Úno 23

Database? First Commercial IBM ‘Blockchain’ Touts 4 Nodes, Immutability

· February 23, 2017 · 9:30 am

Northern Trust and IBM have released what is being called the first commercially deployed blockchain-based solution for finance. But is blockchain the right word for this platform?


‘First Commercially Deployed Blockchain’

The trend towards “chainwashing” is growing with companies using the Blockchain buzzword as a means to get attention and funding.

Although companies are attempting to build functional applications using distributed ledger technology, they often come as solutions to nonexistent problems. Such might be the case with the open-source project by Northern Trust and IBM.

Bitcoinist_IBM 5D Blood

Northern Trust, a Chicago-based funds administrator has partnered with IBM to devise what is being called the first commercially deployed blockchain-based solution for finance.

In a bid to cut costs and disintermediate in private equity administration, these two companies devised a ‘blockchain-based’ platform currently being administered by Geneva-based Unigestion, which manages $20 billion USD, spread across private equity and other asset classes.

According to Justin Chapman, Northern Trust’s head of innovation research, the process of private-equity fund administration is currently a manual one. But thanks to blockchain technology, administrators can “agree on the legal documentation for distribution as soon as the lawyer gets to the paperwork,” due to the immutability provided by the blockchain.

There’s just one problem, however. Immutability is not a property of blockchain technology but the Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus algorithm used in Bitcoin, for example. The author of “Mastering Bitcoin,” Andreas Antonopoulos, explains:

The ‘Immutability’ Myth

Although there are currently many solutions for private-equity fund management, Chapman sees one clear advantage in using blockchain technology. He (incorrectly) states:

Blockchain makes this immutable.

Although public blockchains secured via computing power (PoW) can guarantee immutability, private blockchains cannot be considered tamper-proof since the participants are still required to trust the entities that maintain the network. Such entities are often referred to as “validators” in private blockchain systems.

Additionally, this IBM/Northern Trust blockchain will be tiny consisting of just four nodes wheareas Bitcoin has around 6,000. The regulator—in this case the Guernsey Financial Services Commission in the crown dependancy of Guernsey—will be one of the entities with access to oversee transactions and other data.

In this sense, the platform is essentially a distributed database with designated user privileges since the various parties involved “will have access to different layers of data,” according to Chapman.

blockchain

Meanwhile, actual immutability in the most secure blockchain today, i.e. Bitcoin, derives from a distributed ledger secured by thousands of computers (miners) with their hashing power.

Although it is unclear what consensus mechanism will be used in Unigestion’s platform, Bitcoin is by far the longest and most tamper-proof blockchain to date thanks to its PoW consensus algorithm. Given the number of miners that secure it,  the amount of computational power needed to tamper with the Bitcoin blockchain is “unfathomable” and currently doesn’t exist on this planet, according to Antonopoulos.

Meanwhile, others are beginning to concede this fact. Blockchain consortium R3 has scaled back its blockchain ambitions, acknowledging that no blockchain is actually needed in its Corda platform.

Vaultoro exchange co-founder Joshua Scigala reacted to the news, tweeting:

Will companies eventually find a useful way of implenting blockchain technology?  Share your thoughts below!


Images courtesy of Twitter, Shutterstock

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Dub 19

Bitcoin Wallets of the Future: Secure Hardware Needed Sooner Than Later

Source: bitcoin

KeepKey

Imagine a world without paper currency. Maybe such a reality appears far from where we stand today, but the horizon is not so distant that it’s invisible.

This article was provided by the Vanbex Group. Written by: Brandon Kostinuk.

Today’s infrastructure cannot accommodate, on a global level, for the technology of tomorrow. But progressive policies supported by global economic players can rapidly change that.

Further, as stated by Lisa Cheng, Vanbex Group CEO, “To begin usurping traditional models of banking and finance we have to move society beyond our current understanding of currency and see that it exists today as digital value.”

“Paper currency is on its way out and will be replaced entirely by digital forms,” said Cheng, who has years of experience dealing in Bitcoin, blockchain technology, distributed applications, distributed autonomous corporations and varying types of crypto-currency.

We are already in a globalized economy with digital assets floating everywhere. Even traditional banks, as it’s well known, store money electronically as financial information in databases.

Deputy Governor for Monetary Policy at the Bank of England Ben Broadbent said during a speech delivered on Mar. 2, that:

“Currently, deposits are backed mainly by illiquid loans, assets that can’t be sold on open markets; if we all tried simultaneously to close our accounts, banks wouldn’t have the liquid resources to meet the demand.”

