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So far smartdegrees has created 181 blog entries.

Want to know your wine is genuine? EY has built a blockchain for that

(Article published by Yogita Khatri with same title in CoinDesk)

“Big Four” professional services firm EY has built a blockchain platform for a firm that will help consumers determine wines’ quality, provenance and authenticity. The TATTOO Wine Platform has been developed for Blockchain Wine Pte. Ltd. using EY’s OpsChain solution.

The platform is backed by Asian wine cellar The House of Roosevelt, which will use it to sell wines directly from vineyards to hotels, restaurants, cafes and customers, according to the announcement.

EY said: “Each bottle of wine will be ‘tattooed’ with its own unique QR code. By scanning the QR code, participants can access information such as vineyards’ names and locations, details such as the types of fertilizers used to grow the crops, and how each batch is transported for processing and delivery.”

The platform will focus on markets in Asia where the consumption of European wines is expanding. Over 5,000 labels will be added to the system, including wines from France, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South America and California.

TATTOO has been built using the ethereum’s ERC-721 standard for non-fungible tokens, or crypto collectibles, according to the announcement. (Yes, basically, the wine tokens are like alcohol-based CryptoKitties.)

The asset traceability module of EY OpsChain has been used to tokenize over 11 million bottles of wine for various clients, as well as toher consumables. As well as providing data on wine provenance, TATTOO also allows consumers and distributors to buy and sell wine, schedule and track shipments, monitor warehousing and delivery, and arrange for and track insurance coverage of wine shipments.

Taking a slightly different tack, blockchain startup VinX is also developing a supply chain platform for trading wine futures, which allow connoisseurs and collectors to purchase a vintage while it’s still in the barrel, a year or two before it’s bottled and released on the market.

South Korea’s Shinhan Bank turns to blockchain to speed up loan issuance

(Article published by Yogita Khatri with same title in CoinDesk)

Shinhan, one of the oldest and largest banks in South Korea, is using blockchain technology to speed up the approval process for loan products. The bank will use a blockchain platform to verify the items of proof required for credit lending, such as qualification or certification documents.

Until now, customers had to submit these documents directly to the bank to undergo time-consuming manual verification of their authenticity, according to the report. With the blockchain-based verification system, Shinhan is expecting to process these documents more quickly and at a lower cost.

The bank has reportedly already applied the technology to its “Shinhan Doctors” loan product, reducing the time taken to confirm whether a customer is a regular member of the Hospital Doctors’ Council from two to three days to “real time.”

A Shinhan Bank official was quoted as saying in the report that the blockchain system is expected to boost the number of “non-face-to-face” loan products processed and that the bank plans to expand the system to more products.

Founded in 1897, Shinhan has been exploring blockchain technology for some time now. Last year, it trialed cross-border remittances for business customers using Ripple’s blockchain technology. As far as back in 2015, Shinhan invested around $427,000 in blockchain remittance startup Streami.

JPMorgan adds privacy features to ethereum-based Quorum blockchain

(Article published by Ian Allison with same title in CoinDesk)

JPMorgan Chase’s blockchain team has developed a privacy feature for ethereum-based blockchains, obscuring not only how much money is being sent but who is sending it. JPMorgan has built an extension to the Zether protocol, a fully decentralized, cryptographic protocol for confidential payments, compatible with ethereum and other smart contract platforms and designed to add a further layer of anonymity to transactions. The New York-based financial institution will open-source the extension 28 May, and is likely to use it with Quorum, the bank’s homegrown, private version of ethereum.

Zether, which was built by a group of academics and financial technology researchers including Dan Boneh from Stanford University, uses zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs), a branch of mathematics which allows one party to prove knowledge of some secret value or information without conveying any detail about that secret.

Explaining what the new extension does, Oli Harris, JPM’s head of Quorum and crypto-assets strategy, told: “In the basic Zether, the account balances and the transfer accounts are concealed but the participants’ identities are not. So we have solved that. In our implementation, we provide a proof protocol for the anonymous extension in which the sender may hide herself and the transactions recipients in a larger group of parties.”

JPMorgan has had a busy year in the blockchain space, and not just with its headline-grabbing plan for an internal, price-stable cryptocurrency called JPM Coin. Just as importantly, the firm attracted some 220 banks to its Quorum-based Interbank Information Network and most recently completed a load of integration work with Microsoft Azure as JPM continues to prepare Quorum to be spun out and exist in the wild as an open-source protocol.

