Blockchain in Energy Sector: IOTA to Offer Decentralization, Scalability, No Transaction Fees

  

With motor vehicles becoming an ever increasing luxury around the world,

pollution levels are increasing but the Blockchain could help to reduce the transportation industry’s contribution to global warming that promises a cleaner and energy efficient future. In an article written in December by Carsten Stöcker, Senior Manager in the Machine Economy Innovation Lighthouse Lead at German energy firm, Innogy SE and Thomas Birr, Senior Vice-President of Innovation & Business Transformation at Innogy SE, the future of transport will change through ‘Blockchain-enabled secure peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions that eliminate or minimize the need for centralized authorities such as banks or ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft.’

Blockchain and energy transactions

Through the Blockchain, trip charges will be deducted from the passenger’s Blockchain-enabled digital wallets or charged to their credit card, with payment going straight to the vehicle owner. As noted by Stöcker and Birr, Blockchain-enabled mobility transactions mean that consumers and providers can take part in the transportation system, setting the terms, conditions, and pricing they choose.

“Automotive OEMs want to collaborate with us in order to participate in building a Special Purpose Decentral Platform for Mobility Transactions,” said Stöcker, speaking to Cointelegraph. “We are also now engaging with many owners of EV charging assets around the world in order to bring charging poles to one Blockchain platform.” Yet, while the Blockchain can have a significant impact on how energy transactions are conducted, there are issues with it, such as scalability, transaction costs and offline transactions, that limit its effectiveness. The IOTA Tangle is attempting to fix this by addressing many of the shortcomings with today’s Blockchain technology by delivering secure, practical and scalable applications.

Transferring value without any fees

The IOTA is a digital currency with the goal of establishing itself as fuel for efficient machine-to-machine and Internet of Things (IoT) transactions. Instead of using a regular Blockchain, the IOTA uses its IOTA Tangle, which validates transactions in a Directed Acyclic Graph structure (DAG). This is a revolutionary new blockless distributed ledger, that is scalable, lightweight and makes it possible to transfer value without any fees. Stöcker, who is also an IOTA Foundation member, which was founded by David Sønstebø, said that instead of achieving consensus through an expensive mechanism, which can lead to centralization, those within the IOTA network are active in the validation of transactions and consensus.

“When a device makes a transaction and broadcasts the transaction to the network, by protocol or ‘by default’ it has to validate two previous transactions,” he said. “So, it’s a real peer-to-peer network by machines for machines.” He adds that this new concept has immediate advantages: decentralization, scalability and no transaction fees. With all IOTA tokens pre-mined, no mining is required. Not only that, but given the fact that 2779530283277761 IOTA were created, this enables transactions with a little value attached to them. For instance, micro-transactions, which can be beneficial within the energy industry.

Deploying the IOTA in the real world

Of course, in order to deploy the IOTA in the real world, adoption needs to be achieved in a development friendly ecosystem, which is being undertaken in its IOTA Development Roadmap. With the IOTA Tangle designed less rigorously, it means transactions can be made in an offline environment, which copies the IoT, where devices use different networking protocols such as Lemonbeat, Bluetooth LE, LPWAN, or ZigBee. “As such, IOTA is the first permissionless distributed ledger that achieves scalability, making Machine-to-Machine payments for the IoT possible,” said Stöcker.

Chuck Reynolds
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How To Invest In The Blockchain
Without Buying Bitcoin

Blockchain Technology’s potential to change the Status Quo

Not a day goes by without a media mention about blockchain technology’s potential to change the status quo of how data will be recorded, stored and transferred in the future. As blockchain is booming, investors are taking note and looking at opportunities where they could benefit. Investing in bitcoin, the digital currency built on the blockchain is considered too risky by many investors and, at the same time, doesn’t actually offer exposure to developments of new blockchain applications and the growth of this technology. Fortunately for investors, however, there are ways to invest in the blockchain boom don’t involve buying bitcoin.

