Steve Wozniak Compares Ethereum to Apple at Vienna Conference

Steve Wozniak said that in the future, Ethereum may become as influential as Apple.

At the WeAreDevelopers tech conference in Vienna, Steve “Woz” Wozniak compared Ethereum’s platform with Apple and said it could become just as influential, Forbes reported May 18.

While delivering his speech at the conference, Wozniak was enthusiastic about Ethereum (ETH), describing it as a platform similar to Apple’s. He said that in the long-term Ethereum can become just as influential as Apple is. He added:

“Ethereum interests me because it can do things and because it’s a platform.”

According to Forbes, Wozniak happened upon Bitcoin and Ethereum in its early days, although he divested from crypto in early 2018. Wozniak said he still owns one Bitcoin (BTC) and two Ethereum (ETH) to “experiment with paying for different things.”

On Thursday, in his opening speech at the conference, Wozniak called blockchain “the next major IT revolution that is about to happen.” He said that both blockchain and cryptocurrencies will achieve their full potential in a decade. In October of last year, Wozniak said at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas that Bitcoin is better than gold or the US dollar.

After Apple, Wozniak has remained part of the the tech world, founding the coding academy Woz University that has 31 coding centers across the US.

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Iran and Russia Discuss Transacting in Crypto to Avoid International Sanctions

Both Iran and Russia are reportedly looking into using cryptocurrency as a way around Western sanctions

Iran and Russia could start using cryptocurrencies to avoid Western sanctions, Russian news portal RBC reported yesterday, May 17.

Mohammad Reza Pourebrahimi, the head of the Iranian Parliamentary Commission for Economic Affairs, referred to cryptocurrencies as a promising way for both countries to avoid US dollar transactions, as well as a possible replacement of the SWIFT interbank payment system.

At a meeting with Dmitry Mezentsev, the Chair of the Federation Council Committee on Economic Policy, Pourebrahimi said that they have “engaged the Central Bank of Iran to start developing proposals for the use of cryptocurrency.”

Pourebrahimi added that he discussed this topic in the State Duma’s Committee on Economic Policy the day before and that Iran had established cooperation with Russia on this issue:

“They [Russia] share our opinion. We said that if we manage to move this work forward, then we will be the first countries that use cryptocurrency in the exchange of goods.”

In turn, Mezentsev noted that “interbank relations between our countries should be of great importance” against the backdrop of international sanctions currently in place against both Russia and Iran. The meeting of the interbank working group on financial and interbank cooperation will be held in Tehran on July 5 of this year, RBC reports.

Last week, Pourebrahimi had reported that without access to the international banking system, Iranian citizens have so far succeeded in siphoning a staggering $2.5 bln out of the country in crypto.

Venezuela, another country facing international sanctions, recently released its own oil-backed cryptocurrency, the Petro, in a move that some critics saw as an illegal way to enter the international financial markets. After the Petro’s launch, both Turkey and Iran had expressed interest in releasing their own state-backed cryptocurrencies as well, with Russia’s own CryptoRuble reportedly set to launch in mid-2019.

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New Steps of Adoption: Dutch National Blockchain Research Agenda

The Dutch government’s foray into blockchain enterprise could represent a third prong to mainstream adoption following banks and major corporations.

On May 8, 2018 it was reported that the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy had created a unit tasked with researching the further development of blockchain across technology.

This could represent a major step forward for the adoption and application of blockchain technology as governments are not only taking the new technology seriously with their regulatory work on the cryptocurrency side of things, but now they are actively looking into the benefits of the technology.

Blockchain technology is now on the cusp of a new wave of adoption that is running concurrently, but separately from cryptocurrencies.

The banks are looking as to how blockchain can aid their advancement, racing to be the first-to-market in blockchain and cryptocurrency. Major corporations ar also following suit with their own blockchain products as their own race rages with the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle all trying to outdo one another.

The Dutch blockchain research agenda

The Dutch government’s move into blockchain and viewing its potential was delivered by Rob van Gijzel, ambassador of the Dutch Blockchain Coalition, who presented the national research agenda which was commissioned by the Dutch ministry.

The research agenda will look at three key areas in order to address whether blockchain can be adapted nationwide for the benefit of the country with its potential.

Firstly, they are looking to determine if the trust-less nature of blockchain can be trusted. They want to know if blockchain technology can truly replace legal and social institutions which require trust in individuals and organizations.

