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.

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.

Blockchain tech could power Boris Johnson’s fight to end illegal wildlife trade

Let’s be honest about things; not all the ideas that Boris Johnson supports are good ones… yes, we are looking at you ‘Brexit’.

However, every now and again he does stumble across something that could be described as innovative.

The idea to have the UK’s best tech minds battle illegal wildlife trade may actually be one of those ideas. The Foreign Secretary has called on tech whizzes to help win the battle against illegal poaching and fight the hunting of endangered animals.

He said: “I want to make sure we’re using all the great talent we have available to us to fight this problem, so I’m calling on our finest technological brains to help us in the battle to save some of the world’s most endangered species.”

The current plan is to host a series of workshops to demonstrate how technology, such as blockchain, can be used in these scenarios.

According to the official UK Government website, the goals of these workshops are to “bring experts and conservationists together to deliver technological solutions to combat poaching, make it easier to identify illegal wildlife products at borders or to spot animals in danger in the field.”

The first one of these workshops has already happened, with more planned in the near future. The first event brought together industry giants, such as Google and Amazon, to hear the challenges being faced in this area.

One of the leading names in the industry, TechUK’s CEO Julian David, was also in attendance and believes that the transparency of blockchain could be a key tool in the battle for conservation.

He said: “Whether it is blockchain to support supply chain transparency and assurance or drones, satellites and the internet of things-enabled solutions to monitor activity in national parks and areas of high scientific interest, new tech is revolutionising conservation across the world.”

Boris Johnson added that a recent trip to the Amazon has made his solidified his decision to follow through with this plan.

He added: “I’ve just come back from the Amazon, one of Earth’s natural wonders, where both animals and people are suffering at the hands of criminals who are committing horrible wildlife crimes. What I saw has only sharpened my determination to combat the blight of the illegal wildlife trade.”

Hybrid Blockchain: The Best of Both Chains

A Google search with the words ‘hybrid blockchain’ yields roughly 756,000 search results. This isn’t many, when compared to ‘public blockchain’s’ 40 million search results or ‘private blockchain’s’ 30 million.

This article will provide an introduction to hybrid blockchain and highlight why it may become the blockchain of choice for governments, financial institutions and larger multinational organizations.

As a starting point, it is important to acknowledge that one of the core elements that make up blockchain actually came from a hybrid solution for digital time stamping of documents – decentralised hash verification.

Public Blockchains Decentralised Verification + Timestamping – The Genesis

I recently attended the Blockchain Economy World Tour in Sydney where Dr W.Scott Stornetta, presented his ‘aha’ moment in developing digital timestamping, one of the core components of bitcoin.

For those of you not familiar with Digital Time Stamping, it was developed back in 1991 by Stuart Haber and W.Scott Stornetta, who is the Chief Scientist for First Digital Capital. Their work on digital time stamping was referenced three times in Satoshi Nakamoto’s white paper on Bitcoin:

In Scott’s presentation he referred to his ‘aha’ moment as “letting the world become your witness”. He went on to explain that if you are not sure who to trust in a centralised controlled environment then the best protection would be to invite the public at large to verify that this transaction took place.

This decentralised public verification and timestamping of a generated hash is one of the core components of bitcoin and blockchain.

Another key observation regarding Dr. Stornetta’s work is that public verification was used to publicly verify a hash that was generated on a private network. It was 1991, and his work pre-dated the development of blockchain.

Satoshi Nakamoto incorporated decentralised public verification into a decentralised currency, bitcoin. Subsequently, most of the blockchains that have followed bitcoin have also focused on building atop of a public blockchain.

This raises the question:

Does a hash need to be generated on the public blockchain, or can it be generated on a private blockchain while using a public counterpart exclusively for verification?

Enter Hybrid Blockchain.

Hybrid blockchain offers the benefits of both public blockchain and private blockchain.

Firstly, hybrid blockchain consists of the public blockchain (that all participants are a part of) and a private network (also referred to as a permissioned network) that restricts participation to those invited by a centralised body.

