Category Archives: DLT

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Macron’s Got Problems but Blockchain Ain’t One

Macron's Got Problems but Blockchain Ain't One

French President Emmanuel Macron is seeing his popularity wane by the day due to his planned reforms for business and industry but new technologies appear to be flourishing under the current government, regardless of current discontentment.

Blockchain, in particular, has been earmarked and the latest news of IBM’s new initiatives and investments which should bring 1,800 jobs to France won’t hurt either. Nor will IBM’s new French project with P-TECH to support the disadvantages in finding work. In fact, France is on the crest of a blockchain wave currently, despite Macron’s reforms being soundly rejected. With overturned cars burning in Paris streets it seems hard to imagine that French politicians have got anything right under the current regime.

Perhaps a hint of this shifting focus towards new technologies by a Macron government was the dabbling with taxation this year, with the government finally settling on dropping the tax on cryptocurrency to 17%… for the time being. Clearly, the government doesn’t want to stifle an industry which it is now openly promoting, suggesting that it should now benefit from an EUR 500 million  state handout.

Member of the National Assembly, Laure de La Raudière, is one of those calling for the money, who sees efficiency as an end product arguing that government should follow private industry’s lead using DLT. She says: “I draw the alarm: it’s time to invest. There are not yet established positions in the world.”

She also cited the certification of diplomas or administrative documents as potential use cases. France’s Prime Minister Édouard Philippe is another sold on blockchain although taking some criticism on the subject of allowing Bitcoin to be dispersed in tabacs around France via a ticketing system. In other areas, he’s on safer ground:

“Take the example of agribusiness. To have an interesting blockchain in terms of traceability and food security, it is necessary to bring together distributors, producers, logisticians, the industrialists… And do not let only one actor manage the network as Carrefour or Casino can do today.”

Carrefour was the first to set the blockchain clock ticking with its produce monitoring program being introduced into some of its supermarkets earlier this year, a move recently followed in Spain.

The multi-party suggestion that France should receive massive financial banking to promote blockchain has occurred according to De la Raudière because she believes that she is not alone in wanting to see France as a leader rather than a follower in Europe. She argues, “France must have a conquering philosophy on the subject with the State in the first place, both as a user and federator of projects.”

Other suggestions coming from the recent parliamentary report highlight a call for the opening of bank accounts for blockchain-centered businesses which must register with the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), the French stock market regulator.

 

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South Korea Startup, New York Hospital Adopt Blockchain for Data Collection

South Korea Startup, New York Hospital Adopt Blockchain for Data Collection

Data collection using available new technologies continues to benefit from the application of DLT, a fact that a Manhattan hospital is discovering for itself through a new collaboration with blockchain startup Medibloc.

The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), one of the United States’ top five hospitals, cites its project as being one of the first attempts by a major healthcare institution in the country to connect with a blockchain startup in order to create a system of decentralized patient data.

Using blockchain platforms means that only authorized medical professionals can use the patient data, itself secured by sophisticated cryptography and possibly smart contract technology. This also makes it easier for data sharing among health care specialists, assisting with the digitization of healthcare data across networks.

Currently, the MGH gathers its information independently through different bodies such as insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies with no guarantee this information can be transferred securely. This could change if MGH can utilize DLT in the way that it wants to. Synho Do, director of the Laboratory of Medical Imaging and Computation, a joint venture of MGH and Harvard Medical School, commented:

“In collaboration with Medibloc, we aim to explore potentials of blockchain technology to provide secure solutions for health information exchange, integrate healthcare AI applications into the day-to-day clinical workflow, and support [a] data sharing and labeling platform for machine learning model development.”

Medibloc itself was born out of the healthcare industry with both of its founders previously working as industry professionals. As doctors, Kho and Eunsol Lee, brought notoriety to their company from industry players, and also from government officials in South Korea, giving Medibloc added credibility. The main asset the startup brings to MGH is the functionality of decentralized information, which hospitals of this size have not explored to date, still preferring to use multiple databases to store and develop data.

Medibloc had formed several Asian partnerships before its latest American project, with eight medical institutions and 14 tech giants now using their services. Plans to begin operating at MGH in the second quarter of 2019 are underway.

 

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G20 Calls for Universal Crypto Taxation Rules

G20 Calls for Universal Crypto Taxation Rules

Cryptocurrency and taxation have found their way among the main headlines coming out of the latest 2018 G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, alongside further commitments to fight climate change.

The G20 has now announced the desire for universal cryptocurrency taxation legislation to cover all jurisdictions within its remit with the body planning to regard itself as a “huge IT company” going forward. New laws governing the taxation of cryptocurrencies would also include further regulation as promised earlier in the year.

