Japan’s Financial Watchdog Certifies Two Cryptocurrency Regulatory Organizations

Japan's financial watchdog has accredited two crypto-focused associations as Certified Financial Instruments and Exchange Associations.

Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) has certified two local organizations as Certified Financial Instruments and Exchange Associations.

According to an April 30 announcement, the FSA has recognized the Japan STO Association and the Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Business Association (JVCEA) as self-regulatory groups for derivative transactions and security token offerings of crypto assets. JVCEA will subsequently be renamed the "Japan Crypto Asset Trading Business Association" on May 1. 

JVCEA is the official self-regulatory organization for the cryptocurrency industry in Japan authorized to create regulations and policies for cryptocurrency exchanges in the country.

Cointelegraph has reached out to JVCEA for comment but has not received a response as of press time. 

Recent crypto developments in Japan

As of March, there were 21 registered and licensed exchanges in Japan, with three additional companies registered as second-class members. These were major American crypto exchange Coinbase, Digital Asset Markets and Tokyo Hash.

In January, the FSA officially proposed cutting the leverage cap for cryptocurrency margin trading. The FSA reportedly planned to put the order into practice in April once a revised version of the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act enters into effect.

JVCEA enacted a leverage cap of 4x last year, after which some cryptocurrency exchanges in the country reduced their rates. However, some local economic experts suggested that the rate should be further lowered to 2x in order to match those in other jurisdictions such as the European Union.

Porsche Backs Blockchain Platform for Vehicle Management in $6M Funding Round

Blockchain startup Gapless has raised $6 million from investors, including world-famous car manufacturer Porsche.

Porsche has participated in a 5.5 million euros ($5.9 million) funding round for a German startup Gapless — the developer of a blockchain-based vehicle management system.

Among other contributors, Gapless saw FinLab EOS VC Fund, a joint venture between Block.one and FinLab, and insurance entrepreneur Kersten Jodexnis, Tech.eu reported on April 29.

Gapless is going to allocate the raised money to further develop its key product, an application that allows users to record a complete history of vehicles, as well as increase its user base. According to Gapless, it currently manages over 50,000 vehicles on its platform in Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Investing in future technologies

Porsche told Cointelegraph that it is “constantly looking into and investing in future technologies and will evaluate case by case if such products or services can be deployed by Porsche to enhance the customer experience.” The company further stated:

“We evaluated and piloted several blockchain-based solutions. Blockchain can be a potential benefit for any trust-based interactions that requires a decentralized approach.”

Vehicle data migrates to the blockchain 

Tech companies and vehicle manufacturers alike have been developing blockchain-based solutions for tracking the life cycle of automobiles and improving driver experience.

Recently, Indian blockchain firm Smart Sight Innovation developed a blockchain app designed to improve maintenance and inspection of various vehicles. SSI’s app creates a summary of various issues — like repair work and compliance with inspection criteria — faced by a vehicle and allows users to share information with each other.

Earlier in April, General Motors filed a patent application for a continuously updating navigation map system. The system would use blockchain to integrate data from vehicle sensors and build a reliable map for autonomous vehicles.

Another leading car manufacturer, BMW Group, revealed plans to roll out its blockchain supply chain solution to 10 suppliers this year.

KFC Launches Blockchain Pilot for Digital Advertising and Media Buying

KFC has rolled out a blockchain pilot program across the Middle East for its digital advertising supply chains.

Kentucky Fried Chicken has rolled out a blockchain pilot program across the Middle East aimed at improving digital advertising and media buying.

KFC Middle East expects the blockchain-powered platform to ensure greater transparency in the advertising supply chain, news publication AMEinfo reported on April 29. By deploying the platform, the company also looks to address issues like security and privacy of advertisers, publishers and consumers.

Making ads data transparent on a shared database

The pilot aims to show how blockchain can help improve data processing, increase the brand’s visibility and penetration, and optimize advertising revenue. Additionally, KFC hopes to resolve any fraud issues by using a shared blockchain-based database, where information about all ads delivery and placement is seen, shared and updated on a real-time basis.

Ozge Zoralioglu, chief marketing officer at KFC, Yum! Brands, said:

“KFC can now benefit from enhanced visibility of real-time data and the most updated insights – all with full confidence that information is authenticated, tamper-proof and hence credible.”

Fast food restaurants experiment with cryptocurrencies

KFC has previously experimented with emerging technologies like cryptocurrencies. Back in 2018, KFC Canada introduced a new menu item, the Bitcoin Bucket, that customers could buy exclusively with Bitcoin (BTC).

Following KFC’s example, American fast-food chain Church’s Chicken started accepting payments in cryptocurrency Dash (DASH) at its all 10 restaurant locations in Venezuela, at the time. 

Burger King is also known as one of the first international fast-food chains to accept Bitcoin as a means of payment. Visitors were reportedly able to buy burgers with crypto back in 2016 at the Netherlands branch of Burger King. Later, the German branch of Burger King began accepting Bitcoin on its website and mobile app.

However, Burger King eventually restaurants stopped accepting Bitcoin and announced that the digital currency payment initiative was just a temporary promotional campaign.

Telegram’s Blockchain OS Could Soon Appear in App Stores

The Telegram Open Network's operating system will reportedly be available on major app stores in the near future.

Google Play market and Apple's AppStore will reportedly soon feature the Telegram Open Network (TON) operating system (OS), an end-to-end open-source infrastructure that allows developers and users to work with the TON blockchain.

The TON OS will soon become available on smartphones and personal computers for mainstream users, a source close to Telegram told Russian news agency RBC on April 29. TON OS is not an alternative to existing operating systems, but will serve as an add-on for devices, making them able to support blockchain applications.

Big plans for the future

The source said that with TON OS, users can create applications that are automatically compatible with the blockchain platform. They expect that, in the future, the OS will support applications with numerous functions, including transacting various assets including cryptocurrencies:

“When it comes to finance or voting, decentralized management can solve a huge number of problems with corruption, management efficiency, citizen involvement. Small businesses will be able to reduce costs by using a secure chat for participants, managing assets of this business and contractual relations of the parties.”

Google and Apple did not immediately reply to Cointelegraph's request for comment on the forthcoming listings.

Going forward amid a legal battle with the SEC

Previously, developers of the TON blockchain told Cointelegraph that they were still considering launching TON, despite Telegram’s ongoing legal battle against the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. Telegram is seeking to appeal a U.S. federal court’s ruling in favor of the SEC to halt the distribution of the platform's native Gram tokens.

Fedor Skuratov, a spokesperson for TON Community Foundation, told Cointelegraph:

“The community was ready for this (or another) scenario. We have several options, including the launch of TON by TCF [TON Community Foundation]. I will say more, no one (no one) can prevent the launch of TON by any other entity, person or community, cause TON is a decentralized open-source solution. Already, there are two different test networks, and within the community, there is at least one group planning to launch.”

Meanwhile, after years of unsuccessful efforts to block Telegram in Russia, the country’s government is now considering lifting the ban, as the app’s creator Pavel Durov agreed to collaborate with authorities on tackling the coronavirus.

Blockchain-Based ‘Smart’ Warehouse to Improve Customs Clearances

Tech firm MVC Global and logistics firm Cox Logistics Group will launch a SmartHub warehouse to improve the distribution of pharmaceuticals across the Gulf region.

Bahrain-based tech startup MVC Global and logistics firm Cox Logistics Group will jointly launch a so-called SmartHub logistics warehouse to improve the distribution of pharmaceuticals across the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The blockchain logistics warehouse platform will provide built-in Track & Trace and IoT sensors and a smart contracts-based SmartPass feature geared to ensure compliance with customs clearances, Gulf Today reported on April 27. Additionally, users can deploy the platform for supply chain finance and international payments settlements.

