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Fumbi  - Weekly crypto briefing (14.)

Published: 03. 04. 2019 · Author: Martin Trník

Every week Fumbi.network brings you a recap of the most valuable crypto-news from fields of Technology, Legal & Politics, Business, and Media. So stay tuned and buckle up for some good reading.

Bitcoin has seen its biggest positive surge in price for several months, climbing to a 2019 all-time high of $5100 on BitMex. The price increase sees BTC touch November 2018 prices, with the entire market cap also surging over $20 billion. Could alt season be here already? Altcoins have seen some impressive pumps over the past few weeks, and it appears as if BTC is also having its own time to shine. Once BTC settles down again, this could be a catalyst for further altcoins to pump.

I. Technology

Bitcoin off-chain scaling solution the Lightning Network (LN) has reached a record $5 million in capacity as Bitcoin price rises fuel enthusiasm across the board. Data from monitoring resource 1ml.com confirmed the milestone for Lightning, which has upped its Bitcoin transaction capacity by almost 50 percent over the past month. At press time April 2, Bitcoin mainnet Lightning had support for 1062 BTC ($5,080,000) — an all-time high in both BTC and USD terms. Other metrics for the size of Lightning, which continues to gain publicity, also show records. Network nodes now number 7773, an increase of 11 percent versus one month ago, while the number of channels has reached 39,126, 24 percent more than at the start of March. The latest figures come on the back of continuing progress from developers, with Lightning’s latest feature, Lightning Loop, being released late last month. Like the majority of major releases, Loop aims to simplify the process of using LN to transact, given mounting interest in what remains an experimental technology. As Bitcoinist reported, other more consumer-oriented services have also gone live recently, including a tool for ordering pizza using Lightning, something which creators intend to expand to cover Europe and Canada in addition to the US. bitcoinist.com

Analysts have been anticipating the implications of the Internet of Things (IoT) for several years. However, there have been two main impediments to its success: capacity and security. But now, the introduction of a new technology could change that. This year, major carriers like AT&T and Verizon will be introducing 5G, the latest generation of cellular mobile communications. The 5G platform brings a high data rate, reduced latency, energy savings, cost reduction, higher system capacity and massive device connectivity, according to analysts. The combination of 5G and blockchain technology has the potential to unleash a surge of economic value. In order to understand this connection between 5G and blockchain, one must think of the relationship as multifold. The power of 5G coverage through its reduced latency, high speeds and capacity allows for IoT devices to become widely used. Simultaneously, these devices can leverage the security, decentralization, immutability and consensus arbitration of blockchains as foundational layers. That means smart cities, driverless vehicles, smart homes and other sensor-driven enhancements will finally have a technology that can handle their needs. cointelegraph.com

Since its launch in 2015, Ethereum has been considered the successor to Bitcoin because it offered tools that allow programmers to create apps that could perform transactions automatically. Now, however, Bloomberg reports that Ethereum is losing market share. According to the publication, long-promised projects are now being delivered on rival platforms and several startups have begun using cryptocurrencies such as EOS and Stellar to raise funds through ICOs. Kyle Samani, co-founder of hedge fund Multicoin Capital Management stated, “The simple reality is that until the last six-to-nine months, there were no other options besides Ethereum. Now there are.” The increasing popularity of rival projects has had an impact on the demand for Ether, which has been range-bound for some time now. Furthermore, Bloomberg argues that online video-game players don’t have to depend on Ether to purchase in-game items. “Owning Ethereum today is a call option on what you think the network is going to be in the future,” said Travis Kling, founder of crypto hedge fund Ikigai. “To the extent that Ethereum competitor projects get traction with developers, with users, with dApps built on top of the platform, that will be viewed by the market as being detrimental to the overall value of Ethereum, and that can have a negative price impact on Ether.” www.chepicap.com

