Led 13

Our Man At CES 2019 – Part One: Finding Crypto

Where better to check out all the latest crypto-tech than the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Actually, as it turned out, finding crypto at CES wasn’t as easy as first expected.


Technology Unveiled at CES 2019

The Sunday before the show hosts a media event called CES Unveiled, featuring the Best of Innovation awards.

After three hours feigning interested in a whole range of tech startups latest offerings, I was beginning to lose hope. The closest I’d come to anything blockchain related was a point-of-sale device, which the exhibitor said: “could develop to include cryptocurrency payments in the future.”

CES

Just as the event was finishing I stumbled across the Archos booth, where they were showing a new hardware wallet, the Safe-T touch. I arranged to meet them again during the show proper, with the possibility that they might be able to source a review model.

On exiting the hall I was sequestered by a youth holding a sign saying CoinAgenda. Apparently there was a crypto-afterparty a short bus ride away. A quick straw poll of the guests suggested that nobody really knew what the party had to do with crypto. But there was an open bar, so nobody seemed overly concerned.

Conference Tracks

Monday was spent exploring Vegas, but I did chance upon this Bitcoin ATM in a Love Boutique.

Then Tuesday saw a full day of hosted panel-type discussions in the ‘Digital Money’ conference track. Access to these conference tracks required the purchase of an additional pass over and above the registration for the main event. Whilst I hadn’t found much to report from the Unveiled show, there was a rich vein of cryptocurrency and blockchain, playing a prominent part in events.

A diverse range of speakers and panel guests included Brock Pierce, Tim Draper, Michael Terpin of Transform group, and the Prince of the Netherlands. Sessions covered topics such as security, blockchain in the entertainment industry, regulation, and decentralization.

Last on the schedule was ‘The Second Annual Token Slugfest’, in which six companies gave four-minute pitches for their ICOs. This concluded with a clap-o-meter type judging of the pitches, and the crowning of an eventual winner.

Having spent the day bathed in the warm fuzzy glow of all things crypto, my spirits were rejuvenated. I planned to hit the show floor the next day to continue my search. Actually the (many) show floors. I hadn’t realized quite how big this CES thing was.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Bitcoinist

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Led 12

Lightning Network Without Invoices Brings Us Closer to Streaming Money

A new feature for Bitcoin’s Lightning Network (LN) implementation allows users to send funds instantly without needing to first create an invoice.


Sphinx Enables ‘New Use Cases’

The latest upgrade, ‘Sphinx,’ which developers describe as being a “work in progress,” is nonetheless already available to anyone.

“The coolest part about this new feature is that it can be used today in the wild as long as both nodes are updated to this branch!” author Olaoluwa Osuntokun wrote in a Github repository dedicated to the project.

The Lightning Network is a protocol currently active for Bitcoin and Litecoin which allows users to send tokens instantly and for a fee averaging less than 1 US cent.

The technology debuted on the Bitcoin network a year ago, and has grown rapidly, but remains in an experimental state as developers iron out stability and reliability issues.

At present, sending or receiving a transaction still requires some technical understanding, which has made Lightning an unattractive option for entry-level users despite its time and cost benefits.

Lightning’s ‘Best’ Feature Yet?

Sphinx, which Osuntokun says “allows users to start exploring a new set of use cases,” aims to solve that predicament.

It removes the need to create a payment invoice for a transaction, allowing more “spontaneous” activity and sidelining a major technical element potentially off-putting for novices.

“This is only a draft implementation and while it works today on mainnet out of the box (if both sides are upgraded) much this will likely change,” he added.

Sphinx caps a frenetic development period for LN which continued throughout 2018. Despite fluctuations, capacity, node and channel numbers have all reached new highs in recent weeks.

According to data from monitoring resource 1ML, Bitcoin Lightning’s capacity is now 571 BTC ($2,076,000) among 5234 nodes and 19,500 channels.

Sphinx meanwhile has already begun to see a warm reception, commentators variously saying it had attracted them to start using Lightning and that it was now the network’s “best” feature.

What do you think about the Lightning Network’s Sphinx? Let us know in the comments below!


