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Music Industry Reflections, Predictions on Blockchain Influence

Music Industry Reflections, Predictions on Blockchain Influence

As the end of 2018 approaches, some major blockchain players have been looking at what 2019 may offer, taking note that emerging technologies have already found a comfortable home within the music industry this year.

Blockchain is the first that springs to mind, and as Accenture Consulting wrote in a recent post, “with blockchain on the horizon, every company of every industry must re-evaluate their role in the value chain — where once again, the music industry is leading the pack.”

How then has the music industry taken this leadership role if these claims are accurate? Alan Goodman compares the influence of blockchain in the years to comes as perhaps rivaling that of MTV which completely revolutionized music sales and gave something back to the creators of the music:

“Thanks to MTV there was a whole new ecosystem around music. We didn’t just see video making as something that propelled musicians. Musicians were suddenly at the fulcrum of new businesses, and new ways of thinking about business.”

Goodman has another role apart from being a founding member of MTV. He is now current Chief Brand Leviator at blockchain payment solutions company Aeryus. He adds:

“More recently, we’ve seen how musicians who understand community building can control their own destinies by conquering social media, crowdfunding, and digital channel creation. But blockchain will have a massive impact on how we do business in music because of the revolutionary decentralized infrastructure.”

Not all in the music industry support Goodman’s utopian view of the future. But Adrian Miller, CEO of Xyion and architect behind recording artist Anderson Paak, doesn’t see much changing in the year to come regarding blockchains impact on the industry and is one of those who believes that the hype surrounding blockchain is little more than just that. He argues:

“Enterprise sales to a few large incumbents is one of the hardest things to do and it can take years, maybe a decade to see results. From that standpoint, I don’t understand how these blockchain-based systems make enough money to exist at scale because they are trying to provide a lower cost and faster solution compared to existing databases.”

He maintains that blockchains are no better than the databases the industry has grown up with, and are slower and more expensive on the whole. Miller says he’d prefer to continue his blockchain research but also pursue more traditional ways of promoting his artists, through promo and album releases.

Facundo M Diaz, Executive Director at Reality Code Foundation, sees extended reality (XR) technology as the future:

“Many artists are finding ways to creatively explore new business opportunities in XR. With approximately 171 million VR users, and AR in every mobile device, the motivation for the music industry to expand their business in these new technologies is huge, but they still need to understand the best way to create something that inspires users to pay.”

He sees 2019 as the opening up of musical talent through adopting XR technology, “creating new and amazing ways to experience music”.

Finally, Bryan Calhoun, head of Digital Strategy at Blueprint Group, an entertainment management firm representing top recording talent, sees ticketing as the area in which blockchain will make the biggest impact.

“I think the two biggest opportunities revolve around rights management and ticketing. Both are going to take time to get done correctly, but companies like Dot BC, Tari, and Big Neon are, respectively, leading the way with exciting projects that have traction.”

 

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Dutch Central Bank Takes Closer Look at Exchanges

Dutch Central Bank Takes Closer Look at Exchanges

The Dutch Central Bank, De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) has announced its plans to impose regulations on cryptocurrency exchanges in the country in order to counter money laundering and fundraising for terrorist activities.

In future, registering exchanges will need to ensure that any “unusual transactions” are reported and that exchanges’ KYC rules are tightened.

The new legislation was not completely unexpected by the Dutch cryptocurrency community. The central bank has long been unreceptive to the idea of digital currency, maintaining back in November of 2017 that Bitcoin had no real worth. According to DNB regional director Petra Hielksma at that time, “If something wants to be treated as money, you have to be able to spend, save and calculate with it.”

The Netherlands has been quick to find numerous worthy use cases for DLT, particularly in projects that support local communities, health, and civic pride. The larger community has been mainly positive towards cryptocurrencies too, despite the country’s Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra proposing a ban on cryptocurrency advertising and trying to douse enthusiasm.

