Category Archives: blockchain live 2018

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Exclusive: University of Nicosia on Vital Nature of Blockchain Education and its Future

Bitcoin News caught up with Nick Assimenos from the University of Nicosia at Blockchain Live 2018, where he discussed the university’s leading blockchain and technology programs, as well as the crucial nature of education to legitimize the industry.

Institute for the future

The Cyprus-based university, the first in the world to offer formal education in blockchain and digital currency, has a specific department named the Institute for the Future, which offers initiatives in blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual and augmented reality and forecasting. Assimenos says these areas have been grouped together because, in the future, these nascent technologies will work simultaneously with one another in ways we will not think twice about.

”For example,” he explained, ”in ten years time, if your self-driving car goes into a parking lot, the car will ask you how long you want to stay and it will instruct your mobile phone or digital wallet to exchange a token with the parking meters. Machines will own money for the first time in history, not just people, and the machines will need to be taxed if they are going to be replacing people’s work.”

Technology and education

Assimenos believes that education should be encouraging people to enter areas of developing, coding and computing to give them the skills to build AI and future tech innovations. Quoting Nelson Mandela, he said, ”Education is the thing that will set us free.”

Crucially for the cryptosphere, Assimenos thinks that ”education is the one thing that will get us global acceptance of digital money now,” as well as being necessary to keep on top of the wave so people are not replaced by robots. He believes academia can help find and develop the skills in the workforce that will continue to need humans.

In an area unfortunately tainted by misinformation, education can also help provide a solution, but Assimenos thinks it is problematic that most universities haven’t recognized these technologies like Nicosia has since around 2012:

”Everybody heard about Bitcoin and said “oh, it’s gambling money, drugs money, for Silk Road, kidnapping money”, we saw it and recognized this huge opportunity that is going on.”

One of the issues facing wide-scale blockchain education, as he sees it, is that normally universities and academics are not known for being outgoing in embracing new and revolutionary technologies. The University of Nicosia bucked this trend.

Decentralized 2018

The University of Nicosia offers a Master of Science degree in Digital Currencies, which has been followed by over 30,000 students so far. One of the lecturers of the course includes the renowned Bitcoin advocate and expert, Andreas Antonopoulos. It is the only university to offer a degree in the field at this academic level, but they recognize this won’t be the case forever and are keen to stay competitive.

”We are regarded as leaders in education and research in these fields. The reality is, though, we’re only leaders as long as someone like Oxford or Stanford don’t decide that they want to be number one because we can’t afford to compete with them financially.”

So, they have taken a number of initiatives to try and stay in that lead. One of these is their now annual Decentralized event, this year taking place from 14 to 16 November in Athens, Greece. ”It’s a fantastic meeting of industry leaders and policy makers, thought leaders meeting serious investors. Everybody involved in the space is welcome,” Assimenos explained.

Decentralized 2018 has over 70 speakers booked, and 1,300 attendees from over 50 countries. The University of Nicosia is the only academic institution to offer such an event.


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Image Courtesy: Amelia Trapp/ Blockchain Live 2018

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Blockchain Expert Panel: Is There Really a Way to Predict Bitcoin Price?

In a panel debate at Blockchain Live 2018 in London Wednesday, experts came to head over whether there is, in fact, any way of accurately predicting Bitcoin price and that of other cryptocurrencies.

Speaking on the panel was Jemima Kelly, Alphaville reporter at the Financial Times, Jane Lippencott, business development at CoinFi and Origin X Capital, and Lisa Cheng, founder of the Vanbex Group.

A “fool’s game” vs the “FUD is real”

Kelly stated outright that she believes 100 per cent of Bitcoin price predictions fail, and the only way they succeed can only be attributed to luck. ”Everyone knows predicting future prices is a fool’s game,” she said, pointing out that the vast majority of the time, predictors have incentives themselves whether they are betting long or short on the value.

She also described her interpretation of a mismatch between the value and usability of cryptocurrencies, saying that one does not have any relation to the other. There are also problems with the mentality of Bitcoin investors as Kelly sees it: ”Why are you hodling if you can use it? You don’t want the value to fluctuate loads.”