In short, the digital asset era is already underway.

Countries like Barbados, Peru and Ecuador have already leaped passed conjecture, concurrently offering a digital variation alongside their physical currency. Citizens there use digital currency for everyday items like groceries and fuel for their car, facilitated by smartphone technology.

Governments worldwide from the U.K. to China, Australia to Canada, are all looking at ways to develop, adopt and adapt to disruptive financial technology (fintech) to progressively move with the shifting sands pressed on society by the Internet-based economy.

At its most reductive core, intangible assets need a physical carrier and that’s where the discussion of hardware wallets — devices that store a part of a user’s wallet for digital currency securely in mostly-offline hardware — enters the fray.

A Digital Economy

Just a decade ago, it’s safe to say most of mankind didn’t even know a thing like cryptocurrency existed, which, before Bitcoin, it did.

There was E-gold, which launched in 1996 and, as the name suggests, was a digital currency backed by gold. Ten years later, Liberty Reserve, a Costa Rica-based centralized digital currency, was founded as an exchange.

Both enterprises led down the path toward criminal activity, specifically money laundering.

The digital currency — a cryptocurrency — created by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009 reshaped the conversation. It changed way money, the way a currency, was thought of and its underlying “Blockchain” technology, a decentralized virtual clearinghouse and asset registry, as described by Broadbent last month, is gearing up to change the very financial structure of the globalized economy.

Bitcoin represents, in market cap today, over $6 billion USD. It has spawned an industry, from exchanges and financial services to infrastructure, gambling, news media and more. Much more.

But the nucleus of any currency is trust.

The now-infamous Mt. Gox “hack,” an episode that came to light in April 2014, showed the world security against malicious intent was of paramount concern when it came to digital currency (and that could be said of any form of money).

Launched in 2010, the Tokyo-based exchange, the largest at the time, eventually handled around 70 percent of all Bitcoin transactions at the height of operations in 2013.

The total amount said to have been stolen hovered around $450 million (around 850,000 bitcoins).

According to WizSec lead investigator Kim Nilsson, “most or all of the missing bitcoins were stolen straight out of the MtGox hot wallet over time, beginning in late 2011.”

The need for secure, offline storage was apparent then and that need is no less greater today.

“Blockchain security has advanced much quicker than you would see in traditional banking,” Darin Stanchfield told CNBC’s On the Money.

The KeepKey CEO was commenting on the Bangladeshi bank hack that occurred at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where $100 million was reportedly stolen from the government’s account.

Stanchfield explained, with a device like the hardware wallet (or a vault), credentials are presented to the Federal Reserve in order to move money. These credentials would be presented when the device is first initialized and those credentials don’t ever leave the device.

This is in contrast to any ‘hot wallet’ and is the most effective standard to safeguard against hackers in the cryptographic age of computer security. Something offline can’t be invaded by external elements.

But nations and their laws and regulations move at different speeds, especially when it comes to adoption of emerging technology.

One of the most vibrant fintech hubs in the world exists in the U.K. with London’s ecosystem of startups and companies generating £6.6 billion ($9.4 billion) in revenue and attracted £524 million (over $700 million) in investment in 2015, according to accounting firm Ernst & Young.

The study occurred because it was commissioned by the U.K. government. The British government is a leading example of progressive policy-making within the fintech sector and is the primary reason it is home to the fast-growing sector in the country.

Ernst & Young further reported, the sector employs 61,000 people (5% of the total financial services workforce). More people are working in the U.K. FinTech scene than in New York, “or in the combined FinTech workforce of Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.”

In March 2015, HM Treasury — the government arm responsible for developing and executing public finance policy and economic policy in Britain — also published a report, stating, in response to the emerging fintech sector “the government intends to apply anti-money laundering regulation to digital currency exchanges, to support innovation and prevent criminal use.”

Further, the government has been discussing the possibility and implications of issuing central bank digital currency (CBDC).

Deputy Governor Broadbent spoke to the above, unequivocally stating, “It seems

very unlikely that, to any significant extent, we’ll ever be paying for things in bitcoins, rather than pounds, dollars or euros.”

“The more important issue for central banks considering such a move [to issue digital currency] will be what it might mean for the funding of banks and the supply of credit,” Broadbent concluded in his speech.

The government in the UK, at least those in control of the nation’s monetary policy, is already thinking about implications, structural and otherwise, of appropriating digital currency.

