Bitcoin and other forms of crypto may be falling in price, but people are still taking their earnings and investing in cryptocurrency projects. The most recent one comes by way of Madison Holdings Group, a Hong Kong stock exchange-listed wine company. The venture has just purchased shares in BitOcean, a Japan-based cryptocurrency exchange.

BitOcean is one of Japan’s 16 fully licensed crypto trading platforms, having recently garnered full approval from Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA). Madison Lab – a subsidiary company of Madison Holdings – has acquired roughly 67 percent of BitOcean, spending about $30 million in the process.

Crypto Investments Remain as Popular as Ever

Madison’s chairman Raymond Ting Pang-wan explains that the maneuver was all part of the company’s attempts to diversify itself and build its investment portfolio:

“Our wine business is stable and profitable, but then it is small. It is hard to make wine trading into a very big business. That’s why we have to diversify into financial technology and the cryptocurrency business – to achieve a better return for our shareholders.”

Despite being home to two of the world’s largest cryptocurrency thefts – Mt. Gox and Coincheck – Japan is, and remains a powerful cryptocurrency hub. The country’s FSA pledged to become more involved in crypto-based operations following the Coincheck debacle in January 2018, an event that saw more than $500 million in cryptocurrency funds disappear overnight.

The FSA began issuing warnings to several cryptocurrency exchanges, claiming that they would now have to undergo a registration process to continue their operations and that they would be required to improve their safety protocols or face being shut down.

This regulatory framework and Japan’s ongoing pro-crypto attitude is why, according to Pang-wan, now was the best time to obtain a stake in the crypto arena:

“Japan represents about 20 percent of bitcoin trading worldwide. Japan and the United States are the only two markets that have a licensing system for such trading platforms. We wanted to invest in a platform that was under proper regulation.”

Crypto Investments Everywhere

In a related story, HDR Global Trading – which owns the BitMEX Exchange in Hong Kong – is now looking into purchasing a 51 percent stake in Madison Labs. The deal has not taken part at press time, though it’s estimated the purchase will cost roughly $17 million.

Unlike Japan and the U.S., Hong Kong has yet to enforce an official licensing structure for cryptocurrency-related businesses, though it’s now working on a temporary system that would slowly begin to introduce regulatory tactics.

Will a deal like this cause competing companies to invest in crypto? Post your comments below.

This post is credited to livebitcoinnews

South Korean electronics giant Samsung is apparently seeking a trademark in the United Kingdom for a cryptocurrency wallet, according to a Dec. 27 filing with the U.K. Intellectual Property Office.

In the “Classes and terms” section of the application, Samsung cites such developments as “Computer software for use as a cryptocurrency wallet; Computer software for cryptocurrency transfer and payment using blockchain technology; Computer application software for smartphones, namely, software to allow users to transfer cryptocurrency based on blockchain technology and pay via 3rd party’s application software.”

The application follows rumors — subsequently refuted by Samsung —  that the company has plans to include a cryptocurrency cold wallet on its Galaxy S10 smartphone. Samsung filed three European Union trademark applications for blockchain- and cryptocurrency- related software on Dec. 10.

Earlier in December, Cointelegraph reported that major smartphone manufacturer HTC integrated decentralized browser Brave on the HTC Exodus 1 phone, “the first native blockchain phone” with support for multiple blockchains, including Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) networks.

Last month, blockchain-focused electronics supplier SIRIN Labs launched its first blockchain-based smartphone called FINNEY. Based on both Android and SIRIN’s open-source operating system, SIRIN OS, the FINNEY phone offers a cold-storage crypto wallet and provides encrypted communications.

In October, Samsung’s production wing, Samsung Foundry, launched a new production process of its 7-nanometer (nm) Low Power Plus (7LPP) process node, which could reduce its energy consumption by up to 50 percent. The chip could purportedly have positive implications for crypto miners usings Samsung’s hardware, as energy costs prove to be a critical factor in the industry’s profitability.

