The quest to end forced labor has created some unusual technological allies. Coca-Cola, the US State Department and a trio of crypto organizations (Bitfury Group, Blockchain Trust Accelerator and Emercoin) have launched a pilot project that will use… Engadget RSS Feed
In the past five years, the global financial industry has experienced major disruptions thanks to innovative technologies in AI, Machine Learning, and Blockchain. The rate at which supercomputers are taking over the financial sector is leaving no doubt that the future of finance will largely depend on computer scientists and big data experts rather than the traditional financial advisors and traders.
It is no wonder that the world top financial institutions are now hiring more quantitative analysts and computer scientists than the traditional financial analysts and investment advisors. The CFA Institute, the provider of the world most prestigious professional designation for financial analysts, has realized that it is no longer business as usual in the industry and is now including AI, Big Data, and Machine Learning in its Curriculum.
On the other hand, Blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies, is also having its fair share in the industry with analysts predicting that it will do to the financial system what the internet did to the media. Cryptocurrencies as an investment asset have seen explosive popularity since 2016 with Bitcoin the mother of all cryptocurrencies soaring above 1,500% in 2017 before crumbling 63% in the first month of 2018. Other cryptocurrencies (as of now there are over 2000 of them) are seeing the same level of growth and volatility, creating massive investment opportunity on the one hand and big risk on the other.
As the amount of data on these digital currencies continues to pile up, crypto-traders are finding it hard to find investment insights manually. This has prompted the emergence of AI and Machine Learning driven solutions. The application of computer algorithms driven by AI and Machine Learning to analyze big data and execute stock trades is not something new in the mainstream financial markets.
AI and Machine Learning can be applied in the crypto markets in similar ways to the way it’s used for data analysis. The key advantages of algorithm-driven investment decisions include speed and accuracy, which are the two most vital elements to success in the highly volatile crypto markets. Also, machine-driven trading does not require the trader to have specialized skills in a certain discipline or to have insider information to compete.
For instance, Signals, a blockchain platform launched on the Ethereum Network, seeks to utilize Machine Intelligence in order to enable crypto traders to make smarter and faster trading decisions and maximize trading profits. With the Signals platform, both the experienced and inexperienced crypto traders can access trading algorithms ranging from traditional technical analysis to the sophisticated machine learning techniques.
Another example is Robo Coin Advisor, a platform that has been work in progress since 2014. The projects, which claims to be the first robo-advisor for cryptocurrencies, combines AI with cryptocurrencies and blockchain to provide investors with daily forecasts and statistics relating to cryptocurrencies and their tokens.
But how can we be assured that the trading algorithms are accurate and will make the right call when subjected to a lot of varying data? The answer can be found in back-testing. The process involves subjecting the algorithm to historical data in order to determine how it would perform in various scenarios. Platforms such as the Quantopian have been providing back-testing avenues for stock-trading algorithms and some are now offering such solutions for crypto trading.
Another aspect of algorithmic investing that is bound to benefit crypto traders is market scanning for tradable news. In high-frequency trading, Computer algorithms equipped with Natural Language Processing are taught to scan and identify tradable news as it develops and execute trades instantly. This approach can be very helpful in crypto-trading given the crypto-markets volatility and sensitivity to emerging issues.
For instance, in the recent past, news on regulatory crackdowns has proven to have a very big impact on the price movement of cryptocurrencies. With an algorithm that is trained to identify regulatory crackdown news as they emerge and instantly execute trades, traders can profit on their crypto holdings both on the bull and bear markets.
As blockchain and cryptocurrencies continue to gain traction in the mainstream society, the amount of data generated from related activities and transactions will keep growing. Long-term investors and day traders must, therefore, be ready to embrace cutting-edge technology if they are to remain competitive in this industry.
