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In case you missed it: Major Crypto and Blockchain News from the week ending 12/14/2018
Developments in Financial Services
A cryptocurrency exchange-traded product (ETP) that trades on Switzerland’s Six Exchange saw record trading volumes on Thursday and Friday last week, suggesting that institutional investors may be buying the dip in cryptocurrencies. Four major cryptocurrencies underlie the HODL ETP, including Bitcoin (BTC), Ripple (XRP), Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), and Bitcoin Cash (BCH). While HODL ETP’s one-month average daily trading is 20,000 shares, on Thursday, December 6th, and Friday, December 7th, 53,233 shares and 62.986 shares were traded, respectively.
A report published last week by global anti-money laundering policymaker, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), indicates that cryptocurrency exchanges in the United Kingdom pose a, “low risk,” for money laundering and terrorist financing activities. The report, however, does highlight that such activities on UK cryptocurrency exchanges are an, “emerging risk,” although there is not yet enough evidence to suggest that these activities are occurring through cryptocurrency exchanges. In its report, the FATF urged UK regulators to, “Continue to develop an understanding of emerging risks (such as virtual currencies) and intelligence gaps, and take appropriate action.”
Andreas Utermann, CEO and CIO of Allianz Global Investors, called on global financial regulators to ban cryptocurrencies while speaking at a panel discussion in London. According to a report by Reuters, Utermann said, “You should outlaw it,” while participating in a panel alongside Andrew Bailey, the head of Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority. Bailey responded by saying that Utermann’s comments were, “quite strong,” before adding that cryptocurrencies have, “no intrinsic value.”
Basis, a major US-based stablecoin project, is shutting down its operations and returning most of its funds to investors, according to a report by crypto news outlet The Block. The report by The Block cited, “multiple people with direct knowledge of the situation,” in claiming that the algorithmic stablecoin project, which generated UDS$133mm of funding through private investments in April, will return funds to investors. According to the Co-Founder and CEO of competing stablecoin project Nevin Freeman, Basis’ shutdown is due to regulatory concerns around one of its token types. Freeman explained, highlighting that algorithmic stablecoins implement a “secondary token”, known as a “bond token”, to help maintain the primary token’s peg. In many cases, regulators like the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) consider these secondary tokens to be securities.
Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by daily trading volume, announced that it has added Circle’s US dollar-pegged stablecoin, USD Coin (USDC), to its combined Stablecoin Market. Circle, a company backed by Goldman Sachs, first released its stablecoin in September of this year. Binance’s combined Stablecoin Market features other notable stablecoins, like Tether (USDT), that trade against cryptocurrencies as interchangeable base pairs.
Coinone, a South Korea-based cryptocurrency exchange, has officially launched Cross, a cross-border payments application that leverages Ripple’s xCurrent product to increase efficiencies. The application, released by Coinone’s payments subsidiary, Coinone Transfer, targets unbanked or underbanked South Koreans by enabling the transfer of funds to Thailand or the Philippines at a low cost.
Gemini, a cryptocurrency exchange heralded by the Winklevoss twins, released an official company blog post this weekend announcing that the firm will support Bitcoin Cash (BCH) custody and trading. The exchange will support only the Bitcoin Cash ABC network at this time, adding that they, “are continuing to evaluate Bitcoin SV over the coming weeks or months, and we may or may not choose to support withdrawals and/or trading of Bitcoin SV in the future.” Additionally, the company detailed that its listing of BCH is pending regulatory approval by the New York State Department of Financial Services.
Gemini, the cryptocurrency trading platform founded by the Winklevoss twins, announced the launch of a mobile crypto trading application in an official blog post today. Accompanying the launch of the crypto trading app is a new investment vehicle, dubbed, “The Cryptoverse,” that is comprised of a basket of cryptocurrencies weighted by market capitalization. While speaking to Bloomberg today, Cameron Winklevoss said that, “A lot of our decisions have perhaps given off a perception that we’re more institutional-based. The reality of the situation is that we have a diverse customer base. And the retail story is just beginning.” The Winklevoss twins went on to detail of a goal to expand reach to Asian markets by 2019’s end.
Good Money, a US neo-banking platform, has closed its Series A investment round that generated USD$30mm led by cryptocurrency-focused merchant bank Galaxy Digital and the founder of EOS (EOS) Block.one. Good Money aims to provide a variety of banking service and certain financial instruments to US account holders while exploring innovative changes to traditional banking practices. “Modern banking is a primary driver of so many issues we as a society face – from economic inequality, institutional racism, environmental destruction to political corruption,” said Good Money founder Gunnar Lovelace. Specifically, Good Money eliminates ATM fees while offering each bank user equity in the company.
