To be sure, digital currency markets have had their ups and downs. A recent study by Gallup shows that only 2 percent of investors are currently purchasing Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, but one in four is intrigued. With major banks betting on the space, however, that math may be about to change.

Whether or not your company accepts cryptocurrency as a payment method, it would do well to pay attention to the surprising ways the business world is already using digital currency:

1. Investing in customer loyalty.

Loyalty programs have long struggled to find the right incentive structure. According to the 2017 Colloquy Loyalty Census, more than half of loyalty memberships in the U.S. are inactive. The report says approximately 30 percent of surveyed U.S. and Canadian consumers have left loyalty programs without ever redeeming a point or a mile.

Could cryptocurrencies reignite customer loyalty? Cryptocurrency gives customers want they want — cash — without the security and logistics challenges of doling out cash.

In Zurich, for example, Caffe Lattesso encourages purchasers to redeem codes found on its bottles for loyalty rewards in the form of digital coins, which can be exchanged within a few months for other digital tokens or traditional currency. EZ Rent-A-Car is following suit with a program that allows customers to exchange their loyalty points for digital coins.

2. Banking on accessory technologies.

Rather than re-invigorate their existing customer base, other entrepreneurs could look at building a new one around the cryptocurrency market. Investors may start focusing less on initial coin offerings and more on building the technological ecosystem around cryptocurrencies.

Demand is growing quickly for digital currency point-of-sale systems, for example. Although most of the demand is currently in South Korea, at least one company plans to distribute some 100,000 point-of-sale machines by 2021. Vendors that accept cryptocurrencies will also need accounting and reporting software to support the payment method.

3. Making change with ease.

But cryptocurrencies are good for more than spending money; they’re also great for giving back. Eric Tippetts, co-founder of NASGO pointed out at the United Nations’ Media for Social Change Summit, cryptocurrency’s digital nature makes set-it-and-forget-it philanthropy possible.

“Instead of voicing a commitment to philanthropy, the blockchain makes it possible to program giving into the operation itself,” Tippetts explained in a Cheddar interview. NASGO’s financial systems, he noted, direct every seventeenth revenue cycle into an account for humanitarian contributions.

Creatives, too, are using cryptocurrency to spread their message.

In the Cheddar interview, Tippetts and Jaafar Jackson, son of Jermaine Jackson and nephew of Michael Jackson, discussed plans to tokenize upcoming musical releases as a way to raise awareness, gather contributions and donate part of their earnings to humanitarian causes. Ashton Kutcher, in fact, recently donated $4 million in XRP tokens, a digital currency introduced by fintech startup Ripple, to the Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund during his appearance on DeGeneres’s show.

Far from the fad its detractors thought it would be, digital currency is become a staple of the business world sooner than anyone expected. If it can soup up tired loyalty programs, open new opportunities in software and streamline charitable giving, then what’s next? Entrepreneurs can’t buy an answer to that question — but they can build it.

*This post is credited to Entrepreneur

Chinese retail giant JD.com is further gaining a foothold in blockchain technology by launching a research lab for blockchain in partnership with two technology institutes, according to an announcement published Oct. 30.

Jingdong Group (JD.com) is a leading Chinese e-commerce company, controlling roughly 30 percent of the business-to-consumer online market in China with 314 million active users, according to Financial Times. The company focuses on implementation of new technologies in e-commerce, delivery services, and finance.

Per the announcement, JD has collaborated with the Ying Wu College of Computing at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and the Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISCAS) to establish a blockchain technology lab. The lab will be geared towards solving efficiency problems and examining new applications for the technology.

Among other objectives of the lab, JD cites long-term joint research efforts in fundamental consensus protocols, privacy protection, and security in decentralized applications (DApps). Zhong Hua, deputy director of the Software Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, stated that “through this partnership we will bring about blockchain innovation and promote industrial applications of blockchain technology.”

Last month, JD established the Smart City Research Institute at its headquarters in Nanjing aimed at facilitating the development of “smart city” construction with the use of artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and blockchain technologies. The Institute will reportedly influence “the entire East China region” and aims to reduce industry costs and increase efficiency.

In August, JD revealed its new Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) platform dubbed JD Blockchain Open Platform. The new product is designed to help commercial customers to build, host and implement blockchain solutions without having to develop the technology from scratch.

Moreover, in August the company revealed plans to issue asset-backed securities (ABSs) on a blockchain in conjunction with Huatai Securities and Xingye Bank. Within the collaboration, the partners would purportedly assess blockchain’s potential to improve asset security.

*This post is credited to CoinTelegraph

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are on the verge of completely revolutionizing the way we think about the transportation of both goods and people. In order to help usher in this new way of doing things, the DAV foundation has built a network which can not only connect cars to cars or drones to drones, but can link together any and all autonomous vehicles including cars, trucks, rovers, and drones, along with the vital infrastructure needed to make them work. This includes mapping software and services such as charging outlets.