The immutability and decentralized nature of public blockchain networks, such as bitcoin and Ethereum, could allow governments to process large amounts of sensitive information on an unchangeable and transparent platform. In an exclusive interview with Binary District, Daniel Gasteiger, the co-founder of Procivis, an electronic ID solutions company built on integrated e-government platform eID+; and Patrick McCorry, a Research Associate at University College London (UCL), discussed the potential of blockchain technology in e-governance and the limitations that may restrict its applicability. Potential applications of blockchain technology in e-governance Over the last two years, several governments, including those of Brazil and…
Arriving roughly one hour into a full-day blockchain-themed event called “Initial Taco Offering,” I’m greeted by a sight familiar to many attendees of Austin’s South By Southwest Interactive Festival. There is a throng of badge-wearing, drink-craving conference goers — and there are free tacos.
The event, a play on the initial coin offerings that have turned digital currencies into some of the buzziest and most fraught investment opportunities on the planet, is being held at a steakhouse on Lavaca Avenue in downtown Austin. The organizers, a group called the Founders Organization, lured attendees away from more traditional sessions in the city’s convention center and nearby hotels with the promise of complimentary food and spirited…
Blockchain specialist Denis Baranov, principal consultant at consultancy group DataArt, has warned the UK’s Institute of Directors of the dangers of jumping on the blockchain bandwagon.
“In about 90 per cent of cases, blockchain is not the solution for an individual company or organisation, and there is a better answer,” he said.
While the distributed ledger technology could have a transformative effect on some processes, it would be dangerous to follow the hype and jump onboard for the wrong reasons, he added.
IoD meets the IoT
Baranov was a panellist at an IoD event in London this week, Volatile cryptocurrency and game-changing blockchain: What does the future hold?, moderated by broadcaster and technology journalist David McClelland.
The discussion presented an uncertain outlook for cryptocurrency in its current form, but sent a strong message that blockchain is “coming of age” for a range of business applications.
Despite that, Baranov – an early blockchain innovator and consultant to industry – warned against falling for AI-style hype and making big strategic errors.
“We already have big data and many solutions,” Baranov said. “Just as with AI, where lots of people said, ‘Our company should get some AI because everyone is getting AI’, when it often isn’t the appropriate solution, some are now saying ‘Blockchain, I must get some blockchain’ because everyone has it.
In about 90 per cent of cases blockchain is not the solution for an individual company or organisation, and there is a better answer.
“However, for 10 percent, blockchain makes perfect sense and is a powerful addition, creating transparency, accountability and huge competitive advantage. The key is knowing what this technology is, does, and can do.”
Blockchain doesn’t play well
Baranov explained, as a distributed technology, blockchain does not work well in isolation, adding that, “blockchain is a community.”
On data aggregation as a barrier against the use of blockchain technology, Baranov said that in many cases a hybrid technology that incorporates blockchain is the best solution, bypassing the issues created by the attachment of heavy data loads.
Baranov emphasised the importance of starting the decision-making process by examining the business case, rather than bringing in the technology for the sake of it, as many have done with AI.
• Also on the panel was cryptocurrency consultant Matthew Baldock of Portsmouth Crypto, who explained that cryptocurrency is only anonymous in theory, as blockchain makes it both traceable and accountable. He added that the Bitcoin Lightning Network – which has gone live this week after beta testing – is highly controversial in the crypto community and generally disliked.
• Jonathan Beddoes, co-founder of Giftcoin, a blockchain start-up that aims to enhance transparency and trust in charities, presented the ICO (Initial Coin Offering) soon to be launched by his company.
Internet of Business says
We have published a number of in-depth reports recently on both blockchain and cryptocurrencies. The strong theme in all of these is to compare the hype, ideology, and – in some cases – complete lack of common sense of the technologies’ more evangelical fans with their real-world impacts, such as processing power, energy, and basic physics.
But at the same time, we are clear about the technologies’ potential value, their advantages, their promise, and their future at the core of the Internet of Things – and share some inspiring examples.
As is the case with AI, blockchain and crypto present unique challenges, which make them distinctly different to other waves of technology innovation, such as cloud services or mobility. Just as AI challenges traditional notions of accountability and responsibility, so blockchain and crypto shine a light on longstanding concepts such as value and trust.
In some cases, they propose a superior alternative to systems that have become corrupt and abused over decades – even centuries. But at the same time, they need to be anchored in the real world of physics, value, time, and good sense.
As ever with new technology: put strategic business need first, and technology second.
