Article By Stephen O’Neal

Here Is How Blockchain Will Help in Space Exploration

Space is an area that has been historically researched by few governments, being a complex matter that requires thorough, high-class research and, therefore, substantial funding. More recently, with the emerging popularity of audacious startups like SpaceX, space exploration has become a less exclusive area. Now, however, it seems that the cryptocurrencies’ primary features — blockchain, its underlying technology, and the concept of an Initial Coin Offering (ICO), its crowdfunding model — are bringing in even more power into the previously unshared territory.

Big players are adopting blockchain for space exploration:

Space giants like the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) are studying ways to employ blockchain for their mission. Findings obtained so far suggest that the technology might be useful both on the ground (facilitating data-related processes, just like in other mainstream institutions) and in space (helping to navigate the deep space).

NASA

In 2017, NASA awarded a $330,000 grant that supported the development of an autonomous, blockchain-based spacecraft system, making its first move toward blockchain adoption. Called the Resilient Networking and Computing Paradigm (RNCP), the new system relies on blockchain and requires no human intervention, as the grant’s recipient, Dr. Jin Wei Kocsis — an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Akron — outlines in her research synopsis.

As Kocsis explains, the RNCP will examine the application of Ethereum-based blockchain smart contracts in developing a secure computing system that would be applicable for challenging space conditions:

“In this project, the Ethereum blockchain technology will be exploited to develop a decentralized, secure, and cognitive networking and computing infrastructure for deep space exploration. The blockchain consensus protocols will be further explored to improve the resilience of the infrastructure[…] I hope to develop technology that can recognize environmental threats and avoid them, as well as complete a number of tasks automatically.”

In more detail, the RNCP system will exploit smart contracts to build a spacecraft that would automatically and promptly detect and dodge any hindrance — as in deep space, conventional means of communication become less reliable as the signal gets weaker. Thus, Dr. Kocsis hopes that, equipped with this blockchain solution, spacecraft will be able to complete more tasks, provide more data and give scientists more time for information analysis, as they would not have to spend time on detecting potential environmental threats. No specific timeline has been disclosed thus far.

NASA

ESA

The European Space Agency (ESA) — NASA’s counterpart in the EU — has been studying blockchain as well, although they are more likely to use the technology to streamline internal administrative processes, not launch it to the deep space per se.

In September 2017, ESA presented a report dubbed “Distributed Ledger Technology: Leveraging Blockchain for ESA’s Success.” The paper outlines general pros and cons of blockchain with some specific examples (i.e. “it saves Dubai 25.1 million hours of productivity”), and then focuses on the potential benefits suitable for ESA specifically — namely the use of smart contracts in logistics, swifter and precise payments, real-time access to data changes, seamless updates to access rights and an immutable voting system, among others.

Notably, the agency discusses the prospect of applying blockchain in the context of so-called Space 4.0, defined as “a situation in which there is the increased number of diverse space actors around the world.” One of the paper’s authors, ESA Senior Corporate Development Coordinator Gianluigi Baldesi, opined at a workshop held at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESRTC) in October 2017:

“In the era of Space 4.0 — as in our own lives — we have to be adaptive to change and nurture a culture of pro-activeness and open-mindedness to both disruption and opportunity,” said Baldesi.

Smaller startups step in as space becomes more democratized

Indeed, space is no longer exclusive to governments that have the means to constantly fuel their research programs with cash: With the arrival of low-cost satellites, blockchain can be launched into space, cutting ties with infrastructure that cannot be fully decentralized — as it’s still plugged in with Facebook and Google fiber optic cables. Here are some startups that are hoping to further democratize the cosmos, although it’s worth noting that most of them don’t feature any specific timelines and are thus rather immature:

ESA

Space Decentral

Space Decentral is a Singapore-based startup and a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), as per its white paper released early in 2018. Essentially, it is based on the idea that, while space pioneers such as the U.S. and Russia are still important for space exploration, the cosmos is becoming more democratized, and now there are more opportunities available even for private players — essentially the same argument that backbones the concept of Space 4.0 mentioned above.

