Australia confirms plans to develop a National Blockchain Platform

Australian businesses and government-led enterprises have embraced blockchain in-between applications all the way from air travel to energy management, and now the nation’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has announced the development of what will be called the Australian National Blockchain.

As a nationwide platform, the Australian National Blockchain will serve as an infrastructure platform for Australia’s digital economy, where businesses will be able to develop smart contracts as well as confirm the status and arrangement of legal proceedings with transparency.

The platform will broadly enable Australian businesses to use smart contracts to manage business events and further record information from sources such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The Australian National Blockchain will first be trialed on IBM’s Blockchain platform, and will see CSIRO, Herbert Smith Freehills, Data61, and IBM collaborate to develop the platform in a pilot phase.

Speaking on the development, Dr Mark Staples – a senior research scientist at Data61 – expressed that “Our reports identified distributed ledger technology as a significant opportunity for Australia to create productivity benefits and drive local innovation. Data61’s independence and world-leading expertise will help to catalyze the creation of digital infrastructure for Australian businesses to transition to a digitally-enabled future. For complex enterprise contracts, there are huge opportunities to benefit from our research into blockchain architecture and into computational law. Smart contracts have many applications, and as the ANB progresses we look forward to exploring other business use cases to roll out.”

Paul Hutchison, vice president and partner, Cognitive Process Transformation, at IBM Global Business Services added that“Blockchain will be to transactions what the internet was to communication – what starts as a tool for sharing information becomes transformational once adoption is widespread. The ANB could be that inflection point for commercial blockchain, spurring innovation and economic development throughout Australia.”

The platform aims to collate the interests of Australian regulators, banks, law firms, as well as businesses, and is scheduled to launch before the close of the year.

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Square wins new patent for a cryptocurrency payment network

Square – the company headed by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey – has successfully been awarded a patent by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) which details a new payment network that would enable merchants to accept payments in any currency – including the likes of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies – and then withdraw their currency of choice following a transaction.

The patent elaborates that:

“The disclosed technology addresses the need in the art for a payment service capable of accepting a greater diversity of currencies…including virtual currencies including cryptocurrencies (bitcoin, ether, etc.)…than a traditional payment system in a transaction between a customer and a merchant, and specifically for a payment service to solve or ameliorate problems germane to transactions with such currencies. Specifically, the payment service described herein can facilitate real-time (or substantially real-time) transactions, allowing a customer to pay in any currency of their choice, while the merchant can receive payment in a currency of their choice.”

The patent describes methods through which a point-of-sale (POS) system could eliminate latency in cryptocurrency transactions to the point that both cryptocurrency and credit card transactions could process at the same speed.

The system would make this claim a possibility through managing a private blockchain that could record transactions from Square wallets. While this approach does not eliminate the potential for double-spend attacks, it does eliminate that risk from a merchant and places the onus on itself, instead.

Square CEO Jack Dorsey has previously gone on record as a Bitcoin supporter – noting that Bitcoin could become the world’s foremost means of exchange within the next ten years.

At the time, Dorsey quipped that Bitcoin’s market emergence will “probably take over ten years”, and went on to say that “The world ultimately will have a single currency, the Internet will have a single currency… I personally believe that it will be Bitcoin.”

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Vietnam strictly ceases imports on all cryptocurrency mining equipment

According to Vietnamese customs departments, the country has stopped allowing the importation of cryptocurrency mining equipment.

Yesterday Viet Nam News reported that importing of equipment for cryptocurrency mining had been ceased at the beginning of July and since then, local businesses and independent cryptocurrency miners were unable to bring any mining hardware into the country, as claimed by the Ho Chi Minh City Customs Department.

Viet Nam News stated:

“The department said firms and individuals imported more than 3,664 cryptocurrency mining rigs in the first six months of the year, most of which were ‘Antminer’ branded models from China. Four enterprises imported more than 3,000 machines this year, while the rest were imported by individuals and organisations, which do not have import tax codes. Last year, HCM City Customs Department completed customs clearance for more than 7,000 Bitcoin and Litecoin miners. Meanwhile, the Hanoi Customs Department approved import of 190 Bitcoin miners and 350 Litecoin miners.”

Vietnam cracked down on cryptocurrency regulations towards the end of last year and remain one of the countries still against Bitcoin with the government declaring that virtual currency does not constitute a “lawful means of payment”, while explicitly saying that the “issuance, supply, use of Bitcoin and other similar virtual currency as a means of payment is prohibited.” Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been forbidden as a means of payment by law and failure to comply can result in criminal prosecution and those using cryptocurrency can be fined up to $9,000 USD.

