How blockchain will kill fake news (and four other predictions for 2020) – Computerworld

As blockchain's hype cycle continues to befuddle many about its potential beyond cryptocurrencies, businesses and governments are moving ahead with projects involving everything fromdigital identitiestovoting and supply chain tracking.

Blockchain has slipped into the "Trough of Disillusionment" (see Gartner Hype Cycle), because it got ahead of its technical and operational maturity. As a result, interest has waned as most experiments and implementations failed to provide expected results.

In most cases, the distributed ledger technology (DLT) has not lived up to expectations that it would drive new societal and business models. And with exception of a few shipping-related projects, most enterprise efforts remain stuck in experimentation mode.

The technology, however, is far from a failure; its promise to deliver a single version of data truth over a secure, distributed and immutable ledger remains compelling and as it matures, many see it becoming a ubiquitous platform for financial services, ecommerce and other markets.

By 2023, blockchain is expected to climb out of the hype cycle. And over the next five years industry experts and analysts agree it will expand into a number of pragmatic use cases in payment processing, data sharing, equity trading and contract/document keeping and tracking.

One of the more unique future uses for blockhain may be thwarting fake news, according to a recent report from Gartner.

By 2023, up to 30% of world news and video content will be authenticated as real by blockchain ledgers, countering "Deep Fake technology," according to Avivah Litan, a Gartner vice president of research and co-author of the "Predicts 2020: Blockchain Technology" report.

Fueled by social media news feeds such as Facebook and Google News, fake news is increasingly used by hostile governments to manipulate elections.

Articles and other content based on false information often attracts more viewers than factual news a benefit to advertisers and ratings, but a problem for public discourse. For example, the top 20 fake news stories about the 2016 U.S. presidential election received more engagement on Facebook than the top 20 election stories from 19 major media outlets, according to one study.

Websites that spread fake news using bot-controlled accounts are usually hosted anonymously, making it extremely difficult to prosecute the perpetraitors.

"AI models that support text writing and video production can be used to rapidly disseminate customized and highly believable fake content that serves as the new breed of cyber weapons," Litan said in the study. "Tracking assets and proving provenance are two key successful use cases for permissioned blockchain and can be readily applied to tracking the provenance of news content."

In August, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began developing software that can discover fake news hidden among more than 500,000 stories, photos, video and audio clips. And in September, Facebook formed an industry group to develop deep fake video detection tools. Facebook's Partnership on AI includes Microsoft Amazon, Google, DeepMind, and IBM, as well as academics from Oxford, MIT, Cornell Tech, UC Berkeley and other schools.

If successful, the efforts by DARPA, Facebook and others will "blacklist" fake content to block it from reaching target victims and create an algorithm that authenticates and tracks content movement to "whitelists," ensuring its provenance.

"Blockchain technology is proven to excel at supporting this use case as it enables a 'shared single version of truth' across multiple entities based on immutable data and audit trails," Litan wrote.

The New York Times is one of the first major news publications to test blockchain to authenticate news photographs and video content, according to Gartner. The newspaper's Research and Development team and IBM have partnered on the News Provenance Project, which uses Hyperledger Fabric's permissioned blockchain to store "contextual metadata." That metadata includes when and where a photo or video was shot, who took it and how and when it was edited and published.

Blockchain, the newspaper explained, will act as a "database that is not housed on one set of servers owned and operated by one entity, but by many entities and servers that are kept updated simultaneously" making the records of each change traceable.

"Files are not so much changed as built upon," former Times editor and independent consultant Sasha Korensaid in a blog.

For the same reason cross-border financial transactions are simpler and cheaper than traditional methods run by central banks, digital securities traded across blockchain ledgers are also likely to become popular in the near future.

"So far, the primary use case is money, led by Bitcoin," said Bruce Fenton, founder and managing director of Atlantic Financial and a board member of the Bitcoin Foundation.

Today, securities settlement is performed by central, private organizations such as Depository Trust and Clearance Corp. (DTCC) in the U.S. and Euroclear in the European Union. The process of moving stocks and bonds between buyers and sellers can take as long as three days, but delays aren't uncommon and the actual transfer among financial services firms can take 10 days or more, according to Fenton.

"The challenge with securities now is you need a trusted third party to say what's true," Fenton said. "It's not your broker. It's not Merrill Lynch or Fidelity and it's not the issuer either; Apple has no clue who their shareholders are either. The function is performed by these large centralized groups because the brokers don't necessarily trust each other; they're dealing with their competitors."

The problem with central settlement organizations is that transactions become bottlenecked through the use of a single ledger. With blockchain, trust becomes moot as digital tokens representing securities or money are inextricably linked to the funds or securities and transfers can take place in a day or even hours, Fenton said.

Blockchain could also change how corporate public offerings are done. Many private companies forgo a public offering because of the complexity of the process. With blockchain ledgers, securities linked to digital tokens could move more easily between financial institutions by simply bypassing a central clearance organization.

"Just as you can move [Bitcoin] between one crypto account to another, you could move millions of dollars between crypto exchanges in less than a day," Fenton said. "If that happens, then it's exciting because you end up in a world where [there are] a lot more companies that are traded and changing hands. You could have a lot of things that are private now be public and be able to trade shares between investors and between borders."

One potential problem with blockchain-based securities exchanges is performance; the distributed ledger has proven to be slow, and potentially costly. Butnew consensus algorithms and off-chain processing promise to speed up throughput by orders of magnitude.

The Chinese government recently announced a new focus on blockchains for commerce, a move likely to influence global development and spending. President Xi Jinping in October stressed that the country would have a blockchain-focused strategy; the decision affects Chinese government initiatives, regulations and spending by various regional governments.

Conversely, U.S. and European regulators have made no bones about their cautious, if not adversarial, approach to blockchainand the digital tokens moved across distributed ledgers. Additionally, the U.S. and Europe have well "developed and mature" world economies, so any large-scale move to embrace blockchain could be disruptive.

Because the initiatives in China are top down, they affect not only spending by the single largest entity (the government), but also native business interests who want to remain in good graces, Fenton said.

"Private businesses might choose to implement this technology or in some cases will need to, in order to remain competitive," Fenton said. "When you have the leader of the country saying they're going to invest in something, I think you'll see a lot more of the public and private sector leaders in China and, ultimately, around the world reacting to that.

"Unfortunately, the U.S. is getting left behind in many areas because of its slow regulatory regime."

As regulators continue to struggle to provide clear guidance to crypto- and blockchain-based industries, collaboration will continue to occur among companies seeking to self-regulate, according to Katherine Johnson, vice president of compliance and general counsel for Storj Labs. Storj Labs is a cloud storage provider whose technology is based on blockchain.

For example, the Crypto Ratings Council hopes to to rank digital assets on the likelihood of being deemed a security versus a utility token, or a service that can represent API keys that unlock a service (essentially, selling a service using the tokens).

"U.S.-based companies will continue to mitigate the risk posed by the uncertain domestic regulatory landscape by branching out into crypto- and blockchain-friendly jurisdictions," Johnson said in a statement.

Jonathan Johnson, president of CEO of Overstock.com and its investment arm Medici Ventures, agreed, saying via email that "innovation-friendly jurisdictions (i.e., not the U.S.) will begin to see efficiencies, trust, and transparency in government services as blockchain-based products begin to leave the lab and gain wider adoption."

Enterprises who've dipped their toes into the blockchain ecosystem still aren't ready to dive in. Skepticism remains, hindering adoption in a meaningful way, according to Ken Elefant, managing director of investment firm Sorenson Capital.

Elefant calls blockchain a "phenomenal technology" that will change industries, but its adoption will be slow because it can't happen in a vacuum; it will require a shared ecosystem among enterprises; one company can't simply adopt it and expect returns on its investment without others climbing onboard.

Blockchain will more quickly take root in financial services for security and management of identities first for businesses and later for consumers. "Identity today is really difficult to manage across the entire ecosystem," Elefant said.

"Where I think blockchain should be used is in areas where there's a middleman for know your customer [KYC] applications, anti-money laundering [AML] apps or counterpart reconciliation and other areas where traditional rules-based systems are very manual," Elefant continued. "There's huge ROI in those areas."