Secondly, this private network generates the record (hash) of transactions which is stored and verified on the public blockchain.

The benefits of the private blockchain include faster transaction speeds, privacy of the data/ content and a centralised control over providing access to the blockchain.

Hybrid provides an enterprise-ready blockchain solution that is much better suited to highly regulated enterprises and governments as it enables them to have the flexibility and control over what data is kept private versus shared on a public ledger. Coupled with the operational needs of faster transaction times, security and auditability features that are not suited to public blockchains.

Large enterprises want the benefits that blockchain can deliver without the associated risks of a public blockchain. Especially as blockchain is still nascent and evolving.

This enterprise-need for a suitable blockchain solution has resulted in creation of several private-public blockchain focused projects including R3 Consortium, Hyperledger and the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance.

In a Fortune article published in February, 2017, we can already see acknowledgement of the benefits of embracing a hybrid blockchain by Bank of New York Mellon.

“That interconnection of public and private chains actually creates a very strong network,” Batlin said on a call with Fortune. “Each chain strengthens the other at an exponential level.” Alex Batlin, blockchain lead at Bank of New York Mellon


Current Hybrid Blockchains:

XinFin [ XDCE ]

Launched in 2017, XinFin completed their ICO in March, 2018 after successfully launching their first dApp, TradeFinex — a global trade and finance platform.

XinFin is the first hybrid blockchain and currently the only hybrid blockchain. It is built on both Ethereum, a public blockchain, and Quorum, a private blockchain. Quorum is an enterprise-focused version of Ethereum developed by J.P. Morgan of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance.

Their hybrid network runs on a delegated proof-of-stake consensus (DPOS) between trusted master nodes with both smart contracts and IoT atop of the protocol. This allows real time data to be uploaded on blockchain.

It is still early days for XinFin yet they have completed over a dozen pilots across supply chain logistics, aviation, HR, payroll, international trade and finance settlements.

Ramco Systems, a global $1 billion enterprise software company, partnered with XinFin to provide their hybrid blockchain solutions for their clients to implement a supply chain logistic blockchain.

Ripple [ XRP ] Are they heading in the direction of hybrid blockchain?

Launched in 2012, Ripple is currently ranked 3rd by market cap on Coinmarketcap website with $30B valuation.

Ripple’s focus is to connect banks, payment providers and digital asset exchanges to process and provide liquidity for payments via RippleNet, a private blockchain variant.

Stefan Thomas, CTO Ripple & co-creator of Interledger payment protocol, published an article on Dec 26th 2017 in “The Death of The ICO” (and 4 other predictions). One of his five predictions was ‘The Birth of Hybrid Blockchains”:

“Until now we’ve seen a proliferation of both public blockchains like bitcoin and private blockchains like Hyperledger Fabric. Going forward, I think we’ll start to see the rise of hybrid blockchains, which combine the best of both worlds.”

In July the same year, Shivdeep Dhaliwal published an article in from his email communications with Marcus Treacher, Ripples Global Head of Strategic Accounts.

“Banks Need ‘Hybrid Approach to Blockchain Technology’: Ripple’s Marcus Treacher”,

Are Stefan Thomas and Marcus Treacher’s predictions of hybrid blockchains a hint that Ripple may offering a hybrid blockchain solution to their clients in the near future?

Dr W. Scott Stornetta’s work from 1991–1997 predated blockchain and is based on the premise that a generated hash from a private network needs decentralised public verification. This by definition is hybrid blockchain.
Private networks provide the first small step for enterprise to embrace blockchain technology. Hybrid provides them the next step without losing the benefits of private networks.

Stefan Thomas’ predictions for hybrid blockchain adoption are becoming a reality.

First Kuwaiti Bank to join Ripplenet for instant blockchain payments

Ripple’s Blockchain solution for cross-border payments will bolster the banks Shari’a compliant products

kuwait finance houseAnnounced today, Kuwait Finance House has joined RippleNet, a move which will enable the bank to provide cross-border payments using Ripples blockchain technology.

