Blockchain Consortium R3 Launches Corda Network and Independent Governance Foundation

Enterprise blockchain software firm R3 has announced the launch of its Corda Network, which will be operated and overseen by a newly created not-for-profit organization, the Corda Network Foundation. The announcement was made in an R3 press release published on Jan. 16.

R3 has to date reportedly gathered over 300 partners from across multiple industries — both the private and public sector —  to collaborate on developing Corda, its open-source blockchain platform, as well as its business-oriented offshoot Corda Enterprise.

The Corda Network will reportedly serve as a base layer of identity and consensus for all participants, and allow for the transfer of data and digital assets between communities of nodes (business networks) and the different decentralized applications running on the Corda platform (CorDapps).

With identity verification and privacy provisions, the network will enable participants to create nested private ecosystems within their organization — or join together with commercial partners — to efficiently share data between approved parties, while retaining interoperability with the wider Corda community.

The Corda Network Foundation, whose directorial board will reportedly be elected by members of the Corda Network, is set to operate independently of R3.

The joint launch will aim to establish an international, transparently governed network that will make Corda adoption seamless and foster the secure and efficient development of new applications for Corda and Corda Enterprise.

Multiple Corda ecosystem participants are quoted in the press release as saying that the open governance system and oversight from a non-biased operator will be crucial to securing the success of the Corda Network and contribute toward its aim to provide a secure, trusted and efficient alternative to today’s siloed systems.

As reported, Corda has seen a wave of adoption news in recent months, most recently onboarding an American blockchain consortium and credit union service organization (CUSO).

In December, R3’s Corda-based Euro Debt Solution was used by a German-French-Dutch triad of banks to successfully complete a live commercial paper transaction; major Japanese financial services company SBI Holdings announced its partnership with R3 to boost the use of Corda in Asia; and 26 French companies and five major banks completed a Know Your Customer (KYC) test using Corda.

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Mongolia Partners With Stablecoin to Use Blockchain for Lending Services, Money Transfers

Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaanbaatar has partnered with a stablecoin company to release instant money transfer and lending services, Asia’s largest tech media platform e27 reported on Jan. 11.

Ulaanbaatar City’s administration has agreed to partner with a South Korean blockchain company, dubbed Terra, in order to eventually replace the current payment methods for utility bill and government subsidies with the Terra stablecoin, according to the publication.

The pilot program is scheduled to be launched within the next six months, and will start in the city of Ulaanbaatar’s Nalaikh District, with plans to expand throughout the whole city. The article also states that the program within the Mongolian capital will contain both peer-to-peer payments and mobile payments.

Terra is a stablecoin project co-founded by Daniel Shin, the creator of South Korean e-commerce marketplace Ticket Monster. The stablecoin project closed a $32 million funding round in August 2018, with participation from Binance Labs, OKEx and Huobi Capital, as well as Polychain Capital.

Back last fall, the Bank of Mongolia, the country’s central bank, had given permission to Mongolia’s largest mobile telecoms operator to issue its own digital currency, as Cointelegraph reported on Sep. 28.

Terra, the stablecoin project, had already partnered with South Korean messaging app giant KakaoTalk back in last November as well. The partnership is aimed at developing a blockchain-based payment system and creating a blockchain ecosystem that would allow a large number of people to use its services, Cointelegraph wrote on Nov. 14.

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At Least 340 UK Crypto or Blockchain Companies Ceased Operations in 2018, Report Finds

At least 340 cryptocurrency or blockchain companies were dissolved or liquidated this year in the United Kingdom (UK), British news outlet Sky News reported on Dec. 22.

UK crypto companies in 2018. Source: SkyNews

The aforementioned article also reports that last year, the number of companies in this industry that had been liquidated amounted to 139, nearly two and a half times less than this year. Moreover, 60 percent of the companies dissolved this year ceased activity between June and November.

According to the reported data, more than 200 of the now-dissolved companies “were incorporated with Companies House during 2017.” This year, according to the article, newly-registered crypto companies were growing slower than the number of dissolved businesses for the first time.

The data upon which Sky News reportedly based its article has been gathered from OpenCorporates, a website sharing data on corporate entities, and Companies House, the U.K.’s registrar of companies.

The current downward crypto market movement in 2018 has taken its toll on some of the biggest companies in the space as well.

Chinese crypto mining giant Bitmain reportedly closed its Israeli development center in mid-December, laying off 23 employees.

And ConsenSys, a global community made to create and promote blockchain infrastructure and decentralized applications (DApps) closely tied to the Ethereum (ETH) ecosystem, has laid off a substantial portion of its employees.

As Cointelegraph recently reported, the number of employees to be laid off could be anywhere between 50 and 60 percent of the total company’s workforce.

However, Joseph Lubin, the co-founder of Ethereum project and founder of Consensys, has pointed out that the company “remains healthy and is engaging in a rebalancing of priorities and activities which started about nine months ago.”

Also, as pointed out by a recent Cointelegraph analysis — even after the recent slump — a LinkedIn study has down blockchain developers are in high demand on the platform, becoming one of the fastest-growing emerging jobs in the United States.

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Blockstream, Swiss IT Consulting Firm Sign MoU for Blockchain Integration Services

Global blockchain company Blockstream has partnered with а Swiss crypto consulting firm to launch a blockchain-driven settlement network, according to a press-release Dec. 17.

Inacta AG and Blockstream have reportedly recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to provide integration services for Liquid — a sidechain solution launched by Blockstream in October. Liquid reportedly combines key features of public and permissioned blockchains, allowing for the issuance and transfer of different crypto tokens.

As per inacta AG’s release, the company will focus on “helping financial institutions to leverage the benefits of the Liquid blockchain.” The Swiss firm will provide support for clients considering issuing their own assets via Liquid.

In addition to that, inacta has integrated Liquid with its own platform, Tokengate, that was initially developed to make the initial coin offering (ICO) market in Zug Valley compliant and transparent.

This week, Blockstream also announced that it has expanded its crypto satellite services. The company is now broadcasting the BTC blockchain to all of Earth’s major land masses, with the recently-added fifth satellite covering the Asia Pacific region.

Switzerland’s Zug Valley, dubbed Crypto Valley for hosting multiple industry-related startups, has recently been ranked the fastest-growing tech community in Europe.

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US Credit Union Blockchain Consortium Joins R3's Global Ecosystem

CULedger, a credit union service organization (CUSO)-owned blockchain consortium, has joined enterprise software firm R3’s global blockchain ecosystem. The partnership was officially revealed in a press release published Dec. 13.

Based in Denver, Colorado, CULedger reportedly delivers blockchain applications to credit unions and their members, using the technology to mitigate cybersecurity and fraud risks, as well as streamline administrative and operational processes to save time and costs. The firm also provides a specific blockchain-based identification solution for credit union members.

As the press release notes, the consortium joins the R3 global network, which has to date reportedly gathered over 200 financial services companies, tech firms, central banks, regulators, and trade associations to collaborate on or use its enterprise-grade blockchain platform “Corda.”

Corda has been designed to work within the financial services industry and uses a permissioned distributed ledger technology (DLT) system to restrict data access to the required participants only. This July, R3 released a commercial version of Corda, dubbed “Corda Enterprise,” aimed specifically at businesses.

The Corda platform has seen a wave of positive adoption news in recent months.

Just in December, R3’s Corda-based Euro Debt Solution was used by a German-French-Dutch triad of banks to successfully complete a live commercial paper transaction; major Japanese financial services company SBI Holdings announced its partnership with R3 to boost use of Corda in Asia; and 26 French companies and five major banks completed a know your customer (KYC) test using Corda.