Secondly, the government is looking for sustainability. They will be analyzing energy consumption costs, scalability, and resilience against power concentration or hostile takeovers.

Finally, it needs to be determined how the blockchain will be managed and governed.

Because blockchain technology has potentially far reaching implications in its application, governments could use it to streamline and cut costs in varying aspects of society’s needs.

However, like all sectors currently delving into blockchain’s potential, there needs to be a level of experimentation to see if it is indeed suitable and successful enough to do what it says it can.

It follows that if governments can find a path towards using blockchain successfully, they could well be a large sector that could speed up adoption of the revolutionary technology.

Following banks and businesses

While there are less corporate pressures and capitalist competition at the government level, there is still an obligation and a focus to conduct government business efficiently as part of their mandate towards their citizens. That is why it is understandable that the Dutch government, among others, are looking into new competitive technologies as blockchain.

However, their drive to expand the possibilities of the technology could be considered the latest push in adoption, making it the third prong, following from banks and businesses who are in an ‘arms race’ to be first-to-market with blockchain products.

Looking at the private sector, Banks are not only rushing to try and get crypto trading desks out to their customers, they are also looking at what blockchain technology can do internally for their own processes. Strong banking rivals Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are building and experimenting with blockchain to get a working product out to market first – a long way from when the likes of Jamie Dimon and others were calling it a fraud.

Even Microsoft, Amazon, and other major corporations – who are traditionally centralized powerhouses – are looking to branch out into the decentralized world and offer products that go strongly against the corporate mandate of capitalization and monopoly. There is building evidence from the banking sector and corporations that blockchain can be the next wave of technology so it is important to be ahead of the curve, hence the competition between these other sectors.

Government interest

When governments begin looking at new ways in which to conduct business, they do not have the same corporate competition as these organizations in the private sector, but the push and drive from those sectors must be noticed. Governments, such as the Dutch, with their research agenda, show that even these leaders of countries are also looking at the potential blockchain can bring with its promises of transparency, efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

The Dutch, however, are not the only ones that have started looking into what the blockchain can do at this level. There are a lot of driving forces in different nations wanting their governments to take note of the future.

For example, the UK government has heard British MPs raising the question of the role nation states have in setting frameworks for decentralized, cross-border systems that blockchains enable. Furthermore, and more directed at the cryptocurrency side of things, the UK also set up a cryptocurrency task force in order to determine the best route for regulation.

Even China, with its hard-line approach to Bitcoin, is still noticing that blockchain technology can have an important role to play in the future. On May 10, the Chinese government released ‘blockchain standards’ in order to advance nationwide development of the blockchain industry by the end of 2019.

South Africa has set up a ‘sandbox’ through its central bank in which certain companies and businesses can operate with less stringent regulations in order to grow the blockchain environment in the African country with the government keeping a close eye on what emerges from it.

Another avenue of adoption

Considering that Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, and even blockchain technology were being scoffed at no more than a year ago as ‘rat poison’, and ‘pixie-dust’, the way in which it is being viewed a few months down the line is a staggering turnaround.

Banks, once seen as Bitcoin’s biggest enemy, are now hiring blockchain experts by the dozens; corporations that have always traditionally been at the top of their game are now looking to breakdown and decentralize because they know that is where the next wave of industry will be.

Now it is governments who are legitimizing the power of blockchain as their best and brightest explore this latest technology, and implement its uses to make society more efficient, streamlined, and advanced.

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Colombia: Newly Formed Blockchain Association Aims for Dialogue With Government

Crypto businesses in Colombia launched a local Blockchain Association this week, aiming to support the industry and inform the government on the technology.

Six public and private Colombian companies have joined forces to launch the Colombia Blockchain Association, Spanish news agency EFE reported May 17. The Association describes itself as aiming to support the country’s crypto and blockchain ecosystems and to advise the national government on matters concerning regulation of the crypto sphere.

The companies involved are Buda Colombia, Bitcoin Colombia, Cajero.co, IntiColombia, Panda Group and RSK. Representatives from each, as well as Mauricio Tovar – co-director of  inTIColombia, a research group of the National University of Colombia – reportedly attended an event this Wednesday in Bogota to discuss the agenda of the new organization.

