LATEST CRYPTOCURRENCY AND BLOCKCHAIN NEWS JUL 16TH 2019
VITALIK SUGGESTS BITCOIN CASH INTEGRATION TO SCALE ETH IN SHORT TERM
Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has proposed to using the Bitcoin Cash blockchain as a temporary scalability solution for the Ethereum network. The programmer brought forth a summary of the idea in a recent Ethereum Research Post. The main issue is Ethereum can only process 15 transactions per second, as opposed to Ripple which is estimated to have a capacity of about 1,500 per second. Because of this, the Ethereum community has been working on Ethereum 2.0, which would be a vast network upgrade, which is expected to improve its scalability once ETH shifts from proof-of-work to the proof-of-stake algorithm.
A proposed bill to fine major tech firms such as Facebook $1 million per day if they issue cryptocurrencies is being circulated, congressional Democrats. a copy of this draft legislation is said to propose to a $1 million fine daily upon any firm that violates its proposed rules. It seems as though the bill is being put forward for discussion by the Democratic majority leading the United States House Financial Services Committee.
The Cryptocurrency payments startup Pundi X, has recently announced that it has integrated its crypto payments system into a device made by American point-of-sale systems producer VeriFone. The startup has integrated its XPOS crypto payments module on the X990 Android-based POS terminal by VeriFone, which is said to be one of the world’s major producers of such devices. This plan aims to allow a wider network of retailers to accept payments in cryptocurrencies. As per a recent press release, VeriFone has over 35 million devices in more than 150 countries.
Stablecoin operator Tether accidentally minted and then burned 5 billion USDT tokens. Whale Alert — a Twitter account dedicated to reporting large cryptocurrency transactions — noted that 50 million USDT tokens were transferred from cryptocurrency exchange Poloniex to the Tether Treasury via the Omni protocol on the Bitcoin blockchain.
Doctor Ron Paul, The former use congressman who ran for president in 2008 and 2012 was recently on CNBC’s Squawk Box, where he called cryptocurrencies a “great idea.” Paul, a long-time supporter of gold and precious metals, eventually came around to the idea of Bitcoin. He also said that because he “likes competing currencies,” he’s all for cryptocurrencies and in favor of whatever Facebook is cooking up.
Smart Vending Machine Maker Popcom Crowdfunds Over 1 Million Dollars
Smart vending start-up Popcom raised millions to bring more of their vending machines as the demand for more contact-less retail solutions rises. Popcom, led by Dawn Dickson and one of the few Black women-owned blockchain companies, crowdfunded $1.3 million in its latest funding round, according to Black Enterprise. So far, the company has raised a total of $2.3 million with the majority of investments done through Regulated CF security token offerings. The company aims to grow its operations, build its team and add more of its vending machines. Popcom provides touchless vending machines that track transactions to create live sales and product reports. Their machines are distributed to retail sectors that are regulated like the pharmaceutical, alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis sectors.
Expedia Working With Crypto Service Travala.com For Crypto Bookings
Expedia now allows its over 700,000 accommodations to be booked with cryptocurrency through crypto travel platform Travala.com. According to an announcement by Travala.com on July 6, the firm added over 700,000 accommodations to its crypto-powered travel platform’s already over 2 million options available in 230 countries. Senior Vice President at Expedia Group Alfonso Paredes said that the company aims to scale up Travala.com’s business faster than it did expand so far. Furthermore, he said that the firm also recognizes innovation and the importance of allowing users to choose their preferred payment method.
This is the result of a collaboration with a subsidiary of travel giant Expedia, dubbed Expedia Partner Solutions (EPS). EPS allowed Travala.com to access its Rapid application programming interface, which allows the firm to offer Expedia’s accommodations to its users.
In November 2019, Travala.com struck a similar deal with Booking.com and added its over 90,000 accommodations to its platform. Data shared by the firm in January revealed that the firm saw its revenue increase by 33% after the partnership. Furthermore, crypto accommodation booking Travala.com also merged with cryptocurrency flight booking service TravelByBit in late May. This merger is meant to scale up the platform to give a more thorough service to travelers wishing to spend crypto-assets.
