Kamal Obbad, Co-founder and CEO of Nebula Genomics, is working to help consumers understand consent and the risks to consider before giving …
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has applied to patent a blockchain system that allows a third-party administrator to execute “special transactions” such as halting a smart contract or freezing an account linked to illegal activity.
According to documents made public on Thursday by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), the Hangzhou-based firm submitted the application through Alibaba Group Holding Limited, a holding company located in Grand Cayman, in March.
Writing in the filing, the patent authors state that while blockchain technology has many attractive features — openness, unchangeability, and decentralization, for instance — it fails to account for certain practical considerations associated with implementing it in a regulated, real-world environment.
In particular, the Alibaba researchers expressed concern that standard smart contracts do not provide legal authorities with a general ability to freeze user accounts associated with illegal transactions or otherwise facilitate administrative intervention in a blockchain network.
From the patent application:
“In real life, however, there is a type of administrative intervention activities in the category of special transactions. For example, when a user performs illegal activities, a court order may be executed to freeze the user’s account. However, this operation activity conflicts with smart contracts in existing blockchains and cannot be carried out,” the patent authors wrote. “Therefore, there is a need for a blockchain-based transaction processing method that enables special transactions like administrative intervention in a blockchain.”
Under Alibaba’s proposed blockchain system, dedicated administrator accounts would have the ability to send so-called “special transactions” to nodes, which then invoke a smart contract to perform operating instructions on a particular account.
In one potential embodiment, the blockchain creator could issue an account to a government agency that allowed the agency to invoke a smart contract that performs a predefined set of interventions corresponding to their legal or regulatory mandate.
The authors wrote:
“Here, the issuing account recorded in the various embodiments may be an account owned by a government agency or a trustful institution. Since corresponding smart contracts are created for different designated accounts, it indicates that operation instructions issued by the designated accounts are recognized. As a result, effective administrative supervision can be performed on all accounts in a blockchain network, and this type of supervision is limited, which will not restrict normal transactions in the blockchain network.”
The authors concede that this system introduces an element of risk into the blockchain network since administrator accounts could be prime targets for hackers. Consequently, they suggest decentralizing supervisory power among a plurality of designated accounts.
“In this way, the supervision power of the accounts in the blockchain can be decentralization, such that the supervision power against the blockchain is not centralized in one designated account and the effectiveness and credibility of supervision can be ensured,” they wrote. “At the same time, it prevents the loss of all supervision power over the blockchain when one designated account is compromised.
Even apart from Alibaba’s proposed system, smart contract developers can generally write contracts that give them some degree of control over those contracts after they have been deployed. In Ethereum, for instance, developers can create “upgradeable contracts” that separate logic and data into separate contracts, one of which calls the other, often with the use of delegatecall and a so-called proxy contract. When creating its stablecoin, cryptocurrency exchange Gemini implemented a proxy contract to enable it to freeze tokens held by suspected criminals and otherwise comply with financial regulations. However, developers warn that creating upgradeable contracts significantly increases the complexity of the code, raising the likelihood of bugs.
Alibaba’s proposed system would not only reduce the complexity associated with giving administrators extraordinary privileges but would also give them the ability to perform these actions over the entire network, not just on a particular token or smart contract.
Images from Shutterstock
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Most blockchain technology companies run into the same problem when they start building their brand.
Namely, how to find their place on the spectrum between being dangerously revolutionary, and too traditional and out of touch.
Hardcore blockchain companies, with a strict decentralized ethos that extends from company structure to branding materials, often feel too new and risky for potential business partners.
On the other hand, established companies that are building blockchain solutions tend to stick to traditional marketing methods. They create the product, send out a 600-person sales team, and pitch a solution that’s hosted and controlled by an individual company.
Neither strategy is particularly appealing to companies looking for blockchain solutions that are more than just hype. They want something revolutionary that actually changes the fundamental ways in which their businesses operate.
If you want to succeed in building a reputable brand in the blockchain space, you have to find your balance on the spectrum.
Not too far out there, but not simply a continuation of what’s come before.
Here are three tips for finding your balance and educating the market:
1. Bring people together around a common idea.
A blockchain is not a website, an app, or inventory software that an individual company uses for their specific business needs.
It’s a multi-party tool that companies use to interact and transact with each other. And that means traditional enterprise sales approaches don’t work. Typical B2B outreach like cold emailing or growth marketing doesn’t fit the technology.
The goal of any blockchain solution is to create a network. As the developer, you have to bring people together around a common idea, belief, problem, and solution.