In mid-October, United Kingdom-based bank Natwest announced it would be integrating a new blockchain platform based on R3 Corda technology for use in the syndicated loans market.

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UAE Exchange, Ripple to Launch Blockchain Remittances to Asia by Q1 2019

United Arab Emirates-based UAE Exchange has partnered with Ripple to launch blockchain-based cross-border remittances to Asia by Q1 2019, Reuters reports Dec. 13.

According to the report, UAE Exchange, a part of payments and foreign exchange company Finablr, is among the key players in the Middle East region, which sees high levels of remittance inflows from expatriate workers. As Reuters notes, Asia was one of the largest recipients of the $613 billion in remittances estimated to have been sent globally in 2017.

While remittances are at present largely sent via foreign exchange branches, CEO of Finablr Promoth Manghat has said that blockchain-based alternatives hold “tremendous promise for the industry.” Aiming to bring the technology to the mainstream via UAE Exchange’s joint venture with Ripple, Manghat has said:

“We expect to go live with Ripple by Q1, 2019 with one or two Asian banks. This is for remittances to start with, from across the globe into Asia.”

UAE Exchange’s partnership with Ripple for cross-border payments dates back to February of this year, making the firm, according to Reuters, the “largest payments firm in the Middle East” to use RippleNet. Lenders in the region who have reportedly joined RippleNet include the National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah RAKB.AD and Kuwait Finance House.

As reported just yesterday, the UAE’s central bank is currently collaborating with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) to issue a cryptocurrency that will be accepted in cross-border inter-bank transactions between the two countries.

In early October, it was revealed that a digital currency pegged to the UAE’s fiat currency, the dirham, would soon have its own retail payment system open for Dubai consumers.

As of press time, Ripple’s native token XRP is trading at roughly $0.30, down just over one percent on the day, and over 12 percent on the week, according to Cointelegraph’s XRP Price Index.

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Binance to Launch Its Own Blockchain ‘Binance Chain’ in ‘Coming Months’

Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange by trading volumes, will launch its own blockchain “Binance Chain” in the “coming months,” as the company revealed in a tweet on Dec. 4.

The new Binance-backed blockchain aims to provide a basis for creating new cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offering (ICO) tokens, as the company said in the tweet:

“Binance is pushing for blockchain adoption and doing many things to help advancement of the industry. E.g. we will have the Binance chain ready in the coming months, on which millions of projects can easily issue tokens.”

According to Forbes, Binance announced their plans during a recent private event in Singapore hosted by Forbes Asia. Speaking at the “Decrypting Blockchain for Business” event, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) stated that the new plans actually indicate an old vision of crypto, which will expectedly lead to increasing its adoption on a global scale.

In order to reach a fundamental “payment adoption increase,” CZ said that the company will be “pushing really hard into that space,” since their “original intent” hasn’t taken off “for some reason.”

Forbes’ author Michael del Castillo, who unveiled the recent news, commented on Twitter that the he expects that there will be “millions of coins and thousands of blockchains.”

On Nov. 8, CZ revealed that Binance’s business was still “very stable,” despite the recent exchange volume drop of around 50 percent, as well as the significant slump of crypto markets this year. The Binance CEO stated that while Binance possessed just 10 percent of the trading volumes they had in January 2018, the volumes are still higher than those of “two or three years ago,” and the business is “still profitable.”

Recently,  Binance has launched its fiat-to-crypto exchange in Uganda, enabling its customers to purchase two major cryptocurrencies  — Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) — with local fiat currency Ugandan shillings (UGX).

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Siemens Joins Blockchain-Driven Energy Platform to Increase Interoperability in Industry

Two energy divisions of German tech giant Siemens have joined a blockchain-driven energy platform to promote the use of decentralized technologies in the sector, according to a press release published Wednesday, Nov. 21.

According to Siemens, its Energy Management and Power Generation Services departments are partnering with open-source, scalable blockchain platform Energy Web Foundation (EWF), founded in 2017 to elaborate regulatory, operational, and market solutions for the energy sector.

Siemens officials believe that blockchain technology will help increase interoperability in the area, linking consumers with energy producers and network operators, the press release writes. Moreover, the technology could help increase the efficiency of energy systems and enable new forms of project financing.

The statement also notes that Siemens is already using blockchain accompanied by microgrid control solutions to optimize control over energy consumption. For instance, in 2016, the German firm collaborated with U.S. startup LO3 Energy to develop microgrids

that enable local trading between energy consumers and producers on a blockchain platform. The solution was trialed in one of New York’s boroughs, Brooklyn, enabled to feed the excess electricity back into the local grid and receive payments from its purchasers.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, the company’s financing arm, Siemens Financial Services (SFS), took part in a blockchain pilot in August for bank guarantees using R3 Corda technology, launched by U.K. multinational banking and financial services company Standard Chartered (SC).

Blockchain is actively tested by major energy industry players in different countries. For instance, major Singaporean utility company SP Group, which provides electricity and gas transmission in the country, launched a blockchain marketplace to trade solar energy. Also in Asia, South Korea’s largest power provider KEPCO will use blockchain and other innovative energy solutions to develop an eco-friendly microgrid.

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‘The Big Issue’ Newspaper Launches Blockchain Platform to Promote Impact Investing

The Big Issue, a street newspaper sold by the homeless in the U.K. and other countries, is launching a blockchain-driven platform to promote impact investing, The Financial Times reports Monday, Nov. 18.

Three investment companies — UK Standard Life Aberdeen, U.S. Columbia Threadneedle, and AllianceBernstein — will join The Big Issue as founders of the platform dubbed The Big Exchange. According to the FT, it will offer 30 to 40 social and environmental impact funds, and is set to start working within six months.

The potential investors will be charged a minor fee to use The Big Exchange. Once registered to the platform, they will be able to choose between several sets of proposals awarded a gold, silver, or bronze score based on their correlation with the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals.

The minimum investment is expected to be $640, but Nigel Kershaw, chairman of The Big Exchange, is planning to reduce it down to £2.50 ($3.20) — the same price as The Big Issue.

As per the FT, the platform has already raised about $1.3 million from three of its founders and London-based fintech company FNZ. In the following five years, The Big Exchange expects to attract as much as $3.8 million.

Blockchain is widely used for social needs, especially in the field of charity. As Cointelegraph previously explained, crypto-related technologies, and in particular blockchain, could help increase transparency for donations and international transactions, reducing the fees on money transfers at the same time.

For instance, major crypto exchange Binance has recently managed to raise $1.41 million in various types of ERC20 tokens for those who suffered from devastating floods in Japan in mid-July.

Moreover, blockchain solutions have been used to promote social activity. The manufacturer of household cleaning supplies SC Johnson and environmental organization Plastic Bank partnered in October to open several plastic recycling centers in Indonesia, offering locals tokens for waste collection.

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Chinese Blockchain-Related Company Xunlei Reports $45.3 Million Q3 Revenue

Chinese desktop software and blockchain-related company Xunlei has published its Q3 report Wednesday, Nov. 14. According to the report, the firm’s revenue increased in 2018 after the introduction of blockchain services.

The report notes that the company’s Q3 revenue reached $45.3 million, representing an increase of 1.1% year-over-year. The firm attributed $19.8 million of that revenue to its cloud and Internet value-added services sectors, which is an increase of 8.3 percent over the same period last year.

