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Art Auction Sells CryptoKitty For $140,000 in Ether

A CryptoKitty was sold for USD 140,000 (203.41 Ethereum) at the first Codex Protocol art auction during the 2018 Ethereal Summit. The ‘Celestial Cyber Dimension’ CryptoKitty is the most expensive in history, outpacing one which sold for USD 117,000 in December 2017.

CryptoKitties is an online game that is built off the Ethereum blockchain, currently the second most popular cryptocurrency and the basis of many decentralized applications because of its integrated smart contract technology.

Users can buy CryptoKitties in exchange for Ether, often for as little as USD 5 worth but obviously sometimes much higher as was the case during the Codex Protocol art auction. The cats have a unique 256-bit genome with DNA and ‘cattributes’, and these can be bred with each other to produce new types of cats. One of the main goals of the game is to breed rare specialized fancy cats which are far more valuable.

There is a digital marketplace where CryptoKitties can be bought and sold for Ether, so it is actually possible to make money playing the game if you have a knack for breeding highly sought after CryptoKitties. Each is a digital asset and has a non-fungible token corresponding to it on the Ethereum blockchain. The fact that they are stored in the blockchain makes CryptoKitties cryptographically secure, and makes it simple to prove authenticity and ownership via a private key.

The featured digital art item was created by art director Guilherme Twardowski aka Guile Gaspar. He showed off the picture of it, a grey-colored cat with a glowing purple and blue orb on its neck, on Twitter.

Celestial Cyber Dimension is on display at @ChristiesInc fur the @CodexProtocol #EtherealNY charity art sale. The live auction starts tomorrow. https://t.co/jkhtKtjsb2 pic.twitter.com/GPX3lAuKEO

— CryptoKitties (谜恋猫) (@CryptoKitties) May 12, 2018

It has a corresponding physical statuette which was given over to the winning bidder after payment. This statuette contains the private key and has a pixelated display showing the CryptoKitty. This is the first time an official physical statue has been made for a CryptoKitty.

The winner of the auction, Igor Barinov, says he spent so much money on this CryptoKitty because he loved the game, he liked the cat’s attributes, he enjoyed the real-life nature of this auction versus the typical digital auctions on the CryptoKitties websites, and he knew it was all going to charity.

 

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London Mosque Takes Crypto Stance, Accepts Ethereum for Donations

The first mosque for Turkish Cypriots in the UK, the Masjid Ramadan, has decided to accept Ethereum in order to carry out essential repairs, reports London’s Hackney Gazette.

Leaders at the mosque have made the decision to accept the cryptocurrency as part of Muslim observance of Zakah, the annual donation made by all of that faith, requiring that adherents donate 2.5% of their current wealth.

The Hackney mosque hopes to raise at least GBP 10,000 in Ether donations over Ramadan. Erik Guney, the board of trustees’ chairman, said that he hopes that the project can bring attention to the Muslim world that the community needs support:

“I’ve grown up around here and I have watched the community grow and the challenges it’s faced with – it’s a struggle, with housing, food, the cost of funerals and government changes, he said, going on to point out that the wealthy can make a significant contribution.

“We are trying to appeal to a wider audience with the new money. It’s big in the Islamic world, and we have set up a platform for wealthier Muslims outside our community to support and donate to our mosque,” he added.

Founder of blockchain startup Combo Innovation Gurmit Singh has become the mosque’s crypto advisor, outlining how best the funds can be received, stored and sold.

Until recently, there had been concerns among Muslims whether the selling of cryptocurrency was permissible under Sharia Law and if it was possible for Islamic financial firms to invest in cryptocurrencies alongside the rest of the world. At a recent conference in Bahrain, leading Islamic scholars decided that Bitcoin and other digital currencies fell into the category of ribawa. This means that cryptocurrency must be exchanged in equal measure, and with immediate transfer of possession, to avoid breaking Sharia Law.

This argument is key to any decision that might be taken in the future regarding the permissibility of virtual currencies in the Muslim world, as the buying and selling of Bitcoin could be viewed as a type of usury due to its huge profit and loss margins.

It appears that this law is being observed by the mosque, as donations will be transferred straight from the mosque website to the bank’s cryptocurrency hard wallet, which will be visible for all to see. The donation will then be traded for sterling through a currency exchange like LocalBitcoins UK.

“If Muslims, who make up a quarter of the world’s population, hold just 1% of Bitcoins – or GBP 1.04bn – then GBP 26 million in Zakat contributions is due,” said Singh.

