Category Archives: Germany

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Belarus Turns up the Heat on Crypto as Business on Fire in Minsk

Belarus is alive and well in the world of cryptocurrency as high tech and crypto companies choose the former Soviet Republic as the new place to do business in the region.

The Belarus Hi-Tech park in Minsk is fast becoming a fintech center with 388 companies now registered as conducting business there. Much of the new interest in fintech in the country has been put down to Belarus President Lukashenko’s Decree №8 signed in December of 2017 called “On the Development of the Digital Economy” which has attracted new business to Belarus firmly set as its main aim.

Now that Belarus has legalized cryptocurrency trading for residents, many related businesses have been attracted to the park despite the majority of companies working in the IT and software sectors. Blockchain company Aetsoft, which provided services to ICOs and exchanges since 2014, is one of such businesses dealing with clients in the US, Germany, and Denmark. Another company, Biggico, whose international team has built an advertising platform for crypto projects, was established by Belarusian and Latvian entrepreneurs.

Other companies now operating out of Belarus, currently developing cloud-based crypto mining facilities include Pm Pool and Smartpool. Another company, Aiscom offers cryptocurrency payment solutions to exchanges, wallet providers and ICO projects.

The country has no intention of being left behind in the region. As reported by local news outlet Korea JoongAng Daily, the deputy foreign minister and ambassador of Belarus Andrei Dapkiunas told reporters that the European nation is open to investment into Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies; this includes blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Belarus recently expressed interest in strengthening economic and business ties during a recent working visit to Seoul, particularity in the fields of fintech and blockchain technology. Diplomats from Belarus are keen to extend the cooperation between the two counties to promote new projects in the country.

Although the Hi-Tech park currently lacks cryptocurrency exchanges, what has been called “the first Belarusian cryptocurrency exchange” launched by crypto platform Crexby, is ironically based in New York City rather than its natural home of Minsk. The platform was started by Belarusian immigrants living in the US.

The main reason behind a lack of exchanges operating out of Belarus has been put down to the government’s lukewarm attitude toward digital currency, combined with local financial institutions’ reluctance to support cryptocurrency transactions and work with exchanges. More government clarity regarding cryptocurrency has been called for by both cryptocurrency exchanges and companies selling related products.

 

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German Central Bank Hails “Success” of Two Blockchain Trials

Germany’s central bank, Deutsche Bundesbank, has successfully completed two blockchain trials during its collaboration with Deutsche Börse, owner of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

The two blockchain prototypes were designed to test the technology’s potential in securities settlements, transactions, and payments, as well as bond repayments.

A joint press release on Thursday reveals that these aims were ”successfully” achieved, with the prototypes facilitating “productive operation of a realistic financial market infrastructure”.

Developed on Hyperledger Fabric and created by Digital Asset, the prototypes come from a joint blockchain research project dubbed BLOCKBASTER. The collaboration came together with the goal of developing a blockchain framework to transfer and settle securities and fiat currency.

The press release pointed to the recent upgrades on both Hyperledger Fabric and Digital Assets, saying they may well benefit the performance or the prototypes further if they are updated.

Berthold Kracke, CEO of Clearstream Banking and head of Clearstream Global Operations at Deutsche Börse Group, praised the tests for proving that blockchain can be the basis for financial settlement applications, as well as potentially for other financial infrastructures.

Burkhard Balz, member of the executive board at Deutsche Bundesbank, said that the positive results have encouraged them to continue experimenting with relevant blockchain use cases and pursue the implementation of the two prototypes further, citing that in particular, he sees a future use for them in processing ”high-volume applications”.

Blaz noted that permissioned blockchains have proven to serve the needs of the financial sector well, while Kracke finished, ”We are very happy with the results of the project… we were able to tailor the product to the needs of the industry.”

Deutsche Bundesbank is not the only central bank conducting blockchain tests, with the likes of Canada and South Africa already hosting similar trials.

 

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LocalBitcoins Takes off in Argentina and Venezuela as Inflation Rockets

October 2018 has seen record Bitcoin trading volumes on peer-to-peer platform LocalBitcoins in Argentina and Venezuela.

Given the economic crisis in both of these South American countries, BTC has fast become a financial refuge for many nationals, with the governments of both Mauricio Macri and Nicolás Maduro struggling to save their economies from going under from highly unsustainable inflationary situations.

