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Swiss Post, Swisscom Build Blockchain App Infrastructure

Swiss Post

In a joint press release today, national postal service Swiss Post and telecoms provider Swisscom announced a partnership to launch a 100% Swiss infrastructure for blockchain applications based on the Hyperledger Fabric 2.0 software.

This project is the first of its kind in Switzerland to be made as a private blockchain partnership project. They are building a “simple, secure and sustainable infrastructure for blockchain applications with the advantage of having the data remain completely in Switzerland”.

There are current instances of ongoing blockchain developments within the individual companies being used for different purposes. The press release states that “Swiss Post stores its temperature measurement data on a blockchain during the transport of pharmaceuticals” while “Swisscom is working with its subsidiary, daura AG, on a digital share based on blockchain technology”.

The blockchain infrastructure is being built to “meet the high-security requirements of banks” and expects to meet a common objective of creating a platform for businesses and public entities to manage “sensitive digital business processes securely and verifiably”.

Besides being energy efficient, the platform will only be accessible to identified users having contractual relationships with app providers.

The first pilot application is scheduled to be released in Q2 of 2019. Meanwhile, they are extending an invitation to third party contributors who will like to take part in the infrastructure.

Switzerland is making quick progress with blockchain-related developments. Recent development includes the Finance Minister Ueli Maurer’s decision to adapt current legal systems to accommodate blockchain technology.

 

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Russian Gazprombank to Launch Crypto Trading Service

Russian Gazprombank to Launch Crypto Trading Service

State-owned Russian bank Gazprombank is making good on suggestions it made earlier in the year that it was hoping to provide cryptocurrency assets to its clients in the future.

Back in March, Gazprombank’s Swiss division declared that demand from clients asking for facilitation and management of cryptocurrency funds meant that this next move was definitely on its radar and consequently a July pilot was put in motion.

The Russian government is still reviewing cryptocurrency regulation under the Digital Assets Regulation Bill, filed 25 January. The bill defines cryptocurrencies and tokens as digital financial assets. If the bill passes in its current form, it would allow trading on cryptocurrency exchange operators with authorized Know-Your-Customer (KYC) standards. This would also apply to initial coin offerings (ICOs) established in Russia. The Russian Duma will also lay out specifications for interacting with crypto and blockchain-related technologies.

The bank has decided to forge ahead with 2019 as its latest target, snapping up partners Avaloq and Metaco on the way, using SILO, a product developed by blockchain technology company Metaco. Metaco has integrated SILO into one of Avaloq’s Banking Suite product. An older, more established company, Avaloq supplies “core banking” products to some major financial institutions, including HSBC, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Avaloq’s Group Chief Technology Officer Thomas Beck claims that Metco’s integration of DLT will give crypto traders an extra layer of security:

“Thanks to the close integration of the Metaco storage solution, banking and wealth management customers won’t have to trust additional third parties when trading with cryptocurrencies. By bringing together all asset classes in one portfolio view, the solution will also ensure the highest levels of convenience and usability.”

In a joint statement released by the companies involved, they’ve stated that the bank will be able to “buy, sell and transfer crypto assets and currencies on behalf of clients and provide a consolidated portfolio view, without any need for a crypto-wallet or private key management”.

In other breaking crypto news from the region, the Russian Intellectual Property (IP) court has successfully used a blockchain-based solution for storing copyright data, with the court using blockchain solution provider IPChain‘s system to record a change in rights holder data of an IP, thus saving the data on the decentralized ledger permanently.

The IP recording platform is already working for the government of Uzbekistan, helping it record copyright data, especially in science and innovative sectors. Uzbekistan has also penned a deal with Kyrgyzstan’s State Patent Office, helping them digitize and store records in a decentralized environment.

 

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Switzerland to Adapt Existing Laws to Accommodate Blockchain

Switzerland to Adapt Existing Laws to Accommodate Blockchain

Contemplating a separate blockchain legislature are out of the question for the Swiss as the Finance Minister Ueli Maurer said Switzerland will instead adapt the current legal framework to account for blockchain technology.

