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McKinsey: China, UAE, Estonia, US Leading Blockchain and AI Towards a Tech Utopia

McKinsey experts suggest that by 2020, the number of smart cities will reach 600 worldwide according to Bitcoinschannel.

These cities are happening right now with China, UAE, Estonia and the US clear forerunners in the McKinsey analysts’ prediction of 600 metropolia in the next two years.

Dubai, with its high-tech society of unmanned trains and Wifi benches, plans to become the first blockchain megalopolis by 2010. Projects underway involve giants Google, Uber, Amazon, and IBM and, due to the initiation of its Smart City program, 545 city projects are underway which have the capacity to change residents lives.

All documentation in the future will be paperless, goods will be tracked using blockchain and unmanned trucks for delivery of goods is planned for the not too distant future.

Estonia loves its cryptocurrency and has long used blockchain, and is hailed as another crypto haven. DLT has been used in health, judicial, legislative, security and commercial systems in the country since as far back as 2012, making it another forerunner in adopting and utilizing new technology for practical civic purposes.

Estonians are able now to see who has been accessing their personal data through the blockchain, such as medical cards, drivers license or insurance details and can legally challenge any illegal or unauthorized access such information.

Not to be outdone, China plans to establish 1,000 smart cities on its own, again designed to improve the lives of its citizens. Its smart metropolis of the future is reputed to be Yinchuan where payments have been streamlined to the extent that facial recognition has become an accepted ID and shopping is conducted through a smart mobile application.

China has long expressed to the world its scathing condemnation of cryptocurrencies but has adopted blockchain like a long-lost friend. Chinese authorities are now exploring blockchain as a solution the data storage in numerous sectors and in central government. Also after notable scams, banks are starting to use electronic ledgers similar to that employed by Bitcoin to safeguard customer security.

In the US blockchain is being increasingly legislated for at state level and is being increasingly used for organizing record keeping, updating state databases.

US states are increasingly beginning to come on board in order to utilize blockchain tech. The state of Arizona has officially signed into law a bill that allows for corporations to hold and share data on a blockchain. First introduced in February by state representative Jeff Weninger, the bill is intended “to open the door for emerging technologies in Arizona”.

As states line up the new technology, Tennessee signed a bill recently that legally recognizes blockchain technology and smart contracts for electronic transactions. The bill also makes a provision that “protects ownership rights of certain information secured by blockchain technology”.

Nebraska, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and Vermont, along with Maine, Hawaii, Illinois, and North Dakota are some of the many US states notably either in the process of presenting bills, enacting legislation or actively utilizing blockchain in state legislation.

 

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Xapo Chief Ted Rodgers: Bitcoin Will be Global Reserve, But Go Long

Xapo president Ted Rodgers believes that Bitcoin will become a global reserve asset, similar to the current U.S. dollar, writes News BTC.

Rodgers sees the market making a recovery, but slowly with little impact over the next few weeks, but feels, long-term, Bitcoin will be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Xapo president has long been bullish about Bitcoin. Xapo holds an estimated $10 billion in BTC in cold storage underground vaults and is one of the largest and most highly respected exchanges in the industry. The Xapo wallet has also become a reliable storage solution for cryptocurrencies, to the extent its been adopted by IOS and Google apps stores around the world.

Once First Block Capital, Canada’s first fully registered crypto firm, toured one of the Swiss-based Xapo vaults and was very impressed with the company:

“Every part of their DNA is geared to security… Whenever we make big transfers they FaceTime us, we have duress words, if it’s big enough they’ll fly out to see us.”

These types of credentials mean that Rodgers’ views are listened to with more than just a degree of interest by the global cryptocurrency community. Rodgers has said before that Bitcoin will become the global reserve in the same way that the US dollar is now, a view that’s is clearly close to his heart. His “hundreds of thousands of dollars BTCs” statement would create a massive market cap if it became reality.

At $200,000 the market cap would be over 3 Trillion dollars, according to News BTC, surpassing any existing publicly traded company today. The prediction is not isolated though, with similar numbers having been bandied about for quite some time in the crypto press, to the extent that they are now rarely read with any degree of credulity.

Rodgers advice is, go long, stating “I think Bitcoin is a long-term investment and I personally wouldn’t get into it for short-term trading”

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Crypto Marketing Gets Creative Amid Ad Bans and Tighter Regulatory Scrutiny

A new Wired report finds that US companies are experimenting with new marketing channels within the crypto space, especially after recent high-profile bans on crypto-related advertising on social media channels and with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) starting to take a closer look at unregulated token sales late last year.