Lei Chen, CEO of Xunlei group, stated that blockchain remains one of the key investment areas for the company, noting:

“We believe that blockchain is a technology that can change our lives, and we will strive to make it available in different areas in a simpler and more cost-effective way.”

The company specifically mentioned its blockchain platform ThunderСhain, which has been launched this year, and lists recent blockchain-related partnerships, including a deal with the largest media group in China, People’s Daily, which is also the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China.

Xunlei, known for its P2P software and BitTorrent client and especially popular in China, re-oriented towards blockchain technology development in October 2017.

Back then, following a sustained downturn over two years, the company announced its first blockchain-driven initiative: the Link Token, which could be used to pay for some of Xunlei’s services. Shortly after, Xunlei became the best performing stock on Nasdaq, seeing up to 75 percent increase in shares, according to Bloomberg.

Later, in November, Xunlei came under scrutiny from China’s financial regulator following a state ban on Initial Coin Offerings (ICO). Consequently, its shares fell 40 percent. Despite the loss, Xunlei launched two new blockchain products in the spring, StellarCloud and ThunderChain Open Platform. Several months after the launch, the company’s CEO Lei Chen claimed that in Q2 Xunlei saw a $65.8 million in revenue, meaning a growth of over 70 percent on a year-over-year basis.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, in 2018 Xunlei also partnered with People’s Daily to construct a laboratory for “technology innovation” at the People Capital’s Blockchain Research Institute. Moreover, the two will develop a blockchain-driven platform to organize competitions, seminars, workshops, and promote and identify startups in the blockchain industry.

Several crypto-related companies have recently published their Q3 2018 reports: Japanese IT giant GMO Internet revealed a “historical performance” of its crypto-related sector, and Canadian Bitcoin (BTC) mining company Hut 8 declared a record revenue of $13.5 million, an increase by 126 percent compared to the previous quarter’s revenue of $5.9 million.

Moreover, Q3 2018 marks biggest quarter yet for Bitcoin revenue of Square — a U.S. financial services company that introduced Bitcoin support in its Square Cash payment app earlier this year.

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Blockchain.com Wallet Adds Stellar, Announces $125 Mln XLM Airdrop to ‘Drive Adoption’

Cryptocurrency wallet provider Blockchain.com has launched full support for altcoin Stellar (XLM), accompanied by a hefty airdrop of $125 million worth of XLM to its user base. The news was announced in an official blog post today, Nov. 6.

Blockchain.com pitched the mammoth offering as “the largest airdrop in the history of crypto and likely the largest consumer giveaway ever,” suggesting that airdrops are “a great way to drive decentralization and adoption for new networks.”

The firm underscores that the benefit of crypto airdrops for consumers are that they are able to “test, trade, and transact” unfamiliar crypto assets without having to mine or invest first.

Blockchain.com gives the rationale for its choice to launch support for Stellar as being due to the token’s network being “built for scalability,” as well as for its provision of the ability to create custom tokens that represent “real-world or virtual goods and services.”

Prior to adding Stellar support, the Blockchain.com wallet already supported three other cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin (BTC),  Bitcoin Cash (BCH), and Ethereum (ETH).

As of press time, Stellar (XLM) is ranked sixth largest cryptocurrency by market cap on CoinMarketCap’s listings, seeing a strong 5.35 percent growth on the day, trading at $0.258.

In late September, Cointelegraph reported that Blockchain.com had been ranked within the top ten most “sought-after” U.K. startup employers in new listings on LinkedIn. Among its attributes, LinkedIn noted Blockchain.com’s “benefits such as free food and flexible working,” unlimited holiday policy and a bonus scheme for employees paid in Bitcoin.

Airdrops have recently made headlines in less auspicious terms, with China’s stringently anti-crypto central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), announcing it would be widening its regulatory scrutiny to include token airdrops, which it characterized as “disguised” Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) in its 2018 financial stability report.

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Will Small Companies Beat Large Corporations if They Use Blockchain?

An American startup is building a blockchain agnostic protocol in a bid to provide small businesses with affordable access to new technology, and drive the mass adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Opporty, with experienced founders from the U.S., has also set up a “trusted and verified services marketplace” on the Ethereum blockchain, with features such as smart contracts, decentralized escrow, and lead generation. The company believes its platform helps small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to compete with large corporations, without requiring large investments in technology and marketing.

Widespread coverage

By now, Opporty has launched its platform’s localizations in China, the UK, Canada, the USA, and Australia. As the company reported to Cointelegraph, currently there are approximately up to 10 registrations per day, by new providers on the platform. “Therefore, we observe that SMEs are ready to grow and benefit with Opporty, an online Marketplace that cares,” added the company’s representative.

First providers already signed up

In the beginning of 2018, Opporty has acquired two new clients in New York. Both offer crypto payment options on their websites.

Universal Accounting Systems, uses the company’s platform to allow its clients to pay with Bitcoin and Ethereum for tax preparation and other services. It uses Opporty’s smart widget to offer its clients a simple view of its services, and allows them to pay with cryptocurrency.

Hudson Law Group, a midtown firm headed by David Treyster, has posted some customized crypto-based offerings for its clients using the Opporty marketplace. It also uses the smart widget and has already begun receiving crypto transactions through it.

The company says, the amount of U.S.-based providers which registered on the platform has increased. The Australian version, which has recently been released, already has new providers that accept crypto payments, including OPP, the company’s token.

The widgets by Opporty allow users to receive payments from customers. Companies that have listed their crypto-based offers at Opporty, ​get smart widgets on their websites​. Once the widget is placed, consumers can choose from several payment options, including ETH and BTC.

“Small business owners now realize that cryptocurrencies can give them a head start over their competition,” Opporty founder Sergey Grybniak said in a release. Opporty enables anyone to use cryptocurrency, and the attendant benefits of blockchain, without having to master the underlying technology, the entrepreneur added.

Opporty’s Plasma Protocol

In March 2018, the Opporty team decided to implement ​Ethereum’s Plasma Protocol to “resolve the trust issues in business transactions and lack of privacy in traditional blockchain solutions.” The ​First backend version of Opporty’s Plasma solution allowed users to process around 5,000 transactions per second, the company said.

“Then we have decided to come up with our own solution for ​Plasma Cash​, an enhancement technology for Plasma Protocol. After tireless work, our developers managed to enhance the technology​ to achieve the highest public test, which was more than Alipay at peak,” reported the Opporty team to Cointelegraph.

Opporty’s B2B platform allows providers to list their offerings on the B2B services marketplace in a targeted manner, post requests for proposals, receive bids, and execute deals.

The company claims that it resolves trust and sustainability problems between counterparties by storing business transaction data, including transaction quality, on the blockchain. It enables verification and validation of counterparty trustworthiness by implementing the Plasma Protocol. Its benefits position Opporty as a reliable option for domestic and cross-border transactions using cryptocurrencies, which can be used in supply chain risk management, corporate transactions and government procurements. The PoE protocol allows integration with other blockchain-powered platforms.

Big Achievements

Opporty’s project is constantly acquiring new updates and features, such as BLS threshold signatures and Delegated Proof of Stake, zk-SNARKs.

Right now Opporty is in its beta development, with MVP (Minimum Viable Product) already available for application and use. The open-source code has been released on GitHub.

Opporty is a member of China Cooperative Trade Enterprise Association, and the company is advised by Mr. Daniel Wu, who is a Deputy Director of One Belt One Road Development center.

In April 2018, Opporty joined the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), the world’s largest open source blockchain initiative. EEA is a non-profit organization that supports Ethereum-based technology best practices and the whole industry.

