Kvě 16

Blockchain-Based Identity Management Will Soon Be a Reality

· May 16, 2017 · 6:00 am

Airbitz has partnered with Sphre to secure their Blockchain-Based Identity Management Platform, AIR.


Airbitz Partners with Blockchain-Based Identity Firm

Sphre, a blockchain-based identity management firm, announced their partnership with Airbitz, one of the most popular mobile Bitcoin wallets and a data security platform with over 140,000 users. Airbitz has been working on its Edge Security Platform since the company’s inception, focusing on providing a secure and easy-to-use solution for decentralized blockchain projects and dApps as a means enhance cryptocurrency mass adoption.

Announced today, the partnership will see Sphre leverage Airbitz’ Edge Security, a blockchain-agnostic and zero-knowledge single sign-on solution, to secure their smart contract-based platform, AIR.

Daren Seymour, Director at Sphre commented on the new partnership:

The easy and intuitive user experience, coupled with rich functionality, great development environment and team made Airbitz an easy choice when considering the right partner for Sphre. We look forward to delivering an easy-to-use product to the market, and our partnership with Airbitz is a key component on this journey.

AIR is digital identity and individual microeconomic engagement system based on blockchain infrastructure, allowing individuals, enterprises, and organizations to manage their digital identity through a single, decentralized application, thus retaining full control and ownership of said identity, which would not be possible in a centralized setting.

The AIR whitepaper reads:

In an interconnected, open digital world it does not make sense that digital identity is still fragmented in outdated, closed systems.

The AIR Platform is build upon the Hyperledger blockchain and is comprised of two major components: The Chaincode or ‘smart contract’, which forms the basis of the given identity, and the Application Programming Interface (API), which will allow third-party organizations and enterprises to integrate support for AIR into their existing and new systems, while the mobile application secures and maintains each individual’s private key.

The AIR Platform & XID tokens

Currently in development, the AIR Platform will soon host a crowdfunding campaign to fund the development, marketing, and management of the AIR project. During the crowdfunding campaign or ICO, participants will receive XID tokens, which are used within the Air platform to facilitate identity-based transactions and handle profit-sharing disbursement based on the customizable monetization agreements that users can engage in.

Blockchain Banking App Humaniq Reschedules ICO, Offers Solidarity to Chinese Investors

The XID token is to be issued on the Bitcoin blockchain through the Omnilayer platform that allows the distribution of digital identity monetization benefits to be handled through a decentralized mechanism, which is far more transparent and reliable than traditional alternatives.

Due to the use of Omnilayer, AIR will not only allow any given user or organization to “authenticate/authorize themselves against their registration”, but also to attest/verify the identity of an account with whom they have successfully transacted, based on information found on the Bitcoin, the safest and oldest blockchain in the world.

Can blockchain technology become the new security standard for individual and enterprise digital identity? Let us know in the comment section.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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Kvě 08

24 Million Australians can now pay their bills with Bitcoin

· May 8, 2017 · 4:00 pm

As Bitcoin grows in popularity, more use cases for the cryptocurrency pop up every day. This time, an Australia-based startup has created a service that allows citizens in the country to pay their household bills with Bitcoin.


Paying Bills with Bitcoin

Dubbed the Living Room of Satoshi, the Australian startup allows users to pay their bills with Bitcoin by entering the details of the payment, choosing a payment system (bank account or BPay) and sending their coins to the BTC address shown.

Yesterday Living Room of Satoshi tweeted:

The Living Room of Satoshi’s new service supports payment for any type of utilities like telecommunications, electricity, gas, school fees, water and credit cards. What’s more is that the company charges no extra fees for the BTC payments. The service also features a point system, where every $1 spent in bills awards users with 1 point that can be turned into gifts.

Daniel Alexiuc, CEO of the  Living Room of Satoshi said in an interview:

Daniel Alexiuc, CEO of the Living Room of Satoshi Bitcoin Bill Pay

As the first truly international, decentralised and peer to peer currency, Bitcoin is perfectly suited to bill payments in Australia,” he said. “It also enables new possibilities, like parents in foreign countries being able to easily support their children studying in Australia by paying some of their bills.