I spoke to John Frazer, an Ethereum Foundation veteran who is now involved as CCO of the Decentralized Autonomous Vehicles Foundation on the topic and he provided a brief overview of this interesting project:

“We acknowledge that reaching full machine autonomy for vehicles will take time. The DAV network also supports discovery, communications, and transactions involving manned vehicles. We recognized at the outset that there will always be a slice of the market that would insist on human supervision and intervention, whether that involved drones, or rovers, or road vehicles or marine vehicles”, Frazer explained.

Through the DAV Network, people who own vehicles or the charging stations on the network are paid for the services that they can provide their peers. By leveraging this peer-to-peer system, users on the network have access to an expansive system of AVs and infrastructure which can take them anywhere or bring them anything. DAV is laying the foundation for a decentralized transportation infrastructure that will have built-in incentives for all the different participants: consumers, businesses, software developers, hardware makers, maintenance providers, insurers, and arbitrators.

The introduction of blockchain technology across a wide array of industries has altered the way many key decision makers approach recognizing and exchanging value. Industry-specific applications built on top of blockchain technology have the capacity to create new ecosystems where value can be exchanged in a secure and immutable manner. DAV is taking this one step further by applying the principle of a peer-to-peer value exchange to the transfer of physical things connected to the transportation sector, leveraging both the blockchain and emerging technology of smart contracts to allow secure interactions where no parties need to worry about trust.

A system of this nature is important to ensure that the larger industry players like Tesla, Uber, or Alphabet do not end up with a virtual monopoly over the growing Internet of Transportation. Vertical integration of all vehicles and infrastructure under one company does not currently look like a viable outcome as the industry is already too large. A decentralized network, or a commons, will allow innovators and companies to integrate their solutions into a greater whole, without the level of investment that the tech giants have access to,

Encouraging experimentation and innovation in emerging sectors is a vital component for their success, and increasing the number of companies making viable contributions to the space maximizes the potential avenues for where the next big breakthrough in mapping, fuelling, or safety will come from. A decentralized network with multiple players developing the best possible solutions for every aspect around mobility gives them the best solutions the chance to rise to prominence without these companies needing to develop parallel infrastructures individually. Blockchain technology is vital to this kind of arrangement, as it registers and secures the wealth of data that the interactions between disparate moving parts inevitably creates.

A decentralized network can be used as an ecosystem of connected component parts. By removing gatekeepers like administrators approving transactions, it becomes necessary for vehicles themselves to interact with charging stations and other vital infrastructure. One such application of this would be if several organizations have their own separate fleets of ride-hailing vehicles. Despite this being a traditionally “siloed” system, they can use the infrastructure that the network provides without interfering with each other. This is beneficial for the vehicle providers, as they no longer need to develop their own infrastructure for the fleet. By joining the network and using the services that already exist within it, they can reach the wider market more easily and focus more resources on their core products.

“The DAV protocol refers to a set of interconnected systems that create an open-source transportation infrastructure. The entire network is predicated on these protocols, making it highly scalable and ensuring it has no single point of failure. By decentralizing protocols around communication and transactions and open sourcing its technology stack, DAV fosters cooperation in an otherwise severely fragmented industry. Access to the DAV Network is permissionless; new players can enter the market and quickly scale up their participation in the transportation economy”, Frazer added.

Frazer explained that open-sourcing DAV’s network technology helps to eliminate barriers preventing companies from positively interacting with each other and utilizing the wealth of innovative solutions that are otherwise siloed away. In the AV sector, even the greatest successes are restricted by either company or geography, limiting the wider applications of the technologies in the real world. Enabling different entities from different manufacturers to communicate with each other, for example, vehicles and charging stations is in an important part of spreading the success of this industry as far and wide as possible.

By employing an open-source model DAV is able to push innovation to the edge, giving more participants control over the pace and direction of innovation, and fuelling creativity. Each participant, (be it customer to vehicle) on the network has a unique ID, which allows the system to track the transactions and create smart contracts that stay on that ID’s history. All members of the network communicate in a decentralized manner in two different ways: on-blockchain or off-blockchain.

On-blockchain communication is where all smart contracts are signed, and where all payments and other transactions happen, taking advantage of the blockchain’s strengths when it comes to exchanging, securing and confirming information. Off-blockchain communication is where vehicles, infrastructure, and service providers communicate. For example, an AV would be subscribed to a certain amount of service providers or infrastructure providers would be subscribed to a certain number of vehicles. An AV could send a message that it is looking for a charging station, parking space or service station and the relevant stations nearby would respond back with bids. The vehicle would then proceed to choose the best bid and drive to get the service required.