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Led 10

Nick Szabo: Central Banks Might Switch From ‘Physically Vulnerable’ Gold to Bitcoin

Central Banks might resort to cryptocurrency reserves as means of supplementing national gold reserves according to veteran cryptographer Nick Szabo. He also holds that the use of digital currencies will rise in countries with distraught economies. 


Cryptocurrency Over Gold

Speaking at the Israel Bitcoin Summit at Tel Aviv University on January 8th, legendary cryptographer, Nick Szabo, said that national central banks might resort to cryptocurrency reserves as means of supplementing existing national gold reserves.

One of the reasons for this to happen, according to Szabo, is the potential lack of trust between foreign banks or governments:

There’s going to be some situations where a central bank can’t trust a foreign central bank or government with their bonds for example. […] One solution that’s been developed is to have the Swiss government hold it for you – that’s not a trust minimized solution. The Swiss government itself is subject to political pressures and so a more trust minimized solution is cryptocurrency.

In addition, Szabo also notes that gold reserves are “physically vulnerable,” saying:

The other problem with gold reserves is that they’re physically vulnerable. When the Nazis conquered countries in Europe, the first place they went to was a central bank’s gold reserves.

Bitcoinist reported on the uncanny resemblance in the historical performance of gold and Bitcoin in the past. Unlike gold, however, Bitcoin “has more utility” admitted US economist and Bitcoin-critic Paul Krugman.

The Winklevoss twins also recently stated that “Bitcoin is better at being gold than gold,” predicting that it should surpass the precious metal’s $7 trillion dollar market cap in the future.

Helping Distraught Economies

Another thing the Bitcoin pioneer shared was that censorship-resistant cryptocurrencies will grow in popularity in countries, which suffer from failed monetary planning, as well as those which have been blacklisted from trade.

There seems to be substantial merit to his thoughts. Venezuela, for example, is a country which is currently being torn by hyperinflation. In fact, the Director of the Western Hemisphere Department of the International Monetary Fund, Alejandro Werner, said that 10 million percent inflation rate is not out of the picture:

Yes, 10 million percent because prices in Venezuela are doubling or tripling every month. And that, when you take it to 12 months, generates an exponential inflation rate.

As Bitcoinist reported in late December, the country saw its biggest jump in bitcoin volume on LocalBitcoins.

What is more, a Russian university lecturer with ties to the government, Vladislav Ginko, has recently revealed that the country is planning to invest in Bitcoin as a means of avoiding US sanctions.

Whether this is true remains to be seen, but US sanctions indeed have little effect on a neutral global digital currency like Bitcoin

“Because of US sanctions, Russia’s elite is forced to dump US assets and US dollars and invest hugely into Bitcoins. The central bank of Russia sits on $466 billion of reserves and has to diversify in case there are limited opportunities to do it (in the future),” Ginko said.

What do you think of Nick Szabo’s statements? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!


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Led 09

‘It’s Quite Cryptic’: Normal People Explaining Bitcoin Shows It’s Still Very Early

This video by Naomi Brockwell of ‘normies’ explaining Bitcoin reminds us there’s still a long way to go taking cryptocurrencies to the masses.


Let’s be honest. Between wild price swings, sensational hash wars, Ethereum forks, 51% attacks, and bearish regulators, it’s easy to get caught up in the crypto space. And it’s equally easy to forget that there’s a whole other world out there that’s blissfully unaware.

Brockwell is a TV producer, MC, and host of NBTV blockchain/tech show. She’s been making videos about Bitcoin since 2013 and was a policy associate at the New York Bitcoin Center from 2013 to 2015.

In the following video posted on her YouTube channel, she admits that she didn’t realize how little people outside of crypto knew about Bitcoin until now:

During the trip so far I have discovered that no one outside the crypto world knows anything about Bitcoin.

Here are some of the main takeaways:

There’s a Lot of Confusion About Bitcoin

Most people have heard of Bitcoin. But despite its price hovering around $4,000, that still doesn’t mean they know what it is. There’s still plenty of confusion generated upon hearing the word. “You can put any word in front of “coin” and you’ll get bitcoin,” said one interviewee.