As Diario Bitcoin reports, Tovar spoke out at the event against an “abusive” traditional financial sector that encumbers Colombians with unnecessary costs. Citizens “distrust” the current system, he suggested. He said the new association should act as an interlocutor to the state in order to encourage the “informed” adoption of new financial technologies, without compromising the decentralized principles of blockchain, as well as to prevent stifling overregulation.

Buda CEO Alejandro Beltrán contributed his perspective on the potential future of crypto across Latin America, noting that there are estimated to be over 200 mln unbanked citizens in the continent who could be served by a crypto economy. He also noted how complicated it currently is for migrants to send remittances back to their countries of origin using fiat money.

Beyond financial applications, event participants reportedly discussed the use of blockchain in other fields, including information security, intellectual property, the energy sector, electoral systems and real estate registers.

Last year, the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) released a report stating that blockchain technology could help address problems facing the ailing banking sector across the continent. Countries in the region with underbanked populations, such as Venezuela, have been encouraging their citizens to educate themselves about crypto. Under pressure from international sanctions, Venezuela launched an oil-backed national cryptocurrency, the Petro, earlier this year.

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Switzerland First in Ranking of Top 10 Most Blockchain-Friendly Countries in Europe

BlockShow’s rankings of the best European countries for opening a blockchain company puts Switzerland at the top of the list.

Switzerland is ranked number one in a list of the top ten European countries for starting a blockchain company, according to a study released by blockchain conference BlockShow Europe 2018.

In the list of best countries for starting a blockchain company, Gibraltar and Malta follow Switzerland in second and third respectively. The study consisted of 48 European countries that were examined for rankings by Initial Coin Offering (ICO) regulations, regulations on crypto as a payment service, and taxation frameworks for crypto.

Switzerland is known as a crypto-friendly nation due to both its establishment of a virtual currency hub, “crypto valley,” in Zug and its status as a tax-free haven for crypto investors. Gibraltar has reportedly attracted 200 ICOs before the planned launch of its Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange (GBX), and Malta, the “blockchain island,” has welcomed major crypto exchanges Binance and OKEx recently.

BlockShow also released a poll this week on blockchain-based app Polys that allows users to vote on the leading women and companies in the EU blockchain space. The winners of the poll will be announced during the BlockShow conference at the end of this month in Berlin.

At the beginning of February, the European Commission announced the launch of the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum as part of their aim to unite the economy around blockchain. However, more recently, newly approved EU privacy laws – which come into effect on May 25 – arguably conflict with the decentralized nature of blockchain technology.

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Malta Partners With Blockchain Startup to Improve Public Transportation

Malta has partnered with middleware blockchain startup Omnitude to create a transport and logistics platform to improve transport reliability.

The Transport Minister of Malta has announced a partnership with UK middleware blockchain startup Omnitude to improve the Maltese Public Transport Service, local news outlet The Malta Independent reported May 17.

Malta has expressed the aim of becoming the “Blockchain island,” a goal helped by major crypto exchange Binance – the world’s second largest crypto exchange by trading volume, according to CoinMarketCap  – announcing plans this March to open an office in the country. In April, OKEx, currently the world’s largest crypto exchange by trading volume, also announced their intention of expanding to Malta.

Malta’s Transport Minister Ian Borg said that the partnership between Omnitude and the Maltese transport system to create a transport and logistics blockchain platform will “develop overall improvements in transport reliability.”

CEO and founder of Omnitude Chris Painter said that they “look forward to working with the Maltese Government to explore the capabilities of Omnitude’s broad based blockchain ecosystem:”

“Governments around the world are beginning to see the potential for blockchain to reduce costs and streamline services. Malta has an extremely progressive government and we’re excited about the potential this partnership brings.”

In mid-April, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) released a consultation paper on the possible introduction of a “Financial Instrument Test” that would legally define virtual tokens in another step towards regulatory clarity for blockchain and crypto projects.

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Kazakhstan’s President Calls for International Cooperation in Crypto Regulation

The president of Kazakhstan calls on countries to work together to adapt crypto to the current financial system.

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev has called for global cooperation for cryptocurrency regulation, local news outlet Azernews reported May 17.