Kraken, a notable cryptocurrency exchange, is seeking to raise funding with a USD$4bn valuation for the company and a USD$100,000 investment minimum, according to CoinDesk. In an email to investors, Kraken CEO Jesse Powell wrote, “There is presently a limited time opportunity available to a very small select number of clients to purchase shares.” The email goes on to detail that the exchange will close its offer on December 16th.
OKEx, the second-largest cryptocurrency exchange by daily trading volume, will begin listing Bitcoin Cash ABC under the original Bitcoin Cash ticker (BCH), as per an official announcement Tuesday. Additionally, OKEx will change the Bitcoin Cash SV ticker from BCHSV to BSV. The announcement by OKEx comes after other notable cryptocurrency exchanges have made the same switch, including Coinbase and Gemini.
PayPal, an online payments portal, has launched its own internal private blockchain platform that will allow staff to trade and exchange tokens while generating ideas and participating in programs to foster innovation, as per a report by news outlet Cheddar. The private blockchain network, which was built by 25 PayPal employees in just 6 months, will allow employees to earn more for enrolling in learning and development programs. The PayPal tokens are not tradeable, or worth anything for that matter, outside PayPal’s blockchain.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a big four consulting firm, is partnering with Bitfury Group, a large blockchain software and mining firm, to develop a blockchain accelerator specific to Russian businesses. As per an official press release by PwC, the partnership will leverage Exonum, Bitfury’s open source framework to build blockchain applications, for educational courses and seminars. The partnership aims to meet the, “current needs,” of PwC’s enterprise clients in Russia.
Revolut, a digital banking alternative with an in-application cryptocurrency exchange, announced that it has been awarded a European banking license. Seeking to become the, “Amazon of banking,” the license will allow Revolut to offer traditional banking services alongside its current cryptocurrency offerings to European customers. Nikolay Storonsky, Founder and CEO of Revolut, said in regards to the newly acquired license that, “With the banking license now secured, commission-free stock trading progressing well, and five new international markets at final stages of launch, we are living up to our reputation as the ‘Amazon of Banking’. Our vision is simple: one ap with tens of millions of users, where you can manage every aspect of your financial life with the best value and technology.”
Shinhan Bank, the second-largest commercial bank in South Korea, is launching a new project to implement blockchain technology in its internal processes with a goal of eliminating human error. According to a report by news outlet The Korea Times, Shinhan also recently completed a training program for its staff to increase their knowledge of blockchain technology across various applications. After Shinhan implemented blockchain technology for interest rate swap transactions on November 30th, South Korea’s second-largest bank is now aiming to apply the technology in its record-keeping process to enhance overall efficiencies.
SolarisBank, Germany’s second-largest and Europe’s ninth-largest stock exchange, is partnering with Stuttgart Exchange Group, a German fintech company, to jointly develop a cryptocurrency exchange. As per a report by Cointelegraph Germany, the joint cryptocurrency exchange venture, “is scheduled to launch in the first half of 2019.” This news comes after SolarisBank announced plans to launch a zero-fee cryptocurrency trading application this past May.
The Canadian city of Calgary is becoming the first city in Canada to launch a digital version of its local currency, according to a report by the Global News. Dubbed as the Calgary Digital Dollar, the digital currency will be exclusive to Calgary and operate alongside the country’s Canadian Dollar. Calgary-based businesses will now be required by law to accept at least 10% of a payment in digital currency, although they are allowed to accept up to 100%.
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is launching a pilot of its Global Payment Initiative (GPI) to combat growing blockchain and fintech solutions, according to an official announcement last week. Currently, the SWIFT Network is used by global financial institutions to conduct global financial payments and cross-border transfers of fiat currency. Although the project is still in its early stages, the GPI pilot hopes to, “build the foundation of a new integrated and interactive service that will significantly improve efficiencies in the payments process and which will ultimately be made available to all 10,000 banks across the SWIFT network.”
The United Arab Emirates’(UAE) central bank is partnering with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) to develop a cryptocurrency to facilitate cross border transactions between the two countries, according to a report by news outlet GulfNews. In a meeting pertaining to global banking standards and regulation in the Arab region, Mubarak Rashed Al Mansouri, the governor of the UAE’s central bank, said, “This is probably the first time ever that witnesses the cooperation of monetary authorities from different countries on this topic and we hope that this achievement will foster similar collaboration in our region.” The prospective digital currency will be used by both central banks and financial institutions in the countries.
TokenSoft, a security token offering (STO) startup, has acquired a 20% stake in regulated broker-dealer Marpine Securities LLC in order to launch its own regulated broker-dealer. After acquiring the 20% stake, TokenSoft will launch its new regulated broker-dealer entity, called TokenSoft Global Markets, that will be registered through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The new regulated broker-dealer entity will allow TokenSoft to advise token issuers through every step of the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) process. Additionally, TokenSoft will now be able to legally operate in services related to insurance and management.
