U.S. fast-casual salad chain Sweetgreen has announced a second funding round to raise $200 million, mentioning blockchain among its key development areas, according to a press release published Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Throughout the first round, closed late October, the company managed to raise $200 million, becoming valued at over $1 billion. During the second round led by major asset management company Fidelity Investments, the salad chain aims to raise an equal amount.

The сapital raised, in particular, will enable Sweetgreen to focus on technology and supply chain development, the release states, with blockchain mentioned as the “most viable solution available” to increase transparency in food supply chains. Sweetgreen, which owns 90 restaurants in the U.S., is planning to use decentralized solutions to track food from its supplier to the counter.

Blockchain is widely used in agriculture, especially in food supply chains. A recent report titled, “Blockchain: Agriculture Market Forecast until 2023,” estimates that the blockchain sector in the agriculature industry will grow from its current worth of $60.8 million to $429.7 million in the next five years.

As the evidence of these claims, the world’s four largest agriculture companies, known as ABCD, have recently partnered to digitize international grain trading by using blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI). The technologies will be initially used to automate grain and oilseed post-trade execution processes, with further plans to extend the experiment to shipping, storage, and customer experience areas.

Moreover, supermarket networks also use blockchain to track food. Albert Heijn, the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands, revealed in September that it is using blockchain to make its orange juice production history transparent.

*This post is credited Cointelegraph

Europe is slowly becoming the largest and most influential cryptocurrency hub as evident from the millions of dollars pumped into various cryptocurrency projects. According to News BTC, the total value of token sales in Europe is almost exceeding that of the United States and Asia combined.

Fabric Ventures carried out a study that revealed some of the plausible causes of the current surge in European Initial Coin Offering in 2018. Note that Fabric Ventures is a venture capital fund firm that is well known for investing thousands of dollars in decentralized network projects and blockchain.

Some of the reasons highlighted in Fabric Venture’s report include separation of economies in the European Union and increasing rate of development activities. In 2018, initial coin offering in the region is estimated to be $4.1 billion. This figure is almost two times that of the $2.3 billion recorded in Asia and $2.6 billion recorded in the United States.

Friendly Cryptocurrency Regulations in Europe

Europe financial regulators have begun to develop cryptocurrency regulations that are friendly to the industry thanks to the do-no-harm approach. The stringent regulatory authorities hamper ICO funding in Asia in Singapore and Hong Kong. It is important to note that Hong Kong and Singapore are considered the two main cryptocurrency hubs in the region. The financial regulators consider cryptocurrencies as security products, and so they are subject to more regulatory scrutiny that discourages potential investors.

In Europe, the do-no-harm approach has significantly helped the financial regulators to come up with policies that are friendly to the industry. The non-restrictive regulations encourage investors to spend more money on new initial coin offerings.

European Nations Significant Funding of ICOs

Malta and Gibraltar are two of the smallest nations in Europe that have put in place policies that promote growth and development of the cryptocurrency industry. Recent reports indicate that the two have drawn more than $300 million in ICO Funding and the figure is expected to skyrocket as more people become aware of how cryptocurrency and blockchain technology works.

The report also shows that the United Kingdom has managed to raise $490 million to fund various cryptocurrency projects while Switzerland has raised approximately $556 million this year alone. Lithuania has also shown serious interest in cryptocurrency and has raised $271 million to support ICOs.

Strong project foundation and national support for cryptocurrency could also be one of the primary causes of the increased European ICO fundraising. Cryptocurrency founding teams are aware of this fact; and have set up offices in major cities such as London, Berlin, and Zug.

Conclusion

2018 has being a successful year for ICO fundraising despite the challenges in the market. It is reported that more than 889 ICO projects have already managed to raise three times more funds than what was raised in 2017. Financial regulators continued support for this industry will significantly help to boost its growth and promote adoption of this new technology, especially in the developing countries.

*This post is credited to CoinRevolution

North Korea is “increasingly” using cryptocurrencies to evade sanctions imposed by the U.S., according to two Washington-based experts cited by news site Asia Times on September 24.

Lourdes Miranda and Ross Delston sent a joint response to an Asia Times’ inquiry regarding the use of crypto by the government of North Korea (DPRK). Miranda is an independent financial analyst and a financial crimes investigator, and Delston is an independent attorney and expert witness in money laundering cases.

Both experts have claimed that the country is successfully trading existing cryptocurrencies, and is attempting to create one of its own, despite current restrictions imposed on fiat assets:

“International criminals everywhere prefer crypto-currencies and the DPRK is no exception. Crypto-currencies have the added advantage to the DPRK of giving them more ways to circumvent U.S. sanctions. They can do so by using multiple international exchangers, mixing and shifting services — mirroring the money laundering cycle.”

Miranda and Delston further explain the scheme that they allege is in use by North Korean authorities.

Initially, the government hires people who have convenient personal identifiable information (PII) to open a crypto wallet that can be used to trade cryptocurrencies. Then local miners transfer crypto into “multiple” European wallets, where they are mixed and shifted in order to confuse anti-money laundering and know-your-customer (AML/KYC) systems.

