Nov 24, 2017 - According to Gartner, blockchain will generate $176 billion in business value by 2025. HPE is setting out to capitalise on the rise of blockchain by releasing the first member of its HPE Mission Critical Blockchain family – a Blockchain-as-a-Service solution for enterprises.
HPE’s Mission Critical Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) aims to make it easy and simple for customers deploying blockchain solutions.
Mission Critical DLT is used to record transactions across a decentralised network of computers and has a wide range of potential applications.
HPE claims that enterprises evaluating blockchain solutions are finding that generic infrastructure and public cloud environments cannot support the requirements they need in terms of performance, security, scalability and resiliency.
Aiming to solve the problem, HPE says its Mission Critical DLT solution offers availability and fault protection for enterprise-grade applications, and scalability and SQL integration that cannot be realised with workloads running in a public cloud environment.
The Mission Critical DLT solution is a part of HPE’s overall strategy to bring enterprise-grade capability to blockchain workloads.
The solution is offered on HPE Integrity NonStop platforms, which HPE says is behind two out of every three credit card transactions in the world.
Developed in partnership with enterprise software firm R3, the solution integrates the company’s distributed ledger technology with HPE's mission-critical platform.
“Enterprises interested in blockchain are realizing that public cloud alone does not always meet their non-functional requirements”, comments Raphael Davison, HPE’s Worldwide Director for Blockchain.
“As they look to scale, they recognize that, for mission-critical processes, on-premise infrastructure must be part of the mix of traditional IT, private and public cloud that’s needed to meet the requirements of enterprise-grade blockchain workloads.”
HPE Mission Critical DLT is expected to be commercially available in early 2018. Customers also will be able to purchase access to this solution in a “DLT as a Service” environment for serious trials and production use later in the year.
Nov 24, 2017 - Artificial intelligence, machine learning and smart data are major themes at next year’s MobileTECH 2018. This is one of New Zealand’s largest agritech events and will see technology leaders from throughout the agricultural, horticultural and forestry sectors gather in Rotorua in late March. The pace of change within the primary sector is continuing to be driven by advances in new digital technologies. While New Zealand has been a world leader in traditional farming systems, it is critical for the sector to maintain and grow productivity through the smart adoption of these new innovations.
“MobileTECH 2018 will continue to be a platform for change and showcase where the industry is headed,” said Ken Wilson, MobileTECH’s programme manager.
“The 2018 programme will feature over 35 speakers covering disruptive topics like the integration of machine learning in health and safety systems, blockchain for secure agricultural transactions and key learnings from the successful rollout of the Internet of Things (IoT) to farms throughout New Zealand.”
Thundermaps uses machine learning algorithms and big data to redefine health and safety in rural locations. OSPRI now use Thundermaps to protect their contractors working on farms. The system tracks millions of data points to ensure, via a mobile app, that the contractor receives relevant real-time hazard warnings no matter how remote the location. Both companies will be presenting at MobileTECH.
Blockchain is set to become the future for payment and supply-chain systems. Australian-based company, AgriDigital, will be on-hand to discuss what this means for the primary industry. AgriDigital delivered the world’s first live settlement of a physical commodity using blockchain technology. The pilot project saw the sale and successful delivery of 23 metric tonnes of wheat to a beef farm in NSW using the blockchain system.
The Internet of Things has moved from being an exciting upcoming technology to one that is delivering real benefits to early adopters throughout the industry. A number of speakers, including network provider Spark Ventures, agritech company ReGen and King Country farmer Lachlan Chapman, will focus on the real-world application of IoTs.
“The MobileTECH 2018 programme will open with the big technology trends and discuss how we can improve investment and collaboration within the agritech community,” said Mr Wilson. “Day two gets hands-on, highlighting practical case studies on the adoption and use of these innovations by primary sector businesses up and down the country.”
MobileTECH 2018 will be running on 27-28 March 2018 in Rotorua, New Zealand. Further details can be found on the event website, www.mobiletech.events..
