Posted In:Blockchain Archives - AppFerret

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Is the Bitcoin network an oligarchy?

2018-07-03 - By 

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin can be analysed because every transaction is traceable. This means that they are an attractive system for physicists to study.

In a paper published in The European Physical Journal B, Leonardo Ermann from the National Commission for Atomic Energy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and colleagues from the University of Toulouse, France, have examined the  of the Bitcoin-owner community by looking at the transactions of this cryptocurrency between 2009 and 2013. The team’s findings reveal that Bitcoin owners are close to an oligarchy with hidden communities whose members are highly interconnected. This research has implications for our understanding of these emerging cryptocurrency communities in our society—as usual bank transactions are typically deeply hidden from the public eye. They could also be helpful to computer scientists, economists and politicians who could better understand handle them.

As part of their study, the authors construct a blueprint of this —the so-called Google matrix. It helps them calculate key characteristics of the network, such as PageRank—known for underlining the Google search engine—which highlights the influence of ingoing transactions between individual Bitcoin owners. The author also rely on CheiRank, which highlights the influence of outgoing transactions between owners.

Based on such data, they identify an unusual circle-type structure within the range of transactions between Bitcoins owners. Until now, such a structure has never been reported for real networks. This means that there are hidden communities of nodes linking the currency owners through a long series of transactions.

Based on another characteristic of the network of transactions, the authors have also found that the main portion of the network’s wealth is distributed between a small fraction of users.

Original article here.


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35 Amazing Examples Of How Blockchain Is Changing Our World

2018-02-13 - By 

It’s quickly becoming apparent that blockchain technology is about far more that just Bitcoin. Across finance, healthcare, media, government and other sectors, innovative uses are appearing every day.

Here is a list of 35 which I have come across. While some may fail to live up to their promises, others could go on to become household names if blockchain proves itself to be as revolutionary as many are predicting.

Cyber security

Guardtime – This company is creating “keyless” signature systems using blockchain which is currently used to secure the health records of one million Estonian citizens.

REMME is a decetralized authentication system which aims to replace logins and passwords with SSL certificates stored on a blockchain.

Healthcare

Gem – This startup is working with the Centre for Disease Control to put disease outbreak data onto a blockchain which it says will increase effectiveness of disaster relief and response.

SimplyVital Health – Has two health-related blockchain products in development, ConnectingCare which tracks the progress of patients after they leave hospital, and Health Nexus, which aims to provide decentralized blockchain patient records.

MedRec – An MIT project involving blockchain electronic medical records designed to manage authentication, confidentiality and data sharing.

Financial services

ABRA – A cryptocurrency wallet which uses the Bitcoin blockchain to hold and track balances stored in different currencies.

Bank Hapoalim – A collaboration between the Israeli bank and Microsoft to create a blockchain system for managing bank guarantees.

Barclays – Barclays has launched a number of blockchain initiatives involving tracking financial transactions, compliance and combating fraud. It states that “Our belief …is that blockchain is a fundamental part of the new operating system for the planet.”

Maersk – The shipping and transport consortium has unveiled plans for a blockchain solution for streamlining marine insurance.

Aeternity – Allows the creation of smart contracts which become active when network consensus agrees that conditions have been met – allowing for automated payments to be made when parties agree that conditions have been met, for example.

Augur – Allows the creation of blockchain-based predictions markets for trading of derivatives and other financial instruments in a decetralized ecosystem

Manufacturing and industrial

Provenance – This project aims to provide a blockchain-based provenance record of transparency within supply chains.

Jiocoin – India’s biggest conglomerate, Reliance Industries, has said that it is developing a blockchain-based supply chain logistics platform along with its own cryptocurrency, Jiocoin.

Hijro – Previously known as Fluent, aims to create a blockchain framework for collaborating on prototyping and proof-of-concept.

SKUChain – Another blockchain system for allowing tracking and tracing of goods as they pass through a supply chain.

Blockverify – A blockchain platform which focuses on anti-counterfeit measures, with initial use cases in the diamond, pharmaceuticals and luxury goods markets.

Transactivgrid – A business-led community project based in Brooklyn allowing members to locally produce and cell energy, with the goal of reducing costs involved in energy distribution.

STORJ.io – Distributed and encrypted cloud storage, which allows users to share unused hard drive space.

Government

Dubai – Dubai has set sights on becoming the world’s first blockchain-powered state. In 2016 representatives of 30 government departments formed a committee dedicated to investigating opportunities across health records, shipping, business registration and preventing the spread of conflict diamonds.