Blockchain Startup Stocks

Firstly, investors can purchase blockchain startup stocks. Currently, there are several publicly traded stocks in blockchain companies trading on global exchanges. The first blockchain stock that started trading in the U.S. is that of the company BTCS Inc., which provides an online bitcoin shop and a range of blockchain solutions, according to its website. Another prominent North American stock is the Vancouver-based blockchain consultancy service provider BTL Group, which has recently launched its own smart contract platform called interbit. Its stock is trading on the Toronto stock exchange.

Outside of North America, there are listed blockchain stocks in the U.K. and in Australia. In the U.K., the London-based blockchain technology investment and development company Coinsilium is listed on the ICAP Securities and Derivatives Exchange (ISDX) and was the world’s first initial public offering by a blockchain startup. On the Australian Stock Exchange, there is the blockchain startup DigitalX. DigitalX provides two blockchain-based services: a global peer-to-peer remittance service called Air Pocket and a software solution to provide bitcoin liquidity to institutional investors called DigitalX Direct.

Crowdfunding Platforms

Alternatively, investors can purchase shares in blockchain startups during early-stage funding rounds through online crowdfunding platforms. Young blockchain startups regularly choose the route of online crowdfunding to secure funds to develop their products or service. The crowdfunding platform BnkToTheFuture, for example, allows investors to place funds into a range of Bitcoin and blockchain startups. Notable blockchain startups that have raised funds through BnkToTheFuture’s platform have included the prominent African remittance startup BitPesa and the multi-currency mobile bitcoin wallet Shapeshift.

Invest in New Blockchain Projects’ Initial Coin Offerings

The third option for investors would be to invest in initial coin offerings (ICOs) of new blockchain projects. ICOs are a new, innovative way of raising capital that involves blockchain projects issuing their own digital currencies or tokens to early backers during a crowd sale. As this new form of crowdfunding is still entirely unregulated there is substantially more risk involved than investing in blockchain stocks or in traditional crowdfunding campaigns, but the returns of successful ICOs have been excellent.

When it comes to investing in ICOs, the key is to select blockchain projects that will have real-life applications and are managed by a team of experienced blockchain developers. Some projects may even have financial backing from leading Bitcoin investors. That is usually also a good sign. Unfortunately, the more the ICO market grows, the more fraudulent activity also occurs. Hence, it is vital to conduct thorough due diligence on each ICO before investing in the crowd sale to avoid falling victim to a scam.

As blockchain technology will likely become the standard to securely record, store and transfer data in many industries over the next ten years, it might be wise to start looking into the investment opportunities in this space, despite the potential risk involved in these investments.

Chuck Reynolds
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IBM Ramps Up China Blockchain Work With Supply Chain Trial

ibm in China

IBM advanced its status as a blockchain leader Tuesday with the launch of a supply chain platform designed to streamline flows among buyers, sellers, and financiers in the pharmaceuticals space. The Yijian Blockchain Technology Application System – built in a partnership between IBM and Hejia, a Chinese supply chain management company – seeks to eliminate some of the financing problems faced by the country’s pharmaceutical retailers. Specifically, it targets the country’s underdeveloped credit evaluation system, which it argues can make it difficult to raise short-term working capital.

The platform is designed to bring greater transparency into supply chain networks by tracking the flow of drugs, encrypting trading records and offering an easier means of authenticating transactions. The end goal is to reduce the time small retailers must wait to be paid after delivering medicine to hospitals – which currently can be as high as 60 to 90 days. Overall, Ramesh Gopinath, vice president of Blockchain Solutions at IBM, said that the use case offers an ideal example of how the company’s enterprise blockchain platform can smooth multi-party transaction processes.

He told CoinDesk:

“Blockchain is perfect for the kind of flow that happens between three parties. It’s not a random thing, we see a pattern of this appearing again and again.”

Initially, the Yijian system will be implemented on a test basis by one pharmaceutical retailer, one hospital, and one bank, but plans are in place to expand in July to create a farther-reaching network. Leng Tianhui, board chairman of Hejia, emphasized in statements that he expects the platform to be adopted far beyond just the pharmaceuticals sector in China.

