Crypto weekly update
2. July 2019  • clock 3 min •  Boris Hasko

Opera has brought cryptocurrency to the iPhone – Crypto weekly update

The cryptocurrency market has lost almost $80 billion in market cap in the latest drop. EOS was one of the worst hit altcoins in the top 10, hitting $5.5, but now the project is slowly recovering from the slump. Other altcoins like Bitcoin Cash, Cardano, and XRP are also showing recovery today. According to Coinmarketcap data, the total crypto market witnessed a market cap decline of more than 80 million from $385 billion (on June 27) on $303 billion (on June 28) in a span of 24 hours. However, good recovery is visible now as current market capitalization stands at $334 billion. Bitcoin dominance has risen steadily in 2019 from 51% seen during the start of the year to currently at 62%.

I. Technology

San Francisco-based incubator for the blockchain Ethereum Classic (ETC), ETC Labs, has announced that it will create a solution for Ethereum (ETH)/ETC interoperability in a collaboration with Metronome, in an official blog post on June 27. Per the announcement, blockchain interoperability—also referred to as “chainhopping”—is a property of a blockchain asset meaning that it can be transferred between separate blockchains. In this case, the cryptocurrency Metronome (MET) will be transferable between the ETH and ETC blockchains. The ETH and ETC blockchains initially split in the summer of 2016 after a contentious vote to return money lost when The DAO collapsed in 2016. According to the announcement, MET is the first cryptocurrency to have the property of blockchain interoperability. Metronome’s website also makes this claim and expounds on its further plans for interoperability, saying: “As the first cryptocurrency capable of being exported and imported across chains, Metronome will be initially issued on Ethereum with Ethereum Classic, Rootstock on Bitcoin, and Qtum support expected to follow. Such portability will allow users to select the chain that suits their requirements for management and security, or even upgrade the MET contract if needed.” As noted in the announcement, ETC Labs will provide support for Metronome’s Validator Network, a set of at least 5 decentralized, off-chain validators who will verify the validity of Metronome transactions. By doing so, this network will reportedly ensure that Metronome transactions are reliable and secure, and less prone to double-spend attacks. As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Metronome was initially announced by former bitcoin (BTC) dev and blockchain wallet Bloq co-founder Jeff Garzik back in 2017. One of the recent upgrades planned for ETC, the Atlantis ECIP 1054 hard fork, has recently been confirmed for block 8,772,000, which is set for an intended launch date of September 17. In the meantime, cooperating developers are running the new ETC iteration on testnets to try and eliminate as many bugs as possible before the protocol goes lives.

Opera, the major web browser, has brought cryptocurrency to the iPhone. The company announced Wednesday that its Opera Touch browser now comes with an Ethereum crypto wallet. The move follows a previous rollout of a crypto wallet for Android smartphones and PCs running Mac, Linux and Windows. Charles Hamel, head of crypto at Opera browsers, welcomed the move in a statement: “We believe that all modern browsers should integrate a crypto wallet. This will enable new business models to emerge on the web. Opera is the first browser to make using crypto on the Web seamless and easy. Following a strong demand from the crypto-community, we are now making this experience available on iOS.” The move is aimed at supporting new decentralized applications on the internet, falling under the umbrella term “Web 3.” The wallet supports the Ethereum Web3 API, which means users can interact with dApps without downloading any browser extensions. With its Ethereum wallet, Opera’s browser supports all stablecoins, ERC-20 tokens and non-fungible tokens. The launch follows Opera Touch’s previous rollout of an Ethereum wallet on Android. That update, which arrived in December 2018, received support from the cryptocurrency’s co-founder Joseph Lubin: “We see this as an important moment in improving Dapp accessibility, opening Web3 to mainstream audiences, and encouraging developers to build on Ethereum.” Now that Opera Touch comes with a wallet on both major smartphone platforms, it could spur further development. The company also announced Wednesday that it had partnered with Marble. Cards, a dApp that turns web pages into non-fungible tokens. Users can play, trade and sell collected URLs through the built-in share feature.