Estonia – The Estonian government has partnered with Ericsson on an initiative involving creating a new data center to move public records onto the blockchain. 20

South Korea – Samsung is creating blockchain solutions for the South Korean government which will be put to use in public safety and transport applications.

Govcoin – The UK Department of Work and Pensions is investigating using blockchain technology to record and administer benefit payments.

Democracy.earth – This is an open-source project aiming to enable the creation of democratically structured organizations, and potentially even states or nations, using blockchain tools.

Followmyvote.com – Allows the creation of secure, transparent voting systems, reducing opportunities for voter fraud and increasing turnout through improved accessibility to democracy.

Charity

Bitgive – This service aims to provide greater transparency to charity donations, and clearer links between giving and project outcomes. It is working with established charities including Save The Children, The Water Project and Medic Mobile.

Retail

OpenBazaar – OpenBazaar is an attempt to build a decentralized market where goods and services can be traded with no middle-man.

Loyyal – This is a blockchain-based universal loyalty framework, which aims to allow consumers to combine and trade loyalty rewards in new ways, and retailers to offer more sophisticated loyalty packages.

Blockpoint.io – Allows retailers to build payment systems around blockchain currencies such as Bitcoin, as well as blockchain derived gift cards and loyalty schemes.

Real Estate

Ubiquity – This startup is creating a blockchain-driven system for tracking the complicated legal process which creates friction and expense in real estate transfer.

Transport and Tourism

IBM Blockchain Solutions – IBM has said it will go public with a number of non-finance related blockchain initiatives with global partners in 2018. This video envisages how efficiencies could be driven in the vehicle leasing industry.

Arcade City – An application which aims to beat Uber at their own game by moving ride sharing and car hiring onto the blockchain.

La’Zooz – A community-owned platform for synchronizing empty seats with passengers in need of a lift in real-time.

Webjet – The online travel portal is developing a blockchain solution to allow stock of empty hotel rooms to be efficiently tracked and traded , with payment fairly routed to the network of middle-men sites involved in filling last-minute vacancies.

Media

Kodak – Kodak recently sent its stock soaring after announcing that it is developing a blockchain system for tracking intellectual property rights and payments to photographers.

Ujomusic – Founded by singer songwriter Imogen Heap to record and track royalties for musicians, as well as allowing them to create a record of ownership of their work.

It is exiting to see all these developments. I am sure not all of these will make it into successful long-term ventures but if they indicate one thing, then it is the vast potential the blockchain technology is offering.

Original article here.

 


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These Smart Banknotes Could Bring Crypto To The Masses

2018-01-30 - By 

2017 saw cryptocurrencies take us by storm; bitcoin’s meteoric rise woke the world up to the possibilities of distributed ledgers and their potential impact. It sent investors into a flurry of speculation and FOMO. At one point the digital currency surged more than 1,900%. All the talk has even got Wall Street dipping their toes in. It seems crypto is no longer considered an ephemeral rush and the technology behind it, blockchain, is proving as profoundly revolutionary as the internet was and is.

Every successful technology navigates a Cambrian era of growth before it figures out what it’s best used for. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies are arguably in their one-size fits all stage. The issue being one-size never fits all. What of the sceptic, the technically unsophisticated, the conservative, the one sitting on the fence? How do we get crypto to them? People love crypto because it’s a decentralised trust-less system that needs no middleman — it allows digital exchange of value using existing computing power. That’s great! But managing private keys and buying and selling crypto is complex; you need to open an account on an exchange, get a wallet, manage keys and passwords. In most countries you need to pass lengthly and complex Know Your Customer hurdles. There’s just so much friction involved; a transaction takes a long time, uses a lot of energy and involves a lot of risk (bitcoin is very easy to lose). The sceptic or the average Joe just isn’t going to bother. Would not something tangible, accessible, easy to grasp and less of an illusion be so much easier? Like a physical crypto bank note? Why not allow the masses to skip this digital cash metaphor and revert to something simpler, almost reminiscent of China’s easily receivable Hong Bao (红包). Here I chat with Andrew Pantyukhin, Co-Founder at Tangem, who is changing this paradigm and bringing physical crypto to the masses.

What does Tangem do?

Tangem is the first physical manifestation of digital assets. We are the first real physical bitcoin — the first tangible bitcoin. Tangem notes are smart banknotes with a special chip that carries cryptocurrencies or any other digital assets. With these banknotes you can conduct physical crypto transactions by just handing them over or receiving them. Unlike using crypto currency online, physical transactions are immediate, free, anonymous and there are no fees. They are truly decentralized, meaning it will never be restricted by technological limitations.