The company is proud to be a partner of InfiniVision Network Technology (Shanghai) in the fields of big data and blockchain integrations.

In 2018, ​Opporty has scored two Bronze Awards​, a renowned reward among entrepreneurs and innovators. It won the Stevie International Business Competition in the following nominations: Company of the Year  —  Business or Professional Services  —  Small category, and Online Marketing Campaign of the Year category.

Understanding that an online marketplace could be something much more than just a business product, Opporty has become a UN Global Compact participant. Taking part in this initiative, the Opporty team conducts research work in the fields of resolving issues of poverty and unemployment.

OPP, the company’s token, is already available on several exchanges, and the list is being updated.

 

Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.

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Major Agriculture Companies Partner to Use Blockchain in Grain Trading

The world’s four largest agriculture companies, commonly known as ABCD, have partnered to digitize international grain trading by using blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, Reuters reports Thursday, Oct. 25.

ABCD, composed of Archer Daniels Midland Co., Bunge Ltd., Cargill Inc., and Louis Dreyfus Co., states that blockchain implementation could make trading more efficient and transparent, as well as reduce costs. The conglomerate aims to digitize the system that has previously relied on paper contracts, invoices, and manual payments.

According to grain industry news outlet World-Grain.com, blockchain and AI will be initially used to automate grain and oilseed post-trade execution processes, which are a highly manual and costly part of the supply chain.

In the long run, ABCD plans to integrate blockchain technology on different levels of the supply chain, including shipping, storage, and customer experience.

As cited by World-Grain.com, CEO of Louis Dreyfus Co. Ian McIntosh explained how blockchain could help develop the agriculture industry, noting the technology’s “capacity to generate efficiencies and reduce the time usually spent on manual document and data processing.”

Major food giants across the world have been testing blockchain to improve the efficiency of the supply chain. Louis Dreyfus Co., along with four other parties, conducted its first blockchain-based shipment back in January 2018, sending soybeans from America to China using the Easy Trading Connect (ETC) blockchain platform.

U.S. national milk marketing cooperative Dairy Farmers of America also piloted decentralized solutions among its farmer-members in 48 states, while major Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn used blockchain to track orange juice production.

As per a recent study by Reportlinker, blockchain use in agriculture and food supply chains market will be worth over $400 million in the next five years.

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Consultancy Firm Accenture Targets Enterprise Blockchain Interoperability With Fresh Tool

Global management consultancy firm Accenture revealed a new blockchain tool in a press release Oct. 22, its second in a month focusing on interoperability.

A week after announcing a supply chain partnership with Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank, Accenture said its latest offering facilitated existing enterprise blockchain systems to integrate with one another.

Specifically, blockchain platform Digital Asset can now work in tandem with R3’s Corda platform, while Hyperledger Fabric and JPMorgan’s Quorum form another interoperable pair.

Discussing the two separate solutions, which the company has already tested, managing director and Global Blockchain Lead David Treat described them as a “game changer.”

“The key challenge was to develop the ability to integrate without introducing ‘operational messaging’ between distributed ledger technology platforms in order to stay true to the principles and benefits of blockchain technology,” he commented, continuing:

“Applying this capability with our clients is already unlocking new opportunities to bring ecosystems together, mitigating key concerns about picking the ‘wrong’ platform or having to re-build if one partner uses something different.”

All four blockchain platforms continue to see success in enterprise uptake worldwide, making their way into systems throughout various sectors of the global economy.

For its most recent deal in Thailand, Accenture also opted for a single system, using Corda as the basis for its so-called Procure-to-Pay product.

“We have said right from the beginning that interoperability is key to avoiding the trapped assets and silos of the past,” R3’s CTO Richard Gendal Brown added in this week’s press release.

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Visa Set to Launch Blockchain-Based Digital Identity System with IBM in Q1 2019

Visa is readying its blockchain-based digital identity system for cross-border payments for launch in the first quarter of 2019, according to a press release published October 21.

The system, dubbed Visa B2B Connect, will provide a blockchain-based digital identity solution for financial institutions to securely process cross-border payments. The system reportedly tokenizes sensitive business data – such as banking details and account numbers – granting them a unique cryptographic identifier that will be used for transactions on the platform.

Kevin Phalen, global head at Visa Business Solutions, suggests that the system will help with fraud:

“B2B Connect’s digital identity greatly reduces the opportunity for fraud that might otherwise exist with checks, ACH and wire transfers today, while also helping companies remain compliant as part of the regulated financial ecosystem.”

From a technical standpoint the solution will integrate a Hyperledger Fabric framework (which is hosted by the Linux Foundation and was developed with input from IBM) with Visa’s “core assets,” which the release claims will establish a scalable permissioned network for use in the financial sector.

Jason Kelley, general manager at IBM Blockchain Services, is quoted as saying that the system represents one of the most “powerful examples to date of how blockchain is transforming payments.”

Fintech provider Bottomline Technologies – which serves 1,200 financial institutions, according to the release – is also partnering with Visa on the B2B Connect system, a partnership that will enable “mutual financial institution clients” to access the system.

As reported last month, Thailand’s fourth largest bank, Kasikornbank, just recently joined the B2B Connect corporate cross-border payments initiative.

According to Visa’s website, B2B Connect was first previewed back in 2017, and counted the U.S. Commerce Bank, South Korea’s Shinhan Bank, the Union Bank of Philippines, and the United Overseas Bank in Singapore as among the first partners processing pilot payments ahead of commercial launch.

Even as it embraces blockchain’s potential, Visa – alongside MasterCard – has this month reportedly moved to group cryptocurrency and Initial Coin Offering (ICO) under a new “High-Risk Securities Merchants” classification, meaning interaction with them will be subject to additional monitoring.

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Dubai – the Blockchain Oasis of the UAE: From Public to Private Sector

In some countries around the world, governments have had a stifling effect on the adoption of blockchain technology. Conversely, the government of the UAE and Dubai have been the driving force behind the promotion of blockchain use in the country.

2018 has seen some significant developments on this front but the foundations had been laid a couple of years ago.

Across the private and public sectors, there has been a push to incorporate this new tech to overhaul current systems. This includes as plans to launch a cryptocurrency that will be used by citizens and governmental departments.

EmCash

The first proposal for an official Dubai cryptocurrency called emCash came about in October 2017. The cryptocurrency is touted to be used for payments for governmental and nongovernmental services – and is pegged to the UAE Dirham.

Consumers could well be using emCash in the next few months after the government signed a deal with a number of parties to setup point of sale payments for the cryptocurrency.

The partnership was announced on October 9, which includes emCredit, a subsidiary of the Dubai Department of Economic Development, blockchain payment provider Pundi X and its partner Ebooc Fintech & Loyalty Labs LLC.

Ebooc will be responsible for providing point of sale terminals in retail outlets, while Pundi X is expected to create 100,000 point of sale units over the next three years.

Regulations – ICOs lead to cautious approach

The Central Bank of the UAE began working on legislation at the beginning of 2017 to address the use of cryptocurrencies in the country.

This culminated in a report by Abu Dhabi’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority in October 2017, which released its findings on initial coin offerings (ICOs) and cryptocurrencies – classing them as securities and commodities respectively.

A swathe of apathy towards ICOs, with bans in countries like China, happened around the same time last year. This had a slight ripple effect, as other institutions and regulatory bodies put out warnings to investors centred on the associated risks of investing in ICOs. This saw UAE Central Bank Governor Mubarak Rashid al-Mansouri caution citizens against the use of cryptocurrencies – amid fears of volatility and criminal uses.