Maurer said during the Infrachain blockchain conference in Bern that there won’t be a special blockchain law, instead, the current legal framework will be tweaked to adapt to the new technology and its derivatives. This will involve an adaption to six different laws starting with the “laws of obligations and ending with bankruptcy law”. The whole process should be completed in the coming year.

About a year ago, in a fintech round-table discussion involving the minister and other financial and scientific stakeholders, attendees agreed upon the urgency of attention to the development of blockchain and initial coin offerings (ICO). This led to setting up a committee to determine the necessary actions to be taken towards the development and adoption of the new enterprise.

Blockchain interest in the country has taken up a rather interesting turn with jurisdictions such as London, Singapore and Shanghai identified as “tough competitors”. However, countries like Liechtenstein are ahead of the Swiss in terms of blockchain-related legislature with a bill already in motion will be passed in 2019.

Blockchain developments (standardization) and regulation are currently being considered simultaneously in Switzerland to effectively groom the industry. With FINMA proposing a structural operational model for financial institutions to work against the volatility of the market on one hand. Switzerland’s State Secretary Joerg Gasser has opined that standards are now more important than regulation since according to him, fintech has moved beyond the “hype-cycle”. On the horizon, more utility use for blockchain enterprise seems to be developing as well.

 

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Switzerland’s FINMA License Huge Boost to Blockchain

Switzerland’s FINMA License Huge Boost to Blockchain

Switzerland’s Financial Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has new planning in place which will allow cryptocurrency exchanges to behave like the country’s banks in that they will be able to hold public deposits of up to CHF 100 million (USD 100.5 million) under a new license available from next year.

An amendment to the country’s Banking Act by the forward-thinking and crypto friendly Swiss government has made this change to the way cryptocurrency exchanges do business. The changes have been introduced, according to the government, in order to make Switzerland a more inviting location for crypto business moving forward.

Conditions to the new law will apply as the funds held with exchanges up to CHF 100 million can’t be invested funds. Those wishing in obtaining the new license will need to contact FINMA with a broad outline of the scope of their business plan over the next three years with a clear indication on who the target customer will be.

All participants under the new licensing will be thoroughly checked by FINMA. All members of projects will be thoroughly vetted for criminal records and platforms interested in obtaining a license must also agree to a financial audit on reapplying in the future. Also, any overseas companies thinking of applying, for what is very close to bank status in terms of capital held, will need to register all participants with a holding of 5% or more in the company, the same requirement as Swiss nationals under the new cryptocurrency banking laws.

The world has now taken to looking to Switzerland for innovation, so yet another move to empower the industry hardly comes as a surprise. Only two weeks ago, Swiss stock exchange SIX, the fourth largest stock exchange in Europe with a market capitalization of USD 1.6 trillion, followed up on its commitment made back in June of this year to open its doors to cryptocurrencies. With this announcement, it is about to list the world’s first crypto-based exchange-traded product or ETF as it is known in the US. A feat attempted, but not yet achieved on the other side of the Atlantic.

 

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Vitalik Buterin Awarded Honorary PhD

Vitalik Buterin Awarded Honorary PHD

The University of Basel has recognized the achievements of Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin by awarding him an honorary Ph.D. for his contributions to the field of cryptocurrencies, smart contracts and the design of institutions.

Sharing the announcement on Twitter, the doctorate has been granted by the Faculty of Business and Economics.

.@VitalikButerin receives an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Business and Economics of the University of Basel. The co-founder of @ethereum has made outstanding achievements in the fields of #cryptocurrencies, smart contracts and the design of institutions. pic.twitter.com/6d6ftTG56n

— University of Basel (@UniBasel_en) November 30, 2018

Buterin joins the alumni alongside the likes of renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

The university praised him further in the Tweet, saying: ”he is an exceptionally creative and innovative thinker who has been instrumental in shaping the digital revolution from an early age.”

