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Exclusive: Microsoft Registers Blockchain and AI Platform for Agriculture in Brazil

Microsoft’s technology, known as FarmBeats, uses blockchain, drones and AI to improve productivity and reduce water consumption on farms.

Microsoft has registered a suite of applications in Brazil that are designed to improve efficiency in the agriculture sector, according to an exclusive report by Cointelegraph Brazil on June 6.

The technology, known as FarmBeats, uses blockchain, drones, IoTartificial intelligence and big data to improve productivity. It has already been rolled out on farms in the United StatesIndiaNew Zealand and Kenya, achieving a 30% reduction in water consumption.

Ranveer Chandra, the scientist who created FarmBeats, recently said that the agriculture sector had been left behind by the benefits big data, AI and blockchain can bring — even claiming that hunting had seen more digital transformation despite being a smaller industry. He told business and economy magazine Epoca Negocios:

“Brazil is one of the first countries that comes to mind when we think of agriculture. We developed FarmBeats so that its technology could be applied here and in other developing countries.”

The technology is regarded as crucial as farmers struggle to make a living while competing with a changing climate and growing demand for produce, Epoca Negocios writes. Chandra explains that production needs to increase by 70% in the next 30 years if global food requirements are going to be met.

The scientist has called on Brazil’s government to embrace the technology and subsidize it in a similar way to farming equipment and fertilizer. Besides helping farmers use resources more effectively, FarmBeats claims it can enhance accuracy and yield by delivering vital statistics about the temperature, moisture and nutrients in the soil.

Microsoft has made several forays into the blockchain world of late. Last month, the United States giant released the new Azure Blockchain Development Kit for the Ethereum blockchain — aiding developers who are building apps on the network.

Also in May, the company announced it was building a decentralized identity network using the Bitcoin network known as the Identity Overlay Network (ION.)

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Google Releases Tools For Ethereum Blockchain Analysis

Internet giant Google has expanded its big data analytics with the inclusion of tools to explore the Ethereum blockchain.

Just a few months after releasing Bitcoin support for its BigQuery database tool, Google has announced a new plugin for analyzing the Ethereum platform. In a blog post last week the tech giant stated;

“Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies have captured the imagination of technologists, financiers, and economists. Digital currencies are only one application of the underlying blockchain technology. Earlier this year, we made the Bitcoin dataset publicly available for analysis in Google BigQuery. Today we’re making the Ethereum dataset available.”

The post elaborates to explain the primary differences between the Ethereum blockchain and Bitcoin’s. These include a token based smart contract principle, precise and direct Ether value transfer resembling accounting ledger debits and credits, and the virtual machine that can execute arbitrary code. It added that Ethereum blockchain data was now available for viewing with BitQuery, Google’s web service that enables interactive analysis of massively large datasets working in conjunction with Google Storage.

Chrome users are now capable of accessing and reading all of the data stored on Ethereum’s blockchain. Google elaborated on the development stating;

“A visualization like this (and the underpinning database query) is useful for making business decisions, such as prioritizing improvements to the Ethereum architecture itself (is the system running close to capacity and due for an upgrade?) to balance sheet adjustments (how quickly can a wallet be rebalanced?).”

A software system has been built on Google Cloud that ‘synchronizes the Ethereum blockchain to computers running Parity in Google Cloud, performs a daily extraction of data from the Ethereum blockchain ledger, including the results of smart contract transactions, such as token transfers, and de-normalizes and stores date-partitioned data to BigQuery for easy and cost-effective exploration.’

Google then demonstrated a few examples of how this data could be put to use. The first of which was a list of the most popular smart contracts by transaction count. The most popular ERC721 (collectible) smart contract by transaction count is the main contract for Cryptokitties unsurprisingly. This data can then be probed deeper to find out more information on the evolution of these digital moggies in the form of some fancy charts.

Another example was a look at the top ten most popular ERC20 contracts and some statistics from number five, OmiseGO, with evidence of airdrops showing a high number of OMG receivers but no increase in senders.

