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Austrian Blockchain Center for Multidisciplinary Research Established in Vienna

The Austrian Blockchain Center has been established in the city of Vienna, where it will collaborate with local academics in multidisciplinary research.

The COMET Centers, which are coordinated by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), have approved the Austrian Blockchain Center (ABC) in Vienna, according to a Nov. 29 press release.

ABC involves 21 scientific institutions, 54 companies, 17 associated participants, and 16 international institutions and companies. According to the release, the research center will be multidisciplinary and focus on Internet of Things (IoT), finance, energy, logistics, and applications in public administration.

Alfred Taudes, academic director and coordinator of the center, and head of the Research Institute for Cryptoeconomics at WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, said that a multidisciplinary approach is “necessary for comprehensive research.”

The center will conduct research and development in five different areas; cryptography technology and security; cryptoeconomic modelling and blockchain applications for business; emerging industries and blockchains in manufacturing; data science methods for blockchain analytics and predictions; and legal and political implications.

The new research center will purportedly work in tandem with other COMET Centers and international blockchain initiatives. The centers are funded by the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology, and the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs. ABC will also receiving support from the provinces of Lower Austria and Vorarlberg.

The Austrian government has been proactive in its support for blockchain initiatives and development of the technology. In September, the government set to offer a $1.35 billion bond on the Ethereum blockchain. At the time, Austria’s Finance Minister, Hartwig Loeger, said that the ministry is considering blockchain tech as it forms a “focus on economic policy.”

Earlier this month, the Austrian government supported a U.K. cancer research company that uses blockchain in its work. Lancor Scientific, which has developed a device to detect multiple types of cancer, records screening results with smart contracts on a blockchain. The firm plans to open a research laboratory in the Austrian city of Graz.

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Austrian Financial Authority Calls for Tighter Regulation of ICOs and Cryptocurrencies

Board directors of the Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA), Klaus Kumpfmüller and Helmut Ettl, have have offered proposals for stricter regulations on cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs), Cointelegraph auf Deutsch reports today, June 29.

According to an article published in the Austrian newspaper Die Presse on the June 29, Kumpfmüller proposed a “threshold-dependent” prospectus requirement for ICOs similar to that of securities. The FMA executive committee defined a “reasonable” threshold as two million euros. In addition, according to Kumpfmüller, there should be a concession obligation for distributors of cryptocurrencies and that these “will be treated like securities in the future”.

Ettle compared the proposed regulations to existing restrictions on financial institutions, “For the purchase and sale of foreign currency you need a mini-bank license.” So far, trading cryptocurrencies has no such analogous regulation under Austrian law. Last year, the FMA submitted around 30 statements regarding suspected legal violations in connection with cryptocurrencies and ICOs to the public prosecutor’s office.

According to Die Presse, FMA board members expressed their discontent with Austria’s Finance Minister, Hartwig Löger, who wants to strip the agency of some of its authority. In regular disputes between the FMA and the auditing authority (OePR), Löger calls for more “regulatory responsibility at the ministerial level”, which the FMA should then “reasonably execute.”    

According to the FMA executive board, matters such as money laundering have so far only been superficially regulated by law, and further oversight by the ministry should be seen as a positive development. However, there are “no serious problems” with regard to supervision and accounting, so transfer of competences would likely be regarded as “a political decision”. Ettl said it was crucial that the FMA retains “integrated and independent supervision.”

However, with regard to tightening regulations on cryptocurrencies, the FMA and the Finance Minister are not so far apart. When Löger called for tighter rules in the crypto sector in February, and for early regulation at the European level, both Ettl and Kumpfmüller approved and offered their participation in a “FinTech Regulatory Council” proposed by Löger.

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Austrian Financial Regulator Halts Operations of Crypto Mining Platform

The Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA) has banned the business activities of a Vienna-based cloud cryptocurrency mining company INVIA GmbH, according to an FMA press release published May 29.

The company was ordered to cease digital currencies mining operations on the grounds of suspicion of unauthorised management of an Alternative Investment Fund (AIF). The procedure concerning the prohibition is still pending. The press release adds the INVIA is neither supervised nor licensed by the FMA.