The developers claim that the SmartHub is able to speed up and improve both cold and non-cold storage distribution of food products and medical supplies in the region, and significantly cut the time spent on paperwork, administration and bureaucracy.

In a bid to make Bahrain a fintech hub

Husain Rajab, chief investment officer at the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), said, “the project aims to build on Bahrain’s world-class digital infrastructure, which would enable the Kingdom to become a major regional logistics hub.”

This comes in line with the EDB’s program to attract more fintech startups to the country that launched last November. At the time, the EDB said, “The Kingdom's pioneering, agile and flexible regulatory framework allows it to regulate emerging technologies — such as open banking and cryptocurrencies — in a way other jurisdictions simply cannot.”

Companies around the word deploy blockchain in supply chains

In the meantime, blockchain has been gaining popularity in the supply chain sector, with the world’s leading companies applying the tech to improve their internal processes. Yesterday, Cointelegraph reported that Cos, the luxury subsidiary of the fast-fashion brand H&M, have partnered with a blockchain platform, VeChain, to provide detailed supply chain tracing data to customers.

Last month, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council and blockchain startup BloomBloc developed a blockchain app that enables users to trace palm oil throughout the entire supply chain. The system registers each tree and its associated information.

Indian Tech Firm Develops HyperLedger Blockchain App for Vehicle Inspection

SSI has built a blockchain app that aims to relieve car drivers and owners from paperwork associated with vehicle maintenance and inspection.

Indian tech startup Smart Sight Innovation — or SSI — has developed an app designed to improve maintenance and inspection of vehicles.

SSI built the mobile app for an unnamed American client, which specializes in the development of artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and blockchain platforms, according to an April 27 announcement. Currently, the app is available on Android devices.

Keeping data in digital lockers

SSI said that the app creates a summary of various issues — like repair work and compliance with inspection criteria — faced by a vehicle. It also sends alerts to vehicle drivers, and takes pictures of parts to provide detailed reports to vehicle owners.

Eventually, the app aims to relieve car drivers and owners from the paperwork associated with vehicle maintenance and inspection.

SSI built the app on the HyperLedger blockchain, with the data saved in formats that comply with relevant state and federal regulations. The firm said:

“As inspection reports are available digitally, vehicle drivers can produce them as and when demanded by law enforcement agencies. Engineers from SSI worked on the android App, as well as the platform website's frontend. The backend uses HyperLedger blockchain technology, while the native android app was developed with Android Studio & Java."

Blockchain in transport — from cars to planes

The transportation sector has long been experimenting with blockchain technology. Most recently, Sony announced that it has successfully developed a new blockchain system for integrating data and services across different forms of transportation — including trains, buses, taxis, car-sharing or on-demand rental bicycles.

Teleport, the logistics division of major airline AirAsia, launched a blockchain-based cargo booking system called Freightchain, earlier in April. The network allows shippers or freight forwarders to book and confirm any of AirAsia’s 247 aircraft to carry cargo.

Coinbase-Backed Securitize Launches Compliance Tool for P2P Transactions

Securitize, a compliance platform for token issuers, has released a new tool that ensures private digital securities trading is completed compliantly.

Securitize, a digital securities platform backed by major cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, has announced a new tool that assures that secondary market transactions of digital securities are compliant with regulations.

According to an April 22 blog post, Securitize Instant Access streamlines the creation of compliant peer-to-peer transactions by investors in private securities. To ensure that transactions meet the necessary requirements, Securitize uses smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain.

To initiate a transaction, investors privately create an indication of interest to sell their digital securities with a web link, which can be posted and shared across various channels. The blog post further detailed:

“Once an issuer decides to enable the Instant Access feature, any potential buyer who has KYC/AML approval from, and is registered with the issuer, can purchase the digital security from the holder if the holder has shared the transaction link with them. Only transactions that meet these KYC/AML requirements and adhere to any applicable transfer restrictions imposed by the issuer via the DS Protocol will be permitted.”

Securitize is currently offering instant trading of private securities linked to five companies, including venture capital funds, the startup’s co-founder and CEO Carlos Domingo told Bloomberg.

Securitize’s steady development

In March, Securitize and Tokyo-based LIFULL revealed plans to jointly create a funding platform using digital securities to invest in real estate. The new platform aims to revitalize homes in Japan that have fallen into disuse or been abandoned entirely.

Last August, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission registered Securitize as a transfer agent. The registration allows the company to operate as an official keeper of records about changes of ownership in securities.

LG’s IT Subsidiary Uses Facial Recognition Tech for Payments With Digital Currency

LG CNS is now testing artificial intelligence-based facial recognition technology to conduct payments with a digital currency.

LG Corporation’s IT services subsidiary is now testing artificial intelligence-based facial recognition technology which allows users to conduct payments using digital currency.

LG CNS used its employees to test the new facial recognition service, IT Times reported on April 23. The platform includes AI, blockchain, and cloud technologies. After identifying an employee, the system enables them to automatically pay for services and products at the corporate restaurant with a pre-registered blockchain-based community currency.

Lee Joon-won, solution business development manager at LG CNS, said: "It is expected that blockchain-based community currency will be used by a lot more people as it becomes more convenient when it meets AI. As non-face-to-face technologies are applied recently, blockchain that increases transaction reliability will be used more widely."

LG CNS’s big plans for blockchain

LG CNS has been experimenting with the system since March, but it is not the only blockchain-based solution the company has developed. Last July, the company revealed plans to deploy blockchain to foster supply chain transparency for school cafeteria lunches.

The data on blockchain was set to include information on products’ production, processing, distribution, acquisition, and consumption — all of which are recorded on the blockchain and made publicly available.

In November of last year, LG CNS partnered with the blockchain subsidiary of internet provider, Kakao, to develop mutually compatible infrastructure. “We will break down the existing boundaries between private and public blockchains through this partnership and combine our strengths for new business opportunities,” an LG representative shared the company’s plans, at the time.

A dubious approach?

Such an approach may seem convenient, especially as it doesn’t require unnecessary contact between devices and people during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. However, it could raise some concerns.

Trent Lapinski, a hacker and technology executive, previously wrote that with a few tweaks of code, blockchain can be corrupted by authoritarians to build social credit enslavement systems. Matched with 5G, advances in surveillance technology, autonomous drones, facial recognition systems, and artificial intelligence, blockchain can be used as the underlying infrastructure to crush privacy and freedom once and for all.

Vinetree Corp CEO: Gamers Won’t Be Able to Imagine Gaming World Without Blockchain

Cointelegraph talked to the CEO of Vinetree Corp about using blockchains in the video gaming space and Vinetree’s vision of the future.

Cointelegraph spoke with Josua Kim, CEO of Vinetree Corp. — the company behind GameTalkTalk DApp on the blockchain-based Lutena Protocol. Mr. Kim spoke about blockchain applications in the video gaming space, and Vinetree’s vision of the industry’s future.

In search of better ways to match games with potential users

Kim believes that game companies are going to find it more and more difficult to effectively target their marketing dollars. Kim explained:

“As much as our clients are important to us, our users are at the forefront of our business and we want to give them peace of mind that our rewards system does not have any bias. That being said, the decentralized nature of blockchain technology allows for all transactions within our ecosystem and platform to be made publicly available, eliminating any potential discrepancies that members of the platform may have.”

Kim went on saying that one of the challenges in the gaming world for publishers is users’ attention spans. Companies are in a constant struggle between keeping up with new trends, while still making profit:

“On top of that, traditional commission rates charged by publishers to developers increase the hurdles of new games coming to market in a timely and cost-effective manner. At Ludena Protocol we want to encourage developers to bring their ideas to light by charging a significantly reduced commission fee, which we can only offer through the benefits of digital asset adoption.”