Speaking at the plenary session of the Global Challenges Summit 2018, Nazarbayev stated that “most countries are actively exploring the possibility of adapting cryptocurrency to the current configuration of financial systems.” He then continued with a comment on the fragmented nature of crypto regulation globally:

“At the same time, we see completely separate actions of states in this issue. And these disparate actions will lead to inefficiency. It is necessary to start developing common rules.”

Kazakhstan has already proven its interest in the cryptocurrency sector. A study released by search engine Yandex in March shows that Kazakhstanis have been more frequently searching for cryptocurrency-related terms this year, as compared to 2018.

Last fall, Kazakhstan’s government-supported Astana International Finance Center (AIFC) announced they had signed a deal of cooperation with Maltese firm Exante, with the goal of developing the Kazakh digital asset market. Also in the fall,  the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Association in Kazakhstan had applied for state licensing to become a legal entity and begin official activities.

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India: Seven Major Banks Begin Testing Blockchain Trade Finance Platform

A new blockchain trade finance and supply chain test is underway involving big banks in India, led by IT multinational InfoSys.

Seven of India’s largest banks have joined a Blockchain-powered trade finance initiative led by Indian IT giant InfoSys, a press release announced May 16.

The collective, known as India Trade Connect, includes institutions such as Axis Bank, ICICI and South Indian Bank. It was reportedly formed to conduct testing of InfoSys’ Finacle Trade Connect, a blockchain platform designed to “address the trade finance process requirements of banks.”

Finance Trade Connect meanwhile already contains its fair share of bullish sentiment from participants. “We believe, this will enable automation, increase transparency as well as enhance efficiency across trade and supply chain operations,” ICICI senior general manage Ajay Gupta commented, adding:

“With more organisations adopting the blockchain technology, it holds immense potential to offer a seamless network for all stakeholders on a single platform.”

According to the press release, testing by the seven Indian banking institutions is already underway.

Multiple efforts are attempting to improve the areas of trade finance and supply chain in modern banking in 2018. Earlier this week, Cointelegraph reported that UK-based banking giant HSBC completed the world’s first ever blockchain-powered trade finance transaction, shipping soybeans from Argentina to Malaysia.

In India, ICICI’s own blockchain initiative for domestic and international trade finance transactions attracted 250 corporates, it disclosed last month.

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Why JP Morgan’s Blockchain Patent Application Is Not That Surprising

JP Morgan’s filing for a patent based on DLT does not mean they are now Bitcoin supporters.

JP Morgan once again caused a bit of an upheaval within cryptocurrency circles last week – this time with the publication of their peer-to-peer (P2P) payments network patent application based on distributed ledger technology, like blockchain.

Some crypto enthusiasts branded the move as “hypocrisy to the extreme.” The criticism is not unfounded but perhaps not accurate. The bank, and to a greater extent, their outspoken CEO, Jamie Dimon, has been responsible for a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt surrounding Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies as a whole.

“Bitcoin is a fraud”

The Jamie Dimon/JP Morgan saga of 2017 is still fresh in the minds of crypto enthusiasts. It all started with Dimon’s now-infamous words calling Bitcoin a “fraud” in September 2017. Shortly after that, in a somewhat confusing move, JP Morgan purchased a chunk of Bitcoin.

Even more confusing was the fact that less than a week later, Jamie Dimon lashed out against Bitcoin, stating that governments would soon ban it. In the same breath, he fired shots at the industry as a whole, saying cryptocurrencies are “worth nothing”. Less than a month later he called Bitcoin investors “stupid”, adding that they “will pay the price for it one day”.

However, JP Morgan’s strategies didn’t always seem to line up with the opinions of their CEO, as in Nov. 2017 the bank announced that they planned to trade Bitcoin futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). In December 2017, a strategist at the bank had gone so far as to say that regulated futures markets give Bitcoin legitimacy.

By January 2018, Jamie Dimon himself had done a complete 180 on his “Bitcoin-is-a-fraud” comments and said he regretted making it. All this happened within the space of four months and cemented JP Morgan’s perceived reputation – and Dimon’s personal reputation – as the ultimate Bitcoin and cryptocurrency “villain”. 

Criticism was never labeled against blockchain

While their skepticism surrounding Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies is clear, JP Morgan, and Jamie Dimon, never expressed any animosity towards blockchain’s legitimacy. In fact, JP Morgan is one of the underlying technology’s earliest supporters and testers.

