Retail giant Walmart has a plan to build an army of autonomous robots controlled and authenticated through a blockchain network.
Documents published on Thursday by the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) show that the Walmart has applied to patent a system that oversees the “in-field authenticating of autonomous robots.” The Bentonville, AR-based firm submitted the patent application in Jan. 2018.
The patent title immediately conjures up visions from the Terminator franchise, but the retail empire claims it’s not building Skynet.
Rather, Walmart says that it plans to use its legions of autonomous robots to make deliveries, presumably in a bid to compete more effectively with Amazon in a retail landscape that increasingly favors the Bezos brainchild.
The documents detail a system in which multiple robots handle the delivery of a package throughout different legs of the supply chain, using wireless signals to communicate and authenticate the identity of one another.
Such a system would be a high-value target for hackers, which is why Walmart believes that distributed ledger technology (DLT) could help secure it against potential malfeasance.
The authors explain:
“In some embodiments of described above, blockchain technology may be utilized to record authentication signals and identification information to facilitate or resulting from in-field authentication between autonomous electronic devices. One or more of the autonomous electronic devices described herein may comprise a node in a distributed blockchain system storing a copy of the blockchain record. Updates to the blockchain may comprise authentication signals or identification information, and one or more nodes on the system may be configured to incorporate one or more updates into blocks to add to the distributed database.”
It’s not the first time Walmart has sought patents for systems that use blockchain technology to make deliveries more efficient.
Last year, the firm applied to patent a system that would use DLT to manage package delivery hubs (e.g. lockers). The system would automatically reserve locker space for packages, ensuring that orders are only delivered where there is sufficient available capacity.
About the same time, Walmart filed for a patent application that uses blockchain technology to track delivery drones as they transmit packages from physical stores to customers.
With micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the Philippines comprising over 90% of the country’s establishments, there is an opportunity to introduce smart technology and allow small businessmen to tap into the e-commerce market, said Rommel Santos, CEO of Malaysia-based Smart Asset Managers (SAM).
SAM is in the Philippines to roll out its Dinar Dirham Koin (DDK), a blockchain community platform that aims to empower MSMEs in the region using the emerging technology.
“The MSMEs are vital in building an inclusive and dynamic economy for the people,” Ramos told Cryptovest as he called on small businessmen to explore new opportunities and to be innovative in looking for new ways by boldly opening new ventures.
He added, “We are aware of the crucial role MSME play in creating a better future for the people, and we will assist you and provide you with guidance to achieve this task.”
According to Ramos, SAM is answering the call of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to encourage digital payments and transactions in the country’s retail segment. The plan is to use blockchain and digital payments to uplift the lives of the majority of Filipinos and the unbanked and underserved sectors by providing them financial services as well as access to financial institutions.
Through digitization, the government and SAM hope to raise the competitiveness of the retail sector.
He explained SAM’s DDK offers a wide range of sophisticated features from secured payment, direct or peer-to-peer transactions that eliminates delays in the approval or transaction process. Through blockchain technology, MSMEs could cut operational cost because they can do away with third-party transactions.
More importantly, he explained DDK allows users to transact with micropayments, “meaning we can send or receive payment from .0001 DDKoin with minimal transaction fees.” This makes it ideal for retail transactions in the Philippines, he added.
The success of blockchain adoption among MSMEs hinges largely on the rapid acceptance of the QR Code standard to further boost the development of the country’s payments and settlements system.
The QR code will pave the way for an effective retail payment system that could transform the Philippine economy as it brings business transactions and the savings generated through a shift from paper-based to digital instruments.
“You can just imagine a micro-entrepreneur who is used to transacting in cash involving only the equivalent of a few centavos to a few dollars but is now doing business electronically and cashless. That is disrupting their lives. It will give them access to financial institutions and credit facilities not normally available to them. That is the essence of financial inclusion,” Ramos said.
Early this month, Congressman Seth Frederick “Bullet” Jalosjos, of the first district of Zamboanga del Norte, announced that the southern region of Mindanao in the Philippines would be the first area in the country to be powered by crypto and blockchain technology.
Microsoft and Tech Mahindra have reportedly partnered up to stop annoying spam calls with the help of blockchain technology.