Anyone can join the network, as it is meant to be a public commons for Transport, much as the World Wide Web is a commons for content. Generally, participants will be providers or consumers (or both), with the latter being the ones who use the services and infrastructure on the network. Consumers can actually refer to both people and vehicles themselves when using things like charging services or mapping technology, Frazer added.

Providers can split into several categories. For instance, vehicle providers are the companies that provide vehicles for on-demand services, infrastructure providers supply the network with charging station, docking, and parking. Service providers offer the maintenance necessary to the infrastructure and vehicles underpinning much of the wider network.

Additionally, arbitrators and Insurance providers are the third parties of the system. They are essential for providing on-demand insurance contracts on the blockchain, and for providing independent dispute resolution. Perhaps most fundamental to the network itself are the final category of DAV members, the software and hardware providers who develop the open-source platform of custom services that are accessible to everyone on the network. The DAV Network can be accessed by all these participants using a DAV Token. These tokens are used to purely grant access to the network, and cannot be used in any other way.

*This post is credited to Forbes

Singapore’s largest shipping operator – Pacific International Lines (PIL) – has entered into a collaboration with IBM to use blockchain technology to digitize the most vital of shipping documents, the Bill of Lading.

There are countless projects open around the world at varying stages of application and development that involve improving supply chain management processes by way of blockchain technology. This latest trial is no less significant given that the Bill of Lading is a crucial document in the shipping world. It acts as a conclusive proof of the goods having been loaded, evidences the terms of the contract of carriage and serves as a document of title to the goods.

It has been a physical document for centuries and it’s one which banks rely upon to facilitate trade financing. There are inefficiencies with this system in that the document needs to be mailed to the various stakeholders, original documentation may be lost and there’s a potential for fraud. Handling costs are implicated and it’s not the most time efficient system.

This has led to IBM & PIL collaborating to utilize blockchain technology to produce an Electronic Bill of Lading or E-BL. Executive Director of PIL, Lisa Teo, shared her thoughts on the development;

“As an international shipping company, we believe we have a role to play in enhancing efficiencies within the international transport logistics ecosystem. Working with a complex logistic network comprising ports and terminals, agencies, government entities, banks and shippers, systematic supply chain management is increasingly important to lower costs through the chain by cutting unnecessary expense, movements and handling.”

Teo also explained that using blockchain tech – and specifically a decentralized network – facilitates transparency in the process, eliminating potential for disputes and fraud, whilst cutting out the paperwork at the same time. She clarifies that the supply chain slows when so many points of communication have to be acknowledged in a manual, paper-based system – and that an E-BL over blockchain reduces the friction.

In November, the extent of the initiative will be broadened to shadow a shipment in real time – end-to-end. The ultimate objective over time is to facilitate an integrated blockchain based system over the entire course of the supply chain.

The collaboration is being supported by Singapore Customs, Singapore Shipping Association, Bank of China (Singapore) and the Port Authority of Singapore. This E-BL initiative follows on from a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by IBM Singapore and PIL in August 2017.

There have been a number of collaborations to investigate, trial and deploy blockchain based solutions in the shipping industry in recent times. Rival international container shipping company, Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) carried out a similar trial of blockchain technology last year. Earlier this year, shipping giant Maersk indicted they were going to form a joint venture with IBM with the objective of creating a blockchain based platform for the shipping industry and extended supply chain. The end to end electronic supply chain system will be deployed using Hyperledger Fabric.

It seems that all of the major shipping companies have been making efforts at deploying one blockchain-based solution or another. This led to shipping companies Hapag Lloyd and CMA CGM to call for one standard system – the point being that deploying multiple systems in international shipping would be unworkable in terms of regulatory governance. Furthermore, it would just add to the cost and complexity as someone would have to build systems to integrate them.

There’s no doubt that there is a lot of activity globally in terms of open blockchain-based projects looking to reduce friction and costs and provide transparency in various supply chain processes. This work is ongoing and whilst there have been some real world deployments, we have not yet arrived at a matured and consolidated application of the technology. However, the fundamentals for the application of the technology appear to be sound, and it’s only a matter of time before blockchain-based applications become an integral part of the supply chain process.

*This post is credited to The Bitcoin Mag

Blockchain continues to be the hot topic in the global startup ecosystem. And, more entrepreneurs are placing huge bets on this technology. However, this is not the same case in a few countries. According to a study released by auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), trust is one the biggest blockers to the blockchain’s adoption. Concern about trust among respondents in the survey was highest in Singapore (37%).

Despite numerous trust issues, there are no stopping companies from using this technology. We asked the founders of blockchain startups in Singapore how they are harnessing the power of this technology for good.