Now, the country is strictly restricting the mining of cryptocurrency, following a scam by Bitcoin.vn, a cryptocurrency trade exchange which was seized by the government for conducting the illicit business.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Finance initially presented a prohibition on importing equipment in June following the scam, and the Minister has since said that State management is required for “agencies to take strict control measures with the import and use of this [crypto mining] commodity’.

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In the wake of 2018’s BRICS summit, where do emerging nations stand on crypto?

Comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, world leaders from emerging economies gathered this Thursday in Johannesburg, South Africa to attend the 2018 BRICS summit.

An association of emerging national economies, BRICS member-nations meet annually at summits and collectively represent over 3.1 billion people. Each summit sees member-states co-operatively discuss mutual development and themes from emerging market spaces – and as such, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or Industry 4.0) weighed highly on this year’s agenda.

Industry 4.0 itself is a loose term denoting automative trends defined by the Internet of Things, cloud and cognitive computing, and cyber-physical stems. More broadly, the term has also recently enjoyed connotations with blockchain technology – which has been thought to be the genesis of faster, more trustworthy, reliable, and low-cost settlements and transactions.

Speaking at the summit, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa urged BRICS countries to develop new policies to deal with the fourth industrial revolution – saying “by working together, I am certain that we will be able to confront the challenges and seize the opportunities that this new of development presents.”

While Ramaphosa has previously issued his optimism on the creation of unilateral – and potentially digital – currencies, not all of the BRICS nations have been aligned to the idea of supporting cryptocurrencies, or much less developing national digital currencies.

Brazilian officials nabbed for Bitcoin-powered money siphoning scheme

Brazil

In April this year, the Brazilian Association of Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain launched in São Paulo with the view of fostering the growth and adoption of digital currencies while in dialogue with local governement.

Despite the organization’s founding, the Brazilian Central Bank has previously played a cautious role in raising concerns around a potential ‘Bitcoin bubble’.

The Association of Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain has largely lobbied for the rapid drafting and adoption of sufficient legislation to accelerate the use of cryptocurrencies within the region.

Brazil’s Securities and Exchange Commission previously banned registered investment funds from investing in cryptocurrencies – though, interestingly, the Commission has allowed Brazilians to take indirect ownership of cryptocurrencies by investing in funds that themselves had stakes in funds that were invested in cryptocurrencies.

Presently, the Commission has a working group to develop new regulations fro crypto-assets, while the Brazilian education system has benefitted from the first Master’s degree in Cryptofinance offered by Fundação Getúlio Vargas.

Russia

While Russian government and President Vladimir Putin himself has remained skeptical of cryptocurrencies in general, the Russian Central Bank has both mulled the creation of a state-backed digital currency.

Recently, two of Russia’s largest banks – Alfa-Bank and Sberbank – have trialed cryptocurrencies within regulatory sandboxes

At the time, Anton Rakhmanov – the man responsible for managing the development of the product offer of the Alfa-Bank’s “Private Wealth Management” division – elaborated on his opinion that virtual currencies will be included sooner or later in the global economy and it would be unwise to ignore them.

While six cryptocurrencies have been trialed, only four have been named to the public – specifically, BitcoinEthereumBitcoin Cash, and Litecoin.

In May this year, a Russian arbitration court of appeals recognized cryptocurrency as a property with value – while earlier in March President Putin confirmed that cryptocurrencies would ultimately be regulated under the Digital Assets Regulation Bill.

Ripple considered a 2 billion XRP giveaway to secure dominance in Indian markets

India

Perhaps the most stony-faced BRICS member, India’s Reserve Bank moved to cull support for both persons or businesses that deal in cryptocurrencies in April this year.

Previously, India’s Finance Ministry had limited the functionality of cryptocurrency exchange accounts after criticizing Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies for having a ‘lack of basic utility’.

In a move that would later prompt outcry from local cryptocurrency communities, the Reserve Bank wrote that “In view of the associated risks, it has been decided that, with immediate effect, entities regulated by RBI shall not deal with or provide services to any individual or business entities dealing with or settling VCs. Regulated entities which already provide such services shall exit the relationship within a specified time.”

Ultimately, a petition against the Reserve Bank’s decision was brought to bear – over 18,000 signatures, directed to the Reserve Bank as well as the Prime Minister of India, called for a for a cryptocurrency-friendly framework and identifies the ‘hypocrisy’ of the Reserve Bank’s bid for its own digital currency.

The Reserve Bank has not, however, outright dismissed the idea of a national cryptocurrency. Elaborating on its interest in digital currencies and their underlying foundation, the Reserve Bank has noted its interest in the “rapid changes in the landscape of the payments industry along with factors such as emergence of private digital tokens and the rising costs of managing fiat paper/metallic money.”