Bitcoin in Australia

Australia is generally thought of as a Bitcoin-friendly place. However, the country does have a double-tax issue where the cryptocurrency is considered barter and not money, which means that companies must pay both a tax when receiving cryptocurrencies as a payment and a goods-and-services tax (GST) when selling them for fiat.

However, the Australian government announced plans to solve this issue in March last year Now, according to a statement released last week, the government is working with the FinTech Advisory Group to solve the double taxation problem. The statement reads:

The Government agrees that consumers should not be subject to the GST twice when using digital currency to purchase goods or services. For this reason, the Government has already committed, through its Backing Australian FinTech statement, released on 21 March 2016, to address the ‘double taxation’ of digital currencies.

Other than the absurd double taxation problem which is being taken care of, Bitcoin seems to have a bright future ahead in Australia. The $AUD currently ranks 12th on Bitcoin’s daily trading volume with multiple BTC exchanges and Bitcoin ATMs providing services in the country. Electricity is also cheap, allowing citizens to access Bitcoin through mining.

Not only is Bitcoin easily accessible and popular among the country’s citizen, Australia’s Central Bank has also taken a notice to Bitcoin’s underlying technology, the Blockchain. The bank published a report dubbed  Developments in the Financial System Architecture. It reads:

One aspect of fintech that has been examined closely is the emergence of distributed ledger technology (DLT), often referred to as ‘blockchain’ technology. The Bank is participating in a working group of the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures examining DLT and its implications. In February, the working group published an analytical framework for authorities wishing to review and analyse the use of this technology for payments, clearing and settlement.

What can you do with Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is becoming increasingly popular and as more people start working with it, new and exciting use cases and services for the cryptocurrency arise. What was once a “worthless” internet currency can now be used to pay for goods and services across the world, allowing merchants to save money on credit card fees and more.

So, what can you do with Bitcoin? The use cases are extensive: You can buy houses, boats, cars. You can rent a hotel room with Expedia or an apartment, buy millions of items from OverStock, buy gift cards, pay your electricity bills in Japan, pay your college tuition in multiple countries (including Australia). You can even get a Bitcoin IRA, get a Bitcoin loan, and buy and sell gold with BTC on the Vaultoro exchange.

Shut Up and Take My Bitcoin

There’s a lot we can do with Bitcoin nowadays. So much that we are currently running at full capacity. With the infrastructure in place, now all Bitcoin needs in order to continue to grow is the ability to do so in terms of scalability.

Will we continue to see interesting use cases for Bitcoin, like the one discussed here, show up with time? Can the scaling issues in Bitcoin, stop its infrastructure’s progress? Let us know in the comment section.


Images courtesy of LinkedIn, BitcoinTalk, Pixabay

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Dub 01

Japan’s New Bitcoin Law Could Do More Damage Than NY BitLicense

· April 1, 2017 · 9:00 am

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According to IndieSquare Co-founder Koji Higashi, new regulations in Japan, which will make Bitcoin an official form of payment (starting today April 1), may do more harm than good for the fledgling industry in the country.


Japan to Introduce Own ‘Bitlicense’

Following the disastrous demise of the infamous Japanese exchange, Mt. Gox and the arrest of its CEO Mark Karpelès, regulators in the country decided to introduce regulations for Bitcoin.

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The regulatory framework has been in the works for over two years. The first bill was submitted to the Diet in Japan (the legislature consisting of the Lower and the Upper Houses) last March, and the Payment Services Act and the Act on Preventing of Transfer of Criminal Proceeds were amended in May 2016. Now, new drafts for detailed regulations and guidelines have been approved.

The new law, which is now in place starting today (April 1), is meant to protect consumers and to help them distinguish safe, i.e. approved exchanges, from fraudulent operations.

The law also recognizes approved cryptocurrencies as a legal method of payment in Japan, preventing users from investing in so-called scam coins, fake digital assets, and IOU tokens.