Analyze the Applicability of Technology

Singapore-based LALA World chief executive officer and founder, Sankalp Shangari, feels blockchain technology is not just bringing in a difference at the consumer level instead it is posing a threat to the established system of governance, which is obtrusive of financial freedom.

“A lot of myths are floating around the technology. It was dubbed as a dubious technology, which may look promising, but was porous and could be compromised. The reality is far from it; the technology is secure and reliable than any of the other techniques available. But at the same time, it is complex and in a nascent stage just like the web was in the early 90’s and that is what helps the naysayers in spreading heresy about it. The need is to understand its applicability to a particular problem and the impact it has in solving it,” said Shangari.

LALA ID, a product of LALA World, is a comprehensive solution that protects the personal information of the users through the immutable blockchain technology. Additionally, the startup offers features like crypto payments through its application.

“The world is going gung-ho about the possibilities of the said technology, which is gradually growing as an infrastructural pillar of economic functionalities, receiving the attention it deserves,” added Shangari.

Mapping Unequal Data Sources

Founded by Mike Davie, Quadrant Protocol leverages blockchain and smart contracts to track the data’s journey along the data chain–from the originating device to the data scientists that add value to the data–and provide automatic compensation every time the data is purchased. This helps create a more sustainable data economy. The startup serves as the blueprint that provides an organized system for the utilization of decentralized data.

“Data quality is vital to the success of Artificial Intelligence. Algorithms will believe whatever the data tells them to believe, so using poor quality data can result in unintended consequences. Data consumers, therefore, need to know where the data is coming from and be able to trust the source. At the same time, the original providers of the data are rarely compensated fairly.  Data consumers like data scientists or AI practitioners can be assured of the quality and provenance of the data being purchased, while providers are compensated fairly. All compensation is paid in Quadrant Protocol tokens, which are recorded on the blockchain,” said Davie.

Easing Insurance Agreements

Insurtech company Hearti is serving insurers with their proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain platform.

Keith Lim, chief executive officer, Hearti believes blockchain’s immutable nature can foster trust in the insurance agreements between consumers, insurers, and partners.

“Smart contracts are executed based on events that trigger conditions within the agreement (for eg. to pay out claims in the event of a flight delay). When claims data is shared securely on the blockchain, duplicate claims and fraud can be tracked and detected. Such uses of blockchain create huge value for our company’s proposition and put it at the forefront of the industry,” he said.

Founded in June 2015, Hearti Lab was born out of the realization that there was a void in the corporate and personal insurance sector: the lack of a low-cost, full-featured A.I. platform for insurance management. To achieve its vision of developing an integrated insurance platform, the startup has developed two complementary platforms: BENEFIT.X & SURETY.AI.

Building Trust In Technology

For Joseph Lee, chief technology officer, BridgeX Network, blockchain is the “New Technology of Trust”. He believes that blockchain related technologies will spur new ways for the global economy to work.

“Perhaps due to the newness of the tech, there may still be a trust deficit with the general public. We are using blockchain technologies to create a platform to allow lenders and borrowers to transact directly, in a secure, trusted, and protected environment. The terms are specified in the blockchain and will be executed automatically without bias. There is no longer a need for centralized entities to stand in between the borrowers and lenders. The costs saved from eliminating intermediaries are passed to the participants on the platform,” said Lee

BridgeX Network is a financial ecosystem framework, built on a proprietary technology core, that bridges the worlds of cryptocurrencies and fiat. The startup provides decentralised credit, conversion and payment solutions between crypto and fiat currencies, allowing unprecedented interoperability. These create a unifying platform for both fintech-blockchain and traditional financial companies to participate in this new economy.

*This post is credited to Entrepreneur

Singapore Power Group, the country’s energy utilities provider, has launched a blockchain-powered marketplace for renewable energy certificates (RECs).

The company announced in a press release Monday that the platform is “designed and built in-house” and enables organizations to trade in RECs – tradable certificates that represent energy generated from renewable sources such as solar. Blockchain technology, it says, bring the platform “security, integrity and traceability of each REC transaction.”

When an entity purchases RECs, renewable energy is generated on their behalf by producers. The release says that buyers are automatically matched with sellers on the blockchain platform, helping companies to achieve their sustainability targets.

“Through blockchain technology, we enable companies to trade in renewable energy certificates conveniently, seamlessly and securely, helping them achieve greener business operations and meet their sustainability targets,” said Samuel Tan, chief digital officer at Singapore Power.

According to the group, the first buyers to have signed up on its blockchain platform are City Developments Limited (CDL) and DBS Bank. Solar power developers such as Cleantech Solar Asia and LYS Energy Solutions have also already joined the platform as sellers. Katoen Natie Singapore, which is expected to launch a solar facility in the country soon, has also joined as an REC seller.