Eyes on China

Yet, the Yijian platform’s launch also strengthens IBM’s positioning in China – it has now rolled out five different solutions in the world’s second-largest economy in the last 12 months. In March, the technology giant announced the creation of a green asset management platform designed to help companies develop, manage and trade carbon assets more efficiently under China’s carbon emissions quota scheme. Further, in January, it teamed up with the Postal Savings Bank of China to launch a blockchain asset custody system.

As far back as 2016, this strategy could already be observed, as IBM partnered with UnionPay – China’s largest payment credit card processor – to roll out a blockchain platform facilitating the exchange of user loyalty points in September. It also launched a pilot in conjunction Walmart to move China’s pork industry supply chain on to a blockchain in October. Still, Gopinath said that IBM’s focus on China is a function of the availability of pertinent use cases and local partners.

“I wouldn’t calculate this as ‘OK, we have a concerted effort to do something in China’,” he said, adding:

“It’s more like there are all these classic, what I would call, great uses cases starting up in different places.”

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IT leader’s guide to the blockchain

The blockchain may hold significant opportunities for the enterprise

from financial services to IP protection to job documentation. This ebook looks at what the blockchain is and how it could affect your business. The blockchain is a record of every Bitcoin transaction. The name comes from the method by which Bitcoin is unlocked and available to be mined by the public. The code releases nodes in 1 MB chunks, or “blocks,” approximately every 10 minutes. Every coin, and every transaction related to it, is logged. Because the blockchain is available to anyone and contains metadata similar to a bank statement, the code is often referred to as a “public ledger.”

The database is cryptographically secure, and the chain is reliable and can be used to develop applications and protocols that require transparency and complete security. The primary advantage of money—like dollars, euros, and Bitcoin—is that the currency is understood by everyone, yet can be controlled by individuals or institutions. The blockchain, and Bitcoin, offers the additional benefit of transparency. Code, rather than a government, dictates the supply of Bitcoin.

Corporations, small businesses, and individuals all need to be aware of the blockchain. Because the blockchain allows financial transactions to occur anonymously, the technology has empowered the growth of questionable, sometimes illegal, behavior. In recent years ransomware has become a popular method of extorting consumers. Black markets have exploded in popularity. These markets exist on the Dark Web and allow hackers to buy and sell stolen data, zero-day exploits, drugs, weapons, and humans. The United Nations, the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies attempt to track illicit Dark Web transactions, but Bitcoin-based markets continue to flourish.

Well-funded startups also use the blockchain. It’s data-rich, secure, and offers unprecedented transparency, so the code can be used as the building block (pun intended) for numerous modern, and future, technologies and startup companies. Etherium, for example, is a blockchain startup that helps enterprise companies develop private chains and private currencies. Mycelium builds physical point-of-sale systems and debit cards for cryptocurrency.

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From groceries to fine art,
blockchain finds widening appeal

 

Chronicled CEO Ryan Orr attends a daily briefing with employees at their office in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday, April 6, 2017. Chronicled has developed blockchain authentication and chain-of-custody technology using small chips embedded into products, pharmaceuticals, and artwork.

Walmart is on a mission to forever change what people know about their groceries. The retail giant began in October to collaborate with IBM and Tsinghua University in Beijing to trace an array of food products moving through its vast global supply chain with an emerging technology known as blockchain.

The experiment, which will wrap up next month, will help Walmart understand how to make use of blockchain — a secure system of recording data that, many believe, could have a transformative effect on the world’s economy. The technology is already creeping into everything from supply chain management to banking to health care. “I’ve yet to come across an industry where it won’t have an impact,” said David Treat, a managing director at Accenture who leads the consulting firm’s financial services and blockchain practice group.

At its core, blockchain refers to an accounting system known as a distributed ledger. That ledger lives on a network of synchronized computers that communally capture and verify when a transaction takes place. Any time something of value gets exchanged, the data surrounding that exchange are recorded, encrypted and placed into a “block” visible by anyone granted access to the network.

Those blocks are then “chained” together chronologically, creating a timeline that can be traced to an initial transaction. That chronology is key to blockchain’s security since no individual block of data could be successfully altered without affecting all the other blocks in the chain. The technology would replace methods of accounting and tracking transactions.

