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  • user 8:40 am on July 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , hardware   

    360Lock: how hardware startup integrates blockchain technologies. 

    360lock – padlock

    360LOCK it’s a smart multifunctional padlock that aim to certify the operations of the users by Ethereum.

    Milan, July 2018

    It is the Third Millennium padlock, a + software product that can guarantee the safety of motorbikes, bicycles and more.

    It’s called 360LOCK (http://360lock.4-storm.com) and it is one of the products coming from 4storm startup, which designs, manufactures and launches innovative solutions in the IoT, outdoor and professional fields.

    360LOCK is a unique (smart) electronic lock: a robust hardware, resistant to shocks, dust and water, connected with RFID / Bluetooth , modular and rechargeable simply through a micro usb.

    An IoT (Internet of Things) device able to maximize and simplify users’ experience and requests at the same time.

    360LOCK comes with a rechargeable battery (with an energy saving system of activation / deactivation to ensure a long life) and a very robust structure: the padlock can be opened via an RFID bracelet or via bluetooth with your favorite device, such as smartphone or smartwatch.

    360LOCK works with an high security anti-hacking protocol developed in collaboration with the Faculty of Information Technology of the University of Camerino. Furthermore, the cloud platform introduces a certification of the activities supported by the blockchain Ethereum. Locking/unlocking, sharing, introduction of new NFC Keys. The smart contract permits to publish all the activities done by the users to guarantee it’s consistency and incorruptibility. The data are encrypted and the privacy of users is guaranteed as well and the communication protocol is supported by a tamperproof engineering.

    360LOCK is also equipped with some modular accessories, such as the chain with folding steel rods for bikes and motorcycles or the “additional case” that transforms it into a portable safe shielded to radio waves that can comfortably accommodate ATM cards, keys of home or car, small phones and their documents.

    The ideal, therefore, for those who practice outdoor sports and need a “shelter” 100% safe for their belongings, or for those who travel and want to be safe when sharing the common areas. Indispensable for those who have to manage apartments in tourist areas being able to contain the keys of housing and giving temporary access and remote guests through the mobile app.

    The solution, protected by a patent, also provides for the integration of a remote alarm system using a SIM card: further new accessories will be offered after the launch of the product.

    It is already possible to register on http://360lock.4-storm.com to purchase 360LOCK at a promotional price during the Kickstarter campaign which is starting in few days.

    Being overexposed to technology and new gadgets – says Marco Ciccolini, CEO 4storm – we thought of a solution that could effectively reduce the number and then through a single intelligent device respond flexibly to more needs and methods of use, thanks to the accessories .

    About 4storm

    4storm has been working since 2015 to design and develop high-tech devices for the outdoor and professional world. In these years the company has carried on the development of a camera, also modular and for 360 ° shots, a project still in progress that will be launched next year.

    Being founders the first enthusiasts and practitioners of action sports, they took a cue from their sporting experience to develop the idea of 360LOCK: from a need of greater freedom and safety during sports sessions or trips outside the home a smart padlock with unique features was born.


    Press contacts

    Gian Maria Brega

    mobile: +39 338.9020851

    skype: gmbrega

    Web: http://360lock.4-storm.com

  • user 8:28 pm on May 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply  

    Joint venture between San Marino Innovation and Polybius places the Republic at the forefront of blockchain innovation 

    Ambitious plans were unveiled today that will enable San Marino to become one of the leading (decentralized ledger ) hubs in the world.

    San Marino Innovation, the Republic of San Marino Innovation Institute, has confirmed the creation of a joint venture with Estonian-based Polybius, which provides for the incorporation of a new company under San Marino law aimed at developing a first of its kind blockchain ecosystem. Olympus Advisors, led by Samir Mastaki, played an instrumental role in harnessing this partnership.

    Work will begin immediately on the drafting of an all-encompassing legislative framework for the blockchain industry, capitalizing on the unique intent of the Republic to become a reliable and proactive legislative partner for the industry.
    The joint venture will also enable San Marino to harness Polybius’ Digital ID technology to create new and world leading identity mechanisms for authentication and verification. A move driven by ongoing European personal and private data management initiatives.
    World leading blockchain ecosystem “We are the world’s oldest Republic and we are proud to begin a transformation
    lead by technology. We believe this partnership will have an significant impact on the economy, growing the innovation sector which is at the core of our development strategy” said Andrea Zafferani, Secretary of State for Economic
    Development. “The Republic will also acquire a state of art set of regulations to become a world-leading blockchain hub.”
    “San Marino is ideally placed to become an innovator with this type of technology” said Sergio Mottola, Executive Chairman of San Marino Innovation. “We are not interested in short term or opportunistic policies to take advantage of the speculation surrounding today’s world. Rather, we are intrigued by the revolution implicit in the underlying technology: the “blockchain”, which we expect to bring an impact on the global economy greater than what the Internet has”.

    “The Government of the Republic is willing to take the lead on this transformation and is superbly placed to promote digital innovation through the constitution of a forward-looking legislation and jurisdiction to favour the growing blockchain infrastructure.”

    “We are also activating a direct dialogue with innovators worldwide, offering them an environment in which digital economy based businesses can thrive.”

    Anton Altement, CEO & co-founder of Polybius added “we are thrilled to announce this exclusive partnership with San Marino and are hugely excited about the potential of the project. We look forward to working alongside the relevant institutions of the Republic and San Marino Innovation in particular. ”

    “We were a pioneer of distributed ledger technologies through our HashCoins OÜ company. Now we are able to bring that expertise and experience to bear on a project that will position San Marino as a hub for innovation and deliver a
    strong incentive for the Government to continue growing the industry in the long run,” said Ivan Turygin, co-founder of Polybius.

    “Our broad experience includes development of practical solutions on multiple blockchains, most notably Emercoin. In the past, we have developed and implemented solutions ranging across password-free authorization, data storage and notary services,” stressed Sergei Potapenko, co-founder of Polybius

    About Polybius – A new company, founded in 2017, yet its team boasts a combined experience of over a decade working on blockchain based projects.
    Polybius will provide the new company with the know-how and technological tools necessary to develop an ecosystem of services, among them is Digital ID, an advanced verification tool.
    For more details contact [email protected].

    About San Marino Innovation
    The Republic of San Marino Innovation Institute, San Marino Innovation, is an Institutional Organ owned 100% by the Eccelentissima Camera della Repubblica di San Marino, and its function is to drive the long term innovation strategy and
    policy making in respect of innovation.
    For more details contact [email protected]

  • user 9:49 am on June 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    8 lessons of Blockchain you won’t read anywhere else 



    “It’s time to break the silence and reveal what is real and what isn’t behind the mirror” – Jiri Kram


    DISCLOSURE: I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. Views shared here are my own and cannot under any circumstances be interpreted as an official account of any company I am associated with current or in past.


    Before we begin…

    Let me tell you a story of my first encounter with Blockchain in 2014. I was in a pub in London with a couple of people. One of them was a Man with a Wallet. I had no idea what Bitcoin is and why that cocky individual was cockier than usual that day. When I heard him claim that will be rendered irrelevant by Bitcoin, I didn’t just focus on the message but on the character of the man delivering it. I considered joining his secret society but when I saw the same discussion going on in the channel – where many cocky developers with egos the size of a herd of elephants preached a new revolution called Bitcoin – I realised that this “revolution” is similar to many previous ones: tulips, south sea, dot.com or subprime mortgage. It is driven by two things: greed, and the naive belief that this time, is no different.

    When I saw this cocky developer claim the next day on his LinkedIn page “Hey Goldman Sachs we don’t need you anymore! You are done!”

    I realised we are in a bubble.

    learned (2014 -2017)

    1. Blockchain is real. Bitcoin is fiction.

    When you are speaking with someone in the Bitcoin community, there is only one thing mentioned, as was during the dot.com era, in every conversation. Bitcoin is here forever and will change everything. What all those crypto-pundits and bitcoin millionaires fail to remember or read about is that at the beginning of the dot.com boom there were also many that thought they would last forever. Let me remind you: Netscape, Yahoo, AOL, Lycos, Excite, AltaVista… etc. I can make a much longer list. The outcome yielded different winners: Amazon, Google, Salesforce… etc. What makes you certain that Bitcoin will be a Google, not an AltaVista?



    2. Usual suspects

    Once again, as with dot.com, there is something hidden from the public. While the media mulls over Bitcoin and gives credence to a slew of people proclaiming a “decentralised network that no one will own” to a naive public, convincing them to dump zillions into “ICOs” (which are as safe “as houses, same as subprime mortgages were back in 2007), there is something else happening. Let’s consider FAAMG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google). These five companies control cash reserves greater than the GDP of many medium sized countries. They have the ability to quickly control an industry should they choose to. Do you really think it’s a coincidence that Amazon, Microsoft, and Google clouds are also major deployments for many Blockchain networks?

    3. Awaken sleeping giants

    It’s a charming idea to think that you can build a “Goldman Sachs independent” financial system and have Goldman Sachs and others just “watch” while a group of very smart developers (since bitcoin developers are the smartest people in the room) replace the world’s financial system. Of course, Goldman will just sit and watch their Bloomberg screens, unable to figure out how this “mysterious out of reach asset” moves. Do you really think that the largest banks in the world that control the flow of trillion dollars will sit idle? Can’t they read open source on GitHub? Really? I think you will be very surprised, soon.

    4. Bitcoin didn’t kill Intel, IBM, Oracle and SAP. It made them stronger.

    In 2014 the victims expected to suffer the most from Bitcoin were traditional IT vendors like Intel, IBM, Oracle and SAP. As with the case of large banks, developers expected IT vendors that control multibillion dollar markets to simply sit and watch in a panic – totally unable to figure out what is in the magic open source. Bitcoin pundits forgot that if something is open source, it’s available and readable. So it’s not too difficult to reengineer the code to see how it works. Then toss a few billions into R&D and “partner” or “acquire” a couple of smaller companies and there you go – Bitcoin converged into Blockchain. Blockchain is not dependent on Bitcoin, like TCP/IP wasn’t dependant on AOL. If you think it is a coincidence that no big IT corporation supports Bitcoin, think again. Bitcoin is a first generation . It will be replaced, like Altavista was replaced by Google.

