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India’s Federal Bank teams up with Ripple for international payments

(Article published by Michael K. Spencer with same title in Medium)

Ripple had announced in Jnauary 2019 that it surpassed 200 partners as it adds 13 financial institutions as customers for its payment network, RippleNet. Ripple consolidating traditional financial markets is an interesting use case for blockchain for the real world.

Federal Bank in India has partnered with blockchain payments company Ripple to facilitate cross-border payments, according to reports. Here we are talking about Private bank, Federal Bank Ltd. in India.

Ripple bills itself as a frictionless way to send money globally. Ripple has been aggressive with partnerships yet it’s still debatable how well it’s performing. In a world where three billion people are connected online, Ripple feels more like a real-world blockchain pioneer than a decentralized crypto with XRP.

India like China has a complicated relationship to crypto. It isn’t known if the partnership will include cryptocurrency or not, especially since the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the country’s central bank, issued a statement saying it wouldn’t support the digital currency.

The announcement that Ripple has over 200 partners reflects the recently rapid growth of their network of users of their xRapid and xCurrent products, especially among traditional financial companies and banks. So Ripple is essentially a live use case of blockchain tech for remittances and cross-border payments. I’d say that in 2019 the verdict is still out.

The confusion between Ripple and XRP really is a sour point of how companies that are totally centralized pretend to have a decentralized aspect. This is the same dynamic that Block.One has with EOS. A certain category of blockchain entrepreneurs decided to play both sides and it’s always made me leary of Ripple and EOS as actually innovative projects.

Regardless of the specifics this deal shows India is very pro blockchain. Central banks around the world are looking to bring a digital equivalent of their fiat dollars on the blockchain. We live in a world of banking consortium sand enterprise blockchain systems where places like Japan and China are leading the charge in blockchain integration. It’s great to see Ripple partnering with India.

XRP has been declared centralized because the plurality of XRP is in fact owned by Ripple, which created it. However this business model might after all be appropriate for partnerships with banks who might trust this arrangement more. It’s entirely likely Ripple might not be what we think it is.

XRP is currently ranked 3rd on with a price of USD $0.31 and a total market cap of nearly $13 Billion or 17.8% of Bitcoin’s own market cap. For the future of blockchain adoption Ripple and XRP bear watching. Do you think RippleNet has a good future? How do you see the relationship between Ripple and XRP?

US Energy Department eyes blockchain to prevent power plant cyberattacks

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

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) unit announced that phase two of an electric grid security project has been launched in partnership with decentralized cybersecurity startup Taekion, formerly Grid7.

The laboratory provided a grant of $1 million to Taekion last year, and now as part of the second phase of the project, the startup will research on how blockchain technology can be used to secure a power plant, by keeping all sensor, actuator and device transactions on a distributed ledger.

“Accurate information on the status of power plant operations is critical for electric grid security,” NETL said, adding that, when the storage of key information is decentralized, “there is no single point of failure.”

In an example of how a cyberattack could take place on a power plant, the lab said a system could be compromised so that it appears operational when it has actually been shut down by hackers, potentially “leaving millions without power.” Such an attack took place at a power plant in Ukraine in 2016, the laboratory said, which caused widespread power outages during the winter months.

NETL said: “The applications being developed in the NETL-managed project have the potential to thwart such attacks by preventing hackers from altering the plant’s operational information.”

Taekion plans to work on other applications, too, that would help secure energy transactions to protect process data at power generation facilities, increase grid reliability and integrate a more decentralized energy infrastructure.

The project is part of the energy department’s Office of Fossil Energy Sensors and Controls program and is funded through the department’s Small Business Innovation Research program.

This is not the first time that the department has looked to explore blockchain for technological improvements. Last year, it partnered with BlockCypher to develop solutions allowing energy transactions to be settled across multiple blockchains.

The department also recently announced federal funding of up to $4.8 million for universities working on R&D projects, including those related to blockchain.

