Ouriel Ohayon is the CEO and co-founder of crypto wallet provider KZen.

The following is an exclusive contribution to CoinDesk’s 2018 Year in Review. 

Look at the crypto services you regularly use. Admit it: you aren’t in love.

Some of them are OK, most of them are terrible – you know it. I’m not referring to the cosmetic allure of those products, which most of the time feel like pre-dial up era, but about how they work, how the onboarding was presented, how they feel.

This is the current state of UX affairs in blockchain.

However, crypto winter or not, this hasn’t stopped the industry from growing so far. A lack of great UX has been obvious, but not a breaking point. The question is whether we have reached a ceiling – where the market needs something dramatically better to grow significantly – in order to extend to new types of users, geographies and use cases that have not yet been covered.

While everyone is eager to see this market crash finally stop and recover, I would argue this just cannot happen until the industry, as a priority, has taken on the importance of delivering a better user experience.

But I have reasons to believe 2019 will be the year we will start to see that happening in a big way.

The legacy burden

To understand why, after nearly a decade, we’re still in the state we’re in regarding UX, we need to understand this industry has been built mostly by engineers and, more lately, by some finance executives. And for those reasons, the priority has not been on UX – it wasn’t just inappropriate to expect that but also simply not possible.

The first years were all about infrastructure, protocols and ideas. This approach brought us to the first millions of users adopting bitcoin, ether and other coins – as well as a collective market cap of hundreds of millions of dollars. That, in itself, is a major achievement in an industry that is incredibly conservative and resistant to change.

Most of the contributors of this industry are brilliant thinkers and engineers animated by a mission, a dream and, rarely but sometimes, greed. This industry has attracted a certain type of profile and builders.

There is a reason all those crypto services have similar looking sites, lexicon and identity.

But there are also many constraints that have held back the industry within the limits of what could be designed. To name just the two most important: security and regulation.

It is really hard to get a product to be delightful in usage, fast, easy and, at the same time, extremely secure. Priority should be always about security when it comes to financial assets. Add to that the need to comply with regulations – when they are clear and exist – which will add many friction points in the flow of a service, starting with the painful necessity of KYC and AML.

Not many industries have that degree of lack of clarity and stack of complexities to deal with. It is not surprising that this represents a challenge for builders. Finally, let’s not forget we’re only 10 years into this revolution: many things are still in the making, conventions hardly exist, and common standards and best practices have not been established.

But here is the problem: users are tough judges.

Their attention span, when it comes to new services, is extremely limited, and as some great designer once said, “a great product should be designed for animals, not for humans.” Most users don’t care about complexities. They want something that works, is simple to use and feels great. In particular, after been trained for the past two decades to use great products and apps that work fast and are simple to use, the bar most users are used to is high.

And maybe that was good enough for the first users to adopt whatever was around. But we all know that a ceiling has been reached; at DevCon this year, a well-known cryptographer even went so far as to beg the CTO of a well-known hardware wallet for a better user experience.

UX, set, go!

Still, I have good reasons to believe 2019 will see a major shift in how products that are shipped will be executed and presented to users.

Speed: In 2019, we’re going to see technologies stack that will enable fast payments, fast settlements and fast(er) on-boarding. Speed is one of the most important elements of good user experience. There is no future for slow technologies: faster chains, faster side chains, faster consensus, faster way to KYC (in particular with portable KYC) will remove a big element of frustration off the table.

Thanks to that, builders will be able to focus on UX layers instead of having to fix things that don’t matter to users.

People: People make products. The industry has been attracted one of the rarest set of skills in the industry: product managers and product designers, who I like to think of as the customer advocates within an organization.

They will bring rationality and elegance to an industry that dearly need both. We have seen also in 2018 a much more diverse population flocking in: women, in particular, are better represented and I trust this will bring a new dimension to how products are envisioned, explained and delivered.

Better use cases: Beyond speculation and remittances in weak economies, crypto has not found a use case that compels more users to adopt it. And unless we will go through another major financial crash – which would push crypto as an alternative currency as a major use case – I believe new use cases with very pragmatic approaches will seem more obvious to users.

Even if builders manage to remove most friction points, users need to find an urgent reason to use a crypto service. I believe games, access to ownership (digital ownership like NFTS, or fractional ownership like real estate, art, or commodities), passive revenues enabled by token staking, and loaning will be instrumental.

Better abstraction: No one needs to understand how an IPS or router works in order to build something on the internet or even use the internet. That would be a terrible thing if that was the case.

The crypto industry feels like a giant Lego set without a guide. Developers are building all the pieces and users have to figure it out – hence, the onerous cost learning the industry which requires a lot of understanding at the basic level.

