Category Archives: IBM

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Miami is Fast Becoming a US Crypto Trendsetter

Florida staked its claim as a significant name in crypto as two pizzas delivered by Papa John’s in Jacksonville once cost the crypto equivalent of $65 million in today’s money, and now with Miami staking its claim as Bitcoin capital of the US, the dream lives on.

Miami is on a charge and has seen a surge of blockchain and crypto conferences setting up their annual venues there over the years. It’s unsurprising, given that there’s also a history there too, as it was not only the home of the first North American Bitcoin Conference but also witnessed the birth of Vitalik Buterin’s Ethereum experiment.

This year’s North American Bitcoin Conference heralded in even more startups, some 30 in number, raising millions, and now gives way to the next conference in the queue, Blockchain Shift to be held in late October bringing IBM, Tesla, KPMG, Bloomberg into its orbit. It promises to be another extravaganza with late-night dancing and yacht parties scheduled, living up to the current festival mode employed by crypto conference organizers.

Miami started the crypto ATM revolution, with machine provider BitStop out of Palmetto Bay now providing services for client all over the state and in California with a network of 50 transaction points.

One of Florida’s movers and shakers, George Levy, award-winning Lecturer and Senior Instructor on the blockchain, had a hand in starting Miami’s Blockchain Institute of Technology (BIT), an online training academy which teaches people more about cryptocurrency and its technological foundations. Levy now has students in 166 countries around the globe and follows up his online training with personal appearances in many of those. Lately, he’s taken the leap to South America, where Bitcoin raised early interest. He now works alongside the engineering department at the University of Curaçao.

“We’re seeing innovation coming out of Latin America, as well strong developers based in Argentina,” he says, adding that, “The fact that I’m here in Miami gives me a very close spot to be able to engage that. It’s a great hub.”

South Americans have viewed cryptocurrency as an escape from financial oppression for years, as exemplified by Bitcoin’s huge following in Venezuela where the fiat economy is a total burnout. Because of its Latin American connection, Miami has a renewed spark of life as a potential crypto hub for South America as a result of political unrest there, geographic proximity and Spanish speaking population.

With such a vibrant cryptocurrency ecosystem comes regulatory concerns, one of the motivations by State government’s June decision to appoint a “Cryptocurrency Chief” to oversee the industry, according to Florida’s chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis, an “…active, comprehensive and balanced approach” providing an “appropriate level of scrutiny for emerging digital asset technologies.”

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IBM’s Food Trust Blockchain Goes Live, Carrefour Jumps in First

Multinational tech giant IBM has been leaving a significant imprint on the retail industry lately with the use of blockchain technology, and it’s doing again with the latest project, Food Trust.

IBM, not content with providing foodchain solutions for mega-retailer Walmart, has now hooked up with French supermarket giant Carrefour in order to launch blockchain based Food Trust, enabling the chain to price its products more accurately.

The recent IBM/Walmart project came up with a farm-to-store tracking system based on blockchain technology which Walmart committed 100 of its suppliers to adhere to. Both Walmart and IBM have been at the forefront of DLT since its conception and both companies are eager to promote the use of new technology in sectors including business and commerce. Walmart has become a primary mover in the industry in pushing blockchain forward with numerous patents pending.

The latest IBM deal with Carrefour, now operating in over 12,000 locations around the globe, offers three individual retailing solutions using DLT. The first of which, called “Trace” offers a sophisticated system of tracking products from source, which also factors in shipping and production costs, allowing the retailer to arrive at a fair price to pass on to customers.

Other aspects of Food Trust in its present early form focus establishes how goods fit retailers “Fair Trade” or “Organic” tags in order to be accurately listed on the blockchain, adding to buyer confidence.

Carrefour itself is no stranger to using emerging technologies in recent months and made a recent impact on the French farming sector this year with its blockchain based system which began tracking its chicken supply. This provided customers with an egg to table history by using a smartphone to scan a code on the packaging to obtain details on each stage of production, including origins, earlier location, feed and where the meat was finally processed.