More recently, a new legal report revealed that Indian lawmakers have mulled legalizing the country’s sports betting industry, and would be prepared to accept cryptocurrencies as legal payment methods.

China

While China shocked cryptocurrency markets in 2017 with a spot decision to ban several international cryptocurrency and ICO websites behind the so-called ‘Great Firewall’, the nation has instead seemingly committed its efforts to developing a number of technical improvements to blockchain technology itself.

In March this year, a new report from the head of China’s Banknote Blockchain Research Center claimed that the development of a state digital currency is underway.

The Banknote Blockchain Research Center is a subsidiary of the People’s Bank of China through both the China Banknote Credit Card Industry Development and the China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation.

Previously, People’s Bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan claimed that the development of a state-backed digital currency is “inevitable”.

In the mean-time, the Blockchain Research Institute division at the China Electronic Information Industry Development has continued to release evaluations of leading cryptocurrencies – with June’s report outlining that EOS is the most convincing cryptocurrency network.

Among technical improvements, Chinese researchers have further gathered to develop blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) platforms, as well as new blockchain scaling solutions.

south african reserve bank

South Africa

South Africa’s President Cyril Rampahosa set tongues wagging earlier this year with the proposition for a single and potentially digital African currency, South African efforts have largely focused on launching new FinTech programs for blockchain technology as well as clarifying legal stances.

In February, the South African Reserve Bank announced a new FinTech programme which will seek to evaluate assess the impact – and potential regulatory requirements – of newer financial technologies such as cryptocurrencies.

According to the Reserve Bank, the programme will launch with three objectives; the first will see the review of private cryptocurrencies, which will, in turn, inform ‘an appropriate policy framework and regulatory regime’.

Secondly, the Reserve Bank aims to investigate the ‘applicability’ of innovation facilitators such as hubs and accelerators, and finally aims to facilitate ‘Project Khoka’ – a new initiative which will experiment with distributed ledger technologies.

In April, the South African Revenue Service outlined that it will continue to apply “normal” income tax rules to cryptocurrencies where taxpayers will need to declare their according gains or losses as part of their taxable income.

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Stellar partners with TransferTo to drive mobile payments in emerging markets

In a new release, the Stellar Foundation has confirmed a new partnership with cross-border payments processor TransferTo that will see both entities collaborate to drive mobile payments in emerging markets.

TransferTo boasts some 200 operational partners based in 70 cities around the globe, and is estimated to have processed some 100 million transactions since 2005.

In a press release, a TransferTo spokesperson elaborated that “by partnering with Stellar our goal is to trial the blockchain technology and scale our cross-border payment service to better serve our partners and reduce costs. This can enable our partners to better serve both the migrant workers sending money home and their families receiving it.”

Presiding over the news, Lisa Nestor –Director of Partnerships at Stellar – added that “TransferTo is a leader and innovator in the remittance space, and has extensive experience and reach in emerging markets. We’re thrilled to be partnering with TransferTo to offer an expanded network for our current and future partners, as well as continue to drive greater financial inclusion for the underbanked.”

The two entities will proceed to jointly explore their combined network coverage in a bid that might well reach more than 70 countries. The partnership will pair Stellar’s distributed ledger platform with TransferTo’s cross-border mobile payments network.

Both parties have highlighted the synergy of the partnership, where both operations have targeted “real-time, secure, and low-cost transfers.”

The news is the second high-profile announcement for the Stellar network this month. Earlier in July, Stellar became the first protocol leveraging digital ledger technology to obtain a Shari’a certification for both payments and asset tokenization.

That development, coupled with a partnership with TransferTo, might well open new doors for the Stellar network in emerging markets.

At press time, Stellar trades at $0.30 USD, and is down by -10.56% over the past twenty-four hours.

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Coinbase partners with London firm to offer gifting service

Coinbase, one of cryptocurrency’s leading trade exchanges, has partnered with a London startup in order to introduce a new feature which will allow European customers to pay for digital gift cards with cryptocurrency tokens.

The firm announced in a blog post that it will be teaming up with WeGift to offer crypto-gift card which will be available for use at more than 120 retailing companies, such as the British-based Tesco, M&S, Uber, Carrefour, Google Play and Costa. This service initially will only be catering to customers in the U.K., Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Australia, with plans for expansion.

In the announcement, Coinbase said:

Customers purchasing an e-gift card will enjoy zero Coinbase withdrawal fees and bonuses on select e-gifts. From converting bitcoin into Uber credits or ether into a Nike shopping spree, customers will have greater flexibility and control over how they use their crypto.”

