There are early adopters, then there are early early adopters.

Revealed exclusively to CoinDesk, the first coder to work alongside bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator Satoshi Nakamoto, Martti ‘Sirius’ Malmi, is joining a team of developers launching a new cryptocurrency called AXE. The project, which is combining Malmi’s Identifi online reputation system with decentralized database system GUN, is taking on the long-desired mission of decentralizing the Web.

And Malmi’s history in the cryptocurrency space should pique the interest of plenty of enthusiasts.

An amateur college developer in 2009, Malmi played a crucial role in bitcoin’s early days as the only active developer working alongside Satoshi – and even striking up a bit of a friendship. He earned Satoshi’s trust enough to be given admin access to the website Bitcoin.org, and most of the changes in bitcoin’s second code release are attributed to him.

But a couple years in, Malmi followed Satoshi’s lead and left the project, thinking bitcoin didn’t really need him anymore.

“I felt like bitcoin had already gone from zero to one, so to say. It was already up and running with a growing community and had lots of great developers working on it,” he told CoinDesk.

In 2014, then, he started Identifi, with a decentralized architecture that didn’t include a cryptocurrency at first.

But as he built – with his eyes on reducing the control web companies like Google and Facebook have – he decided something else was needed that hadn’t been tried before and that a crypto token could incentivize its use.

Malmi told CoinDesk:

And that’s where GUN, which has been in the works since 2014 as well, comes in.

Two projects as one

To tie it all together, the decision was made to launch a new company called ERA.

“Martti and I were discussing how governments can still blacklist bitcoin miners’ IP addresses. Telecom companies, Google, Amazon or others can throttle or reroute our traffic without net neutrality,” ERA CEO Mark Nadal (also the CEO of GUN) told CoinDesk.

“This is a huge vulnerability that could affect everyone, thus why we’re building AXE,” he continued.

GUN, which is known for using simple stick-figure comics to explain how its tech works, scored a $1.5 million round led by Draper Associates earlier this year, and has already built a decentralized Reddit and YouTube.

While those services are a bit slower than their centralized counterparts, Nadal argues both have been taking off “like crazy.” And according to Malmi, Identifi can help decentralize the system further by offering a censorship-resistant identity layer.

While digital reputation systems can conjure up images from the “Black Mirror” episode “Nosedive,” whereby a mobile reputation system goes awry, Malmi says he’s been careful to improve on older attempts and keep these unintended consequences in mind.

In the context of ERA, Identifi provides a crucial role.

“You could have users digitally sign all their posts and use Identifi to fetch the identity profile (name, avatar, feedback etc.) that corresponds to the public key,” Malmi said. “You could use your Identifi web of trust to filter out spam, trolls and other kinds of unwanted content without resorting to centralized censorship. That is useful for decentralized social media.”

But to be truly decentralized, ERA needs people from around the world running the database systems – which is where the new crypto token comes in.

Reminiscent of older blockchain storage projects like Filecoin and Storj, ERA with AXE is supposed to incentivize users on the network to store data. But it takes a slightly different approach by paying servers to move encrypted data around (instead of paying them to store data).

Since the data is encrypted, the data won’t be readable by the servers moving it around.

Practical decentralization

Although Malmi is about to head a new cryptocurrency project, he’s still skeptical of the promise of blockchain tech as it’s been advertised recently.

“Blockchain technology is overhyped and pushed for applications where it is not useful,” he said. “If you don’t need a distributed ledger with no trusted parties, you don’t need a blockchain.”

Yet, he thinks ERA is going about incorporating cryptocurrency into a decentralized web in the “right” way. “Crypto should be given credit for incentivizing the decentralization of infrastructure,” Malmi continued.

Indeed, he and Nadal make a big deal about this tech being more “scalable” than other tech.

“The missing piece [to a decentralized web] was a decentralized database that could handle CryptoKitties scale traffic,” Nadal said, pointing to the blockchain-based cat app that earlier this year clogged the ethereum network to the point users were having trouble using other decentralized apps on the network.

To create that scalable system, ERA is only using its cryptocurrency as a decentralized money, and will not be using a blockchain to store people’s data.

In this way, they argue they’re on a better track to building something that people might actually want to use.

Though, admittedly, the apps built using GUN today are not nearly as large as the companies they hope to replace. Yet, they have big hopes the project will go beyond that, since like so many others in the industry they believe decentralization is the way of the future.

“One of the things I learned is that it is better to do what is meaningful, not what is expedient,” Malmi said, adding:

 

*This post is credited to CoinDesk

When West Virginia’s secretary of state assumed office early last year, he set out to solve a problem: Find a way to make voting easier for several thousand West Virginians serving overseas or living abroad.