Enabling full digital ID coverage could unlock economic value worth anywhere from 3% to 13% of GDP in 2030 in seven key countries if the digital ID program enables multiple high-value use cases and sees widespread adoption, according to a report by consultancy McKinsey & Company. The seven countries are: Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

The online credentials would be akin to identify information a person might have in his or her wallet: a driver's license, a bank debit card or a company ID. Instead of a physical card, however, the IDs in digital wallets would be encrypted on a blockchain ledger and link back to the institutions that created them, such as a bank, a government agency or even an employer. Through blockchain and a smart contract, the digital information could automatically verify information to a requestor.

"Think of the [blockchain] distributed ledger as a database and only the individuals or companies authorized have access to that data unlike the internet today where you and I can be marketed to by anybody," Elefant said. "That's the beauty of blockchain. It's pre-certified and the only entity that has control over their ID is that identity itself."

Additonally, fintech firms, software makers, telecom providers and other businesses have joined forces to develop blockchain-based networks that will enable anyone to exchange digital credentials online without the risk of unintentionally exposing private data. One consortium is the Sovrin Foundation, a nonprofit organization now developing the Sovrin Network, which could enable anyone to globally exchange pre-verified data with any entity also on the network.

When a business wants to transact with a bank or some other business on the network, they'll be pre-certified to do so, whether for wire transfers between businesses or cross-border exchanges.

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How blockchain will kill fake news (and four other predictions for 2020) - Computerworld

HSBC Moves $20 Billion From Paper to Blockchain In One Of The Biggest Financial Deployments – Forbes

(Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

Blockchain and banking continue to push new boundaries with the relatively untested technology offering lots of promise and potential, but not finding too many direct uses, as of yet. HSBC, one of the largest banking and financial services organizations in the world, headquartered in London, is planning on making a bold $20 billion step.

The bank will beshifting$20 billion worth of assets to a new blockchain-based custody platform by March. This is a vast improvement of the previous system as the HSBC platform will digitize paper-based records of private placements.

Private placements are typically held on paper and lack standardization which not only makes accessing them difficult and inefficient but also points towards an archaic and out-dated system.

Using blockchain to reduce the time it takes investors to make checks or queries on holdings, the new HSBC platform, known as Digital Vault, will give investors real-time access to records of securities bought on private markets.

Currently, the bank looks after up to $50 billion worth of the assets, so it is taking a big leap of faith by putting 40 percent of this onto the blockchain platform.

Not only is this a big upgrade for private placements, but it is also a necessary one in an avenue that is expected to grow and be more attractive to investors steadily. Demand for private placements of both debt and equity has grown significantly in recent years. Investors are on the hunt for higher returns amid low interest rates worldwide.

HSBC expects the global value of private placements to hit $7.7 trillion by 2022, a jump of 60 percent from five years earlier. Over the same period, it thinks allocations by asset manager clients will grow to 20 percent from 9 percent, it wasreported.

It has become apparent with the emergence of blockchain technology that there is a lot that can be gained forbanksshould they choose to adopt the dynamic technology. The likes of JP Morgan have gone from slating Bitcoin to creating their own cryptocurrency.

It is instances like this that show how important modernization of certain aspects of the banking sector has become. The use of paper record-keeping for assets that amount to $50 billion is extremely beneficial. Banks are now starting to realize that the next step in this evolution is not taking what's on offer, it is about setting a trend.

HSBC's decision to put $20 billion worth of assets onto blockchain technology is being heralded as one of the biggest deployments to the transparent and instantly available technology. But, its success will not be immediately visible, according to Windsor Holden, an independent consultant who tracks blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

"I wouldn't expect to see huge savings, or huge efficiencies announced in the first year to 18 months," hesaid.

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HSBC Moves $20 Billion From Paper to Blockchain In One Of The Biggest Financial Deployments - Forbes

Report: Blockchain Not Well-Suited to Transactive Energy – POWER magazine

Blockchaina distributed database technology that allows a network of parties to securely transact with each otherhas been hailed as a game-changing innovation in the power sector for its potential to host transactive energy markets and boost decentralization (Figure 1). In one much-touted application, for example, residential and commercial actors could use blockchain to bypass existing electricity markets and electric utilities, and directly buy and sell energy with each other and other entities via a digital platform. And, as IBM experts noted in October, the technology may offer intelligence, transparency, and automation to existing systemsattributes they noted could help mitigate the massive capital investments that would be required to re-architect the physical grid.

1. Some experts believe blockchain promises great things for power and utility companies, but a report titled Assessing Blockchains Future in Transactive Energy suggests it may not be the panacea for all energy challenges. Source: Shutterstock

But according to a September 2019 report from American think-tank Atlantic Council, blockchain isnt currently well-suited to host any of the primary functions of a real-time transactive energy market, including for energy data transmission, financial bids, trades, settlement, price formation, and grid service provision to the utility. While blockchain has many other potential energy-relevant applications for which it may be a far more logical and valuable tool, this does not currently extend to serving as the key platform for transactive energy markets, concludes the report, Assessing Blockchains Future in Transactive Energy.

The report stems from a scrutiny of the technologys costs and benefits against specific power sector needs in a real-time transactive energy market. Rather than paint a straw man perspective of first-iteration blockchain systems that would inevitably be easy to critique, the analysis takes account of advances in blockchain consensus, on- and off-chain scaling, governance models, privacy enhancements, and other extant and prospective innovations, said its authors, Ben Hertz-Shargel, an executive at EnergyHub, a distributed energy resource (DER) management platform for utilities, and David Livingston, deputy director for climate and advanced energy at the Atlantic Councils Global Energy Center.

The concept is alluring for the power sector, which like so many other industriesfrom media, disease control, and fishinghas sought to leverage its energy eBay potential to reimagine and transform the way traditional business is done. Today, several utilities and energy firms, as well as startups are exploring blockchain ventures with applications that range from green attribute certificate tracking to financial settlement for grid services.

However, efforts are still in the nascent stages. As a July 2019-published survey conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute suggests, most utilities in the U.S. are in the early pilot stages or in the research phase, while European utilities are a year or so ahead. Meanwhile, policymakers, and federal entities are also taking notice. Public utility commissions in Arizona and Nevada, for example, have opened dockets to explore blockchain-related issues, and the Department of Energys November 2019-issued grid modernization blueprint prioritizes development of cross-sector guidance and standards for novel blockchain-based concepts.

But criticism has also accompanied industrys breathless proclamations about blockchain, the report notes. Among prominent concerns are that blockchain demands vast amounts of computationand therefore energy useto guard against malfeasance in the network, as well as over the instability of cryptocurrencies. As second-generation blockchains have begun to move away from proof of work, more nuanced criticism has taken aim at blockchains suitability for broader applications, questioning its scalability, cost-effectiveness, potential lack of data privacy, and cybersecurity, the report notes.

Compounding the issue is that industry lacks a technical understanding of blockchains limitations. Common examples are claims that, as a distributed ledger technology, blockchain makes it faster or easier for distributed resources to submit transactions to the network than traditional centralized platforms, or that blockchain relates to the distributed control often proposed for smart grids, it says. In fact, blockchains today can support an order of magnitude fewer transactions than other modern platforms, and their distributed ledger control has little relation or contribution to the kind of intelligent grid and energy market management required for transactive energy. Blockchain, though offering a number of significant benefits, is not a panacea.

The reports conclusions result from what the authors call a fundamental tradeoff, which is essentially an evaluation of how well blockchains disintermediation of a central authority can be achieved in the context of six costs: efficiency, scalability, certainty, reversibility, privacy, and governance.