II. Legal & Politics

62% of Analysts Believe Brexit Will Boost Value of Cryptocurrencies. According to data collected by Cindicator, a market intelligence firm that ran an ICO in 2017, at least 62% of analysts polled believe that the upcoming Brexit will have a positive impact on the market for digital assets and cryptocurrencies. 74% of all surveyed parties are considering cryptocurrencies as an addition to their portfolio. Most analysts also believe that the current deadline for Brexit will pass, but will be extended. According to Cindicator’s Hybrid Intelligence, there’s just a 19.1% chance that the deadline of March 29th. At 22.5%, there’s a slightly higher chance that Britain will exit the EU without an agreement in place. But the most likely scenario, with an 82.75% probability, is that the deadline will merely get an extension. Readers may be aware that British lawmakers are currently surprised by Prime Minister Theresa May’s essential re-submission of an agreement they had already rejected. The second failure of her proposal led to her resignation. The whole situation has got many in the British media and political circles reconsidering the entire notion. There is a slight chance that the British government will just override the will of the people and remain a member of the EU. Most analysts think such an effort would fail to get the requisite support from members of parliament. The economic impacts of Brexit have already been felt for years. Bank of England estimates that nearly 800 million pounds per week have been shed from the economy every week since the decision passed in 2016. During the same period, the British pound (GBP) has lost 5% against the dollar and 10% against the Euro. www.ccn.com

Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAFM) has found that blockchain has far-reaching potential to improve asylum procedures. Following a successfully completed proof-of-concept (PoC), the findings were published on March 26 in a white paper. The paper was edited by BAFM and authored by the Project Group Business & Information Systems Engineering of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT. The PoC — undertaken by BAFM, Fraunhofer FIT and an unnamed technology partner in the first half of 2018 — focused on evaluating blockchain’s potential to support two crucial aspects of asylum procedures: the creation of reliable and secure digital identities and improving communication and cooperation between authorities at a municipal, state and national level. For the PoC, the three partners used a private and permissioned version of an Ethereum-derived blockchain, using a proof-of-authority consensus algorithm. The white paper outlines that blockchain can enable the creation of tamper resistant digital identities for refugees that arrive without ID documents, based on biometric data collected at the moment of their initial registration in the receiving country. This immutable blockchain-based identity would then support further aspects of the asylum procedure and ensure the consistent and secure identification of each asylum applicant across multiple organizations. The white paper’s authors propose that a robust, blockchain-based identity solution could have far-reaching positive pan-European implications, noting that: “Blockchain could be the ‘digital enabler’ of European federalism in the asylum context. […] A European platform for the decentralised management of asylum procedures […] would enable the transparent storage of a person’s place of initial registration. […] Digital identities are per se nationally agnostic and could thus support Europe’s unity at a fundamental level.” The white paper notes that data protection laws pose a key challenge for blockchain innovation within a European context — a reference to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a landmark EU-wide legal framework for personal data privacy, which took effect in May 2018. cointelegraph.com/news

Ripple and its cross border payments technology has been heavily praised in a rather bullish post by a prominent member of the world bank. Marco Nicoli the World Banks’ senior financial sector specialist has called out traditional cross border payments services, such as SWIFT, one of Ripple’s biggest competitors as “slow and opaque,” in a report about the transformative nature of digital ledger technology: “These shortcomings make the cross-border payment industry ripe for disruption and innovation. Some see distributed ledger technologies (DLT) as having the potential to drive industry-wide change. Indeed, B2B cross-border payments, traditionally characterized by fragmentation and opacity, are a potential use case for the successful implementation of DLT”. Nicoli also points to the dramatic benefits of using DLT: “Using DLT solutions could also bring down compliance costs and improve the transparency and traceability of transfers. This could help ease the impact of the de-risking phenomenon that has affected the remittance services industry over the past few years.” He goes on to further explain that addressing the issue of transparency will increase the confidence of the banking sector in the remittances industry, and even potential negates the need for banks altogether. The report cites Ripple technology imparticular, more specifically Ripples xRapid remittances solution: “In 2018, Ripple, a fintech company, piloted xRapid, a DLT-based cross-border payments solution, along the very competitive U.S.-Mexico corridor. Financial institutions involved in the pilot saved 40%-70% in foreign exchange costs, and the average payment times was just over two minutes. The transfer of funds on xRapid took two to three seconds, with most of the processing time explained by domestic payment rails and intermediary digital asset exchanges.” www.chepicap.com