I believe in 2019 enough things will start to be abstracted to builders and users so that they won’t have to understand how thing work in particular in terms of security, private key management, safety, KYC and privacy, desktop to mobile portability.

Mobile first: The crypto industry has, until now, been a desktop-first industry. It is inconceivable that this remains so when clearly the most important computing devices are mobile. And this is clearly changing.

Developers are more frequently building for mobile or mobile-first (even mobile only), app stores have better set of rules and protocols to clarify what can be done and protect users from scams, mobile devices and operating system have better-designed security environments and built-in 2FA (even helped by Fortnite).

The timing is right

At this year’s DevCon – the industry largest event for Dapps and smart contracts – the tickets were paid in fiat, had to be printed on a plastic badge and could not be transferred without a tedious manual procedure.

Even the Ethereum Foundation, which has the resources and developers to develop an alternative solution, is not eating its own dog food. I was shocked this was the case.

A culture shift is required for how organizations think about their services. I don’t believe this industry will ever grow to something better and greater until UX has been set as an absolute priority next to security. I believe the time is right for this to happen and that some companies will lead by example, thanks to a new breed of product talent and organizations with pragmatic use cases.

Because, at the end of the day, a great user experience isn’t about cosmetics, or even on-boarding and utility. It’s about providing meaning to people who in search of answers to a problem.

*This post is credited to CoinDesk

Research conducted by Dr. Vidy Potdar has found that nearly every exchange has massive security flaws in both their password protocols and their HTTP security protocols.
Dr. Vidy Potdar is an expert in Information Security with over 15 years of experience in technology development. Potdar recently completed an extensive analysis of cryptocurrency exchanges and their digital security and uncovered significant security flaws. Such analysis is important as the popularity of cryptocurrencies continues to grow (as covered regularly on Digital Journal, such as Ken Hanly’s report “Bitcoin reaches up over $300 today after sharp drop down”).

Dr. Potdar’s study was completed in partnership with Ausfinex (an Australian cryptocurrency exchange). The results of the study, have been reported by ValueWalk. The study assessed eleven popular current cryptocurrency exchanges and the research looked at the password policies and HTTP security features of the exchanges.

The research reveals several interlinked problems in the password policies of exchanges and highlights this issues as the foremost security issue in exchange authentication mechanics. By deploying a six-dimensional password security rating metric, the research finds that most current password security implementations are weak.

For example, the research found that none of the exchanges evaluated restricted the use of reserved words for passwords on their platforms. The consequence of this is phrases and password combinations (such as Password123 or admin123) are accepted as strong passwords. The research also found the that often HTTP security headers were not being used (these provide an additional web security layer). Examples of the flaws are shown on Bitcoinbuster.com.

Based on such incidences, Dr. Potdar’s security study concludes that cryptocurrency exchanges need to reform and to provide the maximum security standards.

*This post is credited to Digitaljournal

Facebook opened 2018 with a blanket ban on all cryptocurrency, blockchain and initial coin offerings (ICOs) products, including advertisements for such. Even content from digital currency vloggers was banned from the platform. The tech giant was particularly vigilant that its platform was not proliferated by investment and advertising scams related to cryptocurrency.

Facebook lifted that ban by June, with many observers saying that it may have recognized the massive revenue potential with cryptocurrency-related products.

By early December, eagle-eyed watchers noticed Facebook posting job vacancies for blockchain experts.

Now, Facebook is currently designing a cryptocurrency that can be used for money transfers via its WhatsApp messaging app, Bloomberg reported, citing people with direct knowledge on the company’s plan.

The sources said Facebook will initially focus on all related developments in India where there are more than 200 million WhatsApp users. The country is also big in remittances where people transferred as much as $69 billion in 2017, according to data from the World Bank.

If this report is true, Facebook could be the largest tech company to bet on the market viability of cryptocurrency despite its seemingly love-hate relationship with the technology.

Facebook changed stance on cryptocurrency

When Facebook banned all advertisers of cryptocurrency, blockchain and ICOs, whether they were legit, notwithstanding if their businesses and operations were within what laws allowed, the company wanted to assure the platform could not be exploited by untrusted content.

“We want people to continue to discover and learn about new products and services through Facebook ads without fear of scams or deception. That said, there are many companies who are advertising binary options, ICOs and cryptocurrencies that are not currently operating in good faith,” Rob Leathern, Facebook Product Management Director, wrote.