The current problem, which will clearly need to be overcome by some lateral and innovative thinking, is the role of international law in matters of taxation, as current ones do not allow most countries to tax companies without physical bases in that specific country. In the new declaration to commit to a cross-border crypto tax system, the G20 stated:

“We will seek solutions for the international taxation issue accompanying the digitization of the economy and will continue to collaborate.”

Previous G20 meets had already raised the topic; in its July report, the body’s Financial Stability Board (FSB) noted that previous analysis of crypto-asset markets, which included initial coin offerings (ICOs), had brought forth awareness surrounding significant challenges such as rapid market development, lack of transparency (with regard to identity and location of token issuers), as well as governing laws for white papers and gaps in data.

There continues to be some consensus from within the group representing the 20 nations about the value of innovation, although this may be limited to the respect currently being shown for the current impact of DLT and AI in the fintech space and elsewhere. The G20 has asked for further investigations to be launched in cryptocurrencies when Japan takes over the helm as chair in 2020.

Regarding cryptocurrency, the G20 repeatedly cite taking actions which are “balanced between preserving the benefits of innovation and containing various risks, especially those for consumer and investor protection and market integrity” but again AML legislation will be a focus with Japan as the next chair.

As is frequently in the case regarding the G20, it is a matter of getting all members on the same page, particularly given the current political friction between some of the member states. Europe and the UK are interested in developing such a program that they feel could combat money laundering and fraud, particularly in the case of larger organizations, but Japanese news agency Jiji has indicated that the USA and China are far more reticent to endorse such a move.

 

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Blockchain Deployment to Give $3 Trillion Boost to Global Economy by 2030

A new World Trade Organization (WTO) report illustrates the burgeoning effect of DLT on global trade with an estimation that the technology could add USD 3 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

WTO’s findings, entitled ‘Can Blockchain revolutionize international trade?’, incorporates not only the effects of blockchain on world trade but also how other sectors such as finance, logistics and transportation, could be impacted by DLT.

This is the second of such reports regarding blockchain technology released by the WTO. Last month, Bitcoin News covered its findings on The future of world trade: How digital technologies are transforming global commerce’. In this report, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo was particularly encouraged by the potential of smaller enterprises to profit from the utilization of DLTs, commenting:

“Beyond easing trade in goods, digital technologies can facilitate services trade and enable new services to emerge. The Report predicts that the share of services trade could grow from 21% to 25% by 2030. Other effects could include, for example, blockchain helping smaller businesses to start trading by supporting them in building trust with partners around the world.”

This latest report continues to outline DLT’s disruptive and influential potential in supply chain logistics; an aspect of the technology recently criticized by Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, suggesting that lower costings due to emerging technologies such as blockchain will enable smaller businesses to enter the market.

The report also touched on securing and protecting international property rights through blockchain and the building of new trade deals as a result of the efficiency, transparency and cost effectiveness of DLT. These deals could be worth up to USD 1 trillion.

The WTO does offer a note of caution going forward, suggesting that energy consumption, hacking and scalability issues need to be addressed: The report stated:

“…blockchains are highly resilient compared to traditional databases due to their decentralized and distributed nature and the use of cryptographic techniques, they are not completely immune from traditional security challenges…”

The report concludes that international trade may be transformed over the next 15 years but this can only happen with “smart standardization — and smart standardization can only happen through cooperation”.

 

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Vitalik Buterin: Efficient Blockchain Relies on User Not Tool

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin took a fresh dig at IBM in an interview at a recent conference, suggesting that the tech giant’s use of blockchain for supply chain tracking is a waste of time.

He was speaking in an interview at this year’s Devocon4 conference in Prague for Ethereum developers, which was focusing on extending Ethereum’s outreach to the next million users and improving its effectiveness for them.

The multinational tech giant IBM, in league with other companies, has been leaving a significant imprint on the retail industry lately with the use of blockchain technology in supply chain systems.

This year an IBM/Walmart project came up with a farm-to-store tracking system based on blockchain technology, which Walmart committed 100 of its suppliers to adhere to. Both have been at the forefront of DLT since its conception and are eager to promote the use of new technology in sectors including business and commerce.

IBM also has patents accepted for such projects as Blockchain for Open Scientific Research which assert that blockchain can aid the process of scientific research by tracking research and development projects across institutional borders while offering “a tamper-resistant log of scientific research”. In fact, it has become challenging to cite a sector that IBM has not thoroughly explored in order to test the future potential of blockchain technology.

Ethereum’s co-founder is not so impressed, claiming marketing hype is at the center of IBM’s push to advertise its advances in DLT. He claims its blockchain supply chain achievements are off the mark and fundamentally missing the point of decentralization.

“Sometimes it is for marketing hype. Sometimes it is just people who are genuinely excited about blockchains and want the thing they are personally excited about and their job to align more with each other, which is a totally legitimate, human thing to want to do.”