Tom Lee, co-founder of Fundstrat Global Advisors and a notable cryptocurrency pundit, believes that the current fair value of Bitcoin (BTC) is between USD$13,800 and USD$14,800, according to a note published on Thursday. Lee arrived at this valuation by taking into account the number of active wallet addresses, usage per account, and other supply and demand metrics. Additionally, Lee forecasted that the fair value of BTC will reach USD$150,000/coin once BTC wallets account for 7% of Visa’s 4.5bn account holders.
UAE Exchange, an exchange based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is partnering with Ripple to launch a blockchain-based cross-border remittances platform by 1Q2019, as per a Reuters report on Thursday. The report details further that Finablr, a payments and foreign exchange company that owns UAE Exchange, observes a high level of remittance inflows from expatriate workers in the Middle East region. “We expect to go live with Rippel by Q1, 2019 with two other Asian banks,” said Finablr CEO Promoth Manghat, adding, “This is for remittances to start with, from across the globe into Asia.”
De Nederlandsche Bank, the Netherlands’ central bank, will soon require domestic cryptocurrency providers to obtain a license from the regulator to operate, as per a report by Dutch news outlet DeTelegraaf. The Netherlands' central bank is taking these measures in the hope that it will, “prevent such cryptocurrencies from being used to launder money obtained through crime or to fund terrorism.” In order to receive a license, cryptocurrency firms must maintain Know-Your-Customer procedures and report any suspicious activity to the Dutch central bank.
Eddie Hughes, a conservative member of the United Kingdom’s Parliament, suggested that Bitcoin (BTC) should be accepted as legal tender for tax and utility payments, according to news outlet Express.co.uk. The article discusses that Hughes, who is a self-described, “crypto enthusiast with amateur knowledge,” recently met with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which accepts cryptocurrency donations. This news comes after the US state of Ohio announced that it would begin accepting BTC as legal tender for tax payments.
Following a case in Canadian courts that resulted in a ruling ordering mistakenly sent crypto funds to be returned to their owner, a blog post from the University of Oxford Faculty of Law is noting that there could be repercussions with the case potentially setting a precedent for lost or stolen cryptocurrency claims. The Canadian court case’s ruling will require defendant Brian Wall to return USD$370,482 worth of Ethereum (ETH) tokens to the plaintiff, Copytrack. The blog post from the University of Oxford Faculty of Law reads, ‘This precedent may have major repercussions for the enforcement of claims regarding lost or stolen cryptocurrencies,” adding that the ruling allows the plaintiff to recover tokens, “in whatsoever hands those Ether Tokens may currently be held.”
Japan’s government is considering plans to ease cryptocurrency taxes in an effort to revitalize the domestic cryptocurrency and blockchain industry. This week, Japanese Congressman Takeshi Fujimaki proposed four significant changes to taxation requirements pertaining to digital assets, which include: a reduction on the cryptocurrency gains tax from 55% to 20%; elimination of taxes on crypto-to-crypto payments; elimination of taxes on miniscule cryptocurrency payments; and an adjustment that would allow cryptocurrency investors to carry forward losses across quarters and years, effectively until cryptocurrencies are ‘cashed’ out.
Jay Clayton, Chairman for the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (US SEC), said during a speech that Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), “can be effective,” for fundraising, but that, “securities laws must be followed.” Clayton went on in his speech to comment on the US SEC’s work regarding distributed ledger technology (DLT), digital assets, and ICOs, saying that it is an, “area where the Commission and staff have spent a significant amount of time,” and, “that this trend will continue in 2019.”
Jay Clayton, the Chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), expressed his optimism for distributed ledger technology’s potential impact on traditional financial markets in a testimony before the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs yesterday. According to a transcript published on the SEC’s website, Clayton said, “I am optimistic that developments in distributed ledger technology can help facilitate capital formation, providing promising investment opportunities for both institutional and Main Street Investors.” Additionally, Clayton highlighted that the SEC is, “Focusing a significant amount of attention and resources on digital assets and initial coin offerings (ICOs).”
Maxim Akimov, the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, announced that no significant changes will be made to the draft of a bill concerning cryptocurrency regulation in the country, as per news outlet Finmarket. The bill was already approved by Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, in May 2018, although the bill has generated substantial discussion since. Since approval of the bill, all cryptocurrency and token-related terminology have been removed and replaced with the term “digital rights”. At the beginning of December, Pavel Krasheninnikov, Chairman of Russia’s State Duma, said that the bill needed to be, “significantly,” changed.
Pan Gongsheng, a deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, highlighted that Security Token Offerings (STOs) in China are illegal while speaking at a summit in Beijing. As per a report by news outlet the South China Morning Post, Gongsheng told the summit that, “illegal financing activities through STOs and ICOs were still rampant in the mainland despite a nationwide clean-up of the cryptocurrency market last year.” In citing reasoning for the continued ban on STOs, Gongsheng explained that, “Virtual money has become an accomplice to all kinds of illegal and criminal activities.”