Zayd al Khair, a religious advisor at Masjid Ramadan, has been monitoring discussions and debates by Muslim scholars from all over the world:

“Bitcoin is a new phenomenon so scholars are divided,” he said. “Some have taken a practical approach and others have embraced it fully, and we have decided to take their position.”

 

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Coinbase Looks to Acquire Banking Licenses

Coinbase is currently looking into the processes involved in acquiring banking licenses. The Wall Street Journal reports that an undisclosed source revealed that the exchange engaged in conversations with members of the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in earlier this year:

“Coinbase Inc and another cryptocurrency firm talked to US regulators about the possibility of obtaining banking licenses, a move that would allow the startups to broaden the types of products they offer.”

Additional Coinbase services

Coinbase has been expanding its services this year to become more than just an exchange. Its commerce API or its “PayPal-like service”, was released in February. Merchants could quickly implement cryptocurrencies as a payment method supporting BitcoinBitcoin CashEthereum, and Litecoin. The platform adds a “PayPal-like” button to e-commerce sites allowing streamlined payments straight to the vendor’s wallet.

Coinbase isn’t the only company to offer these types of services, with BitPay also letting customers pay in Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. With the volatility within the cryptocurrency market this year it may take more to encourage merchants to adopt this additional payment method.

Coinbase announced this month that it would be releasing its Coinbase Custody platform. The new product could entice institutional investors, it went on to explain: “The cryptocurrency market is maturing rapidly as more sophisticated institutional participants enter the space. In fact, in the past few months over 100 hedge funds were created that exclusively invest in and trade cryptocurrency. Some of the world’s largest financial institutions have also recently announced their plans to begin trading cryptocurrency.”

Coinbase Custody is a storage service for a minimum of USD 10 million in crypto. Financial institutions will be expected to pay USD 100,000 as a set-up fee and an additional monthly premium dependant on holdings. Coinbase claimed: “We have leveraged our experience safely storing more than $20 billion of cryptocurrency to create Coinbase Custody, the most secure crypto storage solution available.”

Industry issues

Coinbase believes its recent progress will accelerate the world’s adoption of cryptocurrency by bringing new capital and greater awareness to the industry.

The volatility of Bitcoin still stands to be an issue and has led to merchants withdrawing the payment option. This was one of the main reasons for Steam halting Bitcoin payments at the end of 2017. The rise of crypto-related crime is enough to deter investors in the interim.

As much as 30,000 people who have fallen victim to Ethereum-related theft, suffering an average loss of USD 7,500 each, according to Chainalysis. Exchanges have been targeted in large-scale hacks with Coincheck losing USD 550 million worth of NEM cryptocurrency (XEM) in January and Coinsecure losing USD 3.5 million in Bitcoin (BTC). With legislation and regulation becoming a hot topic among unions and governments, 2018 is set to be an interesting year for cryptocurrencies.

Coinbases profitability values the company at around USD 8 billion. The growth and reinvestment into new ventures such as the banking industry shows Coinbase’s faith in the future of cryptocurrencies.

However, not everyone believes that the company is heading in the right direction. Reddit user Bitcoin Yoda explains how Coinbase Commerce is moving in a different direction to Satoshi’s vision: “A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution. Any intermediary between your BTC payment and the merchant is violating the definition of Bitcoin and your privacy.”

Is Coinbase’s pursuit of becoming a bank turning its back on the ideologies behind crypto?

 

Image Source: Flicker (Jim Makos +)

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New EU Privacy Laws Brings Parity’s PICOPs to a Halt

New General Data Protection Law (GDPR) guidelines have led to the shutdown of the Parity ICO Passport Service (PICOPS). The main conflict is between blockchain’s immutability and GDPR’s right to deletion of data clause.

With fines getting as severe as EUR 20 million, it has prompted other cryptocurrency companies to clean up their act as well. Trading platform LocalBitcoins recently made changes to their terms of services, which will come into effect on 25 May.

The service will cease to exist from 24 May due to these interpretations. Since PRICOPs allowed anyone to assign an Ethereum address to a unique identity, one could see how it involved personal data.

IF PICOPS was adjusted to make the service GDPR compliant, PICOPS would only be able to offer a “very limited set of features”. The amount of resources required to make the service GDPR compliant simply would not be worth the features PICOPS would be able to offer.

