Welcome to the newest edition of Fintech Friday! We’re a little late this week because of time difficulties and priorities.

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Mass Adoption

This week was a bit slower in diversity of news, but no less significant for adoption. In fact, it seems like awareness is at an all time high with a recent survey suggesting that almost 50% of all American millennials are interested in cryptocurrency while Hong Kong – which as we reported last week added blockchain skills to the list of preferential immigration skills – is now offering subsidies to new blockchain developers, just to draw them in further.

Corporations and Collaborations

Civic, the company which has been offering on-chain KYC verification of identities since last year, has launched an initiative for mass adoption in which they’ll spend 43 million USD worth of CVC tokens in order to lure in more individual non-corporate users. Civic has plenty of corporate users, like the recently announced Menlo One. Menlo is a dapp development framework and startup which will offer developers a way to integrate directly with Civic to reach the truthiness of user data easily and natively from within the framework, increasing user reliability and helping authentication.

Stratis blockchain and UK Meds – a British online pharmacy – are joining forces to track patients and prescriptions, and to share data with other pharmaceutical companies and health providers. Also in the UK, the British Maritime Classification Society Lloyd’s Register launched a prototype blockchain for registering ships and tracking their condition.

FunFair got a Curacao gambling licence.

Google is entering the blockchain space more and more by offering new products, while Microsoft is connecting its own offerings with blockchain technology in a bid to compete with IBM in offering closed, centralized, private blockchains. The major difference is that Microsoft is trying to be open with their approach – unlike with IBM, the Microsoft solutions don’t all have to be hosted on their servers and thus retain some degree of, at the very least, distribution if not decentralization.

In the Gyeongsangbuk-do province of South Korea plans are underway to build a Gyeongbuk Coin. This coin will be a replacement of an alternative currency currently in use there – Hometown Love Gift Cards – and will be built with the help of the blockchain startup Orbs in collaboration with the local government. South Korea, generally a very crypto friendly country, now even has plans to double the number of planned public blockchain pilot programs for 2019 from 6 to 12, and they have a powerful state-backed blockchain course through which they’re training new workers in the art of blockchain use and programming.

The Japanese city of Tsukuba – known for its technological prowess since the 1960s – completed a blockchain voting trial successfully. 119 votes were cast with blockchainized IDs to vote on social contribution projects – like communal voting on which tech project gets funding from a pool of funds. They hope to expand the program significantly in the future, given the promising results of this test. The only problem with the test was the fact that many voters forgot their passwords which were necessary as a second layer of security to unlock the ID card.

In China, which now accepts blockchain data as legally binding, the centralized blockchain VeChain partnered up with PICC, the biggest insurance company, in order to provide robust and reliable data for sharing and enhancement through blockchain channels. At the same time, China’s central bank PBoC launched its prototype of a trading platform ahead of time and opened a blockchain research center in Nanjing. The biggest Chinese bank ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China) announced the intention to focus on blockchain research along with things like AI, IoT, big data and cloud computing. It looks like China really does want to go all-in on blockchain, but their own blockchain exclusively – none of that westerner blockchain. So much so that they’ve started using blockchain to track prisoners on parole. Blockchain makes no sense in that particular case given that the same result can be achieved much cheaper with a decent regular application, but as we always say – all adoption is good adoption.

In USA, Kelly Loeffler, the CEO of ICE and thus the newly formed Bakkt (which we’ve written about in Issue #2) intends to eventually turn the 401k into a crypto-based one, and is considering wider applications as well, she said in a Fortune interview. This announcement comes at the same time when California announced that they have legally defined various blockchain terms, laying the foundations for more serious integration of blockchain technology with the notoriously slow traditional system.

Other countries are likewise waking up to the blockchain reality and recognizing the potential tax gains of blockchain startups. So much so that Uzbekistan is now offering temporary tax exemptions to blockchain startups which move their base of operations there, along with offering cheaper electricity to miners. In a similar vein, Colombian President Ivan Duque, generally known for his obsession with AI and blockchain, promises to cut rent taxes for blockchain startups, provided they generate the required number of jobs. In Iran cryptocurrency mining has been accepted and recognized as an industry.

There is, of course, a negative side of mass adoption as well. Petro, Venezuela’s cryptocurrency, has now been exposed for what many of us who have been in crypto for a while already figured – that it’s basically a scam. It has no users and no backing, and it doesn’t really exist. Here’s the report. At the same time, the mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, is planning to implement a cryptocurrency to escape the “putrid” Euro.

Markets

In Kiev, the legendary Bessarabsky market is now offering the option to pay for groceries with cryptocurrencies through the crypto startup Paytomat – an instant crypto-to-fiat payment processor for merchants.

In the US, Post Oak Motor teamed up with the cryptocurrency payment processor BitPay to accept cryptocurrencies for luxury cars such as Rolls Royce, Bugatti and Bentley. It’s not all about Lambos any more!

Star Power

Bitcoin was mentioned on Eminem’s newest album where rapper Royce Da 5’9’ says “Remember everybody used to bite Nickel, now everybody doing bitcoin.” While this has no significant effect on the industry, it is useful in spreading the bitcoin brand and thus furthering adoption.

The brand was additionally boosted by BBC who covered the “crypto millionaire” lifestyle in a new article focusing on speculation and trading.

The baseball team Los Angeles Dodgers will be giving away digital collectibles on Ethereum to the first 40000 visitors of the San Diego Padres game on September 21st. The collectibles will be tokens like CryptoKitties, fully exchangeable for Ethereum in true collector spirit.