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Facebook later announced a reversal of the ban, allowing advertisers to promote ICOs and digital currencies provided they submit an application and got pre-approved by Facebook. Requirements for applications included submitting licenses companies obtained from appropriate agencies. They must also submit paperwork on their public listing and other verifiable public documents.

In May, ahead of its reversal, Facebook set up a small group that will focus on the blockchain. By August, Facebook executive David Marcus left his board seat from Coinbase, citing “conflict of interest.”

Hiring spree for blockchain personnel spotted on Facebook’s career page

Prior to Bloomberg’s report, cryptocurrency experts were quick to notice that Facebook started posting job vacancies looking for people with skills in designing digital currencies. The potential employees will be deployed to Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

Among these positions were blockchain data scientist, blockchain data engineer, blockchain software engineer and product marketing lead.

Still, the tech giant remained mum about the reported development.

“Like many other companies, Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of blockchain technology. This new small team is exploring many different applications. We don’t have anything further to share,” the company said in a statement.

Bloomberg additionally noted, however, that Facebook now has more or less 40 people in its intended small group of blockchain employees.

India has nearly half a million internet users. (Source)

A multimillion market that’s hard to resist

Facebook reportedly has its sleeves up on a stablecoin, a kind of digital currency pegged to the U.S. dollar. This would mean that the currency has price stability and could be backed by reserve assets, making it more resilient to volatility.

Facebook is still far from introducing the coin, according to sources who spoke with Bloomberg. The company is still studying custody assets and a strategic design where a long-time currency could be used to protect the value of the planned stablecoin.

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The tech giant has all the reason to take cautionary steps with this undertaking as there were already numerous entities that failed in their attempts to introduce stablecoins.

Not even stablecoin Basis, a digital currency backed by Andreessen Horowitz, a private American venture capital firm, and Kevin Warsh, a former governor of the U.S. Federal Reserve, has survived a market crash. Its biggest hurdle was attaining a legitimate category as a secured currency which is the biggest factor to draw in potential buyers.

Tether, meanwhile, which currently is the most popular and traded stablecoin, remained to be suspicious for some governments and financial agencies as its creators refused to undergo an audit.

On the other hand, stablecoins’ market potential is something that is hard to be turned away from, especially if Facebook plans to roll out the platform in India where there are currently about 480 million internet users. This number is expected to grow to 737 million by 2022.

While India is second only to China in terms of the number of internet users, the Southeast Asian country remains the number one country with the most number of Facebook users as of October 2018. Most recent data from Statista showed that India has 294 million Facebook users. The U.S. was only ranked at number 2 with only 204 million Facebook users.

Indeed, Facebook India recorded a 40 percent increase in its net profit for its financial year 2017 to 2018. The Facebook India Online services, which included WhatsApp and Instagram, recorded a 52 percent jump for the year ended March 2018.

*This post is credited to BornToInvest

Ever since the emergence of blockchain technology, a lot of use cases have been discovered. Of all the benefits using blockchain presents to businesses, transparency and trust are the most common. Blockchain helps keep the supply chain of businesses transparent and free of third party manipulation. Still, the adoption of this technology has been slow. Why is this so?
An article published recently talked about how CIOs across various companies feel about blockchain technology. According to most of them, there is too much hype surrounding blockchain technology and this is clouding the fact that the technology still needs to mature. Most of these executives do not think the cost of implementing blockchain technology is worth the rewards near-term. Some said they do not believe the technology has significant advantages to business enterprises.
About Blockchain Technology
Blockchain technology is a distributed digital ledger that securely stores data across multiple systems and enables peer-to-peer transactions. It creates a trustworthy source of truth thus eliminating the need for intermediaries during transactions. The kind of verification provided by the technology creates a paradigm shift in how we establish trust. It has far reaching implications.
One of the challenges facing the industry now is lack of implementation. The technology is igniting interest in many places but the pace of interest growth isn’t the same as the pace of implementation. In India, for example, there has been an increased interest in blockchain technology but there hasn’t been any tangible development in terms of business shifts.
Notwithstanding, some executives believe that 2019 will be the year for mainstream adoption of blockchain technology. Some senior executives at United Airlines said blockchain technology is going to reach mass adoption next year. This shows that there is a lot of potential in the industry that is yet to be tapped.
Applying Blockchain Technology In The Energy, Automotive And Finance Industries
The fact that some executives are not positive about the growth in the industry doesn’t mean it will not grow. There are still many advantages of blockchain technology that are yet to be exploited. In 2019, companies will explore these aspects. For example, blockchain has a strong application in the energy industry. Saiterm, a Dutch power company is making plans to disrupt the heating market globally with an Ethereum based system. Spring, allows users to get coins back as credit when excess energy is generated.
Salvatore Morale had this to say about the technology:
“We, believe that Spring provides homeowners with a great opportunity to reduce the amount they spend on energy while also protecting the environment. The use of pellet boilers, gas and oil have led to an increase in greenhouse emissions over time. Thanks to infrared technology, future homeowners will be able to work and live in maximum comfort while reducing global warming.”
There are also many applications of blockchain technology in the automotive industry. According to the IBM Institute for Oxford Economics and Business Value, 62% of the executives in the automotive industry believe that blockchain is going to have a disruptive effect in the industry in the next two years.
*This post is credited to Smartereum