Director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Kenneth Blanco briefed several members of the United States House on the potential for Libra’s use in money laundering, illicit financing, and other illegal activities, according to a press release from Representative Emanuel Cleaver II. Leading the meeting were Reps. Cleaver, Trey Hollingsworth, Bill Foster, and French Hill, all members of the Committee on Financial Services. Rep. Cleaver, chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy, said in his statement: “With the evolution of virtual currencies and new marketplaces, nefarious actors are continuously adapting to find new ways to engage in illegal financial activity. […] Now that we’re seeing a giant corporation like Facebook—which has already shown an inability to identify and impede these kinds of actors at an acceptable level—creating its own virtual currency called Libra, it cannot be understated the importance of Congress and financial transmitters to be proactive in utilizing the newest and most powerful technologies to ensure the financial system is not being used improperly.” Blanco reportedly outlined current research into artificial intelligence and machine learning and their use in regulating cryptocurrencies. Rep. Cleaver’s questioning was largely informed by concern over Facebook’s role in the 2016 US presidential elections, as well as the alleged use of cryptocurrencies by Russian agents to fund election interference. Cleaver continued: “We’ve seen the significant damage that foreign adversaries and bad actors have wrought on our democracy through Facebook’s platform, and that was simply through messaging and advertising.” This briefing comes just days after the Financial Services Committee scheduled hearings with Facebook for July 17, which in turn followed Committee Chair Maxine Waters’ request for a moratorium on Libra’s development on June 18, as Cointelegraph reported at the time.

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS), an institution owned by the world’s central banks, has issued a stark warning about the likes of Facebook, Alibaba, and Google disrupting the established financial system. In its annual economic report, titled Big Tech in Finance: Opportunities and Risks, the BIS – commonly seen as the central bank of central banks – specifically cites Facebook’s new Libra cryptocurrency as a threat to existing payment services. “Given their size and customer reach, big techs’ entry into finance has the potential to spark rapid change in the industry.” Facebook official launched a cryptocurrency, Libra, last week, but other “big tech” companies may soon follow. Gemini co-founder Cameron Winklevoss predicts that Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google will issue similar initiatives within two years. Cryptocurrency aside, the presence of big tech in finance is arguably beyond the point of no return. In China, Alibaba’s payment initiative Alipay serves over 1 billion users. Meanwhile, Apple Pay counts 383 million users globally. Libra could potentially serve 2.7 billion Facebook users, overlapping with the entirety of some 2 billion WhatsApp users globally. And, of course, Bitcoin now has a market capitalization of almost $200 billion. The report warns that big tech companies will increasingly pivot towards financial services. By tapping into a huge pool of existing users, big tech can quickly launch a new financial infrastructure. And they have the brand recognition to pull it off, starting with Libra. “Regulators need to ensure a level playing field between big techs and banks, taking into account big techs’ wide customer base, access to information and broad-ranging business models.” Among the BIS’s concerns are the potential abuse of data and the emergence of digital financial monopolies, writing: “big techs have the ability to collect massive amounts of data at near zero cost.”

Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau said that Facebook’s Libra stablecoin must comply with anti-money laundering regulation and seek banking licenses if it offers banking services, Reuters reports on June 25. Per the report, while Villeroy admitted during an interview with French magazine l’Obs that there was room to improve cross-border money transfers. He also pointed out that Facebook’s libra project has to comply with existing banking regulation because “the risks are increased by the anonymity that Libra users would have.” Villeroy also touched on possible requirements for a banking license: “If the project seeks to go beyond payments to offering banking services like deposits, it will then have to be regulated like a bank with a banking license in all the countries it operates. Otherwise, it would be illegal.” As Reuters reports on June 25, alternate member of the Swiss National Bank’s governing board Thomas Moser, said at the Crypto Valley Conference in Zug reportedly said that he is open-minded about Facebook’s cryptocurrency project: “Overall I think it’s an interesting development and I’m pretty relaxed about it. […] They have clearly indicated that they are willing to play according to the rules, they have been contacting the regulators.” Head of the Bank of Italy’s head of market and payment system oversight allegedly declared that he wants to have more information about the Libra project. As Cointelegraph recently reported, French Minister of the Economy and Finance intends to “ask for guarantees” from Facebook in regards to its forthcoming digital currency Libra. Maire also asked the governors of the G7 central banks to report what guarantees are to be obtained from Facebook. Yesterday, a former economic adviser to United States President Donald Trump expressed support for Facebook’s stablecoin Libra.

