The Evolution of Using and Loving Digital Currencies – Diversification

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When two friends are having a conversation about investing and money and one of them mentions “Bitcoin,” the direction of what the two people might talk about can go a few different directions. One of those directions could easily go in towards.

“Oh, what’s Bitcoin?”

or

“I’ve heard about that!”

The latter will also likely lead into the discussion about how volatile the price of Bitcoin has been. From the historical price rise past $1000 to the Mt. Gox scandal which caused an equally share decline in price. News about something like digital currency might seem too good to be true or far fetched to many average investors, but since Satoshi Nakamoto’s white paper was released in 2009, there’s been plenty of proof that digital currencies do work, do hold and often times increase in value and some of them actually have some real merit behind them as investment vehicles.

However, for those just getting involved at the beginning, the learning curve to be knowledgeable and feel confident buying and trading digital currencies can be steep. It’s especially daunting when newbies come into digital currencies to learn about Bitcoin and once they’ve figured out how to set up their wallet, send, receive and even purchase Bitcoin, they realize that there are seemingly endless alternative currencies (alt-coins) out there.

Take your wading into the world of digital currencies slow, cautiously and with an open mind. It’s a great thing that Bitcoin exists for the world. Read the white paper by Satoshi and that’s clear. It’s also a good thing that so many alt-coins have been established as legitimate competitors to Bitcoin. When the price of Bitcoin swings wildly, like any digital currency can potentially do, there are options to hedge your investments and safeguard them against too major a loss of value in the markets.

Once someone is ready to invest and use digital currencies in their personal finances, they need to actively educate themselves or find resources to help them understand the differences between the top digital currencies, what they are used for and why exactly they are valuable. We’ve all heard of Bitcoin by now, many of us heard of Ethereum as well in the early part of 2016 as it received a lot of hype in the news about it being the next big competitor to Bitcoin as its market cap surpassed $1 billion.

However, many people don’t make the distinction that while Ether, the digital currency which fuels the Ethereum World Computer, does much, if not more than what Bitcoin is capable of, it’s wasn’t built to be so much as a transactional peer-to-peer currency as Bitcoin and other currencies like Dash and Litecoin were. Some digital currencies are inherently built to be excellent stores of value in peer-to-peer transactions. Other digital currencies might be able to constitute a store of value, however, they might also be fuel sources for blockchain powered systems. It’s extremely important to be aware of this distinction.

These and numerous other factors lead to the ultimate conclusion that putting all of one’s eggs into one basket, even if you believe strongly in one digital currency over another for good reason, might be foolhardy. The digital currencies markets are notoriously volatile, and while there are lots of opportunities to invest and make handsome returns on investment, doing so with discretion and and prudence with the help of an expert is probably the best bet for consistent and long term returns.

 

Dash’s Original DAO Continues To Progress As Designed With 12.1 Release

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While almost all of the discussion regarding DAO’s (Distributed Autonomous Organizations) has been surrounding The DAO, built on Ethereum’s world computer, Dash, another blockchain based cryptocurrency and payment system has shown relative stability and progress with a DAO of their own.

Dash, a peer-to-peer payment system, formerly known by the names of Darkcoin and Xcoin, is the 7th most popular cryptocurrency among CoinCap’s current market capitalization reporting. In a recent forum post, Dash core developer Evan Duffield reported to the community that among a variety of improvements being brought to Dash in coming months, a “governance” system would be the first feature unveiled in 12.1.

Duffield said in his post:

“The most significant change included is a completely different underlying engine, which can be used to build various pieces of software. This new system will be known as the governance system. The first usage of this governance system is to clone the existing functionality from 12.0, from the basic budget system, except written purely using the governance system. So while you may not notice any immediate changes to the core functionality and capabilities, the important distinction is the way that functionality is implemented.”

As explained in the forum post, 12.1, which will be unveiled for testing in late July at the d10e conference in California, won’t necessarily be something users or developers of Dash will notice immediately as it’s part of a larger ecosystem rollout for the technology as a whole. As of now, Dash’s entire development, operational marketing system is currently supported more or less through a DAO and it seems to be working quite well thus far. By reserving 10% of the block reward created through mining, Dash has been able to fund itself in a closed loop system.