Buterin suggests that lettuces on the blockchain, for example, is wrong, as the implication is that by using blockchain the consumer is being empowered by being able to track items at every step from growth to table using QR scanning. He argues that the viability of this system relies totally on the ability of the user to perform each task, for example, such as the farmer imputing the correct details on the blockchain so that customers can actually confirm the credentials of the information.

According to Buterin, blockchain technology should be regarded as a tool rather a 100% guarantee of evidence of credibility and therefore not necessarily the panacea to all life’s ills.

 

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SWIFT India Turns to DLT for More Secure Security, Fraud-Resistant Bank Services

SWIFT India and MonetaGo have teamed up to form a pilot shared DLT network in order to upgrade Indian bank services, facilitating fraud prevention and security.

SWIFT, a major provider of financial messaging services and financial tech firm MonetaGo, see the product as capable of servicing all Indian banks in the future by using the shared network.

Aimed at improving the efficiency and security of Indian banks’ financial products and procedures, the country’s financial institutions will be able to use the DLT network which has been designed to meet all industry requirements. SWIFT India’s CEO Kiran Shetty commented on the latest collaboration between the two companies, suggesting that added security was a clear winner in the project thanks to MonetaGo’s involvement:

“SWIFT India is committed to providing significant value to the Indian financial community through digitization of trade. MonetaGo’s expertise in providing fraud mitigation solutions to avoid double-financing and check the authenticity of the e-way bill gave us the confidence to partner with them.”

MonetaGo states on its website that its solutions use next-generation technologies to mitigate risk, increase capital efficiency, and make capital more accessible.  The company argues that problems in supply chain financing are often caused by fraudulent activity, a factor overcome by applying its solutions through digitalization. The company’s CEO, Jesse Chenard, was quick to point out how Indian banks could benefit:

“Given India’s focus on a digital infrastructure which is supported by both policy and technological innovation, it makes sense that large institutional players are interested in these products and initiatives… This work is going to positively impact the information available to the banking industry at large.”

MonetaGo has been enhancing its anti-fraud capabilities through research and development this year. The new Fraud Mitigation Network platform was created in order to reduce fraud around receivables financing, which was clearly a factor in SWIFT’s collaboration with the company.

 

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Australian Science Agency Praises “Smart Money” Blockchain Trial Success

Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has completed a blockchain trial with one of Australia’s big four banks, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

The trial, announced last month, tested CSIRO’s blockchain-powered “smart money” with the help of carers and participants within Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIS was initiated by the Australian government for citizens with disabilities, including intellectual, physical, sensory and psycho-social. It creates a managed market for disability services in Australia.

The trial revealed that the technology could increase patients’ choices and their levels of control over their support. Also, it was seen to help eliminate the need for unnecessary paperwork and reduced the risk of both fraud and financial calculation errors resulting in misspending. Ten participants and carers took part in the trials.

CSIRO’s Data61 principal software and computational systems researcher, Dr Mark Staples, claimed that the trial was insightful in giving researchers a greater understanding of both the pitfalls and some of the benefits of integrating smart money payments into the NDIS system. He added:

“This automation and flexibility could reduce friction and enable greater innovation in many payment environments and unlock network-effect benefits… directly connecting citizens to public policy programs, empowering people to optimize their spending through things like smart savings plans and smart diets, and reducing costs for businesses, including through the potential for self-taxing transactions.”

Commonwealth Bank’s head of government and ADIs, Julie Hunter, saw wide applications for the new technology in all sectors including the non-profit environment.

Australia’s previous prime minister Malcolm Turnbull had asked the country’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to research blockchain earlier this year. Principally, he asked for a focus on how the technology could be used to improve government services, including welfare payments. The Australian government granted the agency a budget of AUD 700,000 (USD 530,000) to carry out an investigation into DLT.

The move is one of many focused on how the government can best leverage blockchain’s advantages, including looking into how the technology can be used for making social security welfare payments to citizens. This latest CSIRO/Commonwealth Bank collaboration appears to be in line with the government’s current direction regarding implementing DLT into public services and other programs.

The new prime minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, plans to utilize blockchain technology to bring “much tougher competition” to the country’s big banks and dominant industries. He argued that the Australian banking system will be able to utilize DLT to help to transform areas of consumer data rights, open banking reforms, and new legislation.

 

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IBM Blockchain Pursues Open Research, Security

Hot on the blockchain patenting trail, IBM’s latest patent, this time coming out of its Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, appears to signal a new pursuit of “open scientific research”.

First filed in December 2017, the patent for “Blockchain for Open Scientific Research” claims that blockchain can aid the process of scientific research by tracking research and development projects across institutional borders while offering “a tamper-resistant log of scientific research”. The patent filing outlined the work of IBM inventors Jae-wook Ahn, Maria Chang, Patrick Watson, and Ravindranath Kokku:

“The blockchain system can form a blockchain representing a research project, wherein the blockchain comprises a first block of research data and a second block of analysis data representing a log of an analysis performed on the research data. Summary blocks and correction blocks can also be added to the blockchain representing the post analysis of the research results.”