Nov 23, 2017 - Air New Zealand is exploring the use of blockchain-based systems within its business, reinforcing its global reputation for innovation and embracing new and emerging technology. Blockchain is being used globally to build encrypted, shared platforms, providing a secure and efficient way to track the exchange of goods or information. Air New Zealand is looking at a number of potential use cases for the distributed ledger technology including cargo and baggage tracking, retail, distribution and loyalty programme opportunities. Air New Zealand Chief Digital Officer Avi Golan says applications of blockchain are developing rapidly, and the airline is excited by the possibilities. “With its built-in efficiency and security, blockchain has the potential to trigger huge innovation in travel, paving the way for new business models and collaboration.” Air New Zealand is partnering with Swiss travel platform Winding Tree, which is developing the world’s first travel marketplace on blockchain to connect suppliers such as airlines and hotels directly to sellers. “While we are still exploring its benefits, blockchain may offer a streamlined way to retail airfares and ancillary products alongside our current channels. In removing complexity from the sales chain, customers benefit from reduced transactional costs, and airlines benefit from swift and secure sharing of information,” says Mr Golan. Winding Tree Founder and Chief Executive Officer Maksim Izmaylov says Winding Tree is a decentralised alternative to the current travel distribution landscape. “With a business-to-business marketplace system powering blockchain-based travel booking transactions, startups and companies will be able to gain direct access to travel service providers’ offerings.
“We are very excited to be partnering with Air New Zealand, as it’s an important step in bringing blockchain technology to the travel industry and creating opportunity for innovation,” says Mr Izmaylov.
Air New Zealand has worked with a range of leading technology partners to introduce innovations to enhance the customer experience. These include its artificial intelligence backed chatbot Oscar, who helps customers with queries online and through the Air New Zealand mobile app, and its experiment with the social robot Chip, who assisted customers with check in at Sydney Airport earlier this year. German carrier Lufthansa has also recently announced a partnership with Winding Tree.
| An Air New Zealand release || November 23, 2017 |||
Nov 21, 2017 _ On October 20, 2017, Mastercard announced that developers would be able to access its blockchain technology platform via its Mastercard blockchain API published on Mastercard Developers writes Giulio Prisco on nasdaq.com.
The new service was launched during the Money20/20 Hackathon in Las Vegas after testing and validation had been completed. According to the company, Mastercard's blockchain solution "provides a new way for consumers, businesses and banks to transact and is key to the company's strategy to provide payment solutions that meet every need of financial institutions and their end-customers."
Mastercard wants to provide an easy-to-use, permissioned platform to its network of developers and partners, designed for privacy, flexibility and scalability. According to the company, Mastercard's blockchain technology platform provides privacy by ensuring that transaction details are shared only amongst the participants of a transaction while maintaining a fully auditable and valid ledger of transactions; flexibility by providing the blockchain APIs and a wider suite of Mastercard APIs, with software development kits available in six different languages; and scalability to commercial processing speed. Mastercard emphasizes that its blockchain technology is integrated into the company's widely popular payment network.
At this moment, the Mastercard blockchain website for developers states that, due to an overwhelming amount of interest in Mastercard's blockchain, "We are limiting access to our API documentation to a select audience at this time."
Besides specific use cases such as Proof-of-Provenance and vehicle service history, Mastercard notes that the global market opportunity for peer-to-peer (P2P) bank transfers is $16 trillion. Mastercard intends to take advantage of blockchain technology and the Mastercard Settlement Network to transfer funds between bank accounts.
"The Mastercard Settlement Network reads the blockchain and will transfer the funds between two banks," stated Mastercard. "It then writes a confirmation of transfer to the Mastercard blockchain."
According to Mastercard, the company operates the world's fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. Besides developing its own blockchain platform, Mastercard had previously filed for over 35 patents related to blockchain technology, invested in Digital Currency Group and joined the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance to explore the possibilities of Ethereum technology across a wide range of potential use cases.