Harris pointed out that Zether’s confidential payments architecture incorporates an account-based approach employed by ethereum, as opposed to the unspent transaction output, or UTXO-based approach, which the bitcoin client uses. The UTXO is also a feature of the privacy-oriented cryptocurrency zcash, which the original ZKP component of Quorum was based on.

In this way, the extension could benefit not only users of Quorum, but also enterprises building on top of other ethereum variants – or, conceivably, businesses leveraging the public ethereum chain.

Consortium confidential

Keeping all facets of transactions between banks and other confidential could be a boon for projects like ethereum-based Komgo, for instance, which involves trading in the energy space. “When we think about the community building on top of Quorum,” said Harris, “if anyone is looking to get an efficient trustless mechanism for trustless and anonymous payments in a consortium then that’s when it’s relevant. That’s why we wanted to open-source it back to the community so anyone can build on it further and continue enhancing it and potentially put it into their use cases as needed.”

Harris, whose job is to strengthen Quorum efforts inside the bank and beyond, added: “When we look at our own JPMorgan applications [the extended version of Zether] will be one choice of many that we will be looking at.”

The work to make transactions more confidential on Zether could also be used to fine-tune Quorum for deployment inside enterprise consortia, making the extension another step towards hardening the protocol for a long-contemplated spin-out from the bank.

One drawback of complex zero-knowledge proving schemes is the amount of computation they eat, potentially slowing down blockchains. But Harris said the extra dose of cryptography to obfuscate participant identities didn’t appear to have that effect with Zether, concluding: “The performance is quite good; we had done multiple iterations to improve it and we are doing the verification in solidity smart contracts. We’ll be including in our report the performance measurements for proving and verification.”

ConsenSys launches ‘Jobs Kit’ to help devs enter the blockchain industry

(Article published by Yogita Khatri with same title in CoinDesk)

Ethereum development studio ConsenSys has launched a blockchain “job kit” to guide developers wishing to enter the growing blockchain space. The kit provides a variety of resources, including information on the skills needed to find work as an ethereum blockchain and decentralized application (dapp) developer.

JavaScript, Python and Solidity programming languages will help developers build on ethereum, ConsenSys said, while knowledge of languages such as Go, Rust, Java,.NET, C++ and Ruby will help backend or protocol development on the blockchain network. The kit also offers a glossary section on key blockchain and cryptography terms such as consensus algorithms, sharding, token standards and hash functions, as well as providing links on the places devs can start their search for employment. These include Blocktribe and Gitcoin.co, as well as more standard sites such as Indeed.com.

Citing LinkedIn’s emerging jobs list for 2018, ConsenSys said that blockchain development skills are in high demand, with related job listings have seen a 33-times increase in just a year. “Companies hiring range from small remote teams to VC-funded startups to industry leaders and tech giants,” the firm said.

Citing another study by professional services firm PwC, ConsenSys said that 77 percent of companies are well on their way towards taking blockchain-based solutions and products into production, while only 14 percent currently have no plans to integrate blockchain.

Opinions on blockchain, distributed networks, and web3 are also “rapidly changing” amongst software developers building on web2, ConsenSys said, citing another report from Deloitte, which said a majority (67.6 percent) of developers maintained a positive opinion on blockchain tech.

Back in 2017, ConsenSys also launched an academy to help developers learn more about the blockchain ecosystem.

All this comes despite recent reports of layoffs at crypto and blockchain firms as the crypto bear market downturn made its effects felt across business models and revenues. Firms and organizations such as Bitmain, the NEM foundation, and, indeed, Consensys, all felt forced to cut staffing levels in the last several months.

El consorcio Ethereum lanza una iniciativa de token con Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase y otros

(Artículo publicado por Marie Huillet con el mismo título en CoinTelegraph)

La Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) ha lanzado una Iniciativa de Taxonomía de Token (Token Taxonomy Initiative) neutral con respecto a blockchain, en asociación con importantes empresas, según un comunicado de prensa de la EEA el 17 de abril. La iniciativa tratará de definir los tokens en términos intersectoriales y no técnicos, en un intento de impulsar la adopción a escala de tokens de la empresa.