Pantera Capital, a blockchain and cryptocurrency-focused investment firm and hedge fund, is warning investors that as much as a quarter of their ICO project could potentially be violating US securities laws, according to a Bloomberg report. In a newsletter to clients, Pantera Capital warned, “While we believe the vast majority of the projects in our portfolio should not be affected, approximately 25% of our fund’s capital is invested in other projects with liquid tokens that sold to US investors without using Regulation D or Regulation S”
Russia has no intention of implementing Venezuela’s state-backed digital currency, the Petro, into commercial operations, according to a report by news outlet RIA Novosti. While speaking to reporters this week, Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergey Storchak said, “Representatives from our tax service and central bank... got acquainted with the cryptocurrency Venezuela is introducing,” adding, “But no more than that. As for payments, they’re not happening yet.”
South Korea’s representative body, the National Assembly, held its first official meeting with seven of the country’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges on Monday. The purpose of the meeting was to debate cryptocurrency regulation between stakeholders of South Korea’s cryptocurrency industry. Cryptocurrency exchanges Bithumb, CobitCoin, Coinone, Upbit, Gopax, Coinplug, and Hanbitco were among the attendees of the debate, which reportedly focused on Anti-Money Laundering (AML) customer protections and Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures.
The United Kingdom’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental financial security body, is calling on the country’s government to increase monitoring of cryptocurrency markets. According to an official report last week, the UK must overhaul its Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and combat terrorist financing (CFT) efforts in order to prevent illicit activities with cryptocurrencies. “Virtual currency exchange providers are not yet covered by AML/CFT requirements,” the report details, adding, “this is an emerging risk and there is not yet evidence to suggest that broad scale ML/TF is occurring in the UK through this relatively small sector.”
The United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is interested in learning more about the Ethereum (ETH) network, its technology, and the markets build around it. On Tuesday, the CFTC published a Request for Input (RFI) that requests the public’s feedback on different questions concerning Ethereum. The RFI explains that its goal is to inform the CFTC about Ethereum and similar emerging technology, saying, “The input from this request will advance the CFTC’s mission of ensuring the integrity of the derivatives market as well as monitoring and reducing the systematic risk by enhancing legal certainty in the markets. The RFI seeks to understand the similarities and distinctions between certain virtual currencies, including here ether and bitcoin, as well as ether-specific opportunities, challenges, and risks.”
The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (US SEC) is ordering that cryptocurrency asset manager CoinAlpha Advisors LLC pay a USD$50,000 fine, alleging that the firm conducted an unregistered securities sale. After forming in October 2017, CoinAlpha raised more than USD$600,000 from investors to invest in digital assets. In an official release, the US SEC said that CoinAlpha did not file a Notice of Exempt Offering of Securities, meaning that the firm breached securities laws by soliciting securities investors. Additionally, the firm allegedly did not adhere to proper know-your-customer procedures to verify that investors were accredited.
Venezuela is reportedly beginning to convert its citizens’ monthly pension payments into Petros, Venezuela’s controversial state and oil-backed cryptocurrency, according to a report by local economics blog the Caracas Chronicles. The conversion of Venezuelan pensioners’ payments into Petros came after the country already sent pensioners their monthly payment in the form of a check for Venezuelan Bolivars -- normally, upon receiving their check, pensioners would deposit their funds into a bank account where they could then withdraw fiat from local branches. The Venezuelan government, however, converted pensioners’ fiat payments into the Petro upon their deposit into a bank. In the first few weeks of the Petro’s existence, its value has risen from 9,000 to more than 15,000.
Warren Davidson, an Ohio Congressman and notable advocate of blockchain and digital assets, is floating blockchain technology as a solution to fund US President Donald Trump’s prospective US-Mexico border wall. While interviewing with NPR, Congressman Davidson suggested, “the American people, or whomever should choose to donate,” could pay for the border wall, adding, “you could do it with sort of like a crowdfunding site or you could do a blockchain and you could have WallCoins.”
“The long-term value of Bitcoin (BTC) is more likely to be USD$100 than USD$100,000,” says Kenneth Rogoff, a former Chief Economist for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the current Harvard University Professor of Economics and Public Policy. While writing an article for major UK news outlet The Guardian, Rogoff highlighted that, because BTC’s use is limited to transactions, it makes the digital asset more vulnerable to a bubble-like collapse. Rogoff also cited that BTC’s energy-intensive verification processes is, “vastly less efficient,” than systems that leverage, “a trusted central authority like a central bank.”