The conversation has leaped from opposition into adoption and it very much has to do with the underlying backbone of Nakamoto’s creation, touted as the next evolutionary step to the Internet.

Bitcoin Wallets: Making Bitcoin as Ubiquitous as Smartphones

Part and parcel of the talked of and trialed evolution of the financial layer of industrialized societies is blockchain technology. This is where transactions are created, recorded and preserved in a secure, decentralized structure.

The Internet economy has sprung the need to advance financial interactions the same way it has developed new ways of considering technology and conducting business altogether.

The most practical concern, that of safely securing and using digital currency, is a phenomenon which is itself being work and re-worked in regard to the implications outlined by Broadbent and others, like Financial Stability Board chairman and Bank of England governor Mark Carney.

But amid the pursuit, by Microsoft and IBM, to bring blockchain tools and enterprise access to market, along with the corporate race to build the blockchain of all blockchains for the financial services and banking industry, among other interested parties, it’s clear: digital currency is here and hardware wallets will be as ubiquitous to everyday life as smartphones.

And as digital currency becomes commonplace, granted the technological and regulatory environment catches up, hardware wallets will be a vital instrument, used daily by individuals.

Doug Miller, head of business development at KeepKey, the Washington-based maker of one of the few premium hardware wallets on the market today, explained, security and user-friendliness were core factors in their device’s design.

“It has to be simple and it can’t be complicated,” Miller stated. “What we wanted to do was streamline the process for use in an everyday aspect.”

With KeepKey, a typical transaction doesn’t involve the computer client storing private keys and signing transactions. The computer client will pass transactions to KeepKey, request they be signed and the user signs for it on their end, following the on-screen demands legible on the a 3.12” OLED.

It is, ostensibly, a private, offline bank account for digital currency.

Setup and installation is conducted online, using Chrome extensions and can be completed within a matter of seconds.

Jordan Tuwiner, 21, who founded the site BuyBitcoinWorldwide.com, a resource for topics related to Bitcoin, has been involved in using digital currency and hardware wallets for the past two years.

“A hardware wallet is pretty much what the average person will want to secure their Bitcoin.” said Tuwiner, adding, when searching for the right wallet, “The most important thing is to consider what you’re using the device for. If you’re serious about it, do your research.”

The ecosystem of products is expanding and so are the advantages and disadvantages to each of the products on retail today.

Tuwiner added, among the devices he used, KeepKey was quite easy to setup and install and is a good choice for novices and aficionados alike.

For the Blockchain

“We look at ourselves as a hardware company for the blockchain and that’s our long-term vision,” said Miller.

His future-looking objective illustrates a key perception, that the financial world is in a transitional state, one that moves beyond traditional institutions and legacy systems to deliver peer-to-peer transactions, self-executing contracts and best of all, a reduction in costs for financial institutions through to consumers.

Companies “for the blockchain”, like KeepKey, is the global paradigm shift currently developing, and, in a reductive sense, hardware wallets are the core construct to establishing real-world connectivity to intangible financial innovation.

Further, it offers the 21st century security and a level playing field where conditions for theft and fraud exist behind an interweaving mesh of 0s, 1s and coexisting protocols.


Images courtesy of KeepKey, epp Group.

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Bitcoin Wallets of the Future: Secure Hardware Needed Sooner Than Later

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Úno 22

What’s Causing Bitcoin’s Current Bullish Run?

Source: bitcoin

What’s Causing Bitcoin’s Current Bullish Run?

The price of Bitcoin has been trending upwards for the past couple days giving some people the opinion that it is in a bullish phase. The value of the cryptocurrency has been quite eventful as it had been sitting at USD $375 over the past couple of weeks until just recently bumping up over the $400 mark. On the 21st of February, the price had touched $450 per BTC and seemed to be edging towards the $500 mark. However, the market value hit resistance and now is hovering in the $425-435 range.

Also read: Linux Mint Backdoor Puts Users and Bitcoin Miners at Risk

Bitcoin’s Bullish Run Trends Upwards

A few publications including Forbes believe that it’s possible the recent Miners agreement, and the Bitcoin Classic node adoption has increased the price. Sentiment has seemed to be in good spirits from some camps and others have been negative about the two subjects. Speculation on the fact that these two proposals are lifting the price doesn’t seem to be the case as both sides still have disagreements. The early discussions of consensus possibly coming to a conclusion could be making the price rally, but it’s not too clear if this is the reasoning behind it. There have been a few positive write-ups by mainstream media at times but nothing too sensational that has seemed to be the direct cause of the price spike.