INVIA World, the company behind INVIA GmbH, offers mining of “profitable coins” like Bitcoin and Ethereum through an “intelligent mining system,” paying proceeds from mining operations to its users. Contrary to the FMA’s claims, the company asserts that it operates in compliance with EU legislature.

Earlier this month, US blockchain startup ShipChain was issued a cease-and-desist order from the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office for violating the state’s securities statutes. Though it was claimed that ShipChain was unregistered with the securities regulator as a broker-dealer, the company subsequently refuted the claim.

Also this month, a Bitcoin investment company from Texas was issued a cease-and-desist order by the Texas State Security Board for offering unregistered securities and making deceiving statements that mislead investors.

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Steve Wozniak Compares Ethereum to Apple at Vienna Conference

At the WeAreDevelopers tech conference in Vienna, Steve “Woz” Wozniak compared Ethereum’s platform with Apple and said it could become just as influential, Forbes reported May 18.

While delivering his speech at the conference, Wozniak was enthusiastic about Ethereum (ETH), describing it as a platform similar to Apple’s. He said that in the long-term Ethereum can become just as influential as Apple is. He added:

“Ethereum interests me because it can do things and because it’s a platform.”

According to Forbes, Wozniak happened upon Bitcoin and Ethereum in its early days, although he divested from crypto in early 2018. Wozniak said he still owns one Bitcoin (BTC) and two Ethereum (ETH) to “experiment with paying for different things.”

On Thursday, in his opening speech at the conference, Wozniak called blockchain “the next major IT revolution that is about to happen.” He said that both blockchain and cryptocurrencies will achieve their full potential in a decade. In October of last year, Wozniak said at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas that Bitcoin is better than gold or the US dollar.

After Apple, Wozniak has remained part of the the tech world, founding the coding academy Woz University that has 31 coding centers across the US.

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Steve Wozniak: Bitcoin And Blockchain Will Achieve Full Potential In a Decade

Apple’s co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak has commented positively about cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology in his opening speech at the WeAreDevelopers World Congress 2018 in Vienna, Austria.

According to a report by Cointelegraph auf Deutsch Wednesday, May 16, Wozniak considers blockchain to be a “great idea.” He further said:

“[Blockchain] is the next major IT revolution that is about to happen.”

Wozniak explained his positive outlook on blockchain by the fact that there are many useful applications for the technology in a number of areas.

The blockchain and cryptocurrencies will achieve their full potential in a decade, according to Wozniak. Apple’s co-founder quoted CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey, who had said in March that Bitcoin will become the world’s “single currency.”

This is not the first time that Steve Wozniak has made positive comments about cryptocurrencies and blockchain. At the “Money 20/20” conference in Las Vegas, back in October last year, he said that Bitcoin is better than gold and the US dollar.

According to Wozniak, Bitcoin’s big advantage is that there is only a limited amount of coins, while fiat money, like the US dollar or euro, can simply be printed by banks.

Nonetheless, Wozniak sold all his bitcoins except one, as he said at the WeAreDevelopers Conference in Vienna, because “[he] does not want to be an investor and constantly watch the prices.”

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Hodler’s Digest, May 7-13: From Facebook To NYSE, Mainstream Thinks Of Adoption

Top Stories This Week

Owner Of New York Stock Exchange Mulls Over Addition Of Crypto Trading

The New York Times reported this week that the NYSE might be giving its customers the option to buy and hold Bitcoin, an assertion backed up by documents, emails, and anonymous sources that confirm these future crypto traders contracts.

Improvement Code Casper For Ethereum Network Released

A new version of Casper, a code upgrade for the Ethereum network that aims to improve the economic consensus protocol, was released this week on Github. The Casper code combines Proof-of-Work (PoW) with Proof-of-Stake (PoS), with the eventual goal for Ethereum to switch entirely to PoS.

