Category Archives: Dubai

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Dubai Bitcoin Towers Aston Plaza Project Delayed

Bitcoin is being used increasingly in the real estate market but it looks as though the Aston Plaza project in Dubai is one project which may be facing a delay.

The luxury residential project targeting the crypto rich launched in 2017 by high-profile U.K. entrepreneurs Baroness Michelle Mone and Doug Barrowman costing USD 323 million to build, is still only 25% complete.

Construction of the two-tower complex with 1,133 luxury apartments over 2.4 million square feet, with each flat costing between $133,000 and $379,000 in Bitcoin, has stalled and has been put “on hold” after a government inspection at the site.

The adventurous real estate project specifically aimed at the blockchain and crypto community was seen at conception as a great opportunity for bitcoin investors to convert their holdings into “real brick-and-mortar” assets, according to the founder of private equity firm Aston Ventures, Doug Barrowman.

Co-partner in the investment,  lingerie designer and peer of the UK’s House of Lords, Baroness Mone was once described as senior Scottish Conservatives as “a public relations creation, a personal brand rather than a serious businesswoman”.

Dubai has become a forward-thinking player in the blockchain environment but its enthusiasm for new technology is not simply limited to banking. Just recently, The Dubai Department of Tourism and Marketing (DTCM) launched Tourism 2.0, a blockchain enabled marketplace connecting buyers to hotels and tour operators.

Last year, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), launched Tourism 2.0, a blockchain-backed marketplace that connects businesses in the tourism sector with each other across Dubai. As part of the Dubai 10X initiative, DTCM aims to place the city 10 years ahead of others across the globe.


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Dubai Reveals Regional Fintech Roadmap

Dubai Reveals Regional Fintech Roadmap

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Authority officially launched a new white paper that would be the bible for fintech companies who hope to establish themselves in emerging markets in the Middle East and Africa.

Revealed at the LendIt FinTech USA forum in San Francisco, A Roadmap for FinTech Firms Entering the Fast-Growing Emerging Markets report provides case studies and market analysis from the Arab Middle East and Africa to showcase fast-growing economies that were open to exploring new solutions and serving both the wealthy class and underbanked.

It also outlines a set of guidelines for fintech companies hoping to take advantage of the growth potential in the region, recommending plans of actions from the lessons learnt from past fintech firms, venture capitalists, as well as the banking sector, who have all achieved success in establishing businesses in the market.

DIFC Authority CEO Arif Amiri said that the fintech industry had barely realized “a fraction of its true potential”, even after taking into account global growth. He believed that the true potential would be found in untapped emerging markets:

“With close to 70% of its population having either limited or no access to financial services, the region sits on a large pool of opportunities that are constantly fuelled by the increasing need for financial solutions. As the region’s most comprehensive FinTech ecosystem, we have created an enabling business environment to help fintech firms and investors tap into these opportunities, keeping in mind the need for access to funding, regulation and infrastructure.”

The white paper predicts 1,845 fintech firms in Middle East and Africa by 2022 from 559 in 2015.


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New York State Announces Crypto Task Force

_New York State Announces Crypto Task Force

New York State has become the first to initiate a task force to examine cryptocurrency and how it should be regulated.

The bank’s committee sect of the New York state legislature voted in favor of progressing a bill that would authorize a digital currency task force back in May of last year. The board confirmed their backing for a task force that would study the effects of the implementation of cryptocurrencies on the state’s financial markets.

Crypto Task Forces are becoming a common method for jurisdictions to discuss and analyze how cryptocurrencies should be integrated into current financial systems. The UK, South Korea, Dubai, and Kenya are amongst countries announcing task forces in 2018. The planned task force for New York state will become the first in the US.

NY state governor Andrew Cuomo, signed into law the ‘Digital Currency Study Bill’ (A8783B/S9013) this week, but no report will be forthcoming until as late as December 15, 2020, so any legislature emerging from the task force is far from imminent. The main focus of the report is said to focus on tax law and market transparency and the board will include representatives from the tech sector, academia, institutional and private investment and blockchain business. The state’s proactive stance towards the cryptocurrency was illustrated by the released statement:

“New York leads the country in finance. We will also lead in proper fintech regulation. The task force of experts will help us strike the balance between having a robust blockchain industry and cryptocurrency economic environment while at the same time protecting New York investors and consumers.”