"This move comes as a bit of a surprise, as Mastercard previously issued a blanket rejection of Bitcoin," reads a commentary published in Futurism . "Still, Mastercard's blockchain service heralds what Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin described to be blockchain's potential to replace credit cards."
It appears that the payment processing giant, realizing that blockchain technology is here to stay and disrupt the credit card industry, is accelerating its blockchain-related plans. Last week, Mastercard filed a new patent for a " Method and System For Instantaneous Payment Using Recorded Guarantees ."
While it may seem that Mastercard is trying to patent blockchain technology itself, the filing is more specific and targets fast, verifiable and guaranteed payments on a blockchain network.
Mastercard noted that, while fiat currency enables merchants to receive instant payments, it may take several days for a merchant to receive electronic payments due to processing, clearing and settlement times. On the other hand, credit cards are more convenient for consumers. Therefore, according to the filing, there is a need for a technical solution that allows merchants to receive instantaneous, guaranteed electronic payments while maintaining a high level of consumer convenience.
| A Nasdaq release || November 20, 2017 |||
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.
10 Nov 2017 - Blockchain is an emergent technology that may be as transformative as the internet, according to many predictions. But this innovative new technology has a surprising link to the days of medieval treasuries. Blockchain is a distributed ledger that uses cryptography—mathematical code—to chain together records of transactions in a tamper-resistant and transparent manner. It is being used as an alternative or replacement for national currencies, contracts, internet device authentication and more.
This form of record-keeping, though technologically novel in the digital era, is not so new after all. Historian M.T. Clanchy tells us that it existed in the medieval era, during the transition from oral to written forms of memorialization. At that time, symbolic objects played a crucial role in providing evidence of transactions, rights and entitlements.
I've been researching how governments and businesses around the world are either planning for or already piloting the use of blockchain for record-keeping. The goal of my research is to determine what these applications of the technology actually do—as opposed to what the marketing hype says they do.
I've been to Estonia to study how the government there is using distributed ledger technology to protect the integrity of citizens' medical records. I've been to Sweden to discuss how its land registry is testing blockchain to record the transfer of land ownership. I've reviewed proposed blockchain systems for land title registration in Honduras, new pilot implementations for land transaction records in Brazil. And I've spoken with innumerable new ventures looking to transform record-keeping with blockchain technology.
Three patterns for blockchain records
From this research, I've noticed three specific design patterns for blockchain record-keeping, which need explanation to understand how blockchain relates to medieval practices. I have classified these categories as mirror, digital record and tokenized systems.
The first of these design patterns is what I call the "mirror" type system. I characterize this type of system as being the most similar to current centralized record-keeping.
In these types of systems—be they for medical records, land titles, public archives or some other kind of records—digital records are neither created nor kept "on chain," despite some claims by blockchain companies to the contrary. Instead, a kind of digital fingerprint of the records in the form of a 256-bit random number, known as a "hash," is entered into the blockchain.
The purpose of recording this digital fingerprint in the blockchain is to protect the integrity of the records and be able to detect if they were tampered with. To prove that the records are tamper-free, the original digital records must be preserved in off-chain trustworthy digital repositories alongside preservation of their hashes in the blockchain.
Proving integrity of the records involves matching the hash of the record you want to validate with its digital fingerprint on the blockchain. If the hashes match, then the record you hold has not been altered.
The second type of approach I've noticed is one that I call the "digital records" design pattern. In this type of system, new digital records are actually created within the blockchain itself, primarily by using smart-contracts.
Smart-contracts are computer programs that instruct the blockchain when to carry out a transaction, such as sending funds from one user to another. In these types of systems, the text of records is no longer in natural language that people can read. It is written in computer code for machines to read.
How blockchain technology has medieval roots
Three major categories of blockchain systems classified with examples. Credit: Victoria Lemieux
The rise of the smart contract raises a number of challenging and currently unanswered questions, such as what to do in case an error occurs and a smart contract doesn't behave as expected.