When considered as a transactive energy tool, the costs of blockchain are steep, it says. One reason is, The duplication of data hosting and processing across every node in the blockchain network dramatically limits both capital efficiency and scalability to real-world data and transaction volumes. To agree upon the shared transaction ledger, participants must rely upon economic incentives, but that poses risks to settlement finality as well as security of the network. Perhaps most problematic, blockchain faces the opposing obligations of keeping mission-critical electrical and financial data confidential, while making it visible to its fleet of validator servers, which operate outside of a corporate firewall. Moving this confidential data off-chain would eliminate the issue, but significantly reduce blockchains role in primary transactive market functions. And so far, cryptographic techniques that could address these core issuessuch as zero-knowledge proofs, multi-party computation, and secure hardware enclavesare in an early stage of research and development and they present limitations, including that they have not been yet attempted in energy-related applications.

However, the report offers several policy recommendations that could encourage and focus the development of transactive energy platformsblockchain-based or notand help invert the six costs. These include direct financial incentives, such as agency funding and prize-based awards, as well as indirect incentives that clarify the regulatory and commercial landscape for these platforms. Also recommended is the formation of working groups and regulatory proceedings to study the value of transactive energy in light of state-specific policy objectives, such as distribution infrastructure deferral, grid resilience, renewable portfolio standards, and retail market animation.

In sum, this report finds that blockchain should neither be dismissed outright, nor be viewed as a comprehensively disruptive technology or panacea for all energy challenges, the authors wrote. Even if it isnt well-suited for real-time transactive energy market applications, it shows better viability for applications that require less frequent transactions and non-confidential data, such as renewable energy credit tracking and energy asset onboarding. Which means that for now, blockchain will likely continue to evolve as an increasingly useful tool for specific applications, building upon (rather than replacing) legacy systems to bring improvements to the function of energy markets as they become increasingly distributed and transactive in the years to come, the authors predicted.

Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor.

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Report: Blockchain Not Well-Suited to Transactive Energy - POWER magazine

Amazon, Infosys respond to Indian tea board’s blockchain call – Ledger Insights

Amazon and Infosys have responded to an expression of interest (EoI) announced by the Tea Board of India to use blockchain and allied technologies for tea traceability. A report by the Economic Times said regional bank Yes Bank and 25 other firms have also expressed their interest in the Tea Boards call.

In October, the Tea Board floated the EoI to build an end-to-end traceability solution for the tea industry, and may soon award a contract for the project.

India is the worlds second-largest tea producer and fourth-largest exporter. Tea Board deputy chairman Arun Kumar Ray cited long-term sustainability issues faced by the industry as costs are rising, but tea prices have been mostly stagnant for a few years.

The Tea Board will initially focus on the traceability of orthodox tea blends or loose leaf traditional teas, which should help growers to realize higher profits. If this (stagnating price) situation continues, the labourers will go away and fine plucking, for which India is famous, will not exist, Ray told the Economic Times.

India has been bullish on blockchain, and last week the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) announced it would launch a national level blockchain framework for various sectors in the country.

The Coffee Board of India has already launched its blockchain coffee marketplace, which has about 30,000 registered farmers. The solution aims to enhance the coffee supply chain by usingblockchain.

Meanwhile, China, which is the largest producer of tea in the world, recently launched the YunnanPuer Tea TraceabilityPlatform, in collaboration with VeChain and a few local partners.

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Amazon, Infosys respond to Indian tea board's blockchain call - Ledger Insights

Is This Why Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, And Ripples XRP Suddenly Rocketed Over Thanksgiving? – Forbes

Bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, Ripple's XRP, and bitcoin cash, the top five cryptocurrencies by value (excluding stablecoin tether), leaped over the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

The bitcoin price climbed from under $7,000 per bitcoin to almost $8,000 in just two days, with ethereum, litecoin, Ripple's XRP, and bitcoin cash all making similar gains (despite some worrying news from elsewhere in Europe).

The reason for the sudden rally was not immediately clear, however, reports that banks in Germany will be able to sell and store bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from next year might be behind the latest uptick.

The bitcoin price has struggled to find stable ground over recent months, with bitcoin, ethereum, ... [+] litecoin, Ripple's XRP, and bitcoin cash all bouncing around wildly.

From 2020, German banks can support the sale and custody of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, local business newspaper Handelsblatt reported.

Germany's Federal Council passed the law at the end of last week, with the new regulation expected to come into force on January 1 2020.

Today, German banks are not allowed to sell bitcoin and cryptocurrencies and the bill would overhaul the status quo.

The news was welcomed by the local bitcoin and crypto industry, as well as the banking association BdB, which said the new regulation makes it possible for investors to invest in crypto-values via domestic rather than foreign funds, could help prevent money laundering and terrorist financing, and allow "experienced" credit institutions to protect investors.

"Germany is well on its way to becoming a crypto-heaven," Sven Hildebrandt, head of the blockchain and crypto consulting firm DLC, told the newspaper in comments translated through Google. "The German legislator is playing a pioneering role in the regulation of crypto-truths."

Bitcoin's epic 2017 bull run, which saw the bitcoin price surge from under $1,000 per bitcoin at the beginning of the year to almost $20,000 in under 12 months, was largely due to expectations the traditional financial industry was about to wade into crypto.

When banks and financial institutions failed to buy into bitcoin as much as some had hoped the price fell sharply throughout 2018.

Over the last year, institutional money has gradually flowed into bitcoin and cryptocurrency, however, with the price being bolstered this year by interest in bitcoin and crypto from the world's biggest technology companies.

The bitcoin price rallied hard towards the end of last week but has since fallen back somewhat, ... [+] dragging on ethereum, Ripple's XRP, litecoin, and bitcoin cash.

Elsewhere, the bitcoin and cryptocurrency market may have been further boosted by reports Twitter and Square chief executive Jack Dorsey, known to be an advocate of bitcoin, revealed he plans to spend time in Africa next year, where it's thought he will work on some bitcoin-related projects.

Dorsey expects Africa to "define" the future, especially when it comes to bitcoin.

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Is This Why Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, And Ripples XRP Suddenly Rocketed Over Thanksgiving? - Forbes

Study: Blockchain Can Reduce Food Fraud By $31 Billion Within 5 Years – Cointelegraph

The food industry could save up to $31 billion in global fraud savings by tracking food on its way from farms to consumers via the blockchain.

A Nov. 25 study by Juniper Research reveals that blockchain technology, in combination with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and trackers, will greatly reduce retailers costs by streamlining supply chains, while simplifying regulatory compliance, offering more efficient food recalls, and tackling fraud.

The study points out that the increased adoption of blockchain and IoT in the supply chain industry will add significant value to the food businesss supply chain. By stacking these innovative technologies, the food industry could stack up to $31 billion in food fraud savings in just five years. Research author Dr Morgane Kimmich said:

Today, transparency and efficiency in the food supply chain are limited by opaque data forcing each company to rely on intermediaries and paper-based records. Blockchain and the IoT provide an immutable, shared platform for all actors in the supply chain to track and trace assets; saving time, resources and reducing fraud.

Junipers research further shows that substantial savings in food fraud can be realized as early as 2021, while compliance costs reportedly can be reduced 30% by 2024.

Blockchain and IoT, which each bring their respective strengths, continue to be adopted by the food and beverage industry. Over the past few months, a variety of players, including giants like Nestl and Carrefour, have reported on their blockchain-powered initiatives within the field.

The most-adopted blockchain tracking solution within the field is IBMs Food Trust, which is based on the Hyperledger Fabric blockchain protocol. The platform went live in October 2018, millions of individual food products were reportedly tracked by retailers and suppliers using the Food Trust blockchain.

Most recently, it was reported that salmon farming company Cermaq and smoked salmon producer Labeyrie were using IBMs cloud blockchain technology to trace their product supply chains..

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Study: Blockchain Can Reduce Food Fraud By $31 Billion Within 5 Years - Cointelegraph

Blockchain to ‘save food industry $31 billion,’ new research says – CNBC

Lebazele | E+ | Getty Images

Blockchain will facilitate $31 billion in "food fraud savings" by the year 2024, according to new data from Juniper Research.

According to the research, which was released earlier this week, blockchain, along with "internet of things" trackers and sensors, would help to drive down costs for retailers. This would be achieved through the streamlining of supply chains, efficient food recall processes and "simpler regulatory compliance." The research is contained within the "Blockchain: Key Vertical Opportunities, Trends & Challenges 2019-2030" report.

