Category Archives: Mastercard

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Mastercard CEO Calls Cryptocurrencies “Junk” on US Visit

The war of words between the major credit card companies and cryptocurrency users seems to have stepped up another gear over the weekend with the latest slant by a top Mastercard CEO.

During the “New India Lecture” at the Indian Consulate in the US this week, Mastercard’s CEO, Ajay Banga, went on full attack against cryptocurrency calling it “junk”. During his time on stage where he was taking questions from the audience on crypto trade, he went on to say that such an “anonymized” form of currency with such wild fluctuations in the market couldn’t be regarded as a medium of exchange.

The lecture was organized as part of a series hosted by the Consulate in tandem with the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF)

Banga wasted little time explaining that cryptocurrencies were responsible for more than 95 percent of illegal online transactions on the dark web.

Bitcoin has been the target of constant attacks, increasing in prominence in the media and popular press, particularly in 2017 when the value of the flagship cryptocurrency soared to USD 20,000 at end of the year. Voices in the financial sector have been more than ready to denounce Bitcoin and proclaim its demise.

In January of this year, a prominent study revealed that less than 1% of Bitcoin transactions was used for illicit activities, disproving one of the many myths surrounding Bitcoin’s prominence in illegal use. Yaya Fanusie, director of analysis for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance (CSIF), conducted the study which was called ‘Bitcoin Laundering: An Analysis of Illicit Flows into Digital Currency Services‘.

The condemnation was flying in the other direction last week when Mastercard services completely crashed out for the day, giving cryptocurrency users plenty of opportunities to remind the credit card giant why so many people started using Bitcoin in the first place. One suggestion reminded  Mastercard that a blockchain based system would solve such issues.

It appears that Mastercard is slowly taking that route as evidenced by the array of blockchain-related patents that they have acquired in an effort show more innovation regarding payments. Also, back in 2016, Mastercard released some preliminary APIs, Blockchain Core API, Smart Contracts API and a Fast Pay Network API.

Their latest patent filed recently would digitize credit cards and store them on a blockchain. The patent application is titled ‘Method And System For Payment Card Verification Via Blockchain’.

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Nordic-Baltic Region Scoops up $6.3B of Europe’s Fintech Business

According to a MagnaCarta, Fintech Mundi and Mastercard report, fintech companies are continuing to thrive in Scandinavia and also in the Baltic regions, writes Fintech Schweiz Digital Finance News.

They are reported to have created half of the industries main players in Europe to date and those firms seeking fintech partnerships is far higher than the overall 2017 European average in these regions.

At the forefront of these successes are Swedish online payment platforms Klarna and iZettle and Estonian money transfer program TransferWise which has now relocated to the UK. These three companies are reputed to have a cumulative worth of USD 6.3 billion.

Susanne Hannestead CEO of Fintech Mundi and co-author of the research explains:

“The Nordic and Baltic markets already have an incredible track record of building fintech companies having created regional successes that have gone on to become global winners, like Spotify and Zwipe.”

Its reported that there are over 500 fintech companies across the Baltic and in Scandinavia and banks are showing increased interest seeing that costing and effectiveness can be a factor of collaboration in this financial sector.

Mastercard has been a major driver of fintech in the region having recently launched its Lighthouse Development Program in partnership with NFT Ventures in the region. The project has been set up in order to trawl the sector for prospective startups and develop new technologies.

Mats Taraldsson, the head of digital business development and fintech partnerships of Mastercard Nordics and Baltics, claims that collaboration is the key to success and finding the right fintech and startup mix to deliver customer needs:

“…working together with startups and fintech is essential to meet the future needs of consumers, merchants, and governments. We have been committed to fintechs for many years, fostering partnerships with pioneers who have grown into global brands.”

The Nordic Fintech Disruptors Report 2018 does highlight some problems though, regardless of the regions capturing the larger chunk of Europe’s fintech business, suggesting that the region still lacks regulation and supervision, particularly at local levels. In fact, 45% of respondents agreed that Nordic and Baltic fintech companies needed greater support in this area. Hannestad, also co-author of the research explained:

“A more joined-up approach to fintech, and the factors that influence successful innovation between the markets governments and regulators, however, would create new opportunities for growth and productivity and ensure the region is the best place in Europe to build the next generation of fintech giants.”