Earlier this month, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, the government agency charged with supervising and regulating power utility services in the state, said it was looking to implement blockchain for its energy credit tracking system.

*This post is credited to CoinDesk

Following in the steps of international counterparts, Indonesia is setting its sights on blockchain as an enabler of increased efficiency and greater transparency with applications currently being explored in areas and industries that include e-voting and agriculture.

Melbourne-based startup Horizon State, which was recently named one of the World Economic Forum’s Tech Pioneers, announced in July a project to roll out a community voter platform built on blockchain technology in the island of Sumatra which it hopes to scale-up for regional and national government elections in Indonesia.

“We’re in interesting dialogue at the moment with national and regional governments, which are interested in the future to use of the technology in regional and national government elections in the region,” Horizon State CEO Oren Alazraki told ABC.

The Sumatra project focuses on providing the 92 million members of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, with a digital ballot box on their mobile phones that allows them to vote on key decisions affecting their community, such as electing leaders, allocating funds and deciding on community projects.

In this particular use case, blockchain technology promises to provide trust in the electoral process itself as well as very low cost ways of verifying that these votes took place.

Another topic that’s got people excited is the use of blockchain in the agricultural sector. Startup HARA Token is trying to get Indonesia’s rice growers on the blockchain.

The company wants to use critical information like soil quality, grain price, and land ownership from farmers and field agents to help Indonesian farmers increase annual yields. Farmers who input this data into the blockchain will be rewarded with HARA Tokens, which can be exchanged for needed goods like fertilizer.

In the end, this could help make farmers more plugged-in and knowledgeable about prices, sales, and best practices. Meanwhile, NGOs and government institutions could gain access to a valuable data set that shows what’s happening in the rice sector in real time.

HARA Token wants to reach 2 million farmers by 2020 but by September 2018, they’ve only reached 7,000.

Earlier this year, tech firm Online Pajak launched a blockchain-driven app that allows customers to share encrypted tax data with institutions such as the tax and treasury offices, banks and the central bank.

As well as increasing transparency and reducing paperwork and errors, it would mean tax payers can know for sure they have paid their dues, said Online Pajak’s founder Charles Guinot.

Indonesia’s blockchain industry

Indonesia has witnessed the emergence of a blockchain industry in recent years. Although smaller and less developed than regional counterparts like Singapore, the country is home to several noteworthy startups including Pundi X, a maker of point-of-sale devices supporting cryptocurrency, and Indodax, formerly Bitcoin Indonesia, the country’s largest cryptocurrency exchange.

In August, it welcomed a new blockchain hub called Indonesia Blockchain Hub. The hub was launched to serve as a center for developing and promoting blockchain in the country, helping unify the efforts of various local communities, drive innovation and offer education.

According to reports, five major banks, Bank Negara Indonesia, Bank Rakyat Indonesia, Bank Mandiri, Bank Danamon and Bank Permata, are toying with the idea of implementing blockchain in their systems.

While Indonesia has so far welcomed blockchain technology, it has taken a different stance towards cryptocurrencies. In 2017, Bank Indonesia banned fintech companies using cryptocurrencies for transactions, which doesn’t prohibit trading of the digital tokens itself.

Despite the prohibition, the regulator unveiled earlier this year plans to issue its own cryptocurrency or digital rupiah backed by blockchain technology.

An assistant to Bank Indonesia’s executive director for payment systems Susiato Dewi said the digital rupiah would be trialed this year in an effort to help make the payment system more efficient. Indonesia hopes to be the first country in the world to launch a digital currency.

*This post is credited to Fintech News Singapore

Mastercard has won a patent for fractional cryptocurrency banking, which suggests the global payments multinational has plans for a management system of fractional reserves of blockchain currency.

Mastercard Blockchain Patent Integrates Existing Traditional Payment Networks with Blockchain Currencies

The patent, filed on 29 June 2018, refers to “the use of centralized accounts to manage fractional reserves of fiat and blockchain currency updated via transaction messages corresponding to fiat- and blockchain-based payment transactions”.

The inventor, Steven Charles Davis, senior consultant of research & development at Mastercard, explained the need for such a mechanism.

Blockchain-based transactions can be very time consuming due to the computer processing time and resources required to verify and update the blockchain. This creates a problem between consumers and merchants, particularly the payee who “must rely on the payer’s good faith that their transfer will be valid”.

“In such latter instances, the anonymity of the blockchain may leave the payee at a disadvantage, because the inability for the payee to identify the payer may prohibit the payee from utilizing various risk or fraud detection methods,” the document noted

Moreover, it can be difficult for consumers to adopt, or even understand, blockchain currencies, it said, adding that its anonymous nature may leave consumers “unable to prove their identity and ownership of a wallet”, thus with “little recourse if their wallet and/or associated currency is stolen”.