This was primarily due to the corresponding drop in value of various cryptocurrencies following China’s ban, as Al-Mansouri said in a speech at the Islamic Financial Services Board Summit:

“The risks of trading in digital currencies have clearly appeared when the prices of digital currency fell sharply after some countries announced a ban on using initial coin offerings.”

The negative stigma around ICOs seemed to continue into the new year, amid an overall decline in the crypto markets following all time highs in December. In the US, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) led the way with no-nonsense attitude towards ICOs in February 2018.

The UAE Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) also cautioned local investors about the inherent risks associated with ICOs. Given that they are not regulated in the country, investors had no means of legal protection against fraud.

In an effort to address these concerns, it is understood that the UAE in nearing the completion of a draft of regulations for ICOs in the country. This was reported in September 2018, and is led by the UAE SCA.

Dubai – A Smart blockchain city

In 2016, the foundations were laid for Dubai to uncover startup companies that could help drive the way for the city to become blockchain-powered by 2020.

The UAE government founded the Smart Dubai initiative in 2013, an ambitious project looking to provide cutting edge technological innovations across the country, from technology to governmental processes.

A central part of the initiative is to improve government efficiency by using blockchain technology, in the hopes of making Dubai a global leader in the space. This includes a transition to digital systems which will see visa applications, bill payments, and license renewals move away from traditional paper documentation.

According to Smart Dubai, blockchain technology could redistribute up to 25 million hours of economic productivity by removing the need for paper document processing. The project also promised to benefit the tourism industry in Dubai as international travellers will have fast-tracked entry with pre-approved passport, visas, and security clearances.

Moving around the city will also be improved with approved drivers licenses and car rental, wireless connectivity as well as pre-authenticated temporary digital wallets.

An official Blockchain Strategy was launched in October 2016, in association with Seed Fund 1776, looking for companies building blockchain-based applications across a broad range of industries. In 2017 Dubai won the City Project award for its blockchain strategy, awarded by the Smart City Expo and World Congress in Barcelona.

In conjunction with the Smart Dubai initiative, in April 2018 UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid eventually launched the broader UAE Blockchain Strategy 2021. At the time Sheikh Mohammed said that the project could save the UAE government up to $3 billion annually on document circulation, and drastically improve the quality of life and efficiency:

“The adoption of this technology will reflect on the quality of life in the UAE and will enhance happiness levels for citizens. 50 percent of government transactions on the federal level will be conducted using Blockchain technology by 2021. This technology will save time, effort, and resources and enable individuals to conduct most of their transactions in a timely manner that suits their lifestyle and work.”

Cointelegraph spoke with Muhammed Arafath, executive director at Apla Blockchain, platform helping integrate blockchain technology into government operations in a number of countries including India and the UAE, to get a first hand perspective on the current crypto climate in Dubai:

“Considering the vision which the Dubai government has set on being the ‘blockchain capital’ and the commitment for having most if not all of the government applications on Blockchain by 2020, Dubai is one of the most pro-blockchain governments in the region.”

Over the past two months, the UAE and Dubai have made significant progress in realizing some of the goals outlined in the Smart Dubai initiative.

Partnering with the Dubai Department of Finance, a blockchain-powered payment system was officially launched in September 2018. The Payment Reconciliation and Settlement (PRS) system aims to allow government entities like the Dubai Police, Roads and Transport Authority, and Dubai Health Authority to transact in real-time, providing a transparent system for intergovernmental processes..

According to local media outlet Zawya, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority have already been using the PRS system.

The tourism sector in Dubai is also expected to benefit from blockchain technology. In March 2018, plans for a virtual business-to-business tourism-specific marketplace using blockchain were unveiled. The Dubai Tourism Blockchain Marketplace will reportedly provide tourists with a platform that features real-time, transparent pricing of Dubai’s hotels availability.

From roads to the judicial system

Blockchain technology is also being leveraged to improve other areas of life in Dubai, from the streets of the city to its courts.

Thus, in February 2018 the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced plans to launch a blockchain-based system in 2020 that would track the lifecycle of vehicles in the country.

According to media outlet Arabian Business, RTA chairman and executive director Mattar Al Tayer says the initiative should benefit almost every single player in the industry:

“The platform benefits many stakeholders including car manufacturers, dealers, regulators, insurance companies, buyers, sellers and even garages, providing transparency and trust in vehicle transactions, preventing disputes and lowering the cost of services. It tracks ownership, sale, and accident history to create smart, more efficient systems for supply chains.”

In July, Dubai International Financial Center Courts announced a formal partnership with Smart Dubai in order to set up a ‘Court of the Blockchain’ to facilitate improvements in the judicial system. The move would eventually create a blockchain-powered judiciary to help verify court judgements for cross-border enforcement.

Ambitious programs to lead the way

Countries like Malta and the UAE seem to be leading the way in terms of blockchain adoption. Having recognized the many benefits of the technology, strides have been made to actively get out ahead of other countries.

A seemingly important factor is the balance between accepting this new technology while providing the necessary frameworks to ensure investors are protected.

The UAE Blockchain Strategy 2021 is a clear indication of the efforts being made by the country to foster the development of blockchain to improve its own governance and the quality of life for people in the region.

This positive and proactive attitude towards the industry is proving a point, as Arafath told Cointelegraph:

“Dubai is clearly leading the region by example on the adoption of blockchain and crypto.”

As Dubai and the UAE continue to explore and develop technology with the use of blockchain technology, as well as provide a guideline for the use of ICOs and cryptocurrencies, the outlook in the region seems positive.

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Indian Internet ‘Blockchain Committee’ Attracts Reps From Zebpay, MasterCard, Microsoft

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) is forming a dedicated focus group for blockchain exploration made up of both big business and cryptocurrency players, Indian daily newspaper Economic Times reported Monday, Oct. 15.

Confirmed in a tweet Tuesday, the IAMAI, whose remit is to “expand and enhance” the online and mobile sector, will use its “Blockchain Committee” to “identify opportunities and challenges and work with government, industry and startups” to develop a blockchain “ecosystem.”

The move comes amid testing times for cryptocurrency in India, with the country’s supreme court still deliberating on the legality of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) cryptocurrency banking ban it instigated in July.

Commenting on the plans, Tina Singh, chair of the newly-founded Blockchain Committee, said the technology was nonetheless “undoubtedly the technology of the future,” noting:

“The IAMAI Blockchain Committee will focus on creating dialogue between all stakeholders; curate and create content to aid skill development and move towards creating a participative economy with the usage of blockchain.”

Participants in the committee include major Indian cryptocurrency exchange ZebPay, itself a conspicuous victim of the central bank’s ban, having halted its exchange offering altogether late last month.

Other parties include representatives from MasterCard, Microsoft and IBM.

The RBI itself is also “researching” blockchain, sources reported in August, as part of an assessment process in which it would “check what can be adopted and what cannot.”

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Nouriel Roubini Versus Blockchain: Notes from the Senate Floor

Normally, there is very limited room for drawing legitimate comparisons between a Senate hearing and an Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight. Yet the hearing entitled “Exploring the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Ecosystem,” which took place on October 11, 2018 on the US Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs’ floor, definitely bore quite a few similarities to a hyped sporting event that had made big waves just a few days ago. Two witnesses who were brought to testify on issues and promises of crypto stood by polarising views on the subject matter, albeit they expressed these views with varying intensity.