On February 20, Vermonter Katherine Purcell did something extraordinary: She sold her home. And yes, people sell their homes every year—scores of them. But Purcell’s sale was fundamentally different: There’s a record of it on a blockchain.
In 2017, the city of South Burlington, Vermont, agreed to begin recording real estate transactions on the Ethereum blockchain as part of a pilot program with Propy, a real estate platform developed by a San Francisco-based startup. The idea behind Propy: it allows anyone to buy or sell real estate, anywhere, completely online. Propy’s blockchain records each step in the transaction, from expressing interest in a property to signing agreements to title transfers.
This makes the process more secure than sales conducted through traditional methods. A person couldn’t say they didn’t receive a payment or never signed a document, nor could they alter public records by hacking the city’s server. There’s an immutable record of every action on a virtually unhackable ledger.
As South Burlington City Clerk Donna Kinville told Government Technology in February, the pilot program consists of four levels, with the integration of Propy’s system increasing at each level. Purcell’s sale presumably falls under level one, in which the city’s processes remain unchanged. The only difference is that the paper title sent to the city included the location of the title transfer in Propy’s blockchain. If the project reaches level four, Propy will completely replace the software South Burlington currently uses to manage land records.
As for Purcell’s sale itself, logistically speaking, it wasn’t much different from any other. However, as Propy noted in a blog post, it was one of the very first government-sanctioned uses of blockchain for a public service.
“This first deal makes it much easier for the rest of the 49 states to iterate the process,” a source from Propy told Zero Hedge, a financial blog that posted screenshots of Purcell’s paperwork. “In fact, Arizona and Colorado are next.”
Ultimately, this single transaction could mark a turning point in the use of blockchain by government offices. Others could choose to give Propy a try, and blockchain startups focused on industries beyond real estate even have a better shot at convincing officials to take a chance on the technology now.
While tabletop gaming is successfully making the transition to noncorporeal form, they can lose something without the physical gameplay elements they’ve always been known for. Enter PlayTable, a blockchain-based console to be released later this year that incorporates toys with digital tabletop gaming. PlayTable is a large Android-based gameboard, with 72 RFID antennae built into its internal grid. It works with small toys with built-in RFID chips, which resemble Skylanders figures or Amiibo. Created by a company called Blok.Party, it’s designed for use with one-to-eight players. I got the chance to view a demo of the PlayTable with Jimmy Chen, the CEO…
Here are six ways Porsche and other carmakers hope to use blockchain to power the future of personal transportation.
Make Cars More User-Friendly
Porsche explored several potential uses for blockchain through their case study with Berlin-based startup XAIN. One of the most useful might also be the simplest: using blockchain to help drivers unlock their vehicles.
After the researchers added the test vehicle, a Porsche Panamera, to the blockchain, the driver could communicate with it directly via an app — their instructions no longer needed to go through a third-party server. This greatly sped up the vehicle’s response time. When the driver used the app to instruct the vehicle to unlock, the vehicle complied in just 1.6 seconds, which is six times faster than was previously possible.
Car blockchain systems could also enable car owners to grant others temporary access to their vehicles. You could simply use the app to unlock your vehicle remotely, giving a friend a chance to snag a forgotten sweater from the backseat. You could even grant a third-party delivery company, such as UPS, the ability to unlock the vehicle to leave a package in the trunk.
Such authorizations would be risky today, given that the directive would need to go through a Porsche server. If someone hacked that server, they could unlock a vehicle without permission. That wouldn’t be a problem with a secure, decentralized blockchain.
Facilitate Financial Transactions
Blockchain first landed in the public consciousness as the technology supporting cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, and Porsche hasn’t forgotten the tech’s financial roots.
The company sees the potential for car owners to use blockchain to pay for the electricity to charge electric cars. Imagine if every time you charged your vehicle, the action triggered a smart contract on the blockchain that took the appropriate amount of money from your account and sent it to the charging station.
The financial applications could also extend to paying for the car itself. You could create a smart contract that sent in your car payment on the first of the month. The car blockchain would record the balance due and stop making payments once it reached $ 0.
