Stellar Lumens given green light for trading in New York

In a boost for the cryptocurrency market in New York, Stellar Lumens has been approved for trade by the New York Financial Regulators.

This is the first time Lumens has been given the go-ahead in New York, which many may find slightly surprising, especially since Fortune describe it as “now the seventh or eighth most valuable cryptocurrency with a market capitalization of more than $4.3 billion.”

itBit has added it to their exchange. Chad Cascarilla, the co-founder and CEO of itBit’s parent company Paxos, told Fortune that the move away from the virtual currency being viewed as a security was a key reason for it being added to their platform.

He said: “That’s why we’ve added them to the exchange… If they were a security, you’d have to go through a different process.”

It will be interesting to see if this now leads to other exchanges, including CoinBase, taking on the cryptocurrency.

It is widely viewed as the leading exchange in the US and currently offers trading in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Litecoin, although there are plans to also add Ethereum Classic to the mix.
Stellar, the company that created Lumens, was founded by Jed McCaleb in 2014. He also founded rival cryptocurrency Ripple.

This news had a significant impact on Stellar Lumens price, with Fortune reporting that it “rose more than 5% ahead of itBit’s news.”

While speaking to Fortune, Cascarilla added that he is not worried about the fluctuations in the price of cryptocurrencies currently.

He is quoted as saying; “The interest and the adoption from institutions and large firms that have a lot of credibility is very real.

“That might not be reflected in the price today, but from what I see, will certainly be changing the landscape over the next six to 12 months.”

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Business schools and universities rush to get courses on bitcoin

Even people who understand cryptocurrencies and blockchain will admit that they can seem complicated, even at the best of times.

However, they are a big part of the world right now and most of us know that they are here to stay.

That being said, there are certain areas that have been slow to catch-up to this new and exciting technology.
Business schools and universities are getting to grips with this new movement now, but few would describe them as ‘up with the pace’ of cryptocurrencies or bitcoin.

The Financial Times has reported that these organisations are jumping to get courses that can give curious minds information on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, because there has been a huge surge in demand for these subjects to be put on curriculums.

Since bitcoin’s value went through the roof late last year, there has been a huge boost in demand for courses specialising in this area. It’s no surprise to see this demand surge, as this technology moves from the fringes of industry into mainstream society.

Organisations within industries ranging from banking to the motor industry are looking into how blockchain can work for them.

David Yermack, professor of finance and business transformation at the New York University Stern School of Business, told the Financial Times: “This is moving much faster than people expected. Business schools will have no choice but to update curriculums.”

Yermack detailed that the latest course in cryptocurrencies and blockchain within the MBA programme 230 students enrolled in it.

Jens Martin, programme director at the University of Amsterdam Business School, which offers a blockchain and cryptocurrencies course on its master in international finance, also told the FT that she believes this element of industry is going to continue growing.

She said: “The increase in value in the cryptos played a large part in the increase in public interest. However, we feel that the finance industry is very interested in the technology itself and the possibilities it offers. We see many applications not only from people with a banking background, but a more diverse group who are interested in applying these concepts to finance.”

This increased interest has seen a huge rise in the purchase of initial coin offerings (ICOs), as investors are doing their best to find the next bitcoin.

Courses in this technology can only help those trying to do this.

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Volkswagen and IOTA work together in autonomous car initiative

Are autonomous cars the future of vehicles?

That’s a question we don’t quite have the answer for just yet, but some big names are certainly paying attention to this area.

For instance, Volkswagen and IOTA are working alongside each other on a proof-of-concept protocol which will use IOTA’s Tangle system.

In fact, on second thoughts, many experts think that the answer to our original question is a definitive ‘yes.’
These experts expect there to be over 200 million ‘smart’ vehicles on the road by 2020, so it seems like autonomous cars might be the ‘present’, never mind the future.

This protocol was presented at the Cebit 2018 Expo in Germany earlier this month. The proof of concept has been designed to allow Volkswagen transfer software updates to their connected cars.

