Category Archives: digital currency

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Aragon Government Invests $13 Million Into Industry 4.0 Development

Earlier this week, local news outlet La Vanguardia reported a USD 13 million fund allocation by the Government of Aragon for the development of emerging technologies, including blockchain.

The source reports that the sum was co-funded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and was double the amount initially intended in the original plan, hence, meeting the needs of up to 320 Argonese companies.

According to the news outlet, the specific objectives of the program dubbed Aragón Industria 4.0 under the Strategy of Economic and Industrial Promotion of Aragon 2017-2019 initiative, were designed to explore concepts and applications of emerging technologies in the industry 4.0 such as artificial intelligence, and blockchain technology as well as promote synergistic tech companies’ growth within its industrial sector.

Moreover, small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) will be given an opportunity through the program to incorporate digitalization into their processes.

Blockchain exploration in Spain has had tremendous successes, and more ambitious prospects for blockchain within the country continue to spring up. Developments had included the proposed use of blockchain in resolving corruption and fraud within its economic system., the exploration of the distributed ledger use case in the logistics industry. In finance, a clear distinction was the successful completion of a USD 150 million syndicated loan through the blockchain. More exploits have covered other areas including agriculture, and the energy industry.

Perhaps this is an opportunity for Spain to mark its territory in the blockchain industry and also in other emerging technologies as it scales up funding into research and development, and attempts an SME inclusion system for the industry.

Other governments and institutes seem not to be slacking in the pursuit of prospects within the blockchain industry. Most nations and non-government related funds have invested large sums for research purposes into the emerging technology of blockchain.

Last year, the Chinese government was reportedly involved in blockchain related funding despite their stance on cryptocurrencies. One specific event that stood out was a USD 1.6 billion investment into startups by a blockchain fund and co-sponsored by the government of Shenzhen.

As nations and tech companies continue to race to become an all-encompassing entity on the subject of blockchain and other emerging technologies, the frontier of blockchain continues to expand while adoption slowly gains traction.

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JPMorgan Introduces Its Own Digital Coin With Institutions in Mind

JPMorgan Introduces Its Own Digital Coin with Institutions in Mind

Major US-based multinational investment bank JPMorgan announced yesterday that it has launched a digital coin that will be backed by the US dollar.

A major breakthrough for cryptocurrencies which had for a long time been blighted in some circles as being untrustworthy, or so would some think. As a matter of fact, JPMorgan was among those in 2017 who ridiculed cryptocurrency and specifically called Bitcoin a fraud. Although its perspective on the subject of blockchain industry as well as properly controlled and regulated cryptocurrencies was that it held promise. Now, it stands as the first major US bank creating a digital coin and one among others in the traditional banking industry to create a real-world application of blockchain technology.

Consequently, this development has aroused some controversial sentiments within the crypto community. According to MarketWatch, Jerry Brito – executive director at Coin Center told the news outlet that the JPM coin isn’t a cryptocurrency but an in-house-built payment system. The bank did clarify on the differences between its digital coin and cryptocurrencies, however, it is a popular sentiment that any product built on the blockchain is assumed to come with the tag ‘cryptocurrency’.

As explained on the bank’s website, it appears that the JPM coin isn’t a legal tender, but a digital coin backed by the US dollar – not a stablecoin either – stored in designated accounts of JPMorgan Chase. The bank said that when one client sends money to another over the blockchain, JPM Coins are transferred and instantaneously redeemed for the equivalent amount of US dollars, reducing the typical settlement time.

The JPM coin will only be used between its institutional clients as the core purpose of the coin is to save time for inter-bank/institution settlements, leveraging the robustness of the blockchain as opposed to legacy systems of money transfers. Accordingly, the coin will not be available to individuals, however, the bank says that the rippling effect in the efficiency of money transfer will confer certain benefits to individuals.

The bank may not stop at the digital coin alone, it said in its news release that with respect to its other businesses like custody or clearing and settlement, “it’s still too early to assess the ultimate impact of blockchain,” and it intends to further explore areas of applicability as it works with clients around the world. Perhaps, it may join the list of financial institutions proposing to offer custody solutions in an attempt to cater to institutional investors willing to join the crypto derivative market once the system is well regulated.

Blockchain-related trends in the banking industry have been growing of late with expanding use cases specific to interfacing with the technology to facilitate money transfers between financial institutions. As reported in December last year, Signature Bank’s Signet may have been the first regulator-approved blockchain-based payment system developed by a bank. It was designed to eliminate third parties and process payments faster between the bank’s clients.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been discussing plans on developing a blockchain-based cross-border payment system for inter-bank relations.

Moreover, the subject of a state-backed central bank digital currency (CBDC) has been frequently discussed in many banking circles. However, the views on such development have been rather polarized. Perhaps, this step made by JPMorgan will further facilitate the adoption of different blockchain use cases for other banks as they race for inclusion into the emerging market.