Where can you get them?

You will be able to get them all over the world, from corner stores, retail chains, special ATMs, or people that already have them. You use them exactly like cash, but it’s not fiat currency backed by a government, it’s crypto!

Why did you create Tangem?

It’s like champagne — it was a bit of an accident! We have one of the most unique microelectronics teams in the world that can program secure elements natively — it’s a very rare set of skills. When cryptocurrencies started gaining traction around 2014— 2015, we started researching what we could do in this field and how we could apply ourselves. We thought about smart cards that would carry value but it was impractical at the time. The chips were too slow, lacked elliptic cryptography support, were too insecure, or too power hungry, or prohibitively bulky and expensive.
Because of our microelectronics exposure we had good working relationships with all major chipset vendors in the world like NXP, Samsung and Infineon. At one point when we were talking to one of them, trying to implement cryptocurrencies on smart cards, they told us that they had on their unannounced roadmap a chip family that would do everything we needed at a great yield and price point. We got relevant information and specs of the chip, and samples months before anyone else in the market. Now there are several such chips in the market and we became the first major client and use case for them in the world.

Why is it possible now?

In 2017 we saw a minor breakthrough in chip technology. Historically we had two directions in embedded chips: one that was super secure, designed to be «unhackable» — the so called «Secure Element», and the other that was powerful and versatile enough to handle elliptic curve cryptography and complex calculations. Last year certain types of secure elements gained support for advanced cryptography, embedded flash memory, while achieving even higher levels of security certifications, lower power consumption and incredible affordability. Even the 65 nanometer variants are extremely thin, small and physically resilient.

Why are these smart banknotes considered unhackable?

It makes the cost of hacking a single banknote uneconomical that it’s not worth doing it. Moreover, hacking a single banknote doesn’t give you access to other banknotes.

The tamper-proof chip technology has been developed and continuously improved for decades for military and government applications — like identification and access control, or for the financial services and telecom industry, recent credit cards and SIM cards. The technology addresses all known attack vectors on hardware and software levels.

Why does the world need a smart banknote when everything is digital?

It’s really very simple. Crypto is still very difficult to use; it requires a steep learning curve. The users have to go through so many steps that are complex and tiresome. With a physical bank note all you need is the bank note and there is no need to learn or know anything about crypto currency. Everyone knows how cash works. We don’t need to teach you anything. Plus everyone knows how to keep things physically safe — you don’t need highly sophisticated digital skills.

What’s the market size?

Today we believe there are only around five million people actively trading and using cryptocurrencies, i.e. having over 100 dollars in crypto and most likely 20 million wallets. The global awareness of cryptocurrencies is about a billion people today. We believe the demand will come from that one billion and that’s the market we are going after. That’s the current demand and it will grow quickly to seven billion once we remove the barriers to use.

Besides cryptocurrencies what are the other applications?

We are still treating cryptocurrencies with our perception of fiat currencies; controlled, centralised and tied to GDP. What we don’t yet appreciate is what happens when anyone can release their own private, regional, industrial, corporate currencies at almost no cost and circulate them infinitely throughout their employees, partners, customers — that would qualitatively change everything we know about currencies, economics and monetary mechanics. I think that’s the most interesting effect we are going to see.

So it’s not just about existing money, the whole definition and perception of cash is going to change once we drop the cost of introducing a new currency to almost zero.

Of course, we are also thinking about going after other segments. These chips are super secure, they can be used for government identification or commercially issued identification. They could be used for loyalty cards, gift cards, ticketing, any applications that require digital proof of something physical, or physical proof of digital assets. We are a new way of tying the physical and digital together, which has never been done before. Inherently we treat digital as easily copiable and this technology guarantees it cannot be copied. That again has never been possible or practical before.

On that note, is there anyone else that is doing what you are doing or similar to what you are doing?

The set of technologies we use is emerging and will be available to everyone in the coming years. We were very lucky to have most of the required software stack and talent even before the latest advances became available. So we could just divert our engineering resources to the new project. That was extremely lucky. It took us altogether about three years to develop that software stack and expertise — it would take a minimum of one to two years for a competitor with unlimited funds to get to the same level of functionality and security. Obviously, by the time they get there we hope to be light years ahead.

How expensive is it?

Current production cost for us is under $2 per item — we’re making millions of units now. When scaling it to billions of units it will be in the same ballpark as modern paper bank notes. It’s a no brainer for most governments to switch their legal tenders to this tech in the future. One of our long term goals is to extend the national blockchains that certain governments are developing to their physical currencies.

