Category Archives: decentralised

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Bitmain’s New Texas Mining Facility to Begin US Expansion

China-based cryptocurrency mining hardware company Bitmain has confirmed Rockdale, Texas as its next location to spearhead the way for its takeover of the US.

Texas operations

Rockdale will benefit from Bitmain’s investments totaling over USD 500 million in the following seven years, with plans to launch mining operations in early 2019. The location will employ 400 individuals for the new Texas blockchain data center, offering educational services and training programs for aspiring employees.

The location was described by Bitmain as a ”strategic investment” for the company, putting them in a prime spot to begin expansion plans across the US. The firm confirmed the plans Monday after speculation began circling last month when Dallas News reported Bitmain had purchased an unused smelting facility.

Despite the positive local press acknowledging the benefits of such an investment in a town recently hit by difficult economic times due to the closure of the coal mines, Bitmain and public officials declined to comment until this week. The article hinted however, it was an open secret shared among Rockdale residents.

Job openings for the new site have already reached online listings for those looking to join the firm as it begins its US expansion.

Bitmain’s recent moves

The Texas location follows Bitmain’s approved land lease in Washington State received in April, with the firm planning to set out a large-scale mining operation in the area. The state has, however, received several complaints from residents regarding the sustainability of cryptocurrency mining.

The cheap electricity tariffs have attracted many mining operations to the area, with locals reportedly concerned about the amount of energy being consumed. Some have suggested that an increase in the use of renewable energy resources in the mining process would stem the complaints.

Brazil is also supposedly on the agenda for Bitmain, with one article suggesting the firm is looking to open offices in the country.

Bitmain has already international footholds in Switzerland and Israel where it carries out its mining operations.

 

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GDPR May Stifle Blockchain Innovation, Finds EU Report

The EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum has released a report warning that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws instated by the European Union (EU) earlier this year may prevent effective blockchain innovation taking place.

The Blockchain Innovation in Europe report cites a lack of clarity in the legal framework regarding personal data and blockchain technology as a major issue for entrepreneurs and developers working in the EU. The report states that it “can put a brake on innovation”.

Friction between GDPR and blockchain

One of the crucial issues discussed is the incompatibility with a decentralized blockchain network to erase person data, with GDPR giving citizens the right to have their information erased upon their request. To enforce these right, GDPR requires a central authority to be held accountable, something lacking in the structural nature of a decentralized blockchain network.

Permissionless blockchains can also not be guaranteed to comply with GDPR restrictions that require data to only be transferred to third parties outside of the EU who offer equal data protection regulations.

Thus, applications built on a blockchain are being threatened by unclear laws regulating them.

A need to update GDPR?

The report claims that these conflicts are not addressed because during the time GDPR policies were being constructed, blockchain was not as popular with developers, nor nearly as well known and utilized as it is now. This means that the laws were written with an implicit assumption any database would operate with a centralized authority for processing data.

However, the investigatory review does claim that blockchain could in the future evolve to become key in promoting data sovereignty and the further goals of GDPR. With more research and development, blockchain could theoretically have compliance supported in the code of platforms and applications.

For now though, with hope, the report will influence EU lawmakers to clarify what is required from blockchain developers to prevent the industry from moving out of the union.

 

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Bitcoin Googled More Than Taylor Swift, Stock Market, Donald Trump

Whether Bitcoin is celebrated by everybody or not, one thing is for sure: people can not stop talking about it. Between August 2017 and today, the number of times Bitcoin was Googled surpassed both pop icon Taylor Swift, and even the stock market.

In December 2017, when the value of Bitcoin reached nearly USD 20,000, it was searched for up to 25% more times than US President Donald Trump. Not to forget this was the month that Trump announced Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel, the Senate passed his significant tax reform legislation, and he sent out a series of Tweets condemning his own Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Tickets for Swift’s 2018 stadium tour went on sale on 13 December, but Bitcoin was pulling in around 70% more Google traffic than the pop star.

Interestingly, when the stock market experiences a slump, the number of times it is Googled increases, whereas Bitcoin sees an increase when there is a bull market. This perhaps indicates it is the younger generation losing interest in crypto when there does not appear to be big gains to be had, whereas the older generation that is more heavily invested in stocks for the long-term keeps a closer eye on their investments when they appear to be depreciating.