The same could go for your monthly parking cost, your insurance, or any other financial transactions involving your vehicle.
Train Autonomous Driving Systems
As Porsche noted in their news release, automakers could use blockchain to improve autonomous driving systems.
As a self-driving vehicle navigated the world, the blockchain would record data about the trip. This data could include everything from information about regional weather conditions to general traffic patterns. Other vehicles in the network could then access this information.
“If everyone had everyone else’s data, it would be a faster path to autonomous cars,” James Johnson, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Oaken, told Coindesk. “If these [original equipment manufacturers] and others want to accelerate the path to level-five autonomous driving, the best way to do that is through the blockchain to share all that data.”
Toyota agrees with this sentiment. In May 2017, the company teamed up with MIT Media Lab to work out ways to use blockchain to speed up autonomous vehicle technology.
“Hundreds of billions of miles of human driving data may be needed to develop safe and reliable autonomous vehicles,” Chris Ballinger, Toyota Research Institute’s director of mobility services and chief financial officer, told Reuters. “Blockchains and distributed ledgers may enable pooling data from vehicle owners, fleet managers, and manufacturers to shorten the time for reaching this goal.”
Ensure Materials Are Ethically Sourced
Others are approaching blockchain technology from remarkably unique angles.
According to Reuters, BMW is working with London-based blockchain startup Circulor to ensure the cobalt they use for their electric vehicles’ batteries is ethically sourced. A BMW spokesperson told Reuters the company couldn’t comment on the project, but that could have something to do with its sensitive nature.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) mines roughly two-thirds of the world’s cobalt. Of that, about 20 percent comes from artisanal unregulated mines that often exploit child labor. An estimated 40,000 children in the DRC spend their days in these mines, rather than in school, working for low wages under extremely dangerous conditions.
Supply-chain tracking is a well known use of blockchain, and Circulor wants to use the technology to track cobalt from the time it leaves a mine until it reaches a manufacturer. The company is already testing the process using “clean” cobalt from Australia and Canada.
“We believe it makes economic sense to start with sources that aren’t a problem,” Circulor CEO Douglas Johnson-Poensgen told Reuters. “Once the system is proven and operating at scale, one can tackle the harder use cases like artisanal mines.”
Eventually, BMW or any other EV manufacturer could decide to only purchase cobalt tracked via Circulor’s blockchain. Circulor could refuse to track the cobalt of any mine that doesn’t meet certain standards, such as safe working conditions or adult workers, eventually driving the unethical mines out of business.
Encourage Eco-Friendly Driving
Not all blockchain projects are life and death matters. Mercedes Benz’s parent company, Daimler AG, is using a car blockchain in a far more lighthearted way, to encourage eco-friendly driving.
In February, Daimler launched a project based on their own blockchain-based cryptocurrency, mobiCOINS. For three months, a test group of 500 drivers will receive mobiCOINS when they operate their vehicles in environmentally friendly ways. These include coasting to a stop, switching the engine to ECO mode, and maintaining a low driving speed.
The vehicle shares the driving data with a special app, which determines how many mobiCOINS the driver has earned. The coins are then deposited into the driver’s account, with a blockchain recording every transaction along the way.
With enough mobiCOINS, a driver becomes eligible to win prizes, ranging from a trip to Berlin’s Fashion Week to VIP tickets to the MercedesCup Final. This give drivers an incentive to operate their vehicles in environmentally responsible ways, and perhaps some of the habits will even stick after the project ends.
Other carmakers could follow suit with their own cryptocurrency-based rewards programs, as could anyone else involved in the auto industry. Insurance companies could also use data from an owner’s vehicle to reward them for safe driving, while repair shops could reward drivers that keep up on routine maintenance.
Facilitate Autonomous Ride-Sharing
Ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber are already reinventing the way we use — or don’t use — our vehicles. With a few swipes on an app, a driver picks you up in their car and takes you to your destination.
A number of experts, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, think autonomous cars will take this to the next level. The car you summon to ferry you around town will no longer include a driver, and if you do own a car, you’ll have the opportunity to add it to the autonomous fleet whenever you aren’t using it.
Blockchain could help make this vision a reality.