La EEA se describe a sí misma como “una organización de estándares dirigida por sus miembros, cuya premisa es desarrollar especificaciones abiertas de blockchain que impulsen la armonización y la interoperabilidad”. Entre los miembros de la iniciativa se encuentran la consultora global Accenture, los principales bancos Santander y JPMorgan Chase, la incubadora de blockchain ConsenSys, la empresa que forma parte de las cuatro grandes firmas de auditoría, EY, los gigantes tecnológicos Intel, Microsoft e IBM, el consorcio blockchain R3, el centro de estudios internacional The Blockchain Research Institute, la empresa de investigación y desarrollo blockchain Clearmatics, entre otros.

 

La nueva Iniciativa de Taxonomía de Token tendrá como objetivo establecer un conjunto compartido de términos y definiciones para los tokens —cualquiera que sea la blockchain de la que deriven— como piedra angular para las empresas y los desarrolladores.

La estandarización, argumenta Ron Resnick, director de la EEA, puede desbloquear el uso sin fricciones de los tokens “para servir como, o proporcionar acceso a, un conjunto de bienes, activos financieros, valores, servicios, valor o contenido” dentro de las aplicaciones blockchain de grado empresarial.

Además de aclarar el concepto y el alcance del modelo de token, la iniciativa tratará de abordar los casos de uso, la taxonomía y la terminología y las especificaciones técnicas.

Con este fin, el proyecto tratará de establecer normas técnicas que puedan contrarrestar la fragmentación entre múltiples protocolos de cadenas de bloques y garantizar la interoperabilidad entre las plataformas y los casos de uso, ya sea que los tokens sirvan para fines similares a la moneda o representen activos únicos.

 

La iniciativa se estructurará para incluir un marco de taxonomía de token acompañado por una iniciativa educativa, que se llevará a cabo a través de talleres de definición de tokens estructurados.

Como ya se ha informado anteriormente, la EEA —que cuenta con más de 500 miembros— está comprometida con la elaboración de normas estándar para tokens, que comenzaron centrándose en las especificaciones de Ethereum (ETH). A finales de 2018, Hyperledger y la EEA anunciaron sus mutuos miembros asociados.

La organización amplió su alcance mundial con la apertura de una oficina regional en China en febrero de este año. Ese mismo mes, la EEA anunció la creación de un grupo operativo denominado “token task force” (grupo de trabajo para tokens), que se centraría en el ERC-20 fungible derivado de ETH y en los tokens no fungibles del ERC-721.

Microsoft lanza aplicación de gestión de blockchain

(Artículo publicado por Max Boddy con el mismo título en CoinTelegraph)

Microsoft anunció su totalmente gestionado Azure Blockchain Service el 2 de mayo. La nueva plataforma blockchain como servicio (BaaS) supuestamente permitirá a los usuarios crear aplicaciones de blockchain en una red preconfigurada.

Según el director de comunicaciones corporativas de Microsoft, Frank Shaw, este servicio “simplifica la formación, gestión y gobierno de las redes de cadenas de bloques del consorcio”. Shaw señaló además que Azure Blockchain Service puede crear una nueva red de consorcio “en unos pocos clics”, o permitir al usuario realizar operaciones básicas como añadir nuevos miembros a la red.

Quorum, una plataforma blockchain de código abierto respaldada por JPMorgan Chase, es la primera plataforma que se puede gestionar a través de Azure Blockchain Service. Mark Russinovich, el Director Técnico de Azure, explicó la elección: “Porque se basa en el popular protocolo Ethereum, que tiene la comunidad de desarrolladores de cadenas de bloques más grande del mundo, Quorum es una opción natural.”

 

Microsoft Azure lanzó su servicio de creación de aplicaciones blockchain, Azure Blockchain Workbench, en mayo de 2018. Esta plataforma también fue diseñada para automatizar aspectos del trabajo relacionado con blockchain, en este caso para agilizar el desarrollo de aplicaciones blockchain, proporcionando una infraestructura fácilmente disponible para el desarrollador.

En octubre de 2018, Microsoft Azure unió fuerzas con Nasdaq. Nasdaq optó por integrar la tecnología blockchain de Azure en su marco financiero con la expectativa de que aceleraría las transacciones.