He knew that it was money “on the internet,” but was unsure about how to send it, asking whether you could fax or email it to people. Perhaps his most interesting question of all was:

How do you get more than one bitcoin? Do they stack? Can you have more than one type of bitcoin?

There Are Plenty of Misconceptions

One of the participants in the car knew that Bitcoin is mined. However, he thought that you mined it through hitting blocks on the internet, like a Mario game. In fact, he believed that popular video game Minecraft was the way in which bitcoin was mined.

Another interviewee said “Bitcoin is like an IOU with no legitimate promise to be fulfilled,” and that the coin’s appearance was very Mario-esque; “there’s even a David Hasselhoff coin with a picture of his head on it!” he exclaimed… “These are all types of bitcoin.”

His answers began to sound almost plausible to the other passengers until he blew his cover revealing that he actually knew nothing about what he was saying with the words:

It is a cryptic currency meaning that currently, it’s quite cryptic.

When everyone began to shake their heads, he said that no one knew anything about Bitcoin:

It’s like a puzzle which has no answer inside.

All these responses lead Brockwell to conclude:

It is very clear that most people in the world are incredibly confused about Bitcoin and what it is and what cryptocurrency is.

However, People Want to Learn More

That there’s confusion among the mainstream should come as no surprise. Many people in the actual space are still grappling with their own learning curves. The media has played a helpful role in getting the word about Bitcoin and crypto out there.

However, it has also served to add to the confusion with incorrect facts and unclear statements, images of bitcoin as an actual coin, rather than a string of numbers and letters. 

But the encouraging takeaway from the video is that people want to learn more. When Brockwell asked, “what’s your interest level in Bitcoin?” one of the respondents replied that it was a 7. 

I feel like if someone taught me about Bitcoin I’d be really interested… But when I google Bitcoin I never get any answers.

Another added:

I’m really curious now, I’d like to know more about Bitcoin.

It’s pretty clear that there’s a lot of work to be done explaining Bitcoin to the masses. Although, we can also take some encouragement from the fact that Bitcoin has gotten so far without most of the world knowing what it is.

Perhaps while the community works on scaling solutions, technology upgrades, and security, Bitcoin educators should also work on tightening the narrative. 

What’s the best way to get started with Bitcoin? Share your thoughts below!


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Led 07

$1000 in Bitcoin Hides in ‘Revolutionary’ Street Mural in Paris

Want to win a bitcoin? Or more precisely, 0.26 of a bitcoin ($1,000)? Get on over to Paris where you can commence a live treasure hunt in the streets searching for the Paris puzzle painted by street artist Pascal Boyart.


Paris Bitcoin Mural Celebrates Genesis Block Anniversary

Boyart posted on his Twitter that he had painted this controversial street mural in celebration of the 10th birthday of the Genesis block. The mural depicts yellow-vested protestors with a defiant female holding up the French flag leading the way forward.

Anyone interested in solving the Paris puzzle must, first of all, find the wall that the mural is painted on. And then uncover the public key hidden inside it.

If you’re thinking you can save yourself a Ryanair flight, you might be disappointed. You have to be physically in front of the mural to solve the puzzle, although you’ll find some more clues as to its whereabouts by looking at the HD picture here.

The French Are Backing Bitcoin like the Revolution

Anyone watching the news lately or with some knowledge of the French culture knows they have little tolerance for bullshit. This has been evidenced time and again throughout history. The beheading of King Louis XVI in the Place de la Révolution just one of many examples.

Uprising and protest flow through the veins of the French. The country famous for its baguettes, struggling artists, and freedom of speech.

The government ups the price of oil? Truck drivers begin to overturn their loads and barricade the streets. The authorities decide to raise taxes and print money? Protestors start setting the streets on fire and smashing windows and monuments. Yes, the French tolerance for bullshit is definitely next to zero.

The Paris Protests

Last month, Macron’s government faced chaos and fighting on the streets for over their willful decision to hike taxes and print money eroding the value of French people’s wealth and making cryptocurrencies like bitcoin all the more relevant.

In the last round of protests, men and women in yellow vests abounded sporting the words “Buy Bitcoin” a currency defined by mathematics and markets and not by governments or institutions.

