Europe

Ontology Partners With German Startup to Accelerate Supply Chain Identity Solutions

Ontology has partnered with digital identity specialist Spherity to expedite the development of ID solutions across the supply chain.

Ontology recently partnered with German digital identity and cloud wallet provider, Spherity, to collaborate on expediting development on digital identity solutions for products and enterprises.

The partnership will see Spherity’s Cloud-Edge wallet integrate with Ontology’s (ONT) blockchain, and allow Ontology to use Spheriy’s Decentralized Digital Identity solutions.

The two firms will work together on creating proof-of-concept pilots demonstrating applications for digital identity within the context of supply chain, mobility, and pharmaceuticals — leveraging Spherity’s existing customer base.

Ontology and Spherity will also collaborate on research and marketing initiatives.

Identity solutions target the supply chain

Spherity CEO, Dr. Carsten Stöcker, told Cointelegraph that most of the investment, research, and development into blockchain-based identity solutions is not directed at identifying individual citizens.

“[B]lockchains and distributed ledgers are mostly used to encode a myriad of other forms of information that goes into tracking goods and value as it moves across the planet,” said Stöcker. He continued:

“The technologies that we call identity systems don’t just identify individual citizens and correlate their legal, financial lives with their digital lives – they also identify machines, autonomous algorithms, corporate entities, product information, licenses, and many other things that need a strong identity and signing rights to enter into this system of auditable, yet private transaction information.”

“There are millions of use-cases that have nothing to do with KYC or human identity of any kind, and even in the KYC space there are many ways to build in pseudonymity, revocable anonymity, disposable identities, and other capabilities beyond merely asking crypto users to show their papers and peg their digital lives to their status as subjects in a nation-state,” he added.

Connecting Asian and European DLT platforms

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Ontology co-founder, Andy Ji, stated that the firms “are looking for partners to build a proof of concept showing end-to-end traceability of manufactured goods from birth in an Asian factory to sale in the European market.”

“Most likely, this would take the form of a Chinese manufacturer already using other Ontology services to make their transactions more auditable, and a German import sector with very high regulatory compliance needs or facing reputational risks,” he added.

The partnership will also allow both firms to access new markets, with Ontology having an established foothold in Asia while Spherity boasts a strong European presence — particularly within Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

The firms hope to facilitate greater interoperability and collaboration between European and Chinese blockchain ecosystems.

Almost 5 New Cryptocurrency ATMs Installed Worldwide Each Day, Data Shows

The number of crypto ATMs installed worldwide has surged past the 4,000 mark, despite persistently bearish market action.

The number of crypto automated teller machines (ATMs) installed worldwide has surged past the 4,000 mark, data from industry statistics aggregator Coin ATM Radar indicates on Jan. 10.

The current rate of growth is 4.9 new ATMs installed each day, according to Coin ATM Radar’s gauge scale — tipping into the highest speed class, despite persistently bearish market action.

Crypto ATM installation speed. Source: coinatmradar.com

Out of a total of 4167 crypto ATMs worldwide, 71.8 percent are located in North America — 56 percent in the United States and 15 percent in Canada — 23 percent are in Europe, and 2.6 percent in Asia. 1.3 and 1.1 percent are in Oceania and South America respectively, and just 0.2 percent are located in Africa.

Within Asia, Hong Kong has the lion’s share of ATMs — accounting for 0.8 percent of machines worldwide — while in Europe it is Austria (6.4 percent), closely followed by the United Kingdom (4.8 percent).

According to the data, installations in the United States rose from 1,216 on Jan. 1, 2018 to 2,475 as of today — 1,259 new ATMs in just over a year. California has the highest number of any state — with a total of 473 machines — followed by Illinois with 250.

While the vast majority of the 4167 crypto ATMs worldwide support Bitcoin (BTC) — 99.9 percent, or 4,162 — 64.6 percent support one or more altcoins.