A new report by PeckShield, a blockchain security company that monitors various cryptocurrency ecosystems, details that decentralized applications (DApps) on the EOS (EOS) blockchain have lost as much as USD$1mm in hacks since July 2018. The report details further that DApps on the EOS network have sustained 27 breaches since July, which are responsible for the up to 400,000 EOS that have been compromised from hacks. Guo Yonggang, a blockchain security expert cited in a report on the matter by crypto media firm Blockchain Truth, believes that the hacks can be attributed to security problems with the DApps themselves, rather than with the EOS network.
A new study published by the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance on Wednesday finds that the number of unique ID-verified cryptocurrency users nearly doubled in in the first 3 quarters of 2018. The study details that total ID-verified users increased to 35mm in the first three quarters of 2018 from 18mm at the end of 2017, representing an increase of 94%. As per an analysis of the study by Bloomberg, the growth of crypto’s userbase despite the market decline, “could signal that an eventual recovery could be coming.”
Amid the continued cryptocurrency sell-off, only two cryptocurrency mining machines remain profitable, according to real-time data from ASICMinerValue.com. ASICMInerValue.com, which calculates the profitability of Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) miners, indicates that only indicates that only the Ebank Ebit E11++ and ASICminer 8 Nano 44Th mining models are profitable for mining cryptocurrencies based on the SHA-256 hash function -- notable cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) use this has function.
Bitmain, a large Chinese cryptocurrency mining firm, announced that it is closing its development center in Israel, citing current cryptocurrency market conditions. In closing Bitmaintech Israel, the crypto mining giant was forced to fire all 23 employees. Among the employees let go is Gadi Glikberg, head of Bitmain’s Israeli branch and Vice President of International Sales, who said on the recent market turmoil, “The crypto market has undergone a shake-up in the past few months, which has forced Bitmain to examine its various activities around the globe and to refocus its business in accordance with the current situation.”
Busan, a major South Korean city, will be the beneficiary of the South Korean government’s plan to spend 4bn Korean won (USD$3.5mm) to establish a blockchain-enabled virtual power plant (VPP). As per a report by South Korean news outlet Yonhap News Agency, the project will be angled as a national competition in 2019, hosted by South Korea’s largest electric utility, Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO). The VPP will integrate the idle capacities of multiple energy resources through a cloud-based distributed ledger in order to optimize power generation and decrease costs.
Church’s Chicken, a large international fast food franchise, is partnering with Dash Venezuela to accept cryptocurrencies in its Venezuelan locations. According to an official press release, 13 Church’s Chicken establishments will begin accepting Dash (DASH) as payment following, “extensive and rigorous days of training,” staff to understand cryptocurrencies. With the addition of Church’s Chicken, more than 2,200 establishments in Venezuela accept DASH as payment.
Crypto.com, a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency payments platform, announced the appointment of former PayPal executive Tyson Hackwood to serve as the firm’s Vice President and Head of Global Merchant Acquisition in an official press release today. Crypto.com aims to increase cryptocurrency adoption by both merchants and consumers through their point-of-sale (PoS) transaction terminals. Crypto.com CEO Kris Marszalek believes that Hackwood will be integral in furthering this goal, saying, “As we develop the Crypto.com Chain to fulfill the current industry need to pay and be paid in crypto, Tyson will play an important role in expanding the number and quality of merchants that are part of our network.”
Hyperledger, a notable blockchain consortium, is continuing its robust expansion after announcing the addition of 16 new members at the Hyperledger Global Forum in Basel, Switzerland. Among the notables to join the consortium are, Alibaba Cloud, Citigroup’s Citi Ventures arm, and Deutsche Telekom. The latest addition of 16 members brings the total membership of Hyperledger to more than 260 different companies. In a public statement, Hyperledger Executive Director Brian Behlendorf said that, “The growing Hyperledger community reflects the increasing importance of open source efforts to build enterprise blockchain technologies across industries and markets. The latest members showcase the widening interest in and impact of DLT and Hyperledger."
Jeremy Henrickson, the former Chief Product Officer at Coinbase, has departed the US-based cryptocurrency exchange after serving since July 2016. “Jeremy’s contributions to Coinbase over the past two years were invaluable,” said a Coinbase spokesperson, adding that, “he helped to build our scrappy startup team into a high-functioning product and engineering organization -- overseeing a 5x+ growth of the team.” Henrickson’s departure comes after long-term Coinbase executives Adam White and Hunter Merghart left the US-based cryptocurrency exchange in recent months.
LinkedIn’s, “2018 U.S. Emerging Jobs,” report released on Thursday ranks the role of blockchain developer as the fastest growing job in the United States. The report by LinkedIn indicates that blockchain developer jobs have increased 33-fold in the past 12 months alone. San Francisco, New York City, and Atlanta are among the cities with the highest demand for blockchain developer jobs.