Such is Bitcoin’s current impact on both of these nations at present, blockchain voting project Democracy Earth developer Santiago Siri, has suggested that the Argentinian Central Bank should place up to one percent of its national reserves in Bitcoin.  BTC has become a veritable safe haven with ATMs now becoming widespread to cater for demand, and significantly more merchants across the country accepting Bitcoin as payment

Argentina, which is now on the IMF help list of struggling economies needing financial aid, has seen LocalBitcoins recently post a record trading volume of almost $9 million BTC on its platform as the peso continues its nosedive against the US dollar.  Since April, the number of bitcoins transacted using LocalBitcoins increased from 13 to 33, 153% in just a few months.

The inflation rate in Venezuela under Maduro is almost impossible to keep up with, such is its persistent decline. The Petro, brought in as a panacea to trade embargoes and sanctions and a plummeting bolivar, is still heralded by Maduro’s government, but referred to by many others as simply non-existent, despite shop fronts sporting “we accept Petro” signs.

The IMF is now predicting an inflation rate of 10 million percent by 2019, which would put the country in the same league as Germany in 1923 before the rise of Nation Socialism and Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s. Germans at this time shopped with wheelbarrows filled with Deutschmarks. Maduro’s citizens have been making their own shopping bags out of bolivars in order to transport larger denominations of the same currency.

In this climate, Bitcoin has become the only safe currency, albeit secured largely underground with overseas dollars, and has seen accelerated activity in past weeks due to the government’s switch from the Bolivar Fuerte (VEF) to the Sovereign Bolivar (VES). P2P trading on LocalBitcoins has skyrocketed as a result, with total BTC trading volume for October 2018 standing at almost 900 million bolivars (approximately $14.4 million).

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Luxembourg Aims to Provide Legal Certainty for Blockchain

The government of Luxembourg is hoping to pass a bill through their legislature which will enable blockchain technology to be backed by an extra layer of legal security.

Tiny landlocked Luxembourg has an important role in the EU as the seat of the European Court of Justice, the highest judicial authority in the European Community. The bill which is being tabled by the government has been drafted in order to ensure that all blockchain-based transactions have the same level of security and legal stature as of those made without the technology behind them.

The country’s finance minister Pierre Gramegna has suggested that such measures are being introduced as a step to guarantee investor security and confidence in blockchain as a technological tool, suggesting that:

”This was in the best interests of the financial sector, as there have already been transactions done using blockchain, such as distributing parts of investment funds, for example.”

Luxembourg, is continuing to position itself as a blockchain hub in the region; surrounded by France, Germany, and Belgium. It is still in the throws of expanding its development in the sector. In comments made last year by Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister and minister of Telecommunication stated:

“The state is fulfilling its role as a kickstarter and a coordinator while leaving technological and commercial choices to the industry”, whilst facilitating projects which create “meaningful projects in cutting-edge technology.”

The new bill which is expected to pass into legislation is primarily aimed at blockchain and will make no reference to cryptocurrency or ICOs, but will focus on the new technology’s target of promoting new financial goods and services. Luxembourg’s financial regulator the CSSF has not particularly warmed to cryptocurrency in the same way as its neighbours, warning earlier this year that as yet the ICO model is as yet unproven.

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Italy Consolidates Blockchain Position in EU Partnership

Italy has announced that it is about to enter the European Blockchain Partnership, an organization formed to promote blockchain technology between member states.

On doing so, Italy has become the 27th nation to sign the agreement since its conception earlier this year in April. The partnership has grown from 22 nations since its launch. Initially, the EU had launched an EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum, subsequently investing more than EUR 80 million in blockchain projects. A further EUR 300 million has been allocated over the next four years.

The partnership has expressed a positive view in the past towards blockchain development and  adoption among EU nations:

“In the future, all public services will use blockchain technology. The blockchain is a great opportunity for Europe and member states to rethink their information systems, to promote user trust and the protection of personal data, to help create new business opportunities and to establish new areas of leadership, benefiting citizens, public services and companies.”

The awaited addition of Italy marks the final step in all EU nations becoming contributors. Italian member of Parliament (MP) Mirella Liuzzi was delighted with the Brussels signing on 28 September:

“Joining the partnership will allow Italy… to define its own line in the development of [blockchain] technology — a practice which the previous government had never implemented.”

Italy is seeing an increasing interest in cryptocurrencies as well. Naples is considering launching a municipal coin with the support of the local mayor, and areas of southern Italy have recently expressed a desire to launch their own cryptocurrency to extend autonomy.

Italy’s neighbor Germany has been making its mark in the crypto-space for some time, with Berlin becoming a well-known blockchain hub among industry players across the EU. Currently, the vibrant city is home to 120 startups.

With recent news from the Boerse Stuttgart Group, which is currently building its own infrastructure to accommodate cryptocurrencies, Germany is certainly in the game, the exchange being the second largest in the country and ninth largest in Europe.

