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China Vs USA: Who is Winning the Blockchain Battle?

China Vs USA_ Who is Winning the Blockchain Battle_

China and the US are the superpowers of the 21st century and their respective blockchain innovations have both countries at the top of the technological leaderboard. As the two countries face off in a highly publicized trade war, many people are also looking to see which nation is winning the blockchain battle.

The blockchain jobs on offer

One way of comparing the industries is to examine the blockchain jobs on offer in each country. Right now, it looks like the US has got the upper hand. According to data compiled by The Next Web, nearly half of the related jobs on recruitment site Glassdoor globally were based in the US, followed by the Uk then India.

With the caveat that glassdoor is a US-based company despite hosting international job posts, China had just 42 positions advertised compared to the US’s 2,616.

Notably, the top three employers are IBM with 110 open positions, followed by Ernst & Young, Oracle, and Deloit– all well established corporate giants in the technology world.

Opposing government approaches

Where China may be superior, however, is its government’s commitment to promoting the development of the technology and President Xi Jinping’s open support for blockchain, calling it a ”breakthrough” technology. Following his positive comments, the state-controlled media station CCTV ran a one-hour special explaining that “the value of blockchain is 10 times that of the internet”.

The People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, has spearheaded blockchain testing in finance, and there is a general consensus from the experts that when it comes to core technological developments alone, China is beating the US.

China’s rapid industrialization and development as a nation since the 1980s shows just how powerful the government’s commitments have been, as well as demonstrating the benefits of a having heterogenous authoritarian leadership no matter how controversial this concept may be.

The influence of crypto

Neither country has what would be described as pro-cryptocurrency policies, but the Chinese government has taken a much harder stance. Regulations prohibit financial firms holding or trading cryptocurrencies, and while trading platforms were effectively banned in 2018.

In the US many states are also pursuing regulatory efforts to cover cryptocurrency instruments but cryptocurrency trading remains legal, as does holding initial coin offerings unlike in China.

While cryptocurrency only accounts for a percentage of blockchain use cases, the inability of start-ups to explore tokens and digital currency without fear of government intervention sets China back in terms of what blockchain development teams can work with. In mid-April last year, police in Shanghai went so far as to stop an event for cryptocurrency entrepreneurs.

There is no clear frontrunner in the blockchain race as it stands, but many pundits are focused on China’s robust development policies and quality of innovations so far despite the US’s upper hand for cryptocurrency.


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Etisalat Contracts Tech Firms to Develop Blockchain, AI Solutions

Etisalat Contracts Tech Firms to Develop Blockchain and AI Solutions

In a press release yesterday, Middle East telecom carrier giant Etisalat, through its innovation program Future Now, has signed agreements with four tech companies to develop solutions using blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies.

The signing of the contract happened after the success of Dubai’s Future Accelerator’s Program, which led to the launch of the Future Now project. The four beneficiaries of the contract include Yitu Technology (China), Com IoT Technologies (UAE), 300cubits (Hong Kong), and Tradefin (USA).

As per the press release, the condition for selecting these companies was based on their “capability to build and launch their core technology and be able to demonstrate traction and substantial use cases”.

On the Etisalat part of the agreement, expectations include granting the selected firms “access to Etisalat Digital resources and experts, office space, and support needed to deliver joint projects to Etisalat’s client base”.

Two challenges were created last year by Etisalat Digital – a part of the fifth group of Dubai Future Accelerators – towards the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 2021 economic vision.

One part of the problem dealt with the application of AI behavioral analysis that could stem the tide of crime-related patterns. The companies Yitu Technology (China), and Com IoT Technologies, UAE were given this responsibility as well as to develop a framework solution for road traffic that utilizes CCTVs to automate traffic processes and prevent congestion and accidents.

The other part of the challenge involved a sub-category two-part solution using the blockchain technology. The first part was assigned to 300cubits (Hong Kong) to explore possible solutions “to reduce the transactional costs and complexity in business processes for banks, governments, and private organizations”, by a benchmark of 40% in the course of five years.