Given the infamous French spirit, it’s not surprising that bitcoin should go down well here. In fact, French tobacco shops are expected to start selling bitcoins along with their cigarettes and lottery tickets this month, and the world’s largest hardware wallet manufacturer Ledger is French.

Spreading the Word Through Art

In a country famous for freedom of expression (remember the controversial cartoons from Charlie Hebdo that resulted in the mass murder of most of its team?) it seems particularly fitting that they should be spreading the word about bitcoin through art.

Not only are the yellow-vested protesters there, but the French flag is held up high in the revolutionary hands of a woman. Liberty, fraternity–and equality–the slogan synonymous with French values.

“Vive la France,” wrote one Twitter enthusiast (well, that’s probably what he meant to write, rather than “Viva La Fance”).

Whatever. Long live France! And long live le bitcoin too.

Do you like the Bitcoin puzzle mural? Share your thoughts below! 


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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Led 05

Weiss Ratings 2019 Prediction: Bitcoin Will Reach a New All-Time High

A new year means more speculative cryptocurrency predictions. Many predictions last year didn’t envisage the enormous bear market that characterized the year, with Bitcoin dropping more than 80 percent. Weiss Ratings has published its outlook for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in 2019.


Increased Adoption and New ATH for Bitcoin

According to Weiss Ratings, 2019 will herald increased adoption for Bitcoin. The international rating agency expects more people to consider the top-ranked cryptocurrency as a store of value. The expected result is BTC firmly establishing its status as digital gold.

The forecast report also suggested that BTC price 00 could reach a new all-time high (ATH) in 2019. This prediction comes from the apparent cyclical nature of Bitcoin price action with major bear market declines followed by new ATH.

Back in December, Bitcoinist reported on the call by Weiss Ratings that prices reached a low enough level for investors to load up on BTC.

2019: Year of the XRP Flippening?

Weiss Ratings also predicts a significant year for XRP 00 especially in its pursuit of cornering the global payment ecosystem. While identifying the progress made by XRP and Stellar, the rating agency highlighted XRP as having the potential to compete with SWIFT.

Ripple spent most of 2018 extending its network of applications related to the banking sector, inking partnerships along with way.

For Weiss Ratings, XRP could on the back of increased utility displace BTC from its perch at the top of the cryptocurrency market capitalization chart. For a brief period in 2018, XRP overtook Ethereum as the second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization.

This forecast represents a shift for Weiss Ratings given that in 2018, the agency said BTC would lose 50 percent of its market share to Ethereum. Indeed, most of the talk about the “flippening” has almost always been about Ethereum upstaging Bitcoin. However, the decline in the ICO arena seems to have negatively impacted such a possibility.

Mixed Bag for Altcoins in 2019

As far as the rest of the altcoin market goes, Weiss Ratings predicts a mixed bag of fortune with some rising to prominence and others fade into obscurity. The rating agency says “BTC-like” coins like Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin are destined to fail due to the absence of innovative use-cases for such cryptocurrencies.

On the other hand, projects like EOS and Cardano will usher in a paradigm shift in Internet technology, giving birth to Web 3.0. Also, Weiss envisages a shakeup in the top ten rankings with new entrants such as Holochain and Hedera Hashgraph.

Do you agree with the predictions mentioned above? What are your cryptocurrency forecasts for the new year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


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Led 04

‘How to Use Bitcoin Anonymously’ Article Gets Banned on Medium

Publishing platform, Medium, has allegedly jumped on the censorship “ban-wagon”, after suspending an account which posted a Bitcoin anonymity guide. Whilst Medium has not confirmed the reason, several Twitter users have claimed previous account suspensions based on crypto-related content.


Storm In A Teacup

So what can have incurred the wrath of Medium so much that they felt it necessary to wield the ban-hammer? Fortunately, the author reposted the article elsewhere, so we can read it and find out. Even more, fortunately, I’m going to paraphrase it, so you don’t need to bother reading it yourself.

The article has the disclaimer that you may not agree with it, so are welcome to read something else instead. If only Medium allowed us the same freedom of choice to read it in the first place, eh?