On the pro-crypto side, there was Peter Van Valkenburgh, Director of Research at Coin Center, a reserved yet very articulate speaker. In the opposite corner, there was Nouriel Roubini. Roubini or “Dr. Doom”, whose reputation is mainly founded on the prediction of the 2008 housing bubble crash, would be the fighter who does trash talking. In the buildup to the hearing, he fired a long series of vehement tweets, bashing blockchain and its supporters, picking local fights and bragging about having debated best crypto gurus and “beating them by a wide margin”.

Into the hearing

Chairman Mike Crapo, a Republican Senator from Idaho, opened the proceedings with a statement that gave a nod to Bitcoin’s unique status as the first ever digital asset, and highlighted how the bulk of the latest news on crypto has been negative, including falling prices and regulatory woes. Ranking member Sherrod Brown of Ohio weighed in to point out that it was almost Bitcoin’s tenth anniversary, yet the space is still rife with fraud and misconduct, while tangible applications are scarce. He mentioned regulatory issues and referenced the famous statement by Jay Clayton, the chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as the recent report by the Attorney General of New York that was anything but complementary to biggest crypto exchanges. Brown implied, however, that blockchain could be potentially useful for improving the lives of the unbanked and underserved.

Roubini’s testimony

In his speech, the New York University professor followed rather closely the rambling argument presented in his 30-page written statement. In addition to a constellation of derogatory terms – it is quite likely that for many senators this became the first encounter with terms like ‘shitcoin’ – Roubini developed several central talking points that he would reiterate dogmatically throughout his testimony and on to the Q&A session. He argued that the whole crypto ‘asset class is imploding’ now, following the steep decline of prices compared to late 2017, and educated senators on the study that identified 80 percent of initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the same year as scams. He added that digital assets are useless as currency, since they are unable to serve as unit of account, means of payment, or store value.

A recurrent theme in Roubini’s account was superiority of centralized payment systems to blockchain-based ones. Several times he brought up the claim that the Bitcoin network’s throughput is only five transactions per second, while Visa can process up to twenty-five thousand transactions per second. Other attacks included assertions that ‘nobody uses it for transactions,’ except for criminals and terrorists, while mining is an ‘environmental disaster.’

Roubini also offered a rather unconventional view of what constitutes the realm of fintech. He claimed that, indeed, there is a revolution in the financial services industry currently going on, yet it has nothing to do with blockchain. Instead, it is allegedly powered by artificial intelligence, big data, and the Internet of Things (IoT), and displays in proliferation of centralized digital payment systems.

Meanwhile, the crypto libertarian dream of total decentralization is ‘utter nonsense.’ In fact, Roubini claims, ‘crypto land’ is subject to the opposite trend: heavy centralization of mining – which is apparently controlled mainly by Chinese and Russian oligopolies, trading at the hands of centralized exchanges that are ‘hacked daily’, and development reserved for a narrow tech elite that arbitrarily changes code and forks coins whenever things go wrong.

Against this background, massive manipulation permeates the ‘crypto land,’ where pump & dump schemes, spoofing, and insider trading call the shots. In Roubini’s view, stable coins exist for the sole reason of manipulation; security tokens break all security laws, and utility tokens pave the way back to the Stone Age, where barter was prevalent. According to Roubini, even the “Flintstones knew better,” as they used clams as a universal currency.

Finally, corporate permissioned ledgers received their fair share of beating: according to Roubini, they are no more than ‘glorified databases,’ and they have no relation to the concept of blockchain.

Van Valkenburgh’s testimony

Right after Roubini’s furious charge, a composed account that Coin Center’s Van Valkenburgh delivered sounded almost soothing. The crypto advocate decided not to overcomplicate things, and dedicated a huge share of his time to explaining what Bitcoin is, what it does, and why is it revolutionary. Unlike cash, which only works face-to-face, Bitcoin is the world’s ‘first globally accessible public money.’ It is not yet ‘perfect or stable,’ yet it is working. Similar to the early years of the internet, the technology is full of loopholes and inefficiencies, but this is by no means a reason to abandon it.

Various kinds of human interactions, Van Valkenburgh maintained, are riddled with state or corporate chokepoints. Like the internet had removed such chokepoints from the realm of communication, blockchain’s promise is to do away with single points of failure that are inherent to other interaction systems’ designs – such as that of monetary transaction systems. Giant private corporations are increasingly prone to security failures, such as electronic bank robberies and massive personal data leaks. The rise of IoT makes such concerns even more grave, as even cars and pacers can now be targeted. According to Van Valkenburgh, no critical infrastructure has to have a single point of failure, and to achieve that, we need a ‘light-touch, pro-innovation’ policy in place.

Questions

Chairman Crapo opened up the floor for questions on where the crypto markets are headed next year, and what conditions need to converge in order for them to stabilize. Van Valkenburgh responded that volatility is raging due to the markets having a hard time with finding a level, a fair price for something very new and disruptive. However, institutional money have already brought some sense of stability: it’s been beneficial to have  Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) regulated crypto derivatives enter the market, but it would be even better if the SEC allows the trading of crypto-based exchange-traded funds. Having a nationally chartered bank for crypto custody would bring even more rationality to the market.

Criticisms thrice told

Roubini responded to this point with the argument that cryptocurrencies are not scalable, not decentralized, and not secure, seasoning his response with the same points about five transactions per second, widespread oligopolies, and no authority to go to in case if one’s funds get stolen. Crapo pressed on, asking what hinders faster development of decentralized computing technologies’ real-world applications. Van Valkenburgh deflected this with a reference to email, which first appeared in 1972 and took a couple of decades before going mainstream, while Roubini said that no government or corporation will use permissionless decentralized systems. The idea of decentralization, he maintained, “won’t fly, because it’s nonsense”.

Ranking member Brown inquired whether there are blockchain-based applications ‘on a broader scale,’ which Roubini took as a chance to dismiss permissionless blockchains again, grudgingly admitting that there is some useful innovation in the sphere of private distributed ledgers. Again, he lauded payment systems like Paypal, China’s WeChat Pay, and African M-Pesa as the ‘real revolution,’ dismissing decentralized crypto systems as being losing users and transactions. While the internet had a billion users after a decade in existence, he added, cryptocurrencies command the following of just 22 million.

As Senator Brown asked to describe a typical crypto investor, Van Valkenburgh painted a portrait of a young, tech-savvy person, and quickly moved to a more policy-relevant conversation. After praising the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s (FinCEN) trailblazing efforts in laying the groundwork for crypto investors’ protection, he criticized the current state-by-state approach to money transmission licenses’ issuance to crypto enterprises, and called for federal licensing system.

Bridging gender gaps & standing up to totalitarians

Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana demanded how the world got better since cryptocurrencies came into existence. Van Valkenburgh offered a story of an Afghani female entrepreneur who used crypto to pay her mostly female employees’ wages, which was the only way to do it in a society where women are especially underserved by banks, while few accounts that exist are often controlled by male relatives. Roubini, once again, brought up superiority of centralized payment systems and Bitcoin’s meager five transactions per second. He then went on to complain about concentration of miners in places like China, Russia, and – for some reason – Belarus and Georgia, claiming that these nations will use their alleged oligopolistic dominance to manipulate the US.

Van Valkenburgh retorted that with payment infrastructures like the Chinese WeChat Pay, users’ transaction records and personal details reside without encryption in centralized repositories, ready to be hacked or surveilled by the government, if needed. Such systems, he argued, are ‘tools for totalitarians.’