A survey conducted by Panews has found that 14% of Chinese citizens have invested in cryptocurrencies. The survey also found that 98% of respondents indicated familiarity with the concepts of cryptocurrency and bitcoin – 3% more than those who stated that they had heard of blockchain technology.

Survey Finds 14% of Chinese Citizens Have Invested in Cryptocurrencies

Panews has published the findings of a survey that queried 4,200 Chinese citizens on their familiarity and opinions regarding Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.

The survey found that just 75 respondents had not heard of cryptocurrency or blockchain technology, equating to roughly 2% of the survey’s sample. The survey also found that 40% of respondents expressed a willingness to invest in cryptocurrencies in the future, despite nearly 83% of the sample describing cryptocurrency investment as a new trend.

14% of the sample, or 598 respondents, stated that they have invested in cryptocurrencies, nearly 70% of whom purchased their crypto via an exchange platform. 266 respondents came to possess their crypto through airdrops, followed by mining, with 263.

The sample indicated that social media is the dominant means through which Chinese citizens have become exposed to cryptocurrencies, with 38% of respondents claiming familiarity with crypto stating that they became exposed to such through social media, followed by “relatives and friends” with 26%.

Panews also noted that the majority of respondents associated cryptocurrencies with investment products primarily, and not as a medium of exchange.

Cryptocurrency Moving Towards Becoming Household Concept in China

While 4,125 respondents indicated familiarity with the concepts of cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, and blockchain technology, only 372 individuals described themselves as possessing a strong understanding of pertinent topics, amounting to roughly 9% of all respondents.

Only 17 respondents claimed not to have heard of cryptocurrency, while 103 stated that they were unfamiliar with Bitcoin. 60% of respondents described common perceptions regarding the complexity of exchanging and storing cryptocurrency as the primary barrier to greater crypto adoption.

Overall, the study found that bitcoin and cryptocurrency have made significant strides toward penetrating mainstream economic discourse in China, asserting that “the cryptocurrency industry has made considerable progress in the public’s cognitive level” since “the early days.”

*This post is credited to Bitcoin News

Bitcoins history is riddled with incredible stories and even legends. Created to free people from the so-called “bondage” of centralized monetary systems, Bitcoin is the cryptocurrency we have all to thank for proving that fiat currencies can be, indeed, replaced with success.

As the crypto world expanded and Bitcoin gained even more mainstream adoption, more and more merchants, institutions, and stores started to accept it as a valid payment system. Nowadays, it’s possible to buy almost everything one can imagine with Bitcoin, from food, to plane tickets, to obscure collectibles, to various types of services.

Bitcoin’s dominance has risen to such an extent that there’s really common for millionaires and various wealthy Bitcoin holders to buy luxury lifestyle objects and expensive items including houses, yachts, cars, and jewelry, to name a few.

That is why we have created a list with some of the most expensive items or services you can buy with Bitcoin, so you can put that smart invested money to work for your own pleasure.

Cruise trip around the world

Cruise trips are often associated with a wealthy lifestyle, and more and more cruise lines are starting to accept crypto payments. In February of 2018, the Royal Caribbean Mariner ferried hundreds of people who paid for their trip using Bitcoin from Singapore to Thailand, with a stop at Malaysia.

Since that trip, there have been numerous blockchain-themed cruises, the most popular of which are the Ark Cruise, and the Blockchain Cruise. Among the 2500+ attendees, there were big names such as John McAfee, Bobby Lee, Charlie Lee, Brock Pierce, Jimmy Song, and Roger Ver.

Luxury resort stay

When it comes to luxury resorts that accept Bitcoin as payment, the choices are quite varied. For example, in New York, the Trump Hotel accepts Bitcoins for condos. Another popular site for luxury resorts that accept Bitcoin (and cryptos in general) is the Bahamas, as well as Australia, Mexico, and Austria.