This has also created new opportunities for those willing to take on the challenging task of differentiating genuine startups from fraudulent ones.

An example is Sally, an executive assistant living in British Columbia, who created a 34-page beginner’s guide to crypto investing and shared it online, very quickly gaining 18,000 subscribers on YouTube and 14,000 followers on Twitter. Within a few months, she was making a living from her new-found life and eventually quit her job. She commented:

“I’m like a nobody in traditional marketing terms, but because this space is so new and it’s so crazy right now, there aren’t a lot of crypto influencers yet, and especially female ones.”

Although she has clearly made a success from the crypto space, now receiving up to ten requests a week to promote ICOs and post coin reviews, such opportunities need to be weeded out among the numerous similar sounding projects, many of them far less reputable.

A recent Wall Street Journal investigation has highlighted this problem of how to choose a bona fide opportunity amongst the numerous scam traps waiting for its next victim. The investigation found that nearly 20% of 1,450 projects were obvious frauds and increased scrutiny from the SEC has dampened entrepreneurial enthusiasm.

This requires that projects need to be far more innovative, particularly in the light of recent advertising bans by Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Bing. Startup fundraising was largely superseded by ICOs as an effective way of raising funds, but now ICOs are looking far less secure among the confusing mix of promoters, scammers, spammers, and regulators.

“Scams and pump-and-dump schemes have turned off many potential investors. Meanwhile, a sustained drop in the prices of major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether has left crypto investors with less capital to risk on new tokens. Making matters worse,” writes Wired.

The market is becoming expensive as it becomes primed for growth hackers, PR agencies, telegram managers and bounty hunters. Jonas Karlberg, CEO of AmaZix, a Denmark-based firm that manages Telegram communities, explains that bounty programs give products a voice and are also time-friendly, but they have a downside. He warns that numerous mindless social media shares create little value for the project. “These bounty hunters are only doing this to get their hands on some quick reward,” he says.

A Google company spokesman has said that its ban is not operational yet. Until it does, writes Wired, crypto companies will take advantage of the lag. Searches for terms like “buy ico”, “token sale” and “invest crypto” will turn up numerous ads for cryptocurrency projects, white papers, and ICOs.

Sally’s 34-page guide may be even more useful to the uninitiated about to step into this vibrant and complex space; it may possibly help them to avoid a misguided next move and make a productive, financially rewarding decision.

 

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CEOs Give Massive Thumbs Down to Google’s Crypto Ban

Many finance industry executives have voiced their opinions on the recent decision by Google, following Facebook’s similar move, to ban cryptocurrency advertising.

In March 2018, Google issued a statement announcing that cryptocurrency-focused promotional content would no longer be allowed on all of its platforms. According to the statement, the ban covers adverts for ICOs, exchange platforms, and wallet services.

According to the Independent, CEO of digital banking startup Revolut, Philip Nunn, can only see the hypocrisy in the decision, arguing, “I understand that Facebook and Google are under a lot of pressure to regulate what their users are reading, but they are still advertising gambling websites and other unethical practices.”

Google’s decision to ban all Bitcoin and cryptocurrency adverts on its platforms is ill-thought-out and potentially even unethical, according to industry experts. The policy coming into force this month follows its blog post in March, stating: “Ads for the following will no longer be allowed to serve… cryptocurrencies and related content (including but not limited to initial coin offerings, cryptocurrency exchanges, cryptocurrency wallets, and cryptocurrency trading advice”.

Nun sees the ban as Google simply clearing the way for their own products: “I suspect the ban has been implemented to fit in with potential plans to introduce their own cryptocurrency to the market in the near future and therefore removing other crypto adverts allows them to do it on their own terms.”

Legitimate advertisers in the space will clearly be affected by the changes, as Ed Cooper of Revolut predicts: “Unfortunately, the fact that this ban is a blanket ban will mean that legitimate cryptocurrency businesses which provide valuable services to users will be unfairly caught in the crossfire.”

Cooper also pointed out that scams are not exclusively the domain of the cryptocurrency market, as false advertisements are rife on the internet, most of them untouched by Google, who has shown no desire to implement a filtering system in order to reduce the frequency of such advertising.