 

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MasterCard Patenting Blockchain Tech Which Would Digitize Credit Cards

MasterCard has filed a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office which would digitize credit cards and store them on a blockchain. The patent application is titled ‘Method And System For Payment Card Verification Via Blockchain’. This would be a fully functional system that could replace physical credit cards. The patent was originally filed in December 2016, but became visible to the public yesterday, 7 June 2018.

The technology would encrypt the image of a credit card on a blockchain, and it would have an associated public key and private key similar to a Bitcoin wallet. Although this data would be on a public blockchain, it would be extremely secure thanks to cryptographic encryption, and credit card information would be impossible to access without the private key. Therefore, keeping the private key safe will be crucial for the system described in this patent to be successful.

When a purchase is being made, the system will use the private key to decrypt the credit card image stored on the blockchain, providing the payment details to the merchant. This will be done by displaying a machine-readable code, possibly a quick response (QR) code, to a point-of-sale device.

Essentially, this technology would allow users to swipe their phone at a cash register and complete a payment, without using any physical card. This is similar to how people use Bitcoin for in-person transactions.

The lack of having to use physical credit cards would solve the problem of lost credit cards. If credit cards are stored on the blockchain they can never be lost, a user simply has to login to their account from any online device to access them. This will save the headache of waiting a week or two for replacement cards to come in the mail.

This credit card blockchain technology would reduce fraud. Skimmers are installed at many point-of-sale devices, and these steal user credit card information for fraudulent purposes. Since there will be no physical cards, skimming devices would become obsolete. The lack of physical cards will reduce fraud in many other ways besides this since, in general, the numbers on a physical credit card are what fraudsters use to steal money. If this information is all encrypted and not displayed physically it will be much more difficult to commit credit card fraud.

If MasterCard ends up putting this blockchain technology into real-world use it could become the biggest application of blockchain technology in history since credit cards are one of the most popular forms of payment in the modern day financial system.

 

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Will Bitcoin Score at 2018 FIFA World Cup as Russia Opens Doors to Crypto

This year’s FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia is only days away and Bitcoin could be a beneficiary as thousands of football fans will now have the opportunity to spend their bitcoins at the eight-week event, reports Forbes.

Businesses and hotels at many of the stadia locations have announced that Bitcoin will be widely accepted in order to bypass Forex foreign exchange delays as the event kicks off on June 14th.

Russia is expected to see half a million tourists at the 21st World Cup tournament, with many supporters arriving from Europe and South America. Hotels in many of the locations including Moscow, Kaliningrad, and St Petersburg have been accepting Bitcoin bookings since April, and it has proven to be an excellent way for fans to avoid the usual currency exchange headaches.

Airline bookings are also available for crypto users, with budget airlines such as CheapAir and travel agency Destinia offering cryptocurrency bookings. For those wanting to take a gamble and bet on the outcome and results of matches, Bitcoin sportsbooks, reputed to be the future of betting, allows players from all over the world, without restriction, to participate regardless of what part of the globe they hail from. Users can make instant and free withdrawals and deposits whenever they want.

US companies Visa and MasterCard have blocked credit card services to some Russian bank customers in the past as a result of U.S. sanctions which have been in force since 2014. As this affects digital payments, it remains to be seen if fans from overseas are able to bypass such difficulties. Although, the Russian hospitality industry has become increasingly welcoming towards digital currencies with the increased customer traffic it is bringing as a result of the event.

The advantage of Bitcoin as a decentralized currency, free for political interference, is that users can make payments wherever they go using the internet. With an increasing number of merchants accepting bitcoin and other digital currencies, tourists to Russia should be able to pay for some goods and services using their digital currencies without too many difficulties.

Russia’s overseas invasion of card-carrying bitcoin users is predicted to expand traffic of the network, should they decide to spend their money using digital currency.