Lippencott corrected her by saying that hodling is no different than holding cash or storing it in your bank account, only that “it’s just a cooler term”. In terms of Bitcoin price, the business development expert thinks that negative speculations have a lot to do with bear markets: ”FUD is real and it influences the price.”

Cheng, on the other hand, thinks that the lack of crypto fundamentals ultimately leads to unsophisticated analyzers who are responsible for bad predictions. She made note that the early Bitcoin investors account for a large share of the market and they do have incentives to swing the price by publicizing forecasts.

”Education is necessary before investment,” Lippencott agreed.

Mass adoption – are we there yet?

One of the topics that caused most contention between the panel was when the question was raised regarding the timeframe for Bitcoin mass adoption. Kelly, for one, thinks that this already happened, peaking at the top of the bull market in December last year. Lippencott refuted, saying “mass adoption is blockchain”, adding that once blockchain becomes part of peoples daily lives, which she sees as inevitable, Bitcoin will finally reach its full potential.

Cheng also sees the present as far from peak adoption levels and believes right now we are in a trough. While she agrees that speculative interest may have fallen now, the approval of an ETF will make an impact and she expects Bitcoin to reach USD 9,000 by December.

”Why not say 20K or 100K? We don’t know, we can only speculate,” challenged Lippencott.

Another area that Cheng sees as important to wide-scale cryptocurrency usage is the release of the first state-backed version, though she does not believe Venezuela’s Petro counts: ”When a country creates their own cryptocurrency we will see mass adoption. The Petro is extremely problematic and cannot be used as a case study. ”


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UK’s HMRC Blockchain PoC Needs Experts, Policy Direction

Head of Platform Architecture at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Richard Mander, has shared details of the department’s blockchain Proof of Concept (PoC). While he cited the potential benefits as being substantial, hiring and maintaining experienced staff has been an issue.

Speaking on the Govtech stage at Blockchain Live 2018 in London Wednesday, Mander discussed exactly what stage HMRC are at with its PoC, adding that finding people with the right knowledge and skill set to do this is becoming an issue. They hope to expand the project to host a second node in the near future but need to increase the expertise of their team first to make this an easier task.

Mander also outlined future policy issues that HMRC needs to consider in regards to the PoC, including to what extent they want to be accountable for maintaining the future structure of international trade.

The PoC

HMRC have been trialing the blockchain project as a way of increasing the efficiency of cross-government data sharing. Currently, the government model for potential traders in the UK requires them to register with multiple offices who carry out a series of arduous checks before they can receive authorization. Despite the checks being the same or very similar in content, the government does not have a secure way of sharing the information with one another, hence all departments are required to wasteful carry out exactly the same checks.

Mander detailed that if the trader also requires a specific license for selling or purchasing their goods, this can include more departments such as that of international trade or agriculture which are required to undergo these checks – a costly and time-consuming operation for all parties.

He told the audience, ”If we maintained a ledger of all those checks, the outcome would be recorded and could be shared securely and instantly, a huge efficiency benefit for HMRC.”

Phase one of the single node PoC has involved building a private, permissioned blockchain that holds full details of all of HMRC’s audit events and trade applications, with a ledger storing the audit events, outcomes and checks. It has also used blockchain permissions to limit user access to appropriate records by government employees.

”It has been a very successful first trial, it’s proof of the potential benefit of the technology within HMRC.”

Moving forward

It has, however, created some policy issues within government, including the problem that the department’s security premises is based on the idea of single entity data guardianship. A shared, multi-node environment means this would need to be fundamentally changed.

As well as this, with the blockchain trial being such a success, the question has been raised as to what extent HMRC want to be responsible for maintaining the structure for international trades should they continue to develop and launch the PoC.

”Should we be having aspirations of owning blockchain architecture? Do we want to be held accountable if the movement at Heathrow comes to a halt if our application fails?” Mander asked, throwing out potential issues that such a direction might envoke.

”We proved potential value, but at a technology level, there are questions we can’t answer without broader engagement with policymakers,” he concluded.


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