Carrefour may be the first to use the latest IBM system, but now Food Trust is live and it’s there to be used by all in the food industry moving forward.

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IBM Urges Congress Caucus to Fast Track Blockchain

Developers such as IBM are urging the US government to take a lead in promoting blockchain technology in order to move the industry forward.

Recent meetings by the Congressional Blockchain Congress aimed at discussing use cases for blockchain are in line with a general consensus in Washington that blockchain has significant implications for the future and is now being taken seriously. The report from the meetings stated:

“It is imperative that government and industry work together to continue and strengthen technological and market leadership in this new area, and to address potential policy and regulatory incompatibility that may constrain  growth of the emerging digital-blockchain economy.”

A key factor moving forward according to the report is to speed up the deployment of the technology and deal with areas which might impede progress and adoption is both business and industry. An important theme emerged from the meetings which indicated that participants at the meeting felt that leadership at government level was essential along with close collaboration with the blockchain industry from Washington.

This was highlighted recently when Ohio congressman Warren Davidson invited 32 prominent representatives of the cryptocurrency industry to discuss future ICO legislation. They met to discuss measures to be introduced by the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) this coming autumn after discussions between the Commission and Davidson’s office.

In the latest Washington meetings, the focus was set on digital identity, payments, and supply chain and provenance. It was clarified at each of the three meetings held by the caucus that the industry sees DLT as potentially the “next internet”.

In conclusion, the report stated that “more resources need to be allocated toward this nascent yet rapidly evolving technology, much in the way the US government-funded early research into the internet in the 1970s and 1980s”.

With Washington clearly taking more of a role in promoting blockchain technology, US congressman Tom Emmer is planning is to introduce three pro-blockchain and cryptocurrency bills to Congress entitled ‘Resolution Supporting Digital Currencies and Blockchain Technology’, the ‘Blockchain Regulatory Certainty Act’, and the ‘Safe Harbor for Taxpayers with Forked Assets Act’.

 

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Binance CEO Predicts 1,000 Times Swell in Crypto Market

As the crypto community discussed the future of the market this week, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao has disagreed with recent remarks by Vitalik Buterin, suggesting that the Ethereum founder’s comments about a squeeze on cryptocurrency growth are completely wrong.

Buterin has denied that he made exactly those comments, Tweeting, “I never said that there is no room for growth in the crypto ecosystem. I said there is no room for 1000x price increases.” Buterin has claimed that the crypto market has practically reached its ceiling.

Further explaining that a thousand-fold growth would equal to 70% of the world’s entire wealth seems to have done little to halt Zhao’s charge that cryptocurrencies will go mainstream over time, and thereby reach exactly that level of growth and possibly more.

Zhao maintains that Buterin’s mistake is to view such a huge level of growth in terms of the traditional financial market, in which such a market expansion would be totally unrealistic. He feels that cryptocurrency is capable of making such an impact once it becomes fully operational with an accompanying derivatives market in full sway. He argues:

“I will say ‘crypto will absolutely grow 1000x and more’! Just reaching USD market cap will give it close to 1000x, (that’s just one currency with severely restricted use case), and the derivatives market is so much bigger.”

It is the case now that more central banks are on board with, or if not, certainly examining, cryptocurrencies with more than just a passing glance, and as such, the industry is gaining respect. Blockchain technology is now becoming influential in banking and business at the highest level, having gained respect from some of the world’s major players such as IBM and Microsoft. As central banks begin to delve deeper into the space, it is highly likely that smaller banks will also begin to take an active interest.

The more positive the impact that cryptocurrency makes on the financial system, the more that regulation is likely become not only clearer but more accommodating as crypto becomes the normal way to conduct business.

This is more likely to be the scenario that Binance’s head envisages in making such predictions; thinking of the big picture rather than the status quo. A USD 200 trillion market would make cryptocurrency the main source of payment and would certainly make stock markets around the world look very different. Clearly, a scenario that Zhao sees as achievable.