Bitcoin Privacy

Let’s begin…

Privacy is a fundamental human right, although government agencies are increasingly trying to curtail this in the name of security. Because some people use bitcoin for nefarious reasons, they want to monitor all use… but only for your own protection, of course.

So how can we eschew their benevolent intentions and secure our own privacy?

Keeping Your Privates Private

The article recommends always using cash for buying in/out and never using a service that requires AML/KYC. These regulations just tie your physical identity to your Bitcoin address and do little to prevent money laundering. In fact, as confirmed by Bitcoinist on a regular basis, the vast majority of money-laundering occurs through banks.

The guide also stresses that the same Bitcoin address should never be used more than once.

Reusing [Bitcoin] addresses is the virtual version of spreading an STD

Whilst this is an amusing metaphor, it’s hardly contentious, and pretty much standard advice. Oh, and as we’re giving good advice; don’t use wallets with Bloom filters, and do use an anonymity network or VPN.

Medium Jumps on the ‘Ban-Wagon’?

We then move on to the methods used to compromise your privacy, namely Bitcoin forensic analysis, and heuristics. Heuristics are essentially assumptions that are not perfectly correct, but good enough to use, in this case for identification and tracking.

As these are just guesses, there are ways that we can make them unreliable, and minimize the risk. One of these that the article goes into in a great deal of detail is coin-mixing. It recommends staying away from centralized mixing services and gives some suggestions as to alternative CoinJoins.

The guide sits somewhere between basic good advice and perhaps slight overcaution for most users. However, there is little in terms of content that could be considered contentious, or worthy of a suspension.

This being said, the links in the article do all seem to hit pages with endless loading loops. Even typing in the website address to get to the homepage (or any page other than the re-posted article) suffers the same fate.

It is possible that these ‘questionable’ links could have caused a suspension, and it is not recommended to click any of them. Nevertheless, there seems to be a growing trend towards de-platforming by PayPal, Patreon etc. and it would be sad if Medium was also taking this path.

What other methods can you share for increasing Bitcoin privacy? Share them below!


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Led 02

Lamassu, The Oldest Bitcoin ATM Company, Moves to ‘Crypto Valley’ Switzerland

There were rising doubts last year about Switzerland’s rightful place as a leader in the crypto space. The tiny alpine country famous for its expensive watches welcomed blockchain companies at first. Then Swiss banks began to stop working with them one by one, and Switzerland looked to be the land of promise no longer. It’s interesting then, that Lamassu has given crypto here a much-needed vote of confidence by calling Switzerland its new home.


Lamassu Picks Switzerland for Its Well-Defined Rules

In a blog post published on Medium, the oldest Bitcoin ATM manufacturer established in 2013 explains that “after years” of searching for the best place for their headquarters, they finally found it in the canton of Lucerne, adding that:

Crypto Valley is alive and kicking and we’re excited to be in an area so rich in crypto development and blockchain events.

Lamassu is one of the most popular Bitcoin machines today, with 433 Bitcoin ATMs worldwide, seven so far in Switzerland. However, with Bitcoin fans now able to buy bitcoins with their train tickets at over 1,000 machines in the country, the company chose Switzerland not only to roll out more product but also for its “well-defined” rules.

bitcoin atms in Switzerland

However, not all is as it seems in Switzerland, once home to the largest number of ICOs. When banking giant UBS closed accounts for crypto companies, all major Swiss banks followed suit.

But with crypto-friendly countries such as Malta, Lichtenstein, and even Germany close to home, Swiss authorities began to halt the exodus of blockchain companies from its pastures.

The Swiss Banking Association (SBA) laid out clearer guidelines for banks on how to work with crypto companies in an attempt to retain its crypto-friendly title.

It should be noted that having a bank account as a crypto company still poses several risks. Companies can be subject to routine account freezes or even asked to move their funds to another institution with little notice.

Yet Lamassu seems undeterred:

Exciting stuff is happening in Switzerland at every level. Open source Bitcoin and Lightning Network nodes are being hacked together, hardware wallets are being designed and manufactured, the world’s leading cryptocurrency regulations are being carefully guided, world-class meetups and events are happening, and lots of Bitcoin ATMs are being deployed.