Finally, what’s the next goal for Tangem? We’ve developed the technology to grow cryptocurrencies to the first billion people, now it’s also up to us to develop distribution and commercial partnerships to physically get this technology in the hands of billions of people around the world.

Original article here.

 

 


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100 cryptocurrencies described in four words or less

2017-11-20 - By 

This list describes cryptocurrencies. Each gets four words. There are many.

Some are landmarks. Some are scams.

Hopefully this provides orientation.

Name            | Sym.  | Description                              
----------------|-------|------------------------------------------
Bitcoin         | BTC   | Digital gold                             
Ethereum        | ETH   | Programmable contracts and money         
Bitcoin Cash    | BCH   | Bitcoin clone                            
Ripple          | XRP   | Enterprise payment settlement network    
Litecoin        | LTC   | Faster Bitcoin                           
Dash            | DASH  | Privacy-focused Bitcoin clone            
NEO             | NEO   | Chinese-market Ethereum                  
NEM             | XEM   | Batteries-included digital assets        
Monero          | XMR   | Private digital cash                     
Ethereum Classic| ETC   | Ethereum clone                           
IOTA            | MIOTA | Internet-of-things payments              
Qtum            | QTUM  | Ethereum contracts on Bitcoin            
OmiseGO         | OMG   | Banking, remittance, and exchange        
Zcash           | ZEC   | Private digital cash                     
BitConnect      | BCC   | Madoff-like investment fund              
Lisk            | LSK   | Decentralized applications in JavaScript 
Cardano         | ADA   | Layered currency and contracts           
Tether          | USDT  | Price = 1 USD                            
Stellar Lumens  | XLM   | Digital IOUs                             
EOS             | EOS   | Decentralized applications on WebAssembly
Hshare          | HSR   | Blockchain switchboard                   
Waves           | WAVES | Decentralized exchange and crowdfunding  
Stratis         | STRAT | Decentralized applications in C#         
Komodo          | KMD   | Decentralized ICOs                       
Ark             | ARK   | Blockchain switchboard                   
Electroneum     | ETN   | Monero clone                             
Bytecoin        | BCN   | Privacy-focused cryptocurrency           
Steem           | STEEM | Reddit with money voting                 
Ardor           | ARDR  | Blockchain for spawning blockchains      
Binance Coin    | BNB   | Pay Binance exchange fees                
Augur           | REP   | Decentralized prediction market          
Populous        | PPT   | Invoice trading futures                  
Decred          | DCR   | Bitcoin with alternative governance      
TenX            | PAY   | Cryptocurrency credit card               
MaidSafeCoin    | MAID  | Rent disk space                          
BitcoinDark     | BTCD  | Zcoin close                              
BitShares       | BTS   | Decentralized exchange                   
Golem           | GNT   | Rent other people's computers            
PIVX            | PIVX  | Inflationary Dash clone                  
Gas             | GAS   | Pay fees on Neo                          
TRON            | TRX   | In-app-purchases                         
Vertcoin        | VTC   | Bitcoin clone                            
MonaCoin        | MONA  | Japanese Dogecoin                        
Factom          | FCT   | Decentralized record keeping             
Basic Attention | BAT   | Decentralized ad network                 
SALT            | SALT  | Cryptocurrency-backed loans              
Kyber Network   | KNC   | Decentralized exchange                   
Dogecoin        | DOGE  | Serious meme bitcoin clone               
DigixDAO        | DGD   | Organisation manages tokenized gold      
Veritaseum      | VERI  | Vaporware                                
Walton          | WTC   | IoT Blockchain                           
SingularDTV     | SNGLS | Decentralized Netflix                    
Bytom           | BTM   | Physical assets as tokens                
Byteball Bytes  | GBYTE | Decentralized database and currency      
GameCredits     | GAME  | Video game currency                      
Metaverse ETP   | ETP   | Chinese Ethereum plus identity           
GXShares        | GXS   | Decentralized Chinese Equifax            
Syscoin         | SYS   | Decentralized marketplace                
Siacoin         | SC    | Rent disk space                          
Status          | SNT   | Decentralized application browser        
0x              | ZRX   | Decentralized exchange                   
Verge           | XVG   | Privacy Dogecoin                         
Lykke           | LKK   | Digital asset exchange                   
Civic           | CVC   | Identity and Authentication App          
Blocknet        | BLOCK | Decentralized exchange                   
Metal           | MTL   | Payments with rewards program            
Iconomi         | ICN   | Digital asset investment funds           
Aeternity       | AE    | Decentralized apps (prototype)           
DigiByte        | DGB   | Faster Bitcoin                           
Bancor          | BNT   | Token Index Funds                        
Ripio Credit    | RCN   | Co-signed Cryptocurrency Loans           
ATMChain        | ATM   | Advertising network                      
Gnosis          | GNO   | Decentralized prediction market          
VeChain         | VEN   | Supply chain item IDs                    
Pura            | PURA  | Cryptocurrency                           
Particl         | PART  | Privacy marketplace and chat             
KuCoin Shares   | KCS   | Profit-sharing exchange fees             
Bitquence       | BQX   | Mint for cryptocurrency investments      
FunFair         | FUN   | Decentralized casino                     
ChainLink       | LINK  | External data for contracts              
Power Ledger    | POWR  | Airbnb for electricity                   
Nxt             | NXT   | Cryptocurrency and marketplace           
Monaco          | MCO   | Cryptocurrency credit card               
Cryptonex       | CNX   | Zerocoin clone                           
MCAP            | MCAP  | Mining investment fund                   
Storj           | STORJ | Rent disk space                          
ZenCash         | ZEN   | Privacy-focused Bitcoin clone            
Nexus           | NXS   | Bitcoin clone                            
Neblio          | NEBL  | Decentralized application platform       
Zeusshield      | ZSC   | Decentralized insurance                  
Streamr DATAcoin| DATA  | Real-time data marketplace               
ZCoin           | XZC   | Private digital cash                     
NAV Coin        | NAV   | Bitcoin with private transactions        
AdEx            | ADX   | Advertising exchange                     
Open Trading    | OTN   | Decentralized exchange                   
SmartCash       | SMART | Zcoin clone with rewards                 
Bitdeal         | BDL   | Bitcoin clone                            
Loopring        | LRC   | Decentralized exchange                   
Edgeless        | EDG   | Decentralized casino                     
FairCoin        | FAIR  | Bitcoin that rewards savers

