New York is Pilot Testing IBM’s Blockchain-Based Health App to Track COVID-19 Vaccinations

New York is Pilot Testing IBM’s Blockchain-Based Health App to Track COVID-19 Vaccinations

New York set to pilot IBM’s blockchain-based health app across the state to confirm an individual’s vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 test. The app was first tested in a Brooklyn Nets basketball game earlier this month.

New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced a pilot program to test the Excelsior Pass, a blockchain-based health app developed in partnership with IBM Technologies. In a statement during the “NY Governor’s 2021 State of the State Address”, Cuomo stated the app would confirm a person’s vaccination status or recent COVID-19 test to “get back to normal.”

“The Excelsior Pass will play a critical role in getting information to venues and sites in a secure and streamlined way, allowing us to fast-track the reopening of these businesses and getting us one step closer to reaching a new normal.”

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Excelsior Pass, a blockchain-based health app developed by IBM (Image: NY Gov)

The app will be tested at the Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center events to help fast-track the reopening of public spaces and events in the state.

The app will voluntarily ask users to share their health status through their mobile phones, and the data is then encrypted and stored on a blockchain safely. Steve LaFleche, General Manager, IBM Public, and Federal Market, said,

“This solution can provide New York, and other states, a simple, secure, and voluntary method for showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test result or certification of vaccination.”

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Author: Lujan Odera

Cyprus Hospital Rolls Out Covid-19 Vaccine Certification on a VeChain Built Application

Cyprus Hospital Rolls Out A Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 Vaccine Certification on A VeChain Built Application

Cyprus based Mediterranean Hospital announced that it had administered the COVID-19 vaccine to 100 doctors and personnel through a blockchain-built app dubbed E-HCert. The hospital said that the first dose was administered on Jan 4, in what it terms as a ‘great step back to normalcy.’

Backed by the VechainThor blockchain, E-HCert was built in collaboration with digital healthcare solution provider I-Dante. It has been operational since mid-last year, with its first use case being the certification of COVID-19 test results. According to the announcement, this application was used by more than 8,000 people who visited Cyprus and took the COVID-19 test on arrival,

“The App was used by more than 8000 people that receive their results after having a COVID-19 RT PCR test upon their arrival in the International Airport of Larnaca in Cyprus.”

With the world now moving to the vaccine era, E-HCert plays yet another major role in the certification of administered COVID-19 vaccines. The Mediterranean Hospital doctors and personnel who were vaccinated received digital certificates via their E-HCert apps. Per the announcement post, this milestone marks a major step in transforming the healthcare industry via blockchain.

“Mediterranean Hospital of Cyprus also announces that these 100 people received a digital certificate for their vaccination on their E-HCert App marking another step towards the digital transformation of the healthcare industry via VeChainThor Blockchain.”

Cyprus Mail has since reported that the E-HCert tech is set to be integrated by the Aretaeio Hospital in Nicosia.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Here’s Why BTC and Gold are Getting Hammered while Stock Market Hits New ATHs

On Monday, US markets saw one of their strongest openings in months on the back of progress on the COVID-19 vaccine and Democrat Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Markets soared even before they opened and after that, it was all-time new highs.

S&P 500 made a new peak at 3,628 with a 1.3% move today, beating early September’s record of 3,580.

Much like the equity market, Dow Jones hit a new high at 29,632, with a 1.8% upwards move while tech-heavy Nasdaq fell short of hitting its high.

Not just US stocks but global stocks also surged on Monday after drugmaker Pfizer said that early data from its coronavirus vaccine shows it is more than 90% effective.

France’s CAC 40 jumped 7%, Germany’s DAX climbed 5.4%, and the FTSE 100 in London spiked 4.7%.

Even the price of Brent crude oil vaulted nearly 8% to $42.45 a barrel.

Unlike the mania seen in the stock market, gold crashed hard. The precious metal took a dive to $1,850, with a drop of almost 5.8%. Much like the yellow metal, silver had a bad time today, falling 9.2% to $23.6.

The US Dollar index meanwhile only oscillated between 92 and 93.