“Whether you’re talking about a commodity or anything else, it’s a secure road map of where it’s been and who’s held it,” said Grant Fondo, an attorney, and co-chairman of the digital currency and blockchain practice at the law firm Goodwin Procter in San Francisco.

Blockchain technology emerged in the shadow of bitcoin. From the outset, a big appeal of the trendy digital currency was its ability to let users transfer funds without the need for a designated third party — like a bank, credit card company or other payment network operator — to verify the details of the transaction. But in recent years, even as the hype surrounding bitcoin has fizzled, blockchain’s secure ledger system is expected to endure by virtue of its versatility.

Chronicled, a San Francisco startup (unrelated to The Chronicle), is using blockchain technology to tackle counterfeiting. By placing microchips onto or inside of virtually any physical object, Chronicled can register critical identifying data about that object onto the blockchain, authenticating it as the original and tracking each step in its purchasing history.

“We don’t realize how bad the problem of copies and counterfeiting and clones really is,” said Chronicled CEO Ryan Orr. “But fake license plates, fake bottles of Champagne and spirits, fake Louis Vuitton handbags — we’re talking about a $2 trillion counterfeit market today.”

Chronicled’s anticounterfeiting technology has a particular appeal with the art world. In January, Chronicled teamed up with 111 Minna Gallery, a San Francisco art gallery and event space, for an event that was equal to parts art exhibition and tech expo. Each piece of art was assigned a chip that registered it on a blockchain. Equipped with a special app on their phones, gallery-goers could access a wealth of information about the works, and even purchase them, if they chose to do so.

“This is a secure system of identification and identity verification that’s never existed before,” Orr said. “So we can potentially solve this problem, and we can do a lot more on top of that once we can synchronize the physical and digital world identities, which was never possible before.” Walmart’s blockchain pilot program is limited to China, but Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety, said that the company is considering expanding it.

So far, Walmart is offering scant details about precisely what types of foods are being tracked on its blockchain system, but Yiannas said the goal is to bring transparency into the food supply chain and to get the myriad players in that chain to harmonize the ways they keep track of products moving through it. The tracking device can be on a small sticker.

“Imagine if you could capture data at the farm level on a digital system, how something was produced, where it came from — any relevant information to a consumer,” he said. “What that allows for is a new insight that could provide a new era of transparency and insight we just don’t have today.”

Yiannas said the level of detail he hopes to capture with blockchain gets down to “an individual apple. You pick up an apple and you know where that apple came from,” he said. “Imagine the consumer, who is mostly removed from food production, being able to scan a food product and know the things they want to know about it,” he added.

Capturing data on a blockchain about a particular product as it moves “from farm to fork,” Yiannas said, will also allow Walmart to better respond to food safety recalls. Currently, it can take weeks to trace a tainted product back to its source — a process that, with a blockchain, could take seconds, since growers, packing houses and distributors would all be placing their data in the same place, where all parties can see it. Beyond supply chains, blockchain technology has also made significant inroads in the banking industry, one that has a constant need to quickly authenticate and record transactions.

Ripple, a blockchain developer in San Francisco, specializes in systems that allow banks to send payments to one another. Banks can save money by transacting directly with one another, rather than relying on a clearinghouse or other third party to verify and process payments. This month, a consortium of 47 banks in Japan announced they would be implementing Ripple’s technology after a successful pilot program.

Blockchains are also beginning to reach into health care. In January, IBM, a major vendor of blockchain software, announced that it is working with the Food and Drug Administration to research how blockchains could be used to securely and efficiently transfer large amounts of patient data pulled from electronic medical records, clinical trials, and even wearable devices.

And officials in Cook County, Illinois, said last year that they intended to start a blockchain experiment for tracking the transfer of land titles. “Distributed ledgers are a paradigm shift in how we process transactions,” said Jesse Lund, the head of IBM’s blockchain market development. “It saves businesses money and it empowers consumers. I definitely think that it’s a shift with global implications, from a human perspective.”