The process ends with North Korean nominees buying bitcoins, which are later converted into other popular cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum or Litecoin, to break the “linear pattern of transactions.”

As the crypto asset’s point of origin is concealed, the North Korean government then has a chance to exchange “laundered” coins to fiat, thus receiving dollars without any sanctions attached, the experts concluded.

Miranda and Delston did not specify the approximate volume of the operations they described, nor did they reveal the source of their information.

As Cointelegraph reported in August, an earlier report by a South Korean bank revealed that North Korea had attempted to mine Bitcoin between May and July 2017. However, the test was then reported as unsuccessful. The report also contained data on attempts to create a North Korean crypto exchange.

Countries pressed by U.S. economic sanctions are often reported as experimenting with crypto. For instance, Venezuela launched its controversial “oil-backed” Petro coin, which some experts claim barely exists.

Iran is reportedly preparing to create its own national cryptocurrency, which is expected to facilitate international transactions for the country sanctioned by the U.S. for launching a national nuclear program, among other things.

*This post is credited to CoinTelegraph.

A number of defense officials and armed forces across the globe are starting to look into blockchain’s potential in areas related to military activity.

Militaries across the world are always looking for cutting-edge technologies to get a leg up on the competition. Blockchain is certainly not escaping scrutiny.

Officials inside of defense agencies are particularly interested the technology’s distributed consensus and anonymity capabilities.

NATO has been looking into blockchain’s use cases in regards to military logistics and procurement, and are also studying how it could mesh together with other cutting-edge concepts like the IoT.

So far, the United States, Russia, and China seem to express the most interest in researching how blockchain can be used for purposes related to the military, general national defense, and for cyber-related endeavors.

A Changing Military Landscape

In the United States, entities related to the military have been looking into blockchain for a while. The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, Section 1646 calls for the assessment of blockchain for military employment purposes.

Recently, the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command said they were looking into blockchain to help keep tabs on aviation parts, which could help lower the costs of operating and maintaining military aircraft.

Others speculate the technology could be rolled out by the Department of Defense (DoD) to manage nearly $100 billion dollars’ worth of inventory.

A Government Accountability Office report from 2015 specifically highlighted issues with the DoD’s systems for tracking and delivering supplies, something which blockchain has partially helped solve in other (non-military) areas, like the palm oil industry.

Besides the United States, Russian military officials have also been exploring use cases for blockchain.

Russian news sources in June wrote about the creation of a military research lab inside of the country dedicated to studying how blockchain can be used to detect and possibly counter cyber attacks.

About two months later, Russian news outlet TASS reported on how blockchain might find its way into the Russian Defense Ministry if they manage to:

Quickly introduce Russian cryptographic algorithms into the international standard of blockchain.

The Rise Of Blockchain In China

Chinese officials are well-known for their ‘Blockchain not Bitcoin’ mantra, having gone to great efforts to stifle the cryptocurrency market while keeping a more optimistic eye on blockchain.

So far, the number of authoritative material linking Chinese military officials with blockchain-related research is slim, but there have been some articles pointing out why officials should pay attention to the technology.

One, published in 2016, advocated for blockchain to be used by Chinese defense and security officials for a variety of tasks, including for the storage of weapons lifecycle information and for general logistical improvements.

One of the article’s researchers, Dr. Zhu Qichao, is a Director at the National University of Defense Technology and a colonel in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

*This post is credited to Inside Bitcoins

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) is planning to introduce three bills to support blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, according to a press release published September 21.

The three upcoming bills are entitled the “Resolution Supporting Digital Currencies and Blockchain Technology,” the “Blockchain Regulatory Certainty Act,” and the “Safe Harbor for Taxpayers with Forked Assets Act.”

The legislation is focused on the support and development of blockchain technology, as well as the establishment of a safe harbor for taxpayers with “forked” digital assets.

The bills would prompt the federal government to provide a “simple legal environment,” and restrict fines against individuals who report “forked” digital assets until the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) presents formal guidance on the appropriate means of reporting. According to Emmer, “taxpayers can only comply with the law when the law is clear.” The representative further commented on the initiative:

“The United States should prioritize accelerating the development of blockchain technology and create an environment that enables the American private sector to lead on innovation and further growth, which is why I am introducing these bills.”

Moreover, Emmer has taken up the position of co-chairman of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus, a platform for the industry and government collaboration to examine the implications of blockchain and digital currencies. According to the announcement, “the Caucus believes in a hands-off regulatory approach to allow this technology to evolve the same way the Internet did; on its own.”

Earlier this week, U.S. lawmakers called on the IRS to issue clarified and “comprehensive” crypto taxation guidance. The lawmakers argue that while the IRS has proactively continued to remind taxpayers of the penalties for non-compliance with its guidance, its failure to introduce a more robust taxation framework “severely hinders taxpayers’ ability” to meet their obligations.