Although praised by western and Japanese media alike, the new regulatory framework may pose serious problems for the Japanese Bitcoin community, according to Koji Higashi, Co-Founder of IndieSquare and Community Director at the Counterparty Foundation.

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In a blog post, Higashi outlines the major issues with what he calls “Japan’s Bitlicense” due to the similarities found between the two, saying:

I’d actually argue that this law may turn out to be more damaging to the Japanese industry in the long run than what Bitlicense has been to NY.

Why It Could Be Worse Than NY’s

The Bitlicense introduced in New York has been widely perceived by the community as damaging for Bitcoin startups in the region due to the bureaucracy and high entry barriers for small startups. It resulted in several startups like ShapeShift and LocalBitcoins halting services for NY-based customers.

Now, Japan is doing the same, explains Higashi. “If you are not a fan of the excessive cost for legal and compliance fee for Bitcoin startups, however, the new law in Japan is certainly not exciting news for you,” he notes. 

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Among others, the requirements involve the submission of a 3-year business plan, segregated fund management, KYC/AML requirements, segregated fund management, frequent reporting to authority, and external audits.

Some experts estimate that the costs involved with becoming a compliant exchange could be as high as $300,000-$500,000 USD. Moreover, additional fees and paperwork will also apply to companies beyond trading platforms and will affect P2P decentralized exchanges as well.

Higashi:

It’s hard to say whether the regulation in Japan is more costly than the Bitlicense but I can say it’s expensive enough to put serious financial pressure on startups and may force them to go out of business completely in some cases.

Another issue with the new regulatory framework is that it will require virtual currencies to be accepted into an official list of approved coins. Although this system may protect users from being scammed out of their savings, it may end up damaging the reputation of coins that don’t make it to the list, which will most likely be a conservative one at best.

Bitcoin in Japan

The new regulations may affect Bitcoin startups negatively but are also likely to push adoption forward and to create a sense of trust for new users in the virtual currency space. Japan is the fastest growing country in the Bitcoin market. For example, trading volume in Japan has recently surpassed that of China and the U.S.

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The country is experiencing growing interest in Bitcoin from users, investors, and merchants. Blockchain is also a technological focus point both for companies and the government. The Japanese community is also one of the biggest investors in crypto-related crowdfunding campaigns and Initial Coin Offerings, according to Higashi. 

[Note: This article was originally published on February 9, 2017. It has been updated as today (April 1) is the first day Japan’s new cryptocurrency law comes into effect.]

Will the new regulations drive companies away from Japan? Or will it usher a new age for cryptocurrency adoption in the country?


Images courtesy of CryptoCompare, Shutterstock, Counterparty.io

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Bře 29

India: Zebpay Refutes Reports Minister Said Bitcoin is Illegal

· March 29, 2017 · 2:30 pm

India is the scene of conflicting reports over Bitcoin’s legality following suspicious statements from the government.


Minister: Virtual Currencies Lack ‘Regulatory Approval’

On Tuesday, Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal said that use of virtual currencies “could subject the users to unintentional breaches of anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism laws.”

On the creation of virtual currencies, the bank spokesman added that “No regulatory approval, registration or authorization is stated to have been obtained by the entities concerned for carrying on such activities.”

Bitcoin India

While not explicitly stating that virtual currencies such as Bitcoin were therefore not legally sanctioned, reports suggested that such a message was implied.

The local Bitcoin industry was quick to dispute such conclusions. Indian exchange Zebpay published a dedicated response to the episode in which it stated its belief that Bitcoin in India “is not illegal.”

A blog post reads:

Nothing has changed regarding bitcoin’s legal status in India this week. In our opinion, bitcoin is not illegal. Bitcoin is legal under all existing laws. It’s business as usual at all Indian bitcoin exchanges, including Zebpay.

Nonetheless, a word of caution accompanied the rebuttal.

“As per media reports, inter-ministerial committee has been setup to study the legality of bitcoins. They will give a response on 20th April 2017,” an update announced.

Bad Actors Give A Bad Name

Recent illicit use of Bitcoin by scam actors was widely reported in the media, with Zebpay commenting at the time that such parties posed a persistent problem to uneducated consumers.