Chuck Reynolds
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Music Groups Band Together to Build Blockchain Rights Solution

Drums, Instrument, Music

Three societies tasked with protecting the intellectual property rights of musicians, writers, and other content creators have joined forces to build a blockchain solution to prevent piracy. Powered by Hyperledger's open-source Fabric distributed ledger, and managed by IBM, the nascent platform is being designed to create a tangible connection between the time content is created and the time it is consumed.

Founded by the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers; the Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music; and PRS for Music, the joint project has the potential to help prevent online piracy by tracking more sophisticated data about music content on the blockchain.

In the face of generations-old concerns for the compensation of musicians and composers, however, it is worth noting that the blockchain solution currently being developed only has potential to help artists according to the rights granted by their contracting companies. The chief executive of PRS for Music, Robert Ashcroft, explained in a statement how real-time reporting of data about the digital consumption of content could empower a diverse set of stakeholders and lead to new business models.

Ashcroft said:

"If blockchain can help us achieve this, it will unlock opportunities for developers of new digital applications, increase accuracy of royalty payments and release value for rightsholders."

Similar to blockchain consortia in other industries, the goal of this joint music initiative is to create and adopt a shared, decentralized database that streamlines the flow of data. Unlike those consortia, however, the information the group wants to track is metadata about artistic works with real-time updates and more advanced tracking capabilities.

Although still in the early stages of development, the improved ability to track the ownership of legally protected creative works could eventually help confirm the legal owner of a work and the origin of disputed works.

Boosting artists

The formation of the joint initiative is the largest movement yet by what might be considered members of the legacy creative infrastructure providers. Since 2006, earnings for the US music industry alone have declined by about $5bn, largely due to the shift to the online streaming of music, according to The New York Times.

Of the total industry revenue, musicians earn on average about 20%, and one study found that 77% of the recorded music revenue went to just 1% of musicians. To help even that disparity, a number of blockchain startups have already responded to calls for a shared, distributed ledger to track artists' intellectual property and give them more control over their creations.

Startups like dotBlockchain Music (dotBC), Mycelia, MusicChain and Ujo Music have all, in their own way, set their sights not just on preventing piracy, but cutting out unnecessary middlemen.

Growing interest

However, based on today’s announcement, it would appear the music industry has come a long way since the early days of blockchain adoption. Once considered to be largely resistant to the transparency afforded by blockchain development, industry firms are now openly exploring the technology.

In April of last year, PRS for Music hosted a debate about blockchain technology, and two months later, SACEM was one of several legacy music companies to join the Open Music Initiative – aimed specifically at using blockchain to better serve musicians.

The least active of the three partners appears to be the historically litigious ASCAP, which has an online presence mostly limited to linking to articles about blockchain's dubious potential. Back in March, though, the group’s newly appointed CEO made a provocative statement first intimating at a potential change in tone. Describing her interest to increase international collaboration on technological solutions, Elizabeth Mathews concluded:

"If we work on these proof of concepts in areas like blockchain technology and others, the benefit will far outweigh the status quo."

Chuck Reynolds
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How the Blockchain is Being Used Beyond Bitcoin and Finance

The clouds of misconception and skepticism around bitcoin were

so dark in the initial years that it hid the genius behind it.  In trying to understand bitcoin, it brought into the spotlight the technology that underpins it –
the blockchain.

During the World Economic Forum at Davos, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund spoke about virtual currencies and released a paper titled “Virtual Currencies and Beyond: Initial Considerations.” The paper examines virtual currencies as well as blockchain. It reads, “VC schemes and distributed ledger technologies can strengthen financial efficiency by facilitating peer-to-peer exchange while reducing transaction times and costs, especially across borders…Beyond payments systems, distributed ledger technologies have implications for a wide range of markets and financial market infrastructures as a fast, accurate and secure record keeping system, including for stock exchanges, central securities depositories, securities settlement systems or trade repositories.” While blockchain has applications beyond bitcoin, the two are intertwined. In fact, bitcoin can be called a beautiful, first application of this amazing technology.

Improving the Ledger

Throughout history, records of transactions have always been an essential part of tracking information, be it in commerce or government activities. Such recordings created ledgers, which house these records. Blockchain supports digital distributed ledgers that record and store data.  The data is ‘distributed’ across a whole network, which can be open to everyone (“unpermissioned”) or restricted in terms of participants (“permissioned”).