Education

ConsenSys, the company which is SHIELD in a world where Blockstream is Hydra, sees great potential in the Middle East and is launching a blockchain bootcamp in Lebanon – complete with a hackathon at the end. They also partnered with the popular education platform Coursera to offer a blockchain course.

The Linux Foundation, however, seems to be turning into the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in this fictional universe of Marvel mappings – they’re starting to offer courses in Hyperledger Fabric.

Status Quo and Regulation

The old financial ruling class is desperately yearning for cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, but they are also deathly afraid of it all, to the point of claiming that cryptocurrencies are useless. Makes sense to fight it this much – after all, if cryptocurrency becomes properly mainstream, 80% of the jobs in the banking sector will disappear. Resistance is thus natural, in spite of the recent reports that criminals do not prefer it at all and instead favor precious metals and cash.

These misconceptions and fears spread so far and wide they catch up on even companies that appear modern at first – like Mozilla. Firefox will thus from upcoming versions automatically block crypto mining scripts, without even offering its users to opt in, cutting a big part of various websites’ revenue off.

Various financial conduct agencies across the world are also flailing their arms around wildly and warning of various dangers, some justified, some less so. The British FCA warns against Local Bitcoin Ltd. and BK Coin, the Japanese financial regulators are increasing risk checks and audits of cryptocurrency exchanges, the Thai AMLO (Anti Money Laundering Office) is considering opening its own cryptocurrency addresses in order to be able to confiscate cryptocurrencies from criminals and suspects which it currently cannot do, and the ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) is enhancing checks and regulations for ICOs and exchanges in a way to make the current market regulation apply to crypto as well, thereby reducing the time needed to wait for new laws and decisions to be made.

There were some direct attacks on the concept of crypto, too. In Russia, 22 Bitcoin ATMs were illegally seized by officials while Washington decided to hike the electricity rates for cryptocurrency mining due to the “unregulated and high-risk nature of the industry”.

In EU, a suggestion was made by the Parliament during a meeting on ICO regulation to cap the amount of USD an ICO can raise at 8 million. If this and some other conditions are agreed on by an ICO, this would allow it open access to the entire EU market – including banking.

The financial elite might just get what it’s looking for – using the blockchain in a closed, permissioned, regulated and censored blockchain if they accept IBM’s solution in the form of the Blockchain World Wire – a protocol built on a closed version of Stellar. This protocol directly competes with SWIFT, so it’ll definitely be interesting to witness the resolution of this conflict.

Security and Privacy

This post on Bitfalls.com explains why you should think twice before giving that next ICO your personal data.

This is a great explainer of the biggest Smart Contract Attacks in Ethereum’s history.

Google bought our private information from MasterCard. This further underlines the need for blockchain-based management of personal data and universal transparency of responsibility. How much of a fine do you think they’ll have to pay for this?

Dether, the mobile app which is basically Localbitcoins but for Ethereum and which recently entered public beta becoming available to all, had a security issue. The issue allowed access to all user emails and personal data, but it is not known whether it was exploited. Just another reason to keep checking if you’ve been sold to anyone and to use throwaway email addresses when signing up for anything.

The Chrome extension MEGA has briefly become malware last week, stealing users’ cryptocurrency and passwords. A routine upgrade of the extension downloaded the malicious version which could then operate undetected.

Belgium has an up to date blacklist of crypto scam sites to avoid.

McAfee presented a Proof of Stake wallet created by his most recent scam, Luxcore. Avoid this project at all costs.

Patents

As usual, we’ll let you decide whether patenting in an open technology such as blockchain is a good or bad thing. I personally think it’s villainous and that any entity trying to patent in this space is greedy and scared of competition. This is further evidenced by the fact that Alibaba, IBM, and various current financial giants hold the most patents in the blockchain space.

  • The Winklewoss brothers’ company filed a patent for cold storage approaches in cryptocurrency. Specifically, they’re trying to patent a way to divide a private key into multiple parts which are then distributed on hard media between air-gapped computers, not via the internet. Somewhat counter-intuitively, the computers would have access to an internal “secure portal” through which the parts could be combined in order to execute transactions with the “protected” funds, defeating the entire purpose of cold storage.
  • Walmart is trying to patent an approach of using warehouse robots in tandem with the blockchain for authentication of robots and processing the supply chain. Given that it’s a single private company, the use of blockchain is in no way justified there, but the hype certainly makes it all sound good and the patent will likely yield them some billions later on if awarded.

Launches

Some launches of apps and games that have finally exited the “PowerPoint presentation phase”.

Tech

Technological advancements include new software, updates, new protocols, tools, etc.

Tools

Protocols

Bitcoin Cash had kind of a successful stress test. In 24 hours of bombarding the network, they barely exceeded Ethereum’s transaction per second speed and got to around 23 TPS. Ethereum is at 15 on a normal day.

Upfiring is an app for incentivized torrenting. They’re going to release the source code of their next (and final pre-release) version soon.

Dandelion is a proposed upgrade for anonymity of bitcoin transactions. It sends transactions through several nodes before transmitting it to the public network, thereby masking the original IP. While IP tracing is not a popular way to identify bitcoin users, any improvement to anonymity of public blockchains is a good one.

Trinity State Channel Protocol has launched. This is a way to use state channels in Ethereum, like Raiden.

Cardano (ADA) has plenty of new upgrades and improvements.

An explanation of who’s building what for Ethereum 2.0.

Web assembly and the future of blockchain.

0x 2.0 is out and has huge bug bounties.

Merchants

MiniPos is a mini point of sale terminal implementation for Bitcoin Cash which you can power up in no time at all on really old hardware and use to accept zero-confirmation payments of Bitcoin Cash in your store.

Tutorials

Interesting Links


That’s it for this week, catch you again next Friday!

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