There are of course tricks advertisers can employ to circumvent the restrictions, as Facebook has discovered following their own ban, such as, abbreviating “cryptocurrency” to “c-currency” and replacing the “o” in Bitcoin with a zero.

In May, Google reportedly approached the founder of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, in the hope of potentially securing his services, reports the Independent. Google has declined to comment on the ban or any cryptocurrency ambitions it may have, however, the company commented in March that it was looking into the technology:

“Like many new technologies, we have individuals in various teams exploring the potential use of blockchain, but it’s too early for us to speculate about any possible uses or plans.”

 

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Gavin Brennen: 100GHz Quantum Computers Aren’t Threat to Blockchain

In May 2018, Australian physicist Gavin Brennen shared his team’s research into how quantum computing would affect blockchain. Jeffrey Tucker reported: “He began with his frustration over the headlines that swept the tech world last October and November. They were as alarmist as they were misleading.”

Scaremongering around how quantum computers will disrupt the security of blockchain technology is often exaggerated and not balanced with the possible solutions or counterplays to defend against the underdeveloped hardware left out.

Future iterations of quantum computers have the potential to reach speeds which are far greater than conventional computers, performing the calculations that blockchain is built on at a much faster rate. Quantum computers would use less energy and pose the threat of hijacking mining operations, redirecting currency and centralizing the network. With a powerful enough quantum computer, you would be able to crack the private key associated with a given public key, undermining the security of the blockchain.

Brennen and his team explored scenarios and made estimates of timeframes in which the technology would sufficiently develop to achieve this. Their research goes onto explain how current application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) hardware is performing proof of work (PoW) computations at hash rates of 14TH/s, which is one thousand times faster than the current gate speeds for quantum architectures which run at 66.7MHz (equates to 13.8GH/s). At the current difficulty level, this gives quantum computers no advantage. Future advancements in the development of quantum technology could see gate speeds of up to 100GHz. Quantum computers would then surpass current technology in its ability to solve the PoW algorithm.

Quantum computers’ future development

The development of hardware achieving these speeds, given the current progression is predicted to fall at the end of the decade, by which time advancements will have been made in ASICs similarly. Many large companies are well underway with research into quantum computing so in the next ten years technology may grow and develop around it. IBM has been making progress with its own quantum processor, with Intel getting closer to that reality as well. Scientists have been delving into silicon-laced diamonds and basic silicon as a means of manufacturing quantum architecture. Both Google and Microsoft are looking to develop cloud-based solutions and new coding languages for the technology. With a widespread availability of the technology and blockchain developing alongside the growth of this technology, it is unlikely for it to have such a detrimental impact.

Gavin also detailed several post-quantum signature schemes that help defend against quantum attacks, with at least four classes of known fixes, all of which are achievable by programmers today. A ten-year head start is ample time to improve on and further develop them into a protocol.

 

Image Source: Flickr: Steve Jurvetson – A Wafer of the Latest D-Wave Quantum Computers

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Google to Ban All Crypto Ads This Month

In March 2018, Google posted that it would be banning any and all advertisements involving cryptocurrency from its AdSense and AdWords advertising platforms in June 2018, and now the time of reckoning has come.

Google’s new financial products policy explicitly states that the ban will include but not be limited to initial coin offerings (ICOs), cryptocurrency exchanges, cryptocurrency wallets, and cryptocurrency trading advice. This is a thorough blanket ban of all cryptocurrency ads through Google’s advertising platform, which is the largest provider of internet ads. Google advertising revenue exceeded USD 27 billion for quarter 4 of 2017, 84% of all of Google’s revenue, and is on track to exceed USD 100 billion per year.

Due to the massive size of Google’s advertising services and its dependency on it for most of its money, Google must ensure advertisers that it is a safe and wholesome advertising ecosystem. This means nothing illegal should be advertised, including scams of any sort, since that would make people distrust Google ads.

Unfortunately, there has been a significant number of cryptocurrency-related scams commonly involving ponzi schemes like Bitconnect and OneCoin where investors are guaranteed unrealistic profits, but in reality are only paid from new funds entering the system until the system eventually collapses.

With the rise of ICOs, there have been plenty of scams that have promised a new cryptocurrency to investors but instead disappearing with investments and releasing nothing. Pincoin defrauded investors of USD 660 million, for example.