Orbs, a unique hybrid blockchain platform, raised more than USD$15mm in cryptocurrencies to fund its development of a public blockchain, according to a company blog post. South Korean application provider Kakao lead the fundraising efforts with a representative telling CoinDesk that the company, “always seeks to invest and support innovative startups, and Orbs is a good example.” In total, Orbs raised 139,000 Ether (ETH) and 892 Bitcoin (BTC), amounting to roughly USD$15.4mm. Orbs aims to build a public blockchain with this funding that is, “universal,” and, “scalable,” for decentralized applications (DApps) with the, “liquidity of a base layer.”
Samsung has reportedly filed patent applications for three different blockchain-related trademark requests that all pertain directly to smartphones, according to news outlet Galaxy Club. Specifically, the patents named “Blockchain KeyStore”, “Blockchain Key Box”, and “Blockchain Core” all pertain to cryptocurrency custody capabilities on smartphones. This news comes amid the release of HTC’s Exodus 1 and Sirin Labs’ FINNEY, both of which are being marketed as blockchain smartphones with cryptocurrency custody capabilities.
Decentralized security token exchange, DSTOQ, has launched a platform called its minimum viable product (MVP). MVP allows people to invest in real assets such as stocks, bonds, and commodities using cryptocurrencies. This platform runs using Stellar’s blockchain testnet, and all transactions will happen completely on-chain.
Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), the world fourth largest bank by assets, announces it will making its first loan on a blockchain system. The loan, valued at USD$300k, is meant to support the local tea industry in the Guizhou province and is backed by a piece of agricultural land.
“Civilized blockchain”1 company Billon, has partnered with Fidelity National Information Services (FIS) to develop blockchain technology solutions. Billon implements blockchain solutions for the main purpose of processing fiat currencies. FIS will utilize Billon for document and identity management, the exploration of joint sales and product development opportunities, and smartphone micropayments among other services.
SBI Group, a Japanese financial services company, has announced plans to develop a platform to trade cryptocurrency derivatives. The platform would help crypto investors hedge their risk by offering cryptocurrency credit default swap (CDS) trading. SBI will accomplish this through its recent 12% purchase of North Carolina-based digital marketplace developer Clear Markets.
Equity research provider Fundstrat Global Advisors has announced that it will begin accepting Bitcoin (BTC) as payment for accessing research reports. Fundstrat is using payment operator BitPay, which has processed over USD$1 billion in Bitcoin payments CY2017, to process their new BTC payments accepted from institutional investors, high net-worth clients, and financial advisors.
The most popular cryptocurrency markets tracking platform, CoinMarketCap (CMC), has added a professional-grade API, and support for derivatives markets to its services. The API provides developers with access to aggregated data packages, providing everything from price and market cap, to trading pair data and conversions. CMC is marketing this product to those who need to back-test trading strategies, and run simulations more accurately.
Logos Network, a decentralized payments platform, successfully raised USD$3mm in seed funding. Logos is hoping to build a quick and scalable P2P payments network on a new blockchain. The payments network plans to be quick, scalable, and secure.
The Stuggart Börse, Germany’s second largest stock exchange, has announced an initiative to construct a multilateral cryptocurrency trading platform, as well as an initial coin offering (ICO) platform. The exchange already launched in May a crypto trading app called Bison, which features zero-fee transactions.
Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), operator of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and 22 others, will develop a Microsoft cloud-based digital asset ecosystem. ICE is creating a new company for this, called Bakkt, which will work closely with companies including Starbucks and BCG. The ecosystem is planned to be a one-stop-shop for all consumers, from retail to institutional, to buy, hold, sell, and spend cryptocurrencies on a communal network. ICE will also launch physically-delivered BTC futures contracts.
The Chamber of Digital Commerce, an American advocacy group promoting the blockchain industry, is producing new guidelines to aid the in the responsible growth of the initial coin offering (ICO) markets and cryptocurrency markets all together. These guidelines were released in a whitepaper detailing current and future regulations for investor reference, a set of principles for trading platforms and token sponsors to follow, and a general discussion about the growth of the cryptocurrency industry so far.
The South Korean government has proposed revisions to its tax law, affecting cryptocurrency exchanges. The proposition states that cryptocurrency exchanges will be exempt from the tax benefits given to startups and small-mid-sized businesses. It is important to note that new propositions might be made to change this before implementation, but the South Korean government doesn’t believe that crypto transaction companies do not generate added value like other companies do.
Indian cryptocurrency traders are finding ways to circumvent the India government’s decision to ban cryptocurrency trading. Traders are now making use of a Dabba trading which refers to making OTC trades that are off the books. Dabba traders execute trades through platforms at international banks in Dubbai, Europe and the UK. Indian stock traders have used this method for years, and has experienced an upsurge after the crypto ban.