Blockchain’s distributed ledger has great potential of cost-saving especially for international remittances for the banking system. According to the IMF report on virtual currencies, “The costs of sending international remittances, however, are notoriously high: as of 2015, the global average cost of sending small remittances (for example US $200) is 7.7%, though this has declined from just below 10% in 2008. In contrast, the cost with Bitcoin is estimated to be about 1% (Goldman Sachs, 2014).” Banks are looking to act fast as blockchain-based remittance systems have already made a debut; in the Philippines and Kenya, such platforms offer transfers via bitcoin and back into fiat currency.

Besides cost advantages, the other area where banks are looking to benefit from blockchain is efficiency in operations. The use of this technology will help them get rid of ‘headache work’ like manual processes, middlemen, huge data entry and verifications; blockchain making all possible at a faster speed and greater accuracy. The blockchain technology is being looked at as a great invention, which has many potential uses in many other industries such as music, healthcare, diamond, real estate and more. Even governments are showing interest in the breakthrough technology.

Blockchain Moves Beyond Finance

A recent report by the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser says, “distributed ledger technology provides the framework for the government to reduce fraud, corruption, error and the cost of paper-intensive processes. It has the potential to redefine the relationship between government and the citizen in terms of data sharing, transparency, and trust. It has similar possibilities for the private sector.” The diamond industry, which is highly prone to fraud, has already embraced the blockchain technology. Everledger is a permanent ledger for diamond certification and related transaction history. It provides verification for insurance companies, claimants and law enforcement. According to Everledger, “£200 million is spent by insurers each year for tackling fraud.”

Likewise, the real estate industry can benefit greatly from the blockchain technology. According to Ragnar Lifthrasir, “Putting property titles on the Bitcoin blockchain will bring the real estate industry out of its existing 18th-century technology. Title insurance is a $20 billion industry. It’s estimated that the total annual cost of fighting and resolving title fraud is $1 billion.”

The healthcare industry has shown interest in the blockchain technology and companies such as Facto, Tierion, DNA.Bits, BitHealth, and Gem are working on such projects. A tweet in October 2015, revealed a project for Philip Healthcare Group in collaboration with Tierion. The health care sector holds a lot of confidential information, like records of medical history, diseases, payments, and treatment. The blockchain not only provides a solution to the concern over the security and privacy of such sensitive data, it would help eliminate the huge costs incurred by hospitals and healthcare service providers in managing the patient and other such information.

Not far behind is the music industry, which has its own tailor-made blockchain. PeerTracks, a music streaming, and retail company is the first outfit to use the brand-new MUSE platform, in partnership with Danish exchange CCEDK and OpenLedger. OpenLedger, through its Danish registrar CCEDK, is now offering a fiat gateway – enabling anyone to buy MUSE for USD via the OPENMUSE/OPEN.USD market. On platforms using the MUSE network, such as PeerTracks, all the payments made by consumers, and income generated by artists, are in crypto-USD, so there is no confusion about how much a track costs – and no issues with crypto’s trademark volatility.

The technology is also being put to use for creation of decentralised credit rating and KYC. “Algorythmix has been named the most transformative use of blockchain in Citi Mobile Challenge APAC 2015, for “Cetas – The decentralised KYC and Credit rating framework. Cetas is a decentralised platform which enables sharing of the KYC data using blockchain.” There are many other projects working around the blockchain technology like Microsoft Corporation’s (MSFT) Azure Blockchain as a Service program, and the Open Ledger Project spearheaded by IBM overseen by the not-for-profit Linux Foundation. The project involves other big names like Wells Fargo & Company (WFC), London Stock Exchange Group Plc., Accenture Plc. (ACN), Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO), Digital Asset, Intel Corporation (INTC) and many more.

The Final Word

This is just an overview of the multiple projects being worked around this innovative technology. The blockchain technology, still in its early years, has thrown down the gauntlet in front of the current systems, challenging them to overhaul.

Chuck Reynolds
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