The number of Bitcoin ATMs around the world doubled in 2018 and now stands at just over 4,000. This is what Lamassu calls “booming.” The company says that it wants its home to be a place where rules are well defined and regulators are open to innovation.

Banking the Unbankable

Despite Switzerland’s scuffle between the banks and crypto, Lamassu has had it far worse in the past. The Bitcoin ATM maker explains that in its native Portugal, the company was unable to find a bank to work with them.

We’ve been bankless for the past year. We must have been rejected by fifteen banks just because we manufacture terminals for Bitcoin.

Why don’t banks want to work with crypto companies? It (mainly) boils down to lax AML practices and the fact that crypto’s KYC policies aren’t up to the standards of banks. Somewhat ironic when you consider the case after case of large name banks embroiled in corruption and money laundering charges.

Lamassu cryptomat bitcoin atm

Moreover, Lamassu does not trade in cryptocurrency nor store cryptocurrency, it is merely a marker of hardware. But one of the company’s first concerns about choosing a new jurisdiction was that they would be able to open a bank account.

According to the blog post, they had a “nice chat” with a small bank in a Swiss canton called Aargau and have finally been allowed to open a bank account. They even enthuse:

In fact, you should expect to see one of our cryptomats [Bitcoin ATMs] in their headquarters early this year.

Banking for Bitcoin Companies Is Still a Struggle

While the Bitcoin ATM manufacturer may have lucked out with a little-known bank in this fiscally lenient part of the world, the struggle is still very real for most crypto companies.

Lamassu, in fact, was denied by international payment processor Stripe simply because the word Bitcoin appears on their website. They state that if Stripe had been a Swiss company, this probably would not have been the case. Perhaps. But it’s certainly not a guarantee.

However, the company is looking to start 2019 in a positive way and is “psyched” to be part of an innovative and crypto-friendly ecosystem in Lucerne. They’ll even be contributing to it by holding a monthly meetup dedicated to free speech, free markets, and decentralization.

While Switzerland is encouraging more banks to work with crypto companies, it’s not all green lights just yet. One has to wonder how long the honeymoon period for Lamassu will continue.

Will Switzerland be a good home for Bitcoin ATM manufacturer Lamassu? 


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Led 01

Bluewallet Lets You Send Bitcoin Lightning Payments from Your iPhone

Bluewallet appears to be setting the bar for the next generation of Bitcoin wallets. Available for both Android and iOS, it is the first to integrate the Lightning Network (LN) for super-quick and “unfairly cheap” transactions.


First Bitcoin Lightning Wallet on iOS

It should be mentioned that this review is largely aimed at users who are either not tech-savvy enough or don’t have have the time or both (like me) to set up their own Lightning nodes.

I’ve used a few iOS Bitcoin wallet apps over the years and all of these have their pros and cons. However, as far as simplicity, ease-of-use, and security are concerned, I can confidently say that Bluewallet is the best iOS Bitcoin wallet app I ever used. 

It combines the latest Bitcoin technology (SegWit, LN, Replace-by-fee etc.) with some nifty security features (plausible deniability) alongside the simplest user experience to date.

Note: Bluewallet did not pay me for this review and never contacted me.

I recently found out about this app, which was launched in early December, on Twitter. The wallet caught my attention since this is the first open-source Bitcoin wallet for iOS that supports Lightning Network so I decided to check it out.

As far as I can tell, it is the first wallet that allows you to:

  • Refill the LN wallet with an on-chain transaction without closing/opening a new one
  • Backup (export) the LN wallet with a QR code/URL
  • Use the same LN wallet across multiple devices

It should also be mentioned that while you control the BTC wallet’s private keys, the LN part is custodial by default running Bluewallet’s LNHUB+LND. But, if you already have your own LND node, you can run LNHUB software yourself (it’s open-source) by entering your URL in the Lightning wallet settings.

Not Many Options for iOS

Just like many other people, my first ever Bitcoin wallet experience was with Blockchain wallet in 2014. It was one of the first Bitcoin wallets available for both Android and iOS mobile platforms.