PewDiePie is going all in on blockchain

(Article published by Michael K. Spencer with same title in Medium)

In the world of social media there is now a trend of major creators leaving mainstream platforms for more decentralized content channels.

PewDiePie ditches YouTube and Twitch streaming for DLive’s blockchain platform. He has nearly 94 million YouTube subscribers. He’s one of the most known video creators on the internet in 2019. The 29-year-old Swedish content creator, real name Felix Kjellberg, has signed an “exclusive” live streaming deal with the platform, DLive announced in early April, 2019.

“Personally, I think it’s really cool to have a creator based website actually putting creators first. I’m really excited about DLive and I’m excited to finally be live streaming again,” said PewDiePie.

Influencer marketing and blockchain has a great future

With the rise of Dapps and new kinds of content, marketing and influencer marketing experiences on decentralized architectures, the world is about to change.

Starting April 14, PewDiePie will stream weekly on DLive, a decentralized community built using the Lino blockchain, according to the announcement. On his official DLive channel, PewDiePie also saidthat he will support content creators on the platform by donating up to $50,000 to a maximum of 100 creators.

In an era of Twitch and gaming revolutions in the form of new platforms related to Apple, Google and Snapchat, it’s an exciting time to be a video creator. DLive is yet another one of these blockchain content experiments.

So here are totally novel incentive ecosystems. Apparently as reported, DLive offers an estimated 90 percent of the profits from every subscription or gift, while the other 10 percent is put into a pool that rewards viewers with in-house Lino Points. Said points are actually cryptocurrency coins existing on the Lino blockchain and may be rewarded to viewers for watching, commenting, sharing, etc.


The intersection of streaming, creators, influencers and blockchain is obviously going to be huge.

Is the YouTube of the blockchain coming?

PewDiePie on YouTube is the platform’s ninth biggest earner, taking $15.5 million in 2018. The fact that he would choose to pivot to a new decentralized platform bodes well for the intersection of content and blockchain. PewDiePie has always been a fierce advocate for the value that creators bring with their hard work, time, and effort, and he believes in DLive’s vision. Our livestreaming platform has the potential to forever change how creators are represented in this industry, and we’re proud to have PewDiePie help us lead this charge. — Lino Network’s co-founder

Lino raised $20 million in February 2018 to build a “YouTube on the blockchain” in a private token sale led by ZhenFund.

The announcement also comes at a time when PewDiePie’s reign as the proverbial King of YouTube may be coming to an end, with Indian record label and film production company T-Series currently battling for the top spot, so he might be ready to try something different.

GenZ is really into YouTube, Twitch and the like, with dozens of new competing platforms that with better incentives could take marketshare away from them eventually highlighting new values of young people who are more crypto friendly and more willing to trust new platforms.

A few years ago this would have been hard to imagine happening. How could a YouTube star give up being in the spotlight to support a blockchain rewards system?

For blockchain adoption in content & marketing this could be a game-changer.

“Personally, I think it’s really cool to have a creator based website actually putting creators first. I’m really excited about DLive and I’m excited to finally be live streaming again,” said PewDiePie.

Unlike other platforms, DLive does not take a cut of fees if a watcher donates to a streamer or subscribes to a stream. YouTube and Twitch can take up to 30–50 percent of the revenue generated by a content creator. Who would you rather support, a platform that puts creators first or platforms that monetize their top influencers?

At the end of the day young people have more decentralized value systems and this could change how blockchain is adopted for mainstream consumption such as video, streaming and micro video content as blockchain architecture platforms begin to mature.

Trade organization ICC eyes blockchain adoption for its 45 million members

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

The world’s biggest business organization is making blockchain technology available to its 45 million members, including Amazon, Coca Cola, Fedex, McDonald’s and PayPal.

The 100-year-old International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has partnered with Singapore-based blockchain startup Perlin to improve supply chain processes at member firms, making them more traceable and transparent. The ICC will help members spread across 130 countries to connect to Perlin’s blockchain platform and benefit from the application of the nascent technology.