The U.S. Consumer financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has created an Office of Innovation. The Office of innovation is responsible for the development of a regulatory framework surrounding new products and services in the cryptocurrency, blockchain, and microlending fields. This regulatory sandbox could give some guidance on creation of regulatory frameworks around innovative fintech companies.
South Korea Financial Supervisory Service is advising local regulators to work towards creating an integrated blockchain system for stocks transactions. The group finds the use of a centralized ledger to be inefficient and vulnerable to hacks.
It was recently reported that HTC will be releasing a new mobile phone utilizing decentralized ledger technology, but Litecoin (LTC) founder Charlie Lee announced July 29th that he will be one of HTC’s advisors on the smartphone. The phone will be called Exodus and is expected to be the first blockchain phone. Exodus’s built-in cryptocurrency wallet will now natively support LTC and the Lightning Network (LN), in addition to Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH).
Cointelegraph.com reported that digital asset exchange Huobi will begin supporting trades in the Indian rupee (INR) on its over-the-counter (OTC) service. Huobi’s peer-to-peer (P2P) trading platform will allow INR users free trading in Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and Tether (USDT). This comes at a good time for Indian cryptocurrency traders after the Reserve Bank of India banned banks from dealing with cryptocurrency-related companies in early July.
IOHK, the company behind the popular cryptocurrency Cardano (ADA), announced that it has launched the testnet for a new Cardano virtual machine. The virtual machine, called IELE, provides developers with a stronger and more reliable platform for developing smart contracts on Cardano’s blockchain.
IoT and blockchain platform Ambrosus has announced the launch of its mainnet, called AMB-NET 1.0. Ambrosus improves pharmaceutical and food supply chains by allowing companies to record private and public supply chain data on its blockchain. Organizations can work with the Ambrosus Network through its native AMB token.
San Francisco-based platform, DCEX, will begin accepting registration applications for its new cryptocurrency exchange. DCEX’s base currency, the currency participants use to exchange for other currencies, will be Ripple’s XRP. This is a change from the cryptocurrency exchange norm of using Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) as base currencies. Not basing all transactions off of Bitcoin is a step in the right directions for pushing the market to be more independent from it.
Thomson Reuters, a Canadian mass-media and information company, has announced a partnership with CryptoCompare, a cryptocurrency data tracking resource. CryptoCompare will provide Thomson Reuters will trade and order book data on 50 cryptocurrencies.
Major Cineplex, the largest movie theater chain in Thailand, is integrating cryptocurrency payments to permits moviegoers to buy anything from tickets to popcorn. Major Cineplex is partnering with RapizPay to deploy the digital currency payment system. This comes a week after the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission began allowing cryptocurrency operators to file license applications.
Coinbase, one of the largest cryptocurrency services in the world, has announced in a blog post that Jeff Horowitz, an ex-Pershing exec, has joined as company’s new Chief Compliance Officer. Horowitz has ample background experience for this position, as he was Managing Director and Global Head of Compliance for Pershing, a banking regulator for the FDIC, and even led compliance and anti-money-laundering (AML) programs at Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Salomon Brothers.
Binance, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency exchange, has made its first-ever acquisition, purchasing crypto wallet provider Trust Wallet. This move appeals to cryptocurrency investors wary of keeping their coins on centralized custodial services as Trust Wallet now introduces Binance users to decentralized custody. The decentralized wallet will be offered on mobile platforms, and supports coins built off of Ethereum’s protocol. You can read more about decentralized exchanges in our latest Crypto Quant Shot: Atomic Swaps, Decentralized Exchanges, and the Future of Crypto Exchanges.
Google has announced that later this year, it will introduce open-source integrations of Ethereum and Hyperledger applications through its Google Cloud Product marketplace. This move pushes Google into the blockchain services industry, thereby joining others such as Amazon Web Services, IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft Azure.
U.S. lawmakers working with the Congressional Valley Fever Task Force are looking for blockchain applications to help fight infectious fungal diseases. The lawmakers have proposed a bill as a part of the FORWARD Act for the creation of a blockchain pilot hoping to improve the way doctors share information about endemic fungal diseases such as Valley Fever. If information could be exchanged between doctors quicker and more efficiently, they would be better equipped to treat these infectious diseases.
Mobile engagement firm MobileBridge, has launched a blockchain loyalty program called Momentum. Momentum will offer other companies many data-based insights, and consumers full custody of their earned cryptocurrency rewards. Consumers can earn loyalty cards and other rewards for simply shopping at their favorite stores. These rewards can be exchanged for Momentum tokens, and then other branded reward tokens to be used with other companies.
CoinMarketApp, a cryptocurrency news multi-use app, has released compatibility with iOS and Android smartphones. CoinMarketApp is not like typical cryptocurrency apps, in that it offers crypto historic data, prices, mining information, trustworthy news, and even portfolio services.