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Japan is one of the largest crypto hubs across the globe. Along with the United States, it’s the only country that enforces some sort of licensing structure for companies looking to enter the crypto space, and as it turns out, most companies are looking to get a piece of that action.

According to Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA), approximately 190 new cryptocurrency firms are seeking entry to Japan’s digital asset market. Four months ago, that number stood at only 160, suggesting an increase of roughly 30 companies in a relatively short period.

Japan’s Crypto Scene Is Expanding

The FSA has issued a statement, explaining:

“Including preliminary consultation/ inquiries regarding registration, more than 190 operators are expressing their intention of market entry.”

This presents an interesting scenario in the sense that most companies are showing interest in being part of a legit enterprise. Japan’s FSA has sworn to become far more involved in the nation’s crypto arena following the Coincheck debacle that occurred last January. More than $500 million in crypto funds were stolen, and the exchange was widely criticized for its utilization of hot wallet over cold storage tactics.

The FSA then began working with Coincheck and competing exchanges to update their security protocols. The organization also began issuing warnings to exchanges advising them to cooperate with its new licensing structure and explaining that those who refused would face the possibility of shutdown.

There are roughly 16 licensed cryptocurrency exchanges in Japan including GMO Coin and SBI Virtual Currency. All cryptocurrency exchanges must register with the FSA before opening their doors for public trade.

The fact that Japan is being strict with crypto-based businesses and operations, yet so many companies want in suggests that these enterprises strongly desire regulation and a sense of legitimacy. Among the companies looking to perform crypto-related business in Japan are Yahoo!, Daiwa Securities Group, Money Forward Inc., Yamane Medical Corp., Avex Inc. and Samurai & J Partners.

The FSA Is Always Watching

In addition, the FSA has also given approval to Coincheck (following an extensive audit), Lastroots and Everybody’s Bitcoin as cryptocurrency dealers. This gives them and companies like them the opportunity to operate in Japan’s primary crypto sector while their applications are still under review.

Coincheck has slowly been reintroducing its services to customers after it was obtained by the Monex Group just a few months ago.

Are we likely to see other companies banging on Japan’s cryptocurrency doors? Post your thoughts and comments below.

This post is credited to livebitcoinnews

Blockchain could make its way into disaster relief operations from the United States Department of Defense, the organization revealed in a press release Dec. 21.

During a presentation hosted by the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) office in Philadelphia earlier this month, officials reviewed how blockchain technology could help emergencies responses.

Efforts to provide aid following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico were used as a case study.

“We think there’s a lot of potential [in blockchain],” CPI management analyst Elijah Londo commented, quoted in the press release:

“Where do we want to be as an organization in shaping and influencing where the [Department of Defense] goes with blockchain?”

The technological improvements would target centralized aspects of the current system, notably areas of logistics that depend on multiple centralized entities. Data sharing under such circumstances is an area ripe for innovation.

Also under review are “transaction processing and in-transit visibility of shipments.”

“This is where I can see where blockchain would have been a big help,” Construction and Equipment deputy director Marko Graham continued:

“Flowing [materiel [sic’ specifications and tracking data] from the manufacturer buying the raw materials to…getting the transportation and getting it on the barges.”

The broader U.S. defense setup has targeted blockchain’s benefits for several years, involving everything from blockchain workshops to a cryptographic chat platform.

This post is credited to cointelegraph

In a bid to accelerate its efficiency and productivity via blockchain technology, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), a Mumbai-based conglomerate holding firm that deals in petrochemicals, telecommunications. textiles and more, has invested $5 million into Vakt Holdings Limited, which is a U.K.-based distributed ledger technology (DLT) firm, reported VCCircle on December 24, 2018.

Energy Trading Company Adopts Blockchain Technology

Reliance Industries Limited is primarily focused on the exploration and production of oil and gas, but of recent, their attention has been drawn to blockchain technology.

This is evident in their 5.56 percent equity share in Vakt Holdings Limited which was bought at $5 million.