“Because of this, the significant resources required to make PICOPS GDPR-compliant, and the fact that PICOPS is not part of our core technology stack, we have decided to discontinue the service despite overwhelming market needs and demand,” said Parity.

Parity’s shutdown of PICOPS comes after a busy year for the Ethereum client, assisting in many ICOs and token sales in 2017. Parity was also in headlines for two hacks, resulting in over USD 300 million in ETH gone.

What effect this has on the ICO market going forward is still unknown. Ethereum has become the de-facto standard for issuing tokens due to its smart contract capabilities, but with PICOPS gone, this gives other platforms a shot.

Despite the shutdown of PICOPS, Parity is working with regulators to inform them on what potential effects laws may have on the industry.

 

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Is Vitalik Buterin Leaving Ethereum For Google?

One thing sure to draw attention to a Tweet is to delete it. That is just what Vitalik Buterin did after posting a screenshot of an email from a Google employee, detailing a prospective job offer.

As reported by Investing.com, the co-founder of Ethereum recently asked his Twitter following whether he should “drop Ethereum and work for Google”. Buterin shared a picture of the email he received from Google on-site engineering recruiter Elizabeth Garcia, although it was removed soon after.

Speculation has arisen as to the reasons Buterin chose to delete the post. It could be due to the fact Garcia’s email address was included in the original photograph, or perhaps he was concerned about the negative impact his Tweet might have on the Ethereum network should people think he planned to leave.

There are apparently no questions regarding the legitimacy of the email, with Garcia’s LinkedIn profile verifying her position at Google and her previous working experience including a position at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce as an interview coach.

Google and blockchain

Multinational technology conglomerate Google remains far behind their competitors when it comes to blockchain developments, for which Buterin would be an invaluable asset. Insiders from Google have recently confirmed that they are indeed looking into pursuing blockchain technology, although further information was not provided.

A spokesman for Google spoke to Investing.com on the subject, telling them: “Like many new technologies, we have individuals in various teams exploring potential uses of blockchain, but it’s too early for us to speculate about any possible uses or plans.”

Bitcoin News reported last month on a blockchain venture being pursued by three ex-Google employees. Their project, the xGoogler Blockchain Alliance, is a community that aims to assist blockchain startups. Perhaps their recent successes influenced Google’s decision to become serious about blockchain testing.

 

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Regulations, Hacking Push Blockchain Provider To The Wall

Ethereum wallet and blockchain provider Parity has been forced to shut down its PICOPS platform from 24 May following new EU data protection rules and guidelines.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) replaces the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC and was designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, to protect and empower all EU citizens data privacy and to reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy,” states the EU’s GDPR portal.

However, according to MSN, the new law is causing certain problems, with LocalBitcoins disabling multiple accounts due to the new rulings. The GDPR laws are demanding, with a significant checklist of requirements, including those that relate to data processing principles and the limitation of storage. The significant challenges to blockchain mainly concern the immutability of transactions, replication, and encryption, including data processors and data controllers.

Swiss law firm PwC Legal recommends that platforms now scrutinize their blockchain-based solutions with regard to GDPR compliance to obtain a clear view of the legal risks they may encounter. It also explains why blockchain’s most significant feature; immutability, could be undermined by the new EU ruling:

“Transactions on a blockchain are immutable. It is not possible to delete information from a blockchain. This may contradict the GDPR’s right to erase / duty to delete personal data when a lawful ground for processing ceases to exist.”

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin commented on the news, calling it a sad development, particularly as PICOPS had facilitated many ICOs on the Ethereum ecosystem. Commenting on Twitter, he said, “A potentially very useful service in the Ethereum ecosystem discontinued due to GDPR issues.”

Jackson Palmer, the creator of Dogecoin, also criticized GDPR laws, despite saying that he thought it was “a step in the right direction from a data privacy perspective”.

“While I greatly respect the movement towards better data privacy and security laws, GDPR compliance is a large and unrealistic burden that small side-projects are simply under-equipped to manage (especially if being maintained by a single developer in their spare time),” commented Palmer.

Jutta Steiner, the CEO of Parity was critical of GDPR, arguing: “From a practitioner’s perspective, it sounds to me that it was drafted by trying to implement a certain perspective of how the world should be without taking into account how technology actually works.”

However, the company has commented that it will continue to work with regulators in order to ensure that the new rules don’t impact negatively on the industry. These are hard times for Parity, following its hacking last year, losing more than USD 300 millions worth of Ether.