As well as this, for the majority of people consuming just mainstream media, the extremities of the market are only covered; while it may not be so intriguing to investigate what is being portrayed as a failing market on the verge of collapse, a 10% investment increase in 24 hours is far more interesting.

What can we take from this data?

While Bitcoin simply being Googled more times doesn’t provide any steadfast data regarding its popularity or give us any indication of a change in market price, there is no denying that the concept has entered and intrigued the general population. And that counts for a lot.

What the trends indicate is that there is still a ways to go in turning around the conversation to keep people confident in the market despite the inevitable downward trends.

Just keep in mind, last year Bitcoin was googled more than the US president for around a month. That is progress right there.

 

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Walmart Applies for Blockchain-Managed Smart Appliance Patent

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

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

Patent details

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

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

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

Walmart’s eclectic blockchain patents

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

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

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

 

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Mount Sinai Launches Research Center to Explore Blockchain Use Cases in Medicine

Mount Sinai Hospital’s New York-based medical school has established a blockchain research center to explore its medical use case applications.

The Center for Biomedical Blockchain Research is set to be part of the hospital’s Institute for Next Generation Healthcare. The institute currently hosts 50 specialist researchers studying progressive healthcare solutions, including the application of robotics, artificial intelligence, wearable medical devices, sensors, and genomic sequencing.

Blockchain use-cases to be researched include drug development, drug tracking and authentication, improved research reproducibility, and use in clinical trials. Predictive health applications are also on the agenda, with studies planned to investigate the possibilities of utilizing electronic health record information gained from wearable devices to prevent future health problems.

Director of health data and design innovation, Noah Zimmerman, was careful to point out the institute would add a degree of academic rigor to the blockchain sector. He acknowledged there could be no singular technological solution to ”save healthcare” and he was careful to avoid becoming merely part of the ”blockchain hype cycle“. He believes the institute has a balanced, academic approach to its research.

Executive vice president of precision health at Mount Sinai, Joel Dudley, has been positioned to run the research center. His previous experience in the sector includes time as a senior data scientist at Pivotal Software where the use of artificial intelligence in biology is studied, as well as working to design predictive healthcare models.

Teaming up

The institute’s plans began by bringing together 144 companies involved in blockchain healthcare projects and creating a database of shared information. The combined total of funds raised through initial coin offerings by the companies involved is USD 670 million.

CoverUs is included in the group, offering its project which allows patients to gain financially from their own health data via a blockchain-backed exchange, as is Embleema, a venture which brings together patient health data and electronic medical records in a secure format.

 

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South Korean Banks Initiate Blockchain-Based ID System

The Korean Federation of Banks (KFB), a group of South Korean commercial banks, has announced that a new blockchain-based ID initiative dubbed ‘BankSign’ will be implemented in July later this year.

The initiative will replace the massively outdated current system that has been in place for 20 years that has resulted in an enormous number of fraudulent activities, described by local news outlet Korea Joongang Daily as “notorious for its complexity and inconvenience“.

Blockchain solution

Park Chang-ok, a manager at the department of deposit services and payment systems at KFB described BankSign as giving financial institutions the option to ”choose from in verifying consumer identity, not just the public certification system“.

A spokesperson for KFB explained, ”[It is] the first project co-developed by the local banking sector utilizing blockchain technology. While BankSign will start off by providing the service in the banking sector, we will work with the government and other public organizations to expand its usage.”

The project has been built on the Nexledger blockchain, created by Samsung specifically for businesses. Development began in November 2017, with beta testing following in April 2018.

The current system

The system at present requires a number of identity checks to take place before goods and services can be purchased online in South Korea, with users required to download several security programmes that are only usable on the device they are directly downloaded onto.

While the active software was modern in 1996, there are several reported challenges it now faces. The programmes may slow down computer systems, only working on Internet Explorer for desktop users.

In addition, the outdated technology has led to an estimated 80% of users information compromised in 2014. Research Gate conducted a study the same year that estimated national losses due to these hacks between USD 10 billion and USD 40 billion.

 

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German Finance Regulator: Blockchain Could Be Revolutionary

Chief of the German Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin), Felix Hufeld, has described blockchain technology as “revolutionary” while stating that he sees it as capable of turning the financial sector ”upside down”.