Creating this ethos-backed ecosystem is the ideal strategy for blockchain companies who want to stay true to the technology’s decentralized nature.
It’s not just about multiple companies using the blockchain, it’s that they’re actually upholding the network themselves — as opposed to blockchain as a service, which isn’t really decentralized.
The key to building a strong brand is finding the common idea that can bring everyone together, then sharing it with your customers.
2. Share and inspire people about what they can achieve.
If you really are staying true to the blockchain ethos, then branding isn’t actually about your company.
It’s about the customer.
You have to be able to communicate what you’re doing, and help the customer understand the technology and what they can achieve with it. At this point, your job is to inspire people to come together with other companies in their industry — even the competition — to believe the idea you proposed will solve a major problem or challenge experienced by everyone.
For example, the denim industry is one of the worst polluters of water in the world. It’s a huge problem, and to their credit, the industry does recognize the severity of the issue. They don’t want to be doing it, and some companies have begun making strides towards a sustainable future.
Now, they’re ready to come together around this problem and find a solution.
The point is, industries don’t start with exponential value-added use cases. They start with a pain point, a regulation, or a challenge. That’s what brings them together.
You have to build your brand around both the network, the tools and the solutions to help them accomplish their goals.
And once they’re working together on the same network, more benefits will accrue.
Right now, getting people to understand the practicality of the technology — and making it more tangible for them — is another cornerstone of building a brand.
3. Separate the technology brand from the solution built on top of the networks.
Many brands want their name plastered on everything they do. It’s how they build awareness and let people know who built the product being used.
For a blockchain company, the value doesn’t necessarily come from name recognition — it comes from the networks you create. These are ecosystems that have a focus on a particular space or industry and have their own brand to go along with that specialization.
In order to separate the blockchain company’s brand from that of the ecosystem, you have to find people from within the industry who are willing to take on the task of deciding what the ecosystem should look like and how it should operate.
You want to find the best people, the ones who really care about promoting this cause for an entire industry.
And you don’t do that by looking for people who want to sell something. Instead, you’re searching for those who want real ownership over the process. They’re champions of their industry. They’ve been around long enough to know the business inside and out, and they want to promote the benefits they see in a blockchain solution.
The goal is to provide the support and technology for these champions to build their own ecosystems, while still giving them ownership over their entity.
Your marketing really has to emphasize those ecosystems and their potential more than your brand. It’s not like a traditional enterprise where the brand name is always attached to the solution.
And that’s the heart of branding a blockchain company — remembering that this is something new and different. You have to be accessible and educate your customers, and you can’t expect to find success by relying on tried-and-true tactics.
SBI Ripple Asia, a Joint-venture based in Tokyo, Japan has launched its blockchain based money remittance app. The app called MoneyTap can make real-time, no-cost domestic transfers using Ripple’s xCurrent payment solution.
Simplifying Domestic Bank Transfers with Blockchain Technology
As announced via a tweet on Ripple’s official Twitter handle, the payment app is a product of the Japan Bank Consortium arrangement– a partnership between SBI Ripple Asia and several Japanese banks.
MoneyTap, powered by Ripple’s xCurrent payment solution has seen increased adoption by financial institutions in various countries. The xCurrent network built on Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), facilitates instantaneous payment settlement with end-to-end tracking.
According to the app’s web portal, users can make transfers to phone numbers or QR codes, instances where the user does not know the receivers bank account number. Also, the app utilizes various authentication measures such as fingerprint scanning to ensure secure access for users.
Unlike other Ripple payment solutions offering cross-border efficiency, MoneyTap is dedicated to domestic bank transfers. Local bank transfer is presently a rigid process in Japan, only available on weekdays between 8:30 am and 3:30 pm. MoneyTap seeks to present an ever-present solution to domestic transfers, 24hours a day, 365 days of the year.
This launch comes after SBI Ripple Asia received the license to operate as an agent for electronic payment settlement last month. Following new regulations issued in the country (Act No. 2 of the Kanto Local Finance Bureau, Electronic Settlement Agency No. 2), SBI Ripple Asia had to receive authorization for its MoneyTap app from the Treasury Department.
Speaking on the app, SBI Ripple Asia CEO, Takashi Okita, had this to say:
We are proud to leverage Ripple’s blockchain technology through our new mobile app, MoneyTap, to improve the payments infrastructure in Japan. Together with the trust, reliability, and reach of the bank consortium, we can remove friction from payments and create a faster, safer, and more efficient domestic payments experience for our customers.