UNICEF Crypto Fund Looking To Invest $100K In Humanitarian Blockchain Projects
Over the past four years, the United Nations International Children’s Fund has been investing in startups applying open-source technology, hoping to make the world a better place, but is looking to step up its game even further now. Cecilia Chapiro, an investment advisor at UNICEF Ventures, said that UNICEF had launched its innovation fund in 2016 with the goal to support emerging technologies being built in developing countries. Since then, UNICEF has invested in over 50 startups across 35 countries. “We invest in technologies that have the potential to influence billions of people, especially children in emerging countries,” Chapiro said.
According to Chapiro, UNICEF identified blockchain as one of the technologies that could make a global impact. As such, UNICEF invested $100,000 of equity-free funding through its innovation fund a year and a half ago into six startups, three of which were focused on blockchain. To further understand blockchain technology’s impact, UNICEF launched a cryptocurrency fund supported by the Ethereum Foundation in October 2019. Chapiro explained that the crypto fund is based on the same framework as the innovation fund; the only difference is that investments are made in cryptocurrency. She said:
“UNICEF’s innovation fund allows companies to partake in a one-year portfolio experience. We provide non-financial benefits that go along with the investment. We look for companies with a prototype that can be reviewed and strengthened to benefit a large number of users. We support the companies in a number of ways, helping prepare them to speak with additional investors after the one-year program ends.”
On June 20, UNICEF’s crypto fund made its largest crypto investment to date, worth 125 ETH — around $28,600 at the time — in eight open-source technology companies. Immediately following this funding round, UNICEF announced that it will invest another $100,000 worth of both United States dollars and crypto in blockchain startups that leverage open-source technology to combat global challenges, especially those related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chapiro, who helped launch UNICEF’s crypto venture, explained that the fund has enabled the organization to seriously invest in blockchain startups.
She said: “After investing in three blockchain companies over a year ago and then a few more just two weeks ago, UNICEF’s crypto fund has reached a new level of growth to accommodate the funding of about five to eight more open-source blockchain projects.” According to Chapiro, UNICEF is looking to support early-stage startups with a blockchain prototype that can be transformed and eventually deployed in countries that need the technology the most. For example, during the last funding round, UNICEF invested in blockchain startup StaTwig, a company based in India that uses a blockchain to track the supply-chain of rice being delivered from the Indian government to low income areas. Sid Chakravarthy, the founder and CEO of StaTwig, said that India uses a Public Distribution System to deliver essential goods to individuals living under the poverty line. Chakravarthy explained that each state in India operates its own PDS, noting that COVID-19 has created an even higher demand for PDS products. He said:
“In Telangana State, where we are currently working, there are 28.3 million beneficiaries. These beneficiaries receive a lot of subsidized essentials, such as rice, dal, kerosene, and sugar through this program. Rice is the most important product. It is procured from state farmers and traders, processed in rice mills, then transported to and stored at various warehouses and finally distributed to beneficiaries through fair price shops.”
While India’s PDS may seem effective in theory, there are a number of problems that need to be addressed. For instance, Chakravarthy noted that there is a lack of visibility into the inventory in India’s supply chains. A more transparent system could ensure that there are enough rice bags in each warehouse to meet the supply and demand of each state. In addition, transparency could provide higher quality products that are not exposed to harsh environmental conditions.
StaTwig has been leveraging blockchain to create a digital identity for every single product. “With rice, every bag gets a unique digital ID,” said Chakravarthy. Products are then tracked from the farmers, all the way to the beneficiaries. Data is recorded, showing each location where the bags have been, the chain of custody and the quality of the product. UNICEF has also previously invested in Mexico-based startup OS City, which has been issuing blockchain-based government assets and running a pilot to deploy 1,000 blockchain IDs to allocate educational assets for children, such as diplomas. Jesús Cepeda, the founder of OS City, said that the pilot is the first step toward enforcing blockchain citizen IDs, which will allow government assets to become fully digital, secure and transparent:
“We are solving the problem associated with the tampering of government records. We use blockchain as a tamper-proof, transparent method to allocate information. We are putting forth the funding from UNICEF to organize government records associated with an individual into a ‘wallet-like’ blockchain asset so that we can improve public institutions’ efficiency and trust.”