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Miners Concerned Over Russia’s Planned Internet Shutdown Test

There are growing concerns is Russia’s cryptocurrency community that the cyberwar internet shutdown tests scheduled to take place before 1 April could impact Bitcoin mining.

The Digital Economy National Program, a new law recently drafted, will require Russian ISPs to be able to operate if the country is isolated online and as such the government is planning to monitor its effectiveness through the internet shutdown. The law suggests measures including building a Russian version of the net’s address system, DNS (Domain Name System).

Leonard Levin, the chairman of a Russian government technology committee says argues, “The calls to increase pressure on our country being made in the West oblige us to think about additional ways to protect Russian sovereignty in cyberspace.”

How will the shutdown impact Bitcoin miners who are totally reliant on internet connectivity? Bitnodes figures suggest that there are 10,476 Bitcoin nodes of which 291 (2.78%) are located in Russia, compared to 271 nodes (3.02%) on the Ethereum network.

In theory, Bitcoin mining could connect to Blockstream’s satellite network and circumvent disruptions. The Blockstream satellite is a one-way network, but the user still needs a connection to the Bitcoin network to send transactions, which can include SMS gateways. The network comprises four satellites across six coverage zones including the Asia and Pacific region, allowing users to send data over its network.

The Russian government has agreed to cover any costs for the shutdown, which will be backed up by an intranet, to compensate internet provers needing to modify systems by installing servers to redirect and filter web traffic.


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Cryptopia Gets Green Light to Reopen After Hacking

Cryptopia Gets Green Light to Reopen After Hacking

New Zealand cryptocurrency exchange Cryptopia, which was hacked almost exactly a month ago, has been given the green light to reopen as local police wind up their inquiries.

Cryptopia has over 2 million global users and offers trading for one of the world’s largest range of cryptocurrencies. January’s hacking resulted in the loss of some $USD 6 million worth of cryptocurrency which warranted the company notifying its users that it had “suffered a security breach which resulted in significant losses”.

The body investigating the breach, New Zealand’s High Tech Crime Group, have indicated that although the exchange if free to open, some of its team will be remaining on site to complete their investigations. The police have not expressed any indication of laying any charges at this stage.

Experts from data company Elementus believe the stolen cryptocurrency could amount to USD 23 million dollars which comprise Ether and ERC20 tokens, and reports indicate that the attack could have even continued even after the investigators arrived on the scene in January.

Cryptopia surprised New Zealand’s crypto and banking community at the end of last year when it announced that it had plans to relaunch the New Zealand dollar stablecoin (NZDT) in Q1 2019. The NZDT was originally launched in 2017, with daily trading volume rallying to NZD 1 million per day. This spooked ASB, the bank that Cryptopia was working with, since proper know your customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) laws were not in place. Fortunately, the orderly termination of the NZDT stablecoin gave customers a month to convert their tokens back to NZD.

Despite the green light, Cryptopia founders Adam Clark and Rob Dawson have not indicated exactly when they plan to resume services for its huge customer base.


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Exchange Listing XRP Says Ripple “Not Crypto”

Exchange Listing XRP Says Ripple

An exchange that has recently added Ripple to its trading platform is happy to proclaim that in its view, XRP is a “Centralized Virtual Currency“, not strictly a cryptocurrency.

The Finnish-based Coinmotion exchange’s definition for users could find that many enthusiastic customers may not be happy to read it:

“What one needs to know about XRP is that it is not cryptocurrency in the strict meaning of the word… What differentiates XRP from cryptocurrencies is that it is not based on blockchain, it is not mined and it is heavily centralized. Ripple network is a suite of different applications by Ripple Labs. XRP, is the currency of Ripple network, which the apps use.”

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse claims that XRP is in fact “very clearly decentralized”. The company has been moving from strength to strength within the industry, particularly with its link to traditional banking. Ripple Labs announced the addition of 13 more financial institutions to its RippleNet in January, which now takes the total to over 200.

Coinmotion’s blog claims that Ripple’s network doesn’t use blockchain but relies on a Ripple Labs patented system called HashTree adding:

“In HashTree all the transactions and balances are combined to a single number, which servers compare to each other to reach consensus. This kind of system is faster than blockchain, but far more centralized.”

The Finnish exchange ends its blog with a rather curious note to users, given that it chose to list XRP, stating, “Nonetheless since You, our dear customer, have asked for it, we have offered you the possibility to buy and sell XRP on Coinmotion.”


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South Korea’s “Sampo Generation” Find Escape in Crypto Amid Rigid Society

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For many of South Korea’s millennials, cryptocurrency has proven the only way to escape the rigors of the country’s social demands.