Amazing cars

Expensive cars are often associated with a financially healthy lifestyle, as there are perceived more of a statement than practical objects. Not too long ago, Japan-based crypto exchange bitFlyer has partnered with various luxury car sellers to offer their customers the possibility of buying luxury sports cars with digital money.

American car dealer Post Oak Motor Cars had made various headlines in 2018 when it announced that it accepts crypto for some of the world’s best cars such as Bugatti, Rolls-Royce, Bentley.

There are some stories of Tesla and Lamborghini purchases using Bitcoin. It’s rumored that in 2013 a Florida resident purchased a Tesla Model S for exactly 91 Bitcoins. One of the most popular purchases of this type involves famous YouTuber VinWiki Peter Saddington in 2017 that bought a white matte Lamborghini Huracan.

Luxury mansions

Until blockchain really manages to disrupt the real estate markets all over the globe, cryptocurrencies are responsible for “freshening up” the market. Real estate transactions and the purchase of property using Bitcoin is now more common than ever.

There are various impressive real estate purchases using Bitcoin, such as the one from 2014 when an anonymous buyer who bought a Bali Villa for a whopping 800 BTC and another purchased 1,4 acres in Lake Tahoe, California for 2,739 Bitcoin.

Potential buyers interested in real estate purchases can check out Bitcoin Real Estate website for more penthouses, islands, and chalets.

Tickets to space

Space travel has always been at the forefront of the list of humankind’s greatest achievements. Even though space travel is still reserved to a few lucky and totally dedicated people, there are various plans to make it a lot more accessible in the future. Just earlier this year, Elon Musk declared that his company, SpaceX would get people to Mars. Another company, Virgin Galactic, has been constantly “hunting” people interested in space travel since 2013.

Interested parties can pay with Bitcoin for a trip through space that’s bound to take place somewhere after 2018. The cost for all this? $250,000 payable in Bitcoin, a price that also includes a three-day training.

Yachts

Yachts have always been one of the trademarks of the uber-wealthy. Even though the yacht market is not fully acknowledging Bitcoin as a valid payment method, there are a few examples that give hope to millionaires interested in buying the luxury of owning a yacht with Bitcoin.

Dennison Yachting is a company based in Florida that has added Bitcoin as a payment method for quite some while now. Another prime example is 26 North Yachts (also a Florida-based company).

Artwork

Art is not only something extremely pleasing to look at (most of the times), but it can also be a very good investment opportunity. Surrounding yourself with expensive art has always been a defining behavioral pattern for most of the world’s millionaires.

The Ato Gallery, a New York-based business, has sold artwork for a staggering amount of 150 Bitcoins (more than $100,000 worth) earlier this year to an anonymous buyer. Artnome, a crypto start-up that wants to legitimize digital artwork, had also brought forward a very interest proposition when it launched a digital marketplace for artwork.

Airplanes

When you’re rich and famous, traveling in style becomes a priority. And, what better way to travel if not by air? Bitcoin millionaires have been able to buy private jets for Bitcoin for quite a while now. The first recorded purchase of a private jet using Bitcoin took place in 2014 when Olivier Janssensreportedly bought a plane from a company called PrivateFly.

SkyCraft Airplanes is another company that has been accepting Bitcoin since December 2013.

Final Words

While the number of daily objects and services that can be bought using Bitcoin continues to grow, so do all the luxurious things. Even though buying with Bitcoin luxury objects might seem more like a whim than actually a practical solution, it’s important to understand that Bitcoin allows most millionaires to save somewhere between 5-10% in fees (which is a lot when considering purchases of hundreds of thousands of dollars).

*This post is credited to Coindoo

2018 was a wild ride. There were negatives like jaw-dropping swings in the price of Bitcoin, and with tokens of thousands of baseless ICO’s getting washed out of the system. And there were positives of unprecedented FinTech innovation, the arrival of institutional players, the SEC (and FinCEN) beginning to provide clarity and taking select enforcement actions, and new use cases for blockchain technology.

And in 2019? A few of my thoughts and predictions on the larger trends we’ll see include…

The tokenization of…everything.

1. STO’s (Securities Token Offerings) are currently the hot item that everyone is talking about. And yes, businesses will raise money and issue tokens instead of stock/bond certificates, and we’ll see new types of exchanges rise up to trade these securities. This trend will accelerate, especially given the easier path to liquidity for investors (see #5 below).

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

2. Currency will be (and is already being) tokenized. Numerous stablecoins are issued against USD held in trust. This will also happen for EUR, GBP, YEN, SGD and other currencies. Although the current major use-case for stablecoins is as a general store of digital value, that will start to shift as ecommerce merchants begin to move away from expensive credit cards to adopt stablecoins as a low (or even “no”) fee payment method.