The RippleNet partnership is a world’s first in the Kuwaiti banking system and is part of a framework strategy to adopt blockchain technology to provide a cutting edge customer experience.

Customers will now be able to make rapid international transfers with considerably lower transaction fees.

Kuwait Finance house is a global leader in Islamic banking with operations spanning seven regions, 485 branches, 1,000 ATM’s and more than 15,000 employees.

“This is great news for the Kuwait Finance House, as it continues to add solid foundations to the major banking partnerships. The fact that KFH is the first bank in Kuwait to operate in this way will pave the way for more customers to access services through the RIBL network”

With adoption continually growing, Ripple is fast becoming the blockchain solution of choice for many pioneering banks.

Celebrate Bitcoin Pizza day with a limited edition Ledger Nano S Pizza Day

Ledger releases limited edition Nano S to mark Bitcoin Pizza day

Everyone has been talking about the upcoming Bitcoin Pizza Day, marking the anniversary of the first documented real-world Bitcoin transaction. Well, the big day is finally here, each year thousands of crypto-enthusiasts celebrate this historic event that took place eight years ago today which seen programmer Laszlo Hanyecz purchase two pizzas for a cool 10,000 Bitcoin, worth only $41 dollars at the time, today that would be more than $80 million dollars.

Grab a limited edition Ledger Nano S Pizza Day from the official Ledger store:

There are plenty of ways to celebrate the occasion from making your own Pizza, this frying pan recipe is super easy, if you live in Manchester, UK, Papa John’s accepts Bitcoin! If you’re not feeling cheesy then hardware wallet firm Ledger, have released a limited edition device called the “Nano S Pizza Day” which comes with all the same features as the original Nano S but Pizza’d up with a cool red body and chrome finish, each box is customised and signed by an employee.

ledger nano s pizza day

The Ledger Nano S Pizza Day units are flying out the oven, with only 1,337 units available to order.

Grab a Ledger Nano S Pizza Day from the official Ledger store here.

The device is priced at €142.80 including tax and free shipping.

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.

Former CEO of Visa UK to Lead Crypto Startup

Marc O'BrienMarc O’Brien, former CEO of Visa UK, a key advisor of Revolut and one of the United Kingdom’s leading payment services experts, has been appointed CEO of Crypterium, the world’s first mobile crypto bank.

Marc has over 25 years of experience in Financial Services, FinTech and RegTech.

He has been a long time advisor to MasterCard before joining Visa, where Marc held a number of significant positions, including 6 years as CEO of Visa UK and Ireland, company’s second most important market. During Marc’s time as CEO, Visa’s business doubled from $250 to $600 million with market share of debit card payments increasing to 97%.

Marc also started and led the contactless technology programme in the UK and with Transport for London from the very beginning to its multi billion transaction rollout.

After leaving Visa in 2014, Marc has been a key advisor on some of the most exciting startups in the UK, including Revolut where he was advising CEO and team on product strategy, growth strategy, and marketing. He was effectively the third person in the team after the two founders.

Recently, Marc also advised the UK’s Royal Mint on the possible creation of a Gold backed Crypto Token.

Following the global search by Sheffield Haworth, Marc will now lead the launch of Crypterium App that will let its users pay with cryptocurrencies with the same ease and convenience as with cash or credit cards. Users will be able to issue virtual cards, link them to Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Android Pay, bind them to their crypto accounts and pay at any NFC terminal, or via scanning the QR codes.

“I am delighted to be joining Crypterium at such an exciting time. I strongly believe that cryptocurrency is about to go mainstream and we can be pioneers to build Crypterium into a terrific business,” says Marc.

“We are genuinely very excited by Marc’s appointment. He brings the experience and know-how to build a global banking solution that will have no peers,” adds Austin Kimm, COO of Crypterium.

Amazon partners with Kaleido in bid to harness blockchain

Amazon is one of those companies that seem to have a finger in every pie at the moment and their new blockchain partnership could be one of their tastiest ventures yet.