When it comes to Bitcoin, initially, it held strong only to fall 6.5% on Bitstamp. Today, BTC moved between the range of $14,824 and $15,854. The leading digital asset remains 24% away from its ATH.

“This volatility is just fast money funds that play BTC as a higher beta GOLD dumping on vaccine news. The players that enter on behalf of the longer-term thesis for Bitcoin are not changing their positioning,” noted trader Cantering Clark.

At the time of writing, BTC/USD has been trading around $15,200 in the red (-2%) with $3.81 billion in volume.

BTC’s downward movement had altcoins trailing down as well, with top cryptos down between 3% to 8%.

Before the vaccine news even broke out, stocks were already rallying as investors reacted positively to political certainty following Joe Biden’s victory. During his victory speech on Saturday, Biden announced his plans to assemble a coronavirus task force to help curb the virus’s spread.

Coronavirus cases are rising at an alarming rate in the US, forcing some states to shut down parts of the economy. Recently, several major countries in Europe have imposed nationwide lockdowns again.

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Author: AnTy

Kadena’s Token Listed on First Exchange as the Blockchain Firm Rolls Out COVID-19 Tracking App

JP Morgan’s spin-off blockchain, Kadena, has launched a COVID-19 tracking app for PPE and medical results. This move comes as its native token, KDA, gets listed on Bittrex Global, making its first debut in crypto exchange markets. It will initially trade against the USDT and BTC pairs in the $37 million Bittrex Global daily volume pool.

Following the listing, KDA token deposits and wallets on Bittrex Global onboarded on June 25 with trading set to commence today. The Kadena native digital asset currently has a total of 35 million tokens in supply, with 100 million more expected to be mined this year, according to the firm’s co-founder and CEO, Will Martino. Notably, the project has raised over $15 million from three token sales last year and stood at a $13 million marketcap prior to the Bittrex listing.

With KDA tokens now in the crypto exchange market, their prices will be determined by demand and supply. Martino noted that this integration will in fact provide more clarity on pricing KDA tokens given information availability going forward,

“KDA has been primarily OTC-only since its launch in January. Listing on Bittrex Global is the first for KDA. Some fly-by-night so-called exchanges, like Hotbit, have made rather buggy integrations that provide price data feeds from which CoinMarketCap and CoinGecko pull.”

He went on to add that there will be more KDA listings as we dive into Q2, 2020. While the Bittrex listing scales KDA’s prospects, this trading service is not available for the U.S market and a few other sanctioned jurisdictions such as Cambodia and Egypt.

Kadena’s COVID-19 Tracking App

As mentioned earlier, Kadena has also launched a blockchain-oriented app to assist in the fight against COVID-19. This initiative runs as an open-source DApp with the aim of enhancing data sharing along the PPE supply chain. Basically, the app allows stakeholders to verify coronavirus tests by tracking the equipment from manufacturers to healthcare providers.

In addition, it provides an avenue for medical practitioners to communicate test results through QR codes, which operate as the keys to data stored on Kadena’s blockchain. Given this medical operational scope, Kadena is now looking to be Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Despite the Selloff, Bitcoin Generated Far ‘Superior Returns’ than Traditional Assets During COVID-19

In March, as COVID-19 spread throughout the world, every asset, be it US equities, bitcoin, gold, or bonds, they all accelerated declines. Initially, bitcoin experienced significant losses but only to stage a strong rally of 155%.

Just like bitcoin recovered its losses, gold initially declined as investors fled to cash only to rebound and reclaim its safe-haven status.

Source: TradeBlock

Now, if we compare the performance of three investment portfolios, the one with 60% equity and 40% bonds, the second one comprising 55% equities, 45% bonds, and 10% gold; and the one with the same composition as the previous one but bitcoin replacing gold, the portfolio with the digital asset is the best choice.

With an investment of $1000, even a modest allocation to hard assets provided better returns, and in the case of bitcoin, it triumphed over the other two.