The technology behind Tangle is slightly different to blockchain; instead of ‘blocks’ and ‘mining’, a directed acrylic graph (DAG) is used as part of a foundation. Thus, its chains work all at once and topologically.

The German car manufacture plans on using TANGLE to wirelessly and securely work with data from its autonomous car line.

There are several reports circulating suggesting that IOTA has joined up with MOBI (Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative) and many experts expect them to join up with other big names in the motor industry too.

IOTA is quite busy at the moment, as they are also planning to launch a Tangle-powered digital identification system.

MIOTA is currently trading at around $1.20.

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Edgar Allan Poe inspires creatives’ blockchain start-up

There aren’t many blockchain start-ups that can say that they take their inspiration from a nineteenth century poet, but Qravity certainly can.

Inspired by the tiny amount that Edgar Allan Poe was paid for his writing output, Austrian producer and composer, David Brandstaetter, set-up the blockchain start-up Qravity.

The idea behind it is to give artists and content creators their just reward.

He discussed this inspiration, with The Drum reporting him as stating the following: “Poe’s work, especially The Raven and Annabel Lee, has always inspired me. He not only wrote some of the most famous poems of all time, he also established the foundations of the detective story and science fiction!”

Copyright infringement and fair payment are just some of the hurdles today’s creators have to face in order to get fair payment and Poe’s story of underpayment got the Austrian thinking about this.

Brandstaetter has a long history in the world of creativity, working for the likes of Sony and Rockstar Games, so he understands what it takes to make it in the fiercely competitive creative industries.
Thus, he founded Qravity in 2016 with the goal of helping others bring their content to the market.

In a world where opportunists exist at every corner, Qravity uses blockchain to keep all transactions transparent. It also uses smart contracts which keep immutable and transparent records of projects within its system.

He added: “In July 2017, we had a unique collaboration and communication tool for creative teams. Qravity also tracks tasks in such a way that creative members receive stakes in the content they help make. For example, a person who writes lyrics for a song gets a share, say five percent, of the song’s revenue. Every time someone buys that song, the lyricist gets five percent of that payment.”

Digital tokens that are called QPT are how creatives keep track of their records. Revenue is distributed based on how many QPT they hold relating to their content.

Payment is then given in the form of Qravity’s cryptocurrency, QCO.

For instance, if a drummer has a ten percent stake in the song he penned, a 1 QCO song earns him 0.10 QCO, which he can then trade on crypto exchanges, or spend in the Qravity marketplace.

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Investors pile-in for blockchain streaming start-up

How we watch our favourite television shows and sporting events is changing and up until now, this hasn’t been great news for television networks.

That is because these networks haven’t been making much money off that process, but VideoCoin might just change all that.

When networks stream to televisions, one signal can hit many different viewers, but with internet viewing it is simply one signal to one device.

Thus, the overall people per signal drops. VideoCoin plans to help broadcasters send video streams to unused tech infrastructure that have extra capacity which will help with processing.

The immersive video start-up, Live Planet, is also involved in this project as strategic partners. There are also plenty of other high profile investors on-board, including the likes of Anthony Di lorio, who is a co-founder of Ethereum and Akamai co-founder Randal Kaplan.

In fact, their entire $50 million initial coin offering (IC0) has already been sold through private investment. If you want to get involved, then we’ve some bad news; there is no plan for a public sale.

That being said, there are reports that there will be an airdrop to supporters over the next few weeks.

Halsey Minor, who is a co-founder of CNET is already on-board too and he sees this investment as a no-brainer.

He said: “What we’re building is the next-generation infrastructure for how you do video processing and distributed services.”

He also added that this is the ideal use for this technology, stating: “The one use case the blockchain that’s going to work first is the commodification of hardware. It’s perfect for it.”

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Blockchain being tested on UK National Archives

Every day there is another story about an organisation reaping the rewards of blockchain technology, however there aren’t many with the reputation of the UK government.