Blockchain refers to a tamper-proof, distributed digital ledger that records transactions. The European Commission has described the internet of things as merging "physical and virtual worlds, creating smart environments."

In a statement Monday, Juniper Research said that the internet of things and blockchain would add "significant value" to those involved in the supply chain, namely, farmers, retailers and the consumer.

Today, many consumers are increasingly aware of where their food comes from and how it is produced. Nevertheless, trust is still a big issue, especially when it comes to supply chains.

In 2013, for example, the food industry in Europe was rocked when horse meat was found to be present in food products that did not list it as an ingredient.

"Today, transparency and efficiency in the food supply chain are limited by opaque data forcing each company to rely on intermediaries and paper-based records," Morgane Kimmich, the research author, said in a statement.

"Blockchain and the IOT (internet of things) provide an immutable, shared platform for all actors in the supply chain to track and trace assets; saving time, resources and reducing fraud," Kimmich added.

The applications of blockchain technology are wide ranging. Major utility Iberdrola, for instance, has used it to "guarantee" that the energy it sends to its customers comes from 100 percent renewable sources.

In an announcement in January, the firm said that it had undertaken an "experiment" with the financial entity Kutxabank. Using blockchain, Kutxabank was able to track the origin of energy supplies, in real time, "from the generation asset to the point of consumption."

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Blockchain to 'save food industry $31 billion,' new research says - CNBC

Explore the Potential of Blockchain Technology in the Energy Industry, 2019 Report – ResearchAndMarkets.com – Yahoo Finance


The "Blockchain Technology in the Energy Industry" report has been added to ResearchAndMarkets.com's offering.

The architecture of the global energy market is changing. The market model is transforming from highly centralized power distribution into decentralized, distributed energy management enabled by intelligent software and new approaches to data management. Three trends - digitalization, decentralization, and decarbonization - are steering the transformation.

All these changes lead to the central question: how will the electricity services that are today primarily provided in a centralized, top-down manner be provided in the future?

The rising demand for faster and more secure transactions along with full transparency has made blockchain one of the fastest-growing technology markets in the world. Blockchain technology enables transparent, tamper-proof, and secure systems for different business solutions through smart contracts.

Over the past few years, industry stakeholders, utilities, energy service companies, and information and communication technology companies in the energy market have taken great interest in blockchain technologies and are investing heavily in research and development related to verifying and recording finance transactions. Blockchains are primarily designed to facilitate distributed transactions by removing the central point of authority.

The potential of blockchain technology in the energy industry has just started to be realized, evident by the increasing number of blockchain start-ups involved in R&D and pilot projects. Blockchain technology here remains in its infancy but is slowly growing. Beyond 2020, the energy market is expected to witness more blockchain projects coming online.

The report reveals the market positioning of companies in an industry using their Growth and Innovation scores as highlighted in the Radar methodology. The document presents competitive profiles on each of the companies in the Radar based on their strengths, opportunities, and a small discussion on their positioning.

The report analyzes hundreds of companies in the industry and benchmarks them across 10 criteria on the Radar, where the leading companies in the industry are then positioned. Industry leaders on both the Growth and Innovation indices are recognized as best practice recipients.

The companies included in this Radar are LO3 Energy, Power Ledger, WePower, Grid+, Electron, Ponton, Veridium Labs, Grid Singularity, The Sun Exchange, Energy Web Foundation, Greeneum, and Prosume.

Key Topics Covered:

1. Industry Overview

2. Blockchain Technology in the Energy Industry

3. C2A - Market Participant Profiles

4. The Last Word

For more information about this report visit https://www.researchandmarkets.com/r/mn6145

View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20191202005414/en/

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Explore the Potential of Blockchain Technology in the Energy Industry, 2019 Report - ResearchAndMarkets.com - Yahoo Finance

Blockchain’s first revolutionary product could be online ID – The Conversation UK

In an interview, PayPals chief executive, Dan Schulman, recently discussed the prospects for blockchain the encrypted, decentralised online ledger system that underpins Bitcoin and myriad other cutting-edge projects. While talking about blockchains potential for improving how people make payments around the world, Schulman said:

We think theres a lot of promise to blockchain technology but it really needs to do something that the traditional rails [of the interntional payments system] cant do. Most people think that blockchain is about efficiency, but the system today is pretty efficient. There are middlemen sometimes in between, but the rails of it are pretty efficient. So we think a lot of the neat stuff that can happen on blockchain is around identity, for example.

Schulman was referencing a debate around payments that has been going for a few years. Without getting too technical, the main benefits of blockchain payments are that they are not controlled by middlemen, so there are no fees to pay; and transactions cant be hacked and changed once they are on the ledger.

But at the same time, they are not yet as quick at processing transactions as the traditional system which as Schulman argues, is fast enough in any case. Regulation is also a major issue: people on either end of a blockchain payment are completely anonymous. This presents major issues for everything from money laundering to being able to reclaim payments if you accidentally credit the wrong address.

In short, blockchain-based payments technology is very easy, but policy and regulation are much harder. For PayPal, which relies on the international banking system, there is still no contest.

So why was Schulman much more bullish about the prospects for blockchain around online identity? Interestingly, it relates to one of the technologys weaknesses in payments: anonymity. Much of the cybercrime that takes place results from the fact that we dont know who were talking to. If we could all encrypt our online identities on blockchains so that we could completely trust who were are dealing with, it could overcome this problem.

This isnt just theory: there are numerous interesting developments in the offing. Take the UK government, which like many countries is increasingly moving interactions with the public online. This includes benefits, taxation and other services such as passport and driving licence applications. Yet like all governments, it faces a major challenge from the fact that citizens lack a unique online identifier. This is helping fraudsters to steal nearly 50 billion worth of government services every year in the UK. For this reason, the government is currently exploring blockchain as a potential solution.

Another very interesting application, currently being explored by the UK government as part of the same project, is voting systems. Blockchains could provide a way of guaranteeing that every person queuing up to vote is who they say they are or allow people to vote online, potentially with big benefits to turnout.

Australia is looking at idea this, too, having recently trialled allowing voters in South Australia to identify themselves via blockchain technology for a minor council election. Meanwhile, New South Wales conducted a trial earlier in 2019 using a blockchain for identity verification based on peoples driving licences. It enabled participants to prove their identity and age for things like buying alcohol and gambling without the need for a physical ID card.

The trials concluded that the technology is not yet mature enough, and that ID-verification can still be achieved better with current technologies. Nonetheless, New South Wales is going ahead with a new large-scale trial of a driver licence registration system based on a blockchain platform at the end of 2019, covering some 140,000 licence holders.

Another country to watch closely is China. It sees blockchain products as a good mechanism for regulation. Given the huge market that China represents, if the government decides to sanction (or indeed mandate) the use of online identity underpinned by blockchain it will give a phenomenal boost to the technology. It also raises the worrying prospect of the government being able to monitor all the purchasing transactions of its citizens, were it to introduce a system in which it knew the identities of everyone on the blockchain.

Numerous blue-chip tech companies are vying to be part of this blockchain ID future pointing to the potential for a very big market. IBM is trialling the alpha version of IBM Verify Credentials, an ID system underpinned by blockchain technology aimed at both businesses and governments. If typical software industry production cycles for large projects are anything to go by, a market-ready product could be two to three years away. Microsoft, too, is developing blockchain identity systems based on its well established and very successful Azure cloud computing platform.

Either of these systems could potentially provide the kinds of services that governments are starting to envisage. As for corporate clients, one application could be online retail, which attracts a lot of cybercrime. These systems might provide a reliable means of identifying a buyer to confirm they are authorised to pay. Presumably this would be underpinned by something akin to transaction fees per payment. Given the hundreds of billions of transactions that take place every day, the potential revenues could clearly be enormous.

This is why companies like PayPal cannot stay on the sidelines. Blockchain hype or not, you dont want to be the Kodak of this industry, if or when encrypted ID becomes the next killer online technology.