The second part of the sub-category solution was tasked to Tradefin (USA) and it involved a focus on “the adoption of blockchain to enable exchange across various loyalty currencies and to transform a loyalty currency into a cryptocurrency that can be used to perform online and physical transactions”.

The overall outlook of this partnership seeks to establish collaborative efforts towards an expedited “adoption of cutting edge technologies”.

Legacy organizations continue to seek mainstream use cases for emerging technologies such as the blockchain. While different organizations deploy their research and development protocols into studying the relative use of this technology, one very obvious remark is that “blockchain forges a bridge between systems, and eliminates the need for siloed inventions”.

The Middle East continues to pride itself as a pro-blockchain zone with numerous innovations surrounding the tech. Not long ago, the UAE partnered with Saudi Arabia to develop a product to facilitate cross border payments. Meanwhile, Kuwait Central Bank shook hands with Ripple to enact cross-border payments.


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New York State Approves Signature Bank Blockchain Payment Platform

New York State Approves Signature Bank Blockchain Payment Platform

A New York bank has received approval from local regulators for a digital blockchain payments platform.

The Department of Financial Services of New York (NYDFS) granted its approval to Signature Bank on 4 December. According to a press release, Signature Bank has the go-ahead to launch its platform called Signet in the state, which offers clients a 24/7, free-of-charge payment option.

It is essentially a peer-to-peer blockchain payment system for use between the bank’s clients, claiming to ”[eliminate] any dependence on a third party”.

NYDFS had several concerns about the platform prior to its investigation but is now reportedly satisfied Signet can comply with its rigorous regulatory expectations. This includes many of the standard know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) policies that all banks are subject to, as well as extensive consumer protection guidelines.

NYDFS superintendent Maria Vullo said the regulators were ”pleased to strengthen and foster regulated innovation” in the city while emphasizing that Signature bank would be operating ”through sound state regulation”.

New York’s financial regulators are not the only officials putting their support behind the platform. Signet benefits from coverage by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), a major US bank deposit insurance scheme managed by the government.

Signature Bank is relatively small, handling just 30 private clients and assets of around USD 45.87 billion.

The approval of Signet bodes well for other blockchain companies in the finance sector looking to operate from New York, which seems to looking to make its mark as an innovation-friendly city.

In mid-October this year, California-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase received approval for its digital asset custody solution in the state. Last month Ledger joined them, opening its own office with intentions of launching an institutional custody solution.


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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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Thanksgiving Bitcoin Reflections: Where to Next Year?

In the US, Thanksgiving is an important time of the year for reflecting on the fortunes of the past 12 months, and perhaps a time when one gives a thought to some of the things that perhaps didn’t go so well.

For those Bitcoin enthusiasts sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table, it is perhaps the latter that is hard to simply shrug off with a slice of turkey, particularly if you happen to be one of those big investors in the cryptocurrency market.

The dinner table discussions in November of 2017 would have, needless to say, been a bit more animated and full of hope. Then, Bitcoin’s launch into the stratosphere hadn’t actually happened, nor was there any indication that it was due for take-off. By mid-December, it was almost up to the USD 20,000 apex which investors fondly reflect on today when discussing the currencies rise and rise… and subsequent fall.

Kyle Asman, partner and co-founder of crypto advisory firm BX3 Capital, reflects on those heady days following Thanksgiving last year when he left a party gathering to use the bathroom and upon returning discovered that Bitcoin had shifted USD 2,000 in a matter of two minutes. He recalled:

“Before that, it was more of a closet thing… I remember that was the only time I had talked about it at my Thanksgiving table — some described it as digital gold, others as a new form of money.”

The dinner table conversation this year will be one of regret and missed opportunities but also, conceivably, of some hope that Bitcoin can be revived from its current dip, as it hovers above USD 4,000 for the first time in 13 months.