The exchange also declared that this endeavor is a part of their ethos:

Making crypto easier to use, trade and spend is a core part of our efforts to improve the customer experience. With the launch of e-gift cards, customers now have the option to spend their crypto balances, realising its value to buy tangible things or experiences.”

Although this is not a new innovation and Coinbase has experience in working with a digital gifting service eGifter, this seems to be a bigger and more widespread initiative.

The trading firm has a bevy of new projects, having recently launched an index fund for high-end investors as well as acquiring the massive cryptocurrency start-up Earn.com earlier this year.

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South Korean owned KT launches first commercial blockchain platform

South Korea’s leading mobile telephone company KT revealed its newly launched self-developed blockchain-based network in a bid develop a trusted network for individual users and businesses.

According to local news source The Herald, the lead of the KT Blockchain Center at the company’s Institute of Convergence Technology, Seo Young-il, has been working on developing this network for over three years, and his efforts are finally coming to fruition.

According to the KT team, the innovative project aims to make the existing network as secure and transparent as possible through the use of overlaying blockchain computing nodes to the high-speed layer on the commercial and national network. The platform will see innumerable blocks containing the virtual data of individuals or businesses. The blocks will be linked as a chain and will subsequently be safely stored and honestly and openly transacted on the network.

Seo has said that the “whole point of applying blockchain to networks is to address security and transaction issues by making the current networks more secure and trusted”.

The head of platform business planning at KT, Kim Hyung Wook, echoed the sentiments that blockchain is critical saying that “the internet has become today’s mainstream network technology, blockchain will be a new fundamental technology network,” and continued to mention the concern of the company, that it “will contribute to enlarging the country’s blockchain market by taking the lead in building blockchain infrastructure”.

Apparently, KT is also planning the launch of a data roaming service platform which will run on blockchain technology and will connect with international mobile carriers, such as NTT Docomo from Japan. Owing to the high-speed transactions of the data blocks, this means that any blockchain-run roaming service bills will be calculated real-time, and thus users will not have to battle with slow or temperamental mobile internet connections.

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Massive crypto exchange Coinbase is “on track” to procure trading licence

Coinbase has announced that they are on the right track to receiving a necessary registration from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

With the SEC looking to nail cryptocurrency regulation (finally), things for cryptocurrencies in the US will take a massive shift, such as the fact that initial coin offerings (ICOs) will be classified as securities and rules on private sales will be both stricter and enforced.

As a response to the new regulations, massive US-based cryptocurrency trading exchange Coinbase has announced that it is taking every step to being granted an SEC registration. The exchange has been making efforts to ensure that everything is in order, such as gaining the proper licenses and registrations in order to meet the regulations and the rules to trade in a legitimate and legal manner.

According to a public announcement from Coinbase, they are “on track” with the SEC registration and are currently pending approval to manage a regulated broker-dealer.

The exchange suggested that the approval will be able to grant the opportunity for them to offer more exciting features on the platform such as “future services that include crypto securities trading, margin and over-the-counter (OTC) trading, and new market data products.”

Coinbase has also recently obtained Keystone Capital Corp., Venovate Marketplace, Inc., and Digital Wealth LLC to assist in the endeavor of procuring the license.

Coinbase’s chief operating officer Asiff Hirji stated in the announcement:

There are now many types of blockchain-based digital assets, from cryptocurrencies to security tokens to collectibles. In the United States, some of these assets will be subject to SEC oversight. With this in mind, securing these licenses will bring us a step closer to our goal, which is to be the most trusted way for our customers to buy, sell, and use many different types of crypto assets.”

The news comes in the wake of several new products from the service – including a new venture fund as well as a new passively-managed index fund.

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IBM links up with Global Citizen to set philanthropic challenge to developers

“Challenge accepted” might be known as a catchphrase by one of televisions’ more adult Barney’s, but the meaning might be set to change.

IBM, one of the world’s most prominent tech companies, has partnered with humanitarian organization Global Citizen to present the Challenge Accepted initiative, an anti-poverty movement campaign to offer aid to those who are impoverished globally.

Based on an initiative set by the United Nations’ Envision 2030, the companies are looking to make a change using blockchain technology.

IBM announced the initiative with a challenge for developers to join, saying that they are looking to empower developers to “construct a first of its kind donation tracking application, all done on a blockchain platform!” The tech giant promotes the project saying that those joining “will be given all the tools [they] need to get started on [their] mission.”

