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Napster Creator’s Blockchain Firm Helium Releases IoT Hotspots

Helium releases blockchain-based hotspots with Wi-Fi and sensor capabilities, and intends for them to eventually provide a network of seamless IoT coverage.

Napster creator Shawn Fanning’s new company Helium has released its internet of things (IoT) wireless hotspot devices with a blockchain-based incentives program, according to an official blog post by Helium on June 12.

According to the post, a Helium Hotspot provides wireless connectivity to the Internet; one node on its own will cover about 1/50 to 1/150 of a city, according to the company’s research.

The nodes are intended to support a network of internet coverage, one which is decentralized and powered by individual contributors. Contributors are rewarded by an incentives program on the Helium blockchain, which is powered by the hotspots themselves — one hotspot is one node for the blockchain.

According to the company website, the hotspots’ mining mechanism within the blockchain is much less energy-intensive than traditional consensus algorithms used for blockchains such as proof-of-work. The mining works by verifying the legitimacy of other nodes using a “Proof-of-Coverage” protocol, which purportedly is no more energy-consuming than an LED light bulb.

Energy concerns have been an issue voiced by critics of blockchain tech in the past, as a recent study suggested that carbon emissions from bitcoin (BTC) mining are comparable to the whole of Kansas City.

There are also a number of potential use cases mentioned, on the post and the website, that go beyond typical internet services via Helium’s sensors, such as using smoke or heat sensors to prevent wildfires, tracking pets, or even preventing bike theft via location-detecting sensors.

Helium Hotspots are only available for purchase in Austin, Texas upon release, but national coverage is reportedly planned for the fourth quarter of 2019. The company also intends to sell the hotspots globally in the future.

As reported by Tech Crunch, Helium has raised at least $51 million in funding for its IoT network. One issue noted in the report is that there needs to be a large number of hotspots, sufficiently spread out, in order for there to be a functioning network at all.

Last month, engineering and electronics manufacturer Bosch said that it would aid the development of the IoT space by defending it from censorship. Board member Dr. Michael Bolle said:

“We cannot accept a situation in which the overwhelming reaction to digital innovations is mistrust and fear.”

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Tom Lee Cites 13 Confirmations That the Crypto Winter Is Over

In a tweet, Tom Lee shared 13 signs that the crypto winter is over — suggesting that industry growth may be here to stay.

Fundstrat Global Advisors co-founder Tom Lee has claimed that the crypto winter is over in a tweet on May 19.

In the message, Lee said last week’s Consensus conference in New York City was the latest of 13 signs indicating that the industry is recovering after a tough few months.

His timeline of events documenting the turnaround dates back to November 2018, when a bitcoin cash (BCH) hard fork battle exhausted the bitcoin (BTC) supply held by two rival mining pools.

Other significant milestones listed by Lee include Jan. 23 of this year, when on-chain transactions turned positive year-on-year for the first time in 12 months.

He also pointed to how Fundstrat’s Bitcoin Misery Index (BMI) rose above 67 on March 27 — a watermark that had not been reached since August 2015. This was followed in April by a surge in over-the-counter trading and on-chain activity, as well as BTC’s first bullish golden cross since October 2015.

More recently, at the start of May, Lee said that the crypto industry proved its resilience when there was a stable market reaction to the controversy surrounding Bitfinex and Tether, after the New York Attorney General accused the crypto exchange of losing $850 million and using funds from the affiliated stablecoin operator to secretly conceal the shortfall.

Lee is known for his forecasts on where crypto prices are heading. On April 29, he predicted that BTC will hit historic new highs by 2020.

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Brian Armstrong: Coinbase Custody Has $1 Billion of Crypto Under Management

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong says the exchange’s custody service received the $1 billion in the 12 months after its launch.

During an on-stage discussion at Consensus, Brian Armstrong, CEO of major United States cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, said that its custody service has already received $1 billion in crypto under management. Coindesk reported on Armstrong’s comments on Wednesday, May 15.

Panel moderator and Wall Street Journal reporter Paul Vigna asked Armstrong about the perspectives of institutional investments in the crypto industry. In response, the Coinbase CEO provided an example of his own company, noting that Coinbase Custody managed to get $1 billion in assets under management in just 12 months after its launch. He also mentioned that 70 institutions signed up to the service during that period.

Moreover, Armstrong believes that investments in the sphere will grow rapidly, as institutions want their funds to be active while in custody. The Coinbase CEO stated that institutions want their funds to stake, vote and do governance on-chain.

As for the most popular asset among the institutional investors, Armstrong thinks that bitcoin (BTC) is still at the top of the list. However, the interest in other coins is growing too, which is why Coinbase currently provides 30 altcoins for institutions, he noted.

Finally, Armstrong mentioned that Coinbase Pro — an upgraded trading platform for advanced users — currently has more than 60% of its trading volume coming from institutions. The company is also interested in the idea of a self-custody solution, and is discussing the matter with Israeli-based startup StarkWare.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, Coinbase officially launched its custody for institutional investors last July. Back then, the company revealed that it would enable its new institutional clients “to participate in the crypto ecosystem through proof of stake and distributed governance.”