There are few things as irritating as receiving spam. You can simply trash it if it’s an email or even regular mail. However, phone calls are different. You could be at work, watching a movie, or just enjoying your life when you’re suddenly confronted by the incessant ringing of annoyance.
This might be a thing of the past if you’re living in India. According to The Next Web, one of the country’s leading IT solutions provider, Tech Mahindra, will be collaborating with Microsoft to try and prevent these spam calls in the country.
A Combination of Blockchain and Cloud-Based Technology
Even though specific details are not available yet, reports state that both cloud- and blockchain-based technology will be used. In addition, the new project will be built on the Microsoft Azure Platform.
The National Technology Officer of Microsoft India, Prashant Shukla, explained:
The intersection of Cloud and Blockchain will ensure a new way of monitoring and enforcing compliance throughout the ecosystem. With a Microsoft Azure Blockchain-powered solution, we will ensure that we mitigate loopholes used by fraudsters and spammers to reach end users.
A key part of the initiative is ensuring that user consent, or lack thereof, is recognized. The plan is for this transparency to be available to all stakeholders in one place. Users will be able to customize their marketing preferences which will then be made available to parties such as telecom operators, legal authorities, telemarketers and the users themselves.
A statement from Tech Mahindra explained:
…[The] solution will be a shared, secured ledger of UCCs [unsolicited commercial communication] distributed across a network of computers. [This] will ensure a transparent and verifiable system to help companies mitigate UCC on their networks.
Unsolicited Calls Can Be Expensive for Operators
India has been hard at work combating this issue. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India previously requested that operators use blockchain technology to record which telemarketers have access to phone number databases as well to record permission given by the public to receive these calls.
This type of record-keeping is essential, especially if users change their mind and decide that they don’t want to be contacted. There’s nothing worse than telling a marketer not to call you only to have them call you back a few days later.
In addition, having all of this information documented will ensure that companies that do not adhere to regulations will suffer the consequences, in this case, a fine of over $7,000.
Do you think that blockchain technology will make a difference in decreasing the number of spam calls in India? Let us know in the comments below!
Following a rollout of buy and sell options for Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and Litecoin (LTC) yesterday, Yahoo clarified in an email to Cointelegraph that, at the moment, its new service will only be available on its iOS app.
Yesterday, Cointelegraph reported that Yahoo Finance integrated a trading option for BTC, ETH, and LTC on its platform when buy/sell buttons appeared on their website. When the buy/sell buttons were absent from the webpage today, Yahoo Finance PR representative Caitlin O’Neill explained:
“[Y]esterday’s launch was for the iOS app only — it should still be available and visible there. Desktop, mobile web, and Android will be available in the coming weeks.”
At press time, Yahoo had not explained why the option was temporarily available on desktop computers.
According to an August 30 press release, users that wish to trade crypto on Yahoo Finance will have to link a broker account via integrated third party service TradeIt.
“The new feature, launched this week on the iOS app, allows users to buy and sell a variety of cryptocurrencies by linking their account – via an integration with our partners at TradeIt – including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Dogecoin. Android, desktop and mobile web are coming soon.”
Meanwhile, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin are seeing corrections today, with BTC down by 1.76 percent in 24 hours, according to Cointelegraph’s Bitcoin Price Index. BTC is trading at around $6,918 at press time. On the week, BTC is up 6.39 percent, with monthly losses around 15 percent.
ETH is trading at around $278 at press time, having lost 3.21 percent over the last 24 hours. While ETH’s weekly gains remain just over 1 percent, monthly losses are getting close to 39 percent.
LTC has lost almost 3 percent on the day and is trading at around $60 at press time. Market capitalization of LTC is around $3.5 billion, while its trading volume over the past 24 hours totals around $218 million.
Dogecoin (DOGE), which has no limit to how many coins can be mined, currently has almost 116 billion in circulation. The altcoin is up by 26 percent on the day and is trading at around $0.0033, at press time. DOGE reached a $1 billion market capitalization in January of this year, when it was worth more than the Japanese yen, while at press time its market cap is around $384 million.
An official document detailing the specifications of an Iranian national digital currency based on the rial and blockchain technology has been drafted.
IBENA, a news outlet and affiliate of the Central Bank of Iran, reports that the Informatics Services Corporations (ISC), also an affiliate of the Central Bank of Iran, has released the following information on the digital currency.
The digital currency is backed by the rial.