 

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Tech Giants Take on Opioid Addiction with DLT

IBM has announced that it is now planning to use a blockchain-enabled health surveillance system in order to collect data on antibiotics and opioids prescriptions by doctors.

Opioid prescription abuse is becoming a problem worldwide with figures showing that their illicit use has now overtaken heroin. Globally, prescription opioid pain relievers are now among the most commonly misused and abused medicines.

IBM’s blockchain system is now making it easy for public health agencies to track both medical practitioners and their patients in order to try and stem this new epidemic of drug misuse. 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.

Healthcare and clinical research is an expanding area as doctors and hospitals increasingly need secure access to a patient’s entire health history. This new, rapidly evolving field provides fertile ground for experimentation, investment, and proof-of-concept testing.

The implications for the industry are endless. New platforms are emerging almost daily such as a diagnostic blockchain infrastructure aimed to host, train and use artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare, and a blockchain-powered platform designed to track and protect pharmaceutical data.

Prominent healthcare professionals are also growing increasingly confident that DLT has what is required to vastly improve the security of current centralized forms of data storage, which have been vulnerable to hackers attempting to steal patient data for sale on the black market.

IBM has, for some time now, been looking at applying blockchain solutions to the healthcare industry through its work with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At the end of last year, its chief science officer Shahram Ebadollahi acknowledged how relevant blockchain and AI was becoming in the industry.

“Blockchain is very useful when there are so many actors in the system… It enables the ecosystem of data in healthcare to have more fluidity, and AI allows us to extract insights from the data. Everybody talks about big data in healthcare but I think the more important thing is long data.”

Since then, CDC has run several pilots and is urging the healthcare community to take up the mantle. Another computer giant, Intel, has done exactly that, working with McKesson and Johnson and Johnson to use DLT to trace the pill supply chain. Intel’s Director of healthcare privacy and security commented that the tech could “vastly reduce the opioid epidemic” adding, “I would not say this will eliminate the opioid problem, but this will help.”

Another player in the healthcare space, the leader in blockchain healthcare solutions, Hashed Heath, maintains that blockchain’s most significant asset apart from the obvious tracking advantages, is that a “decentralized database of test results with free access to this data” prevents global duplication and enhances research by others moving forward.

 

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Australia and IBM to Collaborate for National Blockchain

An Australian federal agency is teaming up with American multinational technology company IBM to develop a national blockchain on which smart legal contracts can be carried out.

The research branch of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization known as Data61 have been working alongside both law firm Herbert Smith Freehills and IBM to create a pilot platform for the Australian National Blockchain (ANB) that will be available for use by businesses.

Australia-based companies will be able to use the network in order to utilize digital contracts, exchange data securely and confirm the authenticity and status of legally binding contracts. Upon finalization of the ANB, the developers hope to be able to offer a service that can fully manage the lifecycle of a contract through a permission-based access system from all parties.

The platform will also provide smart legal contracts with smart clauses and the ability to record external sources of data such as that retrieved from the Internet of Things, self-executing once all specified contract conditions are met. Designed for full legal compliance in Australia, ANB boasts to be the first large-scale, public to business blockchain solution.

Paul Hutchison, vice president and partner of Cognitive Process Transformation at IBM, pointed to the groundbreaking nature of blockchain technology, saying: ”Blockchain will be to transactions what the internet was to communication… ANB could likely spur innovation and economic development in the country as it harnesses that forward-thinking technology.”

The pilot is set to be launched by the end of the year for a number of invited regulators, banks, law firms and businesses to trial, with plans to eventually open up the platform to all companies in Australia.

Blockchain in Australia

While Australia may not have the highest rates of cryptocurrency adoption, it has made significant progress in terms of blockchain developments.