3. Lending will be tokenized. This is, I think, perhaps the largest and most disruptive use of blockchain technology. It’s also the one that our current US regulatory regime is least equipped to foster, nurture and oversee. The current process for making loans and then packaging, securitizing and trading them is horribly kludgy and antiquated. This is also true for distributions of interest, principal, rents, revenue share, dividends and other remittances to lenders and investors, which will use new, highly efficient, blockchain-driven processes.

4. Real estate, automobiles, gold, diamonds, art and every asset imaginable will become tokenized such that it is liquid and easy for people to finance, borrow against or invest in. In 2018 we saw Harbor tokenize a 260-apartment student housing project at the Univ of South Carolina, and Indigogo tokenize an offering by the St Regis Aspen hotel, which is the start of what will be a mega-trend in 2019, especially as these tokens start to trade (see next paragraph).

5. Stocks and bonds will be tokenized. How can people buy shares of private companies in secondary markets? How can people in Africa buy shares of USD-priced stock on NASDAQ? How can people in the US buy shares of stock that only trade on an exchange in Asia or Europe and in currencies native to those countries? The answer will be the tokenization of those securities and listing them on digital exchanges globally. tZero is the first exchange to announce the listing and trading of tokenized private securities in compliance with US securities regulations, soon to be followed by tokenized trading of public securities. This will be a major, game-changing trend.

6. There will be fraud in asset tokenization.

The storm clouds are already forming, and it’s exasperatingly unnecessary. “Hey buddy, wanna buy some tokens backed by the Brooklyn Bridge?” – some people are issuing tokens purportedly backed by USD, by real estate, by stocks and bonds, and by other assets without depositing the title to those assets with a regulated, audited, qualified third-party trustee.

Would a bank make a home or auto loan without holding the title to the asset? Of course not. Would a pawn shop make a loan to someone without holding the jewelry in its safe? Of course not. Yet that’s exactly what some people are doing in the early stages of this space, “give me money for tokens backed by this asset, which I’m holding…trust me.”

Most issuers are already using trust companies to hold those assets and build trust in the markets. As has been done for decades with ADR’s and securitization of real estate loans, which employ custodians to hold underlying assets. But sadly, I think it may take well-publicized losses to wake some regulators (and lawyers, accountants, broker-dealers, advisors and exchanges) up to the fact that if the assets aren’t held by a qualified trustee, then the potential for fraud is an unmanageable risk.

7. The SEC and FinCEN will step up their investigations and enforcement actions in the space.

I’m amazed that I continue to have conversations at conferences with otherwise very bright people who seem to have a complete lack of appreciation, and at times even a willful disregard for US rules and regulations. Compliance may be a pain, breaking the rules is far more painful. I agree that there’s quite a bit of gray area that’s yet to be clarified, and that’s what gives entrepreneurs a chance to build unicorns in a formative industry when the major financial firms are too afraid to participate, but some people just continue to do dumb things which are blatant violations of various regulations.

8. Global exchanges and intermediaries will legally poach business from their US counterparts.

International exchanges and platforms have gathered millions of customers who use their services daily. This forms a powerful base to start funding US asset-backed loans and business capitalization from offshore investors. This is fantastic for investors globally, everywhere except the US. Some examples of how this may play out include;

A US business (of any size) wants to raise some capital. It does so using “Reg S”, which permits it to raise money from non-US investors with very few restrictions. Money flows into the company from offshore investors, which is a good thing as the business gets funded and jobs get created. The company doesn’t have to worry about whether those investors are “accredited” or not. The company doesn’t have to make any regulatory filings. And those offshore investors can list their “stocks” or “bonds” (in the form of tokens) on a non-US exchange and start trading them immediately. Those non-US exchanges can even publish investor research reports on the tokens they trade!

A US person wants to buy a house or a car. They do so by getting a loan from an offshore lending platform (which holds title to the home or auto with a US trust company). The offshore lender then tokenizes that real estate (or automobile) loan and sells it on non-US exchanges. And if that’s murky due to US lending regulations? Okay fine, then the offshore lender might perhaps buy the home and enter into a contract where the homeowner rents it and buys it little by little (similar to the model used by Islamic banks). Result is the same, the profits are made by investors globally…everywhere except the US.

The rise of infrastructure businesses.