While the project’s plan is notably vague, essentially it promises “to enable hundreds of thousands of new actors to be a part of a global space agency not only as financial supporters, but also as integral contributors of knowledge, regardless of nationality,” by providing the means to crowdfund and crowdsource various space-related projects that could hardly be sponsored through older models — as an ICO makes the overall process easier. Space Decentral has voiced their plans to issue a utility token called the Faster Than Light Coin (FTL Coin).

The startup’s recently announced its “first decentralized space program” called Coral, which is lead by four former NASA employees. Its primary aim is to facilitate 3D printing on the lunar surface to build infrastructure for settlers.

SpaceChain

The startup SpaceChain is less about space exploration and more about using the existing infrastructure to improve the blockchain experience, although outer space is also involved in this case. Basically, SpaceChain is building the world’s first open-source satellite network that runs on blockchain nodes. Indeed, its CEO Zheng Zuo seems to know the price of true decentralization, based on a comment he provided for Tech in Asia:

“You can run a decentralized e-commerce platform, but in the backend, you’re using [Amazon Web Services]. It’s their technology infrastructure[…] After we all start depending on this centralized service, it’s hard to realize true decentralization.”

Backed by former Bitcoin developer and CEO of Bloq Jeff Garzik and one of the most prominent crypto investors Tim Draper, SpaceChain launched their first low-orbit satellite — based on the affordable CubeSat technology — in February 2018. This way, the startup hopes to establish a fully decentralized network that, backed by SpaceChain’s open-source operating system, aims to become a blockchain sandbox for other developers. As the SpaceChain team explains in their Medium post:

“The satellites are used as blockchain nodes for data processing, transmission, in-space data storage and application development. SpaceChain also integrates with Qtum to provide the basic service API for smart contracts and blockchain application.”

SpaceChain

Blockstream

The idea of a decentralized, distant blockchain that is powered by satellites isn’t particularly new — a startup called Blockstream started to utilize the concept back in 2017, when it announced its Blockstream Satellite project, aiming to beam blockchain to every person on planet Earth and even performed its first transaction.

To run a space-based blockchain, Blockstream Satellite relied on open-source technologies: its press release cited GNU Radio and Fast Internet Bitcoin Relay Engine (FIBRE) as incorporated technologies, while the FAQ elaborates:

“Anyone can receive the signal with a small satellite dish (similar to a consumer satellite TV dish) and a USB SDR (software-defined radio) interface[…] The total equipment cost for a user is only about $100. The software is free. The software interface is the open-source GNU Radio software, which is the receiver. GNU Radio will send data to the FIBRE protocol, which is the Bitcoin process and is where the blocks reside.”

Africa, Europe, South America and North America were the first regions where users could download a beta node — essentially, two thirds of the planet had been covered. According to the network status, other regions haven’t been introduced yet.

Nexus

Nexus is an Arizona-based startup that has announced the so-called “world’s first three dimensional blockchain.” Notably, the concept involves a satellite network that Nexus is developing in partnership with Vector Space Systems. Its mission is to “provide global access to its digital currency and autonomous internet infrastructure using Vector’s Galactic Sky software-defined platform in a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite network,” which is rather similar to the above mentioned projects.

Nexus additionally stresses the importance of decentralization in a world dominated by giant corporations:

“A space-based platform offers greater redundancy and security for decentralized applications, since satellites are resistant to regulation or control by government and corporate entities.”

Moreover, the startup hopes to provide “reliable and affordable” internet access via its satellite-powered blockchain network, while the revenue collected from the featured commercial applications will be used to pay for the maintenance and operation of the network, lowering costs for casual customers.

Article by Max Yakubowski

South Korea’s leading virtual currency exchange Bithumb is set to reopen withdrawals and deposits today, according to an official announcement August 4.  

The world’s twelfth largest cryptocurrency exchange by trade volume noted that the time for resuming withdrawals and deposits has been moved from August 4 at 11 a.m. [Korea Standard Time] to 7 p.m. [KST].

In a separate post, Bithumb stated that it is first reopening the withdrawal and deposit services for nine altcoins, adding that it has been slightly delayed in order “to provide a more stable service environment.”