Perlin, now an official ICC technology partner, will offer free access to its blockchain platform during the early stages of the project, and will focus on “practical, efficient and scalable blockchain traceability and transparency systems for value chains,” as per the announcement.

John Denton, secretary general of the ICC, said: “In collaboration with Perlin, which leads the field in blockchain and distributed ledger development, we can help facilitate practical and truly disruptive transformation for businesses across every conceivable industry sector.”

Perlin is already working on blockchain pilots with major firms, including one with sustainable materials producer Asia Pacific Rayon (APR). The pilot, called “Follow Our Fibre,” aims to provide transparency to APR customers across the supply chain by allowing them to monitor key stages of production from planting to delivery.

The pilot will provide “permanent data on a secure blockchain database” to help ensure that APR is in compliance with relevant regulatory and industry-based standards and certifications, the firm said.

The Paris-based organization and Perlin are also working on other projects, including the ICC’s Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) initiative – created to raise awareness of the “economic and social harm” of counterfeiting and piracy.

Coinbase launches crypto Visa debit card for UK and EU customers

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

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has launched a Visa debit card allowing customers in the U.K. and EU to spend their cryptocurrencies directly from their Coinbase accounts.

The San Francisco-based firm announced the news in a blog post, saying that with the “Coinbase Card,” customers will be able to spend their bitcoin (BTC), ether (ETH), litecoin (LTC) and other cryptocurrencies “as effortlessly as the money in their bank.” The exchange said it will “instantly” convert cryptocurrency to fiat currency, such as the British pound (GBP), when customers complete a transaction using the debit card.

The card supports all crypto assets available to buy and sell on the Coinbase platform, and customers can use them to pay for everyday purchases, such as a meal or booking tickets, according to the announcement.

With previously available products of this type, customers had to pre-load a specified amount of cryptocurrency onto the card in order to spend, Coinbase said.

The exchange has also launched an app for the card on both Android and iOS platforms, enabling customers to select which cryptocurrency wallet they will use to fund their spending. The app also offers “instant” receipts, transaction summaries and spending categories.

For the first 1,000 customers, Coinbase said it will waive the card issuance fee of £4.95 ($6.48).

PaySafe, a U.K. payment processor, is the issuer of the cards.

In a similar development last month, banking startup 2gether said it was launching a prepaid Visa debit card that allows users to spend cryptocurrencies. With the 2gether card, customers will be able to pay with either euros or any of the following seven cryptocurrencies: BTC, ETH, XRP, bitcoin cash (BCH), EOS, Stellar (XLM) and litecoin (LTC).

The SEC wants to hire a ‘crypto securities’ advisor

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

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is seeking to hire yet another “crypto specialist.” According to a job posting on USAJobs, an official government jobs portal, the SEC’s Division of Trading and Markets plans to hire the new legal expert in order to help develop a “comprehensive plan” to address crypto and digital asset securities.

One of the key responsibilities of the new hire would be to apply their “knowledge of federal securities laws to digital asset securities and crypto matters, i.e., broker-dealer, exchange, clearing agency and transfer registrations, exchange product applications, sales and trading practices, etc.”

The successful candidate would also serve as the division’s lead representative in the SEC’s FinTech Working Group and as a liaison with the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s (FSOC’s) Digital Assets Working Group. They will also serve as the division’s point of contact for U.S. and international regulators, market participants and the public, according to the ad.

Regarding basic requirements for the role, the applicants must possess a Juris Doctor (J.D.) or Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree, and must also have an active membership of Federal Bar Association and be in “good standing.”

They must also have 4 years of post J.D. work experience as a practicing attorney, with focus on interpreting and applying laws governing the securities industry, in particular, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, among other regulatory areas.

The role may be offered initially for a two-year trial period and offers a salary in the range of $144,850–$238,787 a year.  The closing date for applications is April 12.

