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Europe: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 4th to 10th May 2018

Europe

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.

Germany

TokenPay acquires German bank: TokenPay, a decentralized self-verifying payment platform has recently announced that it has acquired a sizeable stake in the Berlin-based German Bank WEG. In the beginning, it was established that Litecoin and TokenPay were partnering up for this move and Derek Capo, the founder of TokenPay had said to Charlie Lee, the founder of Litecoin:

“We are buying 9.9% of a bank in Munich with option to buy 90%. They have a whole ecosystem and plan in place.”

The move isn’t a surprise since acquiring banks was listed as an eventual end in the official whitepaper of the platform.

France

Conflicting tax policies cause confusion: France is continuing its love-hate relationship with cryptocurrencies with the latest move seeing cryptocurrencies being reclassified as “moveable property” rather than currency and thus the tax rate has come down from 45% to 19%.

The defence lawyer of the tax department argued that “Bitcoin has no other purpose than that of means of payment” but the ruling came in the favor of cryptocurrencies. Due to the rapid change in government dealing with crypto profits, there is a considerable confusion in the market and government circles regarding what rule should be followed.

Sweden

Company takes Bitcoin mining to the stratosphere: Swedish company Miner One has taken cryptocurrency mining literally a notch above as it launched a Bitcoin mining rig into the atmosphere over 100,000 feet (35,000 meters) above the Earth according to a blog post from the company.

The mining rig uses a hydrogen balloon with capsule assembly underneath containing an ASIC and a Raspberry Pi microcomputer capable of processing data at 35 km above land. The capsule also contains instruments for navigation, tracking and other necessary material to protect the rig from extreme temperatures. It mines at a rate of 330 megahashes per second.

The project is a brainchild of Swedish CEO Pranas Slusnys. He said:

“The goal of Space Miner One is to symbolically express our belief that bitcoin and cryptocurrency, in general, is about the future and the revolutionary technology at its heart: so-called blockchain technology. And with this new technology, the sky’s the limit.”

United Kingdom

Richard Branson says Bitcoin scams in his name a worrying trend: Latest Bitcoin scams include using the name and image of popular British billionaire and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson in fake schemes and they are becoming quite successful according to a recent blog post from the Virgin Group’s website.

Branson wrote:

“Some of the most regular and worrying fake stories currently spreading online are false endorsements of Bitcoin trading schemes. While I have often commented on the potential benefits of genuine Bitcoin developments, I absolutely do not endorse these fake Bitcoin stories.”

The scams usually involve Richard Branson endorsing a cryptocurrency or a product.

UK financial think tank calls Bitcoin a fad: UK’s financial think tank Evidence-based Management’s director Martin Walker has called Bitcoin a “fad” in an address to the British Parliament. The words were in stark contrast to the other representatives called for testimony including blockchain companies EverLedger and Ripple, researchers from local universities and other professionals, most of whom spoke at length about the potential benefits of the industry including saving the banks millions of dollars per annum.

Walker continued and said to a room full of British MPs that the world-renowned tech behind cryptocurrencies was nothing but “magic wand, pixie dust things” and the blockchain was nothing but a distraction from getting the basics of banking right.

Telegram cancels ICO amid ever-increasing restrictions: What was potentially the biggest ICO in history is now history as Telegram has officially closed its much-publicized ICO, according to a report by The Independent. The tightening of ICO regulation around the world including the US and the UK resulted in this move and will see potentially billions of dollars return to the investors.

Investors were frustrated with this move and called it a blow for the future of cryptocurrencies.

Portugal

Crypto regulations planned: The Portuguese government is meeting to debate cryptocurrency regulations in the coming weeks according to a local news outlet Jornal de Negocios. The government is all set to discuss possible sanctions in addition to supply and distribution of cryptocurrencies in the market.

But, there could be good news as the government officials were quoted saying that they would “accommodate the innovation to the benefit of consumers, and to even promote competition“.

Switzerland

Switzerland aiming to become the top blockchain nation: Switzerland is increasingly becoming the destination of choice for all cryptocurrencies and ICOs in the world. Out of six of the world’s largest ICOs last year alone, four took place in Switzerland according to a report by the Swiss Financial watchdog Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).

Most of the world’s ICOs are moving to Gibraltar, Malta and Switzerland. Small towns with just a few thousand people living are becoming famous as centres of this new revolution. Zug, a small town of 120,000 people has seen the entry of over 200 blockchain companies on its own. It was one of the first towns to install Bitcoin ATMs in 2016.

Switzerland’s openness to new ideas and innovations is a key factor in the country becoming the number one destination for ICOs and blockchain companies.

 

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New Survey Reveals Diminishing New Interest in Crypto

Dalia Research has just published the results of its latest survey on global cryptocurrency adoption, reports Cointelegraph. which reveals a diminishing of new interest in cryptocurrency across major countries across the world.

The report, published on 9 May, shows differences in crypto ownership and knowledge along lines of education, gender, and nationality, and attempted to “measure the spread of awareness, knowledge, buying intention and ownership of cryptocurrency” in a survey of over 29,000 people in eight countries, comprising the US, UK, Germany, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, China, and India.