    5. Ethereum pipe dreams

    ICO (Initial Coin Offering) is the phenomena of the day. Reading descriptions on a list of ICOs is like travelling back in time. The majority of ICOs simply anticipate, as did their dot.com predecessors in the 90’s, that when developers build something customers will magically flock to it and they will become the new Google. Is it really that simple? Another great example observed with delight from large IT corporations is how ICOs and frantic attempts to create the new “magic coin” always jam the network – the “world’s computer.” It seems that a new magic network realized the technical reality that behind every bitcoin or ether is a computer. Every computer in the world works with only two principles: 0 and 1. The only thing that matters is how fast and correctly a network can deliver zero and one instructions to hardware. There is no magic wand for ICO, there is just a bubble and many people will lose money because they have no idea what they are investing in technically, let alone commercially.

    6. Three horse race

    As with previous games the winners are already taking in massive rewards because they are already hooked into an existing IT and banking infrastructure. When you remove your Bitcoin rose coloured glasses you learn what is really happening – there is no one building a Bitcoin network. The only place where investments flow into is Blockchain infrastructure that must be enterprise grade. That’s why there are three major consortia in the Blockchain world: Hyperledger – which runs under a Linux foundation and includes members like IBM and Intel (already pronounced dead by Bitcoin pundits). Next there is Ethereum, which is after Bitcoin the most known currency and also sparked a mania of ICOs. However, Ethereum doesn’t only have a public layer running on millions of anonymous computers. Vitalik Buterin and his team quickly realised that to get into enterprises they need something more. So a new Ethereum alliance was created that attracted the likes of JP Morgan, Santander… and many others that were supposed to be killed by Bitcoin. The last one is the most mysterious of all – R3. This is the largest consortium of banks. They are focused on DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) and as with the previous two, do not include Bitcoin. Simply because Bitcoin as a technology is irrelevant.

    7. Big 4

    Another dinosaur that should be eliminated by Bitcoin, as I was told many times, are large accounting and audit firms. The reason I was confidently given is that Bitcoin is “self-controlling” so there is no reason to audit or control anything. Also that on Bitcoin “everyone has all history of transactions from the beginning of time.” What no one expected was, what a surprise, that if you want to replicate the history of all transactions all the time to every participant, it is required that: 1) data needs to be constantly updated, which means massive traffic and costs, 2) data must be physically stored somewhere on your computer, 3) to access the bitcoin network you will need somewhere to save the keys and this resource will be accessible only as long as this place exists e.g. MtGox. Meanwhile the Big 4 accounting/audit firms (Deloitte, EY, KPMG, PwC) looked into the nature of bitcoin, extracted Blockchain technology, and with the help of major IT companies like Microsoft and IBM are silently building a safer Blockchain platform that, unlike the anarchy driven Bitcoin, is fully auditable.

    8. Blockchain reality

    Same as the Internet didn’t make IT departments irrelevant, Blockchain will not replace IT departments. What will change is the speed of business and the types of skillsets needed in an IT department. There will also be no immediate shift of everything to Blockchain. There will be a long period where Blockchain systems co-exist and integrate with existing IT systems. Blockchain will also lead to a strong surge in cloud adoption because it is much cheaper to store Blockchain data in the cloud than on physical computers. Considering that a Bitcoin transaction costs 4 dollars – it would mean economical suicide for any company that would adopt it. An issue also not frequently talked about is speed. Bitcoin transactions take 10 minutes to validate. Why? Because Bitcoin is a technically flawed architecture. It expects each node (each computer) in the network to have the same replica of data as other computers, which causes a massive technical problem in terms of network synchronisation due to an architecture that requires the Blockchain network to permanently store all data from the beginning of time. This architecture is doomed to collapse, simply because Bitcoin and Ethereum are now invaded by many HFT (High Frequency Trading) machines that react in microseconds compared to the network’s minutes.


    1. Don’t believe the hype. Hype creates bubbles, and bubbles burst.
    2. Blockchain infrastructure matters, don’t experiment.
    3. If you believe you can call upon a recruiter to deliver a bunch of Blockchain developers that you can then have run the show, you will be very surprised by the outcome.


    DISCLOSURE: I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. Views shared here are my own and cannot under any circumstances be interpreted as an official account of any company I am associated with current or in past.


    [linkedinbadge URL=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/jirikram” connections=”off” mode=”icon” liname=”Jiri Kram”] Jiri Kram is Cloud Architect & CTO educated and certified by MIT and this article was originally published here.

  • user 5:53 pm on May 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    The Blockchain Immutability Myth 

    Where flexible thinking is preferable to dogmatism

    “The highest good, than which there is no higher, is the , and consequently it is immutably good, hence truly eternal and truly immortal.” — Saint Augustine, De natura boni, i, 405 C.E. (with minor edits)

    If you ask someone well-informed about the characteristics of blockchains, the word “immutable” will invariably appear in the response. In plain English, this word is used to denote something which can never be modified or changed. In a blockchain, it refers to the global log of transactions, which is created by consensus between the chain’s participants. The basic notion is this: once a blockchain transaction has received a sufficient level of validation, some cryptography ensures that it can never be replaced or reversed. This marks blockchains as different from regular files or databases, in which information can be edited and deleted at will. Or so the theory goes.

    In the raucous arena of blockchain debate, immutability has become a quasi-religious doctrine – a core belief that must not be shaken or questioned. And just like the doctrines in mainstream religions, members of opposing camps use immutability as a weapon of derision and ridicule. The past year has witnessed two prominent examples:

    • advocates claiming that immutability can only be achieved through decentralized economic mechanisms such as proof-of-work. From this perspective, private blockchains are laughable because they depend on the collective good behavior of a known group of validators, who clearly cannot be trusted.
    • Scorn poured on the idea of an editable (or mutable) blockchain, in which retroactive modifications can be made to the transaction history under certain conditions. Mockers posed the question: What could possibly be the point of a blockchain if its contents can easily be changed?

    For those of us on the sidelines, it’s fun to watch the mudslinging. Not least because both of these criticisms are plain wrong, and stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of immutability in blockchains (and indeed any computer system). For those short on time, here’s the bottom line:

    In blockchains, there is no such thing as perfect immutability. The real question is: What are the conditions under which a particular blockchain can and cannot be changed? And do those conditions match the problem we’re trying to solve?

    To put it another way, a blockchain’s transactions are not written into the mind of God (with apologies to Augustine above). Instead, the chain’s behavior depends on a network of corporeal computer systems, which will always be vulnerable to destruction or corruption. But before we get into the details of how, let’s proceed by recapping some basics of blockchains themselves.

    Blockchains in brief

    A blockchain runs on a set of nodes, each of which may be under the control of a separate company or organization. These nodes connect to each other in a dense peer-to-peer network, so that no individual node acts as a central point of control or failure. Each node can generate and digitally sign transactions which represent operations in some kind of ledger or database, and these transactions rapidly propagate to other nodes across the network in a gossip-like way.

    Each node independently verifies every new incoming transaction for validity, in terms of: (a) its compliance with the blockchain’s rules, (b) its digital signature and (c) any conflicts with previously seen transactions. If a transaction passes these tests, it enters that node’s local list of provisional unconfirmed transactions (the “memory pool”), and will be forwarded on to its peers. Transactions which fail are rejected outright, while others whose evaluation depends on unseen transactions are placed in a temporary holding area (the “orphan pool”).

    At periodic intervals, a new block is generated by one of the “validator” nodes on the network, containing a set of as-yet unconfirmed transactions. Every block has a unique 32-byte identifier called a “hash”, which is determined entirely by the block’s contents. Each block also includes a timestamp and a link to a previous block via its hash, creating a literal “block chain” going back to the very beginning.

    Just like transactions, blocks propagate across the network in a peer-to-peer fashion and are independently verified by each node. To be accepted by a node, a block must contain a set of valid transactions which do not conflict with each other or with those in the previous blocks linked. If a block passes this and other tests, it is added to that node’s local copy of the blockchain, and the transactions within are “confirmed”. Any transactions in the node’s memory pool or orphan pool which conflict with those in the new block are immediately discarded.

    Every chain employs some sort of strategy to ensure that blocks are generated by a plurality of its participants. This ensures that no individual or small group of nodes can seize control of the blockchain’s contents. Most public blockchains like use “proof-of-work” which allows blocks to be created by anyone on the Internet who can solve a pointless and fiendishly difficult mathematical puzzle. By contrast, in private blockchains, blocks tend to be signed by one or more permitted validators, using an appropriate scheme to prevent minority control. Our product MultiChain uses a technique called “mining diversity” which requires a minimum proportion of the permitted validators to participate in order to create a valid chain.

    Depending on the consensus mechanism used, two different validator nodes might simultaneously generate conflicting blocks, both of which point to the same previous one. When such a “fork” happens, different nodes in the network will see different blocks first, leading them to have different opinions about the chain’s recent history. These forks are automatically resolved by the blockchain software, with consensus regained once a new block arrives on one of the branches. Nodes that were on the shorter branch automatically rewind their last block and replay the two blocks on the longer one. If we’re really unlucky and both branches are extended simultaneously, the conflict will be resolved after the third block on one branch, or the one after that, and so on. In practice, the probability of a fork persisting drops exponentially as its length increases. In private chains with a limited set of validators, the likelihood can be reduced to zero after a small number of blocks.

    Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that each node is running on a computer system owned and controlled by a particular person or organization, so the blockchain cannot force it to do anything. The purpose of the chain is to help honest nodes to stay in sync, but if enough of its participants choose to change the rules, no earthly power can stop them. That’s why we need to stop asking whether a particular blockchain is truly and absolutely immutable, because the answer will always be no. Instead, we should consider the conditions under which a particular blockchain can be modified, and then check if we’re comfortable with those conditions for the use case we have in mind.

    Mutability in public chains

    Let’s return to the two examples cited in the introduction, in which the doctrine of immutability has been used as a basis for ridicule. We’ll begin with the claim that the consensual validation procedures used in permissioned blockchains cannot bring about the “true immutability” promised by public chains.

    This criticism is most easily addressed by pointing to the vulnerability of public blockchains themselves. Take, for example, the Ethereum blockchain, which suffered a devastating exploit in June 2016. Someone found a coding loophole in a smart contract called “The DAO”, in which almost $250 million had been invested, and began draining its funds at speed. While this clearly violated the intentions of the contract’s creators and investors, its terms and conditions relied on the mantra that “code is law”. Law or not, less than a month later, the Ethereum software was updated to prevent the hacker from withdrawing the cryptocurrency “earned”.

    Of course, this update could not be enforced, since every Ethereum user controls their own computer. Nonetheless, it was publicly supported by Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum’s founder, as well as many other community leaders. As a result, most users complied, and the blockchain with the new rules kept the name “Ethereum”. A minority disagreed with the change and continued the blockchain according to its original rules, earning the title “Ethereum Classic”. A more accurate choice of names might be “Ethereum compromised” and “Ethereum the pure”. Either way, democracy is democracy, and (the pragmatic and popular) “Ethereum” is now worth over ten times (the idealistic but sidelined) “Ethereum Classic”.

    Now let’s consider a less benevolent way in which public blockchain immutability can be undermined. Recall that block creation or “mining” in bitcoin and Ethereum uses a proof-of-work scheme, in which a mathematical problem must be solved in order to generate a block and claim its reward. The value of this reward inevitably turns mining into an arms race, with miners competing to solve the problems faster. To compensate, the network periodically adjusts the difficulty to maintain a constant rate of block creation, once every 10 minutes in bitcoin or 15 seconds in Ethereum.

    In the last 5 years, bitcoin’s difficulty has increased by a factor of 350,000×. Today, the vast majority of bitcoin mining takes place on expensive specialized hardware, in locations where the weather is cold and electricity is cheap. For example, $1,089 will buy you an Antminer S9, which mines blocks 10,000 times faster than any desktop computer and burns 10 times more electricity. This is all a long way from the democratic ideals with which bitcoin was created, even if it does make the blockchain extremely secure.

    Well, kind of secure. If someone wanted to undermine the immutability of the bitcoin blockchain, here’s how they would do it. First, they would install more mining capacity than the rest of the network put together, creating a so-called “51% attack”. Second, instead of openly participating in the mining process, they would mine their own “secret branch”, containing whichever transactions they approve and censoring the rest. Finally, when the desired amount of time had passed, they would anonymously broadcast their secret branch to the network. Since the attacker has more mining power than the rest of the network, their branch will contain more proof-of-work than the public one. Every bitcoin node will therefore switch over, since the rules of bitcoin state that the more difficult branch wins. Any previously confirmed transactions not in the secret branch will be reversed, and the bitcoin they spent could be sent elsewhere.

    By now, most bitcoin believers will be laughing, because I wrote “install more mining capacity than the rest of the network put together” as if this is trivial to achieve. And they have a point, because of course it’s not easy, otherwise lots of people would already have done it. You need a lot of mining equipment, and a lot of electricity to power it, both of which cost a ton of money. But here’s the inconvenient fact that most bitcoiners brush over: For the government of any mid-size country, the money required is still small change.

    Let’s estimate the cost of a 51% attack which reverses a year of bitcoin transactions. At the current bitcoin price of $1500 and reward of 15 bitcoins (including transaction fees) per 10-minute block, miners earn around $1.2 billion per year ($1500 × 15 × 6 × 24 × 365). Assuming (reasonably) that they are not losing money overall, or at least not losing much, this means that total miner expenses must also be in the same range. (I’m simplifying here by amortizing the one-time cost of purchasing mining equipment, but $400 million will buy you enough Antminer 9s to match the current bitcoin network’s mining capacity, so we’re in the right ball park.)

    Now think about the reports that bitcoin is being used by Chinese citizens to circumvent their country’s capital controls. And consider further that the Chinese government’s tax revenues are approximately $3 trillion per year. Would a non-democratic country’s government spend 0.04% of its budget to shut down a popular method for illegally taking money out of that country? I wouldn’t claim that the answer is necessarily yes. But if you think the answer is definitely no, you’re being more than a little naive. Especially considering that China reportedly employs 2 million people to police Internet content, which totals $10 billion/year if we assume a low wage of $5,000. That puts the $1.2 billion cost of reversing a year of bitcoin transactions in perspective.

    Even this analysis understates the problem, because the Chinese government could undermine the bitcoin network much more easily and cheaply. It appears that the majority of bitcoin mining takes place in China, due to low-cost hydroelectric power and other factors. Given a few tanks and platoons, China’s army could physically seize these bitcoin mining operations, and repurpose them to censor or reverse transactions. While the wider bitcoin world would undoubtedly notice, there’s nothing it could do without fundamentally altering the governance structure (and therefore nature) of bitcoin itself. What was that about censorship free money?

    None of this should be construed as a criticism of bitcoin’s design, or a prediction that a network catastrophe will actually happen. The bitcoin blockchain is a remarkable piece of engineering, perhaps even perfect for the purpose its creator(s) had in mind. And if I had to put money on it, I would bet that China and other governments probably won’t attack bitcoin in this way, because it’s not in their ultimate interest to do so. More likely, they’ll focus their wrath on its more untraceable cousins like Dash, Zcash and Monero.

    Nonetheless, the mere possibility of this form of interference puts the cryptocurrency immutability doctrine in its place. The bitcoin blockchain and its ilk are not immutable in any perfect or absolute sense. Rather, they are immutable so long as nobody big enough and rich enough decides to destroy them. Still, by relying on the economic cost of subverting the network, cryptocurrency immutability satisfies the specific needs of people who don’t want to trust governments, companies and . It may not be perfect, but it’s the best they can do.

    Rewriteable private chains

    Now let’s move on to private blockchains, designed for the needs of governments and large companies. We can begin by noting that, from the perspective of these organizations, immutability based on proof-of-work is a commerciallegaland regulatory non-starter, because it allows any (sufficiently rich) actor to anonymously attack the network. For institutions, immutability can only be grounded in the good behavior of other similar institutions, with whom they can sign a contract and sue if need be. As a bonus, private blockchains are far less costly to run, since blocks only need a simple digital signature from the nodes that approve them. So long as a majority of validator nodes are following the rules, the end result is stronger and cheaper immutability than any public cryptocurrency can offer.

    Of course, immutability is still easy to undermine if all the participants in a chain decide to do so together. Let’s imagine a private blockchain used by six hospitals to aggregate data on infections. A program in one hospital writes a large and erroneous data set to the chain, which is a source of inconvenience for the other participants. A few phone calls later, the IT departments of all the hospitals agree to “rewind” their nodes back one hour, delete the problematic data, and then allow the chain to continue as if nothing happened. If all the hospitals agree to do this, who’s going to stop them? Indeed, apart from the staff involved, who will even know that it happened? (It should be noted that some consensus algorithms like PBFT don’t provide an official mechanism for rollbacks, but this doesn’t help with governance since nodes are still free to bypass the rules.)

    Now consider a case where most of a private blockchain’s participants agree to rewind and remove some transaction, but a few withhold their consent. Since every organization’s node is under its ultimate control, nobody can force the minority to join the consensus. However, by sticking to their principles, these users will find themselves on a fork being ignored by everyone else. Like the virtuous proponents of Ethereum Classic, their place in heaven may well be assured. But back here on earth, they will be excluded from the consensus process for which the chain was deployed, and might as well give up completely. The only practical application of transactions outside the consensus is to serve as evidence in a court of law.

    With this in mind, let’s talk about the second case in which the doctrine of blockchain immutability has been used to ridicule ideas. Here, we’re referring to Accenture’s idea of using a chameleon hash to enable a block buried deep in a chain to be easily replaced. The primary motivation, as described by David Treat, is to allow an old problematic transaction to be quickly and efficiently removed. Under the scheme, if a block substitution does occur, a “scar” is left behind which all participants can see. (It should be noted that any later transactions that depend on the deleted one would need to be removed as well.)

    It’s hard to overstate how many people poured scorn on this idea when it was announced. Twitter and LinkedIn were aghast and aflutter. And I’m not just talking about the crypto crowd, which takes sporting pleasure in mocking anything related to enterprise blockchains. The idea was broadly slammed by private blockchain advocates as well.

    And yet, under the right conditions, the idea of allowing blockchains to be modified retroactively via chameleon hashes can make perfect sense. To understand why, we begin with a simple question: in this type of blockchain, who would actually have the power to replace old blocks? Clearly, it can’t be any unidentified network participant, because that would render the chain ungovernable.

    The answer is that a chameleon hash can only be used by those who hold its secret key. The key is required to enable a new version of a block, with different transactions, to be given the same chameleon hash as before. Of course, we probably don’t want centralized control in a blockchain, so we can make the scheme stronger by having multiple chameleon hashes per block, each of whose key is held by a different party. Or we might use secret sharing techniques to divide a single chameleon hash key between multiple parties. Either way, the chain can be configured so that a retroactive block substitution can only occur if a majority of key holders approve it. Is this starting to sound familiar?

