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Two Microsoft Patents Pending to Tighten Blockchain Security via TEE

Microsoft has applied for two new patents which would give the computer giant the potential to utilize trusted execution environments (TEEs) in its blockchain network.

A TEE in general terms offers an execution space that provides a higher level of security than a rich mobile operating system open and more functionality than a “secure element”. In more technical terms, Wikipedia describes it as:

“A trusted execution environment is a secure area of the main processor. It guarantees code and data loaded inside to be protected with respect to confidentiality and integrity.”

A TEE, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office, will store “a pre-determined type of blockchain or other security protocol code” in a “validation node”. TEE attestation will verify participants of any system where they possess matching information held within the blockchain node, which is simply a point able to receive, store and send data within the network.

A TEE may be useful in order to set up a consortium blockchain network, for example, the storage of a pre-determined blockchain list allowing secure access for members of the consortium. Also, the new technology could help verify blockchain transactions on similar networks where several pre-authorized entities must interact. This would enable direct on-chain recording without needing to decrypt certain encrypted transactions.

Reportedly, the submissions for patents were filed by Microsoft a year ago in June of 2017 but notably, Microsoft now offers blockchain application via its Azure platform, such as the newly-launched Blockchain Workbench. This promises to streamline blockchain-based application development. As one of the most popular cloud computing services, Azure provides web developers and programmers numerous different types of servers, computers and databases for rent.

 

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Germany’s Biggest Ethereum Meetup Goes 100% Dapps

Germany’s biggest Ethereum meetup in Berlin has announced that is to cover the whole event using decentralized applications (Dapps).

The event ETHBerlin will use Dapps for all services including ticketing, live streaming, hotel booking and raffles.  The event will be held at Factory Berlin, which will be held in two venues from 7 September. One is in the central district of Berlin, Mitte. The other brand new Factory venue is in the middle of the city’s startup scene, Gorlitzer Park.

Currently, there are 1,565 Dapps built on the Ethereum blockchain alone, unsurprising given Ethereum’s historical place in the development of blockchain solutions. Carl Bennet of Status.im suggests that 2019 will become a new dawn for Dapps, suggesting:

“We will see more developers and designers focusing on creating simpler and more familiar user onboarding experiences for mainstream use we’ve come to expect from the applications we use and an overall lower barrier to entry into the crypto ecosystem.”

The suggestion is that Dapps will be the key to widespread crypto adoption, beyond the payments system created by Bitcoin, offering users the ability to interact with cryptocurrencies, while navigating user-friendly mobile and desktop applications, thus bringing digital currencies to the “forefront of social consciousness”.

For this event, ETHBerlin has elected to use an Ethereum-based video streaming app along with a decentralized hotel and apartment booking platform accepting Ether. Raffles, ticketing and event management will also be covered by Ethereum based Dapps. The ETHBerlin team suggests that it is “raising the bar” with Dapps, stating:

“ETHBerlin stands strong, we think that Dapps are the future, so we’ll do whatever it takes to push adoption, and inspire you to build more of them. There is room for all… As a responsible, global community, in constant evolution, as is our ecosystem, we need to understand that it is not enough to absorb these teachings and foundations and just replicate.”

Dapps are clearly on the march this year, mainly because of the influx of funding through ICO token sales enabling further development and testing of new ideas and applications. Within the Ethereum community, there is a general feeling the Dapps are the future replacing intermediary-based centralized systems.

Critics suggest that there are scalability issues, with some suggesting that the Ethereum protocol will need a massive scaling boost to support larger platforms demanding huge transactions.

 

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Blockchain Could Become Highly Efficient Tool for Healthcare Professionals

There are frequent articles referring to blockchain and a how it can be utilized in different sectors, more recently, its implications for healthcare. With the US reportedly spending near to 20% of its GDP on healthcare, blockchain technology might be called upon sooner than later to streamline and improve services in the industry.