III. Media

You can now pay for Netflix and Airbnb with crypto-bought gift cards — US media streaming giant Netflix and online hospitality service site Airbnb is gearing up to accept payments with gift cards purchased through cryptocurrencies. Bitrefill, a shopping platform that allows cryptocurrencies to be used to purchase a variety of services, has introduced a service enabling the purchase of Netflix and Airbnb gift cards. For Airbnb, the cards come in denominations of $25, $50 and $100 and are only valid for stays less than 28 nights. For the time being, however, the service is limited to customers within the US. Customers can pay for their bookings with Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dash, Litecoin, and Dogecoin. It’s important to note that the card is considered a voucher product, meaning that customers purchase a US dollar equivalent for Airbnb with cryptocurrencies and receive a voucher code for use on the platform. As such, Airbnb doesn’t accept or handle cryptocurrencies. In its official blog post, Bitrefill said regarding the Netflix integration: “Great news — We’re excited to roll out support for a highly requested service: Netflix! Subscriptions with the world’s largest streaming service can now be purchased and renewed with Bitcoin, Lightning, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dash, and Dogecoin.” www.chepicap.com

The number of travel websites accepting cryptocurrencies has been growing with the popularity of digital coins. One well-established platform, Bitcoin.travel, now supports payments in seven cryptos, including bitcoin cash (BCH). Bitcoin.travel works with businesses from the travel industry willing to accept decentralized digital currencies for their services. On the platform, which is available in dozens of languages, users can search for flights, hotels and rentals offered by numerous partners around the world. Starting originally with BTC payments, the travel site has expanded the number of supported cryptocurrencies to seven. Currently, it can also process incoming transactions in bitcoin cash (BCH), ethereum (ETH), ethereum classic (ETC), litecoin (LTC), dash and dogecoin. Travelers can book a desired destination, accommodation or other service using their preferred cryptocurrency. The payment is accepted on confirmation but is transferred to the provider at least 24 hours after guests check in. news.bitcoin.com

Bithumb was hacked for the second time in less than a year as attackers managed to steal 3 million EOS coins and 20 million XRP. The subsequent laundering of the $21 million dollar haul was then tracked in real time by a twitter analyst, as the hacker swapped the tainted coins for other cryptocurrencies on non-KYC exchanges. The news broke late on Saturday morning (UST) as crypto entrepreneur and analyst Dovey Wan relayed reports apparently coming from a security firm who were auditing for Bithumb. The attack was at first feared to have struck the cryptocurrency’s exchange’s cold wallet. However it was later confirmed that it was an online ‘hot wallet’ that had been hacked. As Wan stated, this is the second time in less than a year that Bithumb has fallen prey to the same trap: “And this is the second time Bithumb saw a MAJOR hack, last time it’s hacked with a loss over $30m.. lol and after the first hack it was STILL able to get the fiat license from Korea and WTF??” As more news filtered through it was revealed that the EOS was on the move via the non-custodial, non-KYC exchange ChangeNow. www.ccn.com

Japan Railways Group, the biggest railway and subway operator in Japan that is used by millions of Japanese individuals on a daily basis, is considering the integration of crypto assets like bitcoin as a payment option. According to ANN News, a mainstream commercial television news network in Japan run by TV Asahi Corporation, JR Group is currently planning to establish a cryptocurrency company, possibly an exchange in partnership with a major bank, to integrate cryptocurrencies. If JR Group moves forward with its plans to integrate crypto into the Suica card, the national public transport card that is used by residents for various payments including subway transactions, it has the potential to become the biggest stimulus in retail and mainstream cryptocurrency adoption to date. Based on the report of ANN News and the reported plans of JR Group to establish a new cryptocurrency venture, it is likely that the company would like to create its own exchange or infrastructure to process payments, similar to Rakuten. www.ccn.com

It has been reported by The Bitcoinist that the Kiev City State Administration (KCSA) is looking into possibly using Bitcoin as a means of payment for public transportation. This comes as part of an overhaul and modernization of the Ukrainian capital that is slated to be in place by 2024. Like some other cities around the world, Kiev is looking to move its entire public transportation system to e-ticketing in the next 5 years. The initiative is being called “Vision 2024,” and now officials are wondering if Bitcoin may not be the way to go. The idea actually was looked at once before, but it was at a more volatile time for Bitcoin and so was shelved at the time. An unnamed source is quoted in the article: “The question has already been raised in 2018, but this idea had to be temporarily abandoned, given the cost of bitcoin at that time. Now, as you know, bitcoin has fallen heavily in price, which opens up new opportunities.” www.chepicap.com