Others have felt that institutional awareness has brought the price up a touch from corporate entities such as Microsoft and IBM. However, these two companies in particular and a whole slew of other businesses have clearly established they are not too interested in the Bitcoin blockchain. Most of these firms are creating and using other distributed ledgers that are permissioned by design. Some are using altcoin blockchains such as Ethereum, and this has caused a spike in price with ETH bringing it just below Bitcoin’s market capitalization.

As said above a few Bitcoin announcements have been made that have created enthusiasm within the crypto-community such as Steam integrating the digital currency. Other announcements like the fast-food restaurant Burger King accepting the virtual money in “Bitcoin City” of Arnhem has also made headlines. One positive outcome this past week was an announcement from Kraken explaining that the Mt Gox bankruptcy claims were moving along making “significant progress.” 21inc has revealed some new Bitcoin developments with its 21 computer such as a fee prediction service and micropayment platform. Despite the few announcements concerning the digital currency most news in the industry pertained to just blockchain technology.

As the Bitcoin Reward Halving Approaches Hashrate Decreases

The Bitcoin price after rallying to the $450 mark has corrected but shows there still may be some uptrend in the near future. There could possibly be a second spike shortly with current Relative Strength Index (RSI) levels looking positive. The value could still make it to the sought after $500 mark this week if it can eat through market resistance. The weekly chart looks like a steady bullish trend, and the 4-hour chart look as though there may be a breakout but it may go downward.

The upcoming reward halving is taking place soon, and miners are getting prepared for this as we speak. Many believe there currently is a shift in the mining space due to the changes coming, and some say this has, in turn, lowered the hashrate at the moment. At press time, we are seeing a slight advance from last night’s drop so a second run up may be coming soon. Currently, the price is at $438 per BTC via Bitstamp at the time of this writing.

 

What do you think about what’s causing the upswing in Bitcoin price? Let us know in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Pixbay, Blockchain.info, and BitcoinCharts.com

 

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Úno 03

Six Ethereum Projects and its Five Competitors

Source: bitcoin

Six Ethereum Projects and its Five Competitors

A lot of 2.0 projects have fallen by the wayside, but currently, Ethereum (ETH) development has continued to show its decentralized blockchain platform wants to stick around for the long run. Startups, legacy institutions, and developers using the programmable currency are popping up left and right. Below is a list of six projects using the ETH blockchain to try and conquer many different 2.0 tasks. Then we discuss a few competitors in the crypto-environment going after some the same goals. As time progresses in this world of decentralized distributed ledgers, the race for 2.0 technology continues.

Also Read: Crawling The Deep Web For Art

IBM & Samsung’s Adept  

In January of 2015, IBM revealed its ADEPT proof of concept in a paper called “Device Democracy Saving the future of the Internet of Things.” The report explains the importance of the blockchain and its use case scenarios within the IoT environment becoming “revolutionary as a transaction processing tool.” ADEPT has chosen to use a fork of the Ethereum code for its mission and the use of autonomous telemetry. IBM’s paper describes how they envision the project saying,

“In our vision of a decentralized IoT, the blockchain is the framework facilitating transaction processing and coordination among interacting devices. Each manages its own roles and behavior, resulting in an “Internet of Decentralized, Autonomous Things” – and thus the democratization of the digital world.”

Airlock Project

The Ethereum powered Airlock is called “the next generation keyless protocol.” The platform uses two primary users lockmasters and keyholders which can lock or unlock a lockbox mechanism. Airlock states on its website, “Lockmasters seamlessly grant permission to Keyholders who can access a property or lockbox under specified conditions.” The advantage of using Ethereum’s smart contracts allows Airlock’s DApp (Decentralized Application) to create a programmable environment that can operate device automation the developers say.

Microsoft Azure

Last year Microsoft announced its new cloud-based Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) platform Azure. The company has announced many different types of distributed ledgers within the projects research and development. Blockchains such as Ripple, Factom, and Emercoin have been introduced to the system, but the media has focused its attention on Ethereum. Just recently R3 CEV told the world it was using the Ethereum protocol through Azure to connect 11 banks together for a Bank-to-Bank (B2B) platform. The Microsoft cloud platform has also revealed its first Technical Preview of Azure Stack, which shows the public the projects manifestation.  