In August 2017, consulting firm Ernst & Young (EY) announced the launch of Tesseract. This blockchain-based system facilitates the sharing of not just rides but vehicle ownership. Eventually, it could help owners manage entire fleets of autonomous vehicles.
Using Tesseract, any group of people can share ownership of vehicles. For example, instead of every person living in a high rise owning their own car or relying on other modes of transportation, they could share a fleet of 10 vehicles. They’d request access to a vehicle when they needed it via an app, and the cars’ blockchain would record the activity of each vehicle.
The system would automatically settle payments on whatever basis the owners agree upon. Maybe they’d pay a per mile fee into a shared account, or each pay a percentage of the monthly car payment that reflects how often they use the vehicle compared to other residents.
Once autonomous vehicles are the norm, a single owner could manage an entire fleet of the cars using the Tesseract system or one like it. They’d just add each car to the blockchain, and then authorized users could request and pay for rides via an app.
Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.
Alfresco Software co-founder and CTO John Newton says modular development and microservices could be the key to getting IoT services to market swiftly – particularly in the financial services sector. Mark Samuels reports.
IT decision-makers can use microservices to bring new services to market quickly and future-proof their organisations for further advances in connected technology.
That’s the view of John Newton, CTO and co-founder of information management specialist, Alfresco Software, who says the move towards microservices is nothing short of a “revolution in connectivity”.
Microservices are an architectural method for developing software applications as a series of components. For businesses in all sectors, Newton envisages a future where IT decision makers can use microservices to focus on business logic, rather than infrastructure challenges.
“You’ll be able to tap into services as they’re required, and that means CIOs and their peers will be able to focus on the areas of the business that represent a competitive differentiation,” he says.
In the future, it won’t make sense for people to build their own IoT services, AI systems, and blockchain products. Business leaders will just be able to connect to and use other services on demand.
“That’s going to drive customers to focus on what they do best: business logic.”
APIs on tap
Newton says the pace of change in connectivity will be rapid. He expects the development of online markets for new services, probably in the next five years.
He also anticipates the creation of exchanges where business leaders will be able source an API for the advanced capability their business requires, whether that’s data processing or machine learning.
“This whole process will be completely driven by the internet. It might be a case of simply getting hold of the URL from a provider and using that link to start using the services you need internally,” says Newton.
He expects these connected services to become gradually standardised, both in terms of accessing requirements, and in procurement and contracting.
This ‘componentised’ approach to service development will be perfect for both service providers and end users, who need better resources to make the most of a range of advanced technologies, he says.
“Microservices give companies the potential to scale out,” he says. “You don’t have to worry about how your technology is being built.
Microservices are a way of future-proofing your business for the huge amounts of processing that will be required in areas like AI modelling and natural language processing.
Newton says that microservices will also help support the rollout of distributed ledger services. “Blockchain is a hot topic in our industry right now, but IT leaders should recognise it should just be a service,” he says.
“What we’ll have in terms of connectivity is a general services revolution. And the key element that’s supporting this change, and which will help build this transformation successfully, is embracing microservices.”
Future proofing for change
Newton suggests the financial services sector as an example how firms have already started to embrace microservices.
Enterprises that are keen to embrace digital transformation are often held back by legacy systems, he says. “So, how do you take all that Cobol and make it ready for the internet era?
“As you realise that you need to make those pieces interoperable in a scalable way, you recognise that you need a new approach.”
Newton, who also co-founded content management firm Documentum in 1990, says the more architectural approach afforded by microservices gives banks an opportunity to deal with legacy constraints, to build the foundations for digital transformation and, potentially, for further levels of connected services, such as blockchain.
“The separation of components through microservices means banks are future-proofing themselves for change,” he says. “Microservices are a way to not only support a multi-cloud strategy, but also to speed up the entire IT process and bring about substantial improvements in agility.”
Newton refers to two examples. One UK bank, which was struggling with compliance demands, is now using microservices to update its systems and create a simpler route to the public cloud. Meanwhile a global bank also wants to move to the cloud in a way that satisfies regulators.
But the cloud is just a starting point. The next stage will see banks use microservices to ride the coming wave of IoT connectivity, claims Newton.