At the end of June, hackers stole around a reported $30 million in crypto from Bithumb, prompting the exchange to temporarily suspend all deposits and payments.

Bithumb later amended that the hackers had stolen less than their previous estimation — around $17 million — due to the “ongoing participation, support, and cooperation of the cryptocurrency exchanges and cryptocurrencies foundations across the world.”

According to data from CoinMarketCap, Bithumb is ranked twelfth amongst exchanges by adjusted trade volume, with a 24-hour trade volume around $125 million by press time.

Article by Helen Partz

The Bank of Thailand (BoT) has recently allowed local banks to set up subsidiaries for dealing with cryptocurrencies, local Thai source Blognone reported August 3.

According to a regulatory announcement published by the BoT on August 1, Thai banks can now issue digital tokens, provide crypto brokerage services, run crypto-related businesses, and invest in cryptocurrencies through subsidiaries.

However, the recent announcement has reaffirmed that all banks and other financial institutions are still banned from direct dealing with cryptocurrencies.

While banks are now allowed to establish crypto-dealing branches, those branches are prohibited from offering crypto-related services to its customers and the public, and can only interact with other businesses that are approved by Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission (Thai SEC) and the Office of Insurance Commission (OIC). Blognone writes that the subsidiaries are also prohibited from offering crypto-related services to individuals.

The subsidiaries are allowed to provide investment resources to customers unless they want to invest in digital assets that aim to develop “financial innovation,” or to expand the quality of financial services, in which case they can use the BoT Regulatory Sandbox, Blognone also notes.

Earlier this year, the BoT released a circular that prohibited banking institutions in Thailand from investing and trading in crypto as well as taking part in establishing crypto exchanges, which are reportedly legal to operate in the country with registration. Thailand’s central bank also required banks not to advise individuals on crypto investments or trading, and banned customers from using credit cards for crypto purchases.

In May, the Thai government had issued a regulatory framework that defines cryptocurrencies as “digital assets and digital tokens,” and puts them under regulation of the Thai SEC.

In early June, the BoT revealed that it is considering providing a “new way of conducting interbank settlement” by using a central bank-issued digital currency (CBDC). According to the bank, the adoption of its own cryptocurrency would cut the costs of transactions, as well reduce the transaction and validation time “due to less intermediation process needed compared to the current systems.”

Earlier in July, the Thai government enacted regulations for Initial Coin Offerings (ICO), having become one of the first jurisdictions in the world to allow ICOs to operate in a fully-regulated environment.

Article by Jonathan Padilla

In March of this year, G20 central bankers and finance ministers met in Buenos Aires to discuss everything from international trade to investment in global infrastructure. Among the topics covered was the regulation of cryptocurrency, which has attracted the growing attention of government regulators and political actors as blockchain adoption becomes more widespread and cryptocurrency markets gain a broader following.

Since then, the G20 has begun to intensely study ways to de-risk cryptocurrency markets and craft regulation that will not stifle the innovative potential of blockchain. While many entrepreneurs and investors in this space fear that compliance with government will hinder future growth, the reality is that engaged cooperation offers the best possible path toward a potential tipping point that accelerates adoption of blockchain technology by major enterprise-grade users and brings in far greater institutional investors.

With central bankers and finance ministers slated to discuss cryptocurrency this summer in Argentina and with the full G20 to meet in late November, action or inaction here will impact cryptocurrency markets. How the blockchain community chooses to engage between now and then has the potential to set the tone of how governments and entrepreneurs develop a long-term relationship.

As Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England and Chair of the G20’s Financial Stability Board, noted in March of 2018, blockchain has “the potential to improve efficiency and inclusiveness of both the financial system and the economy,” but unleashing this potential will require substantial work.

An ideal forum

The G20 was originally formed as a forum for finance ministers and central bank governors after the Asian debt crisis of 1997. It’s since become a body for cooperation among heads of state to address challenging economic issues of the time.

In the wake of the Great Recession, the G20 created the Financial Stability Board to better coordinate prevention of and coherent responses to financial instability. Since its inception, the FSB has been critical to enhancing banking regulations through the Basel Accords, an opt-in transnational framework designed to strengthen the resiliency of global financial systems, and to promoting good economic governance policies.