III. Media

European Union banks could have an instantaneous payments system in place by 2020, Reuters reports on June 26. Per the report, real-time payments have been possible in the eurozone since 2017, but only about half of the banks in the bloc adhered to the initiative. Still, Reuters notes that adoption may accelerate now that Facebook’s Libra stablecoin is shaping up to be a competitor to local banks. Director general of the European Payments Council (EPC) Etienne Goosse reportedly said that — regardless of the success of Facebook’s Libra’s project — competition from technology firms was here to stay, and banks need to evolve faster. Goosse points out that major tech firms have a significant advantage over the fragmented banking system: “They come with a global solution, under a global brand offering many things that the consumers seem to find wonderful. […] So we have no time.” Goosse also pointed out that, while the EPC instant payment standard has been adopted by about 60% of eurozone lenders and payment services providers, it could spread to all banks in the block by the end of 2020. Reuters also notes that other officials confirmed that 2020 was a credible target, but they also noted that for the system to go across borders the entire eurozone would need to be covered. Lastly, Reuters notes that an instant payment system may not be enough to prevent losing user share to fintech initiatives that only need the user to install an easy-to-use mobile application. Facebook can also use its social and chat platforms to its advantage. As Cointelegraph reported earlier today, the head of the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority has urged regulators to develop standards in response to Facebook’s forthcoming cryptocurrency, Libra. Last week, the Switzerland-based Bank of International Settlements (BIS) commented on the threat that the entry of major tech firms into financial services could pose to the banking sector, as Cointelegraph reported.

Amazon-owned, leading game streaming platform Twitch has enabled bitcoin (BTC) and bitcoin cash (BCH) payments again, Cointelegraph Brazil reports on June 25. As Cointelegraph reported at the time, in March Twitch quietly removed bitcoin and bitcoin cash as payment options for subscriptions by removing Bitpay as a payment method. Per the report, Bitpay has been enabled again as a payment processor on the platform. Bitcoin and bitcoin cash can be found as payment options in the section dedicated to the less common payment methods of the subscription payment page. The renewed enabling of those coins as payment options has not been announced on the company’s blog or in a press release. Bitcoin — after trading sideways in the $3,000-$4,000 range for the first months of the year — has recently rallied and broke $13,000 yesterday. As of press time, bitcoin is down 5.47% on the day and up nearly 32% on the week. Earlier today news broke that BitMEX, the world’s largest cryptocurrency trading platform, saw record volumes across its operations as bitcoin hit $13,000. As Cointelegraph reported, also San Francisco-based payments company Square has just made bitcoin deposits available on its popular Cash App platform.

Major cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Pro has added support for Chainlink, according to a blog post on June 26. Coinbase has listed two trading pairs for the token of smart contract platform Chainlink (LINK) on its professional trading platform. LINK will be available to trade with the U.S. dollar (LINK/USD) and with ether (ETH) (LINK/ETH). The post says that the token will be available in all its covered jurisdictions except for the state of New York. According to the announcement, Coinbase Pro will roll out options for LINK in four steps. The four steps are (1) transfer-only, (2) post-only, (3) limit-only, and (4) full trading. For the first three options, respectively, users can put LINK in their Coinbase Pro accounts, post limit orders, and wait to receive order matches. The announcement also states that phase updates will be announced via Twitter. At press time, Coinbase Pro has only announced the beginning of the transfer-only phase. As per the press release, LINK is an ERC-20 token native to the Chainlink decentralized oracle network. According to Chainlink’s whitepaper, LINK is the token used for payments in Ethereum smart contracts backed on Chainlink: “In order for a smart contract on networks like Ethereum to use a ChainLink node, they will need to pay their chosen ChainLink Node Operator using LINK tokens, with prices being set by the node operator based on demand for the off-chain resource their ChainLink provides, and the supply of other similar resources.” The Chainlink network reportedly supports Ethereum smart contracts that rely on inputs from external data sources, APIs, and payment systems. As per the Chainlink website: “By allowing multiple Chainlinks to evaluate the same data before it becomes a trigger, we eliminate any one point of failure, and maintain the overall value of a smart contract that is highly secure, reliable, and trustworthy.” As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Coinbase Pro increased its fees and announced a different market structure for the platform in March.

The United States’ largest bank, JPMorgan Chase (JPM), is expecting to pilot its own cryptocurrency JPM Coin by the end of 2019, according to a Bloomberg report on June 25. Umar Farooq, head of digital treasury services and blockchain at JPMorgan, has revealed the company’s intention to launch pilot testing of JPM Coin with selected clients “around the end of the year” in case if relevant regulators approve the bank to do so. According to Farooq, JPMorgan has seen an increased interest from global customers in the potential benefits of the bank’s stablecoin project JPM Coin revealed in mid-February 2019. Specifically, JPMorgan clients in the U.S., Europe, and Japan have expressed interest to learn about JPM Coin’s capabilities in speeding up securities and bond transactions. In this regard, Farooq stated that the bank’s stablecoin has a potential to enable “instant” delivery of bonds via blockchain. The JPM’s executive has also revealed the bank’s positive stance on tokenized and digital securities, predicting that a number of stocks will become digital in five to 20 years. Speaking in an interview in Tokyo, Farooq said: “We believe that a lot of securities over time, in five to 20 years, will increasingly become digital or get tokenized.” In the recent interview, Farooq has reiterated his optimistic stance towards blockchain tech, after claiming previously that blockchain applications are “frankly quite endless.” Recently, JPM’s managing director of global market strategy revealed that the bank believes that the bitcoin (BTC) industry has changed since 2017 due to impact from institutional investors.