Much ado has been made about custodians, and rightly so. Assets need to be held by a regulated trustee. There is a huge need for fiat on-and-offramps. And many investors will want their tokens held on statement just like they do their stocks, bonds and mutual funds. But besides trust companies and banks, there are other unicorns in the making…

Tokenization of assets requires help with creating smart contracts, and with managing them. It requires innovative blockchains that provide faster settlement of transactions, good KYC/AML, and tools to handle/reverse criminal acts. It requires front-end servicers to originate a flow of funds by connecting people who need funds with people who have money. It requires settlement mechanisms. It requires secondary trading exchanges, intermediaries and research. It requires debt (and fractionalized ownership) servicing firms. It requires a new breed of legal and accounting representation. And it requires new types of businesses to handle/create/manage things which we cannot yet imagine.

Many of these businesses are already in play. Some are pivoting their well-established business models to address this market, including StartEngine, Republic, Overstock, Cohen & Co, PwC, and of course Prime Trust. Others are new firms that have been purpose-built for this new era, including HBUS, TrustToken, tZero, OKEX, KOI, CoinList, Polymath, Harbor, TokenSoft, OTCXN, AlphaPoint, Daollar, BHEX, Bitrue, Carbon, Stably, AnchorCoin, Stronghold, Consensys, and countless others across all types of service providers.

2019 is going to be exciting. I think it’s when the rubber truly starts to meet the road, following the shakeout of the vaporware that accumulated in prior years, which I chalk up as proof-of-concept for blockchain. I can’t wait for the new year.

*This post is credited to Equities

ING Group, the Dutch multinational banking and financial services corporation is bullish on blockchain technology and the innovations it presents to trade and commodity finance.

The group is focusing on and looking forward to blockchain-based initiatives across several sectors including energy, crude oil, soybeans, metals and mining in 2019.

They have been exploring distributed ledger technology (DLT) on their Easy Trading Connect (ETC) platform since 2017 and found that the innovations led by blockchain are far superior to centralized models.

ING highlighted these findings regarding powerhouse programs such as Komgo and Vakt via twitter:

ING Bets on Vakt not Bakkt

As you may already know, the blockchain and cryptosphere has been overly excited about potential Bitcoin ETFs and the launch of Bakkt, a physically settled Bitcoin futures exchange from the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE).

While these impending developments are worth getting excited about, ING has their eyes on other innovative blockchain initiatives surrounding trade and commodity finance. One such initiative is Vakt.

Vakt is a post trade management platform with a vision to digitize the global commodities trading industry by offering a secure and trusted ecosystem powered by blockchain. The platform has the potential to revolutionize the commodities trading market by transforming the trade life cycle and streamlining transactions.

The Vakt platform gets its backing from major energy consortiums, high profile independent traders and top tier banks. Vakt also has strategic alliances with Deloitte and Softworks and by the end of the year, they will link the platform to Komgo for commodity trade finance.

As per the company’s announcement of the launch:

Though the initial launch is limited to trade specifically in BFOET crude oil contracts, VAKT’s ambition is to extend the platform to all physically traded energy commodities. The company is building its roadmap in response to industry need but has US crude oil pipelines and Northern Europe refined product barges slated for launch in early 2019.

Other Blockchain Initiatives

ING’s program director for blockchain innovation in trade and commodity finance, Arnoud Star Busmann, said a collaboration with heavyweight leaders in the industry sector have formed an Ethereum-based blockchain for real-time settlement of physical energy transactions.

A report on the experimental trading technology said:

The experiment showed that the average time for a bank to complete its role in a transaction went from about three hours to just 25 minutes. For traders, efficiency went up by a third, with user experience evaluations far higher than expected. As the prototype uses blockchain technology and is designed for paperless trade, the risks throughout the process have also been reduced.

This Ethereum-based platform mentioned in the above quote was used in the agriculture industry in a pilot test moving soybeans from the US to China.

ING is also exploring supply chain traceability for metals and mining. The innovations and use cases for blockchain technology are endless and blockchain initiatives are really being put to the test.

Conclusion

ING is at the forefront of the blockchain revolution and is focusing on many blockchain initiatives going into 2019. Things like Bakkt and Bitcoin ETFs don’t even scratch the surface to what’s going on in the space.

Going into 2019 the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry has a lot to look forward to as businesses, governments, and individuals become comfortable with the innovations of blockchain tech and cryptocurrencies.

*This post is credited to Invest in Blockchain

There has been a lot of exciting announcements around the cryptocurrency gaming industry in particular over the last year. Some of these big announcements have been from big players that have been getting involved in the crypto gaming industry.