The G20, along with the FSB, provides the best opportunity for a global regulatory framework as they 1)  convene the most relevant stakeholders and decision makers, 2) can craft a framework that is transnational in scope, and 3) are already studying cryptocurrencies and their impacts to a number of different fields.

Any regulatory framework will require cooperation from heads of government who possess the political power to move legislation and balance domestic considerations, from finance and economic ministers who have the technical ability to craft good policy and execute laws, and from central bankers who have a huge impact on the regulation of commercial banking within their respective states.

Additionally, the G20 can ensure whatever framework does take shape is transnational in nature as issues such as tax evasion, money laundering, and investor protection transcend borders. Such a framework would also minimize the risk posed by regulatory arbitrage to nations where firms can exploit loopholes in order to gain advantages based on geography.

Lastly, with G20 member states and FSB staff already working on these issues, there is attention, focus, and a desire to craft policy that will not stifle innovation.

The agenda

Different nations have taken different approaches to the regulation of cryptocurrencies and related fields. While a comprehensive framework is likely years away, there are a few key points that stand out in crafting a regulatory setup.

The simplest issue that the G20 and FSB can mediate is deciding on a working definition of cryptocurrency. Several nations such as Switzerland through FINMA and Israel through the Israeli Securities Agency have taken steps to do this in a way that classifies cryptocurrency into payment tokens, utility tokens, and security tokens.

Clarity on this front will not be easy but defining cryptocurrency will allow entrepreneurs and investors much firmer ground on which to build projects and governments more guidance on how to regulate.

Accepting that all the information required to regulate does not yet exist is another important point. This thought lends support to the creation of sandboxes like what the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority is doing on fintech that will provide both flexibility and capacity to evolve to meet the demands of the industry as it matures.

On exchanges, the leadership shown by Japan, with the Financial Services Agency requiring licenses and working with self-regulating organizations (SROs) to help police the space and mainstream cryptocurrency should be lauded.

Exchanges will be critical to figuring out how banks interact with cryptocurrency and how taxes will eventually be collected. As the value of the cryptocurrency market increases more and more attention to know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money-laundering (AML) compliance will follow.

Industry impact

Collectively, some of the issues above could be woven together to mirror efforts that G20 has taken on banking regulation. A Zug or Valletta Accords, comparable to Basel, could create an opt-in framework where nations agree on basic tenets for regulating cryptocurrency with active input from the industry.

Increased regulation, however, will not mean that blockchain and cryptocurrency projects die. On the contrary, increased regulation, as long as it is done with the cooperation of industry stakeholders and with the aim of de-risking the broader market, will hasten blockchain adoption by large enterprise users and reassure institutional investors.

Numerous large firms have already begun to explore blockchain applications and potential use cases to streamline costs and gain a competitive advantage with their peers. With a regulatory framework in place, the internal and external compliance requirements of publicly traded companies can be met and the true growth stage of the traditional S-curve can begin.

Working with regulators, industry stakeholders can help craft rules where both entrepreneurs and governments win. Such a framework by the G20 could be just the action required to help unleash the long-term creative potential and promise of blockchain.

 Article by Helen Partz

London-based Argo offers customers to the ability to mine four cryptocurrencies — Bitcoin Gold(BTG), Ethereum (ETH), Ethereum Classic (ETC), and Zcash — through their own computers or mobile devices for a monthly subscription fee. The service provides immediate access to the firm’s mining rigs and enables direct deposits of all mined coins to the users’ digital wallets.

According to an initial admission document from the LSE, a total of 156,250,000 ordinary shares that represent 53.2 percent of the firm’s issued share capital on admission have been placed at 16 pence per share, valuing Argo at a market capitalization of 47 million pounds (around $61 million).

The report notes that the company has raised 25 million pounds (around $32 million), with registered shareholders including Miton Capital, Henderson Global Investors, and Jupiter Asset Management, the Telegraph writes.