El 30 de abril, Amazon Web Services, el ala de computación en la nube del gigante minorista Amazon, lanzó su propia plataforma BaaS denominada Amazon Managed Blockchain.

Indian government again discussing ban on cryptocurrencies: report

(Article published by Yogita Khatri with same title in CoinDesk)

A report from The Economic Times on Friday, citing anonymous “government officials aware of details” said that a number of government departments in the country have backed the idea of a complete ban on the issuance and trading of cryptocurrencies. The Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Central Board of Direct Taxes, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs and the Investor Education and Protection Fund Authority are all in favor of the ban, the officials said.

A draft bill, dubbed “Banning of Cryptocurrencies and Regulation of Official Digital Currencies Bill 2019,” has also reportedly been shared with certain government departments. While it is not clear what “official digital currencies” refers to, the country’s central bank was previously researching launching a digital rupee. A final bill, based on feedback from the consulted departments, is expected to be proposed to the next government in May following the national elections, the sources indicate.

The country’s Ministry of Corporate Affairs has reportedly provided feedback to the DEA, arguing that most cryptocurrencies are run as Ponzi schemes to defraud investors. The ministry has, therefore, recommended cryptocurrency-related prosecutions take place under the country’s Prevention of Money laundering Act for the time being, as the introduction of the crypto bill will take some time.

Another piece from the same news source says that the CEO of the Investor Education and Protection Fund (IEPF) Authority, Anurag Agarwal, also said: “When it comes to investor protection, the IEPFA has to take a stand against certain things. Against Ponzi schemes, we are taking a stand. We think that cryptocurrency is a Ponzi scheme and it should be banned.

India’s decision on the legality of cryptocurrencies has been a long time coming. As far back as April 2017, the government set up an interdisciplinary committee to investigate the issue, which was said to be discussing imposing a ban on “private cryptocurrencies” last October. However, the committee was then not in favor of an outright ban, but was rather considering possibly legalizing cryptocurrencies with tough rules attached. Until a final decision is made, the country’s crypto industry is in limbo. Since last year, banks in India have been barred by the central bank – the Reserve Bank of India – from serving cryptocurrency firms and exchanges.

Since then a number of exchanges have filed legal petitions to overturn the RBI ban, and the matter is slowly passing through the Indian supreme court, which has delayed announcing the decision several times while it awaits an opinion from the government. The next hearing is scheduled to take place in July.

Alternative credentials as institutional ‘imperative’

(Article published by Doug Lederman with same title in Inside Higher Ed)

The use of alternative digital credentials to certify learning will erode the value of the traditional postsecondary transcript, and colleges and universities that fail to embrace them will “experience a slow decline in relevance and market position,” asserts a new report from an international group focused on online and open education.

The report, “The Present and Future of Alternative Digital Credentials,” was produced by a working group established a year ago by the International Council for Open and Distance Education, which represents 186 institutions and groups in more than 60 countries. Its members — which in the United States include institutions like Colorado State University Global Campus, Drexel University Online and the University of Maryland University College — advocate for the use of technology-enabled education to increase access to higher education.

Given that membership, it isn’t surprising that the group’s assessment of the importance and likely impact of alternative credentials is as insistent and urgent as it is. Skepticism about alternative credentials abounds in large pockets of traditional higher education, and many brick-and-mortar institutions will probably be just fine whether or not they embrace newfangled certifications.

Inside Higher Ed’s own 2018 report on alternative credentials and new pathways to degrees — while covering much of the same ground — steered clear of warnings that the typical college or university will be made irrelevant by the emergence of such credentials, though it acknowledged their fast-growing spread and potential to attract students and satisfy employers.

The international council’s report goes much further in envisioning alternative credentialing’s ability to break higher education’s historic stranglehold on preparing people for work. “Higher education institutions are being challenged in their role as the dominant credentialing player in society,” the report states. “By providing a fully digital, information-rich record of workplace-relevant skills and competencies in the near future, the use of [alternative digital credentials] will seriously challenge the validity of traditional university transcripts making them obsolete and, in the long-term, irrelevant,” the authors write. Colleges that do not embrace them will face the same fate, it suggests.

The report does not dismiss outright the impediments that are widely seen as impeding the spread of adoption of alternative credentials now, including limited employer acceptance and the lack of a common infrastructure. But it asserts that these problems are being addressed and that institutions that wait too long to decide how — not whether — to engage with alternative credentials may not be able to catch up.