These break down to 59.5 percent support for Litecoin (LTC), 49.3 percent support for Ethereum (ETH) and 33.9 percent support for Bitcoin Cash (BCH). Dash (DASH) is supported by 17.9 percent of ATMs, while Monero (XMR), Dogecoin (DOGE) and ZCash (ZEC) are each supported by 3 percent or less.

Conspicuously absent from Coin ATM Radar’s global statistics is India. As reported last November, the developers of the country’s first Bitcoin “ATM” were arrested in the city of Bangalore under criminal charges due to its “ATM” label, as the machine was not strictly an ATM but a device that aimed to allow crypto users to circumvent banking channels.

The arrests came after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)’s spring 2018 prohibition on banks’ dealings with crypto-related firms.

Earlier this month, Cointelegraph reported that Bitcoin ATM manufacturer Lamassu has relocated to Switzerland, due to regulatory difficulties in other countries. Lamassu revealed its applications to open an account were rejected by 15 banks because it produces terminals for Bitcoin, even though the company does not partake in trading or storing cryptocurrencies.

BBVA and Santander Join EU Joint Blockchain Platform Set to Launch in 2019

Major Spanish banks BBVA and Santander have joined the launch of the E.U. International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications.

Banking groups BBVA and Banco Santander have joined the E.U. International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications (IATBA), Spanish economic newspaper Expansion writes Nov. 20.

The representatives of two Spanish banking groups were invited to an E.U. blockchain roundtable held in Brussels by Mariya Gabriel, the commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, and Roberto Viola, director of the E.U. Department of Communications Networks, Content and Technology.

According to a BBVA press release, during the meeting  E.U. officials revealed that the IATBA will launch in the first financial quarter of 2019. The main aim of the association is to develop E.U. blockchain regulation, along with preparing the launch of E.U.-wide blockchain applications.

According to Expansion, BBVA and Santander are among the first five banks invited to join IATBA. The other members of the association have not yet been disclosed.

IATBA is an initiative promoted by the European Blockchain Partnership — a collaboration of 27 E.U. countries, including UK, France, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Ireland. As Cointelegraph previously reported, the states cooperate to establish “a European Blockchain Services Infrastructure that will support the delivery of cross-border digital public services, with the highest standards of security and privacy.”

While the CEO of BBVA has previously noted some of the challenges and limitations of blockchain technology, the firm has already tested several blockchain solutions. In June, the bank partnered with Spanish energy company Repsol to test different blockchain technologies, namely Hyperledger and Ethereum.

Most recently, BBVA carried out a $150 million loan on a private blockchain network through a group of three funding banks including French banking group BNP Paribas and Japan’s bank holding Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG).

Santander is also interested in decentralized technologies. In July, it joined IBM’s Blockchain Platform along with four other banks, and created a research team to explore the use of blockchain in securities trading.

Italian Securities Watchdog Orders Unauthorized Crypto Companies to Cease and Desist

Italian securities watchdog CONSOB has ordered cease and desist orders on several crypto-related firms for offering unauthorized financial services.

The Commissione Nazionale per le Società e la Borsa (CONSOB) has ordered three crypto-related companies providing unauthorized investment services to cease and desist, an official release states Monday, Nov. 19.

The first company, a trading platform called Richmond Investing, has purportedly violated the Consolidated Law on Finance (TUF) — a fundamental law governing Italian financial markets — by failing to register as a financial intermediary in the country.

The  Italian securities market regulator has also suspend the activities of two other companies, Crypton Ltd. and Eagle Bit Trade, along with individual Alessandro Brizzi representing Cryptoforce Ltd., for 90 days.

According to the release, CryptoForce, a company specializing in Proof-of-Stake (PoS) mining, promoted a cryptocurrency dubbed “Crypton.” Brizzi was advertising CryptoForce on Facebook, while Eagle Bit Trade offered ostensibly unauthorized “trading packages” to Italian investors.

The CONSOB enforcement action comes amid recent calls to tighten crypto regulation in the E.U. In September, Brussels-based think tank Bruegel called on E.U. ministers for more scrutiny on how digital currencies were distributed to investors.

