘Crypto Valley’

Switzerland is a crypto-friendly country thanks to leading cryptocurrency and blockchain projects such as the Ethereum Foundation and Shapeshift.

Backing this is the Crypto Valley Association, a government-supported and independent association that has pushed for favorable regulatory frameworks, which has attracted cryptocurrency-related projects from around the world. Blockchain startups and projects in Switzerland can benefit from low taxes, business-friendly regulations, and political stability.

Bitcoin News has recently reported a number of stories on Switzerland that contribute to the Swiss dominating the European charts. A national digital currency, aspirations to become a blockchain nation and heightened blockchain related business inquiries all display the incredible levels of blockchain innovation that can emerge from a crypto-positive country.

In second place, Gibraltar

Gibraltar has been showing great promise and is becoming another crypto-haven for blockchain projects. Innovative regulations and highly attractive business tax are critical factors as to why the British Overseas Territory ranked second in the study.

In late 2017, the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (GFSC) made proposals for crypto-friendly regulations. Nicky Gomez, GFSC’s head of Risk and innovation told Reuters: “This is the first instance of a purpose-built legislative framework for businesses that use blockchain or distributed ledger technology.”

Additionally, Gibraltar reportedly had received “up to 200 applications” for ICOs ahead of the launch of its Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange (GBX); Bitcoin News has also previously reported that the GBX is moving boldly toward regulatory firsts.

Regarding taxation, Gibraltar is extraordinarily unrestrictive; there are no taxes on capital gains and entrepreneurs only have to pay income tax. It is little wonder that European and local blockchain startups are flocking to the country.

Third Place, Malta

The Mediterranean island of Malta is an interesting occupant of the third place position; proposals for new rules regarding cryptocurrency investment were made in late 2017 and in March of 2018, the Cabinet of Malta approved three bills that revolve around cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies. Furthermore, in April, Bitcoin News reported that the Prime Minister intended to have a “state-regulated cryptocurrency industry“.

It is also the new home to major exchange Binance, which will make Malta the territory with the most substantial cryptocurrency trading volume in the world. Binance announced the move to Malta in late March, likely in part due to Malta’s stance on taxation which allows international companies based on the island to pay as little as 5%.

To view the full list and more, follow this link.

 

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Futuristic Visions: The Floating Island Project to Create Self-Governed, Crypto-Backed Seafaring Smart Societies

Taking the concept of ‘Smart Cities’ and ‘Smart Islands’ a few sci-fi steps further is a project that has the attention of philanthropists, scientist, entrepreneurs, academics and investors from around the world. The ‘Floating Island Project’ is a pilot project in partnership with the government of French Polynesia.

The project is to see 300 homes built on a human-made island in the Pacific Ocean by 2022; costing up to $50 Million. The island will have its own government and cryptocurrency fuelled economy.

Self-Governance and Cryptocurrency Fuelled

The Floating Island Project is a collaboration between the Seasteading Institute and Blue Frontiers. In an interview with CNBC, Nathalia Mezza-Garcia, a researcher for the Floating Island Project discussed the goals of the project which included creating hundreds of floating island-nations.

She spoke about how the self-governed cryptocurrency backed islands can be a solution to a number of ‘land society’ issues: enriching the poor, feeding the hungry, housing refugees as sea levels rise and cleaning the atmosphere are all included in the extraordinary scope of possibility the project possesses.

She said, “Once we can see how this first island works, we will have a proof of concept to plan for islands to house climate refugees.”

Nathalia also went on to describe how the Floating Island Project can act as a sanctuary for individuals and businesses who find their present governments lackluster, saying:

“If you don’t want to live under a particular government, people will be able to just take their house and float away to another island.” She continues, “This means there is stability, outside of fluctuating geopolitical influences, trade issues and currency fluctuations — it’s the perfect incubator.”

Smart Cities & Smart Islands

The urbanization of the globe is ever increasing with cities, populations, and costs of living ever rising, which threatens to increase social inequality, push up crime levels and slow down economic growth. However, smart cities are said to be a solution to the problem by utilizing technology to reduce costs and better fund these cities.

According to IoT Agenda, the definition of a smart city varies, but the term encompasses a broad mission goal to optimize the functions of a city, i.e., public transport, hospitals and traffic through the ‘emerging trends’ of automation, machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The IoT Agenda piece goes on to detail a myriad of characteristics that a smart city will contain and makes the case that local and national collaborative efforts from governments and the public are crucial in making a smart city successful.

Smart Islands are being taken too in a similar way. However, they are more of an emerging and philanthropic endeavor as these projects are designed to bring otherwise ‘unconnected’ islands to the global stage, empowering their respective civilizations using Smart City standards.

The Floating Island Project is a step beyond that, from scratch it is building a smart and futuristic environment that benefits from having true sovereignty, self-governance and its own cryptocurrency, not forgetting to mention the noble goals of the project that on the surface, looks as though it was plucked from science fiction literature.

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Image Source: The Seasteading Institute

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