Currently, I’ve been using Edge wallet (formerly known as Airbitz) for the sole reasons that it is ‘secure’ (you control the private keys) and one of the few that supports SegWit (cheaper transactions) along with many altcoins like Monero and Ethereum.

While I believe Edge is one of the best wallets available for iOS today, I miss the watch-only address feature that Blockchain wallet always had — so there were always tradeoffs.

Watch-only addresses let you — as the name implies — only see the balance of your cold-storage wallets. So even if your Ledger Nano S is buried in a nuclear bunker, you could still safely monitor its balance from afar.

However, security should be paramount to every Bitcoin user. Thus, controlling your own private keys is a must and since there weren’t a lot of options for iOS – Edge wallet it was. (I’ve also tried the popular BRD wallet but I wasn’t a fan).

Blown Away By Simplicity

Setting up a wallet in Bluewallet took less than 20 seconds and you have a choice between a regular HD (hierarchical deterministic) wallet or SegWit. You can also import an existing wallet using your seed.

Done. Creating the Lightning wallet is just as quick.

You then have an option to encrypt (recommended) your wallet’s privet keys with a single password. This makes the experience similar to signing up for a new Gmail account — which makes the entire process very easy and familiar, particularly for those new to Bitcoin.

There’s also a genius feature against $5 wrench attacks called Plausible Deniability.

Next, you’ll need some coin to play with. So refill your Bluewallet by sending an on-chain transaction with some BTC from another wallet. If you don’t have any — it’s possible to buy bitcoin (from Changelly) right from the Options menu.

The whole interface is the cleanest and most intuitive I’ve used to date. The wallet also lets you set a custom transaction fee when sending bitcoin.

Replace-by-fee is another useful feature. If you ever set a fee that is too low — you now have the option to set a higher fee (after you already clicked ‘send’) and speed up the transaction. 

Lightning Network Works But…

So I sent about $4 to my new BTC wallet. About 20 minutes lates after all the confirmations (at least 2), I sent about a few bucks in bitcoin to ‘refill’ my new Lightning address.

Bluewallet notes that your LN wallet is intended for day-to-day transactions because they’re faster and “unfairly cheap.”

After about five confirmations, the LN wallet had satoshis in it and was ready to strike. However, since only one LN wallet can be set up in the app (for now), it was impossible for me to try sending sats back and forth within the app.

So I told my friend to try it. Unfortunately, the LN wallet doesn’t yet support receiving (invoicing) lightning payments yet, so we were unable to send any Satoshis between each other.

Luckily, I did manage to send an LN payment of six cents to read a full article on Yalls.org. This went through instantly and without a problem as clicking ‘check payment’ on Yalls immediately showed that the payment has been sent.

A Glimpse into the Future of LN Payments

Using this wallet gives a glimpse into the future of paying with Bitcoin as LN grows and all the software issues are ironed out. Once LN payments will become seamless, using it should become second nature as transactions are literally instant at almost zero cost.

This should provide a great solution for merchants and in-store payments (e.g. Starbucks) as it eliminates the problem of having to wait for on-chain confirmations – a common criticism of using Bitcoin at brick-n-mortar locations.

Moreover, legacy digital payments (credit cards, Venmo etc.) are already instant and ‘cheap’ for users so the breakthrough will not come from speed. However, LN is not only “unfairly cheap” but also allows sending less than a satoshi – the smallest unit in Bitcoin. This means users are already sending tiny fractions of a penny, as recently reported by Bitcoinist.

Therefore, I believe, this technology will create new opportunities for online micro-payments and monetization of digital content, which could be a game-changer in the Information Age. In the meantime, however, this wallet will make it possible to ride a Lightning scooter.

Or maybe a Lightning beer?

Shortfalls

There are admittedly some shortfalls with Bluewallet. Though most of these gaps are expected to be filled later.

For example, the biggest problem right now is the inability to receive LN payments and make withdrawals from the LN wallet back to the BTC wallet. Therefore, you should only test the LN wallet with a small sum since you will not be able to get the satoshis back to your on-chain Bitcoin wallet (for now).

