Imagine sitting down at your favorite restaurant and ordering a fresh filet of salmon, only to later discover that the “salmon” dish wasn’t actually salmon. As horrifying as it may sound, this scenario is actually quite common. A recent study from the conservation group Oceana found that 20% of fish samples sold to consumers in the United States were mislabeled.
The study further revealed that seafood is frequently misrepresented at restaurants and smaller markets, versus fish products purchased from grocery stores. While seafood fraud has become a global problem, Norway in particular is struggling with fish products being illegally placed on the market for financial gain. Steinar Sønsteby, CEO of Atea ASA — an IT infrastructure provider for the Nordic and Baltic region — said that the Norwegian seafood industry exports more than $800 million worth of fish per year. He further noted that the country exported more than 2.7 million tons of seafood in 2019, which is the equivalent of 25,000 meals per minute. While impressive, it’s become challenging to ensure that Nordic fish farms are being sustainable and transparent. Sønsteby said:
“It’s been said that up to 40 percent of fish in the world doesn’t come from where it’s labeled. The Norway fish farming industry in particular has been accused multiple times of seafood fraud, along with not being sustainable. It’s been mentioned that Norwegian fish farmers pollute the sea with the food they use to catch fish. They’ve also been accused of using antibiotics in the fish they catch.”
To combat the challenges faced by Norway’s billion-dollar seafood sector, Sønsteby explained that proof is required to demonstrate what actually takes place in the region’s oceans and seas. A more transparent and regulated supply chain, for instance, would ensure that all parties involved in Norway’s seafood industry are acting accordingly. As one of the possible ways to provide transparency, Atea announced an industry-wide collaboration with tech giant IBM and the Norwegian Seafood Association, Sjømatbedriftene, to use blockchain as a source for sharing supply chain data. The goal is to ensure that safer, better seafood is sold to consumers worldwide. “This is an incredible opportunity to improve the quality of the products Norway shares with the world,” Sønsteby mentioned.
Director of IBM Food Trust Europe, Espen Braathe, said that the blockchain network runs on IBM Blockchain Transparent Supply, which is the same offering leveraged by IBM’s Food Trust network:
“Some of the differences though is this allows for certain customization, giving Norway’s seafood industry their own governance model in regards to data sharing and who gets to see what information. IBM Blockchain Transparent Supply allows networks to manage their own membership, securely share documents, and create a permanent record of the history of physical and digital assets.”
Since this blockchain network was built specifically for the seafood sector, many Norwegian seafood companies have already begun expressing interest in joining. Braathe noted that Kvarøy Arctic — a leading provider of naturally sea-farmed salmon that will soon deliver products to retailers in the U.S. and Canada — is currently in the process of putting data on the network. Kvarøy Arctic also joined IBM’s Food Trust Network on June 5, as the company has reported a major increase in the demand for fresh seafood in the U.S. in recent months. Kvarøy Arctic CEO Alf-Gøran Knutsen mentioned that it’s important for customers to know that the seafood they are consuming is not only safe but also produced in a sustainable and healthy manner. He explained that blockchain can ensure this:
“Blockchain lets us share the fish’s journey from the ocean to the dinner table. This is now more timely than ever, as consumers want more information about where the food they eat comes from.”
BioMar, a leading provider of high-grade fish feed, has also joined the newly formed network, allowing Nordic seafood companies to provide insight into the quality of feed the fish consume. According to Sønsteby, Atea is currently in discussion with 200 companies in Norway in regards to joining the network, noting that six contracts have already been signed. While the first contract is currently in pilot mode, he hopes that it will be in production by the end of September 2020.