According to the Mumbai-based company, they aim to digitize their trading processes and also meet the trends in technology. Therefore, they have decided to employ a blockchain solution in their energy markets division to create an ecosystem that is secure and trusted.

While revealing the details of the said investment, RIL mentioned that regulations were not carried out before an agreement ensued between both parties.

Moreover, this is an investment that cannot be categorized under the “related party transactions.”

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Vakt, Formed by the Alliance of Reputable Companies

The U.K.-based startup, on the other hand, is a blockchain venture created in December 2017. It was formed as a result of an alliance with nine major energy companies and banks, including Shell, Statoil, Mercuria,  Societe Generale, and ABN Amro.

As per sources close to the matter, the DLT solution monitors the full life cycle of energy trading, as well a the manual processes of maintaining information on paper, as well as mitigating risks and fostering cost-efficiency.

Although Vakt is still in its development stages, there are plans that member companies will be among the first to gain access to it in 2019. These companies, as well as RIL, will be using it for the trading of oil and gas.

Reliance Jio Infocomm, an arm of Reliance Industries reportedly made it clear that they were also interested in modern technologies a few months ago.

A team was hired to look into the application of nascent technologies such as DLT, artificial intelligence  (AI), and machine learning.

On November 14, 2018, BTCManager reported that Shell and Equinor had sponsored a blockchain-based platform that is aimed at revolutionizing the oil and gas sector. In related news, on December 2, 2018, BTCManager informed the Vakt had been successfully launched, in a first of its kind occurrence for the oil and gas ecosystem.

Blockchain technology is primed to take over the automotive industry in the next three years. if senior executives in the sector are to be believed, reported Times of India on December 24, 2018.

Blockchain to Augment Business Processes

In a joint study conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value and Oxford Economics, researchers concluded 64 percent of surveyed executives working in the automotive sector believe blockchain and distributed computing systems will become a dominant force in the industry by 2021. The belief is centered on the technology’s potential to “strengthen trust and collaboration” between consumers, businesses, and IoT-enabled vehicles.

In addition, 54 percent of all executives think newer business models will be formulated to influence institutional investing in blockchain-focused companies, while over 50 percent of existing players implementing the technology within production frameworks would deploy their first commercial blockchain product by 2021.

Overall, the researchers interviewed 1,314 executives across ten functional areas in ten emerging and developed markets. The study added that maturation of blockchain networks, with existing and developing business frameworks, will ultimately provide companies with new revenue streams and customers with sophisticated services.

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The study added:

“By overcoming constraints of technical challenges of storing, processing, sharing and analyzing data, blockchain can shift information [paradigms] from error-prone to value-add. [Shared] information becomes a lifetime history of an asset (such as a vehicle) or transaction and is transparent to all.”

Information Friction and the Lack of Blockchain Awareness

As per opinion, executives note blockchain can provide deep insights into “information friction” faced by the automotive industry, with 55 percent of equipment manufacturers and 40 percent of suppliers feeling such risks can be vastly improved. Furthermore, 43 percent and 29 percent of both groups respectively believe a distributed ledger would increase the ability of participants to access information needed for crucial transactions.

Areas most affected by information friction include finance, supply chain, and mobility services; which all form vital functional areas in a business. Most surveyed individuals see blockchain technology as the answer to reducing the fallacy.

Meanwhile, collated data showed after sales services and quality tracking was the most in Germany, China, and Mexico; three highly-rated areas for original equipment manufacturing.

However, only a small number of executives displayed stated that their organization was “ready” for the commercial usage of blockchain technology. Lack of education and awareness of blockchain technology among executives was determined as the foremost reason for the slow development in deploying a distributed ledger-based product, while regulatory constraints formed the other major aspect.

This post is credited to btcmanager

Bank of America (BoA) wants to patent a system using blockchain technology to improve cash handling, a new application published Dec. 25 confirms.