Forbes writer Randy Bean recently spoke to industry professionals about this trend. John Halamka, chief information officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, a Harvard University teaching hospital, was one. He has the necessary connections to discuss blockchain, having already worked on several production blockchain applications last year. He commented:

“Blockchain is not meant for storage of large data sets. Blockchain is not an analytics platform. Blockchain has very slow transactional performance. However, as a tamperproof public ledger, blockchain is ideal for proof of work. Blockchain is highly resilient.”

Halamak is also editor-in-chief of Blockchain of Healthcare Today, and he points out that it’s his job to publish “high-quality opinion pieces and research papers” about cases that really need blockchain. He said, “Just using blockchain in healthcare because it’s cool does not make sense.”

The main areas, as he sees it, where blockchain can impact healthcare. fall into three distinct areas; medical records, consent management and micropayments.

In terms of keeping medical records, what blockchain really lends to this is a sense of integrity due to the irrefutable nature of the information once generated on the blockchain. This includes clinical trials where the results will remain tamper-free and stand up under legal examination.

Consent management principally includes the sharing of data between a number of participants and those not listed on a blockchain on a particular case can be easily identified just as those permitted to view a medical file would have authorized access.

In terms of patient incentives, the blockchain can also attach awards related to a patient committing to and completing a certain medical process or term of treatment, or even rewarded for medical trials.

Another industry professional, Greg Matthews, creator of MDigitalLife, a platform for tracking digital trends in healthcare, suggests that blockchain could be really significant in terms of that way it can give medical professionals a clear view of the bigger picture of a patients health. He points out:

“Blockchain could make the biggest impact in healthcare in enabling health outcomes that take a 360° view of the patient’s genetic profile, their demographic and socioeconomic status, the behaviours that impact their health, and their response to different treatments or combinations of treatments.”

He argues that today this is not so easy using tradition data storage methods:

“This data exists today in one form or another, but can be tremendously difficult to stitch together at an individual level. Blockchain can enable “profile stitching”, and do so in such a way that the patient’s identity is protected.”

 

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Copenhagen Uni Blockchain School Up and Running with Latest Training

A blockchain school in Copenhagen is off and running again for the third consecutive year, offering the latest innovative training for those entering the industry.

The school was initially created through a collaboration between the University of Copenhagen, IT University of Copenhagen, and Copenhagen Business School. It promotes blockchain as “a revolutionary technology that has the potential to disrupt multiple industries” and describes its primary focus as training its students in the latest developments in the industry, claiming:

“The design and implementation of blockchain-based systems require interdisciplinary knowledge as well as mindful consideration of broader economic and societal issues.”

The week-long annual program in Denmarks’s capital was described by Dr Omri Ross, CEO of Firmo and assistant professor for the University of Copenhagen’s computer science department:

“Blockchain is an incredible technology because it encompasses a wide array of disciplines from cryptography to mathematics, computer science, law, business, and economics. Students in the program have the chance to apply deep technical knowledge to real cases that we develop with existing industry players and cutting-edge crypto companies.”

The program targets primarily PhD students, with the course also including masters students and industry professionals. Dr Ross suggested that it was currently important to spread information about blockchain tech over a broad audience, and not simply limit this to academics, professionals or developers. He saw blockchain as having a more widespread significance across a range of sectors in the future as it becomes more mainstream.

Partnerships with the university this year reflect the cross-sector nature of the programme including a contribution from the World Wildlife Foundation. All the latest industry developments are covered by the course, again reflecting the holistic nature of blockchain. Dr Ross explained:

“While we do work on Ethereum-based Dapp development we are also collaborating with QTUM’s protocol (they are the second biggest blockchain in China) as well as the protocols of Ontology, Hyperledger, and Firmo.”

 

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Sun Exchange Plans to Provide Africa’s Poor with Crypto-Funded Energy

Sun Exchange, the global micro-leasing marketplace, is announcing a new partnership with Powerhive which aims to use the crypto economy to offer decentralized solar power to poorer nations.

With over one billion of the world’s population still living without electricity, the new project between the two companies aims to eradicate worldwide energy poverty by using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to harness sustainable solar power.