Buterin reportedly responded to the university in praise of its ”innovative blockchain research.”

„I’m honored to have received an honorary doctorate from the University of Basel the oldest
University of Switzerland. Switzerland is well known for its innovative blockchain research.”
Vitalik Buterin #DrButerin #Ethereum @cifunibas @TuurDemeester @aleksanderbere pic.twitter.com/G42GH1HebL

— Aleksander Berentsen (@aleksanderbere) November 30, 2018

As the academic world catches up with tech, more institutions have been including blockchain research in their agenda and more industry experts have begun to receive accolades.

Last month Monero cryptographer Joseph Liu received the prestigious Australian Computer Society’s researcher of the year award for his contributions to digital currency.

Liu is also an associate professor at Monash University, where he was congratulated and praised for his ”legitimate way [of creating] new economic and social systems.”

A recent study by Coinbase shows how popular blockchain courses are becoming for the university prospectus, particularly in the US. Nearly half of the world’s top universities offer related modules, including eight out of the top ten.

The University of Nicosia is at the top of the game when it comes to blockchain in higher education. It was both the first university in the world to offer formal education in blockchain and digital currency and the only one of its kind to offer a dedicated Masters of Science in Digital Currency.

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South Korea Chooses Blockchain Voting, New Trials Planned

South Korea’s government has plans to trial an online e-voting system based on blockchain technology.

The plans were announced by the country’s Ministry of Science and ICT and the National Election Commission (NEC). The trial will be carried out by the Seoul National University’s Blockchain Society and the Korea Internet and Security Agency (KISA).

Blockchain voting systems have been trialed in Switzerland recently and have attracted attention from other nations predominantly as a safeguard against fraud and vote rigging. The Japanese city of Tsukuba in the south of that country trialed a system in August using ID swipe cards, then encrypting votes using DLT in order for the public to be able to vote for different tech applications for a government website.

The city of Zug in Switzerland also recently trialed blockchain voting using an eID system to vote on municipal services such annual fireworks displays, digital ID library lending, digital entry ID parking fees, and electronic tax returns.

An Australian startup is supporting transparent voting in Indonesia, a country with a population of 261 million, with a 20-year history of miscalculating voting results. The company, Horizon State, is planning to launch a test case community-voter platform using blockchain on Sumatra which, if successful, will be utilized for both regional and national elections in the future.

South Korea’s system will use mobile and personal computers with gathered data stored on a distributed network which will also allow voters to follow the process and keep abreast of votes as they come in. Following the trial, the NEC will then decide on whether to proceed with a similar system for the country’s online elections, along with the addition of AI and IoT.

Terrestrial use of blockchain clearly isn’t enough for forward-thinking South Korea. In a new development, a South Korean satellite operator has expressed an interest in exploring how blockchain could be utilized within the satellite industry.

The company, KT Sat, boasting 50 years’ experience as South Korea’s sole operator, plans to bring blockchain and cybersecurity companies together through its new workgroup, the KT SAT Eco Alliance, in order to see where blockchain can be integrated into current satellite tech.

 

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Swiss Rail Workers to Ditch Paper IDs for Blockchain System

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) is aiming to improve on paper-based processes by testing a blockchain based management system for rail workers.

SBB has completed its Proof of Concept (POC) of the system which aims to eventually create digital IDs for Swiss rail workers employed at the company’s construction sites across the country. The trial, which ran over a period of six months this year, was aimed at improving current processes which are still largely paper-based. SBB’s Daniele Pallecchi commented on the program’s raison d’etre, pointing out, “Construction sites on the SBB network often involve third parties. For safety reasons, there are strict requirements regarding the qualification of personnel… explaining the need for a robust identity system.”