Jonathan Bixby, a co-founder of Argo, told The Telegraph that Argo’s mining subscription system was developed to “ take the pain and heartache out of participating in the biggest new technology breakthrough since the launch of the internet.”

Founded in late 2017, Argo aims to build an international data center management business for assisting in crypto mining as a service (MaaS), which would be available to anyone in the world, the company’s LSE document states.

The platform initially launched on June 11, 2018, and all of the subscription packages are currently sold out, according to Argo’s website. Argo’s initial admission notes that the company will be able to both add and remove cryptocurrencies from its offerings in the future.

Earlier this week, the world’s second largest Bitcoin (BTC) mining hardware supplier Canaan Creative introduced the “first ever” BTC mining television set with a processing power of 2.8 trillion hashes per second.

And on Monday, unnamed sources revealed that crypto mining hardware giant Bitmain is reportedly planning to conduct an overseas initial private offering (IPO) “very soon,” after earning about $1 billion in net profit in the first quarter of 2018.

Article by Maxwell William

New Gallup Poll Shows Only 2% of US Investors Own Bitcoin, But 26% Are ‘Intrigued’NEWS
The results of a Wells Fargo/Gallup poll published July 27 finds that only two percent of U.S. investors own Bitcoin, but 26 percent are intrigued by it.

The online survey was conducted May 7-14, 2018 amongst U.S. investors with more than $10,000 in stocks, bonds or mutual funds. The results show that the overwhelming majority of investors who have already heard of Bitcoin will not be investing in the leading cryptocurrency any time soon, with 72 percent saying they “have no interest in ever buying Bitcoin.”

According to the data from the poll, even though 96 percent of investors had heard of Bitcoin, “only about three in 10 investors (29%) say they know something about digital currencies,” with 67 percent saying they have heard of them but don’t know much about them.

Even though the initial intention behind Bitcoin involves its use as a means of payment, or “electronic cash”, it’s high volatility has made it “more popular as a high-risk/high-reward investment than as an online currency — although acceptance of Bitcoin for electronic payments is growing.” The results of the survey show that 75 percent of respondents view an investment in Bitcoin to be “very risky,” with 23 percent saying it was “somewhat risky.”

The statistics on gender and age show that young men are the most likely demographic to “say they know something about bitcoin or other digital currencies.” The report also states that “[r]elated to the age differences, investors with less than $100,000 in investments (who tend to be younger) are more likely to be familiar with the innovation than those with higher asset levels.”

A study on Americans and cryptocurrencies commissioned by Finder.com in February showed that 8 percent, or around 26 mln, of Americans have already purchased cryptocurrency.

A recent report on the top ten crypto projects that raised a minimum of $1 million in 2017 revealed that on average each showed a return on investment of over 136,000 percent.

 

By Helen Partz
Japan’s SBI Group to Develop Crypto Derivatives Platform Following New Investment
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Japan’s SBI Group to Develop Crypto Derivatives Platform Following New InvestmentNEWS
Japanese financial services giant SBI Holdings will expand its crypto business portfolio by acquiring a 12 percent stake in Clear Markets, according to SBI’s financial results report published July 31. SBI is scheduled to acquire up to 20 percent in the future.

Clear Markets is a U.S.-based electronic trading platform developer and operator that offers over-the-counter derivatives electronic trading services in the U.S., U.K., and Japan.
SBI’s new stake in Clear Markets is part of an effort to create a cryptocurrency derivatives trading platform catered toward institutional investors. The platform will reportedly allow financial institutions to trade more smoothly on the crypto derivatives market.
Clear Markets will provide hedging for cryptocurrency swap transaction services which is “necessary for the handling of cryptocurrencies and financial instruments that use cryptocurrencies.” In the report, SBI Group noted that the increased use of cryptocurrencies and its derivatives will increase liquidity levels.
While the price of the stake was not disclosed, according to Nikkei Asian Review, it is likely worth around $9 million.
Clear Markets is planning to launch а crypto swap trading service and holds a swap execution facility (SEF) license from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and derivatives brokerage in the U.K. and 32 countries in Europe. The company is an an affiliate of QUICK Corp. which is a subsidiary of Japan’s Nikkei Inc.
SBI has invested in more than 20 crypto crypto-related projects over the past year, and formally launched the public version of its cryptocurrency exchange VCTRADE July 17.
Japan is one of the leading countries in terms of cryptocurrency adoption. According to Clear Markets chief executive Mark Brickell, “as much as 50 percent of cash trading in cryptocurrency,” has taken place in the country.
Last week, the Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Association (JVCEA) announced it will require its member exchanges to place limits on the trading activity of some clients in an attempt to prevent investors with “small assets” from suffering heavy losses.