Thus, the news that the government are investigating the use of blockchain for record sharing within The National Archives could be a massive boost for advocates of the technology.

The Archives is renowned for being a standard setter in its area, so it is hoped that this research will give a wider understanding of blockchain technology to Archives and Memory Institutions (AMIs) throughout the world.

The research, which is entitled Archangel, is a collaborative project and involves the likes of the University of Surrey and the Open Data Institute.

It is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, with the key idea being to check how useful blockchain can be for managing extensive archives.

Alex Green, who is the Archives’ digital preservation services manager, wrote a blog about the research this week.

In it, he wrote the following: “How can we demonstrate that the record you see today is the same record that was entrusted to the archive 20 years previously?”

“How do we ensure that citizens continue to see archives as trusted custodians of the digital public record? To address these questions, Archangel is exploring how we can know that a digital record has been modified and whether the change was legitimate so that ultimately it can still be trusted as the authentic record”

He added: “Specifically, the project is investigating how blockchain might be used to achieve this.”

Distributed ledger technology will “collect robust digital signatures derived from digitized physical, and born-digital content.”

The research is expected to take around a year and a half.

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Can blockchain change the art world? Andy Warhol auction might just do that

Fraud has always been a problem in the art industry, but it is a problem that may have a readymade solution.

Those within the industry are looking for that solution and in that search, they have arrived with an obvious, yet brilliant, answer – blockchain technology.

Transactions using this process empower buyers, as they can trace their goods and their histories.

There is a gallery in London that intends to take advantage of that, when they auction off a portion of Andy Warhol’s ’ 14 Small Electric Cars’ for cryptocurrency.

The auction, which is taking place on June 20th, is coming to the world via Dadiani Fine Art in London’s Mayfair.

There will be 49 percent of the work on sale in cryptocurrencies, in an auction which is being hosted by both the Dadiani Syndicate and Maecenas Fine Art.

How much will it get?

A report in Forbes has estimated that the piece is worth in the region of $5.6 million (around 730 Bitcoin).

This marks just another stage in the relationship between crypto, blockchain and art. Earlier this year, Art Stage Singapore sold four paintings for cryptocurrency and several other galleries are considering moving to this sort of process.

Jess Houlgrave, the cofounder of blockchain identity company Codex Protocol, reckons that the number of fraudulent art pieces on the market could be as high as 40 percent. Thus, blockchain technology could be the very mode which will help clean up this market.

How will the price be decided?

A smart contract running on the Ethereum blockchain will determine the final price of the works.

The high profile nature of this auction could help change how buyers and sellers interact in the artworld.

The fact that every transaction is both traceable and immutable on blockchain makes it an ideal solution to transactions of a high value and a sensitive nature.

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Centralization broke the internet; It’s time to fix it

There are plenty of reasons not to like the internet today.

It starts with how we access it. Depending on where you are, internet connections can be unreliable, slow, and even pricey. There’s much disparity in the speed and pricing of the packages offered by internet service providers (ISPs) all over the world. ISPs can be quite restricting too. Monthly bandwidth caps are forcing us to prioritize what to access online.

This then leads us to the issue of net neutrality. ISPs are lobbying against an open internet claiming that they should have the right to set prices depending on the type of content or data that we access. This is at odds with our right to freely use (within lawful bounds) a utility we’re paying for.

Governments are also exerting their influence over the internet placing laws and regulations that allow them to censor and surveil our online activities. Private corporations also figure into this discussion as well. It seems that we’ve virtually forfeited our data to these companies when we agreed to their terms and conditions to use their services.

Then there’s the general profusion of bad products, bad content, and bad behavior. The list can go on.

The big question is, how can we fix it?

Centralization ruined it

Centralization has got a lot to do with these issues. The internet used to be highly decentralized operating essentially as a large peer-to-peer network. This changed when large telco companies took over the infrastructure in the effort to commercialize internet access.