Many of South Korea’s young are now calling themselves “dirt spoons”, a reference in South Korea to economic and social status, with gold and silver spoons being the best off and dirt spoons being the worst. Older Koreans refer to millennials as the “Sampo Generation” — literally, “three-giving up” generation — due to their rejection of courtship, marriage and family, the three essential elements of traditional South Korean society.

A generation of young South Koreans have sought out cryptocurrencies as a way of avoiding what they see as dead-end jobs and no future, which has created a huge crypto industry in the country as a result. It is an industry which has seen a total of USD 6.8 billion in cryptocurrencies changing hands in January alone, now becoming the world’s third largest market behind the US and Japan.

“There is no true opportunity in South Korea for the average young person,” said Kim Han-gyeol, 23, a part-time software developer for an e-book company. Kim lost money after making a large profit originally by investing in cryptocurrencies before the fall in the market.

“I felt a sense of shame when I lost money on my Bitcoin investments, not once but twice because of my greed to make a fortune in one go,” she said. But, she added, she’ll stick to digital coins. She said, “There is nowhere else to go to recover my losses anyway.”

Success for the young Koreans means a government position or a job at a small group of family-owned conglomerates selling products that South Koreans commonly purchase. Some of these positions even require a university education with only a handful of local institutions available to choose from; these are highly competitive, and often require long waits numbering years in order to secure a place.

With youth unemployment in South Korea running at 10.5% — the highest in Asia — it is not hard to see the attraction of cryptocurrency investment for many of the country’s young and unemployed.

The cryptocurrency industry has caused a huge wave of interest amongst South Korea’s millennials since 2017, and given time may spark the flame of a huge resurgence in East Asia in the coming months and years.


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12.7% of Amazon Customers Call For Crypto Products or Services

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A recent survey shows that 12.7% of Amazon customers would like to see the marketplace selling cryptocurrency products or services.

The report conducted by Global financial portal had surveyed over 1000 of the multinational e-commerce company’s clients in an attempt to analyze Amazon’s consumption rate, with a view of expanding its services to offer more products.

The results revealed that most respondents, being allowed to choose multiple products, voted mostly in favor of an Amazon-backed computer offering (72.9%), followed by local coupons and deals (51.7%), prescription drugs (36.7%), home security (31%) and even medical marijuana (29.5).

13.7% of Amazon clients unsurprisingly voted for listing cryptocurrency products, especially given calls from the industry to drive cryptocurrency adoption through the huge e-commerce market. Although Amazon has been somewhat reticent, there were indications in November 2017 when Bitcoin was at its hiatus and looked to be stratosphere bound, that internet e-commerce giant had likely acquired digital currency-related domain names.

As for using crypto online for purchasing goods and services, exchange giant Binance’s CEO Changpeng Zhao has said in the past that he sees Amazon eventually accepting cryptocurrencies, suggesting that they are ideally suited for use on the platform. He commented:

“For any internet (non-physical) based business, I don’t understand why anyone would not accept crypto for payments. It is easier, faster and cheaper to integration than traditional payment gateways. Less paperwork. And reaches more diverse demographic and geography.”

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Bank of Korea: CBDC Could Threaten Commercial Bank Stability

CBDC Could Threaten Financial Stability of Commercial Banks, Says Bank of Korea

The Bank of Korea (BOK) has said that the introduction of a state-owned and issued digital currency in the form of central bank digital currency (CBDC) in South Korea could possibly zero-out commercial banks, reports Yonhap News Agency.

According to the source, the BOK published a report expressing concerns with low deposits demands into commercial banks that may result from the implementation of a state-backed CBDC into the financial system.

Kwon Oh-ik, one of the co-authors of the report, wrote: “The CBDC is a kind of a BOK-issued bank account. People trust it more than one in a commercial bank”. This implied that as customers are likely to trust the blockchain-based currency type backed by the BOK as opposed to the legacy form of money transfer and handling, this might lead to low liquidity in such commercial banks as customers withdraw their money. This would invariably shoot up interest rates.

Commercial banks are largely dependent on the loan infrastructure and if deposit services reduce, making it hard for the banks to have access to liquid cash for loan maintenance, then interest rates will then go up. Invariably, that may reduce patronage and consequently reduce the businesses of such banks.

Banks around the world have been discussing different application models for blockchain and cryptocurrencies. One such possibility involves CBDC, and talks about facilitating cross-border payment infrastructures. Banks have identified CBDCs as a government type of cryptocurrency which will constitute the exactness of a fiat currency.

At last, one thing some central banks around the world and crypto-enthusiasts could agree on is that a digital asset built on the blockchain could represent a store of value as well as a medium of exchange, and possibly capable of replacing the legacy fiat currency formats.