It’s important to point out that UNICEF’s funding for both StaTwig and OS City was made in Ether (ETH). Christina Rose Lomazzo, the blockchain lead at UNICEF, said that most organizations that receive funding in crypto immediately convert it to fiat. However, UNICEF’s crypto fund had required the eight companies they previously invested in to keep the funds as cryptocurrency:
“This ensures that companies understand the benefits of cryptocurrency, such as the traceability aspect and speed of transactions versus those being done by traditional systems. These startups could also make use of the crypto by paying their employees with it.”
Chris Fabian, a senior advisor and co-lead of UNICEF Ventures, further stated in a press release that transferring the cryptocurrency funds to eight companies based in seven countries took less than 20 minutes. Additionally, UNICEF has been working on building a series of tools for its crypto fund that would allow the organizations to work more efficiently with cryptocurrencies. Lomazzo shared that the first tool being built is the crypto fund website, which is really just a simplified version of a block explorer. This would allow the general public to track funds while serving as an internal valuation tool. Interestingly, the new round of funding will be dispersed in the form of both crypto and fiat, a first for UNICEF’s crypto fund. Lomazzo explained that the reason for this change is due to the fact that cryptocurrency is still not universally legal. UNICEF’s primary focus is to invest in startups based in developing countries, like India, which still has restrictions when it comes to cryptocurrency adoption. Moreover, Lomazzo mentioned that UNICEF’s donors have provided funds in both crypto and fiat, allowing the organization to make use of both currencies.
Moreover, while UNICEF’s crypto fund will invest up to $100,000 worth of USD and crypto in blockchain startups, another important element is that each company must leverage open-source technology. Brain Behlendorf, the executive director of the Hyperledger Foundation, said that open-source licensing is essential for transforming software from a tool of control into a tool that could eventually benefit humanity:
“Traditional software approaches create a dependency by the user upon the tech provider, but open-source licensed software confers the freedom to use, modify and share for any purpose, not just those allowed or even envisioned by their original creators. For blockchain applications, this is a natural requirement for decentralization and trust that the system is doing what it should. This may be why the only meaningful blockchain frameworks are all open-source licensed.”
Chapiro further noted that since the fund doesn’t measure return on investment from financial gains, open-source technology is crucial to understand how useful the technology is in a variety of settings.
Although UNICEF’s crypto fund aims to invest in a new batch of startups that could potentially change the world, this may be easier said than done. The biggest challenge, according to Chapiro, is finding blockchain companies based in emerging countries, which is a key requirement for the fund. Many blockchain projects are being developed in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Additionally, Chapiro mentioned that UNICEF has been looking to invest in companies founded by women or minorities.
Although this hasn’t been easy, Chapiro explained that 40% of the investments in UNICEF’s innovation fund have been made in women-led companies. She hopes this number will reach 50% by the end of 2020. Surprisingly, COVID-19 hasn’t created many issues for UNICEF in terms of finding startups to invest in, as most of the processes have always been virtual. According to Chapiro, the only in-person experience is a week-long workshop in New York, which companies can join once they receive funding. Following COVID-19 spikes, this workshop has been made virtual. However, while COVID19 didn’t have much of an impact on the workings of UNICEF’s crypto fund, Chapiro explained that many of the startups have been affected:
“Many of the other funding programs these startups were a part of were discontinued or limited following COVID-19. This is why we are doing much quicker funding rounds now. We ended up investing in eight companies a few weeks ago, some of which we had previously funded. Now, there is an increasing demand for their services because many of them are solving COVID-19 related challenges.”
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