Originally submitted in June 2017, the patent references “banking systems controlled by data bearing records.”

“Aspects of the disclosure relate to deploying, configuring, and utilizing cash handling devices to provide dynamic and adaptable operating functions,” its abstract reads.

BoA explains there remain communication difficulties in aspects of cash handling duties across banks’ huge operations, and suggests blockchain could help ease these.

“Cash handling devices may be used in operating centers and other locations to provide various functions, such as facilitating cash withdrawals and deposits,” the patent document continues.

“In many instances, however, it may be difficult to integrate such cash handling devices with technical infrastructure that supports banking operations and other operations while also optimizing the efficient and effective technical operations of the cash handling devices and various related computer systems.”

BoA has sought to step up its efforts to snag intellectual property in the blockchain sphere over the past two years.

In November, the bank was revealed to have the most such blockchain patents at more than 50, amid curiosity as to whether it would put all to use in the near term.

While keen on blockchain, BoA has adopted a highly risk-averse stance on cryptocurrency, becoming one of the few institutions to enact bans on associated fiat purchases by clients earlier this year.

This post is credited to cointelegraph

Crypto education is growing by the day, and now Seoul, South Korea has become the latest center for a degree in bitcoin.

The Seoul School of Integrated Sciences and Technologies – known as Assist – has announced that it will be offering a new master’s degree program devoted to both blockchain and cryptocurrencies. The degree will offer students educational courses in blockchain technology, crypto-economics, and token sourcing. The school is also claiming this degree program as the first MBA blockchain certification for any business graduate school.

Crypto Graduates Exit with Pride

An official announcement reads:

“The mission of Assist business school’s crypto MBA program is to remedy the lack of academic research and systematic education currently available in the industry, despite a high level of social interested in the blockchain and cryptocurrency.”

Assist has also stated that students interested in the degree program will be required to take specific courses dealing with bitcoin, Ethereum and EOS – three of the top five cryptocurrencies in existence today. Students will also be tested on general cryptology, deep learning, smart contracts capabilities and system dynamics mechanisms.

The crypto-economics division of the degree program will consist primarily of microeconomics, macroeconomics, theories on current financial trends, behavioral economics (to cover bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies’ price movements), game theory and mechanism designs.

Courses in management mechanisms, strategic statistics, digital marketing strategies, digital financial accounting, dApp planning, crypto funds and whitepaper composition (for students interested in creating their own altcoins or blockchain projects) must also be completed.

If anything, the degree sounds relatively demanding, though this isn’t the first university-accredited training offered on blockchain and crypto. New York University (NYU), for example, has been offering a course entitled “Law and Business of Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies” since the fall of 2014. Students who take the course are expected to compose a 15 to 20-page term paper on a crypto-based subject of their choosing to pass the class.

Other schools are taking things even further. Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is currently in the process of developing its own cryptocurrency. It also offers two separate blockchain courses entitled “Blockchain Fundamentals” and “Cryptocurrencies, Blockchains and Applications.”

South Korea’s Crypto History

South Korea has had something of a mixed relationship with cryptocurrencies throughout 2018. South Korea was (and still is) a major crypto and blockchain hub, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the world’s crypto transactions at one point.

Unfortunately, fundraising methods such as initial coin offerings (ICOs) are banned within the country thanks, in part, to ongoing fraudulent activity and the thieving of investor funds. The nation has also been criticized in the past for its overall lack of digital asset regulation as of late.

Is this a degree program you’d want to be a part of? Post your comments below.

This post is credited to livebitcoinnews

Scrypt-based crypto asset Flash is releasing a new “human ATM” functionality in regions of Africa and South America that have seen their national fiat currencies fall victim to inflation. The function will provide peer-to-peer trading in countries like Venezuela that have little to no access to traditional banking services and must instead rely on cryptocurrencies to provide for their people.