IV. Business

IBM has announced upgrades to its Blockchain Platform, according to a report by Ledger Insights on June 18. The new IBM Blockchain Platform will reportedly be able to run on multiple cloud networks, such as major tech corporation Microsoft’s Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS). This is apparently the main upgrade over its previous iteration, which was available solely through IBM’s cloud. The multicloud platform will be available via Kubernetes, a container program that will reportedly allow users to scale their blockchain networks as needed. One of the main upshots of its new multicloud framework is that IBM Blockchain Platform 2.0 that IBM boasts on its website is its interoperability. According to the website, the multicloud platform lets the blockchain participants provide governance across multiple cloud networks, even those with differing privacy environments. IBM Blockchain CTO Gari Singh commented on this cross-network advantage, saying: “We want to bring on XYZ company, but XYZ has a contract with Azure or AWS or Oracle,” he said. “How do we allow those guys to connect up a peer [node] to join the network and how can you support that?” […] We can now actually leverage all the great things that are in Hypeledger Fabric, and we can support you wherever you need to be. And we can also help to support networks that want to work with IBM, but they have other members that don’t.” According to the report, IBM’s platform is a variation on the open source blockchain platform Hyperledger Fabric, which is fundamentally the same but with the addition of ease-of-access tools provided by IBM. The tools reportedly streamline the process of launching a permissioned network, assisting with necessary tasks such as assigning governance and creating consensus mechanisms. As previously reported by Cointelegraph, IBM recently partnered with Brazilian payments non-profit Câmara Interbancária de Pagamentos to release a blockchain ID platform built on Hyperledger Fabric. The platform, called “Device ID,” will reportedly act as an authenticator for digital signatures on mobile devices, presumably aimed at preventing fraud and other criminal activities. Nine banks and the Brazilian Payment System are reportedly set to make use of the new blockchain verification platform.

Nearly six years after the first Bitcoin ATM was installed in Vancouver, Canada the number of the cryptocurrency-dispensing machines across the world has risen to 5,006, according to Coin ATM Radar. In the last 60 days, an average of just under 6 Bitcoin ATMs were installed per day. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. leads in the number of crypto vending machines with over 3200 Bitcoin ATM locations. This is around 64 percent of the world’s total. Canada, which hosted the world’s first ever cryptocurrency dispensing machine, was second with over 680 locations. In addition to Mexico and other countries in the region, North America now has over 74 percent of the world’s Bitcoin ATMs, hinting at a great deal of work the rest of the world has to do to catch up. Interestingly, more crypto ATMs were installed in the months after cryptocurrency prices tumbled from their December 2017 high than the preceding four years. Since January 2018 over 3,000 crypto ATMs, or 60 percent of the current total, have been installed. Assuming the current average rate of crypto ATM installation of approximately 5.6 machines per day holds, by the time the sixth anniversary of the world’s first Bitcoin ATM rolls by, there will be over 700 more cryptocurrency vending machines installed by then. The first bitcoin ATM was installed on October 29, 2013 at a coffee shop in downtown Vancouver. The manufacturer of the pioneering Bitcoin ATM was Robocoin. The firm was, however, unable to exploit the first-mover advantage to the maximum. Currently, the leading cryptocurrency ATM manufacturer in terms of installations is General Bytes (1550 locations). Its followed by Genesis Coin (1497 locations and Lamassu (439 locations). Robocoin shut down operations three years