Arnhem, near the German border, has become the country’s crypto haven, where Bitcoin can be used to buy anything from bread to beer using Bitcoin and other major currencies. Despite the DNB’s concerns about cryptocurrency, approximately 60% of the households in the Netherlands have some cryptocurrency investment.

However, the DNB points to the more than USD 88 million reportedly laundered over 46 cryptocurrency exchanges around the globe during the past two years, as enough evidence that the government needs to take firmer measures with exchanges with regard to money laundering and other illegal activities.

In terms of expressing a social conscience though, the nation continues to demonstrate its progressive uses for blockchain by forming partnerships with the World Bank, the UN, and the EU Forum. Earlier this year, the Dutch government announced that the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy had created a special unit devoted to researching the ways in which blockchain technology could be harnessed to provide reliability in the area of tech development while being energy sustainable.

 

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IBM Identifies Blockchain Pioneers within Automotive Industry

IBM Identifies Blockchain Pioneers within Automotive Industry

Computing giant IBM has published a report that details the extent of the impact that blockchain can have in the automotive industry with favorable findings. The report identifies “Auto Pioneers” who are aggressively pursuing blockchain with significant investments into researching the technology.

Results

Titled Daring to be first: How auto pioneers are taking the plunge into blockchain, the study is the result of a survey in which 1,314 automotive executives took part, namely original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers. The survey had a global reach with respondents coming from ten countries including the United States, China, Germany, and India.

To begin with, the study found that a majority of both OEMs (61%) and suppliers (62%) believed that within the next three years, blockchain would be a disruptive force. Additionally, the study found that 56% of OEMs and 52% of suppliers believe that investments made into blockchain by their respective companies will be “highly influenced by the opportunity to develop new business models”. According to the study, newer models such as on-demand ridesharing could benefit from blockchain solutions that are geared toward fleet management services. For OEMs, there is a strong opportunity for blockchain in this area to manage payment transactions, enhance participant authentication and so on.

The nascent nature of the blockchain industry rolls in tandem with the very early stages of implementation on a commercial scale. As a result, very few executives felt that their organization was prepared for the tech. Only 10% of suppliers felt they were prepared, compared to OEMs (32%) who appear to be more confident in this context. The IBM study offers some context for this by adding that among executives, there is a general lack of understanding of their companies’ blockchain strategies, 39% of OEMs and 51% of suppliers were only “slightly aware” of such strategies.

Obstacles

Furthermore, skill shortages were cited as a concern among the survey’s respondents; a decent proportion of both OEMs (37%) and suppliers (42%) found this to be the case. In the instance of perceived barriers, “regulatory constraints” also appeared to be an issue – OEMs (42%), suppliers (33%).

When it comes to taking action, OEMs are ahead of suppliers; the report notes that most of the “action is still in the experimentation phase”, and it also found that only 12% of OEMs and 28% of supplier executives could confirm that their companies aren’t even considering blockchain at present.

Among the numerous data-points to take away from the IBM study, there is a particular strand of survey respondents that proved to be far more proactive in their pursuit of the tech.

Eager

Dubbed as “Auto Pioneers”, these respondents are positioned in this category due to the meeting two criteria points they meet. One, they “report familiarity” with their organization’s blockchain strategy, and secondly, these participants have reported that their companies are in one of three stages: experimenting, piloting or implementing. For clarity, it should be noted that Auto Pioneers make up only 15% of the total surveyed.

These Auto Pioneers are moving rapidly into the space, with 95% of them to be “investing aggressively” into blockchain, compared to 56% of other OEMs and 26% of other suppliers. Additionally, Auto Pioneers are set to lead the way across the board when it comes down to new business models that will influence blockchain investments.

Other takeaways include:

  • 54% of executives expect new business models to influence investments in blockchain.
  • At least 50% of the OEM executives in each country believe that blockchain solutions will have a high impact on fleet management services.
  • 55% of OEMs and 47% of suppliers say implementing blockchain will improve imperfect information in their business networks.