Human ATM is available through Flash’s mobile wallet. In addition, Flash offers applications that allow customers to house multiple cryptocurrencies from bitcoin and Litecoin to Dash and Ethereum. At press time, as many as 800 different merchants throughout Africa will adopt Flash in the coming months, according to the company’s marketing director James Hinton.

Providing Crypto to Everyone Who Needs It

The human ATM feature allows customers to load maps of individuals offering in-person trades via their mobile phones. People can purchase or sell their cryptocurrencies in person, then have the units transferred to phone-specific wallets. The service will allegedly give all users in countries like Venezuela 24-7 access to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether.

At the time of writing, Flash is supported by several small cryptocurrency exchanges, though it has garnered the attention of larger ventures like the Einstein Exchange in Canada. The currency also boasts over 600,000 active addresses around the world.

Flash was built with the unbanked in mind, though other applications offer similar features. As Flash allows one to keep multiple forms of crypto, Coindex allows users to keep track of their full crypto portfolios. The platform provides mobile users with a dashboard that combines all their wallets into one space, so they can see the progress of their crypto investments and better understand their financial gains. Users can also pre-select specific coins they’re potentially interested in to see how their prices are performing.

Lastly, the application also informs users of any forthcoming or ongoing initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Connecting Crypto to the World

In a related story, Flash has also announced a recent partnership with Crowdforce, based in the African nation of Seychelles.

Crowdforce provides cryptocurrency-based payment options to over 8,000 separate vendors, meaning all registered companies have the option of providing Flashcoin payments to their employees.

Is the human ATM a feature you would use? Why or why not? Post your comments below.

This post is credited to livebitcoinnews

Brazil’s Itaú Unibanco Holding bank and Standard Chartered have successfully concluded the development and testing of Latin America’s first blockchain-based proof of concept for loans, ZDNet reported on December 11, 2018.

Latin America Gets Its First Blockchain-Based Loan Platform

It seems that the bear market that has persisted in the crypto industry since the November 2018 has not affected the broader blockchain industry, as companies across the world are racing to implement the revolutionary technology to their business.

Brazil’s largest private bank, Itaú Unibanco Holding, is one of those companies. The bank has partnered with U.K.-based Standard Chartered bank to create a blockchain-based platform that will be used to issue small loans.

The banks announced the joint venture on December 4, 2018, and joined Wells Fargo to issue a club loan of $100 million to test the platform. Ricardo Nuno, Itaú’s treasury managing director, told Reuters that banks negotiated all the loan terms through the blockchain-based platform, but did not transfer the money.

And now, the banks have announced the completion of development and testing of the platform, which could see the first loans issued as soon as 2019.

According to ZDNet, proof of concept was carried out using R3’s Corda Connect open source platform and aimed at simplifying the process underpinning syndicated loans. Commerzbank, a German banking and financial services company, Natixis, a French corporate investment bank, and Netherland’s Rabobank all participated in the transaction, Finextra reported.

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(Source: Fortune)

New Platform Could Revolutionize the Way Banks Issue Loans

All participants of the project were able to monitor loan agreement revisions, comments, and sequence approvals in a secure and transparent format, completely free of paper, ZDNet said. Nuno, who said Itaú was also considering using the platform for client loans, told Reuters that the platform helped the banks cut legal costs and reduced the number of messages exchanged between the parties, which often amounts to over 2,000 emails.

As the entire process is conducted on a blockchain, the sequences of all the changes are preserved, which enables participants of the transactions to track and audit the changes that could lead to deal closure.

Marnix Bruning, head of money market & central bank sales at ING, one of the banks that participated in the test, told Finextra that the project marks the start of building an improved DLT platform that enables direct settlement and reduces operational risk and costs at the same time, which could revolutionize the way banks operate.

This is also not the first time international banking groups have looked into blockchain to improve the process of loan issuance. Back in October 2017, seven major global banks partnered with Finestra and R3 to test out a blockchain-based marketplace for syndicated loans. The banks included BNP Paribas, BNY Mellon, HSBC, and ING.

This post is credited to btcmanager