Until governments of major economies around the world are prepared to significantly overhaul financial systems to accept cryptocurrencies as mainstream payment methods, the less glamorous business of taking an ID-verification cut from billions of payment transactions might be the safer bet. And since this is very similar to the fee-taking business model that made PayPal a giant, it will be very interesting to see what Schulman does next.

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Blockchain's first revolutionary product could be online ID - The Conversation UK

Crypto Market’s Overreaction to Xi’s Blockchain Remark Prompts Tougher Crackdown – Coindesk

From Nov. 8 to 9, more than 4,000 people attended the World Blockchain Conference in Wuzhen, China, according to the event organizer 8btc. Speakers included representatives from traditional tech firms like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, as well as those working in crypto exchanges, funds, projects and mining businesses.

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Crypto Market's Overreaction to Xi's Blockchain Remark Prompts Tougher Crackdown - Coindesk

How blockchain could lower the cost of remittances – The National

Using blockchain and cryptocurrencies in the remittance industry could lower costs for exchanges houses and make it easier for start-ups to enter the market, increasing competition and resulting in lower fees for consumers in the UAE.

Hasan Heider, a partner at global venture capital firm 500 Startups, says there is an opportunity for technologies like blockchain and cryptocurrencies to have a significant impact on the region's sizeable remittance market. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are the second and third biggest outward remittance countries in the world behind the US, sending out sending out $46bn (Dh169.2bn) and $35.3bn IN 2018, according to central bank data.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are the second and third biggest outward remittance countries in the world behind the US.

Navin Gupta, Ripple

While some associate cryptocurrencies with risky investments, the real opportunity for companies is to use the technology to power back-office functions and provide a simple service for ordinary people to use, says Mr Heider. There is a massive disruption already taking place in the region with start-ups like Denarii Cash and a few others, he adds.

One company at the forefront of the global push to use cryptos for remittances is Ripple, best known for XRP, a cryptocurrency designed for international transfers that is about a thousand times faster and cheaper than Bitcoin, the company claims.

The benefits of crypto and blockchain-powered remittances could be far-reaching, says Navin Gupta, managing director at Ripple for South Asia & Mena, with cheaper and quicker transfers, more efficient international payments for businesses and lower error rates and costs for banks and remittance firms.

Blockchain, the technology used for verifying and recording transactions, is a digital chain of transactions linked using cryptography, a mechanism for secure communications. The database is a real-time library of records that are difficult to tamper with.

The current system for transferring money internationally comes with challenges, Mr Gupta says, specifically high error rates that lead to delays and additional costs as well as a pre-funding model that is capital intensive.

Cheaper remittances could also have important social benefits, as blue collar workers typically pay a higher percentage of their wages in remittance fees than a white-collar worker sending a large amount when fixed fees come into play, says Mr Gupta.

If everybody is paying say for example $10 for a remittance, then for somebody who sends $100 that fee is 10 per cent of it, but if somebody is sending $1,000, then it is 1 per cent," he says. "So when a blue collar workers sends $200, and he pays $10 to send his remittance, it's a much larger portion of his salary that is being eaten away as a remittance fee.

A number of banks and remittance houses in the GCC already use Ripples blockchain-based cross border settlement payment rail, designed to cut errors caused by issues such as missing paperwork on the receiver side a significant contributor to remittance costs and delay, says Mr Gupta. A blockchain settlement system can inform a party before they start a transaction if there are any missing documents, rather than sending a payment only to have it returned hours or days later.

An even bigger transformation, however, could happen if remittance companies use cryptocurrencies for international transactions, buying digital assets in one country before sending them at lightning speed to the next, selling them in the local currency and paying out the receiver.

Mr Gupta says this would lead to significant cost savings, because most international payments rely on a pre-funding model, meaning banks or exchange houses keep pre-funded accounts in the destination countries, which they use to pay out when a customer makes a transfer.

Maintaining pre-funded accounts is expensive, as exchange companies must forecast demand, which can surge around a holiday in one country, and hedge against currency swings, says Osama Al Rahma, chief executive of Al Fardan Exchange.

Using a cryptocurrency such as XRP or Stellar Lumens another digital asset designed for international payments would enable the transaction to happen almost instantly, meaning banks or exchange houses would only have capital locked up for a few seconds, slashing costs.

Mr Gupta describes the pre-funding model as highly capital inefficient". We believe that removing [pre-funding] will make the overall market very efficient, he says, adding that exchanges houses are better placed to use cryptocurrencies for remittances than banks as they are subject to less regulatory approval and have a higher cost of funding.

At least one major remittance company is already using cryptocurrencies; MoneyGram which Ripple paid about $50 million for a 9.95 per cent stake in said last month it was moving approximately 10 per cent of its Mexican Peso foreign exchange trading volume through Ripple's on-demand liquidity solution and has already started transacting in four additional cross-border corridors, including Europe and the Philippines.

For a remittance company to use a cryptocurrency to transfer money between currencies, it needs access to an exchange with sufficient volume in both countries to buy and then sell the digital token, something that may slow adoption, says Mauro Romaldini, a FinTech consultant.

In the UAE, licenced cryptocurrency exchanges are on the horizon through the regulatory framework released in The Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) in 2018. Regulators at the financial freezone are expected to grant the first full licences for cryptocurrency exchanges later this year or in 2020, Wai Lum Kwok, executive director of capital markets at the Financial Services Regulatory Authority, told Zawya earlier this year. The regulator has already granted a number of in-principle approvals.

Other potential obstacles around adoption include reputational issues. Bitcoin, for example, first rose to prominence because it was used for illegal transactions on the dark web, an association the cryptocurrency space has struggled to entirely shake off.

However, federal regulations could soon give greater clarity to the broader blockchain space. The UAE's Securities and Commodities Authority said in October it was seeking industry and stakeholder feedback on the regulation of cryptocurrencies in the country, including financial crime prevention measures, information security controls and technology governance norms.

The central banks of the UAE and Saudi Arabia are also working on a pilot project to launch a shared digital currency for facilitating cross-border bank transactions using blockchain technology.

Mr Al Rahma says using cryptocurrencies could slash costs at least in theory. Pre-funding costs are really huge, adoption of blockchain technology with proper arrangements can change the whole mechanism of settlement, with efficiency and savings, he said.

But, there is a gap between theory and practice, says Mr Al Rahma, who is also the vice chairman at the Foreign Exchange and Remittance Group. It only works if the whole ecosystem is accepting that solution," he adds. "This is the main issue. Its not about bilateral relationships, its about the majority of banks accepting the same model.

And its not just regulatory developments in the UAE that remittance houses must contend with if crypto remittances kick off. In the main remittance receiver countries India, Pakistan, Egypt and the Philippines only the latter stands out as having made big steps in adopting cryptocurrencies. In India, which receives more than a third of all remittances from the UAE, cryptocurrencies face an uncertain regulatory future with calls from some lawmakers to ban them entirely.

Mr Gupta says the global regulatory environment for cryptos is atomised, but believes that once the benefits from early adopters become clear, "other countries will realise this is a great solution".

One player already in the market is Denarii Cash, a remittance app founded by Jon Santillan, which focuses on expatriates from the Philippines living in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Mr Santillan says the two main challenges for new remittance companies are fast transaction speeds and high capital costs. Using crypto will allow new players to enter the market to compete with other incumbent players, and to have fairer pricing for everyone, he says.

Mr Santillans app advertises no fees, which he says is applicable to the first Dh1,000 transferred each month. Business has taken off since the beginning of this year when the company participated in an acceleration programme in Saudi Arabia run by 500 Startups, with word of mouth referrals helping to drive in new business, he says.

The company originally planned to use a digital stable token for transfers from the UAE to the Philippines, before realising this wasnt supported by current UAE regulations. Instead they use a blockchain ledger for settlement, but the transfers themselves still take place via traditional financial networks.

Mr Santillan says eventually the company would like to use a cryptocurrency for transfers to the Philippines from the UAE, such as Stellar Lumens or XRP.

Were still hoping in the future to leverage an existing crypto to move our assets quicker and much more cheaply. Our idea for Denarii Cash is to get all these savings and then pass it to the consumers, he says.

