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Crypto Scores Big-Name Backer in Chicago’s Mayor: “Alternative Currencies Will Happen”

Chicago’s Mayor Takes To The Stage To Laud Cryptos

Very often do incumbents of legacy industries mention crypto assets. And even if they do, their comments are often laced with a negative tone, as they are wary of the purported criminal activity-enabling potential of assets like Bitcoin.

But, this narrative took a sudden turn on March 18th, as Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s incumbent mayor, took to the stage of a local FinTech gathering to make mention of cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Per Forbes, his statements were rather positive.

Emanuel, who formerly served as President Obama’s chief of staff, remarked that for nations facing finanicial imbroglios, namely Iran and Venezuela, harnessing crypto assets could be a good escape mechanism. He went on to explain:

One day, somebody’s going to figure out – whether that’s Argentina, ten years from now, five years from now – how to use cryptocurrencies to stay alive when their facing a financial crisis, and then you’re going to find out that this moment has arrived.”

Emanuel’s comments are rather reminiscent of those made by humans right advocate Alex Gladstein, who wrote an op-ed in TIME Magazine on a similar subject matter. According to reports from this very outlet, Gladstein explained that he sees Bitcoin, privacy-centric digital assets (ZCash, for example), and similar technologies as a way out of authoritarianism.

The mayor of one of America’s biggest cities was open in stating that his knowledge of the technology is lackluster, but explained that he sees blockchain’s “trend lines are affirmative for its future.”

Emanuel Joins Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, Others In Bitcoin Love

Emanuel’s public show of affection for cryptocurrencies comes after some of the world’s largest Silicon Valley stars, entrepreneurs, and the like have lauded Bitcoin.

As you, the reader, likely know, Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter and Square, has become somewhat of a BTC crusader in recent months. After adding the cryptocurrency, which he has called a contender for the Internet’s native currency, to Square’s Cash App in early-2018, Dorsey has gone, as CNBC puts it, “all-in” on the space. After confirming that he would add the Lightning Network to Cash App, he scooped up a Trezor hard wallet to store his holdings.

Most recently, he called on three to four developers and one designer to join Square Crypto, a recently-launched division meant to bolster the Bitcoin ecosystem through development and newfangled products.

Nearby, Elon Musk, a world-renowned entrepreneur and visionary of what’s to come, has expressed a similar sentiment on the future of digital assets. Musk told ARK Invest’s CEO that he expects for paper money to be ousted by cryptocurrencies, before adding that he sees Bitcoin’s structure as “brilliant.” The Tesla and SpaceX CEO, however, made it clear that he only owns less than $1,000 worth of BTC.

Photo by Matthew Hamilton on Unsplash

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Chicago Board Options Exchange to Launch Bitcoin Futures, Announces Specifics

The Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) has released its new Bitcoin derivative contract specifications in late November 2017, with the product itself to be introduced in the market in the next few weeks. With the move, the exchange follows other financial institutions in introducing Bitcoin futures products.

The CBOE will use the XBT ticker for its new products. The ticker is exactly the same as the one being used by Bitcoin exchange Kraken in its platform. It is also expected that CBOE will introduce different types of contracts in the near future in its bid to secure a major market share quickly. The product launching, however, will be mainly dependent on the performance of its new products.

High demand for Bitcoin-based financial products

The demand for Bitcoin-based financial products is very high right now because of the continuous surge in the price of the number one cryptocurrency. Several financial institutions have also taken a complete turnaround on their assessment of Bitcoin.

Among them is Goldman Sachs, which is now advising its investors not to ignore Bitcoin anymore. This is a complete about-face by the investment bank, which has previously criticized the digital currency.

The high demand for Bitcoin futures and derivatives products is resulting in very tough competitions among industry players. With the entry of CBOE, competition is expected to intensify further because the exchange is the biggest of its kind in the US. It remains to be seen, however, if the exchange can outperform its competitors in this area.

To effectively compete, there are issues that should be resolved by the exchange. Among these issues is how to relate its contracts to spot Bitcoin pricing. The exchange previously announced that it will extend its trading hours and all its Bitcoin-related transactions will be settled in cash. Whether these strategies are effective, however, remain to be seen.

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Governments Eye Blockchain in Their Creation of National Identity Systems

Various governments around the world are planning to use Blockchain or distributed ledger technology (DLT) in their bid to establish a national identity system in their jurisdictions as of early October 2017. These systems are intended to be safe and secure and can be used in both public and private transactions.

The need to create said systems is driven by the susceptibility of existing systems against various risks like identity theft. An example is the case of consumer credit reporting agency Equifax, whose latest data breach has resulted in the theft of personal data of over 140 million individuals.

Countries and states using DLT to establish national identity systems

Several countries are piloting the use of DLT to create their own national identity systems that span the private and government sector. Among these countries is Singapore, which is eyeing a system that would expand beyond the functions of its existing citizen account for e-government services called the SingPass. The initiative is part of the Singaporean government’s smart nation program.

Estonia, meanwhile, is another country which successfully utilized DLT to create its identity system called ID-kaarts. Among the benefits of the system are an all-digital government experience enjoyed by all citizens, substantial reduction of bureaucracy, and high citizen satisfaction with their government transactions.

Moreover, the state of Illinois has launched a pilot trial on a Blockchain-based birth registry/ID system with a goal to individualize and secure identities. The state government is partnering with Utah-based company Evernym and is expected to use the Sovrin Foundation’s publicly accessible distributed identity ledger in the project.

Benefits of DLT-based identity systems

There are several expected benefits of using DLT in creating identity systems. Among these are the shift of power and profit from data management to individual owners from major companies and the right of the owner to “sell” his/her own data.

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Illinois Government Pilots Blockchain Technology for Birth Certificate Digitization

The state government of Illinois has started testing a Blockchain-based system for the digitization of birth certificates. They are conducting the pilot project in collaboration with Blockchain identity startup Evernym.

According to Illinois’ Blockchain business liaison officer Jennifer O’Rourke, the platform that is being developed could eventually lead to the creation of a comprehensive identity tool-set that an individual can use in the long term. O’Rourke says:

“In this pilot, businesses and governments would be able to verify and authenticate a citizen’s identity by requesting encrypted access to verifiable claims.”

Goals/objectives of the program

In the pilot program, the partners will develop and test Blockchain-based tools that will enable parents and doctors who are present during the time of birth to officially log or register the birth on a permissioned Blockchain. The tools being tested were based on the work done by a task force within the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

The pilot project is part of the state’s Illinois Blockchain Initiative, whose aims include the creation of a more welcoming environment for Blockchain firms in the state and the elimination of barriers for the government to build with Blockchain. Among the partner agencies of the initiative are the State Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the Department of Insurance (DOI), and the Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIT).

Under the proposed framework, state agencies will be able to verify a person’s registration data at birth, as well as cryptographically sign information related to an individual’s name, date of birth, blood type, and others. The information will then be stored on a tamper-proof distributed ledger that can only be accessed if authorized by a legal guardian until the individual becomes a legal adult.