A recent report from Handelsblatt Global has revealed that 13% of German companies are now involved with blockchain in the energy market. The WSW project in Wuppertal, which allows customers to create their own green energy selections online, uses blockchain to ensure that no wind or solar power units can be sold more than once.

 

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Taipei Hospital Goes Blockchain in Line With Its “Smart City” Promise

A hospital in the Taiwan capital of Taipei has developed a blockchain powered platform for record keeping, in-line with the government’s latest healthcare policy.

The new Taipei Medical University Hospital’s “Healthcare Blockchain Platform” will support the Taiwanese government’s drive to improve patient referral services and to enable healthcare networks to facilitate patients accessing their records through a mobile app.

Taiwan’s capital had already announced its desire to become a “smart city” earlier this year. It is planning to integrate blockchain to provide pollution sensors and health history tracking to its population. In February, the governor of Taiwan’s central bank, Yang Chin-long, stated that it was also exploring blockchain.

The new project at the Taipei Medical University Hospital involved over 100 clinics which have been using blockchain to improve the transfer of information to patients. The platform will further enhance current systems by enabling patients easy access to their complete medical history, including images. Likewise, hospitals and medical centers will be able to access these same records using smart contracts

Hospital superintendent Chen Ray-jade sees security as another aspect which can be much improved using the blockchain app, suggesting that:

“blockchain technology not only helps to combine electronic medical records with electronic health records from multiple hospitals and clinics, it also incorporates the additional security feature of notification and consent before any transfer takes place.”

The medical profession has taken to blockchain very quickly, recognizing that such data sharing and record keeping facilities offered by new technology are a huge improvement on many of the outmoded paper-driven and digital systems employed in hospitals today,

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.

She argues that 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.

In the US, 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.

With the US reportedly spending near to 20% of its GDP on healthcare, blockchain technology might be called upon sooner than later to streamline and improve services in the industry.

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Germany’s Biggest Ethereum Meetup Goes 100% Dapps

Germany’s biggest Ethereum meetup in Berlin has announced that is to cover the whole event using decentralized applications (Dapps).

The event ETHBerlin will use Dapps for all services including ticketing, live streaming, hotel booking and raffles.  The event will be held at Factory Berlin, which will be held in two venues from 7 September. One is in the central district of Berlin, Mitte. The other brand new Factory venue is in the middle of the city’s startup scene, Gorlitzer Park.

Currently, there are 1,565 Dapps built on the Ethereum blockchain alone, unsurprising given Ethereum’s historical place in the development of blockchain solutions. Carl Bennet of Status.im suggests that 2019 will become a new dawn for Dapps, suggesting:

“We will see more developers and designers focusing on creating simpler and more familiar user onboarding experiences for mainstream use we’ve come to expect from the applications we use and an overall lower barrier to entry into the crypto ecosystem.”

The suggestion is that Dapps will be the key to widespread crypto adoption, beyond the payments system created by Bitcoin, offering users the ability to interact with cryptocurrencies, while navigating user-friendly mobile and desktop applications, thus bringing digital currencies to the “forefront of social consciousness”.

For this event, ETHBerlin has elected to use an Ethereum-based video streaming app along with a decentralized hotel and apartment booking platform accepting Ether. Raffles, ticketing and event management will also be covered by Ethereum based Dapps. The ETHBerlin team suggests that it is “raising the bar” with Dapps, stating:

“ETHBerlin stands strong, we think that Dapps are the future, so we’ll do whatever it takes to push adoption, and inspire you to build more of them. There is room for all… As a responsible, global community, in constant evolution, as is our ecosystem, we need to understand that it is not enough to absorb these teachings and foundations and just replicate.”

Dapps are clearly on the march this year, mainly because of the influx of funding through ICO token sales enabling further development and testing of new ideas and applications. Within the Ethereum community, there is a general feeling the Dapps are the future replacing intermediary-based centralized systems.

Critics suggest that there are scalability issues, with some suggesting that the Ethereum protocol will need a massive scaling boost to support larger platforms demanding huge transactions.

 

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Germany’s Second Largest Stock Exchange Takes yet Another Step down the Crypto Road

Germany’s second-largest stock exchange, Boerse Stuttgart has taken the step to host Crypto Trading and Coin Offerings.

This follows an earlier announcement that’s its new app, Bison, would be released by Fintech company Sowa Labs, a subsidiary of Boerse Stuggart Digital Ventures, later this year. Boerse Stuggart is Germany’s second-largest stock exchange after Boerse Frankfurt.