Girl in a jacket


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Google Now Provides a Big Data View of the Ethereum Blockchain

Internet search giant (and much more) Google has added ethereum to its big data analytics platform BigQuery.

Making the announcement in a blog post on Saturday, the company said that, while an API exists for commonly used functions, such as checking transaction status or wallet balances, it’s not so easy to access all of the data stored on the ethereum blockchain.

The post continues to say that “perhaps more importantly,” the API doesn’t allow for viewing blockchain data “in aggregate.”

Aiming the new service to provide more of a Big Data window into ethereum, Google said:

“A visualization like this … is useful for making business decisions, such as prioritizing improvements to the Ethereum architecture itself (is the system running close to capacity and due for an upgrade?) to balance sheet adjustments (how quickly can a wallet be rebalanced?).”

The software system Google has built on its Cloud platform does several things: it synchronizes the ethereum blockchain to computers running Parity; it pulls data from the ethereum ledger on a daily basis, including the results of smart contract transactions; and it “de-normalizes and stores date-partitioned data to BigQuery for easy and cost-effective exploration.”

In some examples of why the addition may be useful and or interesting to users, Google sets out several examples, showing that, for one, CryptoKitties (a crypto collectibles game) smart contract transactions are by far the most numerous on the ethereum network. It further adds a visualization for “pedigrees” of accounts that own more than 10 CryptoKitties:

CryptoKitty visualization courtesy of Google

A second example looks at data from ERC-20 token project OmiseGo, with a visualization that shows how token recipients spiked on Sept. 30 2017, while senders didn’t. The explanation? The surge marked the OmiseGo project’s airdrop of tokens to its community.

Data from the bitcoin network was added to BigQuery earlier this year, according to the post.

Anyone interested in using Google’s new service can already query ethereum’s data in Kaggle.

Images courtesy of Google

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Biotech Giant Plans to Securely Share Genetic Data on a Blockchain

A publicly traded biotech giant based in South Korea is turning to blockchain to allow it to share genetic data without risk of hacking or infringement of patients’ privacy.

Macrogen, a DNA sequencing service provider with headquarters in Seoul, said in a press release on Monday that it is working with Big Data firm Bigster to develop a blockchain network for the distribution of genomic information, which is slated for completion by June 2019.

In the medical field, according to the release, genomic data is used for customized patient diagnosis and treatment, while the pharmaceutical industry can use it for the development of new drugs and therapeutic agents.

Yet, despite the high utilization value of DNA data within healthcare, it is not widely shared due to the sensitive nature of the information to patients and the risk of privacy breaches.

Yang Kap-seok, CEO of Macrogen, commented in the release:

“Despite the fact that genomic data is widely used, it has not been easy to share it because of the problem of personal information protection. With the blockchain platform we seek to build this time, we expect to create an ecosystem that can freely distribute genetic data.”

To that end, the firms plan a system based on a consortium blockchain model that will only allow invited parties – such as pharmaceutical firms, research institutes, hospitals and genetic analysis startups – to run as nodes on the decentralized network, limiting who can access the data.

Macrogen is not the only technology giant looking to apply blockchain tech within the genomics industry.

As far back as 2014, an Israeli startup called DNA.Bits announced plans to store genetic and medical record data using blockchain technology.

And, as previously reported by CoinDesk, a patent application filed by Intel indicated that the hardware firm is exploring ways to take advantage of the energy generated during cryptocurrency mining to sequence DNA.

DNA sequence image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Waltonchain (WTC) Unveils World’s First Blockchain-based Clothing Authenticity Traceability System

Waltonchian (WTC) –It is no gainsaying that blockchain technology is proffering solutions to many of the problems bedeviling the world, be it in the industry or at home.

As different sectors continue to receive helping hands from blockchain technology, the least expected sector, which is the apparel industry, is being disrupted by this technology and the Internet of Things (IOT) through Waltonchain’s WTC-Garment.

At the moment, there is a lot of happiness in the blockchain industry with the introduction of WTC-Garment. It is branded as the world’s first blockchain-based high-end clothing authenticity traceability system invented by Waltonchain, the global leader in blockchain and IoT. The project is a joint implementation of Waltonchain and Kaltendin, China’s leading high-end clothing brand.