The issuer is the Central Bank of Iran.
The Central Bank will control the volume of the centralized digital currency.
It will live on a private blockchain infrastructure.
It cannot be mined.
The infrastructure is intended for an ecosystem of Iranian banks and cryptocurrency-related companies.
The digital currency is designed and developed by ISC based on Hyperledger Fabric Platform technology, an open source blockchain framework. Hyperledger Fabric was initially contributed by Digital Asset and IBM, as the result of a hackathon.
The implementation of a government-backed “cryptocurrency” would allow the country to skirt US sanctions that are intended to stop its access to the global economy. The sanctions affect Iran’s ability to purchase or acquire US dollar banknotes, gold and precious metals, as well as impact Iranian rial transactions, sovereign debt and the country’s automotive industry.
The wave of new sanctions were imposed earlier this month. In November, a new round of sanctions on Iran’s oil and gas reserves will be reimposed.
“Iran has been described as the ‘Germany of the Middle East,’ the last major emerging market to open fully to the outside world, with more than 80 million consumers, a highly educated population and an array of natural resources – including precious metals.
The sanctions could torpedo Iran’s efforts – at least for the remainder of the Trump administration – to realize its full potential.
Iran needs access to foreign currency and Washington is applying the full weight of the US Federal Reserve to block efforts by Tehran’s new central bank governor to provide relief to Iran’s exporters and importers.”
Bobby Lee, CEO and co-founder of the first Bitcoin exchange in China (BTCC) and former vice president of technology for Walmart’s e-commerce business in China, tweeted that Iran could avoid economic disruption by embracing Bitcoin.
To Iranian President Rouhani: IF YOU REALLY WANT TO THREATEN PRESIDENT TRUMP, YOU SHOULD STOP USING FIAT MONEY, THE USD IN PARTICULAR, AND START USING BITCOIN INSTEAD, FOR ALL COMMERCIAL TRANSACTIONS; AND CONVERT YOUR NATIONAL RESERVES FROM GOLD AND FOREIGN CURRENCIES TO BITCOIN!
Although the newly proposed national digital currency fundamentally differs from Bitcoin and similar decentralized cryptocurrencies, which are mined through consensus and are traded on a public, open, decentralized blockchains, it emulates Bitcoin by empowering people to transfer value outside of the existing financial system.
According to a local news report, Alireza Daliri, the deputy for management and investment affairs of the Directorate for Scientific and Technological Affairs of the Presidential Office, said that the currency “would facilitate the transfer of money (to and from) anywhere in the world. Besides, it can help us at the time of sanctions.”
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and his cabinet are determined to liberate the nation from the age-long economic crisis that has plagued the region, with its native digital currency the Petro. Per a France 24 report on August 28, 2018, authorities have ordered local banks present in the region to adopt the Petro crypto.
Banks to Use the Petro Altcoin
According to sources close to the matter, Maduro has made it mandatory for all the banks in the region to integrate the Petro into their operations and use it as a unit of account. Going forward, both state-owned and private banks will now use the newly issued sovereign bolivars and the DLT-based Petro virtual currency for all financial information in the nation.
For several years the Latin American nation has been plagued with a severe socio-economic crisis that has joined forces with international sanctions to paralyze the country’s economy.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the inflation rate in Venezuela may reach one million percent by the end of 2018.
Amidst that backdrop, as previously reported by BTCManager on August 16, 2018, authorities announced moves to officially make the Petro the second unit of account in the region, and also use it to pay workers salaries.
The presidency also seized the opportunity to set an August 20 date for the devaluation of the bolivar, to strip it of five zeros and transform the dead banknote into a “sovereign bolivar.”
“It will be the second unit of account of the Republic and will begin operations as a mandatory accounting unit of our PDVSA oil industry,” said Maduro at the time.
Of a truth, the creation of the Petro and subsequent devaluation of the Bolivar may not be a quick fix to the problems of Venezuela, Maduro and his team, however, remain determined to make things work correctly again.
At current, the Maduro led administration has increased workers minimum wage by a whopping 3,000 percent (equivalent to about $30 a month) and has also hiked the price of gasoline, a move it claims would help Venezuela save about $10 billion annually.
Since launching the Petro central bank-backed cryptocurrency, Maduro has been doing everything in his power to increase Petro adoption in the state. Back in May 2018, authorities announced the creation of a Petro-funded youth bank that would be granted $1.2 billion to handle “productive initiatives” for the young adult population.