A forgiving perspective was also given to the minister, the exchange taking the stance that regulators were trying to “protect” the public.

“A respectable MP raised the issue that bitcoin is a Ponzi scheme. Certain sections of the media reported this as if bitcoin has been declared illegal,” it summarized.

Additionally, Bitcoin is considered a commodity and falls in the Neutral/Alegal bracket, according to information portal Coin.dance.

India’s Bitcoin ecosystem had seen a surge in usage following the country’s sudden currency reforms introduced in November last year.

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Zebpay and fellow exchanges witnessed record trading, part of a wave of Bitcoin interest, which even saw the market become the second largest on Purse.io’s Amazon discount platform behind the US.

Blockchain innovation is also active locally, with crypto investor Tim Draper in February announcing his return to the Indian market, injecting venture capital through the newly acquired Blume Ventures.

What do you think about India’s current stance on virtual currencies? Let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Zebpay

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Led 24

2.3 Billion People Can Now Use Bitcoin on Amazon

· January 24, 2017 · 7:00 am

Almost 2.3 Billion people can now shop on Amazon without a computer or a bank account following Purse.io’s Android app launch. 


Shopping with Bitcoin on Amazon Now Available to 2.3 Billion

Following the launch of its iOS app, Purse.io has now released the Android version for its platform, enabling billions to shop on Amazon with Bitcoin on the most popular smartphone operating system with over 1.4 billion users globally.

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With both operating systems supported, the number of people globally that can now use this service is now around 2.3 billion and expected to reach 2.8 billion by 2020, according to Statista. 

Purse announced:

We’re excited to formally announce the arrival of our official Purse Android app! We released our iOS app back in November […]. So, of course had to spread the love to the largest and most widely used mobile operating system in the world, Android.

Although the online retail giant does not accept Bitcoin directly, Purse.io matches buyers with gift card holders creating an extremely powerful use-case: online shopping. Furthermore, it enables those who don’t have a bank account or credit card to use the Amazon e-commerce platform, even if they don’t have a computer. The service also lets merchants register their Purse account and sell directly on the platform.

Needless to say, all items from Amazon that are purchased on Purse.io are cheaper than the ones listed on Amazon itself. Not only because of Bitcoin’s smaller transaction fees but also because it provides a gift card/bitcoin exchange market as well as significant discounts

How does Purse.io work?

Sellers can create a free or paid account on Purse.io and list their items for sale. Once a purchase takes place, Purse.io will act as an escrow until the transaction is complete. The Purse system allows merchants and buyers (depending on the payment system) to save a lot on transaction and conversion fees.

However, the most ingenious feature in Purse.io is its Amazon alternative. Purse.io matches shoppers buyers with gift card holders. Since gift cards are usually unredeemable, this creates an alternative for those that don’t want to use their gift cards.

purse instant

Then, the shopper can select a product he wants from Amazon, create a wishlist for it on Purse.io and name his discount or accept the one available. Gift card holders will then take the order and use the gift card to purchase the item. The gift card holder receives Bitcoin for the card he could not redeem previously and the buyer receives the item, creating a win-win environment.

This means that if you have extra gift cards you don’t want, you can also take advantage of the Purse.io system to exchange them for Bitcoin at a discount.

Bitcoin & Amazon

Despite third-party services like Purse.io, Amazon still does not accept Bitcoin as a payment method. There are a few evident motives as to why Amazon has yet to integrate Bitcoin into its e-commerce platform, including volatility and the lack of refund options for Bitcoin. 

However, online retailers like Overstock.com and Newegg.com have demonstrated that Bitcoin can be used as a viable payment system, while OpenBazaar has even built a decentralized e-commerce platform that accepts only Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as payment.

Some speculate that Amazon already has deals in place with major credit card companies, an advantage it would lose over smaller online retailers if they start dealing with Bitcoin. Another theory is that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos does not like Bitcoin due to his political views on the unregulated and anonymous nature of Bitcoin.