SBI Ripple Asia – Offering Blockchain-Based FinTech Solutions in Japan
SBI Ripple Asia is a Joint—Venture arrangement between Japan’s Strategic Business Innovator (SBI) Group and U.S Based FinTech company Ripple. This Joint-Venture arrangement is geared towards the delivery seamless, real-time, low to no-cost cross-border payments and money remittance solution to Japanese customers.
To meet its goals, SBI Ripple Asia established the “Japan Bank Consortium to Centrally Provide Domestic and Cross-border Payments” (with over 60 participating banks as at 2017) to develop RC Cloud – a blockchain platform for domestic and cross-border payment using Ripple’s xCurrent payment solution.
The recently launched MoneyTap app utilizes the RC Cloud platform. However, as previously reported by EWN this initial launch supports only available to three-member banks – SBI Shumishin Net Bank, Suruga Bank, and Resona Bank. There are plans to increase support to the other 58-member banks of the consortium.
Image courtesy of Ripple.
Of all the things to add to the blockchain, wine makes a lot of sense. Given the need for provenance for every grape and barrel, it’s clear that the ancient industry could use a way to track ingredients from farm to glass. VinX, an Israeli company founded by Jacob Ner-David, is ready to give it a try.
According to a release, the plan is to create a “token-based digital wine futures platform based on the Bordeaux futures model” that lets you track wine from end to end “at a cost bearable to the industry.”
Investment banker Gil Picovsky joined Ner-David to build out the service.
“I was relating to Gil my frustrations with the way most wine is sold, and I had some early thoughts around using blockchain and tokens to radically remake the wine industry,” said Ner-David. “Together Gil and I developed the core concepts of VinX, and started to actively devote ourselves full time to VinX in November 2017.”
“VinX is democratizing the capital structure of the wine industry by bringing consumers in direct contact with producers early in the wine-making cycle,” said Ner-David. “We are riding the wave of direct-to-consumer. In addition, because we are registering all wine futures as tokens on a blockchain, we are bringing a powerful validating force that will go a long way toward reducing fraud.”
Overstock’s investment arm, Medici Ventures, is not reporting how much cash they are dumping into VinX, but the company claims that “it is a seven-figure investment.”
The tool will help reduce the rate of fakery in winemaking. Experts estimate that 20 percent of all wine in the world is counterfeit. VinX will follow individual bottles from filling to drinking, ensuring a bottle is real.
Ner-David is also the co-founder of Jezreel Valley Winery, a boutique winery in Israel.
“We want to use modern technologies, including blockchain and tokening assets, in bringing consumers in direct contact with wineries around the world, humanizing the connection, and leaving more value in the hands of wineries and wine lovers,” he said.
This article appeared in Cybersecurity Law & Strategy, an ALM publication for privacy and security professionals, Chief Information Security Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Technology Officers, Corporate Counsel, Internet and Tech Practitioners, In-House Counsel. Visit the website to learn more.
2018 has been a disaster for personal privacy. More than a decade after social media became the de facto digital activity for billions of people, we are beginning to see the consequences of that behavior.
Although Web platforms frequently promote themselves as “communities,” they are actually profit-hungry corporate platforms that feed on user data to satiate their continual need for higher profits.
For instance, Google and Facebook, two of the world’s most prolific Web platforms, generated more than $150 billion in revenue last year, even though neither platform is particularly well known for selling an actual product. In this case, the popular adage “If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product” feels particularly apt.
Indeed, for years, online platforms harvested their users’ data and sold it to advertisers who processed that information and returned it to their users in the form of targeted advertisements. This approach has been incredibly lucrative, and it helped foster the Internet’s prodigious growth. Users had the illusion of navigating an incredibly compelling and inexplicably free ecosystem while companies profited from their activity.
Unsurprisingly, mounting privacy concerns were validated in March when Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal was fully uncovered and reported around the world. The debacle played out over several years as Facebook users unknowingly agreed to have their data and their friends’ data culled for advertising purposes. Eventually, that information was weaponized by the Russian government to subvert the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Politics aside, this revenue dynamic has contributed to diminished civil discourse, the virality of fake news, and the hyper division facilitated by the exploitation of our worst biases and prejudices. In short, the emergence of the big data movement hasn’t truly benefited many people, although corporations have profited immensely from its propensity.