Today’s tech giants eventually rose to prominence by providing most of the popularly used services and applications. They now happen to figure into almost every aspect of internet use. Google knows what questions we need answered. Facebook knows who and what we like.  Amazon, being our go-to store, knows our home addresses, payment information, and purchases.

Unless you’ve been living completely off the grid, these companies are bound to have your in-depth profile. What’s even scary is that such data can be used to manipulate us as revealed in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Having only a small group of entities dictate what we can and can’t do on the internet isn’t a good thing. These companies can impose policies that are designed for them to profit from our participation in a not-so-equitable manner. They can also stifle competition due to their size and influence.

A centralized service also serves as a single point of failure, that when exploited, could lead to disastrous outcomes. For example, DNS service provider Dyn plays a major role in the today’s infrastructure. An outage caused by a cyberattack to its services back in 2016 took down popular applications like Twitter and Netflix. This disrupted the online activities of millions of users.

How about decentralization?

There is now growing interest in transitioning away from centralized approaches as more users become aware of these downsides. The vision of decentralization is lessen the hold of these few entities over the internet and give back power and control to users.

It’s even quite fortunate that blockchain and crypto activities have gained much acceptance over the past year. These technologies offer the means to make a decentralized internet viable. Through blockchain and smart contracts, it is now possible to build and deploy decentralized applications (dapps) and platforms founded on transparent and immutable rules designed to be fair to its users.

These platforms are making headway in their development.

Projects like Skycoin even seek to disrupt the internet infrastructure segment by coming up with Skyminer – a custom-built hardware that is designed to support a crypto-driven internet ecosystem. The device essentially functions as a cost-effective but high-performing server with secure routing and networking capabilities. The device is also planned to be able to broadcast using a wireless antenna which will allow owners to function as ISPs and share their bandwidth to others creating a real peer-to-peer infrastructure.

Moreover, these efforts are making use of crypto currencies to power their respective economies. This way, they become self-sustaining. Peers fairly pay each other directly using crypto currencies without the involvement of intermediaries. Prices are market-driven and not dictated by big corporations.

The community that these platforms create also become a self-policing body that could democratically decide on matters. They are also responsible for encouraging positive behavior and punishing poor products and services and malicious actions.

Fixing the internet

We’ve been letting the internet be under the control of just a few entities for far too long. What we need to fix is for ordinary users like us to regain control and create an internet that’s truly neutral. It does call for us to step away from centralized approaches. Fortunately, decentralization offers the means for us to do so.

Decentralized platforms allow us to participate in fair and equitable markets. The crypto currency economies ensure that platforms are self-sustaining. These platforms also provide the opportunity for us to get back ownership of our personal data.

These technologies may still be in relative infancy but with exciting and ambitious projects that even seek to disrupt not only services and applications but the underlying infrastructure, a decentralized internet might be in our future. This way, we get to enjoy an internet that’s truly for the people and by the people.

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Britain’s Crypto task force meets for the first time

Earlier this year Philip Hammond, the UK’s Finance Minister announced the formation of a special task force with a key goal in mind, to ensure Britain remains at the cutting edge of the digital revolution by harnessing the potential benefits of the underlying technology that powers cryptocurrencies.

Her Majesty’s Treasury (HM Treasury) has announced that the first meeting of the Cryptoassets Taskforce took place today on 21st of May 2018, subsequently agreeing on various objectives. These included the potential benefits and challenges of the application of distributed ledger technology in financial services, and assessing what, if any, regulation is required in response.

The Taskforce will consider existing analysis by the government and regulators and will also seek external views from trade bodies, academics, consumer groups and investor representatives. It is unclear as to whether businesses in the blockchain sector are to be consulted, although this would make sense as they have years of experience working in this rapidly growing environment.

Senior leaders from the UK government and other the financial regulators were present, including Katharine Braddick, Director General of Financial Services at HM Treasury, Andrew Bailey, Chief Executive of the FCA, and Dave Ramsden, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England.