Software developer Irek Zielinski explains that upcoming versions of Bluewallet will support invoicing, which means bidirectional LN transactions.

Another issue is the lack of PIN or Touch-ID/Face-ID support. Though understandably, a lack of PIN code make it easier to use for the average joe, I’d like to at least have the option to set up a PIN code for accessing the app or some kind of 2-factor authentication for extra security.

Other features in the pipeline include:

  • Batch TX – the ability to pay multiple addresses with a single transaction, saving on fees and optimizing blockspace usage.
  • MultiSig TX – enhanced security as each transaction requires M of N signatures (with keys stored on different physical devices with BlueWallet).
  • Plugging in your Bitcoin Core node for “maximum sovereignty.”

These additions should make Bluewallet, hand down, the best wallet for both iOS and Android users and Bitcoin businesses, in particular. In whole, this is a great wallet if you’re looking to have the latest security features, ease-of-use, Lightning payments, and tired of waiting for Samourai Wallet to be released for iOS.

Have you tried Bluewallet? Share your experience below! 


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Pro 31

Bakkt Raises $182.5M From Microsoft And Other Big-Name Investors

Bakkt on Monday announced the completion of its first funding round, to the tune of $182.5 million. The platform which aims to offer the first-ever Bitcoin-settled futures contracts in the coming year says it is going ahead with its plans irrespective of the current market conditions.


$182.5 Million in Funding From High Profile Investors

In a Medium post published on Monday (Dec. 31, 2018) by the Bakkt CEO, Kelly Loeffler, the company announced that it had successfully carried out its first funding round. According to the announcement, 12 investors participated in the capital raising exercise.

The CEO notes the investors including some big names, namely:

The partners and investors in the first round include Boston Consulting Group, CMT Digital, Eagle Seven, Galaxy Digital, Goldfinch Partners, Alan Howard, Horizons Ventures, Intercontinental Exchange, Microsoft’s venture capital arm, M12, Pantera Capital, PayU, the fintech arm of Naspers, and Protocol Ventures.

Bakkt Moving Ahead Despite Bear Market

For Loeffler, the status quo remains unchanged despite the prolonged bear market that characterized the cryptocurrency space in 2018. The company intends to continue its drive for proper onboarding of clients, as well as, collaborating with relevant business partners.

New York Stock Exchange Owner to Launch Bitcoin Data Service

Reinstating Bakkt’s commitment and resolve to the process, Loeffler, said:

We have worked to build new markets and products many times before. Those of us building Bakkt have earned our stripes by helping advance markets in once-nascent asset classes, from energy to credit derivatives and, now, bitcoin. The path to developing new markets is rarely linear: progress tends to modulate between innovation, dismissal, reinvention, and, finally, acceptance.

According to Loeffler, focusing on the BTC price 00 action is a distraction from the groundbreaking developments happening with Bitcoin as a whole. The Bakkt CEO also noted that paradigm-shifting technological breakthroughs have a long incubation time and price isn’t always the best metric for gauging growth.

Notably, 2018 was the most active year for crypto in its brief ten-year history. This was evidenced by rising investment in distributed ledger technology and digital assets, as well as by blockchain network metrics such as daily bitcoin transaction value and active addresses. Yet, these milestones tend to be overshadowed by the more narrow focus on bitcoin’s price…

Bakkt Postponed From January to ‘Early 2019’

Bakkt and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) continue to work out modalities for the launch of the BTC-settled futures contracts. However, the current government shutdown in the United States looks like it has pushed back the January 2019 launch to “early 2019.”

The official statement published on December 31, reads:

Following consultation with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, ICE Futures U.S., Inc. expects to provide an updated launch timeline in early 2019, for the trading, clearing and warehousing of the Bakkt Bitcoin (USD) Daily Futures Contract. The launch had previously been set for January 24, 2019, but will be amended pursuant to the CFTC’s process and timeline.

While awaiting CFTC approval, the platform says it will continue to onboard customers while firming up its institutional-grade infrastructure.

Do you think the signs are good for Bakkt following this successful fundraising round? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.


Image courtesy of Twitter (@Bakkt), Shutterstock

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