Speaking about his expectations for how blockchain could change the gaming experience, Kim noted that blockchain technology will shake up the industry in terms of true digital asset ownership. He continued:

“The issue we are seeing with the current system of games integrated with blockchain technology is the tokenization of digital items/money. Ownership of in-game assets, cross-game trading and game transparency are key features of blockchain-based games, but we face several obstacles such as issues arising from scalability, UI/UX inconveniences, lack of adoption and so on.”

Kim said he believes that the industry will resolve the aforementioned limitations soon through the trial and error. He further expressed his hope that:

“Gamers will not be able to imagine a gaming world without blockchain.”

Challenges and benefits of blockchain integration

Kim explained that scaling has always been a staggering issue in the world of blockchain integration:

“Considering the market size we are looking at targeting, it is a daunting feat to find the technology capable of handling the amount of expected transactional data. After meeting several developers to proactively address this issue, we felt the most confident with the team at Lambda256, the research arm of UpBit's parent company, Dunamu. We are working together to innovatively build a system where integral transactions take part on a blockchain, allowing for scalability regardless of total transaction volume within the ecosystem’s various branches.”

Kim noted that the feedback for Vinetree’s forthcoming DApp has been extremely positive. Most game publishers liked the transparency blockchain brings to their marketing dollars, and the added incentives it brings to users. Kim said:

“Harnessing blockchain technology makes it easier to expand our business to a global audience, giving gamers around the world the opportunity to earn from gaming.”

Plans for a native token and in-game trading of digital items

The team behind Ludena Protocol aims to eliminate blockchain gaming stigmas by developing an infrastructure that can be easily accessed by global gamers. Vinetree plans to launch an item exchange where users can trade in-game or digital items. Blockchain will be used to ensure transparency of operations:

“Traders will be able to view the counterparties’ transactional record, and gauge trust in a transparent manner. Our virtual item exchange will be completely fee-less and that really is something that the world can only achieve through the benefits of blockchain.”

Kim added that Vinetree is looking forward to exposing a large group of people to cryptocurrency, calling it “a natural choice:”

“For the past 7 years, our 3 million users have already become accustomed to receiving digital assets as rewards for their gaming activities. Similar to most game layouts, we have incorporated a tiered leveling-up system that requires users to hold a certain amount of tokens in order to unlock new benefits within the ecosystem. We believe that these incentives are crucial to a solid token economy.”

Other experts expect growth in the in-game token economy. According to Mike Brusov, co-founder and CEO of fintech firm Cindicator, gaming companies could “use tokens for managing access and rewarding gamers” as a way to attract more gamers.

Sebastien Borget, co-founder and COO of TSB Gaming, maintained that a natural way of increasing mass adoption is through competitive and collaborative gaming. He believes that this will push blockchain-based games to be played the "way video games are played: built and shared across communities.”

Winklevoss’ Gemini Cryptocurrency Exchange Scores Another Security Qualification

The Winklevoss brothers' Gemini cryptocurrency custodian and exchange has obtained a new security qualification, SOC 1 Type 1.

The Winklevoss brothers' Gemini cryptocurrency custodian and exchange has obtained a new security qualification, SOC 1 Type 1.

According to an April 21 blog post by the company’s head of risk, Yusuf Hussain, Gemini became the world’s first digital currency custodian and exchange that was granted a Service Organization Control (SOC) 1 Type 1 certification. The examination was carried out by Big Four accounting firm Deloitte.

Meeting high security standards

Passing an SOC 1 review means that Gemini’s financial operations and customer reporting controls comply with requirements set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Basically, the examination proved that Gemini is capable of mitigating the risk of significant error, omission and data loss. Hussain noted:

“While vital to both our exchange and custody platform, the SOC 1 Type 1 is particularly important to our exchange operations, which execute a significant volume of complex financial transactions for our customers. The SOC 1 Type 1 validates the design and implementation of those operations and the integrity of their corresponding reports.”

In January 2019, Gemini completed an SOC 2 security review.

SOC standard-compliant crypto companies

Some other crypto projects have also undergone SOC evaluationz. Most recently, the crypto custody arm of major United States-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, Coinbase Custody, procured an SOC 1 Type 2 and a SOC 2 Type 2 report by major accounting firm Grant Thornton.

Last September, business advisory company Aprio confirmed major crypto payment services provider BitPay’s compliance with the SOC 2. Last April, blockchain security firm BitGo, which gained an SOC 2 Type 1 certification from Deloitte in 2018, upped its procedures to conform to the Type 2 requirements of the same standard.

While an SOC 1 report provides information on the internal controls relevant to a user organization’s financial reporting, SOC 2 reports provide information on “security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy.”

Blockchain Startup Launches App to Encourage People Stay at Home Amid COVID-19

Israeli blockchain startup Orbs has come up with an idea to encourage people to self-quarantine by using a newly launched app.

Crypto- and blockchain-focused companies around the world have been making efforts to support people amid the coronavirus pandemic, with some of them donating funds to nonprofits and providing supplies to hospitals. 

Israeli blockchain startup Orbs came up with an idea to encourage people to self-quarantine by using a newly launched app.

The app, which is dubbed "Stay at Home Challenge," is designed to assure that the user does not leave the nearby radius once they enter their location in the app. The app tracks users' self-quarantine time and notifies them when they abandon the designated home area, according to an announcement on April 21.

A gamified way to trace people’s movements

The app gamifies the self-quarantine concept, allowing users to share their progression with friends and family members, thus encouraging them to stay at home as well. 

Although the app tracks people’s movements, Orbs claims that it doesn't collect any personal data as users don’t add their name, email or any other personal information in the app. Currently, the app is available in Google Play, and soon will be available for iOS users. Orbs told Cointelegraph:

"We will continue to think of ways we can help out in Israel and globally to get us all through these challenging times. We discuss ideas on a regular basis in company meetings and chats."

Tracking people is a new normal

Stay at Home Challenge is not the first app that tracks users’ activity under the umbrella of the coronavirus-related quarantine. A team of academics at the University of Cape Town in South Africa developed a blockchain-powered app geared to allow users to verify their own COVID-19 status. The application intends to improve contact tracing of infected patients.

In late March, Russian authorities rolled out their own tracking application for patients who test positive for COVID-19 in Moscow. The app reportedly requests access to users’ calls, location and camera, as well as network information.

China also released an app in February that allows users to check whether they’ve come into contact with a person who is potentially infected with COVID-19. The app shares users’ location data to a centralized server whenever their barcodes are scanned at a checkpoint either in public transport hubs or other access-point controlled areas.

French Artist Launches Personal Crypto Tied to Value of His Career and Output

Paris-based artist Ben Elliot is launching what he claims to be the first ever personal crypto backed by the market value of his artworks.

Paris-based artist Ben Elliot’s efforts to revolutionize the artwork purchasing and collecting experience have resulted in what he claims to be the world’s first personal cryptocurrency directly pegged to a career.

The Stellar blockchain-based digital currency is called Ben Elliot Token (BET) and is expected to launch in 2021. The value of the token will rise along with the market value of Elliot’s artwork.

Not a stablecoin though

However, BET will not be a stablecoin as it may seem at first. “Ben Elliot Token is following my journey as an artist and my market value. Art goes up and down all the time but is a very stable asset if you consider that a young artist can only go up if he works well enough to make it happen,” Elliot explained to Cointelegraph.

The artist says he chose Stellar because he likes the project and ambition behind the Stellar blockchain as it represents “one single network useful for different systems.” Currently, Elliot is working on the pricing mechanism functionality, which he expects to disclose closer to the end of 2020.

When asked on what trading platforms he is going to list the token, Elliot said that he favors peer-to-peer exchanges, but did not name any of them at this point.