The industry was clearly encouraged by the announcement, with Executive Director of Tech: NYC, Julie Samuels commenting that the announcement of the task force demonstrates how New York state,  “is leading the way in studying and understanding these technologies to ensure they can thrive in a responsible and effective way,”

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Islamic Certification for Swiss Firm Opens Middle East Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Dubai Gets First Government-Endorsed Blockchain Platform

IBM has launched yet another blockchain solution to its rapidly expanding range of applications, this time with Emirates company Smart Dubai.

The Dubai government has got behind Smart Dubai and IBM’s “Dubai Blockchain Platform”, endorsing it as the first of its kind, not only in the UAE but in the whole of the Middle East.

The newly-launched blockchain platform will enable lower operational costs for organizations as well as maintaining data in-country and conduction translations locally. The IBM mainframe tech LinuxOne is currently capable of 6.2 billion web transactions a day.

The locally-built platform opens the doors to the UAE for advancing its blockchain footprint in the region and globally, as well as drastically improving and digitalizing many government services. Dr Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai Office (SDO), spoke of Dubai as an early player and somewhat of a trendsetter in adopting some of the fundamentals of DLT early on, commenting:

“Dubai has been a pioneer in blockchain technology since its inception, while other major cities around the world were reluctant to embrace it for city-wide implementation,” adding that it was largely due to IMBs “wealth of insight and expertise in the advanced tech industries” that such projects were possible, promising that the Emirate would have “ the world’s first fully digitized government by 2021.”

Dr Aisha went on to predict that Dubai could be the blockchain center of the future through such projects as Dubai Blockchain Strategy. HE Wesam Lootah, CEO of the Smart Dubai Government Establishment (SDG), commented, “Blockchain provides an added layer of trust and transparency among government organizations and businesses and helps make collaboration more efficient.”

The Dubai Pay Blockchain Settlement and Reconciliation System launched last month will be now be positioned on the new platform, enabling rapid real-time payment services with other government entities, banks and financial institutions removing the original 45-day delays.

Dubai is a forward-thinking player in the blockchain environment; its enthusiasm for new technology is not simply limited to banking. This year, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Marketing (DTCM) launched Tourism 2.0, a blockchain-enabled marketplace connecting buyers to hotels and tour operators.

Dubai also recently launched Artbank, the world’s first digital bank for art which uses cryptocurrency for trading in artworks. The program has been initiated as part of the Dubai 10X initiative which seeks to place the Gulf state ten years ahead of the world in all sectors.

The 2nd edition of the UNLOCK Conference will be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) on 15-16 January 2019 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. This will be a global meeting of the most powerful players in the crypto and blockchain fields, and is proud to announce a media partnership with the event.


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UAE Plans ICOs for Corporate Fundraising as Oil Price Slumps

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is going ahead with its plans to use initial coin offerings (ICOs) for fundraising local startups in the new year to help boost financing in capital markets.

If successful, the UAE could become one of just a few countries in the world to implement a regulatory framework around ICOs and cryptocurrencies. To create this environment, the UAE has stated that domestic companies will be legally able to fundraise using ICOs next year, alongside traditional IPOs. To facilitate this, legislation will deem ICOs as securities in a draft to be enacted early in 2019.

Last year Abu Dhabi issued guidelines on cryptocurrencies and ICOs, regulating the latter as “securities”. Cryptocurrencies are considered commodities by the government of Abu Dhabi but are not legal tender. The move to introduce ICOs was confirmed by UAE securities market watchdog chief Omar Saif al-Zaabi who commented:

“The board of the Emirates Securities & Commodities Authority [ESCA] has approved considering ICOs as securities. As per our plan, we should have regulations on the ground in the first half of 2019.”

IPO performance has been significantly weakened over the past two years by a number of economic factors, including low oil prices and a weak equity market in the Gulf as a whole. In order to stem the tide, a new law is being brought into legislation which now will permit family-owned businesses to sell a majority of even 100% stakes in their companies with IPOs. Also, in a radical move for the region, it is suggested that there should be a mandated 20% of women on company boards, in the hope to attract more female investors.

The ESCA has sought help from overseas to implement their new plans and draft the new ICO regulations; its next task will be to develop crypto platforms to support the launches with support from both the Abu Dhabi and Dubai stock markets.

In other news from the Gulf, it was announced yesterday that Dubai residents will soon be able to pay for school fees, bills and some retail purchases using emCash, a state-developed blockchain crypto, which the government hopes will have wider applications in the future. A spokesperson for the state-backed subsidiary, emCredit, stated:

“To be the world’s first city to offer blockchain-based payment solutions to our residents is an exciting moment for Dubai… Deploying cutting-edge technology such as blockchain is a key priority and is delivering benefits to our citizens in the form of convenience and securities to customers and merchants across Dubai.”