In what has been kept under wraps up until recently, the news about Dash’s upcoming releases appear to be bent towards more complex and robust governance capabilities with their DAO features. Showing potential for real applied uses of a Dash DAO within the ecosystem that produces and keeps Dash going is probably enough to get developers excited to start playing with the new features after they’ve been released to the public.

Since the high-profile failure and theft of the Ethereum based DAO, other platforms such as Lisk, Rootstock and NXT are quickly stepping up to offer alternatives to Ethereum’s Solidity based smart-contract structure for safer development. Could Dash be throwing their hat more into this arena more officially in the near future?

Blockchain Based Social Network Steemit Grows Market Cap By 1000%

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The blockchain based social network site Steemit has experienced massive growth in the past week with over 1,000% growth in the value of the Steem token according to CoinCap.io. With a fairly eventful Summer shaping up in the world of cryptocurrencies and blockchain as far as Bitcoin’s halving, the DAO’s collapse and Ethereum’s hard and soft forking debates, a vacuum and opportunity seems to be opening for additional digital currencies to come on the scene and capitalize on the volatility.

Steemit has positioned itself as being an alternative to reddit; a platform that in theory is censorship resistant, as opposed to reddit which is often heavily censored depending on which subreddits and moderators are involved. More information about the impetus behind Steemit’s creation can be found in their whitepaper hosted on their website.

Steemit is an incentive based social network which uses upvotes similarly to how reddit and other forums validate content that has earned community approval. However, the incentives also merge into a payment system where users who post popular upvoted content will receive a digital currency called Steem in their Steemit accounts which are also cryptocurrency wallets.

There are currently two different types of digital rewards associated with Steemit on their website – Steem Power and Steem Dollars. Steem Dollars are the only digital currency which is actually tradeable for other digital currencies on exchanges. A video on the Steemit website claims that a Steemit Dollar is always worth about $1.00 USD. Steem Power is a sort of digital reputation measurement which gives a user power within the community.

As Steemit has only been around since early May, having a Steem Dollar market cap of over $180,000 million USD (at the time of writing this post), the investment and interest in the site as being a way to contribute, engage with and discover content within a rewards based system has garnered much interest.

Steemit isn’t the first blockchain and cryptocurrency based social network to come along – Ethereum-based Akasha is also developing a censorship resistant platform and Zapchain also built a Bitcoin rewarding social content site where users could tip each other.

The liquidity of Steem Dollars remains unclear as only two exchanges support the trading of Steem; Bittrex and OpenLedger. The price per of Steem was well over $4 USD per share and has settled down around $2.50 USD. It appears that users of the site will need to add their own funds to their accounts on Steemit in order to continue to participate in the community over time as they use up the initial value of what basic amount of Steemit Power is pre-charged to their accounts on signup.

The functionality of the site still appears to be in the early stage as there are few features to customize as far as how email notifications are set up and how to create post with content such as video and photos in a streamlined way. Qualitatively, there seems to be some decent blogs being written on the site, however there also appears to be quite a bit of spam accounts and low quality posts being shared, so that’s an obvious issue that Steemit will need to address moving forward in order to make the social network a worthy place to spend time and attention. However, if the market cap and signups continue to grow at the current rate, it seems likely that more improvements will be coming shortly.

Review: Smart Contract Betting Serves As Educational Resource For Ethereum Enthusiasts

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As far as games and betting go, I’m certainly not one to spent my leisure time that way. Maybe it’s because I got whomped on by all my friends playing Super Mario when I was a kid and figured I’d be better off developing my skills in other areas. Regardless, I typically avoid delving into digital games of any sort, especially those where money is at stake — that is until I discovered the vDice.io betting game which is based on Ethereum smart contracts.

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I am a blockchain nerd who keeps up on developments in the space on social media, so when the owners of the site reached out unsolicited on Twitter and offered to let me play with some of their own funds to get an honest review, I decided to give it a go. What I found out quickly about this betting “game” is that it’s easily as effective a tool for educating people on how to transact with Ether and how smart contracts work as it is a good way to pass the time.

The “house edge” and fees are clearly stated up front in the FAQ and in running about a dozen bets to try out the service, I found the ratio of winning to losing with respective smart contracts to be honest. Each smart contract has its own odds and conditions that are clearly stated as well. What’s cooler is that this entire website operates anonymously and does not require a user account or any info. You only interact with the site through your Ethereum wallet.