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Intel and Filament Push for a Blockchain IoT Future

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

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

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

Counterfeiting and product integrity

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

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

Blockchain IoT shaping the future

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

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

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

 

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

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

Issues and needs around the evolving global market

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

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

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

SAP among many in a movement towards blockchain logistics

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

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

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

 

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

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Oracle to Roll Out Blockchain Products

Multinational software giant Oracle Corp has announced its plans to roll out a platform-as-a-service blockchain product this month followed by decentralized ledger-based applications in June, according to Bloomberg.

With 430 customers in 175 countries, the California-based company is one of the world’s largest software companies, in 2015 only second-largest by revenue after Microsoft. The company specializes primarily in developing and marketing database software and technology, cloud engineered systems and enterprise software products — particularly its own brands of database management systems. In 2017, the company generated USD 37.3 billion in sales.

This is not the company’s first blockchain project, as in 2017 it launched the Blockchain Cloud Service, described by Oracle as a “comprehensive distributed ledger cloud platform to provision blockchain networks, join other organizations, and deploy and run smart contracts to update and query the ledger”.

Company president, Thomas Kurian, has also revealed that the company is currently working on other blockchain projects, and plans to make a further impact using the technology with a project in Nigeria logging customs and import duties, and a collaboration with the Banco de Chile, attempting to link interbank transactions to a hyperledger.

Many large software companies are now watching the blockchain space with interest. According to Microsoft News Centre UK, in March, UK financial technology firm Nivaura that uses Microsoft Azure, successfully registered, cleared and settled two Principal Protected Notes (PPN) linked to the FTSE 100 – one through the traditional clearing infrastructure and a second using an open public blockchain. This made it the world’s first blockchain-based investment product, according to Microsoft.

Also, Bitcoin News reported recently that global credit card giant, Mastercard, announced that it was looking to expand its offices based in Dublin, Ireland, with 175 new technology developers recruited for roles such as blockchain experts, software engineers and information security specialists.

 

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Mastercard Joins the Blockchain Bandwagon

Mastercard is looking to expand its offices based in Dublin, Ireland, with 175 new technology developers recruited for roles such as blockchain experts, software engineers and information security specialists.

Mastercard is confident that blockchain technology is the future in regards to security and integrity within financial systems. This is displayed by the array of blockchain-related patents that they have acquired in an effort to make the best of payment innovations.

Back in 2016, Mastercard released some preliminary APIs, Blockchain Core API, Smart Contracts API and Fast Pay Network API. The implementation of blockchain technology is set to change the way in which consumers pay for goods and services.

Mastercard, like Santander with its blockchain phone app, will be working alongside San Fransisco-based technology Ripple to realize its blockchain future.

Mastercard’s view for blockchain purchases

It has been estimated that up to USD 1.4 trillion worth of fraudulent goods are circulating globally. This affects companies and individuals financially and could pose health and safety risks.

The Mastercard Blockchain and Authorization Network sets out to provide proof of provenance for goods. It plans to track anything from vehicle parts, pharmaceuticals, art, electrical items and luxury goods as they are created, transferred, purchased and re-sold, to prevent fraud.

Blockchains privacy will allow vehicle owners and registered dealers to share vehicle information with each other privately. Service history can be encoded into a smart contract, containing details such as the mileage, service type and stored irrefutably on the blockchain. Pre-purchase vehicle checks will be simpler: after gaining permissions to view private data, buyers can access service history, previous owner details and car details.

The person-to-person global market – worth over USD 16 trillion – could use blockchain for faster, more secure payments with the ability to set release parameters for balances and generate custom reports on transactions.

The blockchain future is coming

Ireland is among 21 other European Union countries pushing for a wider adoption of blockchain technology in the region.

In 2016, Justin Pinkham, blockchain lead at MasterCard, said, “We believe that there is a role of blockchain in the future of commerce. This future needs to be developed in partnership with banks, merchants, and industry participants.”

Mastercard believes Dublin is a key technology hub and that future development isn’t only limited to payments, having tested pay-as-you-go solar energy provision in Africa.

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