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The Bahamas Plans to Become a Leading Blockchain Hub

An NGO in collaboration with some institutions announced plans to establish blockchain developers in the Bahamas. The group also aims to place the Island at the forefront of distributed ledger technology (DLT) adoption.

A Leading Blockchain Hub in the Caribbean

According to The Nassau Guardian, an NGO known as the Caribbean Blockchain Alliance (CBA) is seeking to establish a group of decentralized technology developers in The Bahamas. In a press release, Stefen Deleveaux, founder of the CBA, talked about the inherent opportunities found in decentralized technology.

The founder further explained thus:

Blockchain technology is seen as the next step in Internet and financial technology, in what many describe as Web 3.0. There is a huge opportunity to use this technology to improve public and private services in this country. In addition, competent blockchain developers are in high demand, in an industry that almost guarantees access to a high-income job or potential project.

Deleveaux also said that part of the objectives was to build several cohorts of DLT developers. The CBA founder also recognized the importance of blockchain technology in software infrastructure as the reason for the groups.

Furthermore, Deleveaux announced a collaboration involving Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), CBA, Blockgeeks, and the University of the Bahamas. These four institutions would host a hackathon. Also, twenty-five Bahamian citizens would partake in a course for decentralized technology developers, from November 30 – December 1, 2018.

The press release further stated that after the course, students would get a certificate recorded on the decentralized technology.

Michael Nelson, who serves as IDB’s Chief of Operations, added that the bank seeks to empower Bahamian citizens. With the collaboration and the incentives in place for DLT developers, Ameer Rosic, the CEO of Blockgeeks, believes that the Island could be “the blockchain hub of the Caribbean.”

Island Governments Adopting Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency adoption are recording high among Island governments. Some of these countries go further to aspire to become “blockchain Islands.”

Towards the end of the second quarter, the Bahamas announced plans to issue its digital currency. According to the Island, a state-owned virtual currency would help to improve its economic development and eliminate barriers.

Malta, another DLT-friendly country, is at the forefront of decentralized technology and cryptocurrency adoption. Popularly known as the “blockchain Island,” it was the first country to have a holistic legislative framework regulating DLT technology.

Furthermore, Malta introduced the Virtual Financial Assets Act (VFA) and the Innovative Technology Arrangement and Services Act (ITAS). Both Acts would regulate virtual currency and decentralized technology.

However, Marshall Islands’ plan to adopt cryptocurrency isn’t receiving complete support. President Hilda Heine’s announced moves to create a virtual currency that would act as a legal tender but received a “no confidence motion” from some of the country’s senators. The IMF and the U.S. also disagreed with the president’s plan.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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IBM Makes Another Blockchain Identity Play With Health Data App

IBM’s blockchain division is widening its work in the nascent field of “self-sovereign identity” – technology designed to give individuals greater control over their personal data.

Announced today, the tech giant is working with Hu-manity.co, whose #My31 app just became available on iOS and Android mobile devices. The app’s name alludes to the idea that legal ownership of one’s data should by a “31st human right” in addition to the 30 already ratified by the United Nations.

It’s the latest in a series of similar projects IBM has been involved in. Others include SecureKey, a bank consortium building a digital ID system in Canada, and Sovrin, contributor of the Indy toolkit for Hyperledger-based blockchains.

As such, the partnership with Hu-manity is a strong signal that Big Blue sees long-term business value in this use case for distributed ledgers. Marie Wieck, the general manager of IBM Blockchain, told CoinDesk:

“Getting people’s permissioned rights on a blockchain will create a marketplace and entirely new economic business models as a result.”

Indeed, while Hu-manity’s app is consumer-facing, an enterprise version will be generally available to corporations starting in the healthcare industry in the first quarter of 2019, Wieck said.

“We tend to agree that data is the next natural resource and like a natural resource has to be mined responsibly in the same way,” she added. “Blockchain combined with the notion of rights to individual data, facilitates the distributed sharing of that information securely and at scale.”

Richie Etwaru, founder and CEO of Hu-manity, has a similarly expansive vision. Starting with the well-established market for health record data, he said he expects location data, search history and e-commerce habits will also be “owned” by users.

Upon claiming their data property rights, Hu-manity users receive a title of ownership, akin to a property deed. Thereafter their personal details, signature and photograph can be added in the form of a hash on the blockchain, along with things like the individual’s data-sharing preferences.

While the Hu-manity.co global consent ledger, which records the granting and revocation of permission to use someone’s data, is built on the IBM Blockchain Platform using Hyperledger Fabric, the two companies will also collaborate with Sovrin.

Data: The new oil?

Comparing the personal data humans produce to crude oil, Etwaru told CoinDesk, “The partnership with IBM enables private blockchain to create a direct relationship between the crude data provider – the human being – and the buyer of the refined data at the end of the supply chain.”