In 2014, Amazon stated that it would not accept Bitcoin due to the lack of interest from customers, which it still could in the future if Bitcoin’s user-base grows. But if the e-commerce giant, which comprises about 15% of total U.S. consumer online sales, according to the company’s statements and the Department of Commerce, begins to accept it, then we can safely say that Bitcoin has finally become mainstream.

Will Purse.io push adoption forward? Will Amazon ever add Bitcoin to its list of accepted payment systems? Share your thoughts below!


Images courtesy of ShutterStock, amazon.com, Purse.io, Statista

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Led 11

Who Needs ATMs? This iOS App Cashes Out Your Bits at Retail Stores

· January 11, 2017 · 3:00 am

Spare app has added Bitcoin payment support, allowing users to cash out in national currencies in select U.S. regions using any iOS device.


Spare: Cash Out Bits at Your Local Store

Spare, an alternative finance app that allows users to withdrawal cash on-the-go through various merchant locations, now supports Bitcoin.

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Using the Spare app, users can now cash out their bitcoin at certain local stores. The services is currently available in certain parts of the U.S, including New York, Colorado, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.

While there are currently a few alternatives to cash out bitcoins such as exchanges and Bitcoin ‘ATMs’, Spare bypasses these legacy methods using a secure QR code that is shown to a pre-designated merchant, who will then give you cash in exchange once approved.

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Spare founder and CEO D’ontra Hughes told Bitcoinist,

SPARE is mainly solving the issue of liquidity with your own bitcoin balance. So, when you don’t have a bitcoin ATM nearby – you would use our merchant network. The merchant does not have to accept bitcoin, as the technology converts and issues a market value that can be redeemed in cash.

The Santa Monica-based service also claims to benefit small businesses by “increasing foot traffic” and reducing the liability of having extra cash on hand while reducing the operating and security costs of housing a Bitcoin ATM.

“I get people asking if I have an ATM all the time. Now I can finally help them with SPARE and do it all from my iPad,” reads one review from a merchant called Rose Market. U.S. residents can download the app right now to see how many participating merchants are nearby.

Bitcoin ATMs: Few and Far Between

The Bitcoin infrastructure has growing immensely throughout the years, with a growing number of merchants and services accepting Bitcoin, alongside online exchanges enabling users to convert into almost any currency.

Bitcoin ATMs have also evolved and grown in popularity since the first one was placed in Canada in 2013. There are currently 945 ATMs throughout 55 countries according to Coin ATM Radar with the highest density in North America and Europe. Additionally, not all machines are “two-way,” i.e. you can only buy bitcoins but not receive cash for your bitcoin deposit.

bitcoinist_atm_map_usaDespite the growing numbers however, their availability is still just a drop in the ocean when compared to regular ATM networks and legacy banking infrastructure. Even if there is one in your hometown, they can be hard to find and more often than not, you’ll have to travel to reach it.

Bitcoinist_ebtm withdrawal

“No more you have to waste time searching for Bitcoin ATMs, as everything can be done directly from your iOS device,” adds Hughes.

The Underbanked & Unbanked

Bitcoin enables peoples to transact directly without involvement of governments and middlemen with limited infrastructure — only an internet connection is needed.

Thus, it can also help the unbanked and underbanked population who do not have access to financial services. Currently, there are an estimated 2-3 billion people in the planet with little or no access to financial services. Moreover, more than half of adults in the poorest 40% of households in developing countries lack a bank account.

remittance bitcoinist

But while Bitcoin can be used to transfer money internationally for much lower fees than traditional payment methods, converting them into cash can be a problem. This is commonly known as the “last mile” problem in remittances.

Spare’s approach of ‘crowdsourcing’ merchants to replace ATMs could prove to be a helpful tool in getting cash into peoples’ hands from their received bitcoins.

Meanwhile, the company has also announced it will be extending its services internationally to Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Spain, and Nicaragua. Therefore, such a solution has the potential to close the loop, and deliver on the promise of much cheaper blockchain-based remittances compared to legacy services like Western Union.

Can merchants be a better solution for cashing out than Bitcoin ATMs? Share your thoughts below! 


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Coinatmradar, Spare

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