According to a press release, Ben Stanley, Automotive Research for IBM’s Institute of Business Value said: “We are in the very early stages for blockchain in auto, but there lies huge potential… In 2019 we expect to see blockchain start to really take off, particularly with secure data sharing, car and rideshare transactions and in-vehicle marketplaces.”

 

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12 Days of Coinbase Targets Venezuelan Border Town

12 Days of Coinbase Targets Venezuelan Border Town

The traditional 12 days of Christmas started yesterday crypto-style with Coinbase using the song to promote its worldwide services, focusing Day 2 on Venezuelan families in need.

In tune with the season of goodwill, the global exchange giant based in San Francisco, California, has promised to make an announcement that will profit someone each day leading up the big day itself.

Day 1 saw Coinbase announcing that users could buy gift cards so that family and friends could get some Uber, Adidas and Nike surprises through its U-gift program. For those hoping that materialism of this kind was a little too “Christmas Carol” for a multi-national, they have pushed the boat out a bit more on the second day with a gift which feels more befitting a company with such huge profits.

Venezuela continues to somehow avoid major news networks despite a humanitarian crisis there which is gradually becoming more intense by the day.

With a virtually non-existent virtual currency, the Petro, doing absolutely nothing to lift the economy, and inflation rising at alarming rates, eclipsing Germany in the Second World War, nationals are fleeing to neighboring South American countries for refuge. Venezuela is not in good shape, despite Bitcoin donations pouring in to alleviate pressure on some families. The local currency the Bolivar is now almost worthless.

Coinbase is donating USD 10,000 in ZCash (ZEC) to GiveCrypto.org, a nonprofit organization that distributes cryptocurrency to people living in poverty. The idea is that courtesy of Coinbase, GiveCrypto.org will donate USD 1 a day to the wallets of over 100 families living in the Venezuelan border town of Santa Elana de Uairen, located in Bolívar state near the border with Brazil and Guyana.

Recipients can spend their donated crypto on basic supplies and food over a period of three months in Santa Elana de Uairen. The USD 1 worth of crypto a day will allow families to buy 1-2 kilos of protein or 2 kilos of starches and vegetables every day.

 

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Macron’s Got Problems but Blockchain Ain’t One

Macron's Got Problems but Blockchain Ain't One

French President Emmanuel Macron is seeing his popularity wane by the day due to his planned reforms for business and industry but new technologies appear to be flourishing under the current government, regardless of current discontentment.

Blockchain, in particular, has been earmarked and the latest news of IBM’s new initiatives and investments which should bring 1,800 jobs to France won’t hurt either. Nor will IBM’s new French project with P-TECH to support the disadvantages in finding work. In fact, France is on the crest of a blockchain wave currently, despite Macron’s reforms being soundly rejected. With overturned cars burning in Paris streets it seems hard to imagine that French politicians have got anything right under the current regime.

Perhaps a hint of this shifting focus towards new technologies by a Macron government was the dabbling with taxation this year, with the government finally settling on dropping the tax on cryptocurrency to 17%… for the time being. Clearly, the government doesn’t want to stifle an industry which it is now openly promoting, suggesting that it should now benefit from an EUR 500 million  state handout.

Member of the National Assembly, Laure de La Raudière, is one of those calling for the money, who sees efficiency as an end product arguing that government should follow private industry’s lead using DLT. She says: “I draw the alarm: it’s time to invest. There are not yet established positions in the world.”

She also cited the certification of diplomas or administrative documents as potential use cases. France’s Prime Minister Édouard Philippe is another sold on blockchain although taking some criticism on the subject of allowing Bitcoin to be dispersed in tabacs around France via a ticketing system. In other areas, he’s on safer ground:

“Take the example of agribusiness. To have an interesting blockchain in terms of traceability and food security, it is necessary to bring together distributors, producers, logisticians, the industrialists… And do not let only one actor manage the network as Carrefour or Casino can do today.”