The bitcoin price is up 234 percent since January, even despite Wednesday’s drop. But while mainstream media scramble to explain bitcoin’s rise, one cryptocurrency has quietly outperformed every digital asset in the top 25. LINK, the native token of Chainlink, has soared 737 percent year-to-date. Although LINK’s rise is parabolic, it doesn’t appear to be a crypto pump-and-dump. There are real fundamentals behind the price. In 2019 alone, Chainlink inked deals with Google and Oracle, launched its mainnet on Ethereum, and secured a listing on Coinbase. Chainlink has emerged as a key player in the word of smart contracts. While Ethereum popularized the technology, it’s very difficult for smart contracts to interact with other blockchains and real-world systems. Chainlink fills the gap, making it possible for smart contracts to communicate with existing bank software, data feeds, and APIs. As founder Sergey Nazarov explained to Decrypt: “Essentially, our goal is make good blockchain middleware. It’s not the sexiest way to put it, but what we’re doing is connecting systems that need to be connected for value to exist.” Google’s cloud team have already tapped Chainlink to improve its blockchain projects. Google’s BigQuery plans to use Chainlink as the middleman between its cloud database and Ethereum. In a Google cloud blog post, they explained: “Ethereum can interoperate with our enterprise cloud data warehouse (BigQuery) via oracle middleware (Chainlink).” Chainlink has also partnered with tech-data giant Oracle, which will support more than 50 Chainlink nodes. The partnerships are huge catalysts for LINK, as the cryptocurrency is used to pay node operators. In other words, the more companies use the Chainlink network, the more valuable LINK becomes. LINK jumped nine percent alone in the last 24 hours after Coinbase Pro announced it would support Chainlink trading. The San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange will initially support two link trading pairs: LINK/USD and LINK/ETH. As per usual, Coinbase will roll out support for Chainlink in iterative stages to gauge interest and liquidity. Trading is available in all supported jurisdictions except New York state.

SEC-Registered Clearing House Brings Crypto Trading to 5 Million Clients. American financial clearing and execution company Apex Clearing and its crypto investment subsidiary Apex Crypto have launched a new trading platform for broker-dealers and financial advisors to help their clients trade crypto more effectively. According to a June 27 press release announcing the new broker-integrated Apex Crypto platform, equity investors will be able to seamlessly open and fund new crypto trading accounts “within minutes” — rather than the purported weeks it would usually take clients to do so. Founded in 2012, Apex Clearing is an SEC-registered and FINRA member digital wealth management firm owned by American financial services company PEAK6 Investments LLC. As of today, over 5 million current Apex Clearing clients can thus access the Apex Crypto platform, which supports trading of four major cryptocurrencies: bitcoin (BTC), bitcoin cash (BCH), ether (ETH), and litecoin (LTC). The press release places a strong emphasis on the new platform’s apparently high throughput and scalability, claiming that Apex’s systems enable the opening of tens of thousands of accounts within a single day, allowing traders to take advantage of surges in crypto trading volumes. The platform leverages technology jointly provided by Apex Crypto and U.S.-based online discount broker-dealer and Apex Clearing client SogoTrade Inc. Initially, Apex Crypto is being released for investors across 40 U.S. states and the District of Columbia — with additional states expected in future once regulatory approval has been sealed. In a statement, Apex Clearing CEO has said that the clearinghouse seeks to “fundamentally change” the way investors and enterprises think about their finances, proposing that: “Our integration with Apex Crypto helps financial firms give their clients a streamlined way to invest in a wider variety of asset classes in a way that feels part of – not separate from – the rest of their investment portfolio.” As Cointelegraph has previously reported, Apex Clearing first confirmed it planned to launch its Apex Crypto subsidiary last September, stating that the move was spurred by the continued surge in demand for crypto-based investment options.

The Litecoin Foundation has announced a partnership with Bibox Exchange and blockchain firm Ternio to release a physical cryptocurrency debit card, in a blog post on June 18. Per the post, the companies will jointly roll out a cryptocurrency debit card dubbed “BlockCard” that will purportedly let users spend their cryptocurrency funds both online and in physical store locations around the world. Customers will be able to keep cryptocurrencies such as litecoin (LTC) and Bibox Exchange’s and Ternio’s native tokens bibox token (BIX) and ternio (TERN) respectively. Within the project, Bibox Exchange will act as the custodian of users’ funds and leverage over $200 million worth of cryptocurrency trading volume. Ternio will provide a dedicated platform. The Litecoin Foundation and Bibox Exchange will integrate the card directly into the Bibox Exchange and Litecoin’s official wallet, LoafWallet. “This is an exciting partnership for us as it furthers the Litecoin Foundation’s mission to create more use cases for spending Litecoin in everyday life. Leveraging Ternio’s BlockCard platform with Bibox’s exchange engine gives Litecoin holders unparalleled access to use their LTC at merchants around the world.” The Litecoin Foundation thus joins several other industry players that have rolled out digital currency debit cards. Just recently, American crypto exchange Coinbase launched its Visa debit card in six European countries. Coinbase’s new offering purportedly allow users to spend cryptocurrencies they hold at any merchant that accepts Visa cards. In March, Visa itself published a crypto and blockchain-related job opening. The firm is ostensibly seeking someone to fill the position of Technical Product Manager at Visa Fintech at its Palo Alto office. The position’s description states that a candidate should have an in-depth understanding of distributed ledger technology and the crypto industry.

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Boris Hasko


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