Amazon’s cloud computing arm has partnered with a start-up called Kaleido, which will now make it easier for customers to put their services on blockchain.

Amazon Web Service said that introducing Kaleido to their customers “is going to help (them) move faster and not worry about managing blockchain themselves.”

The new partnership, which was announced on Tuesday, will see Kaleido give AWS an easy route to get into the same tech area that underpins many cryptocurrencies.

Amazon Web Services offers a cloud computing platform to individuals. It is a paid subscription service and its methods thus far have been to use a partner-led strategy instead of building from the ground up.

As one of the most influential companies in the world, many onlookers have noted that this move will give a massive boost to blockchain’s public reputation.

For those of you that don’t know how it works; blockchain technology records transactions on a public ledger, which is underpinned by blocks of transactions. Fans of the technology state that this system gets rid of the need of a third party and insist that it is more secure and quicker than its competition.

Joseph Lubin, the founder of Ethereum blockchain, reckons this is a sizable move by Amazon.

The pair will be using Ethereum’s tech, so it’s interesting to read Lubin’s thoughts. He said: “This is a heavy duty, full stack way of getting the company into blockchain solutions.”

Lubin added that the recent rise in interest in blockchain has been almost comical. He stated: “Three years ago we were getting calls from companies trying to spell blockchain and trying to order one in a color because their boss told them they should get a blockchain. At this point there are tens of thousands of companies around the world that have real sophistication around this.”

Steve Cerveny, a founder of Kaleido, insisted that this move will make it much simpler for customers of AWS. He said: “They can focus on their scenario and they don’t have to become PhDs is cryptography, we give them a simple platform to build their company on blockchain.”

Cerveny told CNBC that Amazon has been looking to get into this service for a while, stating: “They’ve been looking for partners to help get blockchain into their customers’ hands. They’re putting it in the marketplace will accelerate what their customers are going to do with it.”

“Introducing Kaleido to AWS customers is going to help customers move faster and not worry about managing blockchain themselves,” Amazon Web Services insisted.

Blockchain’s incredible rise into the mainstream is hitting an all-time high, with Amazon joining the likes of Microsoft and Facebook in a bid to explore the benefits of the technology.

Brazilian city will pioneer Blockchain tech for public transport

Teresina, a city located in the Brazilian state of Piauí will be the world’s first to utilise blockchain technology to manage its public transport infrastructure, paving the way to a smart and futuristic municipality.

The innovative project named “Mobility Observatory: blockchain for the co-management of public transport” will aim to increase transparency by storing records such as fulfillment orders, transactions, travel reports and work orders on the blockchain, all fully accessible to the public. The data will be permanently stored on the blockchain and cannot be altered or modified without changes being tracked.

It is being developed by the Municipality of Teresina through the Municipal Secretariat of Planning and Coordination (Semplan) and Agenda 2030. It is also in partnership with the Municipal Transportation and Transit Authority and the Organization of States (OAS), through its School of Open Government, and the Hyperledger Foundation.

The project has received a €300,000 investment from various funding programmes including the European Union.

“The City Hall of Teresina has made all the investment in the infrastructure part, such as construction of terminals and corridors, so we need to know if the operation of their system is adequate and how we control the operation. already does this monitoring, but we are looking for something more technologically advanced, so we have elaborated a proposal that could improve public transportation in its management” said Gabriela Uchoa, Coordinator of Agenda 2030 in Teresina.

“This innovative project of Teresina that systematizes this management of the operation and makes it transparent, open to the population, in a system that is the blockchain, that can not be modified, altered.Any modification that is made is tracked.The idea is to create a committee of co-management and monitoring of this data and validation of them and all this part of the operation that involves collective transportation is monitored through the blockchain system, “explained Gabriela.

Aiming to transform Teresina into a smart, futuristic and sustainable city, the blockchain in public transportation will bring to the municipality the increase of reliability among those involved in the transportation system and service improvement; sharing responsibilities for the proper functioning of public transport and increasing its efficiency; in addition to prioritizing public transport to have an impact on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.