The idea applies the RFID core technology to the smart management system for smart production, warehousing management and smart shopping experience.

Experts have tagged it “a revolutionary application of big data and IOT+ in the apparel industry”.

According to an introductory video released by Waltonchain on the technology, WTC-Garment provides automatic data filling form production orders, label printing, factory package verifications, unified document management, and batch barcode printing.

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At the same time, it offers automatic print record storage, factory real time order receiving and confirmation, and amendment of products.

In the same line, it automatically generates order report, while storing factory info into Waltonchain blockchain technology, giving room for all data to be tracked in real time.

The invention does garment scanning on arrival, thereby reducing warehousing errors. Necessary pieces of information are stored via RFID handsets while available data uploaded into blockchain makes good to be easily located and checked from time to time.

Waltonchain is becoming globally recognized for its efforts in creating a stable atmosphere for many industrial sectors. Recently, Waltonchain CEO Mo Bing had said the company will be the Qualcomm + Cisco in the blockchain industry, the ‘Google’ of blockchain, stating afterward that the company’s current achieve is “quite fortunate”.

This year alone, the CEO said the company has applied for more than 20 patents with over a dozen software copyright objects.

“This year we have been preparing our layout. We have already applied for more than 20 patents, and there are more than a dozen of software copyright objects. These may be the moats we have built for our core technologies.”


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Sony Details Blockchain Use for Education Data

A new patent filing from Sony highlights how the Japanese tech conglomerate may be using blockchain as part of an education platform.

In August, Sony announced that it was working with IBM to build a suite of educational services, which would use the tech in part to secure student records and form part of a system for sharing that data between agreed-upon parties.

The application from Sony, published last week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), points to how that might work in practice.

For example, “nodes” on the education network could be run by teachers, students or other parties that might need access to those records. It refers to how “educational experiences” would be cemented on the chain after being signed by the relevant users.

As the application explains:

“In this example, the [blockchain], which is a trust chain, may be used to store information such as education experiences, certificates and so on of a user. The information contains, for example, studying which courses and possessing which certificates. In addition, based on concepts of a smart contract and a smart property, knowledge may also be exchanged, transacted and transferred via the block chain as a property.”

The filing, entitled “Electronic Apparatus, Method for Electronic Apparatus and Information Processing System,” hints at other possible uses for the tech as well, including for connecting vehicles across a common network.

That “Internet of Vehicle” network would, as envisioned, enable cars to report road conditions to one another, according to the application’s authors.

“By applying the electronic apparatus of the present disclosure to a vehicle (i.e., a node), trust can be transferred between uncorrelated entities using the [blockchain] technology, and real and valid real-time road conditions information is obtained in real-time according to the consensus,” they wrote. “In this way, decentralized real-time road conditions observation and further a navigation system may be realized.”

Sony image via Vytautas Kielaitis / Shutterstock

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Can Blockchain Save Us from the Internet's Original Sin?

Michael J. Casey is the chairman of CoinDesk’s advisory board and a senior advisor for blockchain research at MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative. 

In this opinion piece, one of a weekly series of columns, Casey looks at how blockchain might free society from the stranglehold of the four giant data hogs of the internet era: Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.

What’s wrong with this picture?

The front page of The Wall Street Journal, Tuesday: “Amazon Lures 238 Bids for its Second Home.”

It’s not a good thing that a single company can get the political leaders of so many American cities and states to scramble over each other to try to lure $5 billion in spending on some new buildings.

The story shows that Amazon’s influence over American urban life is far more than one company deserves: over tax policies, over city planning decisions, over the aesthetics and culture of our communities. Society’s interests lie in sustaining a dynamic, innovative and evolving economy, not one in which hegemonic companies have oversized sway over everyone’s decision-making.

This is the core problem of centralization in the internet age – a pet topic for those of us who believe the ideas behind blockchain technology can point us toward a better economic model.