Facebook Considers Blockchain Tech For Messaging App, Explores Cryptocurrency

The head of Facebook’s Messenger app–David Marcus, who is also on the board at crypto exchange and wallet Coinbase–announced this week that he is setting up a small working group for looking into blockchain use across Facebook. Media outlets also reported that Facebook is allegedly “very serious” about plans to launch its own cryptocurrency.

Iranians Use Crypto To Move $2.5 Bln Out Of Country

Iranians are increasingly turning to Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies in the wake of the US exit from a multilateral nuclear accord with the country this week. The news has plunged the country into economic turmoil, resulting in a surge of interest towards crypto.

Federal Reserve Bank Of San Fran Attributes BTC Decline To Futures Release

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco wrote in an economic letter this week that Bitcoin’s decline from December’s high of $20,000 to February’s low of below $7,000 can be attributed to the natural process following the introduction of a futures market–and both the CME and the CBOE launched Bitcoin futures last December.

Best Quotes

“Suppose you could make a lot of money trading freshly harvested baby brains. Would you do it, or would you say that’s immoral? You wouldn’t trade them, would you? It’s too awful a concept. Well, to me Bitcoin is almost as bad,” — Charlie Munger, Berkshire Hathaway VP

“I feel like I’m in two different universes, I need a passport to go between the Bitcoin world and my regular world,” — Chamath Palihapitiya, founder and CEO of VC firm Social Capital

Laws And Taxes

Colorado Passes Blockchain Bill For Records, Cyber Security

The Colorado Senate passed a bill this week that requires government offices and regulatory agencies to consider blockchain use for the protection of confidential records, citing the technology’s use in preventing criminal or unauthorized exploitation and theft.

China Government Body Considers Blockchain Standards Release In 2019

The director of the Blockchain Research Office at China’s IT Ministry said this week that a working group had already begun research on producing nationwide blockchain standards, with the goal to release the standards by the end of 2019.

European Crypto Exchanges Call For Regulation…Of Themselves

A UK crypto trading platform and an Austrian crypto exchange have asked for more clear crypto regulation in order to “know where we stand.” According to the two crypto companies, the current AML/KYC regulation leaves them uncertain as to how their businesses fit into the existing regulatory landscape.

Crypto Revenue Subject To Taxes In Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan’s Taxes Ministry announced this week that crypto-to-fiat transactions will be subject to taxation, as any amount gained by selling should be recorded as income. A local news source says that the Azerbaijani crypto market saw an uptick in popularity from May-December 2017, falling in line with last fall’s global crypto craze.

Ukrainian Legislative Body Considers Recognizing Crypto As Financial Instrument

The head of Ukraine’s National Securities and Stock Market Commission said this week that the growth of the crypto industry has made it necessary to legally recognize cryptocurrencies and adapt financial regulations: “the point of no return is the past.”

Adoption

West Virginia Elections Close As First Gov’t Run Blockchain Vote In US History

Two counties in West Virginia allowed citizens this week of a certain category–members of the military and those that were eligible for absentee voting–to vote using a mobile blockchain-based platform developed by Voatz.

World’s Second Largest Software Firm Enters Blockchain Sphere

Software company Oracle will be releasing a platform-as-service product this month and decentralized ledger-based applications next month, working with both a Chilean bank and the Nigerian government in their expansion into blockchain.

Australian Blockchain Companies Repurpose Old Real Estate For BTC Mining

An unused coal plant in Australia is being turned into a Bitcoin mining operation as per a partnership between two Australian blockchain companies. The proposed mining station would occupy two hectares (almost 5 acres!) of land.

More Australia News–Gov’t Considers Blockchain For Trade Supply Chains

Australia’s government is looking into using blockchain for the country’s trade supply chain, which would improve the methods of validation and analysis of trade data, said a spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

Telecom Companies Work With Blockchain Startup On Proof Of Concept

A collaboration between two major telecom companies and a blockchain startup has successfully tested inter-carrier settlement of services with blockchain. The tests will now be extended to other members of the ITW Global Leaders’ Forum

Diamond Mining Giant Tracks Diamonds From Mine To Retailer With Blockchain

De Beers has announced it has successfully tracked 100 high-value diamonds from the mine to the store using blockchain tech, as part of their commitment to only deal in conflict-free diamonds.