Coin ranking from coinmarketcap.com.

Inspired by Greg Wilson.

Original article here.


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How blockchain could soon affect everyday lives

2017-04-03 - By 

Could 2017 be the year of blockchain, when the digital transaction system breaks free from computer geeks, bitcoin enthusiasts and academics to make an impact on ordinary households?

Blockchain is e-banking on a vast scale, minus the bank and other middlemen who take charge fees for making payments. It’s a digital scorecard of payments, contracts, property ownership, health records – in fact any data of economic value. It promises to put individuals in control of their own personal information and keep it safe from exploitation or fraud.

Here are five Swiss companies developing blockchain services that could have an impact on your daily lives sometime soon.

Health records

Everyone has medical records, and many people are adding personalised health information via wearables and apps that measure everything from your heart rate, blood sugar levels and how many steps you take each day. But how do you make this mountain of data work for you rather than companies who make a buck distributing it to advertisers and the health industry?

The ’world’s first citizen-owned medical data storage platform’, Healthbankexternal link, says it has the answer. The Healthbank cooperative allows people to store their data in a secure zone that only they can access. Users can later choose to make money from their data by connecting via the platform with medical research projects, online prescription services and other commercial ventures.

Healthbank currently runs on a centralised platform, but chief executive Reto Schegg sees great potential for rolling out the service on blockchain. Schegg is particularly excited about blockchain’s suitability for digital smart contracts should users wish, for example, to take out health insurance. It would also be conceivable to see a new digital currency aimed specifically at the health market in future, Schegg added.

Hence, Healthbank is actively exploring options to tap into blockchain – a system tailor made for such technological advances.

Legal contracts

Many companies and individuals are wasting money by asking expensive lawyers to draw up simple legal documents, according to Antoine Verdon. So he co-founded the LegalHubexternal link platform that offers the advice and tools that people need to draft their own contracts – at a reduced cost.

The service includes smart contracts, digital legal papers that are drawn up, stored and executed online. This is where blockchain comes in – not just for storage or distribution, but principally for security.

Each piece of data, including smart contracts, that is encoded and deposited on blockchain is also recorded on the ledger. If someone tampers with the contract, or ties to duplicate it without authorisation, the system will notice – and so will its users. This is why blockchain is so suitable for bitcoins. By recording the precise number of currency units that are added to the ledger, it becomes impossible to copy bitcoins without drawing attention.