Collecting tokens as art

BET is designed as a decentralized cryptocurrency. Elliot calls the token an artwork itself, saying that he hopes that BET will become one of the few new forms of art that will change the industry.

Aside from collecting BET as an artwork, interested parties will be able to invest in it for profits, exchange with any other currency or spend it on artworks and events. Elliot further said:

“BET holders will be part of a community of forward-thinkers involved in the emerging conversations about the creative and financial fields. They will be able to access an online platform where we will offer a program of exhibitions and exclusive contents. They will also be offered to participate in IRL events where they can gather with other holders, meet and discover a program of talks, screenings, etc. At last, they can also convert the tokens into physical artworks at a preferred price.”

Commenting on the token’s compliance with regulations, Elliot said that “people will be subject to those of their countries in matters of crypto assets.”

Although Elliot claims BET to be the first ever personal token directly tied to his career evolution, Alex Masmej, founder of a company offering loans against non-fungible tokens, just recently raised $20,000 after selling his personal tokens on the Ethereum network.

Masmej promised investors voting rights in major life decisions, participation in his seed funding round, and exclusive sessions.

When art meets money in the digital age

Generally, the art and collectibles industry has embraced blockchain’s benefits. By registering a work of art on blockchain, galleries and art registration services can ensure the transparency of artworks’ history and physical characteristics.

Earlier this year, investment platform CurioInvest and Seychelles-based digital asset exchange MERJ Exchange Ltd. announced the development of a Car Token (CT1) token, which is set to be pegged to the value of collectible cars. Individuals can invest in multiple cars.

South Korean Social Gaming App Launches Blockchain-Based Platform

Major South Korean social gaming app GameTalkTalk has rolled out a blockchain project for gamers, which will offer three new features, including rewards.

The firm behind major South Korean social gaming app GameTalkTalk has rolled out a blockchain project for gamers.

The new platform includes a reward-based social media DApp, a matchmaking peer-to-peer gaming platform and a digital item exchange.

Vinetree Corporation, the company behind GameTalkTalk, announced the Ludena Protocol on April 20, saying that, in the second quarter of 2020, users worldwide will be able to receive the app’s internal digital assets — know as "stars" — for completing in-game missions and downloading new games.

A native token and user data collection are on the roadmap

Stars can be used to purchase items such as gift cards, in-game items and tangible products, or be converted to the app’s native token, LDN, which game publishers must use to access the community for marketing purposes.

The app will collect user behavior information like their mobile gaming experience, money spent in downloaded games and the frequency of gameplay, which will subsequently be used for matching gaming companies to players.

The interest in blockchain tech from global game publishers has been increasing, especially considering that a number of blockchain-based games have recorded rising numbers of users due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Game industry sees numerous partnerships with blockchain projects

Just recently, Infinite Fleet, a space adventure game, announced a partnership with blockchain marketplace STOKR to launch a security token offering to raise funds for its further development. Refereum, a blockchain-based platform that rewards users for video game engagement and streaming, partnered with Tron to allow Refereum to pay out its video game streaming users in TRX tokens.

Iconic entertainment firm Atari entered a partnership with The Sandbox on the upcoming voxel-based blockchain version of its popular user-generated content and gaming platform. The Sandbox will offer users new features shaped by blockchain technology.

As Alex Connolly, CTO at Immutable, recently noted, blockchain itself will not make a game a success but works best to add value and magnify the experience that a game can already provide.

Blockchain Association Weighs In on SEC Case Against Kik’s ICO

The Blockchain Association has asked the court, which is considering Kik’s case, to deny the SEC’s motion for summary judgment.

The United States-based Blockchain Association has filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Canadian messenger Kik amid the firm’s legal battle with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The association addressed the April 17 brief to the court which is considering the case, asking it to deny the SEC’s motion for summary judgment and decide the case narrowly to avoid casting doubt on cryptocurrency projects that have yet to appear before the court.

In March, the SEC requested summary judgment, claiming that it possessed “undisputed evidence” that Kik’s ICO distributed unlicensed securities.

Not the same as Telegram’s case

Basically, the Blockchain Association says that the court must first determine whether Kik’s ICO to accredited investors and token sale to public buyers were, in fact, an integrated sale of securities and urges the court to not apply the approach taken in the ongoing Telegram case. The brief reads that:

“Complying with existing securities exemptions by contracting with sophisticated accredited investors amounts to a 'scheme' to distribute unregistered securities to the public at some point in the future. The Telegram decision treats cryptocurrency as somehow different from every other industry. Following  that decision could undermine innovation in an important new field of technology while excluding an industry from the same securities law exemptions that are supposed to apply uniformly.”

The association further states that the SEC is ignoring the important differences in Kik’s activities and — as in Telegram’s case — has provided little clarity about its own interpretation of whether and when digital assets are securities.

More crypto firms face lawsuits

In the meantime, several major crypto companies — Binance, KuCoin, BiBox, BitMEX and parent company HDR Global Trading Limited, and alleged crypto issuers Block.one, Quantstamp, KayDex, Civic, BProtocol, Status, and the Tron Foundation — are facing class-action lawsuits that had been filed in a New York federal court, earlier in April.

The lawsuit alleges that numerous exchanges have sold unlicensed securities without broker-dealer licensing and engaged in market manipulation.

Major Asian Ticketing Agency Accepts Bitcoin on Lightning Network

Vietnamese online ticketing agency Future.Travel now accepts Bitcoin payments via the Lightning Network, with funds being converted into local currency at the time of sale.

Vietnamese online ticketing agency Future.Travel now accepts Bitcoin (BTC) payments via the Lightning Network (LN), with funds being converted into local currency at the time of sale.

To enable LN-based Bitcoin payments, Future.Travel collaborated with Canada-based tech firm Neutronpay, which will provide Future.Travel its multi-currency merchant platform, according to an April 20 announcement. With the newly integrated option, the BTC transaction processing time will ostensibly be cut down to three to four seconds in most cases.

Eliminating fraud, reducing transaction processing time

Overall, Future.Travel has been supporting BTC payments for over six years and recently added other cryptocurrencies like Litecoin (LTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Ether (ETH) to its online payment methods. The company states that the LN integration will eliminate online fraud and associated credit card charge-backs.

Commenting on the development, David Watson, general director at Future.Travel, said, "The Lightning Network is the next step to reducing overheads of both cost and time."

Travel industry’s growing interest in crypto

The travel industry which — prior to the COVID-19 pandemic — was one of the biggest industries in the world, has been actively demonstrating interest in emerging technologies and cryptocurrencies in particular.

Last November, German airline Hahn Air began issuing tickets on the blockchain through a collaboration with a decentralized platform for the travel industry, Winding Tree. 

Travala, a service that lets its users pay for hotel stays with digital currency, has been steadily expanding its crypto payment options. Travala told Cointelegraph in January that “it is refreshing to know that each time we take a booking with cryptocurrency payments we avoid all the normal issues with traditional payment methods such as fraudulent payments and bad actor disputes.”

Malaysian Securities Regulator Approves Crypto Trading Platform

Malaysia-based cryptocurrency trading firm Tokenize Malaysia has received full approval from local securities watchdog.

Following a nine-month-long probationary period, Malaysia-based cryptocurrency trading firm, Tokenize Malaysia, has received full approval from local securities watchdog.

With the approval to operate a Digital Assets Exchange, the company’s cryptocurrency trading platform, Tokenize Xchange, became legally approved and regulated by the Securities Commission (SC) of Malaysia, local news outlet, SoyaCincau, reported on April 3. The exchange offers fiat-to-digital asset pairings.

Malaysian laws require that local cryptocurrency exchanges register with the SC, after which they have up to nine month to achieve compliance with the SC’s regulation standards.