The traditional method, where service members or expatriates request ballots by mail and submit absentee votes, isn’t tamper-proof and relies on sometimes-spotty postal services. In 2016, for instance, 16% of active-duty U.S. military personnel who requested ballots didn’t receive them, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

So in a pilot program this May, West Virginia became the first state to let some of its voters cast ballots for a federal election on their phones using blockchain—the technology behind the cryptocurrency boom and a theoretically hack-proof means of logging transactions or, in this case, votes.

For the pilot, West Virginia residents from two counties who are serving overseas or living abroad were given access to their ballot through a mobile app for the May 8 House and Senate primaries, said Sheila Nix, president of Tusk/Montgomery Philanthropies, one of the organizations the state worked with on the trial run. The eligible voters were granted access to vote in March to abide by federal rules mandating a 45-day period for overseas residents to cast their ballots.

The blockchain of votes for those two counties is currently being audited, a process expected to finish as soon as this week, said Donald Kersey, the elections director for the West Virginia secretary of state’s office. If the audit confirms the results as expected, West Virginia would continue the pilot in the November general election with funds from Tusk/Montgomery, giving all counties the chance to opt in. (The mobile voting would be available only for overseas residents.)

So how does the system work? Mr. Kersey likens the blockchain voting structure to a locked spreadsheet, where viewers can see the data but can’t alter it. In an election, a person would submit his or her vote and that information would be logged and would be difficult for someone to change. Even if someone did succeed in changing a ballot, each of those votes is kept together in the same document, or chain, and every edit made, whether by a voter or a nefarious actor, is logged.

“It’s real time,” Mr. Kersey says. “That’s the best part about it.”

To use the mobile-voting app in the West Virginia primaries, overseas voters needed to take a photo of their ID and a short video of themselves moving their eyes. Once facial recognition was confirmed, those people could vote on their phone by entering their information and using either a personal identification number, facial recognition or their thumbprint.

Even if the West Virginia effort proves successful, it is unlikely that mobile blockchain voting will supplant the national patchwork of ballot methods in the immediate future.

While blockchain has been used for small voting populations, Nir Kshetri, a professor in the department of management at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, says it won’t easily scale. Though blockchain can be used to increase access to mobile voting, giving a secure and auditable system to track ballots, he says the large amount of energy required to authenticate and validate the blockchains makes it infeasible as a national solution for the moment.

In West Virginia, officials are looking at blockchain as a means to improve participation among overseas residents, but not the future of in-state voting.

“It’s not the solution” on the statewide or nationwide level yet, says Mr. Kersey, “but it’s a solution for us.”

*This post is credited to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

You’ve probably heard of blockchain and Bitcoin although you still may have plenty of questions about what they are. In brief, blockchain is a shared, public ledger of records or transactions that everyone can view. It is “decentralized,” which means it is owned by all of the participants and not by any one central controlling party or entity. Blockchain is the technology that enables cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and Ether (Ethereum’s cryptocurrency).

There is a vibrant blockchain community in New York and in particular in Brooklyn. I took a small road trip to Brooklyn a little while ago to find out more about New York’s epicenter of the “blockchain revolution.” I visited with Jake Brukhman, the cofounder of CoinFund, (Aleksandr Bulkin is the other cofounder and a partner in the firm) and Alex Felix, a partner in CoinFund and its CIO. CoinFund is a privately held cryptoasset investment fund and blockchain research and advisory firm. CoinFund’s fourth partner is Oleg Golubov. Check out their blog here.

CoinFund is three years old. It has quickly gained traction by supporting a number of blockchain projects, including CoinList, a company that helps companies conduct regulation-compliant ICOs.

Brukhman, who is also a writer and an artist, is a technologist who has a background in mathematics and computer science. He started out in the hedge fund world and then moved to Amazon as a technical product manager and engineer. He then took the role of CTO at Triton Research, a company which sources publicly available data about private companies and then performs financial analysis on them before they go public.

“I was introduced to Bitcoin in 2011,” Brukhman said. “And then in mid-2013 I purchased Bitcoin and followed it from there. But what really got me into the space was reading the Ethereum whitepaper and wrapping my mind around digital assets, or tokens, as early stage economic interests in decentralized networks. That idea made a lot of sense of me. So if we treat Bitcoin as an investment why shouldn’t we treat these others as investments as well?”

With that thesis in mind Brukhman created CoinFund in July 2015 to invest in blockchain and crypto-related assets.

Brukhman began to look for partners at CoinFund. He and Alex Felix met about a year later. “When I met Jake,” Felix said, “one of the first questions I asked was when is this space going mature enough to support real business opportunities?”

 

Felix had spent 10 years on Wall Street after Dartmouth. He realized that there must be easier ways to do things and just like Brukhman was inspired by the potential of blockchain after reading the Ethereum whitepaper.