Even cryptocurrency exchange advertisements can be scams; scammers have been known to set up fake cryptocurrency exchanges that look legitimate. The same technique can be used to make fake Bitcoin wallet websites that steal access to legitimate wallets.

Google has probably grown tired of dealing with complaints and lawsuits from users of their ads regarding cryptocurrency scams, which is likely a contributing factor to the ban. It would be easier for Google to just ban everything involving cryptocurrency than to dedicate a team to filter through cryptocurrency ads to determine authenticity.

Although many will find it unfair and unfortunate that legitimate cryptocurrency businesses will no longer have access to the biggest advertising platform on the internet, some see this development as positive for the industry. No longer will scammers be able to snare victims by purchasing Google ads, and any legitimate services can advertise themselves on other platforms such as BitcoinTalk and Reddit.

The reality is, if a cryptocurrency company is truly legitimate and its products and services are valuable, it should be able to grow without purchasing the help of advertising.

 

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China State TV: Blockchain 10 Times More Valuable Than Internet

China’s primary state television CCTV has broadcast on its finance channel that the value of blockchain is “ten times more than that of the internet” in a discussion on the potential and the risks of the new technology in China, writes Coindesk.

In an hour-long discussion between representatives of both private and industry sectors and host Chen Weihong, it emerged that the panel viewed blockchain as “exciting”, labeled as the Internet’s “second phase”.

In its Dialogue segment aired on Sunday night, the panel included Canadian business executive Don Tapscott, the well-known author of ‘Blockchain Revolution – an acclaimed book on blockchain which explains how to capture the opportunity and avoid the dangers of the burgeoning technology.

Other speakers included Chen Lei, CEO of cloud network giant Xunlei and Zhang Shoucheng, a physics professor at Stanford University and founder of Danhua Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in blockchain technology.

Chen presented the discussion with his claim that that blockchain has become the second phase of the Internet and now has a value ten times greater.

Stanford’s Zang commented, “While the real value of the internet is aggregating individual pieces of information into one place, which is exactly what Google and Facebook do, we are now entering an era where information is being decentralized so that individuals can own their individual data. And that’s the real value of blockchain that makes it exciting.”

However, each panel member was asked to comment on fraudulent ICOs and their marketing slogans and explain them to the nationwide audience, highlighting the Chinese government’s prohibitive stance on cryptocurrencies.

By summarizing some of the usual marketing slogans used by potentially fraudulent ICOs and having each speaker to explain them to the station’s wide audience base, the program again signaled the station’s ongoing efforts to scrutinize cryptocurrency projects in China.

Recently, the state-run broadcaster in its Financial News program described token sale activities as still “rampant,” despite a 2017 ban on ICOs in the country.  The state media outlet said that the recent ICO ban had not prevented a get-rich-quick mentality driving a rush into the cryptocurrency space.

 

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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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Bing Ads to Block Cryptocurrency Adverts

Microsoft’s search engine Bing, will be changing its financial product and services policy to block cryptocurrency related ads in an attempt to protect users. The changes will come into effect in late June to early July.

Melissa Alsoszatai-Petheo the advertiser policy manager of Bing stated: “Because cryptocurrency and related products are not regulated, we have found them to present a possible elevated risk to our users with the potential for bad actors to participate in predatory behaviors, or otherwise scam consumers”.

Bing is the latest large platform to ban cryptocurrency ads

Bing is the latest to step in and make a change in how we view cryptocurrency products and initial coin offerings (ICO). Prior Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat have all made similar advances towards the same goal. Rob Leathern, Product Management Director of Facebook, previously expressed: “We want people to continue to discover and learn about new products and services through Facebook ads without fear of scams or deception. That said, there are many companies who are advertising binary options, ICO’s and cryptocurrencies that are not currently operating in good faith.”

The ban, which is very broad and may seem like an attack on the community is due to an inability to identify products and ICO’s that are deceptive in nature. “Google’s decision to ban cryptocurrency ads is an implicit acknowledgement that they cannot identify legitimate projects in this space at scale,” says Paul Makowski, chief technology officer of malware-detection startup PolySwarm.

Industry sources believe that the bans may be revoked once US regulatory bodies put policies in place to moderate these products. With no telling how long this could take, the loss of publicity is likely to have a damaging effect on the market and companies involved.

ICO’s or IC-a-scam

With an excess of 900 ICO’s launched in 2017 raising billions of dollars for their promoters, this growing market creates opportunities for everyone as well as the con artists. With little regulation to protect investors, it’s a golden opportunity for those who are looking to defraud the public.