A word on security

Doug Jones of Alabama was concerned with the extent to which ‘bad guys’ and rogue nations can exploit the decentralized design of public blockchains. Van Valkenburgh noted that every worthy technology, especially at the early stages of development, gets exploited by shady characters – if it does not, it is probably not very useful. At the same time, he contended, US law enforcement is already quite comfortable for tracking illicit transactions on open ledgers. Roubini took to bemoaning the dangers of blockchains’ anonymity.

Potential for scaling

Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey jumped in, showing off his intimacy with blockchain fundamentals and jargon. He said that while crypto assets are riddled with flaws, central banks do not have a flawless record of frictionless operations either. He suggested that an asset being a currency or not is just an issue of scale, and asked whether cryptocurrencies are fundamentally not scalable. Toomey was also interested whether the oligopolistic tendencies in mining really mattered for cryptocurrencies’ capacity to operate securely.

Van Valkenburgh delved into an overview of various scaling solutions, particularly highlighting the potential of batch settlement. He added that with oligopoly, you cannot really do much more to the network than denial-of-service attacks. Roubini’s response was anything but surprising:  five transactions per second, centralized mining, not secure. He explained that 51 percent attacks are a reality – they happen ‘every day’ with minor coins. Transactions costs “have gone through the roof,” while massive economies of scale implicit to mining operations incentivize cartelization.

ICO woes

Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was wondering how the theft of an aggregate $1.1 billion in the first half of 2018 was possible, as well as what could be done with the 80 percent rate of scam ICOs.  Van Valkenburgh explained that most of the funds stolen were in obscure alternative coins from overseas exchanges that failed to scale up their security systems to match the value they came to store. He also said he was on the same page with those who identify ICOs as securities, but added that it is entirely possible to have an ICO and comply with all the relevant securities regulations.

Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen appeared to be marginally interested in crypto affairs specifically. He lamented how the Fed was sluggish in moving towards a real-time payment system, blockchain-based or not, and moved on to solicit Roubini’s advice on the overall state and near perspectives of the US economy. The famed economist did not sound optimistic, suggesting that it’s possible that growth would stall by 2020.

Global KYC standards

Catherine Cortez Masto from Nevada was the last to pose questions. She asked if there are any provisions in the bitcoin protocol that enable detection of payments that go to human trafficking, drug trafficking, or money laundering. Van Valkenburgh responded that policing such activities is incumbent upon the businesses that operate on top of the blockchain, as well as law enforcement. Roubini noted that such policing won’t be efficient unless there is a globally ratified set of rules in place. Van Valkenburgh agreed that such a unified approach to know your customer (KYC) procedures are needed, marking a rare moment of solidarity with the opponent.

Finally, Cortez Masto asked Roubini whether he believed in blockchain technology’s successful applications beyond finance, to which he responded, once again, that no serious government or corporation would ever entrust an open, trustless, permissionless distributed system with any sensitive information. ‘It’s just nonsense!’ – he concluded.

Chairman Mike Crapo reminded senators that additional questions to witnesses, if any arise, are due within one week, and adjourned the hearing.

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Major Chinese Tech Magazine Adds Payment in Bitcoin to Show Blockchain ‘Practicality’

Beijing Sci-Tech Report (BSTR), China’s oldest media publication covering the tech industry, has announced it will offer subscriptions payable with Bitcoin (BTC), local media outlet Guangming reported Sunday, September 30.

An evidently rare occurrence from China, were government pressure has forced crypto exchanges and Initial Coin Offering (ICO) operators to halt activities over the past year, BSTR says it wishes to promote blockchain and crypto use through “practical actions.”

“[S]ubscribers can pay subscription fees to the specific bitcoin receiving address of the newspaper to complete the subscription,” Guangming confirms.

The product on offer is an annual subscription to the publication’s ‘Tech Life’ magazine, which costs 0.01 BTC (about $65).

Chinese authorities continue to clamp down on trading and promotional operations related to cryptocurrency, Cointelegraph reporting on fresh efforts to tackle overseas platforms by blocking access to them online in August.

At the same time, owning and investing in cryptocurrency is not officially illegal.

Responding to queries about the BSTR move on social media, Chinese cryptocurrency news commentator cnLedger underlined the fact that by offering a Bitcoin subscription, the publication was not breaking the law.

“Owning and investing in crypto is not banned,” it wrote.

“Otherwise Jihan (Wu, CEO) of Bitmain and Leon (Li, CEO) of Huobi would be among the first ones to get fined/caught. Thousands if not millions would have been arrested already (large amount of OTC tradings).”

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China's Nanjing Arbitration Commission Tests Blockchain Platform for Legal Disputes

The Nanjing Arbitration Committee is testing a new blockchain platform designed to store and process data for legal disputes. The organization officially announced this September 27.

China’s regional arbitration committees were established in 1995 with the passage of the Arbitration Law, and operate as independent non-profit organizations that offer services in arbitration, mediation, and other dispute resolution mechanisms as an alternative to litigation.

According to today’s announcement, the Nanjing Committee’s new platform:

“Makes extensive use of blockchain technology, and coexists with depository institutions, financial institutions, and arbitration institutions to deposit electronic data [and enable] real-time evidence preservation, electronic delivery, online trials and ruling.”

The Committee, based in the capital city of China’s eastern Jiangsu province, says it has “formulated a special network arbitration rule” within the system that will set a determinate time limit of thirty days for the resolution of online arbitration cases. This, the Committee notes, is shorter than existing online trial periods, and “significantly lower” than the standard for offline cases.

The new system is also presented as a means of reducing arbitration costs for all parties involved, with the new system overall expected to provide a more convenient, cost- and time-efficient  dispute resolution method for “the majority of Internet companies, especially in the financial field.”

As previously reported, on September 7 China’s Supreme Court ruled that evidence authenticated with blockchain technology is binding in legal disputes, as part of a series of comprehensive rules clarifying litigation procedures for internet courts across the country. The new ruling came into force immediately.

This January, a Hangzhou-based court dedicated to processing trials for internet-related disputes via an online “netcourt” web platform had handled its first case using legally valid blockchain-derived evidence.

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India's National Stock Exchange Trials Blockchain E-Voting for Listed Companies

The National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) is testing a blockchain platform developed by Elemential Labs to conduct e-voting for listed companies, local news outlet Hindu BusinessLine reports September 27.

The NSE’s pilot will entail tokenizing voting rights and using the blockchain platform to connect the firm, registrar and transfer agents (RTA), and the regulator. Hindu BusinessLine notes that tokenized votes are both easy to transfer and to proxy, and the test will reportedly be used to evaluate how easy it is to audit the entirety of the voting procedure using blockchain.

Sankarson Banerjee, CTO of projects at NSE, is quoted as saying that the blockchain system offers features that can bring the exchange “closer to an environment of improved corporate governance and compliance,” outlining that:

“The immutable nature of blockchain will ensure that every action taken by a network participant is transparent to the regulator. Additionally, the smart contract framework enables synchronisation of the vote count process between the company and the regulator in real time.”

Elemential Labs’ platform uses the Hyperledger framework, and NSE will reportedly take charge of developing and managing the front-end application of the system.

Elemential CEO Raunaq Vaisoha echoed Banerjee in advocating for blockchain’s power to ensure regulatory compliance in real time and to offer “highly transparent and clear corporate governance,” which he considered to be “an operating standard that most companies aspire to.”

As reported earlier this month, the Union Cabinet of India — the country’s chief decision-making body led by prime minister Narendra Modi — has approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with BRICS members on collaborative research into blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies (DLT).