While about 400,000 citizens have fled from Venezuela to neighboring nations like Ecuador, the diehard citizens and businesses that have decided to remain in the embattled country have reportedly been adopting other cryptos like Dash (DASH), to help them survive the crisis.
Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has announced the formation of a data consortium in partnership with IBM and law firm Herbert Smith Freehills for the purpose of building a groundbreaking large-scale, cross-industry smart contract platform for Australian businesses to collaborate and do business within.
Australian National Blockchain
The platform, which will be called the Australian National Blockchain (ANB) is being touted as potentially game-changing infrastructure within Australia’s digital economy, helping businesses around the country make use of legally-enforceable smart contracts and exchange data, as well as confirm the status and authenticity of legal contracts.
When it is fully operational, the ANB will permit Australian businesses to electronically manage the entire life cycle of a smart contract from negotiation through to execution under complete transparency and trustless, permissioned-based access among parties on the platform.
In other words, Australian businesses will gain the ability to use smart contracts to automatically trigger business events and processes using preset milestones. The smart legal contracts (SLC) provided by ANB include clauses to accommodate recording of information from external data sources such as IoT devices, with the ability to self-execute once conditions listed in the contract are met.
This is an extension of CSIRO’s extensive research into potential applications of blockchain technology for Australian businesses. In 2017, the Institute’s Data61 research unit released comprehensive research reports for the Australian Treasury detailing strategies for blockchain technology adoption across government and commercial applications in Australia.
According to information from CSIRO, Herbert Smith Freehills, Data61, and IBM will initially trial ANB as a pilot project using IBM Blockchain. If the trial is successful, the plan is to deploy the framework across Australia and beyond.
Plans are already afoot to bring Australian regulators, banks, law firms and businesses onboard in the pilot, which is expected to kick off before the end of 2018.
Speaking ahead of the pilot, Paul Hutchison, vice president and partner, Cognitive Process Transformation, at IBM Global Business Services said:
“IBM Blockchain and the IBM Cloud provide the highest level of security to support even highly regulated industries such as healthcare and government, and IBM has extensive experience building blockchain networks and convening large consortia focused around solving important business problems. Blockchain will be to transactions what the internet was to communication – what starts as a tool for sharing information becomes transformational once adoption is widespread. The ANB could be that inflection point for commercial blockchain, spurring innovation and economic development throughout Australia.”
On his part, Dr Mark Staples, senior research scientist at Data61, expressed optimism that ANB will create an exciting range of new opportunities for Australian businesses.
“Our reports identified distributed ledger technology as a significant opportunity for Australia to create productivity benefits and drive local innovation. Data61’s independence and world-leading expertise will help to catalyse the creation of digital infrastructure for Australian businesses to transition to a digitally-enabled future. For complex enterprise contracts, there are huge opportunities to benefit from our research into blockchain architecture and into computational law. Smart contracts have many applications, and as the ANB progresses we look forward to exploring other business use cases to roll out.”
In July, CCN reported that IBM’s we.trade finance blockchain platform recorded its first live trades following more than a year of development.
Despite an infamous crackdown on digital assets, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has created a task force to explore avenues and unique use-cases pertaining to blockchain technology, artificial intelligence and cryptocurrencies.
Task Force to Regulate Burgeoning Sector
The Indian Express recently reported that the RBI-led unit will supervise the burgeoning asset class and big data technologies, draft rules and regulations relevant to local sentiment, and conduct research to understand the three domains.
A person familiar with the RBI’s plans noted the bank has to “explore new areas” and emerging technologies before deciding on what must be adopted and what cannot. That said, the bank’s responsibility is to oversee the far-reaching effects of new fintech instruments and create optimal regulations. The person familiar with the matter went on to say:
“This new unit is on an experimental basis and will evolve as time passes.”
The committee is over a month old and is led by an unidentified chief general manager; however, a formal statement in this regard has not been issued.
Industry Observers Speak
Market analysts commented the RBI is “doing the right thing” when technologies like cryptocurrencies and blockchain seem primed to augment, or change, entire businesses.
Piyush Singh, director of financial services at Accenture Asia Pacific, noted that regulators are inevitable for any burgeoning ecosystem–as they understand such technologies, define clearly what is accepted by the state and seek to actively regulate industries while protecting customer interest.