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The site is cleanly built and doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. Well, except for the creator of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin’s head quoting famous one-liners from Arnold Schwarzenegger action films. If you leave the browser open with the volume on this is an amusing feature you’ll hear every minute or so. You can turn that feature off as well from the homepage. What I’d love to see is a more dynamic feature of how the site shows transaction data such as recent bets and wins without needing to refresh the page and continually turn off the Vitalik talking head.

The site recommends that users play using either a Jaxx browser wallet which is available for Chrome or the Mist wallet built by Ethereum. However, any wallet of any brand that supports Ether will do. They have an easy to follow set of instructions for both Jaxx and Mist. The Jaxx wallet is definitely the simpler and more straightforward process of the two; however, the Mist wallet tutorial is actually rather educational. As someone who has downloaded the Mist wallet on their personal machine and invested in the DAO using it, I can say that the tutorial on how to use the contracts feature in Mist is useful and appreciated, in case I wish to interact with other smart contracts related to other things besides betting in the future.

Not only is there the option to bet on specific contracts listed at the bottom of the homepage, but there’s also the option to invest in contracts. The difference between betting and investing in these smart contracts is that if a user sends an amount of Ether to the contract address within the specified amount range, a random number will be assigned to that user. If that random number is higher or lower than the specific figure of that contract, which is all transparent and open source, then the user wins their money back plus a percentage. They’ll receive their funds almost instantly. Currently, their confirmations take about 15-30 seconds; however, they’ll be launching 0-confirmation transactions in July. When a user wants to invest, they’ll receive partial profits from the income received as people play a certain contract and lose. All of the contracts are verified and openly available for auditing on Etherscan.

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COO of vDice.io Steven Sager talked about how this particular game is unique not only in the realm of Ethereum, but in cryptocurrencies and blockchain related websites as a whole:

“Implemented as a Smart Contract, it’s completely on-chain. Also, it’s the first live, commercial Dapp, connected to the main-net, using an Oracle. As a result, it’s trust-less. We don’t touch funds. There are no accounts (such is the power of Ethereum). Bettors send their Tx to the smart contract address. The smart contract computes and returns the result. Essentially, it functions like classic Satoshi Dice. But, unlike Classic SD for BTC, there’s absolutely no server…not even for randomness. Instead we use random.org.”

Besides plans to make betting transactions much quicker with 0 transactions in the summer, there is also a crowdsale planned at a date yet to be determined in July.

With the existing situation with the DAO being compromised and potentially destroyed by current events, Sager commented on the importance of truly simple but useful Dapps being built and implimented such as vDice.io:

“This illustrates why the simple Dapps need to come first, in my honest opinion — even if they happen to be ‘betting’ Dapps. Higher-level stuff can build on simpler projects at the right time. Ethereum is only one year old!”

With vDice.io’s straightforward build and the transparent nature of how the site works, it’s an exciting way to show how a Dapp can be used in real world applications through betting. It is also a great opportunity for those who are less than expert in blockchain, smart-contract and Ethereum technology to learn in about it in a safer environment where the most at stake is as low as a fraction of Ether per bet.

Fear The Reaper – Don’t Leave Funds On Crypto-Exchanges

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If you’ve been around the world of digital currencies for a few years, you may have heard of someone saying that they got “goxx’ed” at some point or another. While this saying may sound relatively benign, it’s no doubt a nightmare for those involved to recall seeing their digital currencies disappear overnight and have no recourse to get them back. It’s become a fact of life that exchanges, at some point or another, get hacked and that leaving your funds in a trading wallet, in any amount is asking for trouble. Even the best ones out there that brag that they’re virtually un-hackable, get hacked. Take for example, Gatecoin’s latest security breach and Shapeshift’s hotwallet heist.

I know all of this first hand as my funds were tied up in a recent crypto-exchange theft and, while I eventually got all of my assets returned from the exchange, I realized during the whole ordeal that I could have avoided such trouble all together if I had just take the advice I’d seen posted time and time again on places like Reddit.

After you exchange your funds, secure them as soon as possible.

Trusting your crypto-funds to an exchange or any wallet provider isn’t a safe, long-term strategy. There are plenty of bad-guys and gals out there innovating in every possible way to access funds of others and steal them. While living under a cloud of fear as a crypto-currency holder exactly a good way to live, considering prudent levels of security for your assets will at the very least pay dividends down the road.