    Allow me to render the parallel more explicit. Let’s say that we share control over chameleon hashes between those same validating nodes which are responsible for block creation. This means that an old block can only be replaced if a majority of validating nodes agree to do so. And yet, as we discussed earlier, any blockchain can already be retroactively modified by a majority of validating nodes, via the rewind and replay mechanism. So in terms of governance, chameleon hashes subject to a validator majority make no difference at all.

    If so, why bother with them? The answer is: performance optimization, because chameleon hashes allow old blocks to be substituted in a chain far more efficiently than before. Imagine that we need to remove a transaction from the start of a blockchain that has been running for 5 years. Perhaps this is due to the European Union’s right to be forgotten legislation, which allows individuals to have their personal data removed from companies’ records. Nodes can’t just wipe the offending transaction from their disks, because that would change the corresponding block’s hash and break a link in the chain. The next time the blockchain was scanned or shared, everything would fall apart.

    To solve this problem without chameleon hashes, nodes would have to rewrite the early block without the problematic transaction, calculate the block’s new hash, then change the hash embedded in the next block to match. But this would also affect the next block’s own hash, which must be recalculated and updated in the subsequent block, and so on all the way along the chain. While this mechanism is possible in principle, it could take hours or days to complete in a blockchain with millions of blocks and transactions. Even worse, while engaged in this process, a node may be incapable of processing new incoming network activity. So chameleon hashes provide a far more computationally efficient way to achieve the same goal. If you imagine a bad transaction as a rock buried many miles underground, chameleon hashes can teleport the rock to the surface, instead of making us dig all the way down, retrieve the rock, and fill in the hole.

    Immutability is nuanced

    By reviewing the risks of proof-of-work blockchains and the technical value of chameleon hashes, I hope to have convinced you that blockchain immutability is far more nuanced than a “yes or no” question. To quote Simon Taylor quoting Ian Grigg, the question must always be “who are you and what do you want to achieve?”

    For cryptocurrency believers who want to avoid government-issued money and the traditional banking system, it makes perfect sense to believe in a public proof-of-work blockchain, whose immutability rests on economics rather than trusted parties. Even if they must live with the possibility of a large government (or other wealthy actor) bringing down the network, they can take solace in the fact that this would be a painful and expensive operation. And no doubt they hope that cryptocurrencies will only get more secure, as their value and mining capacity continues to grow.

    On the other hand, for enterprises and other institutions that want to safely share a database across organizational boundaries, proof-of-work immutability makes no sense at all. Not only is it astoundingly expensive, but it allows any sufficiently motivated participant to anonymously seize control of the chain and censor or reverse transactions. What these users need is immutability grounded in the good behavior of a majority of identified validator nodes, backed by contracts and law.

    Finally, for most permissioned blockchain use cases, we probably don’t want validator nodes to be able to easily and cheaply substitute old blocks in the chain. As Dave Birch said at the time, “the way to correct a wrong debit is with a correct credit”, rather than pretending that the debit never took place. Nonetheless, for those cases where we do need the extra flexibility, chameleon hashes help make blockchains a practical choice.

    [linkedinbadge URL=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/gidgreen” connections=”off” mode=”icon” liname=”Gideon Greenspan”] is CEO and Founder, Coin Sciences Ltd and this article was originally published here.

  • user 4:18 pm on February 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    Blockchain in the London Commercial Insurance Market ? 

    In early 2016, as part of the London Market Target Operating Model Programme (see http://isupporttom.london for details), an initiative began to investigate and the opportunity for its adoption in the London Commercial Insurance Market.

    When the work started there was limited knowledge (or even awareness) of blockchain across the market and there were, to the best of the author’s knowledge, no active investigation into the by the community.

    The intention of the initiative was to increase awareness in the market, generate support for exploring the opportunity, with representation from the broking and underwriting community, and to learn more about it.

    A series of Proof of Concept’s (POC’s) were undertaken to explore the use of blockchain – using business processes that provided representative use cases. These were used to validate that it could provide an alternative approach and to explore what benefits it could offer. Additionally, independent research by Z/Yen was commissioned to investigate the potential of smart contracts for wholesale insurance.

    It was very timely that, on the same day as the 3rd London Blockchain Week began, a series of reports about the work undertaken were published.  Details can be found here.

    [linkedinbadge URL=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/garynuttall” connections=”off” mode=”icon” liname=”Gary Nuttall MBCS CITP”] is Managing Director at Distlytics Ltd

  • user 11:35 pm on December 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    The Blockchain explained to my VP (and my President-CTO) 

    Last week I was contracted by my last employer before I retired, a world-class satellite operator in Luxembourg, to do a training on satellite business and — it’s always a pleasure to meet old friends again. I had the opportunity to discuss with 2 VPs who asked me about the and how it can be useful for the satellite and space industry. It was a nice opportunity to discuss about what the blockchain is useful for, instead of the usual speech on what the blockchain is.

    I made a 1-minute elevator pitch, which proved itself interesting enough that we chained on a 15-minute coffee explanation immediately after that. Note: This has also been checked by my former President 🙂

    Executive Summary – 1-minute elevator pitch

    • Today’s services bookkeeping and reporting rely heavily on the double-entry ledger.
    • This method of bookkeeping is a kind of manual checksum that has been invented in 13th century to support the lucrative wool trade across Europe. Doing this, each of the parties maintain their view of the ledger and the counterpart’s view, and both views must balance (“reconciliation”)
    • Mathematically speaking, the number of links among n parties grows as n-square in a peer-to-peer organisation, while it grows much more slowly (only logarithmically) in an hierarchical organisation.
    • So the double-entry ledger favoured a centralised model of trade, with layers of intermediairies, but also generated a need for regulations and auditing. Today’s entire financial world actors, regulators and auditors are organised from this double-entry ledger of the 13th century.
    • The blockchain brings back the simplicity of the single-entry ledger (journal) and peer-to-peer transactions protected by cryptographic primitives from glitches, from errors in operations sequencing or from deliberate frauds. We take full advantage of the speed of communication and of the calculation accuracy of computers.
    • But despite its great promises of simplification and cost reduction, its adoption may be hindered by the threat of disruption of the existing organization (actors, regulators, auditors).
    • Outside the finance world, every day-to-day activity that would be essentially peer-to-peer may benefit from the blockchain. The has the most success currently, but its blockchain is dedicated to crypto-currency transactions, while Ethereum and other blockchain platforms, being Turing-complete, have more potential.
    • Some examples of peer-to-peer activity: housing swaps, hotel rooms or airplane seats booking, spare parts tracking in airliners maintenance, tracking freight containers load, individual healthcare history, real estate transactions, proficiency certification of non-commercial pilots, mutuel pension funds, mutuel health funds, micro-insurance, micro-finance etc.

    What are the problems that the blockchain solves?

    The blockchain is best known through its impact on financial services, so we’ll start with this application before moving to other fields.

    The of keeping accurate records of commercial transactions existed since the Egyptians, but was not solved satisfactorily until back in the Middle Age. At that time, Flanders was the center of the wool textile industry. Merchants all over Europe bought the finest wool clothes there and retailed them to the richest families in the rest of Europe. Payment was done partly with various currencies, partly in kind. Some were done cash, some were paid at term.

    Let’s take the example of a wool merchant located in Munich, with subsidiaries in Paris, in Frankfurt, in Warsaw, and local representatives and warehouses in Bruges, in Brussels, in London. At that time, communication was done at the speed of a walking man, at best of a galloping horse.

    The problems were:

    • how to keep track of the amounts owed by customers, as well as owed to suppliers, in different locations?
    • how to keep accurately inventory of goods at different warehouses with their delivery status and synchronise the information among locations?
    • how to make sure that the same piece of cloth in Bruges warehouse is not sold simultaneously by both the Paris agent and the headquarters in Munich? accessorily how to make sure that the same piece of cloth has not been smuggled out and falsely booked as sold to someone?

    One could use a single-entry ledger per location, a journal, to record each operation. But it was very difficult to detect when and where an error would occur, until it would create an inconsistency with the rest. During the 13th century the double-entry ledger started to be used (the Farolfi ledger of 1299 in Nîmes, France). In such a ledger, each transaction would appear twice, once in the column of credit (where the article came from) and once in the column of debit (where it went). With this method, each transaction could be double-checked, making sure that any flow of goods or money has a starting point and an ending point, and that the total of both parties were equal (balanced). We can see it as the ancestor of a checksum :-).

    In practice, the journal would still be used to record the transactions and, at the end of the day, the accountant would copy and dispatch the transactions in the double-entry ledgers, identifying the origin and destination of each movement, making sure that all accounts were balanced after each operation and matched the journal (reconciliation).

    In 1495, an Italian named Luca Pacioli formalised in a printed book the details of the method and made it popular (Gutenberg’s first book was 1439). So popular that this double-entry ledger is still the basis of today’s accounting practices, of today’s official regulations, and of today’s financial processes. It is so deeply embedded in the commercial practices that the most recent payment settlement automation efforts of the Bank of England, of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and of the Australian New Payment Platform faithfully reproduced this process.

    I met concretely the reality of this kind of issues when I accepted to be treasurer of the Luxembourg Air Museum in Mondorf. This non-lucrative association has one bank account, one petty cash box for operations, one petty cash box for the Museum (selling tickets and souvenirs). It has also an inventory of postcards, DVDs, catalogs and wine bottles bearing the logo of the Museum. I use the bank account to receive subsidies and to pay suppliers. I use the cash boxes to feed the bank account, and I track the inventories. Considering the limited activity of the Museum, we do the bookkeeping ourselves instead of hiring an accountant. I discovered thus the mysteries of manipulating double-entry ledgers, inventories and journals.

    What are the steps involved in a financial transaction?

    To follow the steps of a transaction, let’s imagine I received an SMS from the president of the association “let’s take 100 € from our account to the petty cash box of the Museum“.