This summer, the Indian state of Telangana announced it would be signing several MoUs with blockchain firms as to eventually implement the technology across government services.

As blockchain makes inroads with the country’s government, India’s Supreme Court is currently in the midst of reviewing the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)’s controversial ban on banks’ dealings with crypto-related entities. Just this week, the court listened to the final round of petitions on the ban, which has officially been in force since July 6.

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US Tech Firm Eyes Blockchain Supply Chain Solution for Major Chinese Ports

U.S.-based technology company Ideanomics has partnered with the Asia-Pacific Model Electronic Port Network (APMEN) Trade Tech Co. to streamline supply chains with blockchain tech, a press release reports Thursday, September 20.

Together with APMEN Trade Tech Co., Ideanomics aims to leverage blockchain and what it calls “super artificial intelligence” to cut out “layers of middlemen” in port clearance and shipping handling for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) online port clearance system.

The first instigation of the tools will take place in two major Chinese ports, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the former holding the title of the world’s busiest port in 2017.

The move marks the continuation of a growing trend in the blockchain sector, with a raft of major corporations aiming to disrupt legacy supply chain infrastructure with the technology’s introduction.

In the press release about the Ideanomics and APMEN Tech Trade Co. partnership, Bruno Wu, chairman and co-CEO of Ideanomics, stated:

“We will integrate business data from various partners, establishing a risk control model in cooperation with a single window to provide risk control services for regulatory authorities and enterprises.”

Ideanomics will have a 60 percent stake in the new venture, promising it will list on an unspecified Chinese stock exchange before the end of the year, the press release notes.

As the industry expands, some sources have more recently become skeptical of blockchain supply chain efficiency, cautioning the “hype” that may be associated with the phenomenon.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in China last week, Tradeshift CEO Christian Lanng even went as far as to say blockchain was not suitably “high performance” in its current state to suit such purposes at scale.

“Whenever people say blockchain, I think what they’re really saying is they would like to connect things digitally,” he suggested.

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Report: Hong Kong Stock Exchange Eyeing Blockchain Firm Acquisitions

Insider sources have suggested that the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) is eyeing takeovers in the blockchain and other tech sectors, according to a Bloomberg article published September 21.

Bloomberg cites “people with knowledge of the matter” as saying that the exchange is considering a change in strategy due to stalling trading links with exchanges in China, citing worsening U.S.-China trade relations as a further cause for concern.

The sources reportedly told Bloomberg that HKEX CEO Charles Li has met with “at least three investment banks” to discuss diversifying the exchange’s model, including a possible set of takeovers in the “data, analytics and blockchain sectors.” Due to the sensitivity of the matter, Bloomberg’s sources asked to remain anonymous.

They reportedly suggest that Li has been looking to the venture capital arms of U.S.-based stalwart exchanges CME Group Inc. and Nasdaq Inc. “as possible models,” with Bloomberg noting that Nasdaq saw 19 percent of its 2017 revenue from data products and 13 percent from market technology.

By contrast, Bloomberg’s data indicates that HKEX generated almost 100 percent of its 2017 revenue from clearing and trading fees.

Bloomberg’s sources further allege that potential technology acquisitions were “the focus” of two recent key HKEX meetings — a strategy discussion with senior managers on September 10, and a board member meeting on September 12. They report that the exchange is due to launch a three-year strategy plan starting in 2019, of which the details are currently under discussion.

Banny Lam, head of research at CEB International Investment Corp., told Bloomberg in an email that:

“The strategy is in the right direction but it is not easy to achieve the targets. HKEX needs to maintain a momentum of growth by exploring new businesses.”

According to Bloomberg, HKEX has “struggled to integrate” its 2012 acquisition of London Metal Exchange, and the article cites an unnamed HKEX advisor as saying that there are “industry concerns” surrounding the success of future deals.

As previously reported, within China itself, blockchain has been making inroads into the very infrastructure of major stock exchanges. Earlier this summer, the world’s fourth-largest stock exchange, the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) released plans to adopt the technology for use in securities transactions.

The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is also planning to implement blockchain to replace its current system for processing equity transactions, a switch that is currently slated for spring 2021.

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Alibaba's Ant Financial to Launch Blockchain Backend-as-a-Service Platform

Ant Financial, the financial affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is launching a blockchain BaaS (Backend-as-a-Service) platform, local news outlet China Money Network reports September 21.

The announcement was reportedly made by Ant Financial vice president Jiang Guoefei at the Ant Technology Exploration Conference (ATEC) in Hangzhou yesterday. The new BaaS platform is being launched in tandem with an enterprise-focused “ant blockchain partner program” that will reportedly enable small- and medium-scale businesses to implement and innovate new blockchain solutions.

The announcement aligns with what Gueofei characterized as a move to “open up” Ant’s in-house technologies to the wider commercial sector:

“In the past two years, Ant Financial has been working on two aspects about blockchain. One is to improve the technology, and the other is to open it up and accelerate the commercialization of blockchain applications.”

As part of its impetus to commercialize the technology, Ant Financial trialed its very first blockchain remittances earlier this summer, using its newly-developed blockchain-based electronic wallet cross border remittance service. The trial demonstrated a transfer of funds between Ant Financial’s AliPayHK — the Hong Kong version of Ant’s popular mobile payment app Alipay — and Filipino payment app GCash.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma has signalled increasing involvement of AliPay in blockchain for several years, with Ant Financial most recently securing $14 billion in funding for the technology’s development this June.

Fresh data published late August revealed that Alibaba had sealed first place globally on a new list that ranked entities by the number of blockchain-related patents filed to date; the e-commerce conglomerate has filed a staggering 90 such patents, outflanking even IBM.

Nonetheless, Ma delivered a keynote lecture earlier this month in which he noted that blockchain is one of a host of advanced technologies that still need to prove they can help evolve society in a “greener and more inclusive” direction.

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‘Not High-Performance’: Tradeshift CEO Prudent on Blockchain Supply Chain Potential

Digital invoicing startup Tradeshift CEO Christian Lanng countered “hype” over blockchain’s role in supply chains Wednesday, September 19, telling CNBC the technology “wasn’t ready yet.”

In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, China, Lanng highlighted the use cases for blockchain in areas such as identity and certifications, but argued supply chains were too much of a challenge for the technology in its current state.

“If you want to have authenticity, if you want to know where it is sourced, that it is done in a responsible way […] [blockchain] is a great technology to manage that kind of flow and be sure of the integrity,” he told the network, adding:

“The problem is just it’s not a high-performance technology.”

Talk of the promise of enhancing supply chain performance using distributed ledger technology has become commonplace across the global economy this year. As Cointelegraph continues to report, multiple global heavyweights are considering and working on implementing blockchain-based solutions to legacy infrastructure.

For Lanng, however, the optimism is premature. “Whenever people say blockchain, I think what they’re really saying is they would like to connect things digitally,” he continued, noting:

“I don’t think blockchain is a mature enough technology yet to carry that … I also want to be a little bit cautious for some of the hype.”

Lanng also highlighted cost hurdles and the difficulty of creating an “at scale” blockchain deployment.

The innovation has nonetheless already seen some success, as a joint shipping supply chain product from IBM and Maersk received heavy praise from logistics partner CEVA as a “big step forward” in August.

More recently, UK’s leading port operator, Associated British Ports (ABP), signed an agreement with digital logistics enabler Marine Transport International to develop blockchain use for port logistics.

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