Bitmart, a leader in cryptocurrency and Bitcoin mining hardware supplies in Africa, is offering an early Christmas gift to users to try and boost the interest of investors before the festive season, by offering lottery tickets to new users for half-priced Bitcoin. The company is pre-empting the rise that many investors are expecting once regulation is standardized, ETF is accepted and institutions move their money into Bitcoin.

It is also worth reflecting that cryptocurrencies are not simply about their monetary value but what they can bring to the global financial system in terms of functionality and efficiency. For this reason, Bitcoin is here to stay. And fortunes do change, as was seen post-Thanksgiving 2017.


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Square Cash on Track to Become Coinbase Competitor

Square Cash appears to have what it takes to become a serious competitor to Coinbase, with Bitcoin buying and selling service now available across the entire United States for the first time.

Red, white, and bitcoin. Now you can use Cash App to buy bitcoin in all 50 states.

— Cash App (@CashApp) August 13, 2018

Coinbase is the biggest cryptocurrency exchange headquartered in the United States, with 20 million users and USD 150 billion of transactions since launching in 2012, which has generated USD 1 billion of profits.

On the Square Cash alternative, users can easily buy and sell Bitcoin instantly with their debit card, in the same way they can use their debit card to send cash transactions instantly, which was the company’s original purpose. Square Cash’s Bitcoin buying and selling limits are higher than Coinbase, with an easier and more streamlined process than Coinbase. For users with bank accounts, Square Cash is a way to avoid Bitcoin ATM fees and still receive their money the same day, compared to Coinbase which can take days to process even small Bitcoin sells.

At first, Square Cash rolled out to a limited number of states starting in late 2017 but now it has acquired the New York BitLicense and will have no legal problems to offer Bitcoin exchanging in every state. Square Cash has kept fees low to increase adoption of its Bitcoin services; these are currently lower than Coinbase fees. These will likely remain minimal for the foreseeable future to enhance the growth of Square Cash’s Bitcoin user base.

So far Square Cash has only generated USD 70 million of Bitcoin transactions but now that it has officially launched across the entire United States, this number could grow drastically in coming months. Square Cash has 7 million users, most of which signed up to send cash transactions but now all of these users can easily send Bitcoin if they choose. More users will likely be signing up just for the Bitcoin service.

It appears Square Cash has the infrastructure to really compete with Coinbase, which is good news for United States consumers since it gives them a good option besides Coinbase to buy and sell Bitcoin, and it will cause Coinbase to improve their features to compete with Square Cash. Likewise, Huobi has entered the United States via HBUS, and OKCoin via OKCoin USA. These are among the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world and could be major competitors for Coinbase, which creates a favorable environment for consumers.


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ICOs Only Account for Less Than 2% of Securities Lawsuits

A report released by litigation consultancy firm Cornerstone Research indicates that initial coin offerings (ICOs) account for under 2% of securities class action lawsuits – just 12 of 750 cases.

ICOs are not the main offenders… are they even securities?

With the total number of securities lawsuits at levels unmatched since 1995, the report found cases involving ICOs hit just five in the latter part of 2017, and have reached seven in 2018 so far. There have been 111 suits filed in total since the start of the year. While cases filed against American companies are reported to be on the decline, there is a growing number opened against European and Asian companies, nearly double that seen in the last decade.

Whether ICOs even classify as securities is currently up for debate. Securities can be defined as financial assets that represent a proof of ownership in the stake of a company that has intrinsic monetary value, but some argue tokens and cryptocurrencies purchased during ICOs do not qualify under this definition. This disagreement has led many to question whether the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is even the correct entity to be investigating cases involving ICOs.

Despite much bad press regarding ICOs, several of these few cases opened against crypto-related companies found fault in their reluctance to file their tokens as securities, which is a legal requirement in the US.

In one instance, Ripple (XRP) is facing three separate lawsuits from investors who lost money when they sold the tokens on. The plaintiff in one of these cases argues the XRP classifies as a security because i) they must be purchased with money, ii) investors reasonably expect to profit from them due to Ripple’s own promotional efforts, and iii) the profits collected are determined by the company’s management decisions.