The fractional reserve system for blockchain aims to improve the storage and processing of transactions by using existing traditional payment networks and payment systems technologies in combination with blockchain currencies.

The inventor argues the integration is able to “provide consumers and merchants the benefits of the decentralized blockchain while still maintaining security of account information and provide a strong defense against fraud and theft”.

The method for managing fractional reserves of blockchain currency comprises of receiving a transaction message associated with a payment transaction; identifying a specific account profile stored in an account database that includes the specific address, a fiat currency amount and a blockchain currency amount; and updating the blockchain currency amount included in the identified specific account profile.

Ajay Banga, President and CEO of Mastercard, recently called cryptocurrencies “junk”. His speech also tackled the massive market volatility and the popularity among criminals. Banga also argued that digital assets don’t deserve to be considered as a medium of exchange. Meanwhile, in the company’s Ireland-based subsidiary, much R&D has been done in regard to blockchain to improve payments services.

*This post is credited to News BTC

Malta has recently earned the name “Blockchain Island”, being the first jurisdiction in the world to adopt blockchain regulations – three in fact. And, the Mediterranean island has already attracted the two largest crypto exchanges, Binance and OKEx, and most recently ZBX, now opening offices in the rising crypto hub.

In July this year that the Maltese Parliament passed law setting the framework blockchain (distributed ledger technology (DLT), cryptocurrency and digital assets.

And, the following month, Silvio Schembri, Malta’s Junior Minister for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation (responsible for implementing Malta’s Blockchain Strategy, was quoted on Forbes explaining how Malta has become the world’s blockchain island.

Clearly, the politicians here have big aspirations. This is after all one of the world’s smallest countries (122 per square miles/316 km2) as well as most densely populated (c.475,000).

The massive scale of the Malta Blockchain Summit, which takes place this coming week (November 1-2), reflects this new-found momentum. The summit, which has been in the planning since last December and will see banks and some big names in venture capital (VC) space attending, is set to take place at the InterContinental Hotel at St Julian’s on the island. The event consists of four conferences over the two days, namely:

  • A Regulatory conference;
  • A Marketing and Investment conference;
  • A Developer and Technology conference; and,
  • A Tokenomics and Crypto conference

These proceedings are set around an already sold-out exhibition floor. Added to that there is a two-day Hackathon with around 300 blockchain developers taking part, with a €50,000 (c.$57,000) prize up for grabs to the winners.

Rounding things off, there is an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) pitch battle between what are described as thirty of the “hottest” start-ups in the crypto sphere. Each entity, who will be competing for $100,000, will have 10 minutes to make a pitch to a panel of judges.

It all comes on the heels of another blockbuster blockchain event on the island, the Delta Summit, which was convened at the start of October, which was attended by a little over 4,000 attendees from far and wide. But the Malta Blockchain Summit is on course to top that number according to the organizers.

Melanie Mohr, CEO and founder of WOM protocol, which is building a blockchain-based protocol that allows brands, content creators, publishers and social networks to monetize “word of mouth” (i.e. WOM) recommendations on any app or platform, chose Malta as a jurisdiction because the organization believes it is at the “forefront from a regulatory standpoint” in the blockchain and DLT space.

“A significant number of very knowledgeable people from the global blockchain community have worked diligently together with the government [here] to develop a legal framework, which regulates wisely and supports the further development of blockchain and DLT,” said the Berlin-based entrepreneur who is working at the forefront of the global digital revolution.

WOM indicated that they had also found a “great level of support” on the island.

Having founded video m-commerce platform YEAY in 2016 with the aim of providing GenZ with a bespoke space to share and shop, Mohr added: “The recent Delta Summit [October 3-5] showed how well Malta has positioned itself already. It delivered great content from top-notch speakers and attracted the global community to join. It was packed and for me THE blockchain event of the year to date.”

As such the German entrepreneur is “more than convinced” that the upcoming Malta Blockchain Summit will show that the island is “really in the spotlight of the global blockchain development” with thousands of attendees from around the world. “And, it can proudly call itself Blockchain Island,” she asserted.

Crypto Exchanges & Malta Exchange

In the case of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed last month (September 11) with MSX Plc, the fintech and digital asset subsidiary of the Malta Stock Exchange.

This initiative was to launch a new digital exchange for security token trading, with the new trading platform poised to leverage Malta Stock Exchange’s 26-year track record of operating as a regulated stock exchange.

The MoU follows a decision by Binance to extend its business to Malta, in recognition of the country’s crypto regulatory climate. Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, CEO of Binance, commenting at the time said: “Malta has become a global hub for blockchain technology through active and transparent crypto regulations.” (Note: Zhao’s net worth was put at north of $1.1 billion by Forbes in February 2018).