“I was sitting next to stacks and stacks of credit agreements. So much of this stuff could be simplified and codified using smart contracts. There must be a better way to do it.” Blockchain and smart contracts represented a better way.

“I saw a tremendous opportunity,” Felix said. “I saw it as a coordination network technology built for the benefit of users – where the value is not cash-flow siphoned out of a project by third-parties. Value is what is saved.”

Alex Felix, partner at CoinFundCOURTESY OF COINFUND

People are often skeptical of the world of blockchain and cryptocurrency. Many people don’t understand cryptocurrency or blockchain technology and are understandably concerned about various frauds and thefts that have been reported in the news. It’s refreshing, therefore, to see that both Brukhman and Felix combine an idealistic point of view with a commercial mindset in this emerging world of blockchain.

They have attracted a multidisciplinary team – deep technology enthusiasts who are also lawyers, behavioral psychologists, financiers, and entrepreneurs. They all share a fascination for the possibilities of what blockchain can do. They are interested in blockchain as a tool to reclaim privacy. As Felix said: “I don’t know if all technology is inherently political, but blockchain’s core tenants are around individual sovereignty and privacy and security of data.”

They consider blockchain technology liberating. They see it as empowering community and disrupting existing hierarchies. And they see it as a powerful way to start and grow businesses.

Some of their most exciting investments are:

CoinList: A company that was spun out of AngelList, implementing a primary issuance platform focused on compliant accredited fundraising for high-quality vetted crypto-specific offerings. Recent offerings include Filecoin, Blockstack, PROPS, and DFINITY airdrop.

Urbit: A self-sovereign personal cloud server. On an abstracted level, it acts as a private virtual computer that can serve for use cases such as decentralized application hosting.

Kadena: An enterprise-facing smart contract platform with a native programming language equipped with formal verification features.

Messari: An open-source data library with built-in incentives to promote transparent crypto data for researchers, investors, and regulators.

Ultimately, the promise of blockchain is to empower the community and to develop strong decentralized networks. CoinFund is one of the firms supporting development in this new frontier.

 

This post is credited to Forbes. 

We keep hearing about something called blockchain being about to change the freight world, but many are asking, what’s blockchain all about? A speaker at the Global Heavy Vehicle Summit may have the answer.

The freight industry has seen different technologies radically change and develop how freight is moved over the years. As freight has been moved faster, more efficiently and more accurately, the global economy has benefitted and prospered.

Now, another new technology is being identified as the new disrupter, as the technology that is going to lead transport into a radically new world, where digital data is king. This world is built on one major building block, blockchains. We’ve all heard about them, but do we understand them? Does anyone understand them?

In the run-up to the MEGATRANS 2018 event in Melbourne, the Australian Road Transport Suppliers Association organised a Global Heavy Vehicle Leaders Summit at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. The event saw a number of experts from around the world come along and share their knowledge.

One of the first things to point out is blockchain is not bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency. It’s about a transaction or an interaction between two parties. who may not trust each other. It also involves encryption of data which can be accessed by those with public or private keys. The blockchain functions like a locked box with a public key you can put something into it but you can’t take anything out, or change anything already in there. Someone with a private key can take something out. 

what’s blockchain all about?

Described as a distributed network, the blockchain has no single actor or controller. The data within the blockchain belongs to no-one but the block chain itself. It is described as being immutable data, preserved in the blockchain forever. 

It is this end-to-end visibility which is attractive to the freight industry, with any party to the chain able to see trustworthy data about the provenance of the cargo and where and when it was in any particular location, from source to final destination. This has implications for everyone throughout the supply chain.

Another area where blockchain may get a start is in terms of biosecurity in the food and animal transport space, ensuring food arrives in the proper condition with trustworthy data on travel time, conditions at the point of loading and so on.

There is also the area of invoice payment where detailed data about the consignment, who is carrying it, where it has been and when it arrives at the delivery point. In a smart contract within the blockchain, geo-fencing in a telematics system can tell when a shipment arrives and allows for automatic payment on arrival. 

A US company is developing a product called blockcerts ,which is a way to provide digital verification of your education and experience. All of your data could be encrypted into a blockchain and if you applied for a job, there would be no guesswork about your background on the part of the prospective employer. 

There is also a company in Victoria, currently exporting beef to China. The pack in the supermarket in China has a QR code on it which the customer can scan with their phone and it will bring up a full history of the beef. The data includes the part of the cow, the abattoir, what the cow was fed, where it was stored, what truck it was carried on. This gives the end-user full transparency and enhances trust in product safety.

Analysis of shipping containers has found the movement of one container can touch 30 organisations, 200 different communications, eight potential bottlenecks any one of which can cause a hefty delay. This has led to the building of a blockchain to contain all of the information, everyone involved needs to move the container. This is expected to shave a considerable number of days taken, from origin to destination.

 

*This post is credited to Dieselnews