Unfortunately for cryptocurrency enthusiasts, there are many stages that almost everyone goes through before they are comfortable with handling any one digital currency. By the time they get to this point of feeling comfort, they still might not be using it safely. Ignorance may be bliss for some users, as the illusion of safety and security is provided by lots of different exchanges, web and mobile wallets, but there are certainly plenty of very skilled hackers out there who won’t hesitate to swipe your funds for their own gain if given the chance. While there’s no 100% safe way of owning any form of wealth in this world, there are some basic steps that should be taken by any savvy cryptocurrency holder.

Deep Cold Storage

What’s the most secure form of storage for just about any time of cryptocurrency? Most people would consider that to be an offline, unconnected machine that has no possibility of access from the outside world. While this option, in and of itself isn’t even 100% certain of protecting our digital currencies barring fire, flood or asteroid, it’s certainly an option that those who are serious about keeping their assets safe should consider. Do you have a spare laptop laying around that you can keep away from Ethernet cables and any wifi connections? Try loading your digital currencies onto it and throwing it in a safety deposit box. That’s just about as safe as you can keep your digital currency assets.

Cold Storage and Hardware Wallets

As far as offline storage gos that you can more easily access and connect to, paper backups of private keys, USB drive storage, specialized hardware wallets and actual novelty items like physical Bitcoins are all good options to keep your funds away from hackable servers most of the time.

There are also hardware wallet options where a full on computer isn’t needed to safely store cryptocurrencies. Currently most of these hardware wallets are built to store Bitcoin, however with the rise of Ether’s value, market cap and overall popularity, some hardware wallet providers are releasing upgrades to the code of existing hardware wallet models to support the safe storage of Ether.

Strong Passwords

Passwords are important for anyone involved with important information or data security online. In a realm where cryptographic experts are running the game, using a simple password that includes your birthday or other silly simplistic figures simply won’t hold any water if your account is targeted for a hack. Random password generators are always a good idea if you can’t dream up a super random, odd and varied combination of letters, numbers and symbols that you can remember.

Also, as far as many experts are concerned in cryptocurrency forums, brain wallets are usually a bad idea as well as many have been drained due to their relative simple form of security.

As for trading margins and making money on ETH, BTC or any other combinations of digital currencies, that’s a whole other matter of studying and hoping to have good luck in order to not lose money. Don’t be careless and don’t be a fool – don’t leave your cryptocurrencies unguarded.

Un-Sponsored Resources (I don’t get any kickback or payment for these)
Ledger Wallet – I use the Nano. It’s pretty easy to use and setup. It’s a little buggy on my Linux machine, but works like a dream with my Chromebook and every Windows and Mac machine I’ve ever plugged it into.
Trezor Wallet – This is a bit more high tech than Ledger from what I understand. I know some pretty savvy people prefer Trezor and Trezor should support ETH storage soon too.
MyEtherWallet – You can make a paperwallet from this site. Follow the steps carefully when setting up and don’t send too much ETH to your paper wallet until you know exactly how it works and have backed everything up.
Jaxx Wallet – This isn’t as secure as the list resources above, but it’s pretty secure as far as mobile wallets goes and offers multiple backup options that other mobile wallets do not. They also handle Bitcoin, Ether and DAO tokens all in one app. I really like it.

Gatecoin Grows As A Marketplace For DAO’s To Successfully Crowdsell

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Today, the Hong Kong based cryptocurrency exchange Gatecoin has announced that they are adding new Ethereum based tokens for purchase and trading through their online exchange. Already offering REP tokens from the crowdsale of Augur (REP), Gatecoin will now offer Digix DGD tokens as well as Slock.it DAO IOU’s.

I first learned about Gatecoin when I wrote a piece about them on BTCManager highlighting that they rode the fine line between being highly compliant with regulation standards as well as highly innovative, which is generally rare. Gatecoin was at the very cutting edge of selling Augur’s REP tokens and has remained bullish not only on Ethereum’s ETH cryptocurrency but on DAO issued tokens as well.

Digix got everyone’s attention last month when they had a crowdsale of tokens to raise funds for their gold-backed DAO. The crowdsale wound up being a fire-sale of sorts and over $5 million dollars were raised in a short time. Many people were upset that the crowdsale ended so fast and many other DAO creators took notice of how such a fundraising event could be held.