The patent clarifies the fact that “currently, there are limited platforms that allow for sharing information about scientific research and showing transparent data collection and analysis steps”, although IBM is clearly not alone in applying DLT in the general science sector.

However, as has been demonstrated by heightened levels of research in IBMs labs over the course of the past 12 months, the company has become one of the major drivers of blockchain patents in the field. Another example of its impact on blockchain development and its practical applications, which again focuses on security, is its recent collaboration with data storage solutions company Seagate.

The IBM/Seagate project is aimed at enabling manufacturers and users of hard drives to ensure their authentication via a multi-layered security protection to data storage provenance. An immutable record of a product’s life from manufacturing to decommissioning is guaranteed by utilizing both blockchain and advanced cryptographic product identification technology, according to Seagate. Mark Re, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Seagate, explained:

“By combining Seagate’s innovations in product security with IBM’s blockchain expertise, we want to prove that we can help reduce the incidence of product counterfeiting in the future.”

 

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Israeli Startups Head over Heels with Blockchain, Acknowledge Learning Process

The Israeli Blockchain Association (IBA) has announced in a press release that there are now 200 DLT-related startups in the country, but that there is still more to be done.

Israel has been slow to embrace cryptocurrency as part of an expanding fintech industry in the country, particularly given the country’s geographical position on the fringes of Europe. Recently, however, the rate of startup investment and blockchain research has begun to gain some pace, as the country looks to the US and Europe and their enthusiastic embracing of new technologies and AI.

The newly-released IBA Israeli Blockchain Startup Map figures highlight the pace at which Israel has taken to developing the technology to promote business. The Association describes itself as “an organization whose primary objective is to educate, develop and empower Israel’s distributed ledger technology (DLT) community, encourage best practices and connect it with global leaders in the blockchain space”.

The report goes on to claim that 57 startups are specifically using blockchain and 37 are focused on the protocols and core infrastructure sectors, with a handful of other startups operating in the security sector of the economy.

However, 20 blockchain projects were unsuccessful and ceased operating since the beginning of 2018. The failures have been put down to lack of research and technical knowledge as to how DLT operates, before launching projects. Roma Gold, the Founding Partner of the IBA, commented that ICOs are becoming less popular, but institutional investment in blockchain is very much on the rise:

“The Israeli blockchain ecosystem is presently experiencing both a boost and a transformation… Today, fewer startup founders are coming out of morally questionable markets, such as binary options, and gambling. Instead, more institutional players are starting to enter the market. In essence, the market is going through self-purification.”

Israel is not afraid to seek help in this new field and crypto-friendly Switzerland is certainly a good friend to have given its experience in the sector. Recently, Switzerland’s Minister of Finance Ueli Maurer and State Secretary for International Financial Matters Joerg Gasser discussed terms for entering the Israeli market with high-ranking state officials during a Swiss delegation visit to the Middle East.

Part of the terms of this agreement concluded that both sides would cooperate with each other in areas of financial technology regulation and cryptocurrencies, as well as both parties sharing their history of success and failures in regulating the blockchain industry.

 

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Vendors Pushing Blockchain, Says Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency

Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has been revising its position on blockchain technology after the Australian government ordered an inquiry into its uses earlier this year.

The basis of the DTA research funded by the Federal Government to the tune of AUD 700,000 (USD 530,000) was to research blockchain, and see how it could be used to improve government services, including welfare payments. The investigation was ordered by Australia’s former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull before he was overturned last month.

Originally, social security and welfare payments by Centrelink were targeted for an overhaul, perhaps by using DLT. The DTA felt at the time that there were significant advantages of delivering social security welfare to citizens over a blockchain. Centrelink, part of the Department of Health Services (DHS), is responsible for a range of payments, particularly those relating to unemployment, pensions, and health.

It appears after the investigation, the government is less likely to be ready for taking the next move, which would see blockchain utilized among a range of government department services. At a recent Senate estimates hearing, DTA chief digital officer Peter Alexander said:

“It’s an interesting technology but it’s early on in the development. It’s at the top of a hype cycle. A lot of the engagement [with the agencies] is comparing blockchain against existing technologies… without standardization and a lot more work, for every use of blockchain that you would consider today there is a better technology.”

Alexander claimed that blockchain promotion lay at the feet of vendors who had been pushing the technology rather than central governments and users and deliverers of blockchain services.

It appears that the Australian stock market is more impressed than the government with DLT after the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) stated earlier this year that it has plans to replace its current clearing and settlement system with a DLT model within the next two years.

The current system, the Clearing House Electronic Subregister System (CHESS) which has been used by ASX since the 1990s, will be replaced with blockchain technology possibly in 2020.

 

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