AfricaPowerhive will be the beneficiary of funds generated from the sale of Sun Exchange’s SUNEX rewards tokens by public sale. The money will then be spent on developing solar-powered mini-grid projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. The project will allow for the solar panels used to be sold off later to Sun Exchange members who will, in turn, own the cells used in the projects and subsequently profit from a sustained period of “solar-powered money”. Sun Exchange founder and CEO Abraham Cambridge is reported to have said in a press release that:

“Together, we are working towards a world where no one is forced to cook with unsafe kerosene or wood-burning stoves, no child has to worry about how they will study after dark, and lack of energy access ceases to propel cycles of poverty.”

The project will raise in the region of USD 23 million in capital and finance 150 new projects offering 175,000 people electricity.

Powerhive has other projects underway in Africa, such as its Kuku Poa initiative which uses solar power for chicken incubation. Powerhive founder and CEO Christopher Hornor explained that the crypto-community is not simply in it for financial gain and is made up of “inspired individuals” who support crypto projects such as this that clearly work towards reducing global inequality and making a significant climatic impact. He added:

“Over the past seven years, Powerhive has built a vertically integrated platform that allows us to identify, construct and operate the highest quality and lowest cost solar-powered mini-grids in Africa.”

Sun Exchange works from the perspective of being highly respected for the humanitarian work it carries out the field of fintech and has piloted a blockchain-based program on behalf on the UN, as well as winning the Mondato Award for Social Impact in Sub Saharan Africa.

The company has been recognized as the best blockchain business in Africa at the African Fintech Awards for the past two years running.

 

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Crypto Trading Bots: Why It May Be Easier to Train Your Dog

Is there a correct way to use cryptocurrency bots in order to enhance trader’s profits and if so, how? Ruchi Gupta asked the question in CryptoGlobe, questioning the effectiveness of automated crypto trading.

Cryptocurrency bots, as the name implies, are robotic. They are promoted as an easy way of trading, as they run on autopilot and don’t rely on the investors’ every waking minute. The tool is designed to make trading decisions on the investor’s behalf according to a pre-tailored algorithm, based either on the trader’s own algorithm or a trading strategy built in by the developer. The more advanced the algorithm, the more likely is a profit can be gained, or so it’s reported.

The crypto bot’s main advantage is peace of mind, as the devices will take of business while traders sleep. No more disturbing “what if” thoughts; everything is in hand and algorithms work for the trader.

So why isn’t everyone using them and putting their attention to more important business while they manufacture money on autopilot?

It appears that off-the-shelf bots with fixed algorithms may be fine in the long term but apparently, they won’t last. Because of the dynamism and fluctuating fortunes of the cryptocurrency market, it’s hard to establish any sense of permanent strategy using the bots, resulting in diminishing results for the expectant trader as time moves on.

To overcome this problem, the latest development is the AI bot, also seemingly suited to those who need to rely on others’ expertise as their own ability to tackle the complexities of trading in the cryptocurrency market is lacking.  The crypto bots with artificial intelligence are a step down that road from the off-the-shelf model, also integrating the capabilities of the custom-built variety, which normally relies on more specific trader knowledge. The AI bots are able to modify strategies to suit the condition of the market, reprogramming themselves as they do so, requiring no further trader intervention, apparently doing the job of both.

If this seems to be the solution for the new crypto trader, the bad news is that a robot is still incapable of accounting for every variable in the market that might affect trade and volume. It’s a robot. It lacks human intuition and, most importantly, given today’s crypto media full of hype, spin, and fake news, basically, it can become confused, limiting its ability to read the market accurately.

So back to square one?

The advice to new traders with a limited knowledge of the cryptocurrency market is, do your homework first before you train your bot.

 

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Blockchain Can Have Huge Impact on Failing Economies and Developing Countries

Blockchain, as an emerging technology, is proving that its breadth and scope offers many significant new approaches to a range of societal, economic, technological, ecological, and commercial problems, particularly in emergent economies.