BTCC CEO and founder Bobby Lee stated in an interview with Business Insider: “It’s just too risky. It just doesn’t make sense to invest in those guys. Maybe I’ll change my mind next month, next year, I don’t know.” Lee is among many in supporting more regulation around ICO’s.

Fabric Ventures and TokenData reports detail that as few as 435 ICOs were successful out of a total 913 last year. With small time investors making considerable gains, you can see why the opportunity is enticing, “On average, tokens have returned 12.8x the initial investment in dollar terms versus 7.7x for ETH and 4.9x for BTC during 2017,” the report notes. Mangrove Capital Partners recorded returns of up to 1,320% from ICO’s by October 2017.

For the time being search engines and media platforms have opted to protect the public against the growing rise of crypto-related crime. As new legislation and regulatory powers are introduced we could see a change of heart and a return of cryptocurrency advertisements, promoting legitimate companies.

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Nigeria Can Be Empowered By Bitcoin Says Foundation CEO

Lady Victoria Walker, CEO of the United Digital Currency Reserve Foundation, has recently stressed that the understanding and deployment of bitcoin can kickstart the financial growth in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, reports Niger247News

In a recent presentation Lady Walker, who is also a blockchain and cryptocurrency speaker, as well as Principal Consultant at Cryptoria Investment Research, maintains that for Nigerian banks to deal with blockchain technologies, it first needs to understand cryptocurrencies:

“Many banks and regulators are confused and do not fully understand how Bitcoin and blockchain technology work, but I think once the Central Bank of Nigeria and other key figures get to understand the true nature of blockchain technology and what it can bring economically, I believe they may embrace the technology with open arms.”

The UK based fintech entrepreneur feels that new technologies such as blockchain and cryptocurrency are essential factors in empowering African leaders to inject growth and financial inclusivity into their economies, she argues:

“Britain imposes a ‘super tax’ on remittances sent to African countries, causing a loss of £1.8bn a year from money sent home by workers. Think about it, £1.8bn is taken away from the people sending money to support their families in Nigeria.  Imagine what £1.8bn a year could do in the pockets of families depending on money sent to them from abroad? This is where blockchain technology comes in. It solves a problem like this by making it easier and cheaper to transfer and remit payments internationally.”

Nigeria has had a difficult cryptocurrency history. Early last year it was reported that the Central Bank of Nigeria was considering implementing its own cryptocurrency, but later the same year, it was advising banks to distance themselves from virtual currency, warning them, “not to use, hold or transact in any way with the technology.”

The remarks came at a time when Nigeria’s interest in cryptocurrencies was flourishing. According to data from Coindance, weekly trading volume on Localbitcoins in Nigeria surged 500 percent in 2017.  Nigeria then, was among top countries using Google to search for ‘bitcoin’, alongside South Africa, Slovenia, Holland, and Austria. Although, it was reported at this time that a Ponzi scheme may have been partly responsible for the clicking figures. The scheme reportedly cost investors UD$50 million in early March of that year.

In a press release issued in March of this year, the CBN is now reiterating its warnings of last year, suggesting that due to crypto investments being unprotected, investors will be at risk. Lady Walker maintains that it is lack of knowledge which holds back the tide of progress in the African crypto space, which in turn creates institutional and public skepticism such as the CBN’s.

“People are skeptical because that is human nature. We are natural cynics and skeptics and rarely trust what we don’t understand. This is why I urge people to truly understand the nature of the industry, asset and also yourself”

Lady Walker believes that there will come a time when all Nigerian banks will have to adopt cryptocurrencies of their own, but due to the current volatility of the crypto market, it remains a future goal of those who see cryptocurrency as the financial future. She maintains:

“Bitcoin is a reality. We have all major world governments scrambling to make sense of it and world leaders sharing their views on the currency. For the past 700 years, our world has relied on the European legacy banking system for means of payments and transactions. Bitcoin is definitely challenging the traditional way when it comes to transfer of value. Just like the internet changed how we shop, bank, date and find information.”

About 40% of Nigeria’s population is unbanked, which blocks nearly half of the population from the financial economy. To this, the fintech CEO argues “All you require is a smartphone and internet to start sending and receiving payments. No I.D required, filling out paperwork, etc… Do you know how much this could change things for the people of Nigeria?”

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