Enter Gatecoin for creating a marketplace filling the demand for these crowdsale tokens. Gatecoin was a first-mover on offering crytpocurrency exchange traders to trade Augur’s REP tokens and now is offering tokens from Slock.it and Digix.

Currently the Augur REP tokens and Digix DGD tokens can be traded in real time. The Slock.it crowdsale has not finished, so the Slock.it DAO tokens will actually be issued as IOU’s once the crowdsale is complete and details surrounding funding are finalized.

Depending how the adoption of buying, selling and trading tokens goes, Gatecoin could be onto something here. Some DAO’s will need lots of funding to operate successfully and being able to access a market of speculators who wish to have access to a variety of tokens might create a strong channel for businesses and investors to come together.

Currently registered and approved users of Gatecoin can purchase and trade for DGD and REP using Bitcoin, Ether, USD, EUR and HKD and CNY soon as well. Slock.it DAO. 100 Slock.it DAO IOU shares will be issued for the equivalent of 1 Ether. The DAO IOU’s will be converted to actual DAO tokens once the crowdsale is complete.

As of 12pm HKT (GMT+8), April 28, 2016, the Slock.it crowdsale was scheduled to have begun. Users of Gatecoin must undergo a fairly basic KYC style verification process that is standard with most major exchanges that deal with banks.

Gatecoin is currently the 3rd largest volume trader of Ether in the world and their focus has been both on remaining highly aligned with industry compliance standards as well as embracing the ideals of Ethereum.

“We see great potential for an increasing number of ‘blockchain assets’ such as DAO tokens for dapps being built on top of Ethereum, such as Slock.it and DigixDAO, which have tangible, real-world, disruptive potential. We are very proud to collaborate with both organizations as an additional gateway for token trading and hope this brings greater visibility and wider participation in their DAO. In the long run we want to be the reference exchange for dapps, enabling more innovative projects to raise capital, and provide mainstream investors with an alternative asset class offering promising returns and additional utility.”  Aurelien Menant, CEO and Co-Founder, Gatecoin.

It will be interesting to see what exchanges follow suit in offering crowdsale access to tokens as well as the ability to trade them in the near term. Hopefully this experiment is a success and we see this as a boost to Ethereum’s overall ecosystem.

 

Airbnb’s Acquisition of Changecoin Could Signal A New Era Of Big Business and Blockchain

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ChangeCoin, the company that brought us ChangeTip, Tipworthy and Tip.me, a mainstay in the community of Bitcoin and social tipping, was acquired by Airbnb, the disruptive home-sharing business worth a reported $10 billion.

What an interesting melding of two seemingly unrelated business models, or is it?

Bitcoin, a decentralized digital currency, has been a rallying cry for new-age businesses worldwide. The un-banked can send money without the high fees associated with bank remittances using Bitcoin with only a computer or a mobile phone.

What many large companies are interested in though is not Bitcoin itself, but the backbone on which it is built; the blockchain.

This is likely where Airbnb is seeing the most potential and kudos to them for being one of the first and largest Silicon Valley successful startups to make a big investment in this idea.

But what else might the future hold for integration of Bitcoin and other blockchain technologies like Ethereum?

We’ve seen a shift of big businesses moving away from favoring the digital currency to wanting to use it’s core technology, the blockchain, for new purposes that simply don’t exist in today’s work yet.

Blockchain technology essentially allows people to create systems where records are immutable based on the design of the system itself. Spinoffs of the blockchain concept have seen some success with technologies like Ethereum offering a decentralized computing system that can serve up trustless smart contracts that execute on their own.

While there’s been a lot of speculation about what potential blockchain technology could have on a variety of industries; mainly finance, insurance and entertainment royalties the fact remains that these industries are largely old, established and risk averse.

Think back to a few years ago when even the biggest banks were making their awkward transition into online and mobile banking. These types of industry players probably won’t be the first big players to act on using blockchain technology.

A few years ago many people couldn’t imagine a business model where people share their homes with others looking to stay for various amounts of time at scale. What we’re seeing here is Airbnb taking a long and hard look at how their already disruptive business model could become even more disruptive.

Changecoin built a great product and ecosystem around the concept of tipping small amounts of Bitcoin and also integrating social media to allow users to give and receive tips easily.

While the concept of integrating social tipping and Bitcoin might be an interesting addition to Airbnb’s functionality of hosts and guests, what the ChangeCoin team might bring to the table of the overall Airbnb product could go much deeper.