“Failure to take progressive action in adopting alternative digital credentials by the university sector will erode our position in the market as non-higher education institutions create a confusing array and proliferation of digital credentials,” the report concludes. “In addition, individual institutions which fail to adopt alternative digital credentials will experience a slow decline in relevance and market position.”

Volkswagen to track minerals supply chains using IBM blockchain

(Article published by Yogita Khatri with same title in CoinDesk)

Volkswagen Group has announced it will use blockchain tech to track its mineral supply chains.

In order to “responsibly source” minerals such as cobalt (used in lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles), it has joined an open industry collaboration, which also includes Ford as a member. Currently, miners and consumer brands rely on third-party audits and “laborious” manual processes to comply with widely accepted industry standards for sourcing their minerals, VW said.

Using blockchain technology to track supply chains will help the firm meet responsible sourcing standards set out by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) by providing a permanent record of mineral movements to aid the compliance process.

For the effort, VW will use a new permissioned platform, developed by the group on IBM Blockchain – which is built using Hyperledger Fabric – to enable the tracking of minerals across the global supply chain.

The collaboration, formed earlier this year, also includes as members cobalt mining company Huayou, LG Chem (a unit of South Korean conglomerate LG Corp.) and raw materials supply chain auditing firm RCS Global.

VW said in its announcement: “Participants in the network, validated by RCS Global Group for compliance with responsible sourcing standards, can contribute and access immutable data in a secure and permissioned way to trace and record the flow of minerals across the supply chain in near real-time.” The automaker further said that the group aims to expand membership to include other industries, including aerospace, consumer electronics and mining operations.

La UIB y SmartDegrees realizarán estudios conjuntos de investigación sobre la tecnología blockchain

La Universidad de las Illes Balears (UIB) y SmartDegrees han firmado el 15 abril un acuerdo de colaboración académica, científica y cultural, con el objetivo de desarrollar programas de estudio conjuntos, intercambio y cooperación en el campo de la investigación sobre la tecnología blockchain, especialmente relacionado con el registro y certificación de títulos académicos.

El convenio, firmado por Llorenç Huguet, rector de la UIB, y José María Fuster, presidente de SmartDegrees, contempla estudios conjuntos de investigación, realización de seminarios, coloquios y simposios y otros programas y actividades que se acuerden entre las partes.

El carácter innovador y disruptivo de la tecnología blockchain abre enormes posibilidades en todos los sectores, en particular, en la educación superior. Su utilización en los títulos académicos permite transformar la titulación en el mercado de trabajo y en la sociedad, con los siguientes beneficios para los titulados:

  • Garantiza la inmutabilidad del título, evitando el fraude.
  • El titulado es propietario soberano de sus datos y decide cómo, dónde y cuándo mostrarlos.
  • Facilita la puesta en valor del título, agilizando su compartición con plataformas de trabajo, reclutadores y terceros.

La creciente tendencia del aprendizaje continuo y por competencias, junto a las plataformas de trabajo digitales y el aumento del fraude en los títulos, hacen necesario disponer de tecnologías seguras, descentralizadas y que faciliten la portabilidad de los certificados de títulos académicos.

La colaboración con la Universidad de las Illes Balears permitirá aprovechar estas oportunidades, ampliando el servicio que presta SmartDegrees de certificación y registro de títulos académicos en plataforma blockchain, desde julio de 2018 para varias instituciones de educación superior y que está extendiendo a otras universidades de Europa y Latinoamérica.

Acerca de Universidad de las Illes Balears

La Universidad de las Illes Balears es una universidad pública, innovadora y comprometida con la mejora de la sociedad, a través de la investigación, la docencia y la divulgación del conocimiento en los diversos ámbitos.

Acerca de SmartDegrees

SmartDegrees fue creada en agosto 2017 con capital 100% español, con el objetivo de ofrecer servicios de registro y certificación de títulos en blockchain, para ayudar a los titulados universitarios en el mercado de trabajo, impulsando servicios alrededor de la titulación y garantizando la validez de los títulos.

Cobertura en los medios: Europa PressLa Vanguardia, Economía de Hoy20 Minutos, Gente Digital

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