Carrefour was the first to set the blockchain clock ticking with its produce monitoring program being introduced into some of its supermarkets earlier this year, a move recently followed in Spain.

The multi-party suggestion that France should receive massive financial banking to promote blockchain has occurred according to De la Raudière because she believes that she is not alone in wanting to see France as a leader rather than a follower in Europe. She argues, “France must have a conquering philosophy on the subject with the State in the first place, both as a user and federator of projects.”

Other suggestions coming from the recent parliamentary report highlight a call for the opening of bank accounts for blockchain-centered businesses which must register with the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), the French stock market regulator.

 

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Australian Beef Heading to Shanghai on the Blockchain

Australian Beef Heading to Shanghai on the Blockchain

An Australian logistics insurance company is to partner with blockchain platform BeefLedger on a pilot to test supply chain tracking for beef exports to Shanghai.

National Transport Insurance (NTI) has over 45 years of experience and is Australia’s biggest truck insurer. It established the internationally recognized National Truck Accident Research Centre (NTARC) which provides critical data and insight into serious heavy vehicle crashed via the Major Accident Investigation Report.

With BeefLedger, the aim is to improve food safety, export security and animal welfare in Australia via a DLT platform which will monitor and track supply chain performance. As an insurance company, NTI has acknowledged the advantages of mitigating supply chain risks and eliminating risky insurance commitments.

The final destination for the Australian beef is Shanghai, China where the meat will arrive frozen after being sent from a plant in Casino, New South Wales after receipt of cattle direct from South Australia. NTI CEO Tony Clark commented on the pilot:

“We’re excited by the prospects this presents across several streams of Australian industry: agriculture, animal welfare, transport, and logistics. While it’s early stages, we’re optimistic of the outcomes and learning, and what it potentially means for Australian suppliers, exporters, and consumers.”

Australia is currently the world’s largest beef exporter behind India and Brazil and as such, a major blockchain trial such as this could have major implications for both logistics and insurance with regard to supply chain management in the future, particularly in the way that new technologies are added on. Australia currently has 45,000 active cattle producers around the country.

BeefLedger chairman Warwick Powell stated the China effect, just has it has done in the exploration and mining of Australian minerals, is equally responsible for the spike in demand for beef products by the Chinese public as the economy increases in value. He claims that the Chinese have been increasingly cautious about maintaining ethical practices regarding the transportation of livestock:

“Research shows us that ethical standards and concerns for animal welfare, along with authenticity and proof of product origin, are amongst the top priorities for Chinese consumers. It’s also what’s driving consumer interest in Australian produce.”

Food fraud has been an issue in China including rice, also resulting in a collaborative merger this time between the Wuchang municipal government in the northeastern Heilongjiang province of China with Ant Financial and Alipay, using blockchain to monitor products after fraudulent rice sales activity in the region.

 

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UK MP Calls for Bitcoin Payment for Taxes, Utilities

UK MP Calls for Bitcoin Payment for Taxes, Utilities

Eddie Hughes, a member of the UK parliament and outspoken promoter of blockchain and cryptocurrency, has again raised eyebrows among his more conservative peers with pro-Bitcoin declarations.

Hughes has suggested that citizens should be given the option to pay their council taxed to local authorities in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ether. Council tax is levied monthly on households in the UK to fund local services, introduced in 1993 to replace the poll tax which caused riots in some parts of Britain due to its unpopularity. It is British householders’ largest annual payment to government apart from income taxes.

Hughes argues that if people can donate to charity using Bitcoin, they should also be able to pay bills in the same way, including monthly or quarterly utilities payments as is done in some parts of Australia after the federal government there announced that welfare payments could now be delivered over blockchain through its Centrelink system. The Australian Department of Health is now actively using blockchain for the storage of medical research records. The MP argued that this integration of cryptocurrency into such areas needs to happen in the UK:

“Only recently I met with the RNLI [Royal National Lifeboat Institution] which is now accepting charitable donations through cryptocurrency – if we can do that, what’s to stop us being able to pay council tax and other bills with Bitcoin?”