Earlier this month, the country’s government handed a USD 1.7 million grant to a sustainable sugar blockchain project that tracks the origins and movements of sugar imports. It is part of a larger initiative of the Smart Cane Best Management Practice that is attempting to bring transparency to the sugar industry and promote sustainability.

In July, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia successfully tracked a shipment of 17 tons of almonds from Sunraysia to Hamburg, Germany using blockchain. The blockchain stored documentation, finance information, and operations information, with customs documents uploaded as the shipment passed through countries’ borders.

 

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“Time Traveler” Millionaire Investor Plans Australia’s First Crypto Bank

An Australian crypto enthusiast has set plans in motion to open his own crypto bank. Fred Schebesta has decided on a radical scheme in order to circumnavigate restrictive regulations by Australian banks towards anything cryptocurrency-related by opening his own bank and doing what he needs to get a share in an established bank.

The West Australian enthusiast has purchased a personal shareholding in an existing bank, West Australia’s Goldfields Money, in order to obtain an authorized deposit-taking institution (ADI) license to get his plans on the road.

Tiny by banking standards, Goldfield’s Money has a USD 35 million market cap but it does have the much-needed ADI, in fact, the only one in Western Australia to have it. Schebesta explains his reasoning:

“You don’t have your money. The bank has your money. Have you ever gone to the bank and asked for all your money? If everyone did a bank run on CommBank [Commonwealth Bank of Australia] right now, they wouldn’t be able to service it. That’s why I’m so big on crypto. I think eventually people will go, “Oh my god, this is so messed up”, and they’ll move to where they can hold their value. Not all of their money, but some of it.”

The current legal situation that the crypto banker-to-be is clearly attempting to come to terms with is as follows:

“New entrants to the banking industry will be able to apply for a Restricted ADI license, which will have a lower barrier to entry than a full ADI license, to assist their transition into the industry over a two-year period…  Restricted ADIs will be subject to an aggregate deposit limit of $2 million and must disclose to all its customers that they are operating on a restricted license.”

Schebesta clearly feels that his crypto bank idea is worth all the paperwork regardless of Bitcoin’s current fluctuation fortunes in the crypto market. He explains:

“At its core, you’ve got to remember, just because the price of Bitcoin has gone down and people feel angry, that doesn’t reduce the interest… We’re living in the future. That’s what I’m all about. I think I’m a time traveler. I travel forward five years into the future, work it out then come back and try to take active steps to make it happen.”

His enthusiasm is reflective of Australia’s current drive towards crypto adoption, with recent deals in the pipeline including a new contract which will allow IBM to explore blockchain technologies and integrate some of the results into the Australian political structure over the next five years.

The passionate crypto-enthusiast hopes to have his bank ready for business within 18 months. If Australia is ever governed by blockchain, Schebesta’s crypto bank will certainly be well placed for business.

 

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Can the Saudi Kingdom Move with the Times in a Blockchain World?

After Saudi Arabia’s first blockchain meeting, Translating Blockchain KSA 2018, the country is showing signs of incorporating new technologies to diminish the relevance of oil production.

Since 1938, the Kingdom has since become the world’s largest oil producer and exporter, controlling the world’s second-largest oil reserves with the sixth-largest gas reserves and is the only Arab country in the G20.

Also, the country still struggles with bridging the gap between history and modernity, having been projected into wealth by the discovery of oil before the Second World War. The kingdom has drawn criticism from advanced economies over various civil and social rights issues, which it intends to be based under religious laws under the absolute rule of the Saudi royal family.

This is sometimes a huge contradiction coming from a society which would rather present a more advanced and contemporary image. Saudi’s Vision 2030 is key to this change as outlined by Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz:

“The second pillar of our vision is our determination to become a global investment powerhouse. Our nation holds strong investment capabilities, which we will harness to stimulate our economy and diversify our revenues… Our country is rich in its natural resources. We are not dependent solely on oil for our energy needs… our real wealth lies in the ambition of our people and the potential of our younger generation.”