In general, people were rightfully aghast when they recognized the extent of the data ecosystem that they operate within. After years of unbridled growth and expansion, Facebook announced slowing user growth. Investors punished the company in a broad sell-off that plunged their stock more than 20% in a single day. The drop was so precipitous that The Wall Street Journal described it as “the biggest-ever one-day loss in market value for a U.S.-listed company.” Of course, a falling stock price isn’t the only change impacting the era of big data.
Governments Step In
The general malaise regarding user data was so intense that governments were inclined to take action.
In the U.S., Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was hauled before Congress for two days of grueling testimony about his platform’s data policies and general role in the digital culture. Since then, he’s been on a perpetual world tour testifying before other governments about the burden of his platform’s prowess.
Meanwhile, in May, the European Union’s General Data Protection Act (GDPR) officially went into effect. This milestone legislation is intended to protect consumer data by giving them more control over how it’s used. As the barrage of emails alerting users to changing privacy policies indicates, GDPR is sweeping legislation that returns data control to its users.
For example, GDPR gives users more ownership over the methods used to collect their data, provides consumers with more opportunities to opt-in to personal data collection, and places an onus on companies to justify what they do with their users’ data.
Perhaps the law’s most critical feature resides in Article 17, which affords consumers the right to be forgotten. Under this arrangement, consumers can request that their information is deleted, and companies are legally compelled to acquiesce.
This is great news for consumers who have been powerless to control their online information for most of the modern digital age. As Enza Iannopollo, a security and risk consultant at Forrester Research Inc., told The Wall Street Journal, “GDPR is an opportunity to better engage with customers ….This is something that helps both sides because when financial services are clear with customers, customers are more willing to do what a company is asking them to do.”
Iannopollo’s sentiment highlights the public relations opportunities afforded by GDPR, but the logistics are immensely challenging.
The Limits of GDPR
GDPR’s requirements open up a quagmire of new problems for companies and consumers.
It’s possible that bad actors can take advantage of the changing norms to defraud consumers. For instance, a cybercriminal could request a user’s information be deleted without the actual user’s knowledge. It’s possible to imagine a cybercriminal changing a customer’s address before shipping expensive items and subsequently discarding this information under the guise of GDPR. This could cover the tracks of a criminal without actually protecting the customer in a practical or realistic way.
Moreover, it can be extremely difficult for consumers to verify that companies are GDPR compliant, especially regarding the established right to be forgotten.
The Blockchain As a Solution and a Hindrance
To remedy these challenges, many commentators are positing blockchain technology as a ready solution for establishing GDPR compliance. Indeed, despite its relative novelty, the blockchain offers several compelling contributions to this debate.
Initially conceived as the accounting mechanism for Bitcoin, the blockchain is uniquely adept at creating perfect records that are readily viewable by a broad audience.
Furthermore, a tokenized ecosystem could allow companies to interact with the customers without collecting data from them. Under this model, users can participate in a platform in a verified manner, while withholding their personal information in lieu of a proxy token that affirms their identity, financial information, or other credentials.
Many blockchain-based platforms addressing everything from the sharing economy to the digital ownership rights are pursuing this approach. Most notably, the spirit of accountability and transparency posited by the blockchain feels uniquely appropriate for this moment.
At the same time, the blockchain’s permanence makes it a bit of an enigma for the GDPR era. Anne Toth, head of data policy for the World Economic Forum, wonders the same thing. “Blockchain is not designed to be GDPR-compatible. Or rather, GDPR is not blockchain-compatible the way it is written today,” she writes.
If the blockchain can’t delete data, its strengths become liabilities for companies striving to comply with the new law. With billions of dollars in investment capital and many industry experts describing the blockchain as the Internet 3.0, this particular feature could be extremely problematic.
A Modified Blockchain Approach
While the blockchain is a compelling storage architecture, some adaptations can be made that improve functionality and help companies achieve GDPR compliance.
First, companies can store their users’ data off-chain while producing a link to that data in the form of a hash. In this way, user data can be deleted without disrupting the blockchain. The blockchain is not a one-size-fits-all approach to data management, but it is uniquely adept at storing hashes that are produced when a file is analyzed through an algorithm. The hash cannot be traced back to the original file, but if any changes are made to the data, it updates the algorithm as well. It’s a smart approach that combines the prowess of blockchain architecture with the practical demands placed on businesses. The modified approach uses the blockchain’s permanence to create comprehensive records of when, who, and how personal information was shared.
This process can be facilitated by the blockchain’s smart contracts, which make the entire process quick and automatic. In this format, user information can be designated to be stored only on users’ devices or other approved locations rather on than a company’s existing infrastructure. This decentralizes the data without neglecting GDPR responsibilities.