Algorythmix

Algorythmix is a blockchain based credit rating and KYC platform that just won the first prize in the Citi Mobile Challenge. The platform “Cetas” is a decentralized prototype that uses blockchain technology to bifurcate the traditional way credit ratings are handled. Algorythmix gave a statement to IBTimes UK saying, “Cetas is a decentralized platform which enables sharing of the KYC data using blockchain. The platform has an added a layer of decentralized credit rating function and advanced functionalities to address the problem of scale.” The blockchain service also has other projects which have not been conceived yet. One is Basil that can calculate cyber security risk for cyber insurance, and Hermes a platform for sensor networks for industrial IoT application.

CubeSpawn

CubeSpawn is an FMS (flexible manufacturing system) that enables big factory automation. The website states the initiative is an “open source project to build cost sensitive, high quality, modular manufacturing machines, mostly from repurposed industrial cast-offs.” The project wants to bring technical advances to everyone so the world can best allocate its resources. It believes “local high-tech manufacturing” is the answer to many global issues the world is faced with. The positives the projects could produce include reduction in long distance shipping, reducing fuel costs, encourage recycling, and ending labor inequalities.

Augur

Augur is a prediction market built on top of the Ethereum blockchain. The concept is a tool that allows users to forecast events by using software that understands the odds of basically any probability better than you do. This could make betting on sports games, elections, and future events easier because the protocol is meant to be more consistent. Augur uses a token within its system called REP (reputation) that gives a user more trust in the network. After an event occurs those who use the system more truthfully get rewarded REP. The startup just recently finished a crowd sale and also created the first contract on Ethereums Frontier.  

What’s Next in the 2.0 Race?

The Ethereum project is seeing a lot of developers messing around with the code and people are finding use cases. Despite all this the programmable currency has competition in its radar with organizations who also want to achieve the same goals. Maidsafe, Tau Chain, and Counterparty are other projects that aim to do some similar objectives that Ethereum wants to encompass. In November of 2014, Counterparty sparked controversy by porting the ETH software to its platform. The project says that it uses Bitcoin’s ledger within its network stating on its website, “Counterparty is a free and open platform that puts powerful financial tools in the hands of everyone with an Internet connection. By harnessing the power of the Bitcoin network, Counterparty creates a robust and secure marketplace directly on the Bitcoin blockchain.”

Another contender or friend is Rootstock. The platform uses Bitcoin’s blockchain as opposed to an alternative token. Rootstock is said to have the same abilities as Ethereum, and its developer says that they could compliment each other. Diego Gutierrez Zaldivar co-founder of Rootstock says in a reddit post:

The good thing is Rootstock VM is fully compatible with Ethereum VM so now you will have two platforms to run your application with two different security models and user bases. We are actually empowering the Ethereum development community not threatening it.”

 

Tau Chain is another project that claims it also will be able to take the 2.0 game to the next level. The developers of Tau believes that Ethereum’s Turing completeness is not necessarily the right direction. Ohad Asor of the Tau teams also says that its platform doesn’t need a token like ETH to operate saying, Ethereum’s model requires a coin (“fuel”). Tau doesn’t need a coin: the users can agree on the economic characteristic of the network and define any kind of incentive they find adequate, whether globally over the whole network or over their local Tau client.”

 

Maidsafe is a project that has been said it could be a friend of foe to ETH as well. The project aims to be a decentralized peer-to-peer internet platform and has similar attributes to Ethereum. Some say that Maidsafe can be considered a decentralized storage layer with a multitude of applications. Maidsafe, stands for “Massive Array of Internet Disks, Secure Access For Everyone” and wants to change the landscape of the web with its 2.0 platform.

Ethereum does have its competitors and developers are gearing up their platforms to operate with similar goals in mind. Most of these different networks have been in the top ten cryptocurrency market capitalization at one time or another and are shooting to be right below Bitcoin. There are other projects that do not have as much attention on them right now like Hivemind, which also works with prediction markets like the Augur platform. The project says it is “a Peer-to-Peer Oracle Protocol which absorbs accurate data into a blockchain” and also will incorporate similar 2.0 features to its system. The Ethereum project is definitely not alone in this landscape of smart contract technology, and highly developed blockchains as we’ve seen in the past it will have to continue strides of its own to gain a network effect.

What do you think about these Ethereum projects and the turing complete protocols competitors? Let us know in the comments below.

Disclosure: Bitcoinist is not associated with any of the above-named projects. 


 

Images courtesy of Pixbay, Twitter, and Wiki Commons 

 

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Six Ethereum Projects and its Five Competitors

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