While blockchain plays an important role in establishing the truth about supply chain events, data collected from the Internet of Things devices is also a major piece in this puzzle. According to Sønsteby, while IBM provides the underlying blockchain infrastructure, Atea can equip fish farms with all the IoT devices needed to collect data for the blockchain network. He explained that a solution such as this relies entirely on data that is collected, secured, and then made trustworthy by being placed on a transparent, yet private and permissioned blockchain like the one leveraged by IBM. Once data has been properly collected and placed on the blockchain, seafood products can be traced all the way back to the vessel from where they were caught, right up until the consumers are purchasing those products. “A mobile app is underway for consumers to see where exactly their fish come from,” Sønsteby said, adding that the app should help consumers discover where their food products come from: “I think there will be a push/pull effect. If consumers are asking for this, retailers will need to provide it.”
While blockchain can provide transparency into vulnerable supply chains, there is a cost associated with it. Sønsteby pointed out that consumers will have to pay higher prices for seafood products that can be traced back to their sources. For instance, the Norwegian Seafood Association thinks that Norway’s seafood industry can increase fish prices by up to 5% in the short term. Although these seafood products will be more expensive, a recent IBM study found that 71% of consumers consider traceability important and are willing to pay higher prices for it. Braathe from IBM further noted that high-priced goods will likely result in less food waste and illness:
“This new blockchain-based network will allow customers in-store to know the fjord where the fish is from, when it was fished, the feed it has eaten and whether the facility uses sustainable methods. What we are doing is combining blockchain with IoT for freshness, which brings huge potential in reducing food waste with technology.”
However, while consumers willing to pay a bit more will gain assurance that their salmon is genuine, it may be challenging for fish farmers to implement the technology, both from a cost and cultural perspective. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recently published a report titled, “Blockchain Application in Seafood Value Chains,” which reveals the high prices associated with blockchain. The report noted that while it’s easier to subscribe to an existing blockchain service versus building one from scratch, prices for the SAP cloud platform blockchain service range from $280 to $3,000 per month. The report further notes that the IBM blockchain platform pricing starts at $1,500 per month. “The biggest challenge we are currently facing is that many Nordic fish farmers are not tech savvy or aware of blockchain,” explained Sønsteby. In order to ease this tension, Sønsteby mentioned that Atea isn’t charging the fish farms for the solution up front, but is rather taking a “paid for consumption” approach.
What Does What Happened To Wirecard Mean For Blockchain
Some of the most impactful frauds in modern history, from the Enron scandal to the Bernie Madoff investment scheme, were carried out by malignant actors inside or at the helm of corporate entities who manipulated the tangled, esoteric financial records. This is precisely the kind of behavior blockchain technology is designed to obliterate. The rapid demise of the German financial technology company Wirecard, which established itself in the blockchain community as a major crypto debit card issuer, seemingly belongs to the same category of events. In the long term, it might contribute to the growing public demand for increased transparency of corporate financial records and money flows.
The power to issue cryptocurrency debit cards connected to the Visa and Mastercard systems is an enviable one. Businesses that find themselves in this position serve as a gateway between the realm of digital cash and the world where it can be exchanged for goods and services as handily as fiat money. This middleman job is also quite lucrative, as companies that absorb both the volatility risks and trouble of compliance are entitled to hefty fees on every step of the process.
The regulatory burden, however, is so onerous that there is usually no more than one major principal provider issuing the bulk of Visa and Mastercard cryptocurrency cards at a time. A company called WaveCrest was once backing a handful of the most popular products in this space — such as Cryptopay, Bitwala and TenX — until it fell out of grace with Gibraltar regulators and was shown the door by Visa in early 2018. A German payments group, Wirecard, then stepped in to fill the void, eventually onboarding crypto card providers Crypto.com and Wirex, as well as WaveCrest’s orphans, TenX and Cryptopay. A rare European fintech success story, Wirecard rose to prominence as a global payments processor and triumphantly entered DAX, Germany’s premier stock market index. Wirecard was big in the fintech field long before the term came to be associated with the convergence of finance and blockchain technology. Seamus Donoghue, the vice president of sales and business development at Metaco — a provider of digital asset technology solutions — observed:
“Wirecard AG began processing payments for gambling and pornographic websites 20 years ago and has grown to become a bluechip DAX listed German tech darling. With a peak market capitalization of 25 billion dollars, it counts Olympus, Getty Images, Orange and KLM among its customers. As a payment service provider, merchants use it to accept payment through credit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay and others.”