In November, German financial regulator BaFin ordered partial cessation of activities by U.K.-based crypto-related firm Finatex Ltd. The company was ordered to cease trading as its activities were not approved by German financial legislation, including the German Banking Act.

While Italy does not have a formal framework for crypto business, in March, the Italian Ministry of Economics announced the creation of a decree that would classify the use of cryptocurrencies in the country and list service providers related to digital currencies.

According to Finance Magnates, the Italian government has not prohibited financial institutions from dealing with cryptocurrencies, but rather recommended that they wait until formal regulations are introduced

UK-Based Industry Group Develops Blockchain Tool to Track Firms’ Sustainable Commitments

The UK-based industry body RFI Foundation plans to develop a blockchain tool to track firms’ sustainable commitments.

A U.K.-based industry body for the responsible finance sector revealed plans to introduce a blockchain tool to monitor firms’ sustainable commitments, Reuters reports Wednesday, Oct. 17.

The Responsible Finance & Investment (RFI) Foundation is developing a blockchain-powered tool to track companies’ sustainable commitments and to detect those entities who do not comply with their ethical credentials.

The new system is expected to enable the industry group to reduce so-called “greenwashing,” a practice that implies firms claiming that they are more ethical or ecologically friendly than they are in fact.

The RFI Foundation’s initiative comes as a part of a plan to expand activity beyond its main centers in Europe and North America, with governments such as Indonesia releasing green bonds for the first time in 2018. The industry group will collaborate on the project along with 23 other participants in order to introduce the tool in the 2019, chief executive Blake Goud revealed to Reuters.

Goud claimed that while a number of financial institutions are “taking advantage of the opacity of commitments and actions,” the new blockchain-powered system will allow them to identify companies’ practices in responsible finance “in real time,” as well as will assist new entrants to the sphere.

According to Reuters, other participants include Belgium-based European Partners for the Environment and U.S.-based Magni Global Asset Management.

In April 2018, 22 countries, including 21 EU member states and Norway, signed a declaration to set up a European Blockchain Partnership in a move to become leaders in digital technologies and to provide high standards of blockchain uses in Europe, as well as to improve the quality of cross-border standards and regulatory reporting.

On Oct. 14, Cointelegraph reported on the increasing size of the European Blockchain Partnership — with latest entrant Italy signing the declaration in late September — underlining its commitment to assist in identifying an “initial set of cross-border digital public services” that can be potentially implemented through the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure.

UK-Based Industry Group Develops Blockchain Tool to Track Firms’ Sustainable Commitments

The UK-based industry body RFI Foundation plans to develop a blockchain tool to track firms’ sustainable commitments.

A U.K.-based industry body for the responsible finance sector revealed plans to introduce a blockchain tool to monitor firms’ sustainable commitments, Reuters reports Wednesday, Oct. 17.

The Responsible Finance & Investment (RFI) Foundation is developing a blockchain-powered tool to track companies’ sustainable commitments and to detect those entities who do not comply with their ethical credentials.

The new system is expected to enable the industry group to reduce so-called “greenwashing,” a practice that implies firms claiming that they are more ethical or ecologically friendly than they are in fact.

The RFI Foundation’s initiative comes as a part of a plan to expand activity beyond its main centers in Europe and North America, with governments such as Indonesia releasing green bonds for the first time in 2018. The industry group will collaborate on the project along with 23 other participants in order to introduce the tool in the 2019, chief executive Blake Goud revealed to Reuters.

Goud claimed that while a number of financial institutions are “taking advantage of the opacity of commitments and actions,” the new blockchain-powered system will allow them to identify companies’ practices in responsible finance “in real time,” as well as will assist new entrants to the sphere.

According to Reuters, other participants include Belgium-based European Partners for the Environment and U.S.-based Magni Global Asset Management.

In April 2018, 22 countries, including 21 EU member states and Norway, signed a declaration to set up a European Blockchain Partnership in a move to become leaders in digital technologies and to provide high standards of blockchain uses in Europe, as well as to improve the quality of cross-border standards and regulatory reporting.