The aim now is to extend crypto activities to primary and secondary markets and create a platform from which tokens can be issued. The previously announced Bison trading app will be released in both German and English which will support multiple pairs including BTC, ETH, LTC, and XRP. The app is claimed to be the first that has the support of a major traditional stock exchange.

The intention for Boerse Stuttgart is to keep everything under one roof where hosted ICO coins can be traded alongside leading cryptocurrencies such as BTC and ETH. Chief Executive Officer of Boerse Stuttgart, Alexander Höptner, explained:

“At the trading venue tokens issued via our ICO platform can be traded on the secondary market. This is an important success factor for ICOs. At the same time, we are responding to demand from both retail and institutional investors for a regulated and reliable environment for trading cryptocurrencies.”

Höptner said that this will give the exchange the opportunity to offer “central services along the value chain for digital assets, all under one roof.”

Boerse Stuttgart’s Subsidiary Sowa Labs conducted a survey of 1,019 German crypto traders earlier this year 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.

Dr. Ulli Spankowski, Sowa Lab’s managing director, commented that in Germany up until now the fast trading of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether had been “anything but easy.”

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SolarisBank Offers Banking for German Crypto Companies

SolarisBank, which has a German banking license and is regulated by BaFin, is offering banking solutions to cryptocurrency and blockchain companies via its newly created Blockchain Factory. It is usually very difficult for crypto companies to obtain a steady bank account anywhere in the world, so SolarisBank’s Blockchain Factory has the potential to provide relief and stability for German crypto firms.

Chief technology officer at SolarisBank, Peter Grosskopf, says, “While we at SolarisBank are part of the traditional paradigm, since we have a German banking license and are regulated by BaFin, we are still a tech company at our core. That means we are actively exploring options to help shape and support the emerging decentralized paradigm by enabling the pioneers that are building it.”

CEO of SolarisBank, Roland Folz, recognizes the need for a bank that supports blockchain and crypto. He says, “There is high demand from the blockchain world for a licensed partner that forms the technological and regulatory bridge to traditional banking — as a technology company with a banking license, we are the natural partner.”

The Blockchain Factory webpage states that it is looking into launching a cryptocurrency custodial service, much like the services Coinbase and Xapo already offer. Cryptocurrency expert Kyle Samani thinks proper cryptocurrency custodianship is the final barrier holding back a massive wave of institutional investment into cryptocurrency. Indeed, when Coinbase launched its custodian service in July 2018, it coincided with a significant Bitcoin price rally.

SolarisBank will offer blockchain company accounts which will enable crypto companies to use fiat, in addition to automated trust accounts that exchanges and marketplaces can use to safely store customer funds. Also, SolarisBank will enable crypto companies to issue debit cards to customers. This will facilitate the easy conversion of cryptocurrency to fiat for customers, which has the potential to increase worldwide crypto adoption. SolarisBank is in a strategic partnership with MasterCard and has also received funding from Visa; these connections will be useful for issuing crypto debit cards.

 

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Germany Says Bitcoin No Threat to Financial Stability

The German Federal Government has stated that cryptocurrencies do not pose a threat to financial stability, reports Cointelegraph.

The government stated on 12 June that the volume of cryptocurrencies, when juxtaposed to the overall size of the German financial system, is comparatively low and, therefore, simply needs careful monitoring and regulatory measures put in place in order to control the space. This assessment is a view generally shared by the G20, of which Germany is a significant member state.

The statement was made in reaction to a parliamentary inquiry from the Euroskeptic right-wing Alternative for Germany Party who cited alleged problems including money laundering, illegal revenue, use of such currencies in online gambling and terrorist financing. It backs the government’s national risk analysis scheduled for next year. The government stated:

“In order to address the risks of Bitcoin and other “cryptocurrencies”, there are already important regulations in Germany: for example, German-based crypto traders must follow the same anti-money laundering regulations as other financial service providers – especially when it comes to identifying customers.”

Once again, the German government has expressed the necessity for careful international controls on cryptocurrency, noting that the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) will oversee any new legislation:

“… there is a need for coordinated action at European and international level. The Federal Government is, therefore, pressing for a harmonized handling of crypto-tokens at this both levels.”

The federal government’s current view reflects the recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) position on cryptocurrencies, which is that it also considers that cryptocurrency is no threat to global financial stability, providing that it is carefully monitored to protect users.

In March this year, IMF chief Christine Lagarde expressed positive outcomes for the crypto space, stating: “Just as a few technologies that emerged from the dot-com era have transformed our lives, the crypto assets that survive could have a significant impact on how we save, invest and pay our bills.”

Lagarde calls for an even-handed approach which will both exploit the benefits of the new technology and minimize the risks in using and trading cryptocurrency, clearly a view shared by German legislators.

 

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