The project was initiated by Dubai Department of Economic Development.


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UNLOCK Conference, Global Meeting for Blockchain & Crypto in Dubai on 15-16 January 2019

The 2nd edition of the UNLOCK Conference will be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) on 15-16 January 2019 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. This will be a global meeting of the most powerful players in the crypto and blockchain fields, and is proud to announce a media partnership with the event.

The UNLOCK Conference will cover a full gauntlet of crypto and blockchain applications, including gaming, e-commerce and retail, health, real-estate, banking, equities and securities, food industry, energy, logistics, and transportation. Dubai is an optimal location for the UNLOCK Conference since it is on the cutting-edge of blockchain and crypto with 20 blockchain case studies underway and the goal of having 50% of Dubai’s government services on the blockchain by 2021. Dubai is a powerhouse in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an alliance of nations on the Arabian Peninsula which border the Persian Gulf.

It is expected that the MENA and GCC will be a hotbed for crypto and blockchain long-term, with numerous startups expected in the regions in the coming years. This makes the UNLOCK Conference in Dubai critically important for planning the future of blockchain and crypto in the MENA and GCC. Dubai’s neighbor, Bahrain, is already experimenting with FinTech sandboxes for the launch of crypto exchanges and startups.

The themes of the 2019 UNLOCK Conference include initial coin offerings (ICOs), cryptocurrencies, the future of crypto exchanges in an increasingly regulated world, scalability and interoperability of blockchain, governments and blockchain, investing in blockchain, utilization of blockchain for supply chains and trade, tokenization of everything in a futuristic digital economy, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain, blockchain anonymity, blockchain payments, blockchain in the transportation and energy industries, blockchain for telecommunications, blockchain for cloud services, and identity verification on blockchains.

The registration for the UNLOCK Conference 2019 is open, and the early bird special of USD 800 per ticket is running until 15 October 2018. After that registrations will cost USD 1,000 until 28 December 2018, followed by the late registration period where tickets will cost USD 1,500. UNLOCK Conference is running a special where 4+ attendees registered in the same group nets a 20% discount.

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Dubai Forms Task Force to Implement Blockchain Legal System Platform

The Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) courts have reported they will be collaborating with the government supported Smart Dubai initiative to form a task force with a goal to implement a blockchain platform that enhances the country’s legal system.

The project has been dubbed the ‘Court of Blockchain‘, with the government concluding that decentralization would benefit the legal system by streamlining the sector and easing the protocol for sharing information. It hopes to build the network itself on a blockchain, utilizing smart contracts for courts to share data. The need for such time-consuming tasks as document duplication will be eliminated, the DIFC said.

A press release regarding the task force cites the future of the two partners as handling public and private blockchain disputes, as well as verifying regulatory and contractual terms of smart contracts, utilizing their combined expertise.

The first steps for the partnership will include research and development to configure court data onto the blockchain, allowing real-time authentication for institutions in order to improve communication efficiency between actors across the legal system.

The DIFC is the primary entity that handles civil and commercial financial disputes relating to Dubai.

The Smart Dubai initiative

The task force is part of the country’s Smart Dubai initiative, a plan to push the emirate to the forefront of technological innovation. Pursuing the various use cases for blockchain is a big part of the research; the Smart Dubai Office’s director general, Dr Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, said that it plans to run ”100% of applicable government transactions on blockchain by 2020“.

Dr Bishr acknowledged that such a strategy would require strong institutions to uphold such disruptive policies, noting that the partnership with DIFC courts would help support the changes. She described the completed blockchain legal platform as ”the world’s first disruptive court”, boldly stating this as a pursuit of the true power of blockchain technology.

The Smart Dubai initiative is set to position the country as a global technology leader by 2020.

Another aspect of the strategy includes Dubai’s tourism business to business blockchain marketplace Tourism 2.0, which connects businesses in the tourism sector with one another across the country.


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McKinsey: China, UAE, Estonia, US Leading Blockchain and AI Towards a Tech Utopia

McKinsey experts suggest that by 2020, the number of smart cities will reach 600 worldwide according to Bitcoinschannel.

These cities are happening right now with China, UAE, Estonia and the US clear forerunners in the McKinsey analysts’ prediction of 600 metropolia in the next two years.

Dubai, with its high-tech society of unmanned trains and Wifi benches, plans to become the first blockchain megalopolis by 2010. Projects underway involve giants Google, Uber, Amazon, and IBM and, due to the initiation of its Smart City program, 545 city projects are underway which have the capacity to change residents lives.