Operating on a truly sizable scale within the traditional financial system, Wirecard “does not appear to have branched out to service crypto firms in any meaningful way,” said Jeff Truitt, the chief legal officer of Securrency — a firm providing technology infrastructure to the regulatory technology and financial technology industries. Truitt also noted that few of the mainstream press articles covering Wirecard’s meltdown mentioned its affiliation with crypto at all.
Foreshadowing Wirecard’s present collapse was a chain of incidents where the group’s various units were suspected of fishy accounting practices. The Financial Times even ran a specialized series, “House of Wirecard,” looking into various instances where the company’s financial reporting raised questions. Last year, Wirecard emerged largely unscathed from a scandal that uncovered a pattern of systematic book-padding across the firm’s Asian operations. The latest round of controversy began to unfold on June 18, when Ernst & Young auditors reported that they were unable to locate more than $2 billion that was supposed to be sitting in Wirecard’s Philippines-based accounts.
A few days later, the payment processor’s board admitted that the funds likely did not exist. From there, things escalated quickly with CEO Markus Braun’s arrest on June 23 and Wirecard’s insolvency filing on June 25, followed by the United Kingdom’s financial regulator suspending the firm’s subsidiary that issues Visa crypto debit cards. Fortunately for cardholders, the ban proved to be short-lived, as it was lifted after just three days. Against the backdrop of law enforcement officers searching its Munich headquarters, Wirecard is now going into administration. As the Financial Times reported, potential buyers are already lining up for its various units. Expectedly, in a matter of a few days, the value of the company’s stock all but evaporated. Despite EY claiming that its “robust and extended audit procedures” could do little to detect the complex fraud scheme, disgruntled investors are taking legal action against the auditor for failing to report the abuse soon enough.
How Blockchain Can Fix Freelancing?
A new startup wants to change the way freelance talent and respective clients find each other through a community-run platform. To accomplish this, the project will feature its own governance token. The core premise of the platform, known as Braintrust, is to remove middlemen from the process of hiring highly skilled talent for contract and freelance work — primarily in the IT industry. But unlike the many iterations of this concept born in the initial coin offering era, Braintrust will not force users into a proprietary token for payments. Instead, it borrows some concepts from DeFi governance, and especially Compound, to create a community-run platform.
Jackson believes that existing freelancer aggregation platforms, like Upwork and Fiverr, suffer from fundamentally misaligned incentives between the owners of the platform and its users:
“Their job is to connect buyer and seller, company and talent, and then facilitate the transaction. And then take as large a fee as possible as a percentage of that transaction.”
The fees incurred by freelancers are usually about 20% of the total billed amount. This is the norm for any “two-sided market” born on the internet, with eBay pioneering that model. Normally, these firms can get away with large fees due to the value they add by creating a trusted environment and providing escrow services. But that aspect can be recreated by a peer-to-peer vetting system, Jackson explained. Users will be incentivized to validate new clients and freelancers as additions to the community.
The system is not a decentralized autonomous organization though, and a non-profit foundation will take care of some aspects of the system, like accepting money. “But that’s just one of many companies or people or entities that are helping build this thing,” Jackson added. Braintrust is also not completely feeless, as the foundation will collect 10% of each transaction from clients. But the exact rates are subject to change by community governance.
Payments on Braintrust will be conducted through traditional fiat USD, though crypto-based payment will also be supported. The Braintrust token, or ., only has governance functionality. Its holders are able to vote on key aspects of the platform: what kind of clients and talent to accept, what features to develop, how much the platform should charge. Jackson hopes that the new model will promote a vibrant talent network that will be actively interested in improving the ecosystem.
“This new model I’m describing actually isn’t possible without a token. The token, [and] the blockchain facilitates replacing the middleman.”