Commenting on the development, Hong Qi Yu, CEO and CTO at Tokenize Malaysia, said:

“We are now able to go ‘live’ in Malaysia and it is perfect timing –- as we have received many interested enquiries from individuals aged 24 to 50 years old who are keen to invest in digital assets.”

The SC registered the firm — along with Luno Malaysia and Sinegy Technologies — last June. At the time, Luno stated that the aforementioned three exchanges were the only registered digital asset exchanges to operate in Malaysia.

The SC introduced the Capital Markets and Services (Prescription of Securities) (Digital Currency and Digital Token) Order 2019 on January 15, 2019. The regulation classifies digital currencies, tokens, and crypto-assets as securities, placing them under the Securities Commission’s authority.

Crypto regulations in other countries

While some countries undertake efforts to develop adequate cryptocurrency-related regulations, others are in no hurry to give digital assets the green light. Thus, after facing multiple delays, the adoption of Russia’s major cryptocurrency law will be postponed again, this time due to the coronavirus.

A pending bill may still inhibit cryptocurrencies from flourishing in India, with India’s parliament yet to rule on the "Banning of Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill" from 2019. If passed, the bill will introduce unique regulatory frameworks for virtual currencies, utility tokens, and commodity-backed tokens.

UnionBank Head Foresees the End of Physical Cash

UnionBank head forecasts that the coronavirus will drive banks to shift towards digital currencies, leaving physical cash behind.

Edwin Bautista, president and chief executive of UnionBank of the Philippines, has forecast that the coronavirus outbreak will drive banks to shift towards digital currencies, leaving physical cash behind.

As Euromoney reported on April 3, Bautista noted that the pandemic provoked a heightened demand in online banking services, pushing banks to revise their digitization strategy. “Certainly, this pandemic amplifies the need for all banks to go digital now,” Bautista said.

Going further, the exec projected the beginning of the end of hard cash, especially if central banks fail to deliver notes and coins to banks and automated teller machines. Bautista stated:

“One key realization here is that the longer the disruption, the more tenuous the traditional cash supply chain becomes. Thus I expect that banks will be more open to testing, developing and deploying digital cash and currencies, QR codes and maybe even cryptocurrencies and digital tokens.”

“The crisis will fast track the shift towards digital,” which “represents a tremendous new opportunity for banking,” according to Bautista.

UnionBank’s experiments with blockchain

UnionBank has indeed demonstrated a proactive approach to blockchain-related developments. Last July, the bank launched a payments-focused stablecoin pegged to the Philippine peso. The coin, dubbed PHX, is designed to function as “a stable store of value, medium of exchange and is a programmable token with self-executing logic.”

That same month, UnionBank successfully piloted a blockchain-based cross-border remittance from the Philippines to Singapore. The project eventually aims to provide millions of unbanked Filipinos with the ability to use financial services by connecting rural banks to the country's main financial network.

Meanwhile, other world banks continue to advance the development of their own digital currencies. The Bank of France officially launched an experimental program to test the integration of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) for interbank settlements, while the Bahamas announced plans to adopt a CBDC no later than 2020.

ShapeShift Enables US-Based Customers to Buy Crypto With Debit Card

Crypto exchange ShapeShift allows United States-based customers to buy BTC with a debit card in the new exchange’s platform.

Switzerland-based crypto exchange, ShapeShift, has enabled its United States-based customers to buy Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) with a debit card in the new exchange’s platform.

ShapeShift’s founder, Eric Voorhees, announced the development in a tweet on April 3, saying:

“If you're in the US, you can buy Bitcoin instantly in the new ShapeShift.com platform with your debit card. You can literally have the Bitcoin, in your possession, five minutes from now.”

KYC processes compliance

ShapeShift’s new platform doesn’t require account verification to purchase cryptocurrencies, which has led to questions from the tweet’s commentators.

When asked about the project’s Know-Your-Customer (KYC) policy, Voorhees confirmed that KYC is not required. This is due to the fact that, as is the case with Shapeshift, the platform does not actually hold custody of customer funds. Since transfers occur P2P between wallets owned and controlled by individual users, KYC measures are not strictly necessary.

ShapeShift has not yet released a mobile app, and only allows customers to purchase crypto via debit card through its web platform.

Crypto industry actively adopts debit and credit cards

Crypto exchanges have been actively adding support for debit cards, with some of them even issuing their own. Most recently, major crypto exchange, Binance, entered the crypto debit card sector with news of an official Binance Card. Issued by Visa, the card is initially only available in South East Asia, though the company states that other regions will be unlocked soon.

Earlier this year, Coinbase became a principal member of Visa, which allows it to issue debit cards without relying on third parties. The company’s Coinbase Card connects to each user’s Coinbase account, allowing individuals to spend their crypto balance via an instant conversion to fiat.

Bail Bloc Founder Says How Monero Mining Can Help ICE Detainees

Cointelegraph has had an in-depth talk with Bail Bloc’s Grayson Earle about how the charity project helps release people from incarceration through cryptocurrency.

One cryptocurrency project is using Monero (XMR) to give undocumented immigrants a better shot at a fair treatment in the United States judicial system.

The Bail Bloc project collects cryptocurrency to help people get out of pretrial incarceration for cases with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Unlike conventional charities, Bail Bloc doesn’t want your money — it wants your computer processing power.

Cointelegraph reached out to Bail Bloc co-creator Grayson Earle for deeper insight into the initiative.

Detainees make bail with Monero

Users download a special app that uses between 10% and 50% of their overall processor capacity— the user can set the rate — to mine the privacy-oriented cryptocurrency Monero.

Bail Bloc trades its XMR for U.S. dollars every month and then donates the sum on a rotating basis to the bail funds in the National Bail Fund Network.

“The idea is to get people to volunteer their spare computing power to mine, so it doesn't require them to make any cash donations. It's like creating an ad hoc supercomputer with the purpose of mining cryptocurrency,” said Earle.

ICE detention and who ends up there

ICE’s operations target individuals “who present a danger to national security” and “undermine the integrity of the immigration system”. However, most detainees are undocumented immigrants who otherwise have no criminal records and are detained simply for unlawful entry to the U.S.

In ICE detention, people can pay an immigration bond in exchange for their immediate release, but less than half of those in detention are given a bond hearing. Those who cannot afford to pay the bond, or who are not granted a bond at all, must wait for their court hearing while detained, which could last from months to years.

Additionally, ICE’s treatment of detainees has repeatedly raised concerns of violence, inappropriate segregation practices, foodservice issues, lack of recreation, and even violations of medical ethics.

While Bail Bloc was initially created for individuals in the American prison system, Earle said, "We've since re-oriented the project to pay immigration bonds for people affected by Trump's policies. This includes people who are not citizens of the U.S. who might be living here."

Bail Bloc steps in

Bail Bloc has mined cryptocurrency for the Immigrant Bail Fund since November 2018. The fund pays bonds for people in ICE detention across Connecticut, where the $15,000 immigration bond is nearly double the national average.

There are currently some 300 users running Bail Bloc on their computers, but the number is subject to fluctuation. “At its height, we had 2,500 users at peak hours, including Grimes as she actively used it while recording her new album,” Earle revealed.

It’s true — popular musician Grimes, (who was romantically linked to tech billionaire Elon Musk) tweeted about the project back in 2017, encouraging her fans to get involved:

“Downloaded bail bloc onto my comp. mines crypto currency 2 pay ppls bail; SO cool! & so easy..."

Why Monero?

It's not surprising that Bail Bloc chose Monero as its digital currency of choice. “The anonymity of everyone we have helped to release from pre-trial detention is paramount,” Earle said, adding:

“I chose Monero because it was a fairly stable coin and is ASIC-resistant. I knew that our target participant had a laptop so we needed CPU mining to be viable. More recently, Monero has made GPU mining less viable which also improves the viability of our project.”