And in its refined form, personal data such as a patient’s health record changes hands for an average of around $400, Ewaru pointed out.

Yet regulations in the U.S. and beyond are very unspecific when it comes to personal data and can be interpreted in different ways, noted Etwaru.

Provided data has been masked, an organization may sell it for specific uses, which might often be for research as opposed to overtly commercial purposes. However, there could equally be an interpretation whereby an individual has the right to notify a corporation requesting them not sell data in the de-authorized format.

But wide adoption of an empowering data-sharing app, he said, would constitute a “call to action, and pool consensus around how laws should actually work,” Etwaru said.

And it’s not only the individual who stands to gain. Rather than walking on eggshells concerning people’s growing awareness of their privacy (or lack thereof), Etwaru said, corporations could have clarity and transparency by virtue of what describes as a “movement.”

“The end buyer could have better compliance posture if they use our data and we can figure out the economics between the individual and the buyer. The pharmaceutical industry has never really been offered an explicit consenting relationship with individuals before,” he said.

IBM’s Wieck added that large anonymous datasets can be noisy and inaccurate, but could be better relied upon to be clean using the blockchain app.   

“In clinical trials, there would be a way of tracking data and ensuring these are all real human beings and doing it at scale. Trust and transparency have been a challenge up until now,” she said.  

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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How to Make Public Blockchains Safe for Enterprise Use

Paul Brody is EY’s global innovation leader for blockchain. The views expressed are his own.


At the beginning of this year, I wrote a column predicting that companies would find the allure of public blockchains irresistible. While a world of private blockchains provides many enterprises, regulators and central banks with the comfort that there are accountable, centralized entities involved, these permissioned networks will never match the innovation or network effects that public, permissionless networks offer.

If the world of enterprise commerce remains committed to private networks, then they will have only substituted one intermediary (financial institutions) for another (software companies and hosting organizations). However, it is possible, and essential, to bring these two worlds together, and to do so on public, permissionless and decentralized networks.

In order for public networks to deliver on their promise, two key things must happen. First, regulators must provide a clear set of rules around how tokens, assets and smart contracts that exist on public blockchains will be assessed. And second, companies must implement these regulatory rules in the decentralized environment of the public networks.

The first of these is off and running. Regulators in the U.S., Europe and around the world are defining what is an asset, a currency or a security. It shouldn’t be expected that all regulators will come to precisely the same conclusions, but it does look like some early convergence is taking place: Utility Settlement Coins are being characterized as securities while cryptocurrencies are being treated more like currencies or assets.

One gap that we regard as particularly important going forward is how tokenized fiat currency will be regulated: If you have a $1 token on a public blockchain, and that is backed by one U.S. dollar in an escrow account, will that be a security or a currency and what rules might apply? So far, no regulator has specifically addressed this emerging category of blockchain tokens.

The second is that whatever the regulatory rules are, they must be implemented in tokens and smart contracts. In particular, it’s important that while the blockchain as a whole may be decentralized, a central bank should be able to issue and cancel its own currency on a blockchain and companies should be able to manage their own assets when they are tokenized.

Know your carton?

To illustrate how important this is, let’s come back to the question of how companies will do business with each other on public blockchain networks: The exchange of product or asset tokens for money tokens. Once a company starts to tokenize its inventories and assets and use those in contracts and financial services, they are disintermediating traditional financial entities. They are also, consequently, taking on some of the regulatory responsibilities of those intermediaries.

Tokens, if they have value, can be moved around as easily as money, for example. While a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company may never have had cause to think about this before, once they tokenize packages of detergent, those tokens have an effective exchange rate with real money and other goods that makes them perfectly suitable for any kind of deal, legal and otherwise. That means even CPG companies will become responsible for know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money-laundering (AML) compliance.

Is this a deal-breaker for public networks and enterprises? No, it isn’t.

One of the great benefits of smart contracts and blockchain tokens is that they are programmable. Going forward, audit, KYC and AML regulations can and will be written into smart contracts and tokens. Combined with exchange controls and other checks, it will be possible to control how and when tokens are used on public blockchains without resorting to the centralization of the blockchain as a whole. This will even include canceling and issuing new tokens to handle theft and loss.

There are, no doubt, many who will mourn the end of public blockchains as systems wholly outside of regulatory control. For blockchains to deliver on their promise, this is inevitable, but how this happens matters a great deal.

If regulatory compliance is delivered through centralization, then there will be a great loss to innovation and we may see the dream of a re-decentralized internet die. I didn’t call my original paper on blockchain technology “Device democracy” for nothing. It’s my dream, too.

There is another option, however: regulatory compliance within a decentralized framework. An opt-in model based on voluntary agreement to smart contracts means that companies can use blockchains for business without embracing undue risk. But at the same time, individuals and startups can continue to pursue radical experiments without having to ask anyone for permission.