And, when I visited the exchange in Valletta this July for a tour, one could see that space was being set aside for innovative fintech start-ups in incubator hubs in the building.

Apart from admission and trading, the exchange that resides in the Garrison Chapel looking out over the harbour offers a comprehensive range of back-office services.

This includes maintenance of share and bond registers, clearing and settlement and custody services via its Central Securities Depository (CSD), which is situated in-house. It also has a link with Clearstream Banking in Frankfurt (part of Deutsche Boerse), and in Luxembourg that facilitates international access.

As explained by Simon Zammit, CEO of the Malta Stock Exchange during my visit, the exchange announced in May 2107 that it was to continue its use of Deutsche Boerse trading technology, extending an agreement from 1 January 2017, for another five years from that point – until 31 December 2021.

They also extended the exchange’s trading hours from 9.00 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. Zammit pointed out of that time that Deutsche Boerse’s technology was “extremely reliable” and highly performant. The partnership has been in place since 2012.

Boasting what the organizers claim are 5,000 delegates attending the huge event in a few days time, hundreds of investors, around 100 speakers and some 300 sponsors and exhibitors, the Malta Blockchain Summit will set the stage to announce the new crypto, ICO and blockchain regulations for Malta, as well as host debates surrounding the potential applications of blockchain across a myriad of industries such as entertainment, government, and banking.

Well, that is the tune being disseminated from the island in recent weeks by the organizers.

One delegate who I spoke to at CoinAgenda Europe (2018) on the island ventured in relation to the best – or perhaps the “right” – jurisdiction for crypto or blockchain businesses and regulation ventured: “Everyone decides to pick what they think is the right country. And, right now it clearly looks to be here [Malta]. We will see whether that lasts. I think it has a good chance of lasting here. But my motto is: Jurisdictional Diversification.”

Proactive Approach

It is the Maltese government’s forward-thinking approach to blockchain regulation, their low corporate-tax, being part of the European Union (EU)-zone and the warm climate that allures the vast number of various blockchain related companies to escape to Malta and the migration trend is incremental.

Indeed, when I was last in Malta this June for the CoinAgenda 2018 event during which Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of Malta, gave a Keynote address, you could be forgiven for thinking one was in paradise.

Siim Õunap, the COO for Celerexx, a new exchange launching in 2019, commenting on the jurisdictional landscape said: “The Maltese government has been seeking to get crypto-related companies to boost their economy for quite some time and they been successful in their approach.”

The Estonian added: “While their governmental services and legal procedures are behind e-countries such as Estonia or Lithuania, special regulations allow Celerexx to offer lower prices and better services to our customers, which makes [for us] the move to Malta worthwhile.”

It is not just the exchanges that choose a more contributing environment in Malta for their operations. Coinvest, the crypto investment trading firm, announced a new collaboration with the Maltese government to establish a blockchain council. In addition, the new regulatory framework also supports ICO companies in their financial products, attracting many new and innovative projects to set up their base camp on Blockchain Island.

Malta Blockchain Summit & New Bills

During the Malta Blockchain Summit, three new decentralized ledger technology bills will come into force: (1) The Malta Digital Innovation Authority Act; (2) The Innovative Technological Arrangement and Service Act; and, (3) The Virtual Financial Asset Act.

Together these will provide what are being described as a “clear and navigable” framework for innovative technology businesses in a way that rules and governance are not the roadblocks to innovation. Blockchain and crypto pundits out there contends that the current indecisiveness and half-hearted regulation of most of the national regulatory bodies are just as inhibiting and near-sighted – as is the outright prohibition of innovative solutions.

The Malta Digital Innovation Authority Act establishes the governance body to regulate the Distributed Ledger Technology, or DLT, industry with its principal goals to ensure businesses accepted as Technology Service Providers and the services they provide are in accordance with the principle of being honest and transparent to protect the consumers and financial markets.

The Innovative Technological Arrangement and Service Act is created as the futureproof regime for the registration and certification of Technology Service Providers and Technology Arrangements as it envisages the possibility of unforeseen technology developments.

The Virtual Assets Act is a framework within there is Financial Instruments Test that provides clear indication whether cryptocurrency or token issued in an ICO would qualify as a financial instrument that needs to be regulated as a security or virtual token that falls outside of the scope of regulation.

If the asset cannot be classified as either, it will be considered as a Virtual Financial Asset and regulated by the new law once it has enforced. ICOs and crypto exchanges can now breathe easy knowing that they are in compliance with the authorities and do not have to worry about being shut down.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who will inaugurate the regulatory conference, in giving a keynote speech on July 16 at the CoinAgenda Europe (2018) event at the Westin Hotel, St Julian, described the enactment of the three new laws as a “sweeping round” of legislation (i.e. covering the blockchain, crypto and digital asset space), saying: “This is not the end but just the start and the Maltese Government had to be innovative.”

