Category Archives: MIT

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Chinese IT Ministry Seeks “Industrial” Scale Blockchain

The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIT) is reportedly looking at ways it can push forward its plans for blockchain integration into the financial sector and other industries.

The MIT, established in March 2008, is the state agency responsible for regulation and development of the postal service, internet, wireless, broadcasting, communications, production of electronic and information goods, software industry and the promotion of the national knowledge economy, according to Wikipedia.

A local media report says the MIT wants to progress the use of the new technology forward as it sees it very much in its initial stage. This would involve expanding blockchain, which is principally being utilized in the financial sector, into areas such as supply chain management and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Being a local news report, the news is highly likely to represent more of a government statement than an objective view but it suggests that the government wants to accelerate blockchain in China. The reports says that MIT wants the country to “unite” to provide “a healthy and orderly development of the industry”, according to China Money Network.  It added this will need to be done on an “industrial” scale to integrate it into all areas of Chinese society.

It appears that infrastructures will need to be updated to provide this long-term plan, as the report suggests that MIT wants to involve local departments in boosting the capacity of computing power and storage.

The agency recently released a statement suggesting that the country had experienced “exponential” growth last year along with research by He Baohong of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), that only 8% of blockchain projects launched are still in operation; a fact that the Chinese government would be keen to change.

On 23 July, ConsenSys and the Xiong’an government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for a “dream city” project, marking the first time that Xiong’an has publicly recruited a foreign development studio to aid in its blockchain efforts.

This is one of several technological fields that the government has listed as part of a cutting-edge plan to transform Xiong’an into a leading tech hub for the country.


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MIT Media Lab’s Enigma Pioneers Blockchain-Based Secret Smart Contracts

Enigma is a blockchain-based platform developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab that facilitates secret smart contracts. On 30 June 2018, Enigma announced the launch of its testnet, which developers can use to start experimenting with secret smart contract technology. The MIT Media Lab is not forking any existing blockchain; instead, it is building Enigma from scratch.

The goal of Enigma is for decentralized applications to become widely adopted, and the Enigma team believes the development of secret smart contract technology is essential for this to occur. Enigma secret smart contracts hide the origin of a transaction and can be executed on the blockchain without being decrypted. This is beneficial since it will ensure that no government, organization, or hacker can view the inner-workings of decentralized blockchain-based apps, let alone interfere with them or manipulate them.

On the testnet, nodes will not be allowed or necessary since this is just an experimental phase. When the mainnet goes live, users will be allowed to run nodes to secure the network and earn fees in the process, and there will also be security deposits to reduce bad behavior. At this point, Enigma cannot be integrated with Ethereum-based decentralized apps, but when the mainnet goes live, that is expected to be possible.

Ultimately, the Enigma team foresees that secret smart contracts will become the new standard, and this will help decentralized apps transform from novelties into necessities.


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Researchers Claim That Recent Cost of Crypto Mining Figures “Pulled out of the Air”

Earlier this week, a study published by Dutch researcher Alex de Vries concluded that Bitcoin mining uses almost as much electricity as the entire Republic of Ireland, but Standford lecturer Johnathan Koomey says his figures are wrong, reports NBC news.

The recent claims that cryptocurrency is draining nation’s power supplies have been compared to concerns in the 1990s when some experts predicted that half of the US electrical grid would be needed to power the then-burgeoning internet, which was later proved to be highly exaggerated.

Koomey’s Berkley Lab proved these calculations wrong at the time, and then again in another study in August 2011 concluding that the data centers used less than 2 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Dutch researcher, Alex de Vries who made the new claims last week, seems to have ignited yet another argument over exactly how much power is being used in excess as a result of the adoption of new technologies.

Koomey asserts, “For two decades, people have been eager to overestimate electricity use by computing…My concern is that we simply don’t have adequate data to come to the strong conclusions that he’s coming to.”

The rise in popularity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has sparked numerous concerns regarding the energy required by thousands of computing systems that power virtual currencies, and De Vries is certainly not the first to comment on it.

De Vries estimates that the Bitcoin network consumes “at least 2.55 gigawatts of electricity currently, and potentially 7.67 gigawatts in the future.” He also writes that figures will gravitate towards a figure of 8.2 gigawatts by as early as the end of 2018, as energy supplies are further called on to mine cryptocurrencies.

It is these figures that De Vries and other experts in the field contest, suggesting the numbers were simply “picked out of the air.” Koomey argues:

“There may be some basis for them, but it’s a very unreliable way to do these kinds of calculations, and nobody who does this for a living would do it like that. It’s odd that someone would.”

Christian Catalini, an assistant professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, who researches cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, pointed out much of the problem with these kinds of assertions is that data is not actually taken from miners. The very nature of the process often demands that those mining value their privacy, making energy consumption data hard obtain, and therefore to calculate, plus the equipment miners use is varied:

“The main challenge is that this gear is scattered across the globe and faces different prices. This debate keeps popping up, but it would be great if someone did some data sharing with the miners and got some good estimates.”

Bitcoin mining, whether individually or through a mining pool. is often set up in order to keep costs to a minimum, and frequently mining is conducted in such places as caves, energy-rich areas or low-cost countries, in order to reduce costs and maximize user profit. These variables make it hard to ascertain how much global energy is actually being used.

De Vries has responded to counterclaims to those made in the PwC report by his critics, suggesting that, “Right now, the information available is pretty poor quality overall, so I’m hoping that people will use this paper as a foundation for more research.”

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