The “acu-hire” nature of the deal brings a team with deep knowledge of developing around Bitcoin’s functionality, including that of the blockchain it’s fundamentally built on.

There has been speculation in the past that an application for blockchain technology outside of the traditional industries mentioned above would be for an Airbnb model to have smart contracts between hosts and guests where there could be trustless interactions on both ends.

For example, the host sets up a contract and has a lock on their door associated with a smart-device system that unlocks when a guest pays their deposit and funds into escrow.

This could eliminate the need for human intermediaries almost entirely over time in transactions like this. While making the leap to this sort of technological scenario might be some ways off,

Airbnb has relatively little to lose and a lot to gain by fielding these sorts of ideas within their product development process and trying to get a working model for their customers to experiment with.

This is where the platform agnostic person must step back and see objectively where big businesses such as Airbnb would benefit most from blockchain technology. Granted, the next big decentralized smart contract app or Dapp will probably be built on Ethereum. However as we’ve seen with financial giants with the advent of R3 and the Open Ledger Project, big businesses don’t necessarily want to jump into public blockchains and many want to use their own development power to do the customized building on the blockchain that technologies such as Ethereum may or may not offer yet.

Regardless of what Airbnb wants to do with Changecoin’s core technology or team, if Airbnb has remotely considered building some sort of smart contract system or wants to have customer records immutably stored and processed, they’ve made a big and smart move in the right direction.

For those among us who are excited to see what the next steps will be for cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, the results of this acquisition will likely be a lot more exciting and transparent compared to the financial institutions who claim to have a stealth mode internal incubator reportedly looking into blockchain solutions. Whereas banks will play the “wait and see game” it’s more likely Airbnb will play the “develop and deploy game” instead.

Korea’s Developing Culture of Blockchain Technology

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In the land of the Tiger Economy, South Korea’s commitment to economic growth for over 30 years has been clear. Some of the biggest names in technology and automotive industry in the world have thrived in South Korea and it’s clear that there’s a strong commitment to continuing that progress and growth in the future. While times have changed in the world economy, with production of most physical goods being exported largely to places like China, South Korea’s continued growth has been shaped by their attempt to have world-wide cultural influence through industries like K-pop and K-drama entertainment. However profits are hard fought for and hard to keep, especially in the age of the internet. What could potentially spur an additional growth spurt, if done right, is innovative blockchain technology ideas born and developed in South Korea.

South Korea may not have as loud or robust a startup culture that countries like those in Europe, or the U.S.A. and Canada have, where there are huge tech incubators, accelerators and communities built around VC firms looking to get their hands on the next big thing. However, considering that such a massive amount of South Korea’s GDP is controlled by just a few companies, it’s not surprising that so much private enterprise effort has been put into developing blockchain technology through those channels. However, that’s not to say that the smaller and scrappier teams aren’t working hard to grow and get noticed. As the debate over private vs. public blockchains evolves, the power of developing the next big application of that technology may shift away from the mega-corporations to the startups and maybe Korea’s startup scene is suited quite well for that opportunity.

So who else is looking into blockchain technology currently? Despite what is admitted publicly, pretty much everyone in finance and beyond is toiling away to discover how they can be a first-mover. Some experts have predicted that capitalization surrounding blockchain-related industry could be around $1 Trillion by as early as 2019. If any executives at giant South Korean companies like Samsung or Hyundai were to give even the slightest credence to these predictions, they’d at least be prudent to form some sort of internal “task force” to sort the wheat from the chaff as far as what’s applicable to their interests and what isn’t. Then again, it’s not entirely clear whether or not both aforementioned companies aren’t already deeply invested in seeking out their own private blockchain innovations.

Not all development in the blockchain space is being taken from a top down perspective. A local incubator space in Seoul called the Bitcoin Center Korea offers work spaces, networking events, and workshops and has generally been a champion of all things Bitcoin and blockchain related from a startup level. General Manager of the Bitcoin Center Korea John Saeyong Ra has brought a dynamic events calendar together to build a strong community around Bitcoin and the blockchain and hosts some interesting up and coming startups in the space as well.

John Saeyong Ra told BTCManager, “Bitcoin Center Korea is basically a hub for all these companies and organizations and functions as a think tank from time to time in order to create better ecosystem.”