The blockchain solution to the problem of workers’ paper identity was the brainchild of Linum Labs, using the open-source technology of uPort. The POC allowed workers to create their own digital identities using the uPort app on their mobile devices. Once completed, SBB issued certification to verify that workers had completed training. Workers were then able to scan a QR from the app to gain entry to worksites across the rail network. Linum labs explained the process:

“Using uPort, railway workers, certification authorities and supervisors are able to have their own unique digital identities linked to their respective uPort IDs, which is then anchored to an identity on the blockchain. A hash of the worker’s check-in / check-out activities is published to the blockchain so that the internal database can be audited.”

The app isn’t limited to SBB and can hook up to other networks such as Zug ID which was also used earlier this year to enable digitalized voting. The trialed blockchain-powered vote in June of this year utilized Zug’s eID system voting on minor issues and the future of the ID system itself. Some of the municipal services that the public asked to vote on included annual fireworks displays, digital ID library lending, digital entry ID parking fees, and electronic tax returns.

Although uPort itself wasn’t directly involved in the railway project, head of product Thierry Bonfante confirmed that the company’s partners were representing them in the market. Bonfante also commented that he felt the scalability of Ethereum had been a problem. Consequently, the company is in the process of upgrading its technology.

Other than for small-scale operations, UPort’s director of business operations Alice Nawfalm argued than a more sophisticated solution would be needed for identity applications; the kind which would probably not work on a device such as a phone. To combat this the company is looking at creating a storage hub solution in the future.

 

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Swiss Stock Exchange to List World’s First Multi-Crypto Based ETP

Swiss stock exchange SIX, the fourth largest stock exchange in Europe with a market capitalization of $1.6 trillion, has followed up on its commitment made back in June of this year to open its doors to cryptocurrencies. With this announcement, it is about to list the world’s first crypto-based exchange-traded product (ETP).

Exchange-traded products (ETP) are a type of security that is derivatively priced and trades intra-day on a national securities exchange. ETPs are priced so the value is derived from other investment instruments, such as a commodity, a currency, a share price or an interest rate. Generally, ETPs are benchmarked to stocks, commodities or indices. They can also be actively managed funds. ETPs include exchange-traded funds (ETFs), exchange-traded vehicles (ETVs), exchange-traded notes (ETNs) and certificates. The ETP that is the most popular is the ETF,  securities that track an index, commodity or basket of assets.

SIX, backed by Swiss startup Amun AG, will track Bitcoin, Ripple, Ethereum. Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin with Bitcoin representing about a half of the ETP’s assets. The break down is XRP 25.4 at percent 16.7 percent in Ethereum, with Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin acquiring 5.2 and 3 percent of the market.

Amun’s co-founder and chief executive Hany Rashwan is certain that as an ETF, the security complies with the same rigorous requirements of traditional ETPs.

Amun AG’s ETP is a branch of the UK based fintech company Amun Technologies who hinted at a crypto ETP last month. Thomas Zeeb, head of securities and exchanges at SIX, sees blockchain-based digital exchanges becoming the status quo within a decade citing cost-effectiveness as a game changer within brokerage, banks, and insurance.

In the US, ETFs have hit a brick wall after the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rejected at least eight proposals in August of this year. The hope is that at least one successful approval on ETF by the SEC would bring a tidal wave of institutional buyers to the market, picking up prices and moving Bitcoin in a long-awaited upward trajectory. For the hopefuls in the market, the track record so far isn’t good.

In August, XBT Provider AB, a subsidiary of CoinShares Holdings Ltd released an exchange-traded note (ETN) called Bitcoin Tracker One in Sweden. Ryan Radloff, CEO of CoinShares Holdings commented at the time:

“Everyone that’s investing in dollars can now get exposure to these products, whereas before now, they were only available in Euros or Swedish Krona. Given the current climate on the regulatory front in the U.S., this is a big win for Bitcoin.”

Experts are now suggesting that Bitcoin ETFs will be a “way bigger deal” than cash settlement Bitcoin futures contracts and a boon to the Bitcoin market moving forward. This move out of Switzerland’s “crypto valley” is seen as another step forward towards this end.