In keeping with the new Saudi direction and this new image as proposed by Saudi Vision 2030, blockchain has been seen as a pivotal technology. This has resulted in the Riyadh Municipality partnering with IMB this year to strengthen blockchain in order to streamline government services and transactions. Computerized reasoning, IoT, and blockchain are fast becoming a priority in a country which wants to advance its economy and its technological footprint, while also moving away from its reliance on oil by cultivating new business models.

Takreem El Tohamy General Manager, IBM MEA has indicated that the city of Riyadh, the Saudi capital, is already planning to incorporate DLT as a means to enhance and digitalize its current record keeping through working with computerized arrangements supplier Elm.

 

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Citigroup Reportedly Eyeing Crypto Products

It appears that US banking giant Citigroup is looking into crypto products, according to an insider at the bank.

In April, an initial expression of interest was expressed by the group through a report entitled ‘Bank of the Future: The ABCs of Digital Disruption in Finance’, suggesting in the report that in the future banks will need “senior leadership teams to be focused on digital transformation” for their future well-being.

Although this is rather a broad statement, a contact at the bank has reportedly come forward and suggested that things have moved on since that statement, saying that Citibank “has moved beyond thinking about crypto” and now wants to look at it terms of a consumer product.

The current debate, particularly among major Wall Street financial institutions, is whether to take a wholehearted plunge into cryptocurrency and some are now dabbling around the futures market to see how it pans out. This kind of toe-dipping is mainly driven by customer pressure, whilst the banks continue to deal with the world outside which is still driven largely by apprehension and skepticism when it comes to cryptocurrency.

Such concerns reportedly led to Citibank’s Head of Consumer Crypto Asset Innovation title removed from her LinkedIn page for just that guilt by association scenario.

Although Citigroup has not confirmed the suggestion that it is considering moving down the crypto road, it has signed up for IBM’s trial blockchain project with USD 5 trillion a day foreign exchange settlement provider CLS.

There may be a suggestion of a hint in the recent 128-page Citigroup report though. It lists use cases for smart contracts, is also pro-Ripple and suggests that Bitcoin isn’t losing steam but banks may well be under some pressure.

Wednesday’s US Treasury Department statement that cryptocurrencies are “poised to impact innovation in financial services”, may well give some credibility to Citibank’s plans if they turn out to be a credible reflection of the company’s future direction.

 

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IBM, Barclays, Citi Create Blockchain App Store for Financial Services

American technology corporation IBM has teamed with banking giants including Barclays and Citi to create an app store style platform for financial blockchain services.

The LedgerConnect project aims to increase efficiency in banks’ ability to access and utilize blockchain solutions from fintech and software developers, offering services in areas of market data, know your customer (KYC) processes, collateral management and sanctions screenings. Nine financial institutions were part of the proof-of-concept of the app for use by their peers.

Trying something new

Those behind the LedgerConnect project say it will benefit users by pre-approving and certifying applications as secure to be used, potentially saving research costs for banks looking for blockchain services. Dr Lee Braine of Barclays noted that a hub such as this gives banks a chance to try something new in the area, allowing them access to the various deployment options of distributed ledgers in banking, and experience in combining infrastructure-hosted and bank-hosted nodes in the private network.

The hub itself runs on IBM’s blockchain platform, offering just Hyperledger-based applications for the time being, although the founders are looking into hosting alternative blockchain solutions, citing R3’s Corda and Quorum as viable options so long as they meet the security specifications.

A good thing for start-ups?

Should the hub find success in the sector, it will not only be beneficial for the banks using it, but also for the blockchain companies whose services are being advertised. By addressing a connectivity gap as the project says it is, the number of blockchain trials by big banks such as those the Bank of Canada has become known for may decrease, allowing smaller start-up firms to have their own solutions employed by those entities.

It could, in fact, encourage further research and applications be developed now there is an easier way for their work to be advertised and used by financial institutions.

 

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