If you do a quick search in Google  for how the biggest companies in South Korea are becoming involved with blockchain technology, you’ll find primarily that entities like the Korean Securities Exchange (KRX) and large Korean Banks like Kookmin Bank are publicly stating that they’d like to explore using blockchain technology. However, you’d be forgiven for scratching your head and asking yourself, “that’s it?” Don’t be too surprised as much of the news can likely be found on the South Korean search engine that’s widely used domestically, Naver.com. It’s possible that Korean companies don’t focus on international press coverage as much as Western companies do, however given the technological power that Korea has in many aspects of its everyday society, it’s worth digging a little deeper to see what Korean companies are accomplishing in the blockchain technology space.

Even if some of the biggest companies in South Korea may be very cloak-and-dagger about their approach toward blockchain technology, the startup scene is still thriving, growing and continuing to evolve. LG CNS is actually developing  a startup called Blocko, which offers a product called Coinstack, a blockchain-as-a-service software. Shinhan Bank has a financial tech incubator called The Futures Lab which also supports several blockchain startups. Also, from a governmental perspective, the Chairman of the Financial Services Commission Yim Jong-yong has shown support for blockchain and Bitcoin startup culture in the last year.

Regardless of national and international publicity on blockchain technology and what bankers and government officials are saying about it, it’s clear that the cat is out of the bag as far as blockchain technology goes. The culture and economy behind what blockchain exists as, which is Bitcoin, is thriving as well, with some struggles along the road to becoming wide-spread. However, for every financial executive that writes of Bitcoin as a joke or failure, they’re often saying within the next breath that blockchain technology is at least something that they’re taking seriously and plan to look into so as not not be left behind in case of a massive sweeping technological revolution. It will be exciting to see how Korea’s private and publicized efforts with developing blockchain technology contribute to the movement as a whole.

Royal Bank of Canada Engages Ripple To Foray Into Blockchain Technology

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Deloitte has continued its focus on providing insight for it’s rather large and well-established client based on blockchain technology applications in their latest paper entitled “Blockchain: Democratized Trust.” One of their more prominent examples in this paper of large scale businesses using blockchain technology is the Royal Bank of Canada in their venture into new-aged remittances.

Including a mixed bag of bank-to-bank, business-to-business and peer-to-peer remittances, Royal Bank of Canada operates across 40 countries and with 16 million customers worldwide. They, like most other major international and domestic banks, operate under largely restrained and inefficient financial operations when it comes to cross-border operations. Due to multiple middlemen, bureaucratic red tape and high fees, transferring money overseas has become anywhere from an annoying to prohibitive task for people all over the world, regardless of their country of origin or economic status.

Even though this traditional process of cross-border remittance is painfully slow and expensive, it’s considered largely a secure and reliable process which hasn’t had enough pressure on it to change in the market, until now. With blockchain technologies starting to gain acceptance and application in smaller-scale businesses, they are being recognized by important executives in the Fintech sector as a potentially necessary play for the future.

Eddy Ortiz, RBC’s vice president, of solution acceleration and innovation spoke about blockchain technology stating, “as we came to understand more about the challenges we faced, we realized the underlying technology powering it was what was particularly exciting.”

One blockchain related technology that has been particularly appealing to the Royal Bank of Canada is Ripple, a real time gross-settlement-system. Ripple has attracted particularly large enterprise level financial and software companies seeking a more secure entry into the blockchain technology space since its beginnings in 2012.

Before rushing headlong into deploying blockchain technology across all of their verticals, RBC intends to work with Ripple to develop a limited production solution to test the solution’s effectiveness and security. Additional areas that RBC is looking to explore with blockchain technology include customer loyalty programs and eventually smart contracts.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

 

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Consumers Research Holds Conference In Bretton Woods About Future Of Blockchain and Bitcoin

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Consumers’ Research, founded in 1927 and the oldest consumer research group in the United States has released a whitepaper surrounding something very contemporary; Bitcoin and the blockchain. Centering around a financial conference located in Bretton Woods in New Hampshire’s White Mountains last summer, the whitepaper covers discussed topics from a workshop held with leading Bitcoin industry insiders.

A similar conference happened in the same place as in 1944 where matters were discussed about what would happen with the world’s economies and society as a whole if responsible and more sustainable monetary systems were collectively setup. The result of this latest gathering is a 97-page piece of work that is both in-depth and vast in its coverage of the current state of affairs and future potential of Bitcoin and the blockchain technological application.