Mergers And Acquisitions

Bloomberg Partners With Crypto Merchant Bank For Crypto Price Index

Bloomberg has announced the release of the Bloomberg Galaxy Crypto Index (BGCI), created in collaboration with former Wall Street exec Mike Novogratz’s crypto merchant bank, Galaxy Digital Management. For the start, ten coins from the “most liquid” part of the crypto market will be listed, including BTC, ETH, XRP, and others.

Gainers and losers

The crypto markets saw a slight dip this week–most likely correlated to the news of the police investigation of South Korean exchange Upbit–bringing Bitcoin below $9,000 and Ethereum below $700. At week’s end, total market cap is around $397 bln.

Top three altcoin gainers of the week:

  • Kin (36.52%)
  • Ontology (13.11%)
  • Skyecoin (12.84%)

Top three altcoin losers of the week:

  • WaykiChain (-7.93%)
  • Cryptonex (-4.56%)
  • Mithril (-4.43%)

For more info on crypto prices, make sure to read Cointelegraph’s market analysis.

FUD Of The Week

Bill Gates Slams Bitcoin, Again

Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates again spoke negatively this week of Bitcoin, calling it a “greater fool” investment and he would “would short it if there was an easy way to do it.” Good news, Bill, there is an easy way to do it, and Tyler Winklevoss was kind enough to tweet you direct instructions as to how.

Bank Of America Tells Its Customers, Again, They Can’t Buy Crypto With Credit Cards

Bank of America’s chief technology officer called Bitcoin “troubling” this week due to its lack of transparency–a deliberate characteristic of the cryptocurrency, which was designed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis–and reaffirmed the decision not to let customers by crypto with BoA credit cards.

South Korean Crypto Exchange Investigated By Police For Alleged Fraud

Crypto exchange Upbit is reportedly being investigated by local police in South Korea, who believe the exchange faked its balance sheets and deceived investors. Ten investigators will conduct an audit of the exchange’s crypto holdings.

Coinhive ‘Cryptojacking’ Code Found On More Than 300 Websites

Coinhive mining code–a non-maliciously built but often maliciously used code for mining the altcoin Monero–has been found on over 300 government and university websites globally, according to a recent cyber security report. The sites affected are mainly hosted on Amazon with domains in the US, but the common denominator across all those affected is use of the Drupal content management system.

Prediction Of The Week

Fundstrat Research Uses Bitcoin Mining Costs To Predict BTC Hitting $36K By 2019

Fundstrat’s Tom Lee has predicted that Bitcoin will hit $36,000 by the end of 2019 due to a projection based on predicted growth of the mining industry. Previously, Lee had predicted $25,000 by 2020, then $91,000 by March 2020, and most recently $25,000 by the end of 2018–none of these heights mutually exclusive.

Best Features

How to Run a Blockchain on a Deserted Island with Pen and Paper

Founder at Orbs.com tells you all you need to know if you’re trapped on a desert island with the characters from hit TV show Lost and desperately need to operate a blockchain by hand.

How We Make Decisions At Coinbase

If you’ve ever wondered how to make any kind of decision in the absolutely fairest way possible with every possible scenario thought out until the very end–related or unrelated to cryptocurrency and blockchain–wonder no longer!

Cyber Gold: Understand Cryptocurrency With ClickHole’s Guide To Bitcoin

Simple and efficient explanatory infographic on the basics of bitcoin for crypto newbies.

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Vienna University of Technology to Launch Multi-Blockchain Transfer System

Bitpanda, an Austrian trading platform for cryptocurrencies is partnering with the Vienna University of Technology to develop an open-source platform called “Pantos” for real-time arbitrage trading between different Blockchain tokens, Cointelegraph auf Deutsch reported on Wednesday, March 7.

In partnership with the Vienna University of Technology, researchers from the Research Institute for Future Cryptoeconomics (RIAT) in Austria are also participating in the project.