Updated: December 2, 2019 11:35 AM

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How blockchain could lower the cost of remittances - The National

Ailsa Bay and its first blockchain whisky – – Enterprise Times

William Grant & Sons premium whisky brand, Ailsa Bay, has launched the worlds first-ever blockchain whisky in partnership with specialist blockchain technology company Arc-net. The objective is to ensure authenticity and allow traceability.

Dominic Parfitt, Head of E-Commerce, at William Grant & Sons, says Innovation is a key part of our business. Were constantly looking to evolve our offering and learn new things in order to push the boundaries within the drinks industry. Were doing something now that we hope will set the bar for the future experience of spirits, and look forward to seeing how other brands follow suit as innovation within the industry continues to develop in the next few years.

Ailsa Bay was opened in 2007 on the Girvan site in Ayrshire. This is one of the largest Single Malt distilleries in the world which:

Ailsa Bay aims to transform its whisky through experimentation, technology, precision distilling and data driven methods. The introduction of blockchain means consumers can now trace the origins of their whisky via an innovative web experience individually tailored to each bottle. Ailsa Bays 70cl blockchain whisky (RRP 55) is available now.

The blockchain:

The blockchain data comes from William Grant & Sons existing data sources. This includes:

Blockchain is a distributed database (ledger) managed publicly by millions of people, rather than controlled by one party. Once entered onto the blockchain, this means information cannot change unless participants agree. The analogy referenced by Ailsa Bay is of a spreadsheet duplicated thousands of times across a network where, whenever someone adds a new row, there is a universal update at the exact same time. This makes a blockchain ideal for implementing traceability: no one party can change the existing ledger or falsify entries.

By scanning a QR code on the whisky bottle, users obtain a visual history of their whisky:

The idea for using blockchain for whisky emerged from the William Grant & Sons inaugural Hackadram event last year. This invited start-ups and innovation specialists to apply their expertise to shape the future of the companys spirits.

The adoption of blockchain joins other innovative processes at Ailsa Bay, including:

Such innovations bring a new ways of thinking to a liquor industry steeped in tradition. In addition, the new blockchain technology will enable Ailsa Bay to:

William Grant & Sons is an independent family-owned distiller now run by the fifth generation of the family. It distills or makes some of the worlds leading brands, including:

Arc-net is a Belfast-based technology business which seeks to advance the adoption of blockchain or distributed ledger technology (DLT) into a range of markets. Arc-net was introduced to William Grant & Sons during the Hackadram run in February 2018.

Primarily a digital, B2B service provider, Arc-net has focused on traceability and supply chain provenance. Over time its capabilities have extended its exploitation of blockchain functionality to smart contracts and payment systems.

The rise of provenance proofs delivered via blockchain is becoming a flood. Enterprise Times has already covered Food Trust, Farm to Plate, Caroli/olive oil, Grainchain/coffee, etc

Ailsa Bay is joining Tattoo, My Story (for example) is moving to blockchain as a way to protect authenticity in high value brands. What is, perhaps, a little different is Ailsa Bays hope that this will enable it to understand better its customers as well as providing assurance to them.

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Ailsa Bay and its first blockchain whisky - - Enterprise Times

Biometrics and digital ID across Africa this week: crime and its prevention, Red Cross blockchain – Biometric Update

The theme this week shifts to crime. Biometrics are being used in a new national sex offenders register for Nigeria, anti-police corruption efforts in Kenya and to prevent cybercrime and identity fraud in South Africa and Nigeria. Also in Kenya, a new project will create local blockchain currencies to distribute aid and promote economic growth in poor and rural areas. Globally, Africas biometric footprint widens with new e-passport and biometric visa facilities opening in East Asia.

Nigeria: Biometrics-based sex offenders register launched

Nigeria launched its first national database for sex offenders on November 25, the International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women reports The Pulse. The National Sex Offenders database will use offender biometrics, according to Ventures Africa. Previously only two states had registers which were poorly maintained.

Funded by the European Union and British Council, the register was devised with security agencies and civil societies to tackle sexual and gender-based violence. The register is reported to contain the offenders biodata, biometric features, addresses, BVN and DNA. However, BVN levels are low in Nigeria.

Ventures Africa states that a group of 150 NGOs will monitor the police and media and update the register on a monthly basis.

Kenya: Red Cross launches blockchain for local currencies to stimulate economies

The Red Cross Societies of Denmark, Norway and Kenya have embarked on a two-year project in slums and rural areas of Kenya to create blockchain-based currencies to encourage people to sell and trade their goods and services and lend and borrow money, reports the Thompson Reuters Foundation.

The schemes are targeted at areas where people have low value goods or services which are often hard to value such as offering labor and teaching, and bartering is inefficient at a larger scale. With no cash to exchange, village-level loans had been recorded on slips of paper and kept in locked boxes.

The project will use blockchain decentralized ledgers to create local currencies as a way to keep track of interactions and stimulate economic activity. It will operate as credits transferred by mobile phone meaning villagers can be paid for their labor and use credits earnt to buy other goods and services. Aid funding will also be injected into the system. Groups can pool resources within the scheme to create credit unions, all via simple feature phone apps.

The scheme is expected to be rolled out in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Cameroon in Africa plus Myanmar and Papua New Guinea.

Africa: Bleak forecast for cybercrime in Africa, but home-grown defences strengthening

As the sheer amount of personal information being generated in the digital realm, cybersecurity experts at Kaspersky predict a growth in the number and sophistication of threats for Africa in 2020, reports Rwandas New Times.

The increase in targets from the growing volume of data available and the increasing sophistication of threat technology such as machine learning are forecast to lead to more targeted attacks but across a wider range of targets. Biometric data is expected to become more frequently targeted, especially as banking opens up its infrastructure to more third parties. IoT devices are also seeing a dramatic upsurge in attacks.

South Africa alone saw a 99 percent increase in identity fraud year on year to September, something local startup, iiDENTIFii, by company 1 Identity, is hoping to tackle, reports VentureBurn.

The startups platform works by users taking a photo of their ID document issued by an official authority which uses facial biometrics, plus a selfie of that user. With a 3D liveness detector built in, the process recognizes the text on the ID, process the photo of the user embedded in the ID and matches it against the new selfie. This technology is particularly useful for onboarding, providing remote KYC data. The startup is already partnering with Standard Bank for remote biometric authentication and automated onboarding.

Kenya: Police undergo biometric capture as police stations digitize to reduce corruption

Police officers across Kenya are to undergo biometric capture as part of an effort to curb police corruption with digital occurrence books, reports The Daily Nation.

According to Transparency International, Kenya is one of the most corrupt countries on Earth, ranking 144 out of 180. Far from tackling corruption, the police are one of the main causes. The police department is Kenyas most corrupt service, according to The Daily Nation report.

Starting in March, police across the country started undergoing biometric capture, in part to weed out ghost workers. All officers then had to undergo compulsory ICT training in the run up to Novembers launch of digital occurrence books.

Police officers will now be expected to create a digital log of all interactions such as arrests and fines. Corrupt officers had previously negotiated bribes instead. The cases will be visible to senior officers.

There are concerns over enforcing the use of the new system and how rural police stations without electricity will maintain a digital occurrences book.

News in brief and updates

In brief Namibia: The electoral commissions biometric voter register suffered technical issues during the general election, leading to difficulties in voting in some polling stations. There were also issues with electronic voting machines.

In brief Nigeria: VerifyMe Nigeria launches the countrys first home-made KYC platform, a self-managed verification platform. It offers real-time integration with NIMC, BVNs and the other databases that will form the single, unified national ID database.

In brief Ghana: Ghana will become the first country in Africa to launch a Universal QR scheme to allow all retailers to accept electronic payments without POS devices.

Update Tanzania: Campaigning for SIM card registration still in full swing despite recent announcement that unregistered SIM cards would now not be blocked after the December 31 deadline.

Link South Africa: Our coverage of safe community schemes using facial recognition and person of interest list.

In brief Nigeria/Japan/South Korea: Nigeria opens new e-passport and biometric visa facilities in Tokyo and Seoul. The system will integrate with international crime fighting organizations such as Interpol. Minister of Interior warns Nigerian-Japanese dual nationals not to apply for new e-passport.

