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After Ditching Visa, is US Grocery Chain Kroger Courting Bitcoin?

After Ditching Visa, is US Grocery Chain Kroger Courting Bitcoin?

Kroger, The United States’ largest supermarket chain by revenue and the second-largest general retailer in the country with 142 supermarkets and 108 fuel center locations, has announced that it is to stop accepting Visa credit card payments next month.

The big question remains, what will replace the credit card, which has been cited as being dropped as a payment option due to “excessive transaction fees”, when Kroger moves forwards with its plan scheduled for April.

Rumors that the supermarket giant might be considering Bitcoin as an alternative payment method have been further fuelled with the news that Morgan Creek Digital partner Anthony Pompliano had already spoken to a Kroger Digital representative regarding adding crypto payments as an alternative to Visa. Pompliano, who is also a popular podcast host, had broadcasted that his team was eager to discuss the potential of Bitcoin being used by Kroger to his 200,000 Twitter followers on 3 March.

Grocery store @kroger is stopping acceptance of @Visa in over 250 stores because of network fees.

Who knows someone on the leadership team there?

The Morgan Creek Digital team will fly to meet them and get them hooked up with the Lightning Network nationwide. 🔥🙏🏽

— Pomp 🌪 (@APompliano) March 2, 2019

The high fees charged by Visa with its 323 million users were the last straw for Kroger’s directors and could prompt other retailers to follow suit and examine alternative methods of payment, breaking the stranglehold that both Visa and Mastercard have on similar retail giants. This could bring Bitcoin into prominence as an alternative method if transactions speeds could be accelerated.

Kroger is ranked 17th on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.


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Students Now Expect Blockchain Courses at Universities

As blockchain courses become of a feature on university campuses around the world, so does the expectancy from companies and students that these courses are there to provide a future for the burgeoning industry.

Educational institutions in the United States are mounting an academic response to the emerging industry, which, due to the cautious public and skeptical governmental approach to cryptocurrencies and blockchain, may come as a surprise. However, now that the markets have cooled off, the monetary value of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies comes second to the value of the underpinning tech.

The industry realizes this and as such has been putting its money where its mouth is with increasing investment going into education from some of its leaders. Ripple is just one, announcing a USD 50 million University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) this year partnering with 17 universities around the world, reports Business Wire.

Some big names were on the Ripple educational hitlist, including Princeton University, MIT, and University College London (UCL). Several universities across the US, along with others in South Korea, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, India, Brazil, Cyprus and Australia are also included in the project, giving the initiative a distinctly international flavor.

Both Columbia University and Stanford University opened blockchain research centers this summer, hot on the trails of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Add to these, Miami University in Ohio, Montclair State University, and the University of Pennsylvania, among others and the direction of the industry in the US alone is very clear; there’s no way but up.

This is what students expect to see now, realizing the importance of new technology and how it’s a perfect fit for numerous sectors, with the potential to offer a range of employment opportunities. As University of Pennsylvania legal studies and business ethics professor Kevin Werbach indicates, this is the new direction in education for many:

“There is rapidly growing student interest… They’re seeing opportunities with companies that want students to work in this area, which include both blockchain-focused startups as well as major companies. Wharton [School of the University of Pennsylvania] sends people to all the Fortune 500 companies, and investment banks and technology firms. A very high percentage of those leading firms now have blockchain or distributed ledger projects, and they’re looking for expertise in that area.”

Job search site now lists more than 2,700 blockchain-related positions, indicating that the work is there if students can gain the skills. However, running the courses is not always easy according to Andrew Myers, a computer science professor at Cornell University:

“Blockchain as a technology requires that you understand a bunch of other things first: cryptography, distributed systems, operating systems… Before you know it, you’ve got a pretty long prerequisite chain. To really teach a full-blown blockchain course, you need textbooks, and a lot of that knowledge just hasn’t been distilled into a form that lets you really teach a good undergraduate-level course yet.”

It’s unlikely that colleges trend towards providing these courses is likely to abate though, and some major educational institutions are already realizing that undergraduate courses in blockchain will add even more credibility to an industry which is gaining respect by the day.


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Blockchain Facilitates Tourism at Tokyo Olympics 2020

Two Tokyo companies are looking ahead to the 2020 Olympics with a view to using blockchain technology to share data in hospitality and tourism, according to Newsweek.

The two companies, Mitsubishi Estate and tech giant Fujitsu, are working towards offering blockchain secure data sharing in hospitality outlets, including restaurants and hotels, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. The hope is that the shared data, protected by blockchain’s security, will allow tourists to enjoy shorter wait times at restaurants, better hotel stays and a smoother experience traveling abroad.

Mitsubishi Estate manages 30% of buildings in Tokyo’s business district. Senior Manager Hiroyuki Okuyama pointed out that until now companies have been reticent in sharing information, due to concerns about data being leaked.

A trial is underway in Daimaruyu, a business district in Tokyo made up of three suburbs. There are about 100 buildings in the area. The area houses 16 businesses from the Fortune 500, which puts it on par with New York and London, according to Okuyama.

Construction has already begun on sports venues for the upcoming Games, and Okuyama is confident that the new technology is going to make for a better experience for visitors from all over the world, and should be fully functional before the event’s start in 2020. According to Okuyama, the collaboration with Fujitsu now allows the company to store, share and use data with confidence.

“The general user will not realize the technology behind this, whether it is blockchain or something else,” he said. “What type of tech is used is irrelevant (for the user), it should be irrelevant.”

He suggested that visitors lose valuable time at large events, such as lining up at restaurants when they should be able to immediately verify at any time how much seating is available, and alternatives if full. He commented:

“For us, we believe that people who visit the city, a comfortable and smooth stay is most important. Rather than going after that short-term return, we believe there is more we can do.”

Fujitsu senior manager Eiji Ikeda said blockchain would keep the data in the hands of the owners. “The problem with the cloud is that it is difficult to release,” Ikeda said. “With blockchain, companies can inject their data [while keeping control].”

Reports at the end of last year excited many crypto hungry Japanese, when it was announced that the Bank of Japan had backed a scheme for its own cryptocurrency to be up and running before the Olympics.

The Tokyo Olympics is scheduled to take place from 24 July to 9 August 2020.


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