In the 2016 Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) incident, for example, the attacker exploited poorly written smart code to siphon off 3.6 million Ether—an alternative to the popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin—roughly equivalent to $68 million at the time of the attack.
Equally importantly, current principles, standards and practices for managing and preserving digital records are not designed for smart-contracts and other distributed autonomous records created on chain. Ensuring that society's evidence infrastructure remains intact presents challenges similar to the early days of email and other electronic records. New approaches, yet to be developed, will be needed.
The third type of blockchain record-keeping design pattern is the "tokenized" type of solution. This is arguably the farthest from our current form of record-keeping, and many would argue the most innovative. With this type of system, not only are records captured on chain but valuable assets are represented and captured on chain.
These assets can symbolize anything of value: currency such as a primary use blockchain, Bitcoin; land, fine wine, food, diamonds, artworks—you name it.
In this third, tokenized form we can find centuries-old predecessors to blockchain.
Medieval objects parallel digital tokens
Are these assets really records? For answers, we may turn to the English archival theorist Sir Hilary Jenkinson, who observed in his 1937 Manual of Archive Administration that "there is a case where an old pair of military epaulettes; and among enclosures to letters, forming in each case an integral part of the document, the writer can recall portraits, human hair, whip-cord (part of cat-o'-nine-tails), a penny piece inscribed with disloyal sentiments, and a packet of strange powder destined to cure cancer."
In Jenkinson's view, these "exhibits" formed part of the archive, or collective body of records, because they provided evidence of business transactions.
We now have come to view these so-called exhibits more as museum objects than records because before the digital era, the physical awkwardness of these objects meant that they could not be managed with other records. Just as coins and paper currency once represented records of reserves of gold in a national treasury, Jenkinson's exhibits were themselves tokens that represented other things.
Today, what once had a material form can be essentially dematerialized. Paper currency can be transformed into cryptocurrency. Land, fine wine, artwork, diamonds, food and other material objects—though still physically in existence—can be transformed into virtual representations called "tokens." In this way, in a tokenized, blockchain record-keeping system, literally every thing potentially becomes a record.
This is not a new idea.
At the time of the Norman Conquest, many grants were conferred by the bare word (nude verbo) without a writing or charter, but only with a sword, helmet, horn or cup. One example is the broken knife of Stephen de Bulmer kept in the archives of Durham Cathedral. It bears a parchment label recording the details of a gift of land made in the middle of the 12th century—which the knife itself symbolizes.
Just like the knives, horns, cups, rings and other objects customarily used in the conveyance of land during the medieval period, today's tokenized blockchain record-keeping systems use valuable cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin as symbolic representations of assets like land.
This raises the question of whether blockchain technology will return today's archival repositories to their medieval roots as the treasure storehouses of kings. Will it be back to the future?
| A The Conversation article || November 11, 2017 |||
7 Nov 2017 - MyBitcoinSaver, the New Zealand micro-savings platform for Bitcoin, has today announced the closing of $400,000 in seed round funding. The platform, launched by Aucklander Sam Blackmore in November last year, makes it easy for New Zealanders to invest small ongoing amounts in the world’s most popular cryptocurrency, which has grown in value by almost ten times since January. The startup plans to use the funding to continue driving growth in New Zealand while also expanding into the UK market.
Investors in the seed round included Brian Cartmell, investor in the billion-dollar US Bitcoin exchange Coinbase; David Smith, director of Caci Clinic; and Techemy: the parent company of Bitcoin analysis and news company Brave New Coin.
"Bitcoin is one of the most exciting things to happen to the financial world in decades," Blackmore says.
"But until recently, the cryptocurrency world has been an exclusive little club of early adopters. Unless you were very smart or willing to spend hours hunting for them, buying Bitcoins in New Zealand hasn’t been easy. We want to help all New Zealanders tap into the exciting opportunities Bitcoin presents."
Once registering to MyBitcoinSaver, users can set up automatic bank payments of between $10 and $200 on a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly basis.