Link Africa: Our coverage of a two-factor biometric smart card developed by Next Biometrics and Softlock entering its pilot stage.

In brief Nigeria: The Federal Government approved PPP projects worth $8 billion in the past 8 years including the ECOWAS biometric ID card scheme.

Africa | biometric cards | biometrics | blockchain | cybersecurity | digital identity | facial recognition | iiDENTIFii | Next Biometrics | police | VerifyMe Nigeria

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Biometrics and digital ID across Africa this week: crime and its prevention, Red Cross blockchain - Biometric Update

EU Fights Corporatization of AI and Blockchain With Massive Investment – Cointelegraph

The European Union's announcement of a new 110 million euro fund to support research on artificial intelligence and blockchain comes at a critical time for the AI industry, when issues at the intersection of privacy, security and AI are the focus of acute attention by government, the tech industry and the general public.

Blockchain technology has the promise to radically transform the way society handles data as well as how AIs are trained and taught with this data. It has the potential to create a world in which control over and reward from data and AI is distributed more broadly across various stakeholders, including the people who generate the data. But there are still some difficult technical problems to be solved in order to manifest this potential, as well as a lot of large-scale software engineering.

The question isn't whether this funding program is timely and important, the question is whether it's anywhere near enough. In this light, the potential for the funding to be increased up to 2 billion euros in 2021 is even more interesting news.

The AI industry in the West is currently dominated by a relatively small number of large players centered in the United States, who have gained their positions by providing users with "free" or discounted services in exchange for the relatively unfettered use of their data. By using this data to train and teach AI systems, these companies have been able to create unprecedentedly effective advertising machines, with extraordinary capabilities of using the patterns mined from personal data to influence peoples' decisions about purchasing, political elections or anything else.

These large corporations also have numerous collaborative initiatives with governments, some of which are hush-hush and unconfirmed like Google's connections with the NSA and some of which have been exposed such as Facebook's permissive attitude toward Cambridge Analytica, a company working specifically for right-wing political organizations within the U.S. and Great Britain.

The Chinese AI industry looks similar, with Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu playing the roles of Facebook, Amazon and Google.

In China, the connections between tech companies and the central government are explicit and fully acknowledged. The Chinese government loves blockchain technology, but it views it a bit differently than the libertarian cypherpunks who founded the Western crypto movement. China is crafting an unprecedented synergy between encryption technology, distributed ledgers, and centralized guidance and monitoring of information flows.

The Chinese model has its pros and cons but clearly is not the path preferred by the typical citizen of North America or Western Europe particularly the latter, where GDPR has begun to revolutionize data sovereignty in the tech ecosystem.

However, there is no disputing the added efficiencies that a centralized approach brings. It seems likely that no Western company, not even Google, has aggregated the amount and diversity of data that Tencent has, which also has the ability to crunch all this data for various purposes on its huge server farms. The company also cooperates openly with the Chinese government in using their data store and AI capabilities for purposes judged to be for the common good of the nation.

If the West is to go in the direction of greater data sovereignty, enabling individuals to control their own data and the way it's used by AIs and if it wants to maintain this respect for sovereignty without falling behind in the AI race then it will need to aggressively develop tools that allow AI to learn from data without compromising data sovereignty.

The good news is that such tools exist. Multiparty computation, homomorphic encryption and other methods allow AI tools to analyze datasets that exist fragmented across multiple locations, owned by multiple individuals or entities in a trustless way, without anyone needing to reveal their data to other parties.

There is no fundamental reason that, right now, each individual's personal data doesn't go into a cloud-based data wallet that is controlled by their own private keys, wherein the individual specifically guides the use of their data for various purposes.

There is no fundamental reason that, right now, AIs are not primarily guided in their activities by the people who use them rather than by the companies that only make it appear as though the user is in control.

The main reasons why things don't work like this currently are related to the structure of the industry. But the industrys structure evolved the way it has partly as a function of the constraints of the underlying technology.

And a relevant key constraint is that in the present state of things, tools enabling AI to respect data sovereignty are often slow to run and difficult to use. If that doesn't sound surprising at all, perhaps that's because basic blockchain platforms like Ethereum and Bitcoin are also currently slow to run and difficult to use, relative to centralized alternatives.

Right now, for instance, one can use multiparty computation and homomorphic encryption in AI agents running in blockchain-based networks, such as many of those offered by members of the Decentralized AI Alliance (an industry organization with more than 50 members). But these tools tend to slow things down tremendously, and are thus infrequently used in practice.

The blockchain world is hard at work making its networks more efficient and introducing new technologies achieving efficiency for particular purposes via alternative architectures (e.g., there are new approaches that offer secure messaging with decentralized validation but no replicated ledger). But there remains much work to be done. And we have to remember the size of the competition. Just as for payments and value storage, Bitcoin, Ethereum and the others are competing in terms of AI with the global banking system and all its close government alliances and among Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google, two companies are already worth more than a trillion dollars, with the other two not far behind.

Funding decentralized technology projects via initial coin offerings has dried up, and initial exchange offerings are mostly relatively small potatoes with increasing regulatory complexity. Venture investors are growing fearful of blockchain companies, partly due to the length of time since the last cryptocurrency boom and partly to the failure in 201819 of numerous corporate blockchain projects that aimed to insert early-stage, poorly scaling technologies like Ethereum into business IT environments with serious performance requirements.

AI is going to be the single most important technology on the planet during the coming years and decades. Who owns, controls and guides the AI in the stages before it becomes more autonomous and owns, controls and guides itself is therefore one of the most crucial issues facing the human species. And this large, complex, multidimensional matter, in significant part, boils down to various nitty-gritty technical issues regarding the interfacing of blockchain and AI.

For all these reasons, the EU putting research and development funds into AI and blockchain development is very sensible and welcomed but one wonders if the amounts involved should be even larger. May this program be the seed of many amazing and impactful things to come!

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Ben Goertzel is the CEO and founder of the SingularityNET Foundation. He is one of the worlds foremost experts in artificial general intelligence, a subfield of AI oriented toward creating thinking machines with general cognitive capability at the human level and beyond.

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EU Fights Corporatization of AI and Blockchain With Massive Investment - Cointelegraph

SoFi founder Mike Cagneys already well-funded new startup is raising another $100 million – TechCrunch

Figure Technologies, a nearly two-year-old, San Francisco-based fintech cofounded by Mike Cagney, the founder of the more established fintech company SoFi, is raising a whole lot of money again.

By February of this year, Figure had already raised $120 million in equity funding from a gaggle of investors, including RPM Ventures, partners at DST Global, Ribbit Capital, DCM, DCG, Nimble Ventures, and Morgan Creek. In May, it announced that it had closed an up to $1 billion uncommitted asset-based financing facility on its own custom blockchain from Jefferies and WSFS Institutional Services.

Now, according to paperwork filed with the SEC earlier this month, it appears that Figure has closed or is about to close on $103 million in Series C funding.

Presumably, investors are interested partly in the companys growing spate of products. While Figure started out providing home loans to older customers who arent earning income and have much of their wealth tied up in their homes a fast-growing demographic it has more recently begun to chase after a demographic that Cagney knows well through SoFi, which is younger people looking to refinance their student loans.

Figure talked recently with American Banker about the companys interest in competing more directly with SoFi, citing the $1.4 trillion in outstanding loan debt as the primary reason its swooping into the space, and with the same mousetrap that Figure has developed to quickly process home loans, which it then securitizes and sells.

Specifically, all of Figures financial services business is executed entirely on its blockchain, Provenance, which further has a native token, Hash, thats used to both access the blockchain and to memorialize off-chain exchange of fiat currency.

Cagney co-founded Figure with his wife, June Ou, who is the companys chief operating officer. She was previously chief technology officer at SoFi, where Cagney lost his job in 2017 as CEO after a board investigation into sexual misconduct at the company.

Others of Figures cofounders include Alana Ackerson and Cynthia Chen. Ackerson was previously the CEO of the Thiel Foundation. Chen was most recently a venture partner with DHVC (Danhua Capital), a venture capital firm based in Palo Alto, Ca.