 

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Jo’Burg’s First ATM Hopes to Enthuse Local South Africans Towards Bitcoin

South Africa has its first cryptocurrency ATM since 2104 and the new Northwold Spar machine in Johannesburg will become the only one operating in the country, reports Bitcoinist.

George Neophytou, the General Manager of the Northwold Spar and self-confessed crypto enthusiast was inspired to purchase the machine after a trip to Europe, the continent with the world’s third market share of crypto ATMs, He comments:

“It is all awfully exciting. It will take away much the frustration of buying and selling cryptocurrency, and hopefully help make cryptocurrencies mainstream… It’s a different world there. Walking around in the streets of Germany you see signs with ‘Bitcoins accepted there’.”

The ATM, which was imported from Portugal, will be able to process various forms of cryptocurrency tokens including Ethereum and Bitcoin. It’s not the first in South Africa, as a previous machine was installed in 2014 at a men’s salon in Midrand, Johannesburg, but was closed down after a short period in operation. The store manager was excited about the prospect of making cryptocurrency available to his customers:

“It is all awfully exciting. It will take away much the frustration of buying and selling cryptocurrency, and hopefully help make cryptocurrencies mainstream…Lots of people in South Africa are also in the cryptocurrency space and lots of South Africans are watching it. However, not all individuals have access to it.”

Neophyou hopes that his ATM will make cryptocurrency accessible to those customers without a bank account, and hopes to roll out more ATMs, if successful. Although, he warns that those using the machine should do their research and understand that they should only spend what they can afford to lose.

A recent survey conducted in South Africa maintained that one in four respondents confirmed they plan to invest in cryptocurrency in the future, and another 15% said that they would invest in mining equipment. Although, warnings of electricity hikes of up to 50% in the near future may well dampen the enthusiasm of prospective bitcoin miners, according to LiveBitcoinNews.com

South Africa joins Zimbabwe and Djibouti are currently the only African countries to offer cryptocurrency ATMs.

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Intel and Filament Push for a Blockchain IoT Future

Enterprise blockchain developer Filament, which receives significant Intel investment, has released an Internet of Things(IoT)-optimized, USB Blocklet chip.

Filament chief executive Clift-Jennings explained, “Many products, not all, have the ability to connect to USB. These are for manufacturing lines – we have a version of a USB product that plugs into the onboard diagnostics port in vehicles. It’s very much trying to drive toward machines being transactive in nature.”

Blockchain can be used to increase transparency between designers, service providers, and end users, making license management safer, providing production-quality data and becoming resilient against counterfeiting via secure design storage.

Counterfeiting and product integrity

According to BusinessWire, the global total of counterfeited goods has increased to USD 1.2 trillion. Counterfeiting of clothing and textiles primarily affects profits, whereas fraudulent components for machinery, cosmetics, and consumables can have a more detrimental effect by risking health and safety. It is believed that up to 10% of aircraft parts are counterfeit. The outsourcing of services causes difficulty in tracking the source and quality of components, as well as where maintenance is carried out.

The global distribution of manufactured components, must take steps to guarantee the security of plans, and provide data that is tamper-proof and in line with regulations and production standards. This must be achieved while preventing the misuse of plans to manufacture counterfeit goods.

Blockchain IoT shaping the future

Data drives innovation so the ability to share or sell manufacturing data on a ledger could fast track other businesses. Autonomous cars are going to rely heavily on driver data to increase safety in their transition to level 5 (the highest level of autonomy). Having existing hardware produced by IBM or Filament with a variety of companies from Microsoft to Amazon offering blockchain API frameworks, this could quickly accelerate blockchain proof of concept in the industry and change how data is shared an analyzed.

Big companies such as Mastercard are already looking at the applications for blockchain to track goods, providing consumers with product integrity. This could then extend right through to the manufacturing level with the use IoT-optimized hardware.

Intel’s investment in Filament is part of their blockchain initiative for large-scale industrial IoT deployments. The vice president and general manager of Intel, Doug Fisher said, “At Intel, we believe the future of IoT will be enabled by smart, connected, secure edge-devices that drive a data-based economy.”

 

Image source: Saginaw Future Inc. – CIGNYS Corporation has three advanced manufacturing facilities in Saginaw County.
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SAP Developing Blockchain Logistics Solutions

SAP, a leader in enterprise-level software solutions, is looking to expand into the supply chain industry by applying blockchain technology to agricultural supply chains. Its farm-to-consumer program is working alongside companies such as Johnsonville, Naturipe Farms and Maple Leaf. SAP has also partnered up with the Swiss supply chain startup modum.io.