Just yesterday, the U.S. exchange made a major announcement concerning the expansion of its services to 50 more jurisdictions, such as Brazil, South Africa and Taiwan, among others. Moreover, Coinbase expanded the trade of USD Coin (USDC) to customers in 85 jurisdictions.

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EBay Denies Rumors It Will Start Accepting Crypto, Despite Advertising at Crypto Event

Speculation has been growing since eBay took out ads at the Consensus blockchain and crypto conference in New York City.

EBay has denied rumors that it is going to start accepting cryptocurrency as a payment method, according to a Bloomberg report on May 14.

Speculation has been mounting since the e-commerce giant took out ads at the Consensus conference in New York City. One of the billboards said:

“Virtual Currency. It’s happening on eBay.”

It has been suggested that this week’s surge in crypto prices, which has happened without explanation, was linked to hopes that eBay was preparing to embrace crypto.

Given how the online auction site bills itself as “the world’s largest marketplace,” such a move would have been a major milestone in the industry’s quest to achieve mainstream adoption, Bloomberg reports. But addressing the rumors directly, an eBay spokesperson said:

“Cryptocurrency is not accepted as a form of payment on the eBay platform, nor is it part of our payments strategy.”

The online marketplace does currently have a section marked Virtual Currency, where people can use traditional monetary forms to purchase crypto from sellers.

The eBay clarification is not the only rumor that has been discredited over recent days. Excitement had started to build in the crypto community in April when a tweet suggested that TD Ameritrade, which holds an estimated $1.3 trillion in assets, was testing bitcoin (BTC) and litecoin (LTC) spot trading on its brokerage.

But Sunayna Tuteja, the company’s head of digital assets, told Bloomberg:

“Currently we’re not. We have what we call paperMoney, which is what our clients can try for trading strategies. It was a simulation. So there was no actual execution.”

Despite these denials, other major brands have confirmed this week that they will allow customers to spend crypto in their stores. On the first day of the Consensus conference, the likes of Whole Foods Market, Barnes & Noble and Bed Bath & Beyond were confirmed as launch partners for a new app called Spedn, which facilitates crypto transactions via the Flexa network.

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Pfizer Executive: Technology Is ‘Basically Good Enough’ to Ramp Up Production Blockchains

Ken Nessel says existing tech isn’t the main hurdle to mainstream adoption — the need for shared infrastructure and governance is.

A Pfizer executive has challenged existing theories about slow rates of blockchain adoption — telling the Consensus conference on May 14 that the technology is “basically good enough to have more production blockchains than we have today.”

Ken Nessel, senior director of business technology at the pharmaceutical giant, made his comments during the second day of the conference in New York City. He joined AstraZeneca’s Kate Gofman for an event called From Bench to Bedside: Blockchains and the Future of Clinical Research.

When asked for an honest assessment about what is holding the blockchain industry back, Nessel said:

“I think there’s a popular perception that the rate-limiting factor in blockchain adoption is something to do with the technology itself — like the technology isn’t scalable, it’s not fast enough, the developer tools aren’t in place…but in my experience is that’s really not the rate-limiting factor at this point. It’s not even at the top of my list.”

Instead, Nessel said the main hurdle to greater adoption is that business competitors have to embark on the hard task of sharing infrastructure and governance. He added:

“You’re going to need to reach agreement on some critical things about who is a member of the network, what’s the commercial model behind the network, what legal form does it take and how you manage that network and that software over time.”

Illustrating how difficult reaching such an agreement would be, Nessel suggested that anyone who was successful would have the international negotiation expertise to reach a consensus on Brexit and Nafta. But striking an optimistic tone, Nessel continued:

“It’s hard work — and it’s going to happen, progress is being made but it doesn’t happen fast. It takes a lot of back and forth to get the right mix of motivations and incentives and the right people at the table to really make it happen. I think that’s what’s making it slow.”

Nessel also said that his philosophy around use cases for blockchain has changed. Now, instead of looking for a home run “that is going to have such a large impact there’s a ticker tape in your honor,” the executive says he now thinks about use cases from an adjacency perspective. He explained:

“If this use case is adjacent to this other one, which is adjacent to this other one, it gives you a ladder — a way to grow and build the impact over time. This is probably the way we’re going to have to get there.”

Earlier this month, Pfizer and three other leading United States pharma companies joined a project to build a blockchain network for the health industry. Known as MediLedger, the technology aims to reduce the number of disputed transactions and improve data sharing capabilities.

In 2017, Cointelegraph reported on how companies like Pfizer had engaged in work to create blockchain systems that track the supply chain of medication from pre-manufacture through until the patient picks up their prescription.

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Ethereum Constantinople Hard Fork to Come in Mid-January, Based on Dev’s New Agreement

Ethereum core developers have decided to activate the Constantinople upgrade at block 7,080,000.