Failing economies and developing countries, many of which are located on the African continent where poverty is rife, such as Congo, Zimbabwe and Eritrea, are just a handful of African countries listed among the world’s poorest nations. Private companies and NGOs are finding that increasingly new technologies can be utilized to provide solutions to problems that have often added to these struggling economies.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, devastated by a protracted war which has caused the death of 5.4 million people, is listed as the world’s poorest nation. A project is set to be launched this year using blockchain in order to provide manufacturers of devices such as iPhones the guarantee that cobalt in their Lithium-ion batteries has not been mined by children. The tracking of cobalt in the Congo is an enormous problem due to numerous informal mine sites and many of them being worked by children.

Amnesty International researcher Mark Dummett said, “You have to be wary of technological solutions to problems that are also political and economic, but blockchain may help. We’re not against it.”

Congo holds half of the world’s cobalt reserves and demand for the main mineral component of lithium-ion batteries is set to surge as electric cars proliferate. In 2016, Congo mined 54% of the 123,000 tons of cobalt produced worldwide, according to Reuters. Also, automaker Volkswagen is trying to secure long-term cobalt supplies to sustain their own electric car production, but need verification that no child labor has been involved in the production.

Companies are now looking to blockchain solutions for such problems as pressure grows to demonstrate a supply chain free of rights abuses to both consumers and investors.

Venezuela, suffering from crippling hyperinflation, is turning to Bitcoin and various other ways of tapping into cryptocurrencies in order to provide life’s simple necessities for many citizens of that country, as Bitcoin News has reported. Also, Haiti with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of USD 810 at the last census, began looking at blockchain in 2017. The government suggested then that blockchain tech could be used to register and record property transactions, government-licensed assets, intellectual property and voting.

According to Crypto Daily, Paul Domjan, global head of research, analytics and data at investment bank Exotix, sees emerging nations as the greatest beneficiaries of new technology, particularly in the area of ownership recording, arguing:

“…frontier markets in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia lag far behind, with average performance less than half that of the best performing economies.”

Hade Platform has identified what they see as the main areas that blockchain technology will impact developing countries in the future such as: easing the provision of government services, land tenure documentation and processing, provision of identity services, enhancing the freedom of speech and participation in anti-corruption activities.

 

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Crypto More Than Ready to Become Mainstream: Imperial College London

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin offer a viable alternative to money and could become mainstream within the next decade, according to recent Imperial College and eToro reports.

The new academic research entitled ‘Cryptocurrencies: Overcoming Barriers to Trust and Adoption’ by Professor William Knottenbelt from Imperial College London and Dr Zeynep Gurguc from Imperial College Business School has made a case for mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies over the next ten years.

The research argues that, due to the evolution of money over time, through shells being replaced by promissory notes, then coins and paper money, the rise of digital money is simply a natural step.

This view is by no means revolutionary. As Bitcoin News reported recently, Shanna McEachern, writing in the Global Banking and Finance Review, made a similar analogy using Darwinism to explain the arrival of cryptocurrency.

As McEachern pointed out, evolution occurs through the survival of small, inheritable mutations that render a species better able to survive and flourish through slow change and impact of initial change makers. There is no “eureka” moment, she claims. This is true as, over time, careful research ideas are developed, considered, tested and finally released into the public domain. Such was the case with Newton, only releasing his theories on gravity 20 years after he commenced his research.

The new research offers by Professor William Knottenbelt offers three constant features which define the term “money” factors which are all shared by Bitcoin, in that money has a store of value, it is a medium of exchange and it is a measure of value in the economic system.

Of this evolution, Professor Knottenbelt from Imperial said:

“The world of cryptocurrency is evolving as rapidly as the considerable collection of confusing terminology that accompanies it. These decentralized technologies have the potential to upend everything we thought we knew about the nature of financial systems and financial assets.”

Six factors need to be addressed in order for a mainstream scenario to exist for digital money, according to the research: scalability, usability, regulation, volatility, incentives and privacy.

Professor Knottenbelt argues everything is in place for cryptocurrency’s next major step, saying:

“There’s a lot of skepticism over cryptocurrencies and how they could ever become a day-to-day payment system used by the man on the street. In this research, we show that cryptocurrencies have already made significant headway towards fulfilling the criteria for becoming a widely accepted method of payment.”