The research project called “Pantos” aims to solve the problem of the increasing fragmentation of Blockchain tokens and to allow “worthwhile transfers of tokens over several blockchains” for the first time, Bitpanda announced in its press release on on Wednesday, March 7. This will enable traders to capitalize on price differences between pairs of digital currencies on one single platform.

The Pantos system will be financed by using an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) limited to 1500 BTC (about $14.8 mln at press time) for a new token called PAN. As the Bitpanda makers emphasize in the announcement, the ICO will not serve to fund a new startup, but to finance the development of technology which afterwards can be freely used through open source licenses.

Pantos will initially be launched on the Ethereum platform. Support for the cryptocurrencies Bitcoin, Litecoin, Lisk, Komodo, and Wave will follow shortly thereafter.

Pantos is not the first Blockchain-based project for Vienna University of Technology. At the end of November 2017, in a project called “Ethertrust”, the research group “Security and Privacy” led by Professor Matteo Maffei published work that improves the security of Smart Contracts for the cryptocurrency Ethereum.

There are several German universities and research institutions which are currently exploring the use of Blockchain.

In March 2018, the Institute for Industrial Management FIR at the RWTH Aachen University, Fraunhofer FIT, and Demofabrik Aachen will begin a joint study on “Blockchain for Industrial Applications” under the leadership of KEX AG, a technology and market information provider.

The aim of this project is to identify potential applications of Blockchain technology for the industry, to evaluate them in concrete terms, and to find ways in which they can be implemented and used.

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Crypto Culture Platform Coins A New Way To Stop Touts

Cultural Places, a platform specializing in connecting cultural institutions and visitors is vowing to clamp down on ticket touts through Blockchain technology.

The Austrian Company wants to tackle the inflationary effect touts have on the secondary ticket market by introducing its own cryptocurrency – the Cultural Coin. The coin, based on the Ethereum framework will allow consumers to buy tickets directly from museums, music venues and tourist sites, while providing a transparent venue for resale if they are unable to attend.

The detrimental impact of touting has prompted governments around the world to restrict the practice, as those purchasing second-hand tickets are not always guaranteed access to events.

Cultural Places is planning to stand out from other Blockchain ticketing websites by focusing on high-quality cultural content and collaborating closely with institutions worldwide. It believes that this strategy will establish credibility in the eyes of consumers who, until now, have had to visit multiple websites to plan and purchase a trip. In its white paper, the company says bringing all of the information visitors need on to one platform would eliminate the confusion low-quality, untrustworthy providers can cause – and this will “democratize access to cultural knowledge”.

A new cryptocurrency: the Cultural Coin

The company plans to introduce crypto ticketing in 2019, with all customers being offered a wallet for Cultural Coins. Fees associated with buying entry to exhibitions, galleries, gigs and landmarks would be set at 6 percent – a stark contrast to the 30 percent commission demanded by some current ticketing providers.

This 6 percent fee is going to be divided in four ways. Cultural Places would take a 3 percent share of the revenue, 1 percent would be returned to customers through a loyalty scheme, another 1 percent would go to all users in the ecosystem who hold Cultural Coins, and the remaining 1 percent earmarked as royalties for the institutions offering engaging content to the public.

Audio guides and shop memorabilia would also be on sale through the app, allowing visitors to skip queues and make the most of their time.

Building the community

Cultural Places says the number of institutions it has a business relationship with is “growing by the minute”, with 30 venues in six countries on the books at the last count. Among its partners is Indonesia’s Borobudur Temple – the world’s largest Buddhist temple, and Stephansdom, an iconic cathedral in Vienna.

The company wants to achieve a European market share of 12 percent by 2023 – and the concept could be coming to a landmark near you. Cultural Places has a wish list of attractions it would like to join its platform – including the Louvre in Paris, London’s Tate galleries, the Colosseum in Rome and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Each institution joining the platform would be given help to “transform their content to be ready for the demands of a new generation”. This allows users to see sights virtually before they pay a visit in person, and neatly ties into current cultural policy across Europe, where digital preservation of precious artefacts has become a priority.