The Massachusetts branch of the SEC suspended five cryptocurrency companies offering ICOs in March this year because they had all failed to register their tokens as securities.

In February, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton declared that ICOs must meet securities regulations, ”end of story”, although in June the SEC voted that Ethereum did not meet the definition of a security. Ethereum and Ripple have fundamentally different structures and use-cases for them, but it indicates a more reasoned, practical approach may be taken by the SEC in the future.


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Bitcoin Used by Russia To Hack 2016 US Elections, New Indictment Reveals

A 29-page Indictment has been released recently, stating Bitcoin’s huge role when it came to Russian interference in the 2016  US presidential elections.

The documents accuse 12 Russian agents of hacking into Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s computers and stealing information of over 500,000 voters. Aides close to Hillary Clinton were then tricked into handing over this information by the Russian intelligence officers.

11 of the 12 accused are being charged with breaking into computers and releasing documents with the intent of influencing the last presidential election. The 12th was charged with conspiring to penetrate organizations that directly handled the elections.

“…had multiple units, including Units 26165 and 74455, engage in cyber operations that involve stage releases of document stolen through computer intrusions. These units conducted large-scale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election.”

Bitcoin was mentioned extensively in count 10 (Conspiracy to Launder Money). Money was required for the Russian operatives to acquire infrastructure needed for later actions.

More than $95,000 was laundered through Bitcoin, which was then used to buy servers, register domains, and other online payments. The documents state other currencies like the USD was used as well, but it seems Bitcoin was used primarily due to the enhanced levels of privacy it affords over other payment methods.

Some of the funds were also used to purchase computing hardware to mine Bitcoin, to help supplement their income for hacking activities. Bitcoin mined by the GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff) were used to purchase the domain through a Romanian company.

Besides the purchase of the domain and hardware to mine Bitcoin, other notable purchases described in the pages was a VPN to log into the @Guccifer_2 Twitter account, a Malaysian server to host the dcleaks domain, as well as the leasing of another server for X-Tunnel malware injected into DCCC and DNC networks.

An additional two servers were also acquired to hack in the DNC’s cloud network.

The effects this will have on a meeting between the two presidents planned for next week are yet to be determined. Trump and Putin are scheduled to meet Monday in Helsinki, and nothing has changed despite the emergence of this indictment.

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OKCoin Launches Fiat to Crypto Exchange in US

OKCoin has launched a fiat-to-crypto exchange in the United States called OKCoin USA Inc and is headquartered in Mountain View, California. OKCoin USA is registered as a money service business (MSB) with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

The registration with FinCEN dates back to November 2017, indicating OKCoin USA has been in the works for a while now. The launching of OKCoin USA comes on the heels of Huobi launching HBUS, a crypto-to-crypto exchange based in the United States.

The OKCoin USA headquarters is in the San Francisco Bay area, practically next door to Coinbase’s headquarters. OKCoin will be providing strong competition for Coinbase, which has been one of the largest US cryptocurrency exchanges for years and hasn’t had to deal with any major competitors until now. While US cryptocurrency traders have been using fiat-to-crypto exchanges overseas like Bitfinex, there weren’t any other major exchanges like that based in the US itself besides Coinbase.

Huobi and OKEx are the two biggest crypto exchanges in the world behind Binance, with daily volumes on the order of USD 500 million to USD 1 billion per day. OKEx was founded by Star Xu, the same man who founded OKCoin in 2013. The entrance of top crypto exchanges is expected to cause a big shakeup in the US crypto trading market.

This will likely be very positive for traders based in the US, since Coinbase, OKCoin USA, and HBUS will be competing with each other and will have to increase the level of their services to stay on top. Coinbase has had a reputation for maintaining somewhat of a monopoly and a nonchalant attitude towards crypto traders. Aside from that, traders will have increased daily deposit and withdrawal capabilities since they can aggregate their limits from the different exchanges now available.

One major limitation of OKCoin USA at this time is that it’s only available to residents of California, but on its website it says other states will be added soon.


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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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