Issues and needs around the evolving global market

Currently, there is a global push towards improving the transportation of foods and goods around the world. As much as one-third of global fresh fruits and vegetables go to waste because their quality has diminished and is deemed no longer sale-worthy. Food can often be stuck in limbo in the supply chain due to documents being delayed or even lost. With a rapidly growing population and a push for a greener future, this has become simply unacceptable for the industry.

Alongside increasing profits by reducing waste, there is also a growing need for product details among consumers. Consumers are more conscious of products and are wanting to buy in confidence knowing that the item is part of fair-trade and has been ethically sourced. Almost 75% of respondents in a Nielsen global survey said that a brand’s country of origin was one of the most important factors compared with selection or choice, price, function, and quality. When it comes to food and beverages, local brands take precedence as spoilage is a primary factor, whereas for long-life products or other goods, consumers prefer global brands.

“For many categories, a global brand name is an indicator of quality, safety, and trustworthiness in emerging markets,” noted the report.

SAP among many in a movement towards blockchain logistics

SAP isn’t the first to explore blockchain logistics solutions. Mastercard is currently working on its Blockchain and Authorization Network which sets out to provide proof of provenance for goods with the ability to track items as they are created, transferred, purchased and resold, to prevent fraud. Recently, an Ethereum-based supply chain was used to track a Yellowfin tuna from the waters off Fiji to a conference where it was served as sushi. Samsung and IBM are already investing in blockchain solutions to manage shipping to streamline imports and exports.

SAP’s project lead, Torsten Zube, believes blockchain has the ability to update current food industry production models to a more streamlined, profitable iteration.

“If enterprises can access the complete version of product history,” he explained, “this could result in a shift from a central unilateral supplier-led production to a consumer demand-led supply organized by a consortium of peers.”

 

Image source: Flicker – William Murphy – Farmers’ Market Meeting House Square

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Amazon Launches Collaboration with Consensys: An Easy Blockchain Deployment Service for Enterprises

One of the world’s most innovative e-commerce companies, Amazon.com, is venturing further into the realm of blockchain after announcing a new startup partnership called Kaleido.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the cloud computing subsidiary of the online retailer; for a subscription fee it provides individuals, companies, and governments with a cloud computing platform. The service offers a myriad of solutions and is making blockchain part of the service.

Recently, Bitcoin News reported that Amazon had begun taking on blockchain proposals from partners on AWS. In April, it had also launched ‘out-of-the-box’ blockchain templates for Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric via the platform.

Boosting enterprises into blockchain

The announcement was made at the 4th annual blockchain technology summit in New York called Consensus 2018. Now, in a new collaboration with leading blockchain incubator company Consensys, the startup called Kaleido will provide a new Blockchain Business Cloud, which is designed to speed up and simplify the blockchain integration and operation process for any enterprise.

In a press release, Kaleido founder Steve Cerveny said:

“If blockchain doesn’t become dramatically easier to use, then companies will have to walk back their investments and our society will be far too slow in realizing blockchain’s significant promise. We designed the Kaleido platform from scratch with new user experiences and tools to radically simplify the entire enterprise journey.”

He added, “They can focus on their scenario and they don’t have to become PhDs is cryptography, we give them a simple platform to build their company on blockchain.”

The company is aiming to provide AWS customers with an “easy button” to access the underlying technology that supports Bitcoin; it is also the first blockchain based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution on the AWS marketplace.

Ethereum co-founder and founder of Consensys, Joseph Lubin said, “We are now entering a new era of simple and inclusive access to blockchain technology that cuts through the hype to advance stronger, more collaborative, business relationships previously out of reach.”

Implications for future enterprises

Simplifying the onboarding process for enterprises seeking to participate in the blockchain boom is a crucial step at this stage; while the value of Bitcoin has garnered institutional and investment attention, the technology that underpins it is also getting more industrial attention than ever, going beyond the financial fascination of digital currencies.

The value of this partnership and blockchain development is far-reaching; Consensys is a founding member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), a group of over 500 organizations dedicated to meeting the specific needs of companies with Ethereum. With Amazon and AWS backing the effort, Kaleido could completely shift the landscape for businesses involved in blockchain.

 

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