Earlier this year, Hughes released a paper on blockchain published by FREER, an initiative from the country’s Institute of Economic Affairs for promoting freedom in the economy and society. His report, Unlocking Blockchain, advocated a public-facing chief blockchain officer to oversee the UK’s blockchain strategy.

He also made recommendations in his report urging Theresa May’s government to focus more readily on blockchain technologies, citing social freedom, increasing efficiency and the rebuilding of societal trust as the main areas of its use in governance. The report also suggested that a long-term target of a 1% efficiency saving using blockchain tech should become its aim over the next year, saving up to GBP 8 billion on the 2017/18 budget.

UK MPs have become increasingly vocal on cryptocurrency and bitcoin. Another MP, Matt Hancock, delivered a speech to the Law Society earlier this year asserting that blockchain technology will have a “monumental impact” on people’s lives in the future. He spoke of “vast areas of public life” that he predicted blockchain would transform: the financial sector, government services, and laws and regulation.

MP Stephen Hammond, who joined the advisory board of cryptocurrency exchange IronX, commented:

“The only way cryptocurrencies will be trusted and become accepted in the traditional business environment is through regulation… This includes governments, policymakers, regulators and the financial services industry. Governments cannot afford to be ambiguous in their stance and need to engage with the industry.”

 

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Bitcoin-Powered Stock Trading: A Future Without Fiat?

Bitcoin-Powered Stock Trading: A Future Without Fiat?

Quantitative financier Amatsu Soyonobu, with co-worker Tagawa Hayashida, has come up with their own use case for Bitcoin, after the new CEO left his Silicon Valley job in search of achieving his goal to find a value case for Bitcoin outside its store value.

Soyonobu, an ex-Apple software manager, decided to take things into his own hands as an act of frustration against what he felt was a lack of real use applications for Bitcoin.

The two Japanese text experts have created WCX, a trading platform allowing for access to global financial markets simply using Bitcoin. Users can choose to go long or short on more than 100 markets, with all profits and losses paid out in Bitcoin. The idea of removing the need to use fiat on such trading markets has really excited the Japanese entrepreneur, particularly in the savings that can be offered to customers:

“There’s obviously something here. People love how easy and fast it is to trade using Bitcoin rather than non-programmable money like the dollar. We can offer 0% fees on deposits, withdrawals, and trades because we said no to fiat. We consider Bitcoin our competitive advantage.”

Since the company’s October launch, WCX has pulled in 125,000 traders for 189 countries with a notional trading volume in excess of USD 1 billion. Soyonobu offers almost instantaneous depositing and withdrawals but there are drawbacks which WCX are trying to overcome; the principal problem being the security of client funds. Soyonobu comments:

“Security is our top priority. We use the most tested and secure wallet architecture, which includes cold/hot wallet segregation. We keep 98% of customer funds in cold offline wallets, out of reach from attackers. Hot wallets are used to process withdrawals quickly. They’re protected with state of the art security and insured against theft.”

WCX is Swiss registered, hinting at its credibility due to Switzerland’s demanding screening process and adherence to the latest KYC laws.

 

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South Korea’s Shinhan Bank Considers Blockchain to Mitigate Human Error in Banking

Shinhan Bank Considers Blockchain to Mitigate Human Error in Banking

South Korea’s second-largest commercial bank, Shinhan Bank, has begun working on a blockchain-based angle in reducing human errors in banking processes.

It is the latest in a string of blockchain initiatives being pursued by a growing number of financial institutions as information technology pursues tighter integration with traditional financial services.