A CBDC could play a significant role in mass adoption of cryptocurrency. However, as exciting as that may sound for Seoul-based crypto enthusiasts, the South Korean central bank has a differing opinion.

The bank did say last week that it is not rushing into issuing a CBDC even though many financial institutions around the globe are more welcoming to the prospects of the financial instrument. The report published by the bank further reiterates its stance on the subject of CBDC.


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Google Works on New Blockchain Dissecting Tool

Google Works on New Blockchain Dissecting Tool

Google has announced that it is currently working on a new tool to enable users to search transaction information through more efficient searches of blockchains for specified data.

However, the tool is seen by some as a double-bladed sword, for example revealing that Bitcoin Cash is not as well distributed as thought nor is it used for its heralded suitability for everyday transactions to the degree that advertising might imply. The tool is already being considered by governments for its ability to reveal private information or data that individuals would like to keep to themselves.

The tool is called Blockchain ETL (extract, transform, load) a technology built on Google’s big-data analytics platform, BigQuery. Its developer Allen Day focuses on the less intrusive elements of ETLs, suggesting that if cryptocurrencies fall into mainstream use, then “it will require having some trust in knowing about who it is you’re actually interacting with”, requiring a search technology capable of harnessing the huge store of blockchain data.

The tech is in current use analyzing data on cryptocurrencies and establishing which of these may be legitimate for making everyday purchases, also which exchanges might be creating fake volume as an advertising ploy. ETL and BigQuery currently analyze Bitcoin and Ethereum but plan to add Dash, Litecoin, Zcash, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum Classic and Dogecoin in the future.

An example of how the tech works is explained by Leon White of Dash Core using the cryptocurrency Dash as an example. He says that while the cryptocurrency encourages the separation of large balances into wallets of 1,000 Dash each, it still has a relatively low Gini coefficient; ETL reveals that:

“Gini coefficient of Dash is excellent compared to other cryptos, even considering masternodes. A low Gini coefficient indicates a more equal distribution of wealth in the data set. So it provides some evidence (but not definitive evidence) that Dash is more fairly distributed than other major cryptocurrencies.”


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India Worried Crypto Could Destabilize Rupee

Crypto Could Destabilize Rupee, Says Indian Gov’t Committee

A report by Quartz India suggests that the Indian government is concerned about the effect cryptocurrency may have on its national currency.

According to the article, a high-level panel working on a cryptocurrency regulatory framework has observed that a less-explored area for crypto use does exist and possesses as much risk as with the already established concerns of money laundering and terror financing.

The committee, led by the economic affairs secretary in the ministry of finance Subhas Chandra Garg, has expressed concerns about the impact of cryptocurrency on Indian rupee in the long term should it become a recognized medium of exchange.

“If Bitcoin and other digital currencies are going to be allowed to be used for payments then whether it will end up destabilizing the fiat currency is a major concern for them [the Garg panel],” the post reads, citing an anonymous crypto enthusiast who met with the ministers.

The article has cited another report compiled by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) — of which the Indian central bank is a member — as being the basis for the fears which are further amplified by the uncertainties cryptocurrency may have on the financial ecosystem as a whole as current frameworks are void of an encompassing metric system to account for such scaling effects. More so, the BIS may also be worried that central bank issued digital currencies may also contribute to the instability of the financial system as well.

Perhaps these may be legitimate concerns, as cryptocurrency has so far demonstrated scaling features that could put legacy systems out of commission, and hence affect traditional banks that are unwilling to upgrade. Some forward-thinking financial institutions have begun exploring how to use the blockchain for interbank relations and are considering a digital currency to that effect.

While the banks involved in the transition to blockchain-based systems have stated that the digital currency will be for cross-border payments and would only involve bank-to-bank transactions, the BIS had warned last year that digital coins might destabilize traditional lenders if offered widely to the general public.

The legality of cryptocurrency in India remains flimsy since the committee involved with drafting a regulatory framework have given mixed signals on their stance with digital currencies. At one time, they recommended a ban on cryptocurrency, and later on, warmed up to the idea that “cryptocurrency cannot be dismissed as completely illegal”. With plans to develop its own state-backed cryptocurrency currently on hold, the threats may have indeed been real to the nation.

Rahul Raj, founder of Koinex, has opined that such worries are premature, as nothing of the sort could happen in the near term given that cryptocurrencies are only being used in a very small circle for purchases. But it was further suggested that the concerns can only become of effect if blockchain has scaled to the level of Mastercard and Visa.

Bitcoin News published early today a report on a sample poll survey revealing that in the US, only 3% of people used Bitcoin to make purchases in the past month. This goes further to prove Raj’s point and while the hype about cryptocurrencies is mainly bolstered by the speculative value, the utility aspect of most blockchain products are still a while off from full-scale adoption.


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