Verdon believes it will soon be normal practice for people to draw up their own smart contracts when renting out an apartment. Likewise, it will also be possible for renters to automatically get back their deposits once they meet the terms of the contract on handover – all without the need for banks.

e-voting

On blockchain, votes can be ‘transacted’ just as easily as digital currencies, such a bitcoin. Each voter gets a digital identity, joins the network and registers their preferred option in an election or referendum. That vote is recorded and added to a chain of blocks in the system.

Voting can be performed on a smartphone or other device, making it easy to register votes at any time and at any place in the world – provided you have an authorised digital signature. So no more queuing for the ballot box at the local school with a slip of paper or showing up at the town square for a show of hands.

Swiss start-up Procivisexternal link promises to provide an essential link in any future blockchain e-voting system. Procivis is a platform that checks and manages digital identities – a secure gateway that allows registered voters to enter the e-voting system whilst preventing fraud. As yet, Swiss e-voting is in its infancy and at a largely experimental phase.

Once the government establishes a nationwide eID system, Procivis founder Daniel Gasteiger believes his platform will be well placed to offer a wide variety of blockchain services, from e-voting to paying car parking fees without having to find the right change for a meter.

Logistics/inspection

The tamper-proof qualities of blockchain has also attracted the attention of start-up Modumexternal link, which together with the University of Zurich has designed a system to ensure the safe delivery of pharmaceutical drugs.

Medicaments often need to be transported under exacting temperature, humidity and light conditions to make sure they remain usable when they arrive at the doctor’s surgery. Modum’s sensors can constantly measure the temperature conditions on batches of drugs in transport.

There are many such sensory systems in the world, but Modum is using blockchain to tackle the related problem of how to store such data and make sure it gets to the right person at the right time. Under the present system, cargoes can pass through many hands, involving a lot of paperwork that can be tampered with, according to Modum’s Marc Degen.

Blockchain would indelibly record any alterations to data and identify more easily at which point a cargo got damaged, he said. It could also be used to automatically trigger smart contracts, such as due payments and insurance clauses to cover damaged goods.

Gaming

Geneva-based gaming company EverdreamSoftexternal link has established Project Orb, which stands for ‘ownership revolution of the blockchain’. Their blockchain gaming platform will provide players with a gaming wallet to exchange cards and BitCrystal tokens to be used in games such as Spells of Genesis – billed as “the first blockchain-based mobile game”.

Players have to trade or buy cards containing assets that will protect the Askian region on the world of Moonga from marauding monsters. Already launched as a soft version, Spells of Genesis will soon give players the opportunity of trading cards via blockchain.

EverdreamSoft says it is “pioneering ‘true ownership’ of digital assets” and a platform that will allow “more game studios to embrace blockchain technology and to enter a new age for the game industry”.

swissinfo.ch

Original article here.


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Blockchain Will Transform Customer Loyalty Programs

2017-03-16 - By 

Loyalty programs have proliferated across travel, retail, financial services, and other economic sectors. The average U.S. household participates in 29 different loyalty programs, according to the 2015 Colloquy Loyalty Census. The result is a maze of point systems and redemption options, with cumbersome processes for exchanging points among program partners. Loyalty programs are ripe for some kind of disruptive innovation that would make them easier to use.

Blockchain may just be the answer. Best known as the technology behind bitcoin, blockchain enables a ledger of transactions to be shared across a network of participants. When a new digital transaction occurs (for example, a loyalty point is issued, redeemed, or exchanged), a unique algorithm-generated token is created and assigned to that transaction. Tokens are grouped into blocks (for example, every 10 minutes) and distributed across the network, updating every ledger at once. New transaction blocks are validated and linked to older blocks, creating a strong, secure, and verifiable record of all transactions, without the need for intermediaries or centralized databases.

For consumers juggling an array of loyalty programs, blockchain could provide instant redemption and exchange for multiple loyalty point currencies on a single platform. With only one “wallet” for points, consumers would not have to hunt for each program’s options, limitations, and redemption rules.

All loyalty programs are vulnerable to a blockchain revolution, but the travel industry is perhaps the most at risk. Travel loyalty programs tend to be complex and multicurrency, making them different from retailers, which typically run simple discount programs, or from banks, which offer cash back or a single currency that can be spent easily across a range of merchants. In some cases, travel loyalty program points differ by journey component (flight, car rental, hotel, dining), leading to fragmented point collections.  While estimates vary widely, we estimate that the typical “breakage” rate (meaning the share of points not redeemed) is about 10%–20%. Plus, it can be difficult for the average person to accumulate enough points to earn a meaningful reward.