Northern Trust, an asset manager with USD$954bn in AUM announces plans to start a custody service for digital assets. Pete Cherecwich, Northern Trust’s head of corporate and institutional business, explained that the firm plans to offer custodial services similar to others, but with lower fees.
Swissquote, a Switzerland-based online banking firm which recently added cryptocurrency investing to its services, has seen a 44% profit increase in this C1H2018 relative to C1H2017. Throughout the second half of CY2017, Swiss quote has allowed trading in Bitcoin (BTC) with the EUR and USD, as well as Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), and Ripple (XRP).
MINDOL is a blockchain platform aiming to disrupt the entertainment provider industry in Japan. MINDOL’s whitepaper states a growing demand for and heavy government investing in spreading Japanese culture throughout the world, including animations, games, music, and movies. MINDOL hopes to regularly produce programs on TV. MINDOL’s central network, called eMINDOL, lets consumers purchase products, watch content, and even invest in the projects and artists they like.
Telegram, a popular desktop and mobile app messenger, recently executed an ICO, raising USD$1.7 billion. However, US-based cybersecurity startup Virgil Security, praised the fact that Telegram published the application’s API on an open source platform for developers to review, but has uncovered several security flaws with Telegram’s ID verification app Passport. Virgil discovered issues with their encryption methods and the way they protect stored data. These issues are very important to fix if Telegram wishes to begin accepting payments on its platform.
Coinbase, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency trading services, has now allowed users in the UK to purchase cryptocurrencies with the British Pound. Before this announcement, users in the UK would have had to acquire Euros in order to purchase cryptos on Coinbase, which sometimes took multiple days.
The government of Queensland, Australia is giving USD$8.3mm to a crypto start-up as part of the state’s innovation funding initiative. The start-up’s goal is to increase the number of tourists to Central Queensland through selling travel offers based in different cryptocurrencies.
RandomCrypto, a fintech firm working with cryptocurrencies has released a Bitcoin (BTC) mining calculator, which improves upon the details given by competing products. Random Crypto CEO Josh Metnick says he developed this product after “many years of getting screwed… by mining companies,” and that his goal is to “bring more truth, accuracy, and transparency to [proof-of-work] mining.”1 The calculator shows that at today’s current BTC prices, most bitcoin mining hardware on the markets is unprofitable.
Chinese company Seven Stars Cloud, has announced plans to build a USD$300 million crypto hub in Hartford, CT. Seven Stars Cloud is a fintech company hoping to create a community for itself and other fintech firms to collaborate on machine-learning, robotics, and crypto-related projects. The firm is also trying to launch a fintech college at schools near Hartford, CT such as Yale University, University of Hartford, University of New Haven, and University of Connecticut.
Canaan Creative, the world’s second largest provider of Bitcoin mining components has announced a new product called the AvalonMiner Inside. The Avalon Miner Inside is essentially a television with built-in Bitcoin (BTC) mining capabilities. The TV will be powered by artificial intelligence and will also enable voice dictation. The mining components possess a 2.8 trillion hashes-per-second hash rate, and even includes a profitability calculator to measure performance.
Bitfi, a cryptocurrency hardware wallet manufacturer claiming it is “unhackable”, denies claims that it was hacked. Bitfi and its official partner John McAfee offered a $100,000 bug bounty in July to try to get people to hack its wallet. But when one twitter user claimed to have done this, Bitfi CEO Daniel Khesin denied these claims amid no evidence of a hack, and because of the fact that the “hacker” refused the bounty reward.
Switzerland-based cryptocurrency platform MCO has added Litecoin (LTC) to its supported coins. MCO enables users to purchase, sell, and trade cryptocurrencies from its mobile app. Formerly known as Monaco, MCO has amassed over 180,000 downloads, and expects to widen its user base as it adds more coins to its platform. This app will soon integrate with a Visa card allowing international purchases.
Hong Kong cryptocurrency exchange OKEx says it will have to claw back millions in USD$ following a single user’s large bet on bitcoin futures (the user lost “the bet”). Each futures contract has a notional value of $100, and OKEx estimate the total value of the position was over $400 million. OKEx initiated a forced liquidation of the account but because of the size, the exchange has had to trigger “societal loss risk management” mechanisms because of the size of the order. After insurance coverage is considered, the aggregate loss to investors is around BTC$1,200 (USD$8.8mm), which will "split proportionately by all profited traders' realized + unrealized gains".
Coinbase Commerce, Coinbase’s non-custodial merchant payment service, has launched a product integrating with e-commerce company WooCommerce. WooCommercie is currently used by between 21% and 28% of all web stores, and affiliated stores will now accept cryptocurrency payments from Coinbase Commerce users.
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