The startup then bulk buys Bitcoin from an overseas exchange and distributes it to users’ wallets that same week.
MyBitcoinSaver has grown by more than 4000% in its first year with 1460 New Zealanders signed up to the service so far.
Blackmore has been investing in Bitcoin since 2013 and initially built the early prototype of MyBitcoinSaver - with a few lines of code - for himself, friends and family.
With a limit of $200 per week per user, MyBitcoinSaver aims to be a responsible and safe platform for buying Bitcoin, encouraging its users to use a Dollar Cost Average savings approach.
"Public interest in Bitcoin has exploded and people see buying it as a sensible addition to their savings plan," Blackmore says.
"We take the stress and complication out of buying Bitcoin and help anyone - from millennials to grandparents - take part in this revolutionary financial technology."
MyBitcoinSaver will be soft-launching in the UK within the next two months with plans to roll out the service publicly after three months in Beta testing.
The startup decided to extend its operations there because London is the financial capital of the world and there’s an appetite for a safe and reliable way to buy Bitcoin with Pounds Sterling.
The $400,000 seed money will be used to hire development staff and fund marketing here and in the UK.
4 Nov _ As blockchain and IoT converge, the push to commercialize applications leveraging both technologies grows. The latest industry to embrace this confluence is the transportation and logistics industry. In late August, the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance (BITA) launched with 150 or so member organizations — including transportation management companies, brokers, carriers, shippers and technology vendors. BITA’s stated goal is to create standards and educate industry stakeholders about the promise of blockchain. And at last week’s Connected Fleets USA event in Atlanta, BITA co-founder Craig Fuller, CEO for TransRisk, stressed that the combination of IoT and blockchain in logistics and transportation will be a formidable one.
Blockchain “has the power to transform almost every element of this industry,” said Fuller, whose company develops products to help stakeholders in the transportation industry manage price risk. In the future, blockchain systems will work in tandem with data from IoT devices used in transportation and logistics. Business transactions surrounding the shipment of freight will be automated using blockchain-based “smart contracts,” which improve upon traditional contracts by enforcing the rules controlling the transfer of currency or assets under specific conditions. In simplified terms, blockchain systems use a chain of cryptographically protected records to expose the details of transactions to all participants and distribute records across the network of participating “nodes,” or computers, thereby eliminating the need for a central authority to maintain records, which makes processes more efficient and cuts costs.
The benefits according to Sandeep Kar, chief strategy officer for Fleet Complete, include:
Accelerated payment, better security and reduction of fraud.
Simplified claims settlement.
Improved traceability and trackability.
Elimination of the middleman, which cuts costs, reduces paperwork and shortens the supply chain.
Reduction in the cost of regulations and compliance.
Increased transparency of price, ownership and the entire process.
But there are, of course, challenges to blockchain in logistics and transportation, which Kar summarized as:
Lack of initial knowledge, skills, expertise and trust in the technology.
Limited easy availability of cryptocurrencies, which may or may not be coupled with a blockchain system.
A bias toward the established infrastructure.
Lack of a central authority to mitigate risk.
Potential cryptocurrency volatility because no central authority governs cryptocurrencies.
To help the industry get past the obstacles and reap the rewards of blockchain, BITA is attempting to address the education gap, as well as help develop standards that are specific to the transport industry. Education is critical, Fuller said: “People don’t understand the use cases for it. They know the buzzwords, but they don’t know how it’s actually used in the market.” Fuller said he’s been on the receiving end of a number of questions about how to create commercial uses of blockchain in logistics and trucking. Questions like those are what led to the formation of BITA. “We’re bringing disparate, sometimes competitive parties together to create a common framework to solve problems. … We’re trying to bring together the folks [who] can actually have an impact,” he said.