BITCOIN OPINION JULY 29, 2018 21:30
Bitcoin Price Headed to New Highs: Crypto Hedge Fund Manager Spencer Bogart
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We appear to be in the season of predictions as various stakeholders in the bitcoin ecosystem are finding their voices again. The reason for this isn’t far from the recent bullish run of the bitcoin price that has seen it test the $8,500 mark before retracing and trading around the $8,200 mark as at the time of writing.

The last time that bitcoin crossed the $8,000 mark before now was in May 2018, after which it pulled back below the $6,000 mark. Overall, the year 2018 has been one of a downward trend for the cryptocurrency after making an all time high of almost $20,000 just before the beginning of the year.

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Amidst all the volatility and massive sell-off, several predictions have emerged from different angles both in support and against the sustainability of the cryptocurrency. Some of the predictions have regarded bitcoin as a bubble, especially during its swift downward movements. However, even in the course of the downtrend, a number of enthusiasts maintained their forecast of an eventual bottom in sight while insisting on a pending massive upward movement.

With the most recent bounce off the price region of $6,000, the voices of the enthusiasts and those who support the cryptocurrency have become even louder. While speaking on CNBC’s Fast Money, Spencer Bogart of Blockchain Capital reinforced his prediction that bitcoin is bound for higher price levels in the near future as he thinks that the pullback momentum may have been exhausted.

Bitcoin Price Waiting for a Catalyst
Bogart noted that bitcoin is in a kind of tinderbox right now and waiting for reasons to go higher. Global currency wars, trade wars, an ETF approval are some of the possible catalysts noted by Bogart that may trigger the next upward movement in the price of bitcoin.

CNBC’s Fast Money

@CNBCFastMoney
As #bitcoin gets its groove back this month, @CremeDeLaCrypto sees the #crypto headed back to highs
5:40 AM – Jul 26, 2018
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Even though there have been speculations on a possible ETF approval in the near future, Bogart sees 2019 as a more realistic timeline for that to happen. However, he points out that while SEC’s ETF approval remains pending, other vehicles are already granting access to both retail and institutional investors into the ecosystem. He explained that retail investors are already getting exposure through bitcoin companies like Coinbase, institutional investors are gaining access through companies like Bitwise Asset Management, and Europe already has ETPs.

The rise in level of activity within the cryptosphere is not limited to the big players alone, neither are they restricted within the bounds of expert predictions either. There seems to be an increased vibe in bitcoin and crypto activities on a global level. Services providers in the form of exchanges and trading signal providers around the industry seem to have upped their ante again after a dampened first half of the year.

Investors Need to Prioritize Security
Another area where participants are also renewing their concern is on issues of security. It can be recalled how the increase in number of cases of hacks and attacks on exchanges and crypto sites rose in correlation with the rally of 2017. It is only natural to also expect bad players who anticipate another price surge to see the industry as yet another potential profitable target.

Therefore, it is apparent that while the bitcoin price is expected to skyrocket by many, the interest of hackers and fraudsters will follow in the same direction. What this means for “hodlers” is to take appropriate measures in safeguarding their assets and investments. Also in order to avoid the fangs of the marauding fraudsters and scammers, proper due diligence is advised prior to any investment venture, especially for newbies.

The bitcoin and cryptocurrency ecosystem is dynamic and remains a continuously evolving environment. Bogart describes it as a quintessential disruptive innovation that is going to favour startups rather than entrenched innovation. As the overall long term forecast portends an imminent disruption, the ability to predict momentary swings remains an essential aspect for most investors who seek the best avenues for maximum profit.