Ethereum (ETH) core developers have agreed to launch the long-awaited Constantinople  hard fork at block 7,080,000, as decided in a bi-weekly developers meeting on Friday, Dec. 7.

The new agreement follows the previous decision to delay Constantinople fork for late January 2019 due to a “consensus issue” that occurred during the upgrade trial on Ropsten testnet in October.

Given the press-time ETH block time of 14.3 sec, and the number of remaining blocks of around 234,745, the Constantinople upgrade is likely to become active in around 38 days from press time, or around Jan. 14, 2019, according to the data from the Ethereum blockchain explorer Etherscan.


Ethereum’s last block and blocktime at press time. Source: Etherscan

The upcoming Constantinople hard fork encompassses five separate Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs) in order to soften the transition from proof-of-work (PoW) to more energy efficient proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus algorithm.

Once activated, the upgrade is supposed to fundamentally change the Ethereum blockchain, with the synchronous nodes update to the entire system.

Ethereum is a public, open-sourced blockchain platform featuring smart contracts and its native cryptocurrency Ether. Launched on July 30, 2015, Ethereum is now the third biggest cryptocurrency by market cap at around $9.7 billion and is trading at $94.67 as of press time, according to data from CoinMarketCap.

Recently, Ethereum co-found Vitalik Buterin was granted an honorary doctorate from the Switzerland’s oldest university, the University of Basel, for “outstanding achievements in fields of cryptocurrencies, smart contracts, and the design of institutions.”

In November, analysts from Northeastern University and the University of Maryland claimed that the alleged existing lack of diversity in Ethereum smart contracts threatens the whole Ethereum blockchain ecosystem.

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Microsoft Rolls Out 'Proof-of-Authority' Ethereum Consensus on Azure

Microsoft has just rolled out an additional consensus mechanism for clients building ethereum-based apps on Azure that does away with mining.

Called “proof-of-authority,” the mechanism notably replaces the proof-of-work mining process that is common in public blockchains. However, it is only applicable in a permissioned network scenario – that is, on private or consortium blockchains where only invited parties may participate as nodes, Azure software engineer Cody Born wrote in a post on Tuesday.

The addition of proof-of-authority allows Arure’s institutional clients to verify transactions more efficiently and maintains high levels of security, Born said, although “the underlying ether has no value.”

He explained:

“An alternative protocol, Proof-of-Authority, is more suitable for permissioned networks where all consensus participants are known and reputable. Without the need for mining, Proof-of-Authority is more efficient while still retaining Byzantine fault tolerance.”

Proof-of-authority consensus essentially requires the presence of invited parties as a proof of their participation in the decentralized network.

To that effort, the post said the mechanism allows “each consensus participant to delegate multiple nodes to run on their behalf” – the goal being to ensure that even if one node goes down, a consensus authority can still maintain its presence on the network.

It should be noted that proof-of-authority is not new, and was first conceived by developers from ethereum client Parity. It has also been deployed on the VeChain blockchain.

The addition follows Microsoft’s May launch of the Azure Blockchain Workbench – a tool designed to streamline the process for enterprises building decentralized applications on the cloud computing platform.

Microsoft image via Shutterstock

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Fundstrat’s Lee Admits Poor Prediction of Bitcoin Rally, Still Expects $25k Price by Year End

Co-founder and head of research at Fundstrat Global Advisors, Thomas Lee has admitted that his prediction of a Bitcoin rally after the Consensus conference was wrong. Lee has claimed that the crypto market still “faces significant internal resistance and hurdles within traditional financial institutions,” Bloomberg reports May 18

Having accurately predicted the growth of crypto markets after the US tax day in April, Tom Lee made another Bitcoin prediction on May 7, saying that the cryptocurrency will rally during and after the Consensus conference takes place in New York May 14-16. “We expect BTC and cryptocurrencies to behave similarly to prior years and rally during Consensus,” Fundstrat’s co-founder stated back in the beginning of the month.

In a report to his clients Friday, Tom Lee explained his forecast was based on such factors as the crypto community coming together in a “centralized place,” as well as the “growth in attendance.” These factors were expected to have a positive effect on cryptocurrency prices and “strengthen the crypto-community’s conviction.”

In his tweet May 18, Tom Lee confirmed the fact the crypto markets have instead lost up to 10 percent during Consensus, although the conference counted 8,700 participants, which is “more than a tripling of attendance in the prior year.”

Tom Lee suggested that the crypto industry needs a “trifecta of progress” in the form of institutional tools, support from banks, and regulatory clarity.

“Crypto still faces significant internal resistance and hurdles within traditional financial institutions… But it is encouraging, nonetheless, that a large share of incremental attendance are financial institutions.”

According to Bloomberg, Fundstrat still expects Bitcoin’s price to go as high as $25,000 by the end of this year. Earlier this month, Tom Lee himself predicted Bitcoin to be worth $36,000 by the end of 2019, “based on the historical average 1.8x P/BE multiple.”