YouTube Bans Drive Cryptocurrency Fans to Decentralized Alternatives

YouTube’s crypto policy has driven crypto enthusiasts to look for decentralized alternatives that are uncensored and provide incentives to their users.

In recent years, Google-owned video-sharing platform YouTube deleted and banned an array of cryptocurrency-related channels. The platform’s policy has driven cryptocurrency enthusiasts to look for decentralized alternatives to YouTube, which allow users to skirt censorship and even incentivize them with their own tokens.

In a YouTube video published on April 1, a channel dubbed Bitcoin for Beginners reviewed some of the decentralized YouTube alternatives. When choosing the most relevant platforms, the channel host took into account their usability, track records and user interface as major criteria.

Among the most popular decentralized video sharing platforms, the author noted LBRY, Bitchute, BitTube, PeerTube and Dtube. 

Censorship-resistance and incentives

LBRY has a community-controlled blockchain protocol and enables users to mine library credits and send them as tips to various creators. However, it is not easy to find good content as the platform doesn’t lay out popular or trending videos before you start following a channel.

Launched in 2018, BitTube allows users to overpass censorship thanks to InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). BitTube appears to be more entertaining as it offers livestreams, games, groups, and other options. Moreover, the platform has a reward system, wherein it rewards creators and viewers based on the time watched, and provides two privacy tokens.

Bitchute claims to use a peer-to-peer WebTorrent technology, however, the service still can delist content as it comes from their centralized servers. Also, most of the content is heavily political. 

Another platform called DTube is built on IPFS and the STEEM blockchain and rewards its users with DTC tokens, which gives them an ad-free option. The last platform mentioned, Peertube, was launched in 2015 and is based on the WebTorrent technology. Peertube features P2P video sharing.

Calling for a mass migration to alternative platforms

In a bid to stand up to Google for censoring cryptocurrency-related content across its platforms, the crypto community started a petition in early March. The so-called #ForkGoogle memorandum accuses the tech giant of waging “campaigns of suppression against Bitcoin and blockchain industry for years.”

#ForkGoogle calls for the crypto community to boycott Google’s services and migrate to alternative decentralized platforms like blogging platform Steemit and open-source browser Brave.

In recent years, Google-owned video-sharing platform YouTube deleted and banned an array of cryptocurrency-related channels. The platform’s policy has driven cryptocurrency enthusiasts to look for decentralized alternatives to YouTube, which allow users to skirt censorship and even incentivize them with their own tokens.

In a YouTube video published on April 1, a channel dubbed Bitcoin for Beginners reviewed some of the decentralized YouTube alternatives. When choosing the most relevant platforms, the channel host took into account their usability, track records and user interface as major criteria.

Among the most popular decentralized video sharing platforms, the author noted LBRY, Bitchute, BitTube, PeerTube and Dtube. 

Censorship-resistance and incentives

LBRY has a community-controlled blockchain protocol and enables users to mine library credits and send them as tips to various creators. However, it is not easy to find good content as the platform doesn’t lay out popular or trending videos before you start following a channel.

Launched in 2018, BitTube allows users to overpass censorship thanks to InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). BitTube appears to be more entertaining as it offers livestreams, games, groups, and other options. Moreover, the platform has a reward system, wherein it rewards creators and viewers based on the time watched, and provides two privacy tokens.

Bitchute claims to use a peer-to-peer WebTorrent technology, however, the service still can delist content as it comes from their centralized servers. Also, most of the content is heavily political. 

Another platform called DTube is built on IPFS and the STEEM blockchain and rewards its users with DTC tokens, which gives them an ad-free option. The last platform mentioned, Peertube, was launched in 2015 and is based on the WebTorrent technology. Peertube features P2P video sharing.

Calling for a mass migration to alternative platforms

In a bid to stand up to Google for censoring cryptocurrency-related content across its platforms, the crypto community started a petition in early March. The so-called #ForkGoogle memorandum accuses the tech giant of waging “campaigns of suppression against Bitcoin and blockchain industry for years.”

#ForkGoogle calls for the crypto community to boycott Google’s services and migrate to alternative decentralized platforms like blogging platform Steemit and open-source browser Brave.

Blockchain Is Not a Panacea for Finance, Says Russian Bank Official

The CBR’s first deputy governor has said that blockchain has found application in letters of credit and guarantees, but has not yet become a "universal solution."

The Central Bank of Russia’s (CBR) first deputy governor has said that blockchain technology is not the "universal solution," many promised it would be five years ago.

In an interview with Euromoney on April 2, Olga Skorobogatova took a deep dive into the bank’s initiatives, sandboxes, and experiences with blockchain deployment. 

Following three years of experimenting with the Masterchain platform — a local blockchain-based network for transferring valuable financial data like mortgage accounting — Skorobogatova said, “Blockchain is a great fit for things like letters of credit and guarantees because it is essentially a technology of trust.”

However, she further added that blockchain is not the cure-all that many believed it would be:

“I remember being told by some tech companies back then: ‘Olga, in five years everything will be powered by blockchain, there will be no other technologies.' I responded that this technology would work in cases when it would create additional value but not as a substitution for everything. Time has proven me right.”

But what about cryptocurrencies?

Skorobogatova said she does not believe in cryptocurrencies as a means of payment as they pose major risks for customers. She noted cryptocurrencies’ high volatility, lack of guarantee for savings, and usage in money laundering as major threats.

The deputy governor noted that the central bank is in talks with other regulators on the issue of global stablecoins, stating that, at this point, stablecoins raise more questions than answers.

The CBR has flirted with the idea of a national digital currency, which Skorobogatova questions as well:

“For me, the big question is if there is any added value in using central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) – for the economy, for individuals and for businesses. Clearly, people want fast digital payments, but this can be implemented with a national fast payments platform. What can CBDCs bring to the table? So far, no one in Russia or elsewhere has been able to give a convincing answer or even to explain the difference between electronic payments and CBDCs.”

Russia’s recent approach to crypto and blockchain regulation

Meanwhile, Russia has postponed its bill “On Digital Financial Assets” yet again. Anatoly Aksakov, chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on Financial Markets and chairman of the National Banking Council at the CBR, admitted that previous delays in the bill’s adoption were caused by disagreement on the new asset type between local authorities.

Aksakov said that the central bank opposed the legalization of crypto while the State Duma advocated some crypto initiatives.

On March 24, the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia reportedly prepared a draft law that would allow the testing of cryptocurrency and blockchain developments within a special regulatory sandbox.

Dow Jones Has A Blockchain-Based Product For Fighting Fraud And Staying Compliant

EastNets and Dow Jones Risk & Compliance have rolled out a blockchain-based feed of sanctions alerts based on a private blockchain network.

Dow Jones Risk & Compliance has teamed up with a company called EastNets to build a real-time blockchain-based watchlist feed. This watchlist identifies high-risk third parties for business deals and helps maintain a business’s regulatory compliance. This blockchain-based product currently lets users solve problems associated with manually updating these watchlists and protecting data from cyber criminals.

Deya Innab, chief strategy and product officer for EastNets, said:

“Designing and testing a suitable solution was challenging, but we are delighted to lead the industry with a real-time, secure watchlist update solution that is actively used by leading institutions that now meet their compliance obligations every minute of the day.”

Although the announcement did not reveal which institutions already use this blockchain-based watchlist, Dow Jones’s risk management and compliance arm has already gained traction among major companies like Deutsche Bank, Barron’s, and The Wall Street Journal.

Blockchain adoption is growing

More and more traditional businesses are deriving value from blockchain technology. For instance, digital payment giant, PayPal, is hiring an Anti-Money-Laundering and Blockchain Strategy director for their Global Financial Crimes division. The person in this role will evaluate blockchain’s usefulness in the prevention of financial crimes.