    • Step1 – submission: the president sent me a transaction request. In this case it is a SMS. For a bank transaction it could be submitted either with a check (in France or in UK), or a money transfer in the other countries. Generated from paper or directly by web banking, a formatted electronic message is sent to the bank’s payment system. For large amounts between , the interbank SWIFT messaging network would be used (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication).
    • Step2 – validation: I checked that the SMS came indeed from the president. A bank would check that the accounts of the payer and beneficiary indeed exist. It would check the syntax, verify that the amount is within some threshold, control an authorised signature etc.
    • Step3 – confirmation: I checked that Museum’s bank account had enough balance for me to withdraw 100 €. In real life, the bank would check the account balance, the regulatory status of the transfer (reporting threshold, exchange control etc.)
    • Step4 – settlement: I withdrew the amount and fed the Museum petty cash box. For a bank transaction, one account would be credited and the counterpart would be debited.

    Now that the payment is settled, comes the serious job: I have to record the operation in my journal, update the double-entry ledgers of the Museum’s account and of the petty cash box (in my case they are simply 3 worksheets of the same Excel file) and make sure that both have their double-entry balanced. At the end of the month, I’d verify that the bank statement carries the same amount as in my journal.

    On the bank’s side, in addition to keeping the equivalent books for the Museum’s account (journal, general ledger) it has also to keep an archive of the transaction, add it to the monthly reporting to the authorities for Anti-Money Laundering purposes etc.

    • Now what if I, the Museum M, have to pay a supplier S; and if M has an account in Bank A and S has an account in Bank B? In its simplest form, in cascade, Bank A would debit M and credit Bank B, and Bank B would debit Bank A and credit S. The double avalanche of updates and archives and reporting as above would also be unrolled.
    • What if between Bank A and Bank B there is no commercial relationship? The would be to involve a Bank C who would have relationship with both Bank A and Bank B. There comes another avalanche of updates and archives and reporting.
    • What if Bank B goes bankrupt before S is credited but after having received the credit from Bank A or Bank C? The answer is to involve a Central Bank that would never go bankrupt. We have another avalanche of updates and archives and reporting.
    • What if at the end of the day, there has been 200 billions Euros worth of transactions between the nation-wide set of 200 banks? Would all the 20’100 possible pairs of banks proceed to the mutual transfers knowing that the total compensated amounts will be much smaller? The solution is a common Chamber of Compensation (for example Clearstream) that would simply debit each bank of the difference. We have another avalanche of updates and archives and reporting.

    All this complexity was progressively built because initially the double-entry ledger was invented to do somehow a manual and medieval version of a checksum.

    Side note: all payment services Fintechs actually handle steps 1, 2 and 3, the easiest and most lucrative ones. Step 4 and the actual burden of complexity are still left to banks. This is why the European Payment Directive (PSD2) calls these services “Payment Initiator Services”, not “Payment Services”.

    Today the computing power is such that an iPhone 6 has 115 GFLOPs while a Cray-2 (a super computer of 1989) had only 2 GFLOPs. A GFLOP is one billion floating-point operations per second. And with the Internet, information travels at the speed of light, not at the speed of a galloping horse. In the same time we are still doing banking operations as if calculations were done manually, and indeed hundreds of thousands of accountants are still employed to verify manually on the double-entry ledgers the tricky cases generated by manual entry. Let’s go back to the initial questions and see how the blockchain solves them.

    How does the blockchain solve these problems?

    To start with, by definition the blockchain is a set of data that is shared by all computers (“nodes”) that participate as peers to a blockchain network and use the same blockchain protocol executed by a “client” software.

    How to keep track of the amounts owed by customers and owed to suppliers in different locations?

    Each participating node receives a copy of all transactions. It executes steps 1, 2, 3 and 4 above and share the result with peers.

    • Step1 – submission: this is solved with the blockchain by purely data network transmission.
    • Step2 – validation: cryptographic primitives are used to validate signatures; they involve heavy computing. It is part of the blockchain protocol and done by all nodes.
    • Step3 – confirmation: checking that there are sufficient funds to pay the transaction is part of the blockchain protocol and done by all nodes.
    • Step4 – settlement: the updated balances (or outputs of the transaction) are broadcast over the network to all other participating nodes and a consensus is build to record the settlement.

    How to keep accurately inventory of goods at different warehouses and their delivery status and synchronise the information between locations?

    Because the computation is now done electronically by the same “client” software, any discrepancy between nodes may come from a computing glitch, or from a difference in the sequence of execution of transactions: some nodes may receive transaction B before transaction A and other nodes in the reverse sequence.

    Addressing a computing glitch is easy: the faulty node is isolated and the corresponding result is rejected by peers. Handling a discrepancy in sequence is more subtle because there may be a minority subset of nodes that agree on a diverging sequence.

    The blockchain protocol states that if nodes achieve different results, they would all agree to chose randomly one of them to be right. This is called the “consensus”: the others discard their calculations and use the result of the chosen one. There are many ways to achieve consensus, the most widely used is the “proof of work”: the competing nodes try randomly to find a number that satisfies a given property. It may takes billions of billions of trials before finding it. The first node who finds a solution wins the consensus.

    How to make sure that the same piece of cloth in Bruges warehouse is not sold simultaneously by both the Paris agent and the headquarters in Munich?

    This can happen by coincidence in time, or by deliberate fraud. It is called “double-spending”. The blockchain protocol solves this problem by using a cryptography primitive called a “hash”. A hash of a document proves that it has not been modified. It is very difficult to forge but very easy to verify. We talked above about the “proof of work”: it consists of collecting a number of transactions together in a “block” and calculating a hash of it, as part of the work of finding a random number. If a block is modified, a verification of the hash will reveal it immediately. The blocks are “chained”, i.e. each block contains the hash of the previous block. If this previous one is modified, its hash changes and therefore the content of the next block also is, as well as the hash of this next etc. As a result, the whole (block)chain would reveal this single change.

    If the double-spending incident happened by coincidence, the problem is similar to the above: it is a matter of sequencing, so the transaction that gets first its block approved by the general consensus is the only one valid.

    If the double-spending was done on purpose for fraud, subsequently to the first spending being approved, the cheater will issue a second spending of the same good and this must also be approved, and at the same time somehow the block containing the first spending needs to be invalidated.

    However, because this previous block has already been approved by consensus and chained to other blocks, the cheating node that wants to invalidate that block must build a variant chain faster than the rest of the community. This means it needs more computing power than the rest of the community. It is not impossible, but economically very unrealistic because of the cost versus benefit of such cheating.

    As a result, there is a minimal need for auditing and verification from a higher authority because of the consensus is always achieved among all actors.

    So is the blockchain only good for financial transactions?

    If we take a step back and look at the big picture, the general problems that the blockchain solves are:

    • how can we track the inflows and outflows of something (money or token), among a large number of peer actors?
    • how can we protect against a quasi-simultaneous commitment (spending) of this “something” by 2 or several actors or by a same fraudulent one?

    Does it sound familiar to you?

    • have you ever been victim of an airline seat overbooking?
    • how can a tour operator makes sure that a hotel room has not been booked twice?
    • how can a peer-to-peer Uber reservation avoid that the same taxi be booked to 2 clients?
    • how can an air traffic controller be sure that another flight sector has not assigned the same flight level and same route than his, to another plane?
    • how to track over the lifetime of an liner aircraft the spare parts replaced gradually and independently by different airlines and repair shops? Airbus has 7000 subcontractors.
    • how to simplify registration and declaration of all customised add-ons equipments to homebuilt and kit aircrafts made by passionate “homebuilders“, instead of today’s heavy process of paper work and local inspection made by Civil Aviation delegates or private Quality Control agencies.
    • how about letting each private pilot log their hours in a blockchain and letting the doctors log the medical certificates of these pilots, both of which naturally confirms their proficiency for flying, instead of spending time and effort of all national aviation agencies to certify them, controlling an activity that is non-commercial.
    • how to track individually the placement of identified satellite parts in subsystems by subcontractors?
    • how to make sure that the same KWh from a solar array has not been sold to 2 different clients?
    • how to guarantee that a house has not been sold simultaneously by 2 remote real estate agents?
    • how to keep track of the loading of a fleet of container ships by peer forwarder stations?
    • etc, etc.

    All these problems have already been solved today by introducing some central coordination and distributed databases, which may be suited below a certain number of stakeholders and become polynomially complex when this number grows. But such centralisation is a source of failure, is of error-prone complexity and is a target for attacks. Above a certain volume and number of more or less independent actors, these problems would benefit from a peer-to-peer solution, and the resulting system would gain in flexibility, efficiency and resilience.

    Why did the financial services become the first application of the blockchain?

    • Since beginning of mankind, everybody uses some sort of financial service, every day. It’s an ideal peer-to-peer candidate application.
    • The lack of a satisfactory technology to detect and correct distributed mistakes fostered the creation of a multi-layered centralised system.
    • Then the centralisation and aggregation of transactions lead to huge movements of funds…
    • … and huge financial flows created a need for strict regulations, to detect and punish frauds.
    • A transformation into a peer-to-peer model needs significant changes in regulations and may deeply transform the financial industry.

    Which one of the above use cases are better candidates than the finance industry for blockchain transformation? Probably none. That’s why the first applications of blockchain were in this field. But all the other examples can at some stage take profit of the blockchain technology.

    The Bitcoin, the first well known blockchain platform, has been designed specifically for monetary transactions with a remarkable incentivizing scheme to support its use. This is why it is so successful. The Ripple blockchain platform has also been designed for monetary transactions. The Ethereum blockchain platform is more ambitious and targets to be universal. The task is huge and the product takes time to mature, but ultimately, it would not be limited to financial transactions and support the other use cases cited above.

    What else?