The job posting appears a notable one, marking a likely further step by the SEC toward clearing regulatory gray areas for the cryptocurrency industry in the U.S. Last June, the agency appointed its first-ever crypto czar, Valerie Szczepanik, as associate director of the Division of Corporation Finance and senior advisor for digital assets and innovation. Szczepanik is charged with coordinating “efforts across all SEC Divisions and Offices regarding the application of U.S. securities laws to emerging digital asset technologies and innovations, including initial coin offerings and cryptocurrencies.”

Pakistan introducing regulations, licensing scheme for crypto firms

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

Pakistan is putting in place regulations for the cryptocurrency industry. The Express Tribune, citing finance ministry sources, reported that the nation’s federal government has decided to bring in Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) regulations following recommendations from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

According to the new framework from the country’s central bank, the State Bank of Pakistan, EMIs must meet certain requirements to be licensed by the country’s government, with firms that do not follow rules facing suspension or cancellation of licenses.

Companies would have to meet capital requirements, undergo scrutiny of executives, take measure to protect users’ funds and carry out customer due diligence, including storing personal details such as name, ID card number, address and telephone number.

Pakistan is introducing the rules to encourage payments innovation and “promote financial inclusion” in the nation, the State Bank said in a statement.

A ceremony will be held at the Islamabad office of the State Bank of Pakistan Monday, to welcome in the new rules, The Express Tribune says.

FATF, a global money-laundering watchdog, has warned that cryptocurrency poses a risk for money laundering and terrorist financing several times in the past. The watchdog is also expected to publish rules for international cryptocurrency regulation by June.

The task force said last October that global jurisdictions will have to bring into force licensing schemes for crypto exchanges. Digital wallet providers and companies offering financial services for initial coin offerings (ICOs) will also be included under the new rules.

“There is an urgent need for all countries to take coordinated action to prevent the use of virtual assets for crime and terrorism,” FATF said at the time. In February, FATF reportedly said that Pakistan has made only “limited progress” on curbing money laundering and terrorism financing, adding that it would continue to work with the country to fight such illegal activities.

Pakistan Central Bank eyes digital currency launch by 2025

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

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the country’s central bank, is considering the launch of a digital currency by 2025. According to a report from news source Dawn, SBP deputy governor Jameel Ahmad said that the central bank is currently working on the digital currency concept in order to “promote financial inclusion and reduce inefficiency and corruption.”

The central bank is also reportedly planning to make its services “fully digitized and technology equipped” by the year 2030.

In light of the proposed digitization efforts, Pakistan’s finance minister Asad Umar asked the central bank and the country’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to ensure cybersecurity in the banking system, the report adds, as a failure here could cause damage to confidence in the system and the economy.

The SBP also published new regulations for Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs), a classification that covers cryptocurrency firms. As per the new rules, EMIs must meet certain requirements to be licensed by the country’s government, with firms flouting the rules to face suspension or cancellation of licenses.

The officials made their comments at a ceremony to mark the launch of the new regulations on Monday. With the regulations in place, the central bank said in a statement that it expects upcoming EMIs to offer “convenient, cost effective, interoperable and secure digital payment products and services to end users.”

The finance minister said: “It is our government’s policy to encourage the use of e-commerce amongst [the] public through awareness campaigns to promote a culture of e-commerce, which supports electronic business transactions at national, regional and international levels.”

5-star Swiss hotel set to accept bitcoin payments

The Dolder Grand, a five-star hotel based in Switzerland, will begin accepting bitcoin payments starting May 1.

Once the new payment method goes live, guests can pay for accommodation, food and beverages or spa treatments using bitcoin. Inacta AG’s mobile app Inapay will then convert bitcoin payments into Swiss franc or euro “as soon as the payment has been completed,” according to the statement, meaning that the hotel itself won’t handle cryptocurrency.

The Dolder Grand’s director of finance André Meier said: “Many of the improvements in our service in recent years were made possible by advances in technology. As we believe bitcoin is here to stay, it only seems natural to offer more choices in the payment process.”