An initial step was taken to integrate blockchain with interest rate swap – a complex financial contract – involving the exchange of fixed interest rates from a floating rate or vice versa in order to mitigate the risks of exposure to fluctuations. It appears that Shinhan Bank is the first as a local financial services firm to implement the technology adopted last month.

The bank has found a use for smart contracts in automated processing of derivative transactions, such that tasks handled by bank staff are now conducted through a computer program. The Korean Times reported that this “leaves no room for error thereby improving accuracy and reliability of work products”.

Now, the bank wants to resolve to handle financial record-keeping on the blockchain, as a ledger with immutable and accurately efficient properties. This is expected to improve the overall efficiency of banking operations.

Shinhan Bank has been investing months of research and training of its staff via its blockchain lab department, familiarizing them with blockchain and its applications.

The bank declared: “The program will be expanded after it proves to be stable. We will continue to develop new technology that can be put in place for various departments.”

Some of the departments the bank is seeking to apply the technology to include financing businesses with export or import, lending, derivatives, stocks, bonds, foreign currency exchange or remittance and pension, as well as processes “that require frequent data sharing and verification with outside bodies”.

As reported by another local media outlet about a year ago, Shinhan Bank announced that it was creating a cryptocurrency wallet service for its customers and that it was doing so to leverage the “strong security of the bank and the advantages of cryptocurrency”. It had also formed a partnership with KT platform service in August to develop blockchain technology service.

The blockchain use case in South Korea continues up the trend with expansion from fintech to other industries. Continuous developments in both cryptocurrency and blockchain-related affairs seem to be happening because of the country’s pro-industry policies and incubation support.

 

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Abu Dhabi Oil Joins IBM to Explore Blockchain for Supply Chain

Abu Dhabi Oil Joins IBM to Explore Blockchain for Supply Chain

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has announced its collaboration with IBM to develop a blockchain-based supply chain system for its daily output of 3 billion barrels of oil and 10.5 cubic feet of natural gas.

The announcement was made at the recent World Energy Capital Assembly event in London, where ADNOC Digital Unit Manager Abdul Nasser Al Mughairbi said, “We believe this could be the first application of blockchain in oil and gas production accounting anywhere in the world.”

The pilot project as reported in the release will involve the development of an automated system to integrate financial accountability of oil and gas production throughout the “full value chain”. This implies that the corporation will be able to track transactions and volumes of oil produced within its system.

The objective of the collaboration is to enable ADNOC to explore blockchain potentials in improving cost and time efficiency between operating companies. According to the state-owned oil company, the new technology will shave off valuable time for ADNOC operating companies when executing transactions.

ADNOC’s adoption of blockchain will improve cost tracking activities of oil and gas products, as well as by-products such as condensates, natural gas liquid and sulphur, which are “exchanged between ADNOC’s operating companies and also exported to customers overseas”.

IBM’s Chemicals and Petroleum Solutions VP Zahid Habib said, “With this pilot, ADNOC takes a massive leap forward in asset provenance and asset financials… reinvent [its] hydrocarbon value chain… accelerating ADNOC towards their 2030 vision”, which includes cost efficiency.

ADNOC is one of the world’s leading diversified energy and petrochemicals groups and according to Oil & Gas Journal, it holds a major portion of the seventh-largest oil reserves of the world located in the UAE.

ADNOC CEO HE Dr Sultan Al Jaber, at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC), said, “… the world is on the verge of an era of unprecedented prosperity. This will be driven, he said, by rapid advances in technology and a global middle class, which will grow to five billion people by 2030.”

Despite the cryptocurrency market downturn this year, blockchain development with the UAE industries continues in a steadfast manner.

Last week, Abu Dhabi financial institutions completed Phase 1 of blockchain e-KYC aimed at testing the operational and technological values of a blockchain-based KYC system while adapting its infrastructure to current businesses with sustainable models.

Not too far back, the UAE Bank performed its first Sharia-compliant bonds transaction on the blockchain, paving the way for innovative digitized Islamic Sukuk.

 

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