Speaking during an event in Berlin last week, Hufeld, president of BaFin, outlined his position on both Bitcoin and blockchain.

While holding a skeptical view on the sustainability of Bitcoin’s price and the current initial coin offering (ICO) boom, Hufeld expressed his belief that blockchains capacity to power distributed applications “could actually be revolutionary”.

Highlighting the benefits unique to blockchain, Hufeld noted: “These apps are not only safe from failures of individual computers or providers, they also promote the development of a ”blockchain economy”.

An additional advantage of blockchain Hufeld considers is its potential in providing “effective control mechanisms or trustworthy institutions” in areas such as international aid that lack dependable regulation.

It appears Hufeld’s opinions have developed since April when he stated he merely did not want to ”kill [blockchain] innovation“, as BaFin expanded cryptocurrency regulations on the pretext of money laundering concerns.

Germany’s position on Bitcoin

Earlier this week, members of the German federal government stated that they believed Bitcoin did not provide a threat to financial stability because they view the volume of cryptocurrency asset transactions as too low to have a large impact on the German economy.

However, the representatives said that they believed an increase in regulatory measures was required to control the industry, with the government considering it important to monitor this area closely at the G20 level.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) published a report in April that cited similar reasoning as that of the German government in regards to not seeing cryptocurrencies as a threat to global financial stability.

 

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Blockchain Compatibility with GDPR’s ‘Right to be Forgotten’

The EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) policies place an emphasis on the ”right to be forgotten”, meaning that at any time an organization should be able to delete users’ personal data at their request. With immutable, decentralized blockchain technology, the question arises as to how blockchain projects will be able to comply with these principles.

Who is in charge of regulating blockchain data?

Indeed, the foundations of trust in blockchain comes from its immutability, something perhaps inherently contradictory to the new GDPR policies. Public blockchain configurations are decentralized, relying on peer-to-peer (p2p) transactions without any control or authorization. This means that anybody participating can be seen as a controller in the eyes of the law because of the copy on their computer.

While private blockchains make it easier to identify the administrator, it is still far different than the classic scheme considered by GDPR that easily identifies a data controller. So, legal responsibilities are transferred to people orbiting around the blockchain, considered as third services, giving them the responsibility to uphold the regulations.

Each blockchain project must be considered on an individual basis to identify the obligations imposed in regards to respecting data subject’s rights. There is yet to be a consensus in the blockchain community, however, how third services can respect and comply with the right to be forgotten.

Exploring immutability solutions: alternative blockchains

Business and innovation blockchain developers BTL judged a hackathon at the Consensus Conference in New York last month, where developers were challenged to build various applications capable of permanently deleting data on the Interbit blockchain platform.

Interbit differs from public blockchains such as Ethereum and Bitcoin, as it has been purpose-built for business enterprises and meeting GDPR’s requirement of the “right to be forgotten”, hence enabling the permanent removal of information.

BTL even believes that the future of data protection lies in blockchain solutions, arguing “we would go as far as to say that you can only truly meet this (GDPR) requirement with … a blockchain solution…Interbit allows data to be segregated across multiple chains within single applications. Delete a chain, (and the) data is gone, for good.”

The separation of data across several private chains both facilitates GDPR compliance and implements total data privacy that lacks on public blockchains. While Interbit is one just solution now, the industry is sure to follow with many more innovations to come.

 

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EU Terrorist Funding Study: Crypto No Greater Threat Than Traditional Currency, Increased Regulations Required

In a study published Monday, the EU parliamentary think tank has concluded that cryptocurrencies present no more of a threat to terrorist financing than fiat currencies, while improved regulations, industry intelligence, and community relationship building offer the strongest policy actions to combat the threat.

The report was commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs, conducted to asses the risks imposed by the rapidly changing, decentralized space of virtual currencies.

Crypto risks no greater than traditional methods

The paper acknowledges that the cryptocurrency space does not represent a more significant threat than the ‘traditional’ forms of terrorist financing. ”In their current form and at current levels of adoption, [virtual currencies] may not present terrorist actors with substantial advantages over other methods of funding and financing they already utilize,” it reads.