Joe Colangelo, the executive director of Consumers’ Research released the whitepaper last Friday at the North American Bitcoin Conference which took place in Miami, Florida. The whitepaper starts off by giving a broad background on Bitcoin and the blockchain technology behind it, allowing  a lay person the ability to grasp the technical distinctions surrounding how it works on a high-level. It then goes on to define the goals of the whitepaper, articulate use-cases for Bitcoin and give an honest look at the risk and upside of various scenarios.

Colangelo wrote in his preface that the 3 main goals of the paper were to:

  1. “Serve to inform those new to Bitcoin and block chain technology of opportunities they may not have considered previously”
  2. “Better inform members of the Bitcoin community of potential hurdles that may impede their ability to effect change, which they may not have realized.”
  3. “Serve as a primary document for how industry experts viewed Bitcoin and block chain technologies in the year 2015.”

The editor and primary author, Kyle Burgess along with Joe Colangelo who is co-primary author brought together a wide range of Bitcoin and block chain industry experts to weigh in on the breadth of issues set forth in the whitepaper as contributing authors. Some of the contributing authors and workshop participants overlapping were:

  • Alicia Carmona, Identity 2020
  • Michael J. Casey, MIT Media Lab/Digital Currency Initiative
  • Patrick Deegan, Open Mustard Seed & Personal BlackBox
  • Jinyoung Lee Englund, Digital Currency Council & FE Ventures
  • Eric Martindale, Blockstream
  • Victoria Van Eyk, ChangeTip

One of the most prominent mentions on the contributing author list was Nick Szabo, a smart contracts pioneer and a man once rumored to be the secret identity of Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto. In the paper he writes of his main recommendations for smart contracts moving forward:

“Lobbying, advocacy, and education will help developers get out in front of onerous regulations. Organizations such as Consumers’ Research, CoinCenter, the Digital Currency Council the Chamber 48 of Digital Commerce all work to address regulatory challenges and the Bitcoin community should reach out to them with their concerns.”

Coincidentally, the whitepaper was released in a period where much public speculation and criticism has been levied against Bitcoin. Though some large financial institutions have made some version or other of block chain technology their cutting edge darling, there has been no shortage of public dismissal of Bitcoin by finance executives, particularly at the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland.

This whitepaper serves as a compass for both regulators and Bitcoin industry insiders to steady their aim on the main and agreed upon issues at hand for Bitcoin and block chain technology. The opportunity analysis breaks down into three sections – blockchain 1.0 (currency and payments), 2.0 (Smart Contracts, Programmable Assets, Decentralized Autonomous Entities, and Proof of “X”) and 3.0 (non-economic applications).

Colangelo noted on how he hopes opportunities for Bitcoin and block chain will be perceived:

“Goals exist both on a large, strategic scale such as human empowerment, and also on a more tactical scale, such as specific opportunities or use cases. Since many of these specific opportunities fit within multiple overarching goals, the first section will address overarching goals and tie specific opportunities to each of them.”

He continues:

“The diversity of viewpoints represented by the authors of this paper means that the authors, and ultimately the signers, cannot endorse the idea that the realization of the enumerated goals are in themselves worth the cost of disruption, or that such a realization is in itself a goal worth pursuing. At the core of Bitcoin is the ability to send money faster around the globe, improve property rights, and enable people who have never met to fully trust one another.”

An overarching theme associated with many of the opportunities presented in the paper were challenges or “threats” that could be ahead including incumbent resistance, negative cultural reaction, criminal exploitation, transparency and market demand. The paper goes on to address the severity of each thread and make a recommendation on how to address each one.

The paper concludes with an exhibit that illustrates “Game Theory and Collaboration: A thought experiment with Decentralized Autonomous Organizations.” This section highlights a major part of the philosophy behind Bitcoin and the blockchain which have made it so popular and polarizing for so many people.

What this paper may serve as is a larger collection of some of the most achievable, yet bold ideas that industry leaders and enthusiasts are championing through Bitcoin and the block chain. While this is by no means a comprehensive list of every single application of business, government, social uses for Bitcoin and block chain, it gives the reader, at a considerable level of depth, the ability to parse through what’s exciting and challenging about this experiment.