The bitcoin payment option was featured earlier as part of a pilot project with Inacta AG.

Hotels across the world have been accepting cryptocurrency payments since as early as 2014. U.S.-based travel agency CheapAir started service to allow bitcoin users to book hotel stays with the cryptocurrency back in February 2014. In July of that year, Canada-based Sandman Hotel Group started accepting bitcoin as a form of payment for room reservations. More recently, Spain-based Casual Hoteles started accepting bitcoin payments on a pilot basis in February 2019.

Gartner report reveals top 10 strategic technologies impacting HE

(Article published with same title on EdTechnology)

Research firm Gartner Inc. has released new research that highlights the top 10 strategic technologies that should be on the radars of higher education CIOs this year. Including technologies such as artificial intelligence and career software, the list presents a varied list of tech in which HEIs should be investing in 2019.

Glenda Morgan, senior research director at Gartner, said: “Institutions looking to thrive in the expanding education ecosystem must leverage technology early on that enables them to become more innovative.”The top 10 strategic technologies impacting higher education in 2019 are:

Next-gen security and risk management

Factors such as global regulatory compliance and the growing Internet of Things (IoT) landscape are forcing HEIs to address security and risk with a more multidimensional strategy.Morgan said: “The average modern-day student expects seamless personalised experiences, so the typical security objectives of confidentiality, integrity and availability must expand to include privacy, safety and reliability as institutions become more digital.”

Artificial intelligence conversational interfaces

AI conversational interfaces are a subset of conversational user interfaces, in which both user and machine interactions occur. These interfaces include growing educational resources such as chatbots.According to the 2019 CIO Agenda Survey, the percentage of HEIs that have, or plan to, deploy AI conversational interfaces has grown from 18% to 38% in the last year.

Smart campus

The smart campus is a model that sees the interaction between humans and technology-enabled systems in order to create a more immersive and automated experience for students and staff.A growing number of HEIs are moving towards smart campus improvements, and Morgan commented that the move is a “win all-around, except for the data security implications that come with most technology initiatives today.”

Predictive analytics

Predictive analytics use machine learning techniques to analyse data to recognise patterns and assess likely outcomes. This kind of analytics is used in everything from calculating student demand for a certain course, to identifying students’ risks of failing or dropping out.Predictive analytics is one component of the approach we call ‘big data’.

Nudge tech

This is a collection of technologies, including cloud, mobile, social, and data, that work together to achieve personalised interaction with students and staff, such as text reminders for classes.Morgan said: “The idea behind ‘nudging’ is for institutions to use data to impact behaviours, like establishing good studying habits or making time for fitness between classes.“Nudge tech is a concrete example of how to achieve personalisation at scale, which is becoming a key competitive advantage in an increasingly global and digital education ecosystem.

Digital credentialing technologies

Digital credentials such as degree certificates are a growing trend in HE in response to the increasing ease of faking paper documents. Tech such as blockchain has played a major role in this evolution, as well as the growing role of professional networking sites such as LinkedIn in job searching.Digital credentials allow students and employers to exchange verified proof of education quickly and seamlessly, and improving data encryption means that they can be trusted by recipients.

Hybrid integration platforms

HEIs are increasingly adopting cloud-based solutions, whilst still working with on-premises systems. A hybrid integration platform is rapidly becoming the reference framework for next-gen integration software, in order to help HEIs streamline processes across their cloud and physical solutions.

Career software

Students are increasingly demanding concrete employability outcomes from their university experience, and as such the importance of career software has peaked across the globe.

Student cross-life cycle CRM

A student cross-life cycle CRM allows for a single view of a student, throughout their educational phases. Beginning with pre-higher education, the campus-wide, 360-degree view of the student allows a broader view of how the student is moving through education.

Wireless presentation technologies

Presentations are often a large component of university courses, and wireless presentation tech allows users to project material from a computer or mobile device onto a screen using a wireless network. This removes the need for wired connections and adapters, and supports the growing BYOD phenomenon.

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