Amazon is not alone, of course. But it’s in a very select group. An acronym has emerged to define the small club of digital behemoths to which it belongs: GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple).

Two other WSJ stories this past week bring home the distorting influence of two other members of that club. One was Christopher Mims’ column about Facebook’s “master algorithm,” which in determining what we see and read is literally dictating how we think. The other was about Google winning the quantum computing race, a prize that will afford the winner unimaginable competitive advantages in data-processing capabilities.

Meanwhile, with my iPhone 6’s screen cracked and its functionality deteriorated since I upgraded to iOS 11, I’m tempted to switch to a Samsung phone, but don’t want to lose all the data and connectivity that the Apple universe has locked me into. And I know that with the Android OS, I’d just be getting Google’s version of the same dependency anyway.

The internet’s original sin

How did the GAFA gang get to be so powerful? It comes down to an original sin in the first design of the internet.

The inventors of packet switching and of the basic protocols on which the modern web is built did a masterful job figuring how to move information seamlessly across a distributed network. What they didn’t do was resolve the problem of trust.

Since information is power, it is often highly sensitive. So when people share it with each other, they need to know that data can be trusted. But since there was no truly decentralized trust mediation system in place in the 1990s – no permissionless way to solve the Byzantine Generals’ Problem – an asymmetric solution was found.

On the one hand, the distribution of public information was disintermediated, which put all centralized providers of that information, especially newspapers and other media outlets, under intense business pressure from blogs and other new information competitors. But on the other, all valuable information – particularly money itself, an especially valuable form of information – was still intermediated by trusted third parties.

It was a centralized solution bolted onto a decentralized information infrastructure.

So, we got website hosting services to manage each site’s files. We got certificate authorities to authenticate reliable addresses. We got banks and credit card providers to run the payment system. And since we craved the network that Facebook’s community offered and that Amazon’s marketplace could reach and Google’s search engine could tap, we fed ever more valuable information into the hands of these entities – those that won the early, defining battles to establish dominance of those services.

A new internet version of the trusted third party was born, and it was just as powerful, if not more so, than those archetypal trusted third parties of the pre-internet era: banks.

Only these newcomers’ currency isn’t dollars, it’s data.

A decentralized way forward

Lately, problems such as Facebook’s “fake news” dilemma and Equifax’s cyberbreach have finally begun shining a light on the fundamental flaws of a centralized system for controlling sensitive information. But our economy was suffering long before that as result of this re-intermediation.

Since producers now depend on Amazon to reach their customers, their entire business model – from production processes to their planning strategies – is determined by whatever information is generated by the Seattle company’s algorithm. That’s an inherent impediment to effective innovation and creates a dependency that limits competitive capabilities.

If you think this level of domination is bad, consider what will happen when we arrive at a world in which artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things have combined to ensure that virtually every decision we make is automated by some algorithm. The question “who owns the data?” is going to become a much bigger problem.

I don’t know if the blockchain will ultimately solve all this. In the blockchain space, there are unsolved challenges relating to how to scale permissionless blockchains such as bitcoin, as well as questions about how much autonomy people want or should have over their own money and their data.

But surely the answer lies somewhere within the core concept of a decentralized trust mechanism that blockchain points to.

Within the model that Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention produced – a system for how to agree on the validity of information shared by strangers in an environment of mistrust – we have a new framework for thinking about who gets to manage data in the internet age.

The idea that the global economy of the future will be one in which individuals and small businesses have direct control over their data, and yet can still operate in open markets and generate network effects is an exciting prospect. It’s a future in which a more level playing field gives rise to true competition and unleashes the kind of open-source innovation that’s needed to solve many of the problems we face.

That world will eventually come. The places that win in that environment will be those that first embrace a new, decentralized model for data sharing and peer-to-peer trading that promotes true competition. The losers will likely include whichever city wins the 2017 beauty contest to host Amazon’s new headquarters.

Adam and Eve image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk strives to offer an open platform for dialogue and discussion on all things blockchain by encouraging contributed articles. As such, the opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of CoinDesk.

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