 

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Bank of Finland’s FUD Main Feature of New Report on “Fallacy” of Crypto

The Bank of Finland has released a paper explaining why the country’s central bank regards cryptocurrencies as a “fallacy”, writes Cointelegraph.

The paper, reading like a film title and dramatically called the ‘The Grand Illusion of Cryptocurrencies’, was written by Aleksi Grym, whose improbable role at the bank is ‘Adviser on Digitalization and Head of the Digital Central Bank process in the Financial Stability and Statistics Department’.

Grym’s paper suggests that DLTs are no different from other record keeping systems and cryptocurrencies as they demonstrate how poorly understood money is today as a concept. It claims that they muddle “our sense of fact and fiction”.

“For all intents and purposes, that ledger is a centralized ledger. The fact that there are multiple synchronized copies of it, distributed across a network, is irrelevant, as each one has the same data,” it argues.

He adds, erroneously, that cryptocurrency is “unrelated to the fundamental characteristics of money”, as money functions as a unit of exchange, and has a store value which digital currencies such as Bitcoin don’t.

The report bases its findings on several studies of cryptocurrencies conducted by Finland’s central bank, siding with the “speculative bubble” theory; a term used by many Bitcoin detractors elsewhere to argue against its adoption. Grym adds that a CBDC would be tantamount to a bank account at the central bank. Money, he argues, is created from “liquidity transformation”, not thin air.

The article reflects some legislators view that cryptocurrency is used for criminal activity or is security against “real or imagined” state oppression, or even simply the thrill of trading.

Bitcoin and digital currencies have had numerous detractors over past years, but perhaps not so blatantly at the state level, with perhaps the exception of China. Popular media has played a fundamental role in this.

As Gareth Jenkinson, writing for Cointelegraph, recently pointed out, accuracy, for one thing, is out of control often allowing subjectivity taking over its place. In this way, he writes, “cryptocurrency has forced its way into the minds of the masses” but usually through the popular media, damaging the fundamental truths about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in the process:

“The spin, positive or negative, will be dependent on how the sector grows and addresses its own shortcomings in order to build trust and understanding in the global community”.

 

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Russian Defence Ministry Initiates Anti Hacking Unit Using Blockchain Tech

Russia’s Defense Ministry has got behind a plan to fight cybercrime in Russian military infrastructure information systems, writes Cryptovest.

The ministry has initiated a program to enhance cybersecurity by setting up a special unit using a unique research laboratory at the Anapa-based ERA technopark to track the origins of cyber assaults. The unit will use blockchain technology to improve the systems database security.

Kaspersky Lab anti-virus expert Alexey Malanov suggests that blockchain can help to minimize the risks by distributing permission logs, often cleared by hackers to hide their activity. The Russian military has internet-enabled devices and systems which they use for workflow management and accountancy, which make their systems up to now vulnerable to cyber attacks.

The Russian 8th Directorate of General Staff will be responsible for research and development under the new program using the ERA facility. Its normal role is state secret protection and information security. The facility is known for building intelligent systems which detect and prevent computer attacks within the Russian military infrastructure. The facility may become an IT hub for the whole country, according to the government.

Russia is not the only country considering how blockchain may be used to improve the workability of defense and information systems. Both NATO and the Pentagon use blockchain to protect from cyber attacks to safeguard their data systems.

West Virginia’s Secretary of State’s Office announced earlier this year that a new pilot program is being tested that will allow overseas military personnel to vote from their mobile phones. The military personnel will be able to vote via a blockchain-based app using their state ID. The Secretary of State stated that he wanted to offer overseas personnel a mobile, verifiable, transparent, and more secure system than currently exists.

The US navy won’t miss out either. Because blockchain is able to centralize computing power across multiple nodes, it may have numerous applications to enhance military hardware and, according to Coin Central, has the potential to become a feature of battleship systems of the future, by coordinating weapon control and neutralizing threats.

 

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