It’s clear that the onset of GDPR regulations and a quickly changing consumer sentiment about the sensitivity and value of their personal data will reorient a company’s interactions with their customers and their information. There will be some pain points in this transition, as Facebook investors recently demonstrated, but it doesn’t have to be a unilateral downturn for the tech industry.
The right technology can help, and the blockchain movement will play a critical role in many company’s tech development. However, it would be foolish to presume that the blockchain is a wholesale solution for GDPR. By modifying blockchain implementation, it’s possible to retain its benefits while mitigating its detractions.
We’ve entered a new era of data management, and it seems likely that the companies that adopt the most compelling solutions will be the first to reap the benefits of the change.
Michael Smolenski is the CEO and founder of Lightstreams. An ex-Goldman Sachs Software Engineer and the founder of several startups, he has won a number of blockchain awards for innovative solutions in micro-insurance and real estate.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – CNM Ingenuity is hosting New Mexico’s first Blockchain Conference, called Blockfiesta, on October 13.
It’s the next technological boom that’s already taking root around the country and the world, and is expected to revolutionize the way transactions of all types will be recorded across the globe.
The conference will help more people understand the uses and impacts of the fast-emerging Blockchain technology, which is the same technology that spawned bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
CNM is putting an emphasis on Blockchain education.
The university wants to help support our community and state with the education needed to grow the use of Blockchain technology, so New Mexico can be at the forefront of this movement.
On top of hosting the first Blockchain Conference, CNM Ingenuity is offering Blockchain coding classes as part of its popular Deep Dive Coding program.
For more information, click here.
BlackBerry, the software company and former maker of an eponymous line of mobile phones, announced Thursday its plans for a new blockchain platform aimed at storing and sharing medical data.
The firm said in a press release that it would use its “carrier-grade network operation center” (NOC) to support the digital ledger, which would be developed by biotech incubator ONEBIO. It would specifically be used to securely store data from patients, labs and monitors.
BlackBerry’s NOC would be responsible for creating “an ultra-secure global ecosystem,” the release claims, noting that data may be input by Internet-of-Things biometric devices as well as individuals.
The platform would also be able to anonymously share such data with researchers.
BlackBerry’s first client will be the Global Commission to End the Diagnostic Odyssey for Children with a Rare Disease, an organization dedicated to helping children quickly find diagnoses for rare diseases.
The release continued:
“Co-chaired by Shire, the leading global biotech focused on rare diseases, one of the Global Commission’s technology pilots will explore how BlackBerry’s new solution might provide real-time, actionable analysis as the Commission seeks to use technology to shorten the time to diagnosis.”
BlackBerry joins a number of other traditional smartphone developers in venturing into the crypto world.
Earlier this Nokia “wet its feet” by partnering with blockchain data platform Streamr and software company OSIsoft, in an effort to let users monetize their personal data.
The aim of the project is to allow users to “buy and sell” real-time data streams through ethereum smart contracts. They introduced a token for these transactions called the DATACoin
Another company, HTC, is going even further with its new Exodus smartphone. Set to be released by the end of the year, the Exodus is aimed at providing users the ability to store their private keys on their phone in place of separate hardware and software wallets.
BlackBerry logo image via Christopher Penler / Shutterstock
Authored by Reportlinker, a report released this week “Blockchain: Agriculture Market Forecast until 2023” foresees the sector growing from its current worth of $60.8 million to $429.7 million at a compound annual growth rate of 47.8 percent.
“Blockchain technology is revolutionizing the food and agriculture sectors by enhancing the decision-making capabilities of organizations,” a summary press release reads.
“The blockchain market is expected to grow, owing to the increase in the demand for supply chain transparency along the agriculture and food verticals.”
As Cointelegraph reported numerous times, major food giants across the world are experimenting with blockchain solutions to address a range of inefficiencies.
The latest participants came in the form of Dairy Farmers of America’s food supply chain and Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn, which is using the technology specifically to track orange juice production.
More widely, the report meanwhile continues, blockchain can help combat emerging difficulties in the industry such as so-called “food fraud.”
“…The estimated food fraud cases cost USD 49.0 billion to the global food industry annually,” researchers reveal quoting 2014 data from the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
“This has resulted in an increased awareness among consumers, which is further expected to drive the growth of the blockchain in agriculture and food supply chain market.”
In July, Cointelegraph reported on the impact of blockchain in the telecoms industry, set to deliver almost $1 billion of value within the same five-year period to 2023.