South Korea and Japan returned the most significant numbers in terms of awareness and knowledge on the subject of cryptocurrency, and globally 75% are at least “aware” of digital currency, although only 50% of respondents attested to an understanding of what cryptocurrencies were.

The research showed that on average, only 4% of people who do not already own crypto intended to invest within the next six months, and notably in Japan and South Korea, there was now little intention to buy cryptocurrency, at 3% and 2% respectively. This seems to indicate that those with the intent to trade or hold cryptocurrencies are already well established in the space. China’s particularly low rate of ownership can be seen as the result of strict government measures in recent months. Japan rated as having the highest ownership of digital currency at 11%.

In terms of gender, the survey revealed that men were more likely to buy cryptocurrencies than women and that the UK, US, and Germany had higher gender gaps than Asian countries. The gender gap in the US was 13%, compared to 4% in China and  India.

Higher levels of education correlated directly to higher levels of crypto ownership, according to the survey, with 12% ownership by more educated owners against 4% by less educated respondents. These were reflected again among those intending to purchase cryptocurrency with a 67/33 percentage split.

Pro-BTC Wall Street analyst Nick Colas cast a pessimistic tone over crypto adoption recently, suggesting that there was evidence of weak public interest indicators, including fewer Bitcoin Google searches and low crypto wallet growth. This was reflected in the survey.

 

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German Stock Exchange Subsidiary to Launch Stock Exchange Crypto App

A new cryptocurrency app due to be released in the autumn is reputed to be the first to provide traditional stock exchange features. The app, Bison, is being released by Fintech company Sowa Labs, a subsidiary of Boerse Stuggart Digital Ventures. Boerse Stuggart is Germany’s second-largest stock exchange after Boerse Frankfurt.

The new app is promoted as enabling “an easy entry into the crypto world”. Dr Ulli Spankowski, Sowa Lab’s managing director, said, “Bison simplifies trading with digital currencies. It is the world’s first crypto app, behind which is a traditional stock exchange. ”

Dr Spankowski argues that in Germany, fast trading of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether has been “anything but easy”, claiming that the new app will break down barriers, enabling fast trading in German, then later in English, once fully developed.

Crypto survey

Sowa Labs conducted a survey of 1,019 German crypto traders asking for their opinion on virtual currencies. Of the respondents, 81% were male, 19% were female, and 54% were 35 years old or younger. Of these, 16.9% owned a single cryptocurrency, whilst 18.2% confessed to owning several. More than 80% of respondents opened their first trading account from 2017 onward.

Germany and cryptocurrency

Germany, along with France who is more supportive of ICOs,  has been vocal within the EU in supporting blockchain technology and has joined 21 other countries in supporting initiatives with the aim of reinforcing local innovation. Germany is focused on making a unified European Union stance on cryptocurrencies and wants France to come on board. It is expected that regulatory conventions in both of these countries will directly affect the concerted effort by the EU to arrive at a unified cryptocurrency and blockchain policy.

This year the German ministry of finance declared that there wouldn’t be sales tax on purchasing with Bitcoin and that the digital currency would be regarded as the equivalent to legal tender for tax purposes when used as a means of payment.

 

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Healthcare Industry Looks to Blockchain

The healthcare industry is seeing several attempts at developing secure digital platforms for the exchange of patient data believing that blockchain-based solutions may have the potential to vastly improve current data sharing systems in national hospitals.

Distributed ledger technology would vastly improve on current centralized forms of data storage, which have been vulnerable to hackers attempting to steal patient data for sale on the black market. Recent high-profile cases such as when cybercriminals breached national healthcare records in Norway earlier this year, potentially exposing more than half of its population’s data to criminal activity.

Using blockchain platforms would mean that only authorized medical professionals would be able to use the data, itself secured by sophisticated cryptography and possibly smart contract technology. This would also make it easier for data sharing among health care specialists, and assist with the digitization of healthcare data.

Current methods of data sharing

In Germany, for example, the use of blockchain in national healthcare has been much discussed over the past few years. Dr. Christina Czeschik, physician and specialist in medical informatics, suggests that the current system of electronic health records (EHR) has many disadvantages that blockchain could bypass, such as those centering around economy, risk, and trustworthiness.

Dr. Czeschik argues that trusted intermediaries are usually expensive to run, especially in healthcare, often leading to lower quality care. Having a central intermediary also means being vulnerable to outside threats, human or otherwise. Finally, she argues that there are “few other industries in which so many different viewpoints and agendas need to be reconciled to achieve a common goal” – which, in this case, is good patient care.

German consultancy Camelot Consulting Group cites the removal and storage of extracorporeal cell therapies in which patients cells are moved in a complex, multistage process. They argue that due to the numbers of professionals involved and logistical factors, the “risk of erroneous data and data misuse is immensely high”.

According to Camelot, a closed loop supply chain utilizing blockchain would prevent any confusion or misuse of samples during therapy.

 

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