Performance history records. Potential use cases for blockchain in trucking include maintaining accurate performance history records. When a truck enters the secondary market (that is, gets sold as a used vehicle), questions come up around how the vehicle was maintained. “In a blockchain environment, you can have a trustless record” of that maintenance, Fuller said. Because blockchain transaction records are considered immutable and transparent, parties in a transaction don’t need to have established trust with one another beforehand. “The beautiful part is, I don’t have to trust the other party, the seller or an intermediary. The data is flawless.”
“The analog [to the performance history use case] in the consumer car industry is Carfax,” Fuller said. “Except [with blockchain], there’s no reporting agency. [The records] are distributed [across the nodes in the blockchain system built for this purpose].” All records pertaining to the truck would be recorded to the blockchain, from the moment it rolled off the assembly line until it entered the market as a used vehicle — using IoT sensor data as well as other transactional data related to the vehicle. A potential buyer of the truck therefore would be able to make a purchase decision with full knowledge of the vehicle’s history.
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Capacity monitoring. Another potential use of blockchain in the trucking industry is capacity monitoring. One of the factors determining the cost of shipping freight relates to cargo volume. IoT sensors can be used to detect the amount of space a particular party uses; that info is used in determining cost associated with shipment. In the future, pouring that data into a blockchain-based system, enabled by a smart contract, will mean self-executing payments against the amount of space used by the freight, as measured by the IoT sensors. In other words, a much more efficient process than what exists today.
Gray trailers. Blockchain also could level the playing field between truck owners and third-party logistics companies when it comes to “gray trailer pools.” Today, Fuller said, truck owners have an advantage over third-party logistics companies because they own access to freight trailers. Blockchain could enable a business model whereby “the trailers will be owned by a third-party entity and shared collectively with fleets. … You can have a fleet of gray trailers and use blockchain to not only know who had access to that equipment but also charge for it. And you can tie a contract to it and settle it in real time so there is no collection process,” Fuller said.
Dispute resolution. Blockchain will also have a role resolving disputes, he said. “Every single day, there’s $140 billion tied up in disputes for payment,” Fuller said. “The shipper says, ‘You didn’t send me a proper bill. … Your rate is $1.90, but [the bill] says $1.89.” And guess what? The shipper … doesn’t pay it until that price is exact.” Such wrangling creates a strain on the trucking payments environment, he said. With a blockchain system and a smart contract, the transaction would be handled according to the smart contract terms and the contract would be executed and the transaction cleared at the same time, eliminating the current back and forth between parties as they hash out the finer points of their agreement. “In a blockchain environment, you have a transaction standardized and anonymized, and [it’s subject to] what we call smart arbitration,” in which disputes or controversy related to the contract are settled immediately according to the blockchain system’s arbitration rules. And because the facts of the transaction are viewable by all parties, fewer disputes are likely to occur.
Fraud detection. Blockchain will also be useful for fraud detection. The example Fuller cited was the practice of “factoring” in trucking, or assigning unpaid freight bills to a third-party company for less than — perhaps 60% to 90% of — the value of the bill. Trucking companies use factoring to improve their cash flow since it gives them access to the money right away, but it costs them a percentage of the bill. “One of the reasons factoring companies charge so much [is because a significant portion of] factoring receivables end up getting duplicated, [when trucking companies] send multiple bills of lading to multiple factoring companies, or [a company might] create a false bill of lading.” Factoring companies charge a very high rate because a portion, which Fuller said was likely low, of transactions it engages in is fraudulent. With blockchain, as long as the sensor data itself is not falsified, the transactions represent what actually happened as opposed to what someone says happened. But perhaps more importantly, factoring itself would become less necessary since a blockchain system with smart contracts would govern the payment for transactions in an automated way.
Making all these use cases a reality, of course, will require the various stakeholders in the process to work together. “True implementation of blockchain involves both the shipper and carrier using this platform and so far what we have seen is a few shipping companies using it,” Kar said. “The real market pull, not push, will start … once the shippers start demanding carriers to start using this platform.”
When will that happen? At this point, it seems too soon to tell. Kar said, “I believe we’re at least two to five years out, or maybe sooner.”