Not only will developers be aiding in the lives of others, the challenge offers an aspect of reward too and while on the ‘challenge’, they have the opportunity to complete various tasks which can earn them ‘points’ which can be redeemed for various things, such as access to IBM experts.

We’ve seen blockchain technology implemented for aiding impoverished areas in other aspects too, such as in UNICEF’s ‘Hope Page‘ and cryptocurrency has been used to sponsor various projects such as Ethereum creator’s Vitalik Buterin’s funding for refugees, anti-aging, and research projects.

Simon Moss, the co-founder of Global Citizen, is an advocate for harnessing the power of blockchain to use for good and expressed this in a blog post concurrent with the announcement of Challenge Accepted’s launch, saying blockchain can be a “bold reinvention of how philanthropy and donors interact.”

Challenge Accepted will run from 15th May until 14th July of this year and the call is for “developers to construct the foundational layer of the much larger lifecycle of impact and accountability tracking; validating government and large corporate commitments and fund transfers resulting from Global Citizen’s advocacy work.”

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Facebook reshuffle sees the platform’s first step to blockchain

Facebook’s head of MessengerDavid Marcus is going to lead a new team focused on bringing blockchain technology to the social media platform.

Marcus announced the news in a Facebook post where he expressed his excitement about the new challenge ahead, saying that he is “setting up a small group to explore how to best leverage Blockchain across Facebook, starting from scratch.”

Marcus, who has been heading up Messenger for nearly four years, joined massive cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase as a board member in December of last year. Sources have said that he will be moving out of this position and instead be heading up the newly formed blockchain group for the company. Stan Chudnovsky will be taking over Marcus’ position, as said in the announcement and the former Messenger leader has every faith that the team will “continue to create amazing experiences for all the people who depend on it around the world.”

According to Recode, this move comes after Facebook saw its biggest executive shuffle in fifteen years which led to the division of teams into three departments including the ” “Family of apps” group run by Chief Product Officer Chris Cox, the executive previously in charge of the core Facebook app. Cox will now oversee Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger“.

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, expressed interest in January about looking into cryptocurrencies, stating that the opportunities that decentralized systems present could ultimately aid in a shift of power from the centralized systems to individuals.

The social media platform has been in the headlines of cryptocurrency related news, and this move is a little surprising considering the timing of the ban on cryptocurrency advertisements that Facebook implemented, just in January of this year.

The platform has also seen a lawsuit since then from financial expert Martin Lewis who is claiming for defamation with his image being allowed in digital currency-related advertisements.

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Ethereum hikes up the game with new proof-of-stake protocol

Ethereum’s Casper “Friendly Finality Gadget” code is now public

The new version of the code behind Casper “Friendly Finality Gadget” (FFG) has officially been released.
The plan is for Casper FFG to modify the software of ethereum so that updating the blockchain ledger will involve both a proof-of-work and a proof-of-stake protocol. The intention is to eventually move to a system based solely on proof-of-stake protocol but the timing of the change is not confirmed.

The developer behind the project Danny Ryan remarked in the release that this version will help clients and external auditors in easily tracking contracts and changes.

Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin has also weighed in, suggesting that the Casper upgrade will “hopefully one of the more joyous experiences in ethereum in a fairly short time“.

South Korea’s new financial chief to ease cryptoregulations

The government of South Korea has just approved a Yoon Suk-heun as a new chief for the country’s Financial Supervisory Service (FSS).

Known as an activist and reformist Yoon has allegedly declared that he might look into reducing regulations on cryptocurrencies in order to help businesses grow in the virtual currency sector.

Yoon has said that there are some positive aspects to cryptocurrencies, without denying that there are still many problems that need to be tackled. Optimistic, he offered that they would be able to figure them out gradually.

The newly appointed chief has said that while regulation is good, it would be better to find a way to help new businesses grow. He stated:

Imposing taxes on crypto exchanges and investors needs to be considered, if necessary.

Winklevoss brothers are #twinning and patent #winning

Winklevoss IP has been granted a patent which was applied for in December of last year. The patent aims to accomplish transactions for exchange-traded products (ETPs) which are holding cryptocurrencies.

The company owned by the Winklevoss twins will look to launch the system which will be able to deal with the transactions for ETPs allotting to cryptocurrencies “such as bitcoins … ripple, dogecoins … ether” according to published patent.

ETPs as a sort of security whose amounts originate from other investment instruments that they are linked to would be relevant, in this case, to the cryptocurrencies laid out.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has not yet admitted any cryptocurrency related exchange-traded-funds on exchanges. A number of firms this year had propositioned a change of regulation to the SEC but have since withdrawn their filings as per requirement by the SEC’s authority.

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