All documentation in the future will be paperless, goods will be tracked using blockchain and unmanned trucks for delivery of goods is planned for the not too distant future.

Estonia loves its cryptocurrency and has long used blockchain, and is hailed as another crypto haven. DLT has been used in health, judicial, legislative, security and commercial systems in the country since as far back as 2012, making it another forerunner in adopting and utilizing new technology for practical civic purposes.

Estonians are able now to see who has been accessing their personal data through the blockchain, such as medical cards, drivers license or insurance details and can legally challenge any illegal or unauthorized access such information.

Not to be outdone, China plans to establish 1,000 smart cities on its own, again designed to improve the lives of its citizens. Its smart metropolis of the future is reputed to be Yinchuan where payments have been streamlined to the extent that facial recognition has become an accepted ID and shopping is conducted through a smart mobile application.

China has long expressed to the world its scathing condemnation of cryptocurrencies but has adopted blockchain like a long-lost friend. Chinese authorities are now exploring blockchain as a solution the data storage in numerous sectors and in central government. Also after notable scams, banks are starting to use electronic ledgers similar to that employed by Bitcoin to safeguard customer security.

In the US blockchain is being increasingly legislated for at state level and is being increasingly used for organizing record keeping, updating state databases.

US states are increasingly beginning to come on board in order to utilize blockchain tech. The state of Arizona has officially signed into law a bill that allows for corporations to hold and share data on a blockchain. First introduced in February by state representative Jeff Weninger, the bill is intended “to open the door for emerging technologies in Arizona”.

As states line up the new technology, Tennessee signed a bill recently that legally recognizes blockchain technology and smart contracts for electronic transactions. The bill also makes a provision that “protects ownership rights of certain information secured by blockchain technology”.

Nebraska, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and Vermont, along with Maine, Hawaii, Illinois, and North Dakota are some of the many US states notably either in the process of presenting bills, enacting legislation or actively utilizing blockchain in state legislation.


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Kiev Wants His Statue, the CIA Is Tight-Lipped. So Who Is Satoshi Nakamoto?

In Ukraine’s Capital, Kiev plans are underway to install a statue of the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto in the same location where a statue of Russian communist revolutionary Lenin, used to stand, writes CNN.

Father of the Russian nation, Lenin, had stood on the spot until it was torn down by Ukrainians during the 2014 Revolution of Dignity when the government of the day was overturned.

The idea of the erection of a statue to honor Bitcoin’s reputed founder was down to a group known dramatically as the Satoshi Nakamoto Republic. The initial idea is to have a virtual monument on the site which can be viewed using tech such as smartphones and tablets, with an app developed by Raccoon World.

The hope is that an actual statue might one day follow, to be located on Lenin’s empty plinth. The same group is raising a petition to present to Kiev municipal authorities, the Kyiv City State Administration, in the hope a real statue can be mounted at the site.

Satoshi Nakamoto Republic, Andriy Moroz, co-founder of the group, suggested that Satoshi Nakamoto symbolizes the future:

“The monument to Lenin was a symbol of last centuries that had already passed, leaving conflicting feelings in the hearts of people. Satoshi and the decentralization of society are a new era and new opportunities,” Moroz, who also serves as the First Ambassador of the Republic, told Radio Free Europe.

The group’s plans don’t end there, with the announcement that they are looking to establish Satoshi Nakamoto City, which will be located on an island, once a suitable location has been found. Once established they plan to start a blockchain “republic” of their own.

It’s been reported that the Nakamoto statue concept is open for all comers, including at present Beijing, Dubai, New York, and Tokyo.

Only Satoshi Nakamoto can reveal his true identity, or so say Ethereum News, or perhaps the CIA may be helpful. This was certainly the view of Daniel Oberhouse, a Motherboard writer, who actually went to those lengths by asking both the FBI and the CIA if they could shed any light on the enigmatic Bitcoin creators whereabouts.

Rebuffed by the FBI, he did, however, have more success -at least receiving a response- with the US’ own enigma, The Central Intelligence Agency. Unfortunately, the agency was less than helpful:

“The request has been rejected, with the agency stating that it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of the requested documents.”

Apparently such a statement, according to an ex CIA operative, actually has a name and is a procedure used when the agency has no desire to look into a query due to security issues. A rejection of a request on security grounds implicitly suggests that the documents the requester are seeking indeed exist, but to confirm their existence would mandate their disclosure.

It’s called the “Glomar Response.” And for now, the search continues.

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