The European Commission is offering grants to blockchain developers and other specialists for solutions that adapt technologies from civil to defense applications. The use of blockchain can purportedly allow for the use of tamper-proof cryptographic tags that validate the provenance, state, and ownership of products or objects.

Opera Becomes First Major Browser to Integrate .Crypto Domain Extension

Opera now enables its users to access decentralized web pages through a partnership with Unstoppable Domains.

Opera now enables users to access decentralized web pages through a partnership with Unstoppable Domains, a tech firm backed by prominent Bitcoin (BTC) advocate Tim Draper.

The collaboration entails Opera’s integration of Unstoppable Domain’s .crypto domain extension, according to an announcement shared with Cointelegraph on March 26. This will allow the browser’s users to surf decentralized websites, as well as make cryptocurrency payments.

No more middleman

As the announcement further explains, blockchain domains are stored by the owner instead of by registrar firms, and decentralized websites are stored on peer-to-peer networks, not cloud services. This makes it possible to conduct transactions without a middleman, as well as avoid censorship.

Unstoppable Domains told Cointelegraph that the development will affect the speed of the internet connection as, over time, a distributed network is more robust, has far better uptime and will reduce the risk of incidents like DDoS attacks.

What about countries with internet censorship?

Unstoppable Domains noted that, while decentralized domains can help people avoid censorship from the publishing side, they do little to aid viewers in jurisdictions that face censorship, surveillance and de-anonymization issues:

“Just as with the current web, if users are facing those types of issues they would need to use VPNs or a similar tool. Decentralized websites solve a user’s ability to publish — it’s on the publishing side rather than on the viewing side. Right now, you can't publish using a traditional domain registrar if you're in a place that is limiting free speech. Whereas, with decentralized website tools, you could. So it’s about the publishing and not the viewing.”

Blockchain-based browsers go mainstream

The development ostensibly marks the first time a mainstream browser has integrated a domain that is not part of the traditional domain name system. Last October, Opera also became the first major browser that allows making payments with Bitcoin (BTC) directly inside the browser.

Meanwhile, Unstoppable Domains has rolled out its own blockchain-based browser to simplify access to the decentralized web. Unstoppable Domains’ websites are stored in a user’s wallet, while the content is stored on the InterPlanetary File System or other decentralized storage networks.

Microsoft Files Patent For Crypto Mining System Using Body Activity Data

Microsoft files crypto-based patent which would enable individuals to mine crypto using body activity data.

Tech giant, Microsoft, is looking to develop a cryptocurrency system which enables individuals to mine cryptocurrency using their body activity data, eliminating the need for specialized mining machines.

Microsoft published a patent dubbed “Cryptocurrency system using body activity data” on March 26. Their paperwork details a method of crypto mining which exploits data associated with a user’s body activity to exercise a new form of proof-of-work. The document further details:

“For example, a brain wave or body heat emitted from the user when the user performs the task provided by an information or service provider, such as viewing advertisement or using certain internet services, can be used in the mining process.”

Diagram of the invention. Source: Patentscope

Diagram of the invention. Source: Patentscope

To implement the process, a server provides a task to a user’s device, which is communicatively coupled to the server. A special sensor then indicates body activity of the individual, while a cryptocurrency system verifies whether or not the body activity data satisfies the conditions set by the cryptocurrency system. Ultimately, the system awards cryptocurrency to the user whose body activity data is verified.

Blockchain patents gain traction

Technology companies continue to experiment with cryptocurrency and blockchain in an attempt to remain a step ahead of their rivals. In the United States alone, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted 227 blockchain-related patents from January 2014 to October 2019.

Recently, another tech behemoth, IBM, was awarded a patent for the development of a so-called “self-aware token.” The idea of the development is that the adoption of new forms of currency will create questions regarding the ability to validate, authenticate, and coordinate transactions across diverse forms of payment and trade that traditionally had little or no interaction.

Brian Amstrong, the CEO of Coinbase, patented a method that enables users to make Bitcoin (BTC) payments using email addresses tied to wallet addresses, without incurring transaction fees.

US County Extends Regs for Crypto Miners Requiring Them to Use Clean Energy

The Missoula County Board of Commissioners has extended its green regulations for cryptocurrency miners, enabling them to set up operations in industrial zones only.

The Missoula County Board of Commissioners in Montana, United States, has extended its green regulations for cryptocurrency miners, which are designed to control the energy consumption of the industry in the county.

The regulations, which require crypto miners to set up their operations only in light industrial and heavy industrial districts, and only after they have been reviewed and approved as a conditional use, are now extended until April 3, 2021. 

County authorities initially adopted the rules a year ago, with a view “to protect the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare of county residents.”

For the sake of the planet

The regulations are part of a city-county resolution aimed at transitioning to 100% usage of clean energy by 2030. As such, the county board is considering proposing it as permanent zoning, local news outlet The Missoulian reported on March 27.

The board has not made changes to the rules, which means that miners will still need to exclusively use renewable energy, as well as ensure that all electronic waste generated will be handled by a relevant recycling firm.

Authorities approved the extensions after a public hearing during a commissioners meeting, where only one citizen spoke out and compared crypto mining operations to the coronavirus outbreak, saying:

"Just as coronavirus, it's a prolonged consequence where if we don't act immediately to lower our demand for electricity and introduce renewable electricity, our planet is going to be degraded tragically in the future. It is an emergency. It's just not one that we can perceive on an hour-to-hour basis like the virus."

The regulations, however, will not apply to crypto mining facilities existing before April 4, 2019.

Eco-friendly developments in crypto mining

Some crypto industry players have already developed eco-friendly crypto mining solutions, with German Bitcoin (BTC) mining infrastructure firm Northern Bitcoin AG completing tests for its new air-cooled mining container last year. The firm operates mining hardware that uses renewable energy sources and aims to attain optimal efficiency and sustainability.

In January, researchers at Ireland’s Economic and Social Research Institute proposed that using a blockchain-based “forward trading system” can provide a more effective incentive for the smart management of renewable energy consumption. The proposed mechanism includes the use of smart contracts to automate energy control, trading and management within a distributed framework.

China and UK’s Planned Digital Currencies Appear to Have Little in Common

After analyzing the plans for the Chinese and British CBDCs, InterChain Pulse noted the differences and similarities of the planned digital currencies.

As major central bank digital currency (CBDC) projects develop apace, it is becoming clear that not all digital coins will look, or even function the same way.

A recent analysis by Chinese financial media group InterChain Pulse reveals that two of the most visible such projects — those of the Bank of England (BoE) and the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) — may be more different than they are alike. 

InterChain Pulse cited BoE’s discussion paper released earlier this month, where the financial institution seriously weighed the pros and cons of issuing a CBDC denominated in pounds sterling.

InterChain compared the provisions set forth in the bank’s report with those of the PBoC and concluded that the two have significant differences in their design. 

Unlike China, where the central bank will be the issuing authority of the CBDC, Great Britain has assigned the issuance of its CBDC to the parliament. Moreover, China is working on the digitization of its national currency, the yuan, while Great Britain is planning to create a competitive payment system.

Compared with the digital currency of the PBoC, another significant difference is the application of smart contracts to ensure transactions. The Chinese central bank’s digital currency currently does not support this type of operation.

The BoE’s CBDC will comply with anti-money laundering (AML) provisions, the financing of terrorism and sanctions procedures, and be compatible with the General Data Protection Legislation.

The PBoC’s CBDC must comply with the AML provisions and the bank’s own privacy rules.

InterChain Pulse noted some similarities between the two projects, the most notable being that neither will be based on distributed ledger technology. As both will be used for transactions, BoE and PBoC are developing networks that concentrate on supporting a very high transaction frequency.

Additionally, InterChain Pulse states that neither network will recognize a private digital currency. 