On Oct. 14, Cointelegraph reported on the increasing size of the European Blockchain Partnership — with latest entrant Italy signing the declaration in late September — underlining its commitment to assist in identifying an “initial set of cross-border digital public services” that can be potentially implemented through the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure.

UK-Based Industry Group Develops Blockchain Tool to Track Firms’ Sustainable Commitments

The UK-based industry body RFI Foundation plans to develop a blockchain tool to track firms’ sustainable commitments.

A U.K.-based industry body for the responsible finance sector revealed plans to introduce a blockchain tool to monitor firms’ sustainable commitments, Reuters reports Wednesday, Oct. 17.

The Responsible Finance & Investment (RFI) Foundation is developing a blockchain-powered tool to track companies’ sustainable commitments and to detect those entities who do not comply with their ethical credentials.

The new system is expected to enable the industry group to reduce so-called “greenwashing,” a practice that implies firms claiming that they are more ethical or ecologically friendly than they are in fact.

The RFI Foundation’s initiative comes as a part of a plan to expand activity beyond its main centers in Europe and North America, with governments such as Indonesia releasing green bonds for the first time in 2018. The industry group will collaborate on the project along with 23 other participants in order to introduce the tool in the 2019, chief executive Blake Goud revealed to Reuters.

Goud claimed that while a number of financial institutions are “taking advantage of the opacity of commitments and actions,” the new blockchain-powered system will allow them to identify companies’ practices in responsible finance “in real time,” as well as will assist new entrants to the sphere.

According to Reuters, other participants include Belgium-based European Partners for the Environment and U.S.-based Magni Global Asset Management.

In April 2018, 22 countries, including 21 EU member states and Norway, signed a declaration to set up a European Blockchain Partnership in a move to become leaders in digital technologies and to provide high standards of blockchain uses in Europe, as well as to improve the quality of cross-border standards and regulatory reporting.

On Oct. 14, Cointelegraph reported on the increasing size of the European Blockchain Partnership — with latest entrant Italy signing the declaration in late September — underlining its commitment to assist in identifying an “initial set of cross-border digital public services” that can be potentially implemented through the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure.

The European Blockchain Partnership Finds Europe Getting Serious About Distributed Ledger Technology

Why the European Blockchain Partnership proves Europe is getting serious about distributed ledger technology.

On April 10, 2018, 21 EU member states and Norway signed up to create the European Blockchain Partnership. Including the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Ireland, they committed themselves to “cooperate in the establishment of a European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) that will support the delivery of cross-border digital public services, with the highest standards of security and privacy.”

Since April, a further five nations have joined the Partnership, with Italy becoming the latest to do so after it signed the Partnership’s Declaration in September. As a member, it has committed itself to helping to identify, by the end of 2018, “an initial set of cross-border digital public sector services that could be deployed through the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure.”

By bringing distributed ledger technology (DLT) to European infrastructure, the Partnership hopes to make cross-border services – such as those related to logistics and regulatory reporting – safer and more efficient. However, progress towards this goal has so far been slow and piecemeal, with the Partnership’s members having had only three meetings since April. Nonetheless, it retains ambitious aims, with the European Commission telling Cointelegraph that it wants the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) to become an international “gold standard” for large-scale DLTs.

Still deciding

So far, the Partnership’s mission is vaguely defined. While there was already agreement in April that it would work towards developing cross-border, blockchain-based public services, there is still no actual agreement on what particular services to hone in on and develop. The European Commission’s head of Digital Innovation and Blockchain, Pēteris Zilgalvis explains:

“The Partnership’s mission is defined in the Joint Declaration and it is on that mandate that we have to deliver before the end of the year. In the Joint Declaration the signatories committed to working together and with the European Commission in order to develop an EBSI that can support the delivery of cross-border digital public services in Europe. So the description of what this services’ infrastructure [EBSI] could look like is what we are currently working on.”

In other words, the Partnership’s membership is currently at the very early stage of negotiating just what kind of blockchain-based public services to develop. However, as Zilgalvis explained to Cointelegraph, it expects to have agreed on all the fundamental details by the end of the year, so that these can be used as the basis for actually building and rolling out distributed cross-border technologies.