 

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Swiss State Secretary: Standards Not Regulation Will Boost Crypto Market

Switzerland’s State Secretary has commented that fintech has moved beyond “hype-cycle” into a stage where standards are now more important than regulation. Secretary Joerg Gasser was speaking at this week’s Singapore Fintech Festival.

The Swiss minister pointed out the increased demand for fintech regulation internationally was not necessarily in the best interest of promoting the industry. Improved market efficiency within the sector has lead to a situation where more focus can now be placed on technologically-neutral regulations based on a far more collaborative approach toward blockchain technology. Standards, Gasser maintained, are now the key element moving forward.

During the panel discussion entitled ‘Capital Markets: Killer Use Case for Blockchain?’, Gasser pointed out that powerful investors are now getting into blockchain, which has increased the demand for regulation. But adoption can only be assured if industry standards continue to be maintained.

He cited his native country, Switzerland, as an example of principle-based and technology-neutral regulation, a country in which regulation was seen as cooperative rather than punitive, encouraging innovation through government support.

This was demonstrated earlier this year when Switzerland took another step along that road with the country’s stock exchange, SIX,  announcing that it will open its doors to digital currencies. The new platform being built by SIX will offer integrated post-transaction services such as deal settlement and asset custody through DLT.

SIX, regulated by national regulator Finma and the Swiss central bank, says that it plans to roll out its cryptocurrency service in the first half of 2019. SIX’s chief executive, Jos Dijsselhof commented:

“For us, it is abundantly clear that much of what is going on in the digital space is here to stay and will define the future of our industry. The financial industry now needs to bridge the gap between traditional financial services and digital communities.”

With SEBA Crypto AG expecting to be licensed as a securities dealer and bank by June of next year, it appears that banks are finally warming to the concept of digital assets. Guido Bühler, CEO of SEBA Crypto AG, suggests that five large asset managers from overseas have also shown some interest in the bank.

The bank plans to offer custodial services with plans to raise a further USD 206 million through an ICO in order to expand its operations into major financial hubs in the new year.

 

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Islamic Certification for Swiss Firm Opens Middle East Market

A Swiss-based fintech firm has successfully been certified by Islamic scholars, enabling it to trade digital currency in the Middle East.

Sharia law prohibits Muslims from lending money to anybody with the expectation of receiving interest on this amount. It regards fractional reserve lending that the majority of fiat currencies operate with as usury. Cryptocurrencies differ in this respect as they are underpinned by logistics of scarcity, appreciated by those practicing Sharia as it acts similarly to commodity trading such as gold that they adhere to.

With the news earlier this year that cryptocurrencies wouldn’t, in most circumstances, conflict with Sharia Law, the number of fintech companies moving into Sharia-compliant finance has notably increased. The Middle East, with its large Muslim population, has also become a potential hotspot for blockchain development.

The Swiss company X8 AG claims that its Ethereum-based cryptocurrency will address concerns of some Islamic scholars who are often concerned about the religious validity of cryptocurrency’s price volatility and the types of assets behind them. X8 Director Francesca Greco maintains that the fact that their cryptocurrency is backed by a basket of eight fiat currencies and gold should be a convincing enough guarantee. Greco maintains, “The Gulf region is a really good place for financial technology companies because they all want to become hubs for fintech.”

The Zug-based company which has now gained its certification from the Shariyah Review Bureau (SRB), an Islamic advisory firm licensed by Bahrain’s central bank, hopes to launch a crypto-exchange that would include a Sharia-compliant component. It has recently had meetings with other exchanges in the region.

This follows an announcement last week that another Islamic financial center, Dubai, was about to get its first cryptocurrency exchange after local media Al Zarooni Group and the Crypto Bulls announced the launch of the Crypto Bulls Exchange. Chairman of the Al Zarooni Foundation, Suhail Al Zaroon, stated:

“This will be the milestone for getting global investments opportunity from all over the globe in UAE, as all financial techs and investors are looking forward in crypto and blockchain industry.”

 

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