    If Ethereum succeeds, the question is “would it make sense to store in the same public blockchain the information of all the above use cases, and more (for example trading Pokemon-Go characters)“? Probably not. This is why there would be most certainly in the future

    • one public (Bitcoin or Ethereum or other) blockchain that supports public peer-to-peer trading Pokemon tokens, DVD cassettes, antique stamps, collector vynils, house swaps (AirBnB), car transportation services etc.,
    • and a number of private and restricted Ethereum-based (or not based) blockchains to manage more confidential matters.

    To cite only the current contributions to the open source Hyperledger project, that pave the road for different types of blockchains, we have today:

    But talking about them will be another discussion, that I’ll have with the same ex-colleagues VPs of the space industry, or with others.

    [linkedinbadge URL=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/kvutien” connections=”off” mode=”icon” liname=”Khang Vu Tien”] is Blockchain & Ethereum practitioner and this article was originally published here.

  • user 1:25 pm on December 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Briefly about Blockchain 

    is undoubtedly a buzzword nowadays – same as . However, it is often difficult to comprehend, and in fact, many people do not have a clue what is it all about. Being at the heart of FinTech and having very strong potential to disrupt and revolutionize the way our world functions now, the concept of blockchain definitely needs a proper understanding.

    The Blockchain Begins

    It all started back in 2008. Short after the Lehman Brothers’ collapse, when the world was in a global financial decay and stock markets had hit historic lows, a person or a group of persons called Satoshi Nakamoto came into the global arena to disrupt it.

    The notion of blockchain materialized in the form of a white paper which described the now well-know of and the underlying concept on which it operates. The blockchain.

    The Concept

    Generally speaking, the blockchain is a distributed public ledger. Instead of data being accounted and stored on a central server’s database, it is encrypted, and a copy is kept on every node connected to the network. There are as many copies of the ledgers as there are nodes connected to the network.

    Where’s the Revolution?

    Blockchain uses its distributed network approach to revolutionize the process of verification and transfer ownership. This provides a lot of advantages over the current centralized network systems, and here we are speaking about security and preservation of data. Basically, it cuts out the middlemen.

    Nowadays, more or less everything happens via centralised networks – governments, , you name it (=the middlemen). They appear to be doing quite good with their job, but in case a central server’s integrity gets compromised, the data stored within can be hacked.

    Yet, if the database gets distributed amongst multiple nodes, it becomes much harder to hack it. Anyone wishing to alter the data in a blockchain network would need simultaneously to modify the ledger on 51% of all the nodes on the network. If they do not get altered simultaneously, the blockchain nodes will automatically recognize that the modified copy is a forgery and correct the changes.

    Also, it is important to note that each block in the blockchain is encrypted. This makes it impossible to change after it gets authenticated and chained to the previous link.


    Living in the age of Internet, privacy is often an issue. In fact, many of us do not know how often we are being monitored by various institutions (take it governmental or private ones). For example, various online services often monitor and track our usage, and later use that information for marketing or other purposes.

    In case of blockchain, all transactions are identified by a code, hence, the actual user identity is kept private. Only those with the appropriate code or key can access the relevant information.

    The anonymity has obvious advantages. Records cannot be stolen, and accounts cannot be frozen, as there is no central power. Because no chief command exists, nobody has the authority or access to facilitate these of actions. Of course, this raises some underlying threats and issues as well, but let’s stick with the as for now.


    Undoubtedly there are lost of benefits, applications and added value that comes with the blockchain . Nevertheless, I would like to put an emphasis on 3 of them regarding the financial system.

    • Cost and Efficiency. Moving everything to a blockchain reduces the reliance on third party intermediaries (=middlemen), because digital transactions can clear and settle peer to peer instantly (similarly like transaction in cash).
    • Inclusion and Performance. With the help of blockchain, the financial services industry could do more and be more inclusive. This might help to bring billions of unbanked people in the the economy. Savings and loans, the basics of retail banking, could become available to all.
    • Transparency and Risk Reduction. Blockchain could reduce settlement risk, as well as systematic risk because regulators and central bankers will have better information and can easier respond to crisis. Also, greater transparency will force more accountability for the institutions.

    Videos worth watching:

    Bettina Warburg: “How the Blockchain Will Radically Transform The Economy”

    Alex Tapscott: “Blockchain is Eating Wall Street”

    [linkedinbadge URL=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/linasbeliunas” connections=”off” mode=”icon” liname=”Linas Beliūnas”] is Foreign Business Development & Sales at Paysera and this article was originally published here.

  • user 10:05 pm on December 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    How to find and hire a Blockchain (Ethereum and Hyperledger) developer 


    If your company has been trying to get ahead of the innovation curve and build projects or capabilities, you probably believe that there just aren’t that many great blockchain developers out there. You’re wrong. You’re probably looking in the wrong places and or you don’t have a compelling enough value proposition to hire a great blockchain . I’ll share a bit on what i’ve learned in what makes a great blockchain dev, where to find them and ultimately how to attract and hire a great blockchain developer.

    1) Knowing what makes a great developer

    Do you even know the differentiating factors between a good blockchain developer vs. a great blockchain developer? The first step in hiring this very niche skill is to know how to recognise a great blockchain dev vs. a developer who’s learned some blockchain coding skills. Both are valuable however most companies are just now starting to build a capability and it’s critical that you have great blockchain devs as part of your core team.

    Generally speaking great blockchain developers tend to have the following characteristics:

    Firstly, they are driven by strong ideological beliefs centered on decentralization. Some go as far to proudly self identify as crypto-anarchists[1] and many have strong ideological beliefs on decentralizing everything from corporations to governments and even whole societies. This is super scary for any corporation.

    Secondly they have a deep fundamental understanding and mastery of game theory [2] and economic principles. These understandings and expertise applied to any decentralized is the structural framework that accounts for most of the key blockchain breakthroughs.

    They also have a true passion for the technology — it’s something they’ve sought to seek and learn about despite the seemingly embryonic nature of blockchains. Some of the underlying cryptography dates back decades. Many are self taught and many are PhD level and above. Most are deeply entrenched in the world of cryptography. [3]

    3) They are intellectually curious by nature.

    They are super naturally super curious personalities, they’re undeterred by the ambiguity of no known solutions. This actually excites them. When presented with obstacles they have deep seated self-beliefs that they can find multiple solutions for any set of problems. Being better then the next guy and being respected by their peers is of utmost importance.

    You might think that sounds like a very rare kind of person — they are extremely rare in the traditional recruitment circles in which you’re accustomed. However they do exist in large numbers and are likely 10 steps ahead of you and what you want to accomplish in your projects.

    4) Where to find great blockchain developers

    Once you know what you should be looking for, you need to know where to find great blockchain devs. Generally your traditional modes of identifying, attracting and retaining talent won’t work. Your HR department will likely kill any chance you have in the rare case someone responds to an ad or posting and HR is the first point of contact. Unless of course your HR department is staffed with blockchain experts. Job postings don’t work. Recruiters don’t know where to look.

    Generally speaking you won’t find the great candidates through LinkedIn and using Google. Be wary of the “experts” on LinkedIn.

    You must engage with them in their own environments. Kind of like a Mutual of Omaha episode of going native.

    You’ll find them sharing knowledge on public forums such as Gitter and Reddit. Or they can be discussing ideas at meetups and hackathons and other startup events, both on- and offline. Most times they are working on real world projects through platforms like HackerRank or GitHub. Many participate in podcasts.

    When you do come across the right type of developer for you, chances are that they will be undertaking several different projects at the same time. This is how they work, contributing across a variety of missions, trying to achieve several different goals. Quite a few are likely running their own startups. Therefore, they won’t want to drop all their ongoing projects to come work for your company, so you’ll need to engage them in a way that resonates with their core belief systems as well as the needs of your project.

    5) Engaging and hiring talent

    Great blockchain devs don’t want to join your big company.

    With great develpors seemingly being few and far in-between (or at least the ones you connect with), they are in extremely high demand. You’ll have massive competition from companies offering all sorts of work to them so you must ensure your company has the right corporate culture [4] to match the talent you’re seeking.

    They want to work on and solve big problems — you’ve got to provide them a challenge that they can’t get elsewhere. To fully engage and motivate them, they need to believe your project is for a greater good, and it aligns with their own principles. Finally, compensation is always a major factor to be considered as these developers know what they are worth. They are expensive and well worth it. One great blockchain dev will outperform 5 good devs every day of the week.

    Taking all this into account, your options may well be very limited. You’ll probably have to choose, do you hire full time, outsource to specialist blockchain startups/platforms, or train an internal team? Each of course has its own benefits and pitfalls — full time employees will be much more difficult to find and eventually hire, outsourcing leads to some loss of control on your part, and with very few training resources currently available hiring and paying suitable trainers before training your own devs would be extremely time consuming, costly and still potentially not producing the right quality talents.

    Additionally, chances are the developers who are interested in your blockchain projects won’t be geographically located where you are. And they aren’t likely to want to uproot and come to you. This means you’ll have to have remote workers — which is just what these individuals tend to prefer.

    Is “acqui-hiring” [5] an option? Well, as mentioned earlier, many devs will be at their own startups or elsewhere working on their own blockchain ideas. As we know, these devs are very principally driven, so simply buying them out will NOT make them want to work for your company. Only if there is a clear strategic link between your own blockchain projects and their motivations, and if they believe your company will allow them to take things further than they could alone, will you find devs open to being acquired. However, with most business goals not currently aligned to the developers’ individual goals, this again is a difficult path to tread.

    6) Choosing a path forward.

    So what do you do? A lot of times you’re going to need to go down multiple paths that include hiring a firm to develop some of your technology- Distributed Labs led by Dr. Pavel Kravchenko and Cardano-Labo are great places to start for the tech development for short term fill the gap measures. They can also be the long term extension of your dev team. They are that good!