As far back as 1999, the bank filed a patent for an alternative payments network. In 2016 they unveiled Juno and Quorum, two separate blockchain-based projects. JP Morgan is also one of over 300 members that make up the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA).

The bank has a strong record of support for blockchain itself and their latest patent application should come as no surprise. In fact, the bank first filed the patent – which aims to facilitate interbank payments using blockchain technology on October 30, 2017, a mere two weeks after Jamie Dimon labeled Bitcoin investors stupid.

The surprise might come later

The apparent surprise or hypocrisy stems from the fact that Bitcoin, blockchain and cryptocurrency are still being used as interchangeable concepts in mainstream media. This is not accurate, just as JP Morgan’s filing for a patent based on distributed ledger technology does not mean they are now staunch Bitcoin supporters.

However, the surprise might come later. Blockchain has moved on from just being the technology that underpins Bitcoin and has potential use cases other than just as a basis for cryptocurrency networks, including the tracking of vaccines in healthcare, secure remote voting during elections, incorruptible and accurate record keeping of official government documents, to name a few.

Saying that, JP Morgan is specifically applying for a patent on a “method for processing network payments using a distributed ledger”. This begs the question; can you have a P2P payments network based on blockchain without utilizing a digital token in some shape or form to process such payments?

Some community members don’t believe that you can, even arguing that the bank would be in direct competition with Ripple’s cross-border transfer platform:

“It’s not the competition part that is off… it’s the fact that they are describing the exact thing Ripple is currently pushing into the market. There is no way this patent goes through, and if it does, prior art will protect Ripple as they have this working already. It’s (as someone else stated) like filing a patent for an electric vehicle today.”

How does Ripple work?

Ripple connects banks around the world and enables them to offer real-time cross-border payment services to customers. Cross-border payments in the traditional sense require a number of intermediary companies to execute which means transactions can take up to four days to complete.

Ripple allows banks to sidestep these intermediaries with their transaction protocol, enabling them to execute transactions directly, and in doing so, cutting down costs and processing times. The transaction protocol includes a five-step process of payment initiation, pre-transaction validation, cryptographic hold of funds, settlement and confirmation.

HOW RIPPLE WORKS

Messaging systems are used to coordinate information exchange between the originating and beneficiary banks and an interledger protocol (ILP) ledger is used to coordinate the actual movement of funds. The goal is to speed up processing times, increase end-to-end visibility, increase transaction approval rates and ultimately lower transaction costs.

What are the similarities with JP Morgan’s proposed blockchain payment network?

The patent application describes a process of “Systems and methods for the application of distributed ledgers for network payments as financial exchange settlement and reconciliation.”

It goes on to claim, “In one embodiment, a method for processing network payments using a distributed ledger may include:

  1. a payment originator initiating a payment instruction to a payment beneficiary;
  2. a payment originator bank posting and committing the payment instruction to a distributed ledger on a P2P network;
  3. the payment beneficiary bank posting and committing the payment instruction to the distributed ledger on a P2P network; and
  4. the payment originator bank validating and processing the payment through a payment originator bank internal system and debiting an originator account.”

JP MORGAN BLOCKCHAIN PAYMENT NETWORK

JP Morgan’s proposed system therefore depicts a payment protocol with direct communication or messaging between beneficiary and originator banks, used in conjunction with a reconciliatory distributed ledger blockchain.

In essence, this is a very similar system and process to that used by Ripple, basically describing an interbank messaging and reconciliation protocol based on distributed ledger technology in order to eliminate expensive intermediaries, speed up transaction time and extend the global remittance reach.

It would also seem then, that if JP Morgan is indeed planning to develop the system described in the patent, they will have to implement it with a cryptocurrency at its core, the very thing they have been trying to discredit for the last few months.

The ultimate question then becomes whether it is possible to be a strong supporter of blockchain on one hand, but an equally strong opponent of the validity and legitimacy of cryptocurrencies on the other.

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Experts Speculate How Facebook Is Exploring Blockchain

In the wake of Cambridge Analytica improperly acquiring the data of up to 87 million Facebook users, the social media giant is exploring how blockchain could decentralize its network to protect user data or even possibly create a cryptocurrency. A new report published today has experts speculating about what Facebook is developing. ‘Counter-Trends’ CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed in his New Year post that Facebook was exploring “counter-trends” to centralized networks, including encryption and cryptocurrency. In

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