One of the most keenly anticipated speakers at the conference is Dr W. Scott Stornetta who co-authored a paper that described for the first time a digital hierarchy system that utilized digital time-stamps for ordering transactions, the solution that entity called Satoshi Nakamoto later used in his Bitcoin protocol. This has earned Dr Stornetta the recognition as the founding father of blockchain technology.

The Winklevoss twins are attending as VIP investors and John McAfee, the famous British-American programmer and businessman, who I bumped into on a Blockchain cruise from Barcelona to Monte Carlo  this September organized by Coinsbank, is now confirmed as a speaker for the developer’s conference of the summit.

In 1987, he founded McAfee Antivirus, and under his leadership the company executed a meteoric rise to the top of the computer security industry. If his keynote to delegates on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship is anything to go by delegates at the Malta Blockchain Summit are unlikely to feel short changed.

And not to be outdone by her human counterparts, Sophia, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) humanoid robot has been confirmed as a speaker at the upcoming Summit. The Saudi Arabian citizen will join her creator in a fireside chat during proceedings. It all brings back memories of IPsoft’s Amelia, a digital personal assistant, who I saw in action earlier this summer in New York’s financial district at Cipriani.

The Hanson Robotics’ creation has become something of a media darling, appearing on popular late-night talk shows, gracing magazine covers, and taking up sought-after seats on plum panels and high-level conferences. Her status as a cultural icon has allowed her to ignite advanced conversations on how robotics and artificial intelligence will permeate people’s lives.

The event has already attracted hordes of investors to witness an ICO battle that provides a highly valuable opportunity for thirty blockchain-based companies to get support for the next step in their roadmap.

One of those ICOs to pitch at the Malta Blockchain Summit is Zelectrix, a team of talented specialists that will change the way electric vehicles (EVs) and their own EV rental fleet are powered with improved chargers utilizing renewable energy and underpinned by the state-of-the-art Thought AI blockchain.

Raido Lensment, CEO of Zelectrix, commenting said: “As part of the service to our customers using our chargers and renewable energy grid, we are looking at creating financial products as part of Zelectrix payment scheme.”

He added: “Our research is showing that Malta may be the right choice for our company and the opportunity to pitch our project at the Malta Blockchain Summit is greatly anticipated by our team. We just hope the Winklevoss brothers will be listening.”

The Malta Blockchain Summit, is already on its way to becoming an annual landmark event in the global blockchain calendar. And, when I spoke to one of the organizers, Dennis Avorin, a Swedish national, at the start of October it was pretty certain that the event will see a repeat in 2019.

The organizers are also inviting “C-level” executives and investors from within the sphere to exclusive invite-only dinners throughout the year under the Maltese-themed title ‘Knights of Blockchain’.

Eman Pulis, Founder of the Malta Blockchain Summit, said: “I wish to welcome every blockchain enthusiast to the Malta Blockchain Summit, a melting pot for global influencers in technology, civil society, democracy promotion and innovation.”

Pulis amongst others said that we can “expect riveting discussion” about the world-changing potential applications of blockchain across multiple verticals. “But also, some good, old fashion networking under the sun of the Blockchain Island,” he added. And, given the scale of the event, if they had motto it would be that “Business is not made between companies – it is made between people.” Time will tell.

*This post is credited to Forbes

Nine Japanese banks are teaming up to trial a blockchain-based inter-bank settlement system using Fujitsu technology.

IT giant Fujitsu announced in a press release Monday that it has been chosen as an “application development vendor” for the field trial that will use a custom digital currency to attempt to achieve low-cost transfer of small-scale transactions using real-time gross settlement. The test is aimed to gauge aspects of the tech such as performance, security and real-world viability.

The nine banks involved in the effort comprise a consortium called the Japanese Banks’ Payment Clearing Network (or Zengin – net) and include Mizuho Bank and MUFG Bank.

Specifically, Fujitsu will build and provide the new trial platform using blockchain technology and will also utilize a peer-to-peer money transfer platform it developed in 2017 alongside three Japanese banks. That trial encompassed a cloud-based blockchain platform for sending funds between individuals, as well as a smartphone app.

Among its various explorations of blockchain, Fujitsu also partnered in September with the Japanese Bankers Association (JBA) to provide a platform built with Hyperledger Fabric that banks within the group’s ranks could use to test various business use cases for the tech.

It further launched a “ready-to-go” blockchain consultancy service in July that it claimed can deliver a minimum viable product in just five days.

*This post is credited to CoinDesk