    Longer term you should be building a learning and training capability to move your high performing developers to becoming great blockchain devs. B9 Labs and Byte Academy are good places to start as external sources of learning and development.

    As an aside there are quite a few more yet to be launched global training programs that we’ve seen that are poised to be amazing sources for you.


    Make no mistake about it, finding and hiring great blockchain developers is not simple but it can be done.

    Firstly become an expert yourself in the technology, understand appreciate the underlying belief systems and the cultures associated with decentralized technologists and you’ll be much farther along than your competitors.

    Go to where the great blockchain devs hang out. Where they share, where they learn and contribute. Build a reputation for yourself in the ecosystem.

    Engaging startups and developers in your specific ecosystem is critical. Join and contribute to local blockchain related Meetups. We run Blockchain Startups across most major innovation ecosystems around the world. There are many others. Join and Contribute!

    Create a culture on your team/company that will support hard charging, highly intelligent, principled people that want to change the world.

    Lastly, be open to creative solutions to engaging with some of the most in-demand talent on the planet.

    Zach Piester is the Co-founder, and Partner of Intrepid Ventures. Intrepid Ventures invests in, designs, builds and scales blockchain powered companies.

    Zach focuses on helping Fortune 500 companies leverage the innovation of startup disruptors in blockchain, , distributed ledger, & emerging technologies. Bringing together strategic, creative, & technical skills to help industry leaders understand how innovation, digital capabilities, & organizational design can help transform and sustain their positions at the forefront of their industries.

    I’m always interested in meeting leaders who are creating transformational products and solutions, so please feel free to contact me by email at zach at intrepid dot ventures.

    [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crypto-anarchism


    [3] http://news.mit.edu/2014/cryptographic-schemes-security-guarantees-1030


    [5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acqui-hiring

  • user 8:54 pm on November 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , real problems,   

    Blockchain & Smart Contracts: let us focus on the real problems 

    & Smart Contracts make sure the same information is shared by different players in real-time and cannot be modified without the consent of all, as simple as that.

    When it comes to the Capital Market, most articles on this topic explore how to use this to solve the problem of real-time reconciliations between , counterparts, CSD, CCP…

    Is this THE problem that banks need to solve today? Will it bring profitability back to their Capital Market business?

    Imposing a standard in Blockchain & Smart Contracts to the market, obtaining regulators’ blessing and deploying the technology within the ecosystem will take years (anywhere between 5 to 10 years). Remember the Target2-Securities? It started in 2008 and was supposed to be implemented in 2015 in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. 8 years later and still working on it :-).

    Aren’t there more pressing problems?

    • Banks trading margins are shrinking.
    • Their trading infrastructure is mostly outdated, complex, very expensive to maintain and reduces competitiveness.
    • Executives are asked to lower their spending on operations and technology.

    Don’t these problems look familiar to you?

    This is how the trading infrastructure in the Capital Market looks (this is not representative of all systems and locations):

    • High support costs due to amount of inter-connectivity
    • High failure/error rate
    • End to end test very difficult
    • Cost of upgrade is very high
    • Cost of ownership high due to complex connectivity to external environments

    So let us take a step back and look at one of the major challenges in the Capital Market:

    Reduce the cost of operations and technology

    The idea of having one system that does it all “all singing, all dancing” to reduce the cost of infrastructure is a utopia. And whatever solution we have out there, experience showed that its TCO is prohibitive.

    So what to do?

    How about shifting the focus of the Blockchain and Smart Contracts technology to solve this particular problem?

    Let us call it the Internal Blockchain Technology Solution 😉

    Imagine this scenario:

    A trade event is to be recorded. In real-time, these departments are made aware of the event: Risk, Collateral, Treasury, Back-Office, Finance, Compliance, Credit, Audit…

    If the event creates an issue within any of these departments, then the corresponding department rejects it and the event is cancelled or put on hold in real-time.

    Isn’t it what all these expensive, heterogeneous and complex interfaces between the systems of the trading infrastructure are trying to achieve?

    Using the Blockchain & Smart Contracts internally has huge benefits for financial institutions:

    • No need to wait for one global standard
    • The bank can partner with its vendors of choice
    • No need for regulators to approve
    • The cost of maintaining complex interfaces between systems is reduced
    • The cost of internal reconciliations is reduced

    Vendors in this market need to focus on developing Smart Contracts representing trades and their events and creating a middleware that uses this Blockchain technology to sync different systems.

    Combining the above with a Standard Target Operating Model for post-trades and outsourcing to the Cloud (Utility) will allow banks to dramatically reduce their infrastructure cost.

    This can be done TODAY. No need to wait 10 years until a standard emerges and regulators give their sign-off.

    And I can help!

    [linkedinbadge URL=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/gerardrafie” connections=”off” mode=”icon” liname=”Gérard Rafie”] is Strategic Consultant – Capital Market & Treasury

  • user 9:26 am on November 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , usecase   

    30 things you can do with a blockchain 

    According to Gartner’s Hype Cycle 2016, is hovering somewhere near the peak of inflated expectations, and probably just about to fall off a cliff into the trough of disillusionment at any moment. All over the place, overblown ideas and proofs of concept oversold by those who really don’t understand how the technology works are colliding head-on with scalability challenges, industry-specific regulatory obstacles, dinosaur technology departments and corporate perceptions of events such as the Ethereum hard forks.

    As I said in a previous post, when overzealous innovation teams are claiming that blockchains can do anything you want them to, including making your morning cup of tea, it’s more important than ever to examine the problem your use case is solving and ask yourself whether it involves trust, consensus, immutability or an intersection of the three. If not, then you probably don’t need blockchain in the mix.

    However, it’s also important to remember that it’s borderline-crazy blue-sky kind of stuff that gets people thinking.

    When people outside the blockchain/ ecosystem start referencing discussions like this on /r/, you know that the possibilities are starting to sink in, even if reality hasn’t quite caught up yet.

    If we revisit this Medium in 2018, many of the 30 examples I’ve given here will be consigned to the dustbin of history. Some of them may already be dead on arrival.

    But the important thing was that someone, somewhere, saw the possibility of transformative power and seized the opportunity to try to make something new work. Seeing the glimmers of a nascent technology evolve is exciting.

    These use cases may not be fully realised towering edifices of technological excellence. But some of them may turn out to be the building blocks of our future world. And when we are plunged down into Gartner’s trough of disillusionment, it’s important to remember that.

    So, if you’ve ever wondered what you can do with a blockchain, here are 30 ideas:

    1. Transfer money
    Bitcoin has been described as “blockchain’s first use case”, and with good reason. For more than 40 years, since David Chaum’s DigiCash, economists have been seeking the holy grail of a digital currency that can eliminate the problem of double-spending and circumvent the issue of needing to trust an unknown third party. When Satoshi’s famous White Paper was published in October 2008, few people realised its impact at the time. Eight years on, the Bitcoin blockchain has still not been hacked — and you really need to try using it for yourself to realise how simple and how amazing the protocol is. The convergence of mobile payments, particularly in the African market, with cryptocurrency, is a niche to watch… companies such as BitPesa are leading the charge here. Read more about using Bitcoin here.

    2. Make micropayments
    Closely related to 1, the ability to use blockchains to transfer minuscule amounts of money is a potential game-changer. Whether you’re talking about in-app payments of a fraction of a cent, microgrid transactions or household appliances moving towards a pay-per-use rather than an ownership model, being able to make tiny payments using cryptocurrency without incurring bank fees that exceed the original payment is a huge opportunity.

    3. Lend people money
    Peer-to-peer lending is one of the fastest-growing areas in personal finance, with users attracted by the opportunity to make a return on their savings in a low-interest environment while enabling other users to borrow at a sensible rate — and all without giving the bank their cut. In contrast to fiat competitors such as Zopa and Funding Circle, BTCJam allows users to do all of the above, but with Bitcoin.

    4. Pay your parking fines
    Last year, New York City councilman Mark Levine suggested that recalcitrant motorists in New York should be able to pay for parking tickets not only with ApplePay, but with Bitcoin.

    No news yet on whether this will actually happen, but in the context of BitLicense, it’s an interesting aside.

    5. Consume content
    The rise and rise of ad-blockers has thrown the traditional business model out of the window. All-or-nothing paywalls have proved successful for a few publishers, but research has shown that users are more prepared to reward content creators if the process is seamless and if they can pay only for what they consume. Startups such as London-based Smoogs, Berlin-based SatoshiPay and Yours provide an easy way for writers, film-makers and other content producers to be paid for what they do. The groundbreaking Brave browser is yet another example.

    6. Charge an electric car
    Small, incremental payments are good for more use cases than just content consumption. Traditional car-charging stations normally require drivers to pay in fixed increments, regardless of how much electricity is consumed by the car’s battery. Additionally, for electric rental fleets, the hire company needs to develop software to track the charge left on the battery, or to do this manually. Imagine a system where every electric vehicle has a chip that allows it to pay directly for exactly the power it consumes, and where all the driver has to do is top up the payment allowance from time to time. German energy giant RWE developed exactly this pilot scheme with Ethereum pioneers slock.it, allowing electric cars to charge while waiting at the traffic lights. Read more about it here.

    7. Certify a supply chain
    Many consumers would prefer to make ethical choices about the products they buy. Recent scandals such as the sale of horse meat as beef in the UK, and revelations about the poor conditions of garment workers in developing countries has pushed this issue into the headlines. However, proving the origin of every component in a product can be impossible, and even if this information is held by a centralised authority, it may not be trustworthy. London startup Provenance offer decentralised supply chain certification. Read the white paper here.