The Cultural Places community will be bolstered further through a social network where institutions, cultural experts and the public can come together to debate and share knowledge. Crowdfunding will also be introduced in the third quarter of 2019, and the company hopes this will greatly improve the breadth of exhibitions and artistic endeavors in society.

One of Austria’s first ICOs

Under the leadership of CEO Patrick Tomelitsch, the focus now for Cultural Places is its initial coin offering – one of Austria’s first.

A total of 900 mln Cultural Coins are being made available to the public. The company’s pre-ICO of 90 mln coins ends on March 4, with the rest being offered across four phases from March 5 to April 5.

Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.

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Austrian Finance Minister Considers Pan-EU Crypto Regulation Based On Rules For Gold

Austria’s Finance Minister Hartwig Löger is considering basing cryptocurrency regulations on the trading rules already in place for gold and derivatives as a way to prevent crypto from being used in money laundering, Bloomberg reported Friday, Feb. 23.

Löger spoke with Portugal’s Finance Minister Mario Centeno about his plans for pan-European Union crypto regulations on this basis yesterday, according to local news outlet Vienna.at.

During the meeting with Centeno, Löger discussed an action plan for the EU Commision in Brussels to form a working group in March to accept EU proposals about how to deal with fraud in cryptocurrencies.

Löger said, “the case in Austria is enough for me to take action in this area,” reported Vienna.at, referring to the recently uncovered Optioment Bitcoin (BTC) pyramid scheme.

Löger has also brought up the idea of a Fintech Regulatory Council to be organized by March, where crypto experts will examine how crypto regulation will work with EU institutions.

According to Bloomberg, Löger said in a statement:

“Cryptocurrencies are significantly gaining importance in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing. That’s an important aspect for the changes we support. We need more trust and more security.”

As part of Löger’s plan, crypto investors would report trades of more than $12,300 to the financial intelligence unit, and crypto trading platforms would be supervised by the Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA).

Additionally, Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) would be based on “digital prospectuses” that would need to be approved by the FMA, and regulations against market manipulation and insider trading would be applied to ICOs, just as they already are for share and bond offerings.

In a Feb. 23 press release, the FMA Board, Helmut Ettl and Klaus Kumpfmüller, wrote that they “welcome the move by Finance Minister Hartwig Löger to subject cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin to regulation and supervision:”

“Since digital currencies are essentially a phenomenon of the Internet and are offered there without limits, regulation and oversight of cross-border cooperation are also of great importance, we therefore particularly support the approach of addressing these issues at European level.”

The FMA also wrote that they will contribute to Löger’s proposed FinTech Regulatory Council.

European Union regulators released another series of warnings in mid-February to consumers, advising them of the high risks and “pricing bubble” characteristics of virtual currencies.

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Austria Planning New Regulations for Cryptocurrency, ICOs

Austria has joined the list of countries planning to regulate cryptocurrencies and will use as a model existing rules for the trading of gold and derivatives.

The government’s central concern is curbing the use of cryptocurrencies for money laundering, Bloomberg reports. Likewise, it wishes to extend oversight measures for traditional financial products to crypto assets.

“Cryptocurrencies are significantly gaining importance in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing,” Finance Minister Hartwig Loeger was quoted as saying. As a result, he went on to say, “We need more trust and security.”

Loeger outlined several measures the government plans to implement, including requiring cryptocurrency market participants to identify all trading parties and to disclose trades of €10,000 ($12,300) or more to the government’s financial intelligence unit.

The regulation will also cover initial coin offerings (ICOs), Loeger said. The government will apply existing rules regarding market manipulation, insider trading and front-running, and organizers will be required to submit “digital prospectuses” to the country’s Financial Market Authority (FMA).

The finance minister’s statements come on the heels of a report that the Austrian government is seeking suspects in an alleged bitcoin scam by a company called Optioment, which may have resulted in investor losses of up to $115 million.

Loeger also suggested that the European Union should implement cryptocurrency regulation. This may well come to fruition as the European Commission announced Thursday that top central bank and market supervision figures in addition to unidentified “market players” will meet next week to discuss the matter.

Austrian parliament image via Shutterstock

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