The Benefits of Disruption

Many industries have experienced disruption, due to technologies that successfully reduced inefficiencies and frictions, often disintermediating established players in the process. Large travel companies, such as airlines and hotel chains, know this from painful experience: They pay billions of dollars in commissions each year to Priceline, Expedia, and other online travel agencies (OTAs), which have transformed how consumers book flights, hotels, and rental cars. Blockchain-based loyalty platforms could be another such disruption.

Both small startups and large-scale technology companies are eyeing the possibilities this presents, and some are teaming up. IBM, for example, is partnering with startup Loyyal to develop blockchain infrastructure for loyalty and rewards programs. Travel companies with loyalty programs, whether stand-alone or part of a larger alliance, will have to figure out how to respond.

Early adopters could benefit considerably. First, blockchain could help relieve a large balance-sheet liability that many in the industry are facing. Loyalty programs have long relied on cobranded cards and partnerships to sell points and generate incremental revenue. But the number of airline seats and hotel rooms available for redemption in recent years has been limited by near-record occupancy and load factors. The result has been a growing volume of unredeemed points, which new accounting standards have turned into a headache: Revenue attributable to the value of loyalty points must be deferred until the miles are redeemed.

Adopting blockchain would enable companies to rapidly add and maintain loyalty partnerships without adding complexity to their programs. A robust, frictionless partner network could mean many more redemption options outside of the core travel product, thereby creating a much-needed release valve for these growing balance-sheet pressures.

Second, blockchain would enable businesses to break out of the loyalty program mold of narrowly defined, one-size-fits-all programs and redemption processes filled with customer hassles. Consumers increasingly expect personalized (not merely segmented) travel offerings and digitally enabled one-stop services; the growth of OTAs is in part a testament to that. Blockchain would allow both large and local partners to be added seamlessly, making the crafting of on-trend offers much easier, while virtually eliminating the back-end irritations of point redemption.

 

Caveats for Adoption

What shape are blockchain-based loyalty networks likely to take? Initially, each loyalty program might look to develop its own solution, but over time smaller loyalty programs might choose to band together to compete more effectively with larger ones. Ultimately, we expect to see the development of four to six blockchain-based loyalty networks, each anchored by a major airline, a major hotel chain, or a group of smaller travel companies. Options for building and maintaining the blockchain platform could include a joint venture with technology partners or with network providers such as banks or payment card processors.

Of course, the introduction of one or more blockchain platforms unifying multiple loyalty programs could pose a number of risks. Such platforms would add a transaction layer between consumers and program operators and merchants, likely generating a small per-transaction cost, which could grow over time, much like OTA fees. Customer data, a loyalty program’s most valuable asset, could become available to other network participants, even competitors. Currency devaluation is another risk in what is essentially an open marketplace for points trading.

To reduce these risks and avoid having their loyalty programs become commoditized, travel companies should get in on the ground floor of blockchain platform development. Participating in the initial structuring of commercial agreements and partnerships will be essential to protecting critical loyalty program components, including currency value, customer data and relationships, and transaction costs.

For any travel company considering an investment in blockchain, a few rules will be essential. First, they will want to participate in defining how currency is exchanged between programs — that is, how currency exchange rates are set, and any transferability rules. Second, they should seek to maintain exclusive control over their data, ensuring that only loyalty points, and not associated customer information, enter the transaction stream. Third, they should require guarantees that the platform is and will remain unbiased. Otherwise, traditional travel intermediary tools, such as paid search placements and exclusive promotions, could force companies into pay-to-play arrangements to ensure competitors don’t gain an advantage.

Travel companies, such as airlines and hotel chains, recognized too late the power of OTAs to disrupt the industry, and have been paying for that misstep ever since. The nascent state of blockchain for loyalty programs offers an opportunity to realize the value of disruption and shape its future impacts — if travel companies don’t wait too long.

Original article here.


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How Does Bitcoin Work? (video)

2017-03-12 - By 

We have all heard of Bitcoin.  This video gives a more technical explanation of how Bitcoin works. Want more? Check out my new in-depth course on the latest in Bitcoin, Blockchain, and a survey of the most exciting projects coming out (Ethereum, etc): https://app.pluralsight.com/library/c…
Lots of demos on how to buy, send, store (hardware, paper wallet). how to use javascript to send bitcoin. How to create Ethereum Smart Contract, much more.

Shorter 5 min introduction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5JGQ…

Written version: http://www.imponderablethings.com/201…

My Bitcoin address: 13v8NB9ScRa21JDi86GmnZ5d8Z4CjhZMEd

Arabic translation by Ahmad Alloush

Spanish caption translation by Borja Rodrigo, zordycorak@gmail.com, DFJWgXdBCoQqo4noF4fyVhVp8R6V62XdJx

Russian caption translation by Alexandra Miklyukova

.Original video here.