Recent patents shed light on China’s digital yuan 

As Cointelegraph recently reported, patents from Chinese payments platform Alipay — which is working on the CBDC project — have revealed some details about the digital yuan’s features.

Among them, Alipay itself will be a secondary issuer of the currency, while wallet functionality can be determined by behavior and personal data.

Indian Tech Giant Mahindra Speeds Up Cross Border Transactions with Blockchain

India’s Tech Mahindra said faster reconciliation and a reduction in paperwork are just two of the benefits of its implementation of the Marco Polo blockchain platform.

Tech Mahindra, the IT subsidiary of Indian conglomerate Mahindra Group, has become the first Indian business to use R3’s blockchain-based Marco Polo Network for conducting cross-border transactions.

It said the platform had resulted in faster reconciliation and ambiguity resolution, as well as the significant reduction of paperwork and time required for the entire transaction cycle.

Tech Mahindra partnered with Singapore’s DBS Bank, which facilitated the transactions and acted as the company’s leading trade bank. The parties used the Marco Polo Receivables Discounting product which is designed to help companies optimise their working capital, improve liquidity and mitigate credit risk.

Marco Polo is a consortium of major global financial and banking institutions that aims to streamline international trade. The network is built on R3’s open-source blockchain platform Corda.

Distinct improvements to existing platforms

Sriram Muthukrishnan, group head of trade product management at DBS Bank, said that the bank’s goal is to provide a seamless end-to-end trade financing experience for its customers:

“Technology plays a monumental role in breaking down barriers in cross-border trade and will remain key in facilitating the continued growth of international trade and businesses. This joint initiative with Marco Polo and Tech Mahindra complements DBS’ efforts to help our clients unlock greater efficiencies through the digitalisation of often manual and complex trade finance processes.”

Tech Mahindra is exploring blockchain

Tech Mahindra is not new to blockchain technology and has its own specialized blockchain unit. Last month, the company launched a blockchain accelerator in partnership with the government of one of India’s states. The accelerator aims to foster blockchain startups that have strong real-world use cases and to boost industry growth overall.

In September 2019, the tech company partnered with American distributed ledger technology firm Adjoint to launch a blockchain financial management and insurance solution.

California Governor Namedrops Bitcoin in Speech About ‘Extraordinarily Bad People’

California Governor Gavin Newsom warned the public against Bitcoin fraudsters during live speech about the coronavirus outbreak.

California Governor Gavin Newsom warned the public against Bitcoin (BTC) fraudsters during his live speech about the coronavirus outbreak.

On March 26, Newsom mentioned the leading cryptocurrency as part of his official speech about what measures had been taken by the state to prevent the further spread of the virus in California.

Newsom went on raising the public’s awareness and understanding that “extraordinary people, who do extraordinary bad things,” are apparently taking advantage of the pandemic, and further explained:

“That doesn’t just include an interface with the government, but people claiming that we need to send the equivalent of Bitcoin in advance to get some materials before they can send them. Questionable activities like that.”

Crypto fraudsters try to benefit on the coronavirus-driven panic

Newsom thus joined the ranks of other global authorities, who are concerned of cryptocurrency fraudsters trying to capitalize on the widespread coronavirus fears. More recently, the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission cautioned the public that scammers commonly use major news events like the spread of COVID-19 in order to add credibility to their scam schemes or manipulate emotions.

The United Kingdom police also issued a warning against COVID-19 scammers, after it identified 21 cases of fraud involving the virus, earlier in March.

Some online perpetrators are even impersonating the World Health Organization in an attempt to steal cryptocurrency donations to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Malaysian Blockchain App Allows Users to Trace Sustainable Palm Oil

The Malaysian Palm Oil Council and BloomBloc have developed a blockchain-based app that enables users to trace palm oil throughout the entire supply chain.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) and blockchain startup BloomBloc have developed a blockchain app that enables users to trace palm oil throughout the entire supply chain.

Following a successful test, the blockchain-based system is available in a pilot roll out to local oil palm growers, palm oil processors, plantations and family owned smallholders, according to food industry publication Foodbev Media. The system registers each tree and its associated information, making it possible for users to track the journey from plantation, to mill, and on to the final product.

The new app follows on from the implementation of the mandatory Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification standard nationwide. MPOC CEO Datuk Dr Kalyana Sundram said:

“It speaks volumes about our trust in our supply chain. And it is yet another way Malaysia is showing the world that we value our people and our planet. We hope that by creating this platform and demonstrating the benefits of using blockchain technology, we will encourage others who are practising sustainable agriculture to follow our lead.”

To eradicate deforestation

Sustainability within the oil palm industry is a big issue in Malaysia due to illegal logging and the replacement of forests with plantations. According to environmental groups, palm oil producer Radiant Lagoon was responsible for the destruction of 730 ha of forest in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The company is reportedly associated with Double Dynasty, a supplier of palm oil to manufacturers like Nestlé, Unilever, Mondelēz and P&G.

But the government is fighting back. It has introduced more than 60 regulations and aims to improve forest management practices, as well as promoting various activities towards zero deforestation.

The industry argues that the total planted area of oil palms in the country is 5.74 million ha. This equates to just 0.11 percent of global agricultural land but is responsible for 20% of global fats and oils exports.

Malaysia actively deploys blockchain

It is not the first time Malaysia turned to blockchain tech in the food and agricultural products supply chain. Last year, the Malaysian state of Penang said it was considering using blockchain to trace the origins of products, which would also enable it to warn consumers about outbreaks of dangerous foodborne diseases.

The education sector has also embraced the tech with the Malaysian Ministry of Education introducing an application built on the NEM blockchain to deal with the issue of certificate fraud.

Malaysia has also launched a work visa program targeting tech freelancers that addresses a demand for blockchain capable talents.

Billionaire Demands Facebook Reveal Who Placed Scam Bitcoin Ads About Him

Janet Jackson’s billionaire ex husband, Wissam Al Mana, has demanded that Facebook reveal who placed scam crypto ads on the platform using his image.

Janet Jackson’s billionaire ex husband, Wissam Al Mana, has demanded that Facebook reveal who was behind ads on the platform that used his image to promote a crypto scam. 

The case stems from late February when Al Mana filed a lawsuit against the social media giant about a cryptocurrency scam using his name to promote itself in the Middle East. Al Mana claimed defamation, malicious falsehood and false advertising from the purported cryptocurrency firm ‘Bitcoin Trader’.

One man to sue them all

Facebook has since deleted the offending ads, but Al Mana is concerned fraudsters can publish similar ads containing his image in the future. His lawyers have applied for a court order that would oblige Facebook to reveal details about the ad’s publishers, the Irish Times reported on March 25.

Al Mana is seeking information about the fraudsters’ names, addresses, contact details, payment methods and billing address. Al Mana is suing Facebook Ireland Ltd along with the parties behind the ads.

High Court Justice Leonie Reynolds has urged the parties to resolve their differences before she hears the order application. The 12 month deadline for the dispute hearing is in May, however Facebook’s counsel asserted that it could be extended to 24 months amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Crypto scams involving big names

Claiming false legitimacy by appropriating the identity of well known figures —- including Kate Winslet, Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Bill Gates — is popular among cryptocurrency swindlers. In November last year a Dutch judge ordered Facebook to pay 10,000 Euros ($10,890) each time a new, fake Bitcoin ad featuring Big Brother creator John de Mol appeared. 

The crypto community recently spotted a bogus YouTube account impersonating Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of major blockchain startup Ripple, in order to promote a fake airdrop scam. The YouTube scammer has been asking users to send between 2,000 XRP to 500,000 XRP in order to “participate” in an airdrop of 20,000 to 5 million XRP.

Some online perpetrators are even impersonating the World Health Organization in an attempt to steal cryptocurrency donations to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.