    8. Share electricity with the neighbours
    It should be the easiest thing in the world to do. Take one street that has a sunny side and a shady side. The lucky people on the sunny side of the street have solar panels on their roof. It’s more efficient to use electricity close to where it is generated, so instead of selling the excess power back to the grid (which most networked domestic solar installations do), imagine if the owners of the houses with excess power could sell it on the local market. Unfortunately, this would normally come at a cost, with the homeowners having to agree a price among each other and monitor the amount of electricity being used. The MicroGrid project in New York’s Brooklyn solves this requirement by allowing the households to buy and sell energy via smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. No independent calculation or monitoring required.

    9. Prove your identity
    A reliable digital identity system is the Holy Grail of our connected world. We already live so much of our lives online, but it all comes to a grinding halt as soon as we need to somehow connect our carefully honed digital identity with our presence in the physical world, verified by some kind of government-issued paperwork or proof of existence at a particular address. Meanwhile, as we struggle to maintain our credit records and prove who we are to employers, or car rental companies, private corporations are making money from selling our data: data which belongs to us as individuals, and which we should be able to monetise. Too many organisations to mention are working on digital proof-of-identity schemes, many of them blockchain-based. Deloitte’s Smart Identity System is probably the best known .

    10. Let your household appliances pay for things
    IBM’s ADEPT [Autonomous Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Telemetry] research project was one of the first blockchain/IoT proposals, and certainly the highest-profile of 2015. The idea of a blockchain on which a household appliance is registered at the point of manufacture, and which has some kind of autonomous identity which it can use — for example — to purchase consumables such as washing powder, is a powerful one. As the white paper itself notes, scalability is (and remains) the major barrier: “A blockchain to cater to hundreds of billions of devices needs to be scalable…”

    The SPUR scheme under development by Quantoz is based on these principles.

    11. Prove ownership of an asset
    If someone steals your car in most countries of the world, there’s a reasonable chance it will be traced or recovered. Most governments operate some kind of registration scheme based on licence plate and/or chassis number. But what if your stolen possession is a bike? A jetski? A luxury handbag? A drone? Such high-value portable assets are easy to steal and also to remove from a particular geographic area where they may have been registered. Our startup Mamoru aims to provide a global standard for proof of ownership.

    12. Issue shares
    Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne is a long-time Bitcoin advocate, and the retailer already has its own issuance and trading platform, t0. At Money2020 this week, Overstock announced that stockholders would have the opportunity to subscribe for shares of its Blockchain Series A Preferred, which will trade exclusively on t0.

    “Through this public issuance of blockchain-based securities the history of capital markets is entering a new era, the era of blockchain-based securities,” said Byrne.

    13. Execute an equity swap
    Enterprise blockchain technology firm Axoni recently conducted a test of OTC smart contracts for equity swaps involving institutions such as Barclays, Citi and JP Morgan. “Using a blockchain you have a reliable record of who signed to the transactions and when each action was taken, so what you end up with is this distributed data store with a valid, provably gold version of the trade,” said CEO Greg Schvey

    14. Issue money from a central bank
    The idea of a cashless society is hugely appealing to governments around the world. Not only does it circumvent the need to print notes and mint coins, but it also means an end to the anonymity of cash, and provides a way to track the spending of individuals. Various central banks have flirted with the idea, but the Bank of England has gone as far as endorsing an independent study at University College London which proposed how cryptocurrencies might be issued by such an authority. Read the white paper and read my earlier Medium about why it’s different from Bitcoin.

    15. Smooth the shipping process
    Shipping across national borders generates so much paperwork that it can be measured in whole kg (or pounds, if you prefer imperial). When shipments are delayed, it can cause an impact on the whole supply chain as factories wait for components, and in some cases (for example, perishable goods), it can affect the viability of the whole shipment. Days of time and huge administration costs are tied up in producing bills of lading, so there was plenty of interest when shipping giant Maersk recently announced a blockchain-based bill of lading proof of concept.

    16. Authenticate sneakers
    San Francisco startup Chronicled hit the headlines when they partnered with high-end sneaker manufacturer Mache Customs to produce a range of smart-tag-enabled shoes in honour of Kanye West. Busting the counterfeit trade is one of their stated aims.

    17. Run a decentralised marketplace
    Open Bazaar is widely seen as a successor to Silk Road, but it is far more than that. Silk Road was a website on a server hidden by the Tor network. The FBI was able to track it down, seize the server, and arrest those involved. In contrast, Open Bazaar is a peer-to-peer network like BitTorrent. You can download the software and set up your own storefront. It’s worth mentioning that Open Bazaar does not explicitly endorse selling illegal items. From their FAQ: “Sellers on the OpenBazaar network host their own products and are therefore directly responsible for complying with local laws (and their own conscience) when listing items or services. Users engaged in illicit activity cannot hide behind a third party service.”

    18. Register music copyright
    Channelling income from music to the artist who created it is a huge global challenge. Often, the administrative costs of recovering royalties exceed the amount due. Friction caused by cumbersome payment processes mean that fans who would otherwise be prepared to pay to consume music end up illegally downloading content, just because it’s easier.

    Singer-songwriter Imogen Heap, assisted by various Ethereum people, announced the launch of Mycelia in July to address this problem. Billed as ‘fair trade for the music industry’, it aims to offer extra functionality such as allowing fans to pay for additional content, and targeted pricing, such as allowing charities to use tracks at a lower or zero cost.

    Swedish startup Zeptagram are also operating in this area.

    19. Vote
    The idea that we are still voting with pens and paper in 2016 is an anomaly. But electronic voting — whether at local or national government level, or in the context of corporations — is justifiably regarded with suspicion as the results seem open to manipulation without the relevant oversights. Because of the transparency offered by public blockchains such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, proponents of open government are vocal about the advantages of blockchain-based voting. Nasdaq has already announced plans in Estonia to allow corporate shareholders to vote and various startups are developing e-voting machines for state and national elections that work in a similar way.

    20. Register land rights
    Maintaining a national register of land ownership is an expensive and labour-intensive operation. Additionally, in countries where there is a history of government corruption, they may not always be trustworthy. Factom were widely reported to be working on a solution with Honduras to come up with a proof of concept for a blockchain-based land registry. This proved to be less concrete than originally reported and the project has stalled, but someone, somewhere will implement this one day.

    21. Execute a legal contract
    Code is not yet law! Remember this. But some legal firms are so convinced that one day this will be the case, that they are already making the first moves in this direction. London law firm Selachii have already announcedplans to launch digitised agreements based on blockchain technology.

    22. Run a prediction market
    The decentralised prediction market Augur is a brilliantly simple idea. Their platform allows you to make predictions by trading virtual shares in the outcome of events happening in the real world, such as the upcoming US election. If you buy shares in the correct outcome, you make a profit.

    23. Manage a swarm of robots
    This sounds pretty sci-fi, but is rather more based in fact than the title suggests. Increasing automation means that all kinds of industries, from farming to manufacturing, are now predicted to rely on large numbers of robotic labour. MIT Media Lab affiliate Eduardo Castelló Ferrer explains his rationale in this white paper.

    24. Manage healthcare records
    Think of any sector where there is an overriding need for untamperable data and a clear audit trail, and one of the first to come to mind is healthcare. Various startups are competing in this space, as this Bitcoin Magazine storydescribes, but one of the more interesting is the Factom/HealthNautica partnership in which they “are looking to secure medical records and audit trails. This is done by encrypting the data onto the Bitcoin blockchain with a timestamp to verify its accuracy. The records can’t be changed and, because it is hashed to the blockchain, it can’t be accessed without permission. HealthNautica hopes to improve efficiency of claims processing and certainty that the records have not been changed.”

    25. Certify students
    In a world with a mobile labour force, verifying academic qualifications (which are often needed for work visas) can be a slow and painful process. Vietnamese architect applying for a job in France? Russian developer seeking work in Germany? When universities have to be contacted individually and employer references verified over the phone or email, these processes consume time and money. Imagine a world where your certifications were written into a secure global data structure where they could not be deleted or altered. MIT wrote an interesting post about their certification architecture. Similarly, London’s B9Lab certify successful graduates of their excellent blockchain developer course with an entry into the Ethereum blockchain.

    26. Trade cryptocurrencies
    Bitcoin is not the only cryptocurrency! Hundreds of other cryptocurrency blockchains exist, although the majority of these are either defunct or carry virtually worthless tokens. A host of exchanges, some more reputable than others, have sprung up to cater for those which are worth trading: Bittrex, C-Cex and Poloniex are some of the popular options. Check out CoinmarketCap for an exhaustive list. And of course, I can’t resist mentioning my own altcoin portfolio tracker, CountMyCrypto. Since my friend Bruce and I launched it nearly three years ago, we’ve seen countless coins and exchanges spring up and die, and enough drama to put a soap opera to shame.

    27. Rent a car
    The car rental process is often more cumbersome than it needs to be, with insurance documents and identities that need to be verified, and vehicle mileages and damage reports that are still manually verified in many cases. This is how DocuSign described their smart contracts trial for car rental, in conjunction with Visa’s innovation team.

    28. Verify your work history
    Closely aligned with student certifications on the blockchain, the idea of a careers networking API based on a blockchain is one that’s been around for a while. At Mamoru, we’ve been working on this, since we won a BlockchainX grant from Wanxiang Blockchain Lab earlier this year.

    29. Get compensation for flight delays
    When the Ethereum DevCon2 conference happened in Shanghai earlier this month, attendees who flew to China from all over the world were notified of an interesting opportunity before the event. The Flight Delay dapp trialled a new proof of concept that allowed travellers to share the risk in the event of flight delays. Stephan Karpischek wrote a good post about the results of the experiment.

    30. Buy beer
    OK, so this is really a subset of use case 1, but you can’t be in Berlin and not mention Room 77. It’s a piece of cryptocurrency history, as the first bricks-and-mortar establishment anywhere in the world to accept Bitcoin. And, of course, it’s also a favourite haunt of Mamoru and all the other awesome Bitcoin and blockchain startups based in Germany’s capital city.

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