 

 


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The Cloud is at the Heart of Building the Blockchain of Success

2017-02-01 - By 

Blockchain is the new buzzword on the block; and while many business leaders, managers, developers and IT departments are Googling it and left scratching their heads, others are wising up to it, are realising how brilliant it is, and are recognising the opportunity it’s going to bring and the potential impact it will have.

If we put aside the tech behind it and focus on what it can do, it’s actually capable of disrupting many industries and bringing new innovations not only into finance, but also property, automotive, music, trading and healthcare.

To make it easier to understand what blockchain can bring to businesses, think about how a Google Doc enables people to access and make updates in real time. No need to save over and send new files to all and sundry, as the next time someone opens the doc it will be the most up to date as the file automatically keeps a record of who made which changes and when, as that digital address is native to the cloud, not the local hard drive. Google Docs is to Microsoft Word what blockchain is to a traditional ledger system.

Startups and large corporations are working together to figure out how this ‘shared ledger’ concept can benefit their businesses. And this concept of data retention is at the heart of cloud-based technology.

Cloud technologies are the forerunners to blockchain and developers and designers who are creating new innovations in this space, should keep an eye on blockchain opportunities too. Private blockchain networks can run in secure cloud environments and we have witnessed test collaborations between Google’s cloud services, IBM, Microsoft and Amazon and if successful, these cloud services could play a role in blockchain deployments.

Applying blockchain to business

Let’s take a look at some use cases and how blockchain can be implement in different industry sectors to speed up processes, guarantee security, trust and transparency and keep accurate records that can be accessed by stakeholders, no matter where they are in the world.

Property: You’re buying a house and want to know when the last repairs and updates were carried out, which companies provided them and when. Blockchain could help homeowners and estate agents keep a record of information relating to a property, which would be centrally located for anyone in the house buying and selling process to access – reducing hours of paper pushing and phone calls and create transparent information on the status and maintenance of the house before putting in an offer.

Automotive: In a similar way to housing, tracking the value of second hand vehicles through blockchain would make purchases a lot easier for buyers and traders. Information on the car’s mileage, services, and driving history would be accurate, and if the car was ever written off the information could be accessed digitally to salvage the new gearbox that was installed only two months ago.

Music: There has already been massive disruption in the music industry but in the age of streaming services, blockchain could show musicians, creators, fans, marketers and labels the data and dialogue involved in listening to their songs and albums. Artists would be much closer to their fans and over time they could influence and reward them. A truly democratic and commercially viable way of promoting music. Thanks to blockchain.

Banking: Most big banks have a headline piece highlighting how they are working with blockchain especially within security. The technology promotes security and trust and allows all parties to work with one single reference point, which can cut manpower and middlemen costs.

As with any new technology, there are stumbling blocks. Commercial banks may not want all that information to be managed by developers so private blockchains may need to be created. It’s important to take a collaborative approach so banking organisations can pool their resources, identify and share hurdles and resolutions.

Trading stocks and shares: Nasdaq has successfully completed a blockchain test in Estonia to run proxy voting on its exchange and is now assessing whether to implement the new system as it has streamlined a process that was highly manual and time consuming. Nasdaq is one of the early adopters and a supporter of the technology in the exchange industry and already uses it to power its market for share of private companies It is also launching a marketplace powered by blockchain for pre-IPO private securities exchange in the USA.

Healthcare: Within healthcare, blockchain promises to address security and data integrity issues relating to patient information within healthcare providers, hospitals, insurance companies and clinical trials. IBM Watson teamed up with the US FDA to trial a data sharing initiative to keep track of patients involved in a particular trial and they are going on to explore how a blockchain framework could potentially provide benefits to public health.

Blockchain as a service: Blockchain as a service is the most viable way for the technology to scale. Start-ups like Chain.com are making blockchain applications much more accessible to big corporations. It is probably the most recognised ‘blockchain as a service’ platform startup as it lets enterprises use blockchain technology in a variety of network infrastructures.

Where to next

To put into perspective how big it could become, the World Economic Forum predicts that by about 2027 about 10% of the global GDP would be stored on blockchains so companies looking to get their piece of the action should start investigating now.

Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen cites blockchain as “one of the most fundamental inventions in the history of computer science” and we’d agree. 2017 is going to be the year it is tested, trialled and iterated to suit individual market and business requirements.

All that without even mentioning Bitcoin – we’ll save that for another day.

Original article here.


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