According to Figures website, it plans to introduce a money market product soon. Figure has also talked in the past of expanding into other lines of business, including wealth management, unsecured consumer loans, and checking accounts, all offered through partner banks.

In the meantime, SoFi has similarly been expanding beyond student loan refinancing under the leadership of current CEO Anthony Noto. Earlier this year, for example, SoFi made fractional share buying and exchange-traded funds available to its users. It also launched a mobile-first cash management account.

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SoFi founder Mike Cagneys already well-funded new startup is raising another $100 million - TechCrunch

Capgemini: showcasing blockchain in the supply chain space – Supply Chain Digital – The Procurement & Supply Chain Platform

Jorg Junghanns, Vice President Europe, Digital Supply Chain of Capgemini, discusses the importance of establishing a strategic blockchain approach while ensuring customer-centricity in the supply chain space.

With technological innovation accelerating on a rapid scale, an increasing number of companies are beginning to introduce blockchain into their operations in a bid to counteract cyberattacks.

Blockchain is a relatively new technology. Having only existed for just over a decade, it has become a popular component of how companies keep their data encrypted and secure. At its core, blockchain is a chain of blocks, however, instead of a physical chain, theres digital information (the block) stored in a public database (the chain). Jorg Junghanns, Vice President Europe, Digital Supply Chain of Capgemini, believes its important to first establish a clear blockchain strategy instead of implementing it with no direction. There are several key questions to ask when setting up a blockchain approach, affirms Junghanns. What do you want to use it for? Is it the right thing? In what ways are you using blockchain? From there, you can critically assess if blockchain is the right choice. Having spent 17 years at Accenture, Junghanns has the experience and pedigree to lead Capgemenis blockchain strategy. Both companies operate a similar business model so it wasnt a major difference, he states. At Accenture, I gained lots of experience in management consulting and it really laid the groundwork for me to succeed in my current role with Capgemini.

As a research and advisory company that prides itself on delivering the best service to customers, Capgemini is recognised as a leader in consulting, technology services and digital transformation. With a customer-centric mindset, Capgemini is continuously seeking how to better serve its customers through innovation amidst the ever-changing technological world. As a result, Junghanns points to the distinct advantages to leveraging blockchain. It helps to fix problems such as transparency, trust, IT and process security. However, the blockchain solution only works if theres a number of partners using it. Its also important to form the right partnerships to make them part of your solution because convincing others to engage with you on in blockchain is one of the biggest challenges to overcome. Capgemini offers a diverse range of services that caters to a variety of different sectors such as aerospace & defence, distribution, travel & transportation, automotive and telecoms. Junghanns affirms blockchain is still in its early concept stage as companies begin to search for the best ways to utilise it. The key challenge is to convince others to engage with you on the blockchain journey along with the usual challenges of IT implementations, the cost involved and ensuring the right partners are onboard.

The influence of new technology cant be ignored. Over the past decade, artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data are increasingly impacting how businesses conduct operations. With companies worldwide searching for ways to leverage new tech in a bid to speed up their existing processes and differentiate from competitors, this has led to AI and machine learning (ML) becoming prominent features of businesses digital transformations. However, Junghanns believes there is still room for development before AI is considered an essential tool industry-wide. Technology is becoming increasingly important, but is AI a key part of all businesses strategies at the moment? Not yet, explains Junghanns.

The scale of what tomorrows technology could be is staggering. The supply chain industry remains keen to introduce technologies such as ML and AI to enhance productivity and streamline operations. We primarily use AI for demand and network planning as well as fulfillment management, he says. Were continuously looking at how we can include AI to better serve our clients but we certainly dont rely on it. With staying ahead of the curve paramount to success, Junghanns believes in the importance of juggling innovation with customer-centricity. Its our responsibility to identify a pragmatic solution that helps our clients. We have to be ahead of the latest trends, he explains. However, we must ensure we tailor-make solutions to our clients needs and integrate new technologies based on what they really want. Its fair to say Capgemini values its customers. With customer-centricity recognised as a core part of the companys corporate values, Junghanns believes his firms success rests on how it treats its customers. Were fair, frank and open. We believe that we can help our customers achieve their targets more efficiently than anyone else. Its about putting our clients needs at the heart of what we do.

Looking to the future, Junghanns has a clear vision for the future of the supply chain industry. Its clear that technology is the future of the supply chain space, he says. Were currently working with our customers on no touch supply chains. We want to free up supply chain professionals and allow a greater focus on strategic thinking to enable better decisions to be made. We want to make life easier for the millions of executives working in supply chain. The future is full of uncertainties and exceptions but its how you manage these challenges that ensures you succeed in the future.

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Capgemini: showcasing blockchain in the supply chain space - Supply Chain Digital - The Procurement & Supply Chain Platform

Indias blockchain drive: What the experts are saying – Decrypt

India is the latest country to jump on the blockchain bandwagon, with a national strategy for blockchain announced yesterday. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) plans to scale up and widely deploy the technology, describing it as one of the important research areas.

But, on the same lines as China, it appears to be holding onto the blockchain, not Bitcoin mantra. According to Sharan Nair, chief business officer at India-based crypto exchange CoinSwitch, its specifically focusing on private blockchains.

The government in India and most countries often tend to view Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies as two different entirely separable entities, Nair told Decrypt. It is worth mentioning that the governments use of the word blockchain is not a representation of public blockchain as most people think.

And yet, he argued that it will have a knock on effect, leading to more cryptocurrency awareness and use over time.

With this new advancement, I feel the government may soon get a glimpse of public blockchains and how cryptocurrencies play a critical role, Nair said.

Sandeep Nailwal, co-founder of Matic Network, too, drew confidence from the announcement. I think that its already in-line with [the government of Indias] bullishness on blockchains. We believe that its the first step towards eventual full adoption of blockchains in their utmost essence. So for us, its a good sign, he said.

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However, while the new focus is on private blockchains, it might have a side benefit of clearing up regulations for public blockchain, making it easier for crypto businesses to operate.

What the ecosystem needs is clarity on use of cryptocurrencies in public blockchains, said Aravindh Kumar, co-founder at Newfang, a decentralized cloud storage platform for developers, before adding, A regulatory sandbox until then would be a progressive step.

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Indias blockchain drive: What the experts are saying - Decrypt

Afghan Government to Apply Blockchain in Countrys Healthcare Sector – Cointelegraph

The Afghan Ministry of Public Health has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with blockchain firm FantomOperations to integrate blockchain technology into the countrys healthcare sector.

As Afghan Voice Agency reported on Nov. 27, the terms of the MoU would apply blockchain to identify counterfeit medicines, create medical registries in hospitals and digitize patients files. Commenting on the initiative, Afghan Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said:

"The Ministry of Public Health is committed for the institutionalization of electronic government in the health sector and the blockchain technology would help the ministry bring transparency, acceleration and effectiveness in the related affairs."

Both the government and the public have expressed concerns about the volume of counterfeit pharmaceuticals in the country, with many citizens using traditional medicine for health problems due to their inexpensiveness and accessibility, according to an April report from the European Asylum Support Office.

The Medicine Importers Union stated that at least 40% of medicine and medical equipment enter the Afghan market illegally and many of the pharmaceutical products are low quality, the report read.

This summer, the United Nations revealed that it began working on blockchain solutions for sustainable urban development in Afghanistan. The organization is developing blockchain solutions for land records and services transparency as part of the UNs City for All initiative.

The UN initiative anticipates Afghanistans population becoming mostly urban within the next 15 years. Its three stated priorities are effective land management, strategic urban planning, and improved municipal finance.

In April, Afghanistans central bank governor Khalil Sediq said that the institution was considering issuing a sovereign crypto bond to raise $5.8 billion. Alongside Bitcoin (BTC), Sediq reportedly mentioned metal futures and pointed out that the countrys mineral reserves are estimated to be worth over $3 trillion.

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Afghan Government to Apply Blockchain in Countrys Healthcare Sector - Cointelegraph