IV. Business

Bitcoin Payments Surge to New Record: The average transactions per Bitcoin block have gone to its all-time high in the past few days, and many people are attributing the rise in operations to a company called Veriblock. Veriblock is said to be creating as many as 20% of the total transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain at this time. According to Blockchain.info, the current transaction rate is at its all-time high. The actual highest transactions ever recorded in a single day was back in December 2017, when, according to Bitinfocharts, transactions exceeded 420,000 in a single day. According to Bitinfocharts, the rate of Bitcoin transactions is currently nearing its high of December 2017. The fees are nowhere near where they were then, however. Veriblock went live a few days ago, and according to its block explorer, it currently represents almost 19% of the total Bitcoin transactions. People were already concerned about it when it was still in its testing stages. If there were enough demand for Veriblock’s services, could it push up to 80% of all Bitcoin transactions? What is Veriblock? It’s similar to Komodo in that it enables alternative blockchains to leverage the hashpower of the Bitcoin blockchain for security. The Komodo platform, however, requires fewer transactions to work out its delayed proof-of-work scheme. Veriblock calls their concept “proof of proof.” It describes itself as such: “PoP mining enables blockchains to inherit and leverage the Proof of Work from a superior blockchain such as Bitcoin. As a result, the reinforced security provided by PoP will encourage further adoption of these alternative blockchains.” Some people feel Veriblock is little more than blockchain spam, but it’s certainly not the type of spam that you want to complain about if you’re a miner. Blocks are full of fee-paying transactions as a result of Veriblock. The current feerate on Bitcoin is about 10,000 satoshi per kilobyte. It’s been a lot higher than that in times past. If the Bitcoin price happens to break out while Veriblock is still using a large amount of block space, we can expect fees to skyrocket. For Veriblock to remain a reliable service, it will be paying these higher fees. www.ccn.com

To coincide with the rise in cryptocurrency adoption, a team of developers has created a wallet that allows users to access cryptocurrencies from within Whatsapp through a service called Waubit, the Express reports. The service will allow its users to send, receive, trade and perform several other tasks. The Whatsapp service is reportedly closed to completion with the team is looking to bring the service to other messaging apps like Telegram, Viber and Facebook messenger. Rumors suggest that public beta will begin next month. According to the UK publication, Waubit will first be integrating Bitcoin support. Additionally, the developers have described the service as a “software agent” powered by specialized AI. Users will be able to type in commands like “send 0.05 BTC to Vera” and Waubit will send the funds. A spokesperson for Waubit stated, “We are near completing the wallet core service starting with BTC.” According to the company’s website, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin and Ethereum are also being considered for integration. Billions of people around the world use Whatsapp, the developers hope to capitalize on this to propel cryptocurrency payments further into the mainstream. www.chepicap.com

Russian Banks Join Chinese Swift — Is the Dollar Era Under Threat? As a Saudi oil minister once remarked, the Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. It seems it’s neither the deficit of a tool nor its deficiencies that make it obsolete, but rather the invention of new tools that do the job better. With increasing competition, will the U.S. dollar continue to be the world’s primary currency, will it come to be just one of several reserve fiat currencies, or will cryptocurrency become the new instrument that powers the global economy? No one can predict exactly how long the greenback era is going to last. What’s certain is there are different camps that want to end it for various reasons. And if cryptocurrencies are taken into account, there’s an evolutionary push in that direction as well. Bitcoin is an alternative to all traditional, government-issued currencies, of which the dollar is the most recognizable. The U.S. dollar has been the most important currency since the last years of World War II, when the Bretton Woods agreement established a monetary system which formed the basis for international financial transactions and commercial relations. It fixed the value of the dollar to the gold and pegged other currencies to the dollar. For decades the United States maintained a policy of providing stability and liquidity to the global economy through its currency. And when in the ’70s the Nixon administration terminated the dollar’s direct convertibility to gold, turning it into fiat money, the dollar became the primary reserve currency for many banks and countries around the world. Russia, which is targeted with sanctions, already has an alternative to Swift. The System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS) was developed in response to proposals in the west to exclude the country from Swift following the annexation of Crimea. It was implemented in 2014, when Russia’s central bank also launched the Mir payment system after several of its banks were denied services by Visa and Mastercard. Last fall, Russian officials revealed Moscow was in talks with China, Iran and Turkey on integrating SPFS with their financial systems. And in March, a high-ranking representative of the central bank’s international cooperation department was quoted by RT announcing that several Russian banks have joined the China International Payments System (CIPS) in order to ease operations between the two countries. news.bitcoin.com

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