 

Non Fungible Tokens

Non Fungible Tokens are collector’s items, unique playing cards, pokemon, crypto kitties and of these different things. In order for Non Fungible Tokens to exist, we need to have the right tokens that will allow the existence of these unique assets. ERC-721, ERC-1155 and ERC-998 token standards allowed for things like the owning of unique assets, lowering gas cost etc. which are very important when it comes to actually have a game that you can play that lets people easily swap or interact with these unique game items and that’s just on Ethereum. But Ethereum is not the only big blockchain working on the gaming industry.

As Non Fungible tokens are rising, we obviously need some exchange to trade these tokens. Thus, welcoming NFT or Non Fungible Token marketplaces. CryptoKitties is one of the big initial use cases of Non Fungible Tokens but we have seen the marketplaces for Non Fungible Tokens increasing. We have OpenSea and RareBits which came on earlier in the year allowing users to very easily sell their game assets directly outside of the game’s internal environment.

 

Sale of Non Fungible Tokens

Sales of Non Fungible tokens over the last year has been really crazy. We had a GodsUnchained card which was sold for $60,000, we have a crypto kitty which was sold for $170,000 and we have a virtual real estate selling on Decentraland for $200,000. All these events show that there is money interested in these virtual assets and in playing these virtual games there are a lot of people that are interested in having that experience. In terms of experiences, we are seeing more second layer applications being built by third-party developers to help expand these ecosystems.

 

User Experience

An important part of this developing ecosystem is, of course, the user experience. It’s going to be hard for us to ever attract people to come from their very easy user experience game to a blockchain game unless the experience is good. Metamask is quite awesome and has been an industry standard for quite a while but the still the user-friendliness is not totally there. We have been seeing more efforts to make the overall experience of interacting with blockchains and blockchain based Dapps more user-friendly. For example, Opera has now integrated an Ethereum wallet that will be a really important step. Now we need to see Firefox, Google Chrome, and others actually integrate wallets into the browser to make it easier to interact with blockchains on the internet. Opera was the first mover in terms of actually offering an integrated blockchain experience into their browser, others will certainly follow.

 

Ethereum’s scalability issue:

CryptoKitties interestingly proved a very important point about Ethereum that it has serious scalability issues.  The interesting thing to see is that other blockchains are moving in to fill in that space. We can see more and more people looking to develop their blockchain based games over on EOS. Tron is putting on the table $100 million for a development fund specifically focused on getting people to build games on TRON which is a serious commitment to the gaming industry and if TRON can get some giant game built on it, it could be massive.

Cocos

Cocos has just launched their testnet and it is one of the world’s biggest game engines. There are so many developers that are building their games on top of Cocos and to see them actually bringing in this blockchain implementation is very significant and will be a big boost to the overall cryptocurrency gaming space. This is a team that understands what it takes to build games, to bring games to life, what developers need and obviously how to integrate all of this with the blockchain.

The potential use case for cryptocurrency and gaming is very exciting. Imagine if we had a Fortnite or a World of Warcraft built using blockchain for people who are having to interact with blockchain all the time. This would be massive in terms of actually driving demand for cryptocurrencies even if just for fractional amounts of Gas it could be huge without a doubt.

*This post is credited to Coinnounce

Huobi’s Derivatives Market Includes EOS Starting Now

The third largest crypto company in the world, Huobi, has now announced that its derivative market will start to support EOS. The information was originally released via an official press release. At the moment, Huobi has a volume of over $500 million USD daily and it is the third largest company in its niche.

Now, traders can take both short and long positions using the EOS tokens. Huobi took this decision as a way to address the demands of the clients, which wanted more markets to invest in and EOS is a good asset.

The information is that the contracts will support price, position and order limits of up to 20 times leverage. The fees, the report indicates, will be only 0.02% for makers and then 0.03% for takers. Fees have to be paid when the investors open and close their positions.

Users will be able to use contracts to purchase and sell EOS at predetermined prices in the future, which lets they bet on the market and benefit (or lose) from the trends.

Huobi’s official announcement of this market happened at Cryptofrontiers, a crypto conference that happened in New York last month. At the time, it was affirmed that the markets would be available until the end of the year.

At the moment, EOS is trading around $2.35 USD on a little downtrend, which follows the whole market as it loses value after a short bull run led by Bitcoin this week.

Other Companies Plan Derivatives

Other major companies like OKEx, the second largest crypto exchange in the world now, have also launched their new derivatives products. The newest one in OKEx is the Perpetual Swap, which is a virtual derivative that was created to let the users bet on the future of the Bitcoin price. The swaps do not have expiration dates and can be held forever, though.

The second largest stock exchange in the world, NASDAQ, has also plans to release Bitcoin derivatives. This, however, will only happen in 2019.

*This post is credited to Bitcoin Exchange Guide