Hardhats 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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Microsoft Is Slowly (But Surely) Connecting Blockchain to Main Products

Three years ago, Microsoft Azure was the first to bring blockchain to the cloud. Now it’s connecting the technology to just about everything else.

The software giant has quietly been building bridges between its blockchain services and other, widely used infrastructure and platforms, such as Office 365 Outlook, SharePoint Online, Salesforce, Dynamics 365 CRM Online, SAP, and even Twitter, according to Matt Kerner, the general manager of Microsoft Azure. The idea is to allow Microsoft customers to port their data from these platforms into the cloud, and from there onto a blockchain.

Why? In addition to the usually touted blockchain efficiencies, one of the less-discussed benefits of distributed ledger technology (DLT) in a cloud environment like Azure, according to Microsoft, is that it amasses data from multiple companies in a standardized format at scale. The potential to mine data for all sorts of insights then becomes limitless, the company reckons.

Hence, the company is integrating tools such as Microsoft Flow and Logic Apps – which offer hundreds of connectors to thousands of applications – into Azure Blockchain Workbench, a service it launched in May to make the creation of blockchain apps easier (Workbench currently has ethereum Proof of Authority configured as the consensus protocol).

It’s all a part of the evolution of Big Data, Kerner explained. Prior to blockchain, he pointed out, cloud computing enabled departments within the same company to break out of their data silos and collaborate on heterogeneous data sets, increasing smarts through machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).  

“Blockchain empowers the next step – enabling a single, authentic data set shared across counterparties. This is already improving the way transactions happen,” Kerner told CoinDesk, adding, “We believe the same will be true with data analytics.”

Stepping back, many would argue that data is now the most valuable naturally occurring resource on the planet. As the race to prove the best data analytics intensifies, firms are springing up whose sole purpose is to structure and format data to run AI algorithms on.  

But with enterprise blockchain, you get the structured and formatted data part thrown in for free, as Kerner said many Azure customers were discovering.

“What blockchain is doing is creating a multi-party business process that is moving out of email, phone calls, spreadsheets and into a single system with a single view on the data that all of the participants can rely upon and trust,” he said.

Looking ahead, Kerner said bringing vast amounts of unstructured and siloed data into a context where it could be leveraged and even shared would drive exponential change. He said:

“Even the fiercest of competitors can onboard and mutually derive benefit from that system and find new revenue streams.”

Taking on IBM

A good example of Azure connecting and balancing components in a large and complex production environment is Insurwave, which simplifies maritime insurance for shipping hauls carried by Maersk.

The platform was built using R3’s Corda platform with help from EY and Guardtime and is now in commercial production with insurers such as Willis Towers Watson, XL Catlin, and MS Amlin.

Insurwave, which tracks cargos and adjusts insurance premiums in real time, collates all sorts of data, everything from internet of things (IoT) sensors monitoring temperature, to whether the ship is going to hit a storm, or enter a war zone or an area heavily populated with pirates. Once this data is shared on the blockchain, Power BI, a Microsoft business analytics tool, can be used to gain insights about shipping hauls, Kerner said.

Further, Ricardo Correia, a managing director and head of partner management at R3, said its relationship with Microsoft is a good deal more than Azure being Corda’s default preferred cloud.

In addition to a one-click Corda capability, Correia pointed to integrating Corda into modules within the Azure marketplace.

“This enables Corda to plug into a number of different capabilities including Azure SQL, active directory for identity access management and key vault for key management,” he said.

Some of this is already in place because of Insurwave, with deeper integration also happening in a number of use cases. Notable ones include the webJet blockchain, which aims to reconcile hotels and other travel arrangements on a single ledger, and was cited by R3’s CTO Richard Brown as an example of Corda extending beyond mainstream finance.

Widening the lens, the ability to track items in real time and share things like IoT data using a blockchain has made global trade and supply chain a leading light in terms of domains to chase. From a strategic point of view, Insurwave challenges IBM’s bid for global trade dominance, which also has Maersk in the position of flagship, so to speak.

IBM has openly stated that this was its No. 1 target. However, Correia said Microsoft is also making its mark in supply chain – perhaps with a little less fanfare. “It’s in their interest given they too have very large supply chains with a number of their product offerings,” he said.

In terms of offering blockchain as a service, IBM has championed Hyperledger Composer for the past couple of years. However, there may be some question marks over the design of Composer, at least from an IBM perspective.  

Azure’s Kerner was tactfully equivocal about Microsoft’s enterprise blockchain rivals, adding that everything is built with an eye towards enabling a consortium that’s not exclusively on Azure.

“It’s got to be open. Any meaningful consortium is going to have members who have different choices that they have made around their cloud provider and who they choose to work with,” he said.

Microsoft 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.