Also this week, Cointelegraph reported that the American National Standards Institute is going to discuss blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI) issues at its next Legal Issues and Joint Member Forum. The attendees will reportedly focus on legal and ethical concerns and explore concrete applications of blockchain technology and AI.

*This post is credited to CoinTelegraph

New York University (NYU) has reportedly become the “first” university in the U.S. to offer students a major in blockchain technology, CBS New York reported September 18.

The program will reportedly be provided by the NYU Stern School of Business, which was also a pioneer in offering undergraduate courses in cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Professor Andrew Hinkes commented on the new program:

“We hope to establish a groundwork so that the students can understand what’s really happening under the hood, so that they can understand both the legal and the business implications, and prepare them to go out and tackle this new market.”

According to associate professor Kathleen Derose, the educational establishment is expecting large companies to partner within the training program, while “the startups in [fintech] will likely invent the new cool stuff.” Following the increasing number of students interested in the new offer, NYU reportedly doubled its course offerings this school year.

Adam White from cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase said that students “see the development, the birth of a new industry,” adding that “in many ways, we look at things like Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) and blockchain as the internet 3.0.”

Last month, Coinbase released a study, showing that 42 percent of the world’s top 50 universities have at least one class on cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Of the 172 classes reviewed in the study, 15 percent were offered by economics, finance, law and business departments, while 4 percent were in social science departments. The study found that blockchain and crypto-related courses are most popular in the U.S. among other countries.

U.S. students’ interest in crypto is reflected not only in educational programs, but in investing in digital currency as well. As a study conducted by Student Loan Report in March shows, 21.2 percent of college students used loan money to fund a crypto investment, hoping that the upward price volatility in crypto would help pay their debts faster.

*This post is credited to CoinTelegraph

A group of U.S.-based blockchain and crypto companies have announced they will form the Blockchain Association, the “first” lobbying group representing the blockchain industry in Washington D.C., the Washington Post reported September 11.

The Blockchain Association is comprised of industry leaders such as crypto exchange Coinbase, technology startup Protocol Labs, as well as the Digital Currency Group and Polychain Capital. The lobbying organization will reportedly be located in Washington, representing entrepreneurs and investors who are engaged in blockchain-powered projects.

The Blockchain Association will represent mainstream companies that look to operate within the political system, primarily addressing policy issues and the treatment of cryptocurrency by U.S. tax law.

At the same time, the group will work closely with lawmakers on anti-money laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) policy development within the industry. Mike Lempres, Coinbase’s Chief Legal and Risk Officer, further explained:

“The Blockchain Association is an effort to get the preeminent companies in the space together so [policymakers] know they’re hearing from companies that welcome regulation when it’s appropriate. We’re not companies looking to game the system, but trying to develop a legal and regulatory system that’ll stand the test of time.”

Jerry Brito, executive director of the non-profit research and advocacy group Coin Center, reportedly said that the rise of a purpose-specific trade group shows the industry is maturing.

In July, Coinbase created its own political action committee (PAC) to raise money to spend on U.S. elections. In the U.S., PACs are organizations that pool campaign contributions from members with similar policy and political goals and subsequently donate them to political campaigns for or against candidates, legislation, or ballot initiatives.

*This post is credited to Coinbase.

One of the largest law enforcement agencies in the U.S., Customs and Border Protection (CBP), will launch a live test of a blockchain-based shipment tracking system, tech news and media agency GSN reports August 24.

In the upcoming test, the CBP will reportedly combine two separate systems: the CPB’s legacy application and a blockchain-powered platform developed by the agency’s parent body — and the country’s primary border control organization — the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The test results will determine how the distributed ledger technology (DLT) is able to enhance the verification process of certificates of origin from the partners of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Central America Free Trade Agreement, as well as reduce the time-consuming procedure of the resubmission of shipping data.

While testing, the agency also intends to establish standards of interaction between different blockchains in order to ensure that all firms and software will be easily connected to customs without the need for additional customization.

Vincent Annunziato, director of CBP’s Transformation & Innovation Division, commented that at the moment various blockchain platforms are not compatible enough, stressing that ensuring data security is “of the upmost [sic] importance.”

The CBP is also reportedly developing a proof-of-concept scheme for dealing with intellectual property rights. At this point, Annunziato stressed that the successful testing of the blockchain project will enable consumers to define if a certain product is authentic or not.

According to GSN, the CBP is also now collaborating with blockchain startups such as Factom and the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) on another blockchain project to combat the interception of data from sensors and cameras on the border. The project is reportedly at the stage of a six-month field test in Texas.

The DHS had previously announced that it is preparing to implement blockchain technology in securing the sharing and storage of data collected by security cameras, sensors, and internal data bases in early 2017, in a move to prevent manipulation of data and potential hacking attacks on devices operating on the borders and airports.

Earlier this month, tech giant IBM and Danish transport and logistics giant Maersk launched a joint blockchain-based shipping project, “TradeLens,” with 95 organizations involved and 154 million shipping events shipping events already captured.

*This post is credited to Cointelegraph