Andrew Bailey, FCA Chief Executive said:

“Cryptoassets have been an area of increasing interest for markets and regulators globally including the FCA. We look forward to working with our counterparts at the Bank of England and the Treasury as part of the taskforce to develop thinking and policy on cryptoassets.”

Dave Ramsden, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England said:

“The technologies that underpin cryptoassets have the potential to deliver benefits both to the financial system and to the economy it serves. This taskforce will enable us to work closely with the Treasury and the FCA to explore how the opportunities posed by these technologies can be realised, while also tackling the risks arising from cryptoassets.”

A roundtable will be hosted by the Cryptoassets Taskforce in July with a report set to be published later this year.

Although somewhat supportive the UK government has been concerned with cryptocurrencies and their possible links with criminals and terrorists that use the technology for money laundering,.British Prime Minister Theresa May shared her concerns on the subject when speaking at the World Economic Forum in January 2018.

Britain’s remains a global fintech powerhouse and today’s meeting is an re-assuring sign of continued prowess. The technology sector alone enjoyed a record year in 2017, with 1.3 billion pounds invested and over half the funding from outside of the UK.

The City of London Corporation and Innovate Finance also launched a FinTech Strategy Group earlier this year.

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Gibraltar leads on ICO regulation

Gibraltar has been in the spotlight in recent months following the jurisdiction’s milestone DLT regulations. The DLT regulations, which came into force on 1st January 2018, received a warm reception by many in the FinTech space. Other jurisdictions are now keen to address the blockchain technology that is disrupting traditional industries and businesses. They, too, see they need for regulation, and are looking to Gibraltar for inspiration.

In a speech on Friday 2nd March 2018, The Bank of England’s Governor, Mark Carney, stated it was time to “regulate elements of the crypto-asset ecosystem to combat illicit activities”. Gibraltar’s proactive approach has clearly placed the jurisdiction in a unique position as one of only a few jurisdictions to have some form of regulation for this growing industry.

It looks as though Gibraltar will continue to remain in the spotlight as the jurisdiction looks to address concerns surrounding the increasing number of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) that are funding blockchain based startups. It has been widely reported in recent weeks that Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar and the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (GFSC) are preparing to release a draft of the world’s first token regulations.

During a presentation at the Gibraltar International FinTech Forum 2018, otherwise known as the Gibfin conference, which took place between 28th February and 1st May 2018, the GFSC provided attendees with more information about the activities that the forthcoming token regulations aim to regulate. The token regulations will regulate the following activities conducted in or from Gibraltar:

  1. the promotion, sale and distribution of digital tokens;
  2. the operation of secondary market platforms trading in tokens; and
  3. the provision of investment advice and ancillary services relating to tokens.

Promotion, sale and distribution of digital tokens

Tokens that are not considered securities, such as utility and access tokens, will be caught by the new token regulations but gifts, donations, virtual currencies (i.e. Bitcoin) and central-bank digital currencies will not.

The FSC clarified that they will not expand the interpretation of what is considered a security in Gibraltar and also have no intention of defining token categories, or the functionality of tokens, either pre or post ICOs. The intention is to ensure that token sale participants’ are presented, in advance, with all relevant information to enable them to make an informed decision.

To be captured by these regulations, the activities will need to be carried out in or from Gibraltar and will include activities:

  • which purport to be or imply that they are made from Gibraltar;
  • are intended to come to the attention of, or be accessed by, any person in Gibraltar;
  • are conducted by overseas subsidiaries of Gibraltar-registered legal persons (in such cases, the Gibraltar person will be liable); or

are conducted by overseas agents and proxies acting on behalf of Gibraltar-registered legal persons, or on behalf of natural persons ordinarily resident in Gibraltar (in such cases, the Gibraltar person will be liable).

It is anticipated that Gibraltar-based token issuing companies will be required to comply with some form of disclosure rules that are yet to be announced. It is expected that the proposed regulations will require adequate, accurate and balanced disclosure of the relevant information to enable potential token sale participants to make an informed decision.