In addition to this, the research notes that there are very few publicly-documented, confirmed cases of virtual currencies being used in regards to terrorist funding. With the recently imposed EU GDPR and AML (anti-money laundering) regulations, these risks posed by cryptocurrency usage are only decreased further.

The threat of crypto-funded terrorism

However, the study highlights the borderless, peer-to-peer (p2p) nature of cryptocurrency trading as offering prospective terrorist actors a platform to transfer funds out of the regulated sector, and beyond the purview of counter-terrorist financing authorities. Dependent on the virtual currency being traded, various levels of anonymity and pseudonymity are offered, making it appealing for those looking to conduct illicit activities.

Several incidents are pointed to, demonstrating that both politically and religiously inspired extremist actors have utilized virtual currencies in the past, although in a ”relatively low-volume and unsystematic fashion.” The research suggests that the nature and scale of the threat are difficult to predict, although potential terrorists may be looking to expand the use of cryptocurrencies in their illicit activities.

Potential illegal activities that these actors could utilize are detailed, notably including soliciting donations in crowdfunding campaigns conducted on social media, as well as transmitting funds internationally among members of terrorist networks using P2P value transfers.

Increased regulation required

To target these threats, the study offers a list of EU policy recommendations, including ensuring comprehensive directives are applied. Particularly emphasized is a need to implement regulations that are relevant and adaptable to the rapidly-evolving technologies behind cryptocurrencies in a way that does not stifle their innovation.

A need to address both established cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and altcoins differently is noted: ”Regulators should also draft guidance that takes a nuanced approach to characterizing the risks [virtual currencies] pose in different contexts and for different purposes. For example, the illicit finance risks the traceable cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin present is generally not as significant as that presented by privacy-focused alt-coins.”

Community-driven industry intelligence

Developing law enforcement knowledge and capacity is also focused on as a key point to countering the usage of cryptocurrencies in terrorist financing. Interestingly, the paper places a significance on the positive potential outcomes of reaching out to the established cryptocurrency community in order to better their industry intelligence.

”The public sector cannot develop effective regulation, enhance knowledge and improve intelligence acting alone. Cooperation and interaction with businesses in the VC-industry is essential… Member States should develop dedicated fora for sharing information with local VC industry participants, including sharing of intelligence for operational purposes,” the research notes.

A lack of industry intelligence has been the source of many issues relating to implementing cryptocurrency and blockchain regulations, so an approach such as this suggested may well prove invaluable in assisting authorities to make better-informed decisions.

Reaching out to the cryptocurrency community for their support rather than marginalize their innovations would be hugely beneficial, alongside helping improve what many see as an undeserved bad reputation when it comes to cryptocurrencies and criminal activities.

 

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China to Launch National Blockchain Standardization Committee

An official from China’s ministry of industry and information technology has verified that the country’s plan to launch a national blockchain standardization committee should be ready to launch by the end of this year.

Structurally based on TC 307

As discussed in a keynote speech from Li Ying, head of the IT ministry’s information and software department, the structure of the committee will be based on that of TC 307, the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) counterpart blockchain commission, as reported by CoinDesk.

“We have been working closely with the ISO and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). We should soon have our national technical committee for blockchain standardization ready within this year,” Ying said, commenting on the plans to establish a comprehensive framework for blockchain standards by the end of the year while confirming the Chinese government’s direct involvement.

Ying’s announcement came at the 2018 Guiyang Big Data Expo on Saturday.

China’s blockchain agenda

These comments follow closely the revelations from China’s IT ministry that indicate an agenda to pursue the standardization of blockchain application development. Ying noted the government’s plans to “expedite blockchain deployment in areas that most urgently need the nascent tech”.

While China is currently a participating member of the ISO’s TC 307 commission, the country has plans to provide its own initiative surrounding blockchain standardization. The TC 307 focuses predominantly on authentification and smart contracts; it may be speculated that China wishes to pursue the standardization of blockchain elements beyond these uses.

The IT ministry of China currently directly supervises a research lab responsible for conducting monthly evaluations of significant public blockchains. It has been reported that this is done in an effort to create a standard rating system of these blockchains, a service that would be a huge benefit for businesses looking to utilize blockchain for their company.

 

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