“This is true especially in the financial world where paper-based regulations are a passé due to the onset of digital technologies. It is extremely important and the right thing to do from RBI’s perspective.”
Interestingly, the RBI unit was formed despite the bank’s strict stance against cryptocurrencies. The agency has banned all Indian banks from providing services to cryptocurrency businesses and is known to crack down on Bitcoin traders in the country.
Chinese investors are leading the pack for early-stage crypto funding in the U.S. and other regions, according to TechCrunch.
The Chinese Crypto Foray
In Silicon Valley, Chinese investment houses are often overlooked and substantially lack publicity, primarily due to small assets-under-management sizes and lower investment frequencies. In late-stage investment rounds, these funds are often lost to bigger investors, again, due to the lack of publicity and trust for their operations.
However, the largely-ignored crypto industry has opened new opportunities for Chinese investment houses, and as The Wall Street Journal reports, has enabled Chinese participation in over 40 percent of global venture financing, including increased activity in the U.S.
While Chinese citizens remain barred from investing and participating in cryptocurrencies and related activities, wealthy investors dominate 80 percent of the cryptocurrency mining market, courtesy of their investments in several mining rig manufacturers and pools.
Even cryptocurrency exchanges are predominantly led by Chinese investors, with three of the top five companies (Huobi, OKEx and Binance), registered in Hong Kong and commanding billions of dollars of the total crypto-market cap.
Using a Blockchain ‘Springboard’
China continues to maintain a rather hard stance on cryptocurrencies due to money laundering and other economic concerns. Despite the naysaying, President Xi Jinping called blockchain technology a “breakthrough” earlier this year and placed it among other rising techs for the country’s ambitious “Five-Year Plan.”
As a result, Chinese investors have access to proprietary information and government relationships pertaining to the growth of blockchain, as well as access to a disruptive asset class from the U.S.
Eric Ly, former CTO and co-founder of LinkedIn, underlines the significance of the Asian market:
“It’s a region that is not to be dismissed, especially in the crypto world in terms of the interest and the activities that are going on there.”
The East-West Alliance
As an encompassing technology, it’s essential for blockchain and cryptocurrency firms to micromanage fundraising from local investors while keeping in mind the global perspective for one’s success.
In this regard, Western cryptocurrency firms are actively seeking Chinese and Asian investors for three crucial aspects–knowlege, connections and an understanding of the regional markets.
There’s also a higher probability of local investors being more in touch with regional regulations and laws, and even knowing the steps to circumvent such obstacles. With this in mind, crypto firms mapping out their global trajectories have catapulted China, and the broader Asian market, to the forefront of formal crypto-investing.
Hong Kong is seeking to attract worldwide talents with specialties in innovative technologies including blockchain via a special immigration policy.
The Hong Kong government released a talent list on Tuesday that covers a range of 11 professions that are now eligible to receive bonus marks when experts in these areas apply for the city’s Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS).
One of the areas is dedicated to “innovation and technology experts in, but not limited to, … artificial intelligence, robotics, distributed ledger technologies, biometric technologies and industrial/chemical engineering, etc.”
Launched in 2006, the QMAS allows successful applicants to enter and settle in the Chinese special administrative region without having to first secure a job offer from a local employer.
“The Scheme is a quota-based entrant scheme. It seeks to attract highly skilled or talented persons to settle in Hong Kong in order to enhance Hong Kong’s economic competitiveness,” according to the program’s description.
The scheme’s selection process requires applicants to meet several prerequisites before being awarded points under one of the two points-based tests: General Points Test and Achievement-based Points Test. The points are further used for competing with other applicants each year.
“For applicants who meet the specifications of the respective profession under the Talent List, bonus marks will be given under the General Points Test of the QMAS,” the government said in the announcement.
To be qualified in the innovation and technology area, blockchain professionals need to hold a bachelor or above degree with experience in notable firms in the filed and knowledge of how to apply blockchain in financial services.
The effort comes at a time when the Hong Kong government is taking the lead in adopting blockchain to boost the city’s competitiveness in financial technology.
As CoinDesk previously reported, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the city’s de facto central bank, is set to roll out a distributed ledger network among several banks in the region to facilitate transactions in trade finance.