Jackson revealed that Robert Leshner, the founder and CEO of Compound, is an advisor and investor in the project. Furthermore, Braintrust is reusing a fork of Compound’s governance code to power its own systems. The platform’s users will earn the token by contributing to it, for example by evaluating new candidates.
Unlike some DeFi protocols though, it appears that the platform’s revenue will not be distributed to token holders. Jackson did not wish to go into detail about the token economics, though he promised that it will be explained as Braintrust approaches launch at the end of the year. Braintrust’s concept represents an interesting use of crypto-native systems to solve real-world problems. However, it remains to be seen if it proves to be more successful than previous attempts.
Iota Is In First Phase En Route To Be A ‘Fully Decentralized Network’ by 2021
Iota, a major blockchain project designed for the Internet of Things, or IOT, has entered the first phase in its roadmap for upgrading the network to IOTA 2.0. According to a June 30 blog post, users can now download the new Pollen release in the first fully decentralized IOTA test network. The release is the first phase in Iota’s IOTA 2.0 transition roadmap, released on June 29. In the roadmap, Iota Foundation laid out three phases to reach the so-called “Coordicide”, an event that will envision the permanent removal of Iota’s Coordinator. Coordinator has been a basic part of IOTA’s network, representing an application run by the IOTA Foundation to digitally confirm valid transactions.
By releasing Pollen, the Iota project marks its first milestone leading up to Coordicide. Dominik Schiener, co-founder of Iota Foundation, outlined that the release is aimed to culminate in a coordinator-less, production-ready network. Schiener continued:
“After years of intensive research, rigorous testing, and tireless efforts by our engineers, we are proud to finally be able to invite everyone to participate in this momentous milestone for the IOTA project. Pollen marks the beginning of the world’s first truly decentralized, scalable, and fee-less Distributed Ledger, which has been IOTA’s promise since day one.”
Alongside other phases, the name of the official testnet of the IOTA 2.0 network release goes in analogy to three stages for the creation of honey: Pollen, Nectar, and Honey. As such, Pollen is set to mainly serve as a research base to validate Coordicide concepts as well as simulate certain attack vectors. According to the foundation, the Pollen phase is expected to finalize Coordicide specifications, providing the “final blueprint of IOTA 2.0.” The second phase, Nectar, is expected to provide a full implementation of Coordicide modules on an incentivized testnet.
The Nectar stage is aimed to test the network for bugs or issues before finally releasing the mainnet. Expected for release by early Q4 2020, the phase will allow network participants to generate “nectar,” or rewards for finding bugs or potential attack vectors. Honey, the final release candidate for IOTA 2.0, will incorporate all final Coordicide modules, representing the first version of IOTA 2.0, or fully decentralized IOTA mainnet. Schiener says that the foundation expects the network to enter the Honey phase in the first quarter of 2021
In February 2020, Iota introduced Chrysalis, or IOTA 1.5, an intermediate upgrade. Chrysalis added major features to the network, such as reusable addresses and IOTA-based tokens. As reported, Iota Foundation has shut down the Coordinator multiple times in order to tackle major breaches and hacks on its platform. Following criticism on lack of decentralization, Iota released the Coordicide solution in 2019 to replace the Coordinator.
Altcoin News2 days ago
Iota Is In First Phase En Route To Be A ‘Fully Decentralized Network’ by 2021
Blockchain News4 days ago
Australian Cyberattack Leads To Crypto Discussions
Blockchain News3 days ago
China Mentions Blockchain As Part Of Pandemic Preparedness Strategy
Altcoin News5 days ago
John McAfee Cryptocurrency To Be Used As Payment In Hong Kong Vending Machines
Blockchain News4 days ago
$15 Million Innovation Grant Mad To Encourage Asian Blockchain Startups
Altcoin News14 hours ago
Cardano’s ADA Could Be Listed On Coinbase In 2020
Altcoin News2 days ago
A Rupiah-Backed Stablecoin Is Launching On Binance And Tokocrypto
Altcoin News2 days ago
Cardano’s ‘Shelley’ Mainnet Is Set To Go Live Soon