Additionally, token issuing companies will be obliged to collect know-your-customer (KYC) information on their token sale participants in order to comply with financial crime provisions in Gibraltar.

Additionally, entities that wish to conduct an ICO from Gibraltar will need to be sponsored by firms that the GFSC has authorised to perform such a function. Authorised sponsors will possess the appropriate knowledge and experience and will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the part of the regulations. Authorised sponsors will be regulated by the GFSC.

In order to encourage best practice for token sales conducted in or from Gibraltar, authorised sponsors will be required to have codes of practice in place that token sale entities will be required to comply with. Codes of practice may set out such matters as the method for storing, applying and distributing sale proceeds. Codes of practice will require approval from the GFSC and the regulator will establish and maintain a public register of authorised sponsors and their respective past and present codes of practice.

The GFSC will not however regulate:

  • Technology;
  • Tokens, smart contracts, or their functionality;
  • Individual public token offerings; or
  • Persons involved in the promotion, sale or distribution of tokens.

Secondary market conduct

Secondary market platforms, operated in or from Gibraltar, dealing in tokenised assets (including virtual currencies) and their derivatives will be caught by the token regulations. The GFSC aims to:

  • ensure organised trading takes place on regulated platforms;
  • establish transparency and oversight of secondary markets;
  • enhance investor protection;
  • impose conduct of business standards; and
  • encourage competition.

The proposed regulations will set out requirements for:

  • disclosure to the public of data on trading activity;
  • disclosure of transaction data to GFSC; and
  • specific supervisory actions concerning tokens and positions on token derivatives.

This second area of focus will be modelled, so far as is appropriate, proportionate and relevant, on market platform provisions under the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II and Markets in Financial Instruments and Amending Regulation, otherwise known as MiFID II and MiFIR, which came into effect in January 2018.

It is proposed that the GFSC will authorise and supervise secondary token market operators, and establish and maintain a public register of such operators.

Investment Advice

The provision of advice on investments in tokens, virtual currencies and central bank-issued digital currencies will be covered by the token regulations, including:

generic advice (setting out fairly and in a neutral manner the facts relating to token investments and services);
product-related advice (setting out in a selective and judgmental manner the advantages and disadvantages of a particular token investment and service); and
personal recommendation (based on the particular needs and circumstances of the individual investor).

The regulations will seek to ensure that such advice is fair, transparent and professional. This third area of focus will be similar to the investment advice provisions in MiFID II.

It is proposed that GFSC will authorise and supervise token investment service providers, and establish and maintain a public register of such providers

Watch this space

We are expecting to receive a draft of the much anticipated token regulations in the coming weeks. However, we understand that the draft will only likely include the first area of focus concerning the promotion, sale and distribution of digital tokens with the remaining two elements of the token regulations to follow later this year.

While we are eagerly anticipating the release of the draft regulations, which will mark another significant milestone for Gibraltar, the jurisdiction is not resting on its laurels. Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar has presented a progressive bill before its parliament to amend the scope of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2015, the jurisdiction’s main legislative instrument concerning anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing provisions. The intention is to bring:

“undertakings that receive, whether on their own account or on behalf of another person, proceeds in any form from the sale of tokenised digital assets involving the use of distributed ledger technology or a similar means of recording a digital representation of an asset.”

within the scope of anti-money lauding and counter-terrorist financing provisions.

These developments are further evidence of Gibraltar’s continued effort to make the jurisdiction crypto friendly and provide safe environment for both business and consumers.

 

Hassans International Law Firm is the largest law firm in Gibraltar and a driving force behind Gibraltar’s crypto boom. It enjoys consistently high rankings in leading legal directories and this year has once again been ranked Band 1 by Chambers & Partners. The Hassans’ FinTech team consists of 12 experienced practitioners co-led by partners Anthony Provasoli and Vikram Nagrani.

 

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