“It’s a better way to architect,” he says. “Rather than monolithic systems, banks can treat certain elements – such as a trading engine – as a microservice. When a technology like blockchain comes along, they can evolve their existing capability, without having to start all over again.”
Best practice advice
Newton offers three pieces of best-practice advice for IT decision makers who are looking to make the most of an architectural approach.
First, look at microservices with clear lines of responsibility, he says.
“Go to your data architecture and identify the common and independent elements. Use that as a map to work out where microservices can be applied. Ringfence these areas and define responsibility.
“If there’s ambiguity around where the lines are drawn, then that crossover point will be a good candidate for the creation of another microservice.”
Second, IT decision makers should focus on understanding the technology behind microservices. Too many people investigate Docker, see the benefits of the system and believe the creation of a componentised strategy will be straightforward, he says. But Newton advises caution.
“There’s a whole new way of thinking associated to microservices,” he says, stressing the importance of agile methodology. “Embrace DevOps, because then you’ll be focused on continuous integration and deployment. Think about service creation in a very different way to the traditional waterfall ‘build and deploy’ process. Refinement is constant.”
Finally, Newton advises IT decision makers to go beyond the enterprise firewall. Rather than considering services in a purely internal context, think about those that are common to other businesses, he says. CIOs need to recognise that certain layers, such as content, messaging, databases, and authentication, can be sourced from external specialists as a service.
“These are going to be common components,” he says. “There’s no point in continually re-inventing these services.”
Internet of Business says
Despite his CTO job title, Newton heads up Alfresco Software, but his chosen designation suggests that the technology is everything for this understated provider, whose interesting client list includes the New York Philharmonic.
As the IoT grows, the use of modular and/or ‘componentised’ development will be increasingly important as organisations seek solutions that will give them rapid business advantage.
Meanwhile, within many organisations, traditional back-office IT and new customer-facing app development are being brought under the same management umbrella, as CXOs are being asked to move away from ‘keeping the lights on’ and towards supporting strategic business aims.
• We welcome Mark Samuels to our expanding roster of talent.
Mark Samuels is former editor of CIO Connect and former features editor of Computing. Mark has written articles for newspapers including The Guardian, The Times and The Sunday Times. He has also produced features and columns for a range of IT publications, such as Computer Weekly, ZDNet, Tech Republic, IT Pro, Channel Pro, CBR, The Register, Retail Business, and Diginomica.
Berkeley, California has a long history of getting ahead on social movements. The city’s latest idea would capitalize — literally — on the wild popularity of blockchain technology by using it to raise funds for public projects. The plan would essential allow people to make city investments on the blockchain.
According to MIT Technology Review, the idea comes from Berkeley city council member Ben Bartlett, who wants to create an “initial community offering” that would allow investors to purchase municipal bonds secured by a blockchain-based, smart-contract system.
Municipal bonds work much like other bonds — in practical terms, you loan the bond issuer a chunk of money in the form of a bond, and the issuer then pays you interest until the bond matures and you get back the money you loaned. In this case, your loan would go towards projects like building schools or updating city infrastructure.
Bartlett wants to change the current system for issuing municipal bonds, which is already a $ 3.8 trillion market, Bloomberg reports. Yet these bonds have become so expensive to issue (thanks to an array of banking middlemen) that they’re useless for anything but the largest of city projects.
Bloomberg reports that the opportunity to make investments on the blockchain would be better for investors, who would get their stake in municipal bonds without markups from middlemen. It would also be better for cities, which wouldn’t need lawyers, advisers, and standardized documents usually needed to mediate the bond’s sale — all of that would be replaced by digital smart contracts.
The city isn’t quite ready to implement this system yet, as it must figure out if voters would have to approve the money needed to get it started, and decide what projects would be financed through it. But Bartlett already has put forward some ideas that will likely resonate with voters: he has suggested that the funds could go towards affordable housing, which is in short supply thanks to rising costs in the San Francisco area.
“We thought we’d get creative and figure out a way to finance our needs to take care of our people,” Bartlett told Bloomberg.
Disclaimer: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.