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The UK Government's Official Archive Is Testing Blockchain

The National Archives (TNA), the official record-keeper of the UK government, is investigating the use of blockchain for records sharing.

The research project, dubbed Archangel, is being led by the University of Surrey and involves partners such as the Open Data Institute. Among other goals, the initiative will explore the extent to which blockchain can address pressing questions related to archive management.

In a blog post published Tuesday, Alex Green, the Archives’ digital preservation services manager, wrote:

“How can we demonstrate that the record you see today is the same record that was entrusted to the archive 20 years previously?… How do we ensure that citizens continue to see archives as trusted custodians of the digital public record? To address these questions, Archangel is exploring how we can know that a digital record has been modified and whether the change was legitimate so that ultimately it can still be trusted as the authentic record.”

“Specifically, the project is investigating how blockchain might be used to achieve this,” Green added.

As one of the world’s largest and oldest archives, The Archives is a leader in setting standards and best practices in the field. As such, the project aims to “deliver vertical impact to specific sectors within the Archives and Memory Institutions (AMIs) landscape, driven through end-user partner The National Archives.”

ARCHANGEL has a proposed timeframe of 18 months. It is set to prototype a distributed ledger technology (DLT) service that will “collect robust digital signatures derived from digitized physical, and born-digital content,” according to Green.

The research is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which invests more than £800 million a year in fields such as mathematics, materials science, and information technology.

The National Archives image via Shutterstock

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US Government Research Lab Eyes Blockchain in Energy Data Tests

A research lab within the U.S. Department of Energy has revealed it is exploring the application of blockchain in managing next-generation power grids.

Making the announcement last week before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Carl Imhoff, a manager at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), said that the technology has the potential to facilitate new ways of exchanging energy in a peer-to-peer fashion.

Disclosing that the research lab is actively investigating this application of the technology, he told committee members:

“PNNL is currently working with DOE and industry partners to determine the optimal use of such resilient data concepts as blockchain in emerging market constructs such as transactive energy.”

Blockchain, he explained in a prepared statement, “could be a part of grid modernization efforts, encourage distributed power generation and storage systems, and help secure emerging market constructs.”

The potential of blockchain in revamping energy systems is currently being explored by both startups and established businesses worldwide, with its decentralized nature offering a new way to distribute or fund sources of power.

Further, The Department of Energy is no stranger to blockchain. In January, the agency began publicly soliciting blockchain research proposals for “novel concepts for energy systems that rely on blockchain.”

PNNL image via Wikimedia Commons

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Japan's SBI Holdings Reveals Wider Push into Cryptocurrency Industry

SBI Holdings, the financial services division of Japan’s SBI Group, has revealed plans to move deeper into the world of cryptocurrencies and blockchain.

In its latest financial report, SBI expressed plans for “the establishment of a new financial ecosystem based on cryptocurrency,” a move that includes carrying out joint research to gather “systematic knowledge” of blockchain technologies.

Aiming to “solve problems” within the crypto markets, the financial firm is looking to acquire cryptocurrencies directly, including through mining, as well as establishing ways of using cryptocurrencies, and providing investment opportunities. SBI will also “utilize cryptocurrency for remittance, trade finance and payments.” 

The company states:

“The SBI Group will endeavor to acquire cryptocurrencies, for the further development of products and services, and to secure market liquidity. This includes the mining of [bitcoin and bitcoin cash], and investments into U.S. Ripple (Ratio of 10.5%).”

In what appears to be a strong push into the cryptocurrency industry, the company restated its aim to establish a “dominant large-scale cryptocurrency exchange platform.”

SBI has been expressing growing interest in blockchain and cryptocurrencies since 2016, first investing in Japanese exchange bitFlyer, and later moving onto its own tests with the technology.

In September of this year, a joint venture between SBI and blockchain payments startup Ripple announced it will soon begin testing a money transfer system using distributed ledger technology between Japanese and South Korean banks.

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in bitFlyer.

Tokyo image via Shutterstock

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Project Jasper: White Paper Touts 'Significant Benefits' in DLT Payments

Bank of Canada and blockchain consortium R3 have concluded that their Project Jasper initiative could eventually provide a basis for building cash-based settlements systems.

A joint effort between R3, Payments Canada, the Bank of Canada and others, Project Jasper is a distributed ledger technology (DLT) research project that has been under development since March of last year. 

In effect, Jasper is a simulated wholesale payment system using a DLT-based settlement asset called CADcoin or settlement coin. The project was set up to discover if DLT could meet international standards for banking payments infrastructure, and this is the first time a formal white paper has been produced summarizing the work.

The paper details the mechanics of various experiments undertaken so far, with both both ethereum and R3’s blockchain protocol Corda having been trialled.

Ethereum’s proof-of-work consensus was found to be too risky for banking systems and, while the alternate consensus model used by Corda was an improvement on this, it apparently also failed to meet the necessary “operational risk requirements.”

However, the authors say that while there is “much analysis” still to be completed, Project Jasper could prove to be the “core” for settlement systems based on DLT in future.

The paper states:

“It is also possible that a cash-based settlement-solution system such as Jasper could prove to be the core upon which other distributed ledger platforms can be built to perform tasks such as settlement of financial asset transactions, manage syndicated loans and support trade finance.”

In conclusion, if such a system for payment and settlement could be realized, “there could be significant benefits for the whole financial sector and the economy overall,” it concludes.

Cog wheels image via Shutterstock

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Tencent, FedEx Back Blockchain Research Effort in Canada

A Canada-based blockchain research effort has added over a dozen members including major companies Tencent and FedEx, and the Ontario Ministry of Health.

The Blockchain Research Institute was originally founded in March by Don and Alex Tapscott, and backed by a group companies like IBM and PepsiCo, as well as a number of blockchain startups.

Aimed to serve as a hub for academic research around the technology, the institute’s new members also notably include Deloitte Canada, the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), Fujitsu, telecom provider Bell Canada and gold mining giant Barrick Gold.

Those backing the effort expressed optimism over the effort in a press release, including Tencent’s blockchain lead, Ray Guo, who said:

“Blockchain Research Institute provides a great platform for Tencent and other members of the institute to carry out blockchain research and discussion, which is of great significance to Tencent and the industry. We believe that the blockchain+ era is coming!”

The institute – which has more than 50 experts developing research and analysis – has also announced that its team will now be working on more than 70 projects. The group has already begun releasing reports exploring blockchain’s future potential in a variety of use cases.

The other new members to have joined the research effort are: Capgemini Canada, Cimcorp, the Institute on Governance, KPMG LLP, MKS Switzerland, food retailer Loblaw Companies, interbank network operator Interac and Moog.

FedEx packages image via Vytautas Kielaitis/Shutterstock

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Microsoft Joins Cornell Blockchain Research Group

Tech giant Microsoft has joined the Cornell Tech-based Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts (IC3) research effort, it was announced today.

Yorke E. Rhodes III, global blockchain business strategist at Microsoft said in a statement that the firm is “very impressed” by the research that IC3 has been executing, in particular its work on scaling and simplification.

Rhodes said:

“The synergies in their research fit well with our visions for enterprise scale blockchain solutions.”

IC3 is a collective that carries out blockchain research in the areas of distributed systems, game theory, cryptography, programming languages and security. Currently, the team is comprised of faculty members from Cornell University, Cornell Tech, UC Berkeley, University of Illinois and Israel Institute of Technology.

The news comes soon after the announcement of Microsoft’s new blockchain endeavour, the Coco platform, which has been designed to provide a simplified framework for blockchain protocols in order to improve the “enterprise readiness” of the technology.

Microsoft image via Shutterstock

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