“As stated in the Joint Declaration, by end of 2018 the Partnership must provide a set of use cases of cross-border digital public services that could be deployed through the EBSI, a set of functional and technical specifications for the EBSI and finally, a governance model describing how the EBSI will be managed.”

A global reference for blockchain

The Partnership and its members will therefore be busy for the rest of 2018, although it has only three more meetings left to hammer out the all-important details, having already had three meetings so far. According to Finland‘s representative to the Partnership, Kimmo Mäkinen, a senior advisor at the Department of Public Sector Digitalization, the most recent meeting took place on September 17. “This was the third meeting,” he tells Cointelegraph. “The main topic was to discuss about the most prominent cross-border blockchain use-cases that had been proposed by member states and by the commission.”

As for whether the Partnership will successfully decide on all the necessary parameters before the start of 2019, Mäkinen doesn’t offer confirmation. “We will have three monthly meetings by the end of this year during which we will have to agree not only on use-cases but also technical/functional requirements and governance model for European blockchain infrastructure,” he says, his use of “not only” implying that the Partnership has a more-than sizeable workload to get through before Christmas.

Still, even though three meetings and no particular end-product hardly counts as an impressive achievement, these meetings were positive for the Partnership. More importantly, they’ve revealed a strong commitment among its members towards developing blockchain technologies, as explained by Pēteris Zilgalvis:

“At these meetings we found that the Partners were extremely supportive of collective efforts to establish strong EU leadership in distributed ledger technology, drawing on the Digital Single Market framework, and that EBSI could play a very important role in achieving this objective.”

Indeed, it would appear that the European Blockchain Partnership is being used by the European Commission as a vehicle for the EU becoming a global leader on DLT.

“In the longer term, we would like EBSI to become a global reference when it comes to trusted blockchain infrastructures,” admits Zilgalvis, “a ‘gold standard’ infrastructure that is governed through a transparent multi-stakeholder organisation, meets the most advanced cybersecurity and energy efficiency standards, is scalable to accommodate different use cases, is highly-performant in terms of speed and throughput, ensures the continuity of services on the long term, integrates eIDAS (electronic IDentification, Authentication and trust Services) and supports full compliance with the EU requirements on data protection (General Data Protection Regulation) and network information security.”

So even if the Partnership hasn’t really achieved anything concrete yet, its significance lies in the fact that it represents a massive vote of confidence in blockchain technology. By committing to it, and by aiming to build “highly-performant” blockchain tech, the Partnership’s 27 member nations have effectively declared that they believe DLT is here to stay and that it has genuine applicability to a range of areas.

Separately, each member is for their own purposes interested in blockchain tech from a variety of different perspectives, further testifying to blockchain’s growing status as a promising new solution to a range of problems. “Finland is interested and curious of new possibilities that are to be presented by blockchain technology,” acknowledges Kimmo Mäkinen, “in order to boost cross-border services for example in matters related to document authenticity, data exchange and identity management.”

Implementation mode in 2019?

Of course, while there’s little doubt that the Partnership’s signatories are completely serious about DLT, there still remains the unavoidable question of when, exactly, it will produce and begin introducing the platforms it was set up to build. Well, despite there not being anything absolutely definite on this front, Pēteris Zilgalvis states that we may begin seeing actual output as early as next year:

“These deliverables [functional and technical specifications, governance model] will be addressed to the political representatives who signed the Declaration, and if approved, the Partnership could move into implementation mode in 2019.”

Once again, this time frame is ambitious. But even if certain differences of opinion may need to be ironed out between members before implementation can begin, the target of 2019 shows just how confident the European Commission is that the Partnership’s member states are on the same page with regards to blockchain, which is further indicated by them signing its Declaration in the first place. If the Partnership does indeed follow through with its plans and implements blockchain-based cross-border infrastructure, this will only have positive ramifications and knock-on effects for wider blockchain adoption elsewhere. All of which means that the future of blockchain adoption in Europe looks increasingly bright.