Source: TradeBlock

Moreover, a modest bitcoin allocation would also have generated greater risk-adjusted returns as measured by the Sharpie ratio found TradeBlock. Risk-adjusted returns analyze the attractiveness of returns based on the unit of risk undertaken to generate those returns.

As such, the Sharpe ratio of the three portfolios is calculated at 0.259, 0.276, and the one with the bitcoin having the highest one at 0.608. But still, bitcoin generated more returns than the other two portfolios during the coronavirus pandemic.

During this period, the US Federal Reserve expanded its balance sheet to a new high at over $7 trillion. Fed has been ramping up its asset purchasing programs since 2008 only to reduce it in 2017 but it accelerated dramatically in recent months to prevent the economic fallout triggered by the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the economic downturns saw several large money managers that have been staying away from digital currencies jumping into bitcoin. Just last month, Paul Tudor Jones announced that his firm’s BVI fund has a 1 to 2% allocation to bitcoin through the purchase of cash-settled futures contracts.

The motivation behind this was the implications of unprecedented bond-buying and fiscal spending by global central banks in recent months.

“As central banks ramp up asset purchasing efforts, ‘hard-money’ inflation hedges are seeing renewed interest.”

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Author: AnTy

Can RippleNet Cloud be a Game Changer for Post-COVID Banks and Financial Institutions?

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly increased the adoption of emerging technologies. Since the world was challenged by this virus, innovations by the FinTech community ranging from blockchain tech to cloud infrastructure have been accelerated. A company like Ripple, prominent for its blockchain built cross-border payment solutions, is now touting its cloud services as well, RippleNet Cloud.

As tech evolved, it became evident that existing on-premises infrastructure is in fact a huge cost in today’s business world. This is because of the underlying operations in staffing, maintenance, and migration to new systems. Therefore, cloud solutions are slowly taking over starting with tech giants like Microsoft and IBM who are among the largest service providers in this niche. However, financial institutions led by banks are still skeptical of moving their systems to cloud platforms given the sensitivity of clients’ data.

RippleNet Cloud

While cloud services may seem a concept of the future, their value proposition beats existing on-premises that are outdated, expensive to maintain, and inflexible. According to recent a publication on Ripple Insights, cloud services are now considered essential for the going concern of businesses post-COVID.

“Now, cloud-based technologies are considered essential to any business wishing to survive the pandemic—and keep up with rapidly changing consumer demands.”

Ripple’s cloud-based solution has since been hailed as a game-changer for banking ecosystems. Basically, the firm provides a platform for businesses to interact seamlessly on RippleNet via a common Ripple Payment Object (RPO). Compared to on-premises, clients on RippleNet can go live five weeks faster while cutting the costs attributed to staffing and hardware requisition.

In addition, RippleNet Cloud provides financial institutions the option to leverage on-demand liquidity for their settlements. Notably, clients also don’t have to stress with upgrades as they are handled with Ripple’s team. Given these underlying factors, RippleNet has attracted a number of prominent financial service providers including MoneyGram and India-based, Federal Bank.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

US Congress Members Reintroduce ‘Digital Dollar’ in Automatic Boost to Communities Act

  • In the wake of the devastating effect that COVID-19 has had in the past few months across the U.S, the House of Representatives are set to discuss a digital dollar bill in the coming weeks.
  • Could the said $2000 monthly stimulus package be distributed to Americans directly into their digital wallets?

The U.S government has begun distributing the COVID-19 stimulus checks in a bid to boost the economy. In a new development in the Lower House, Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) is looking to introduce a digital wallet in the new bill titled, ‘Automatic Boost to Communities Act (ABC)” to which the $2000 extended monthly payment will be distributed to. The Act reads:

“No later than January 1, 2021, the Secretary shall offer all recipients of BOOST payments the option to receive their payments in digital dollar wallets.”

The ABC Act was introduced to the Lower House on Thursday with several members supporting the bill including;

  • Jesús García (D-Ill.)
  • Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.)
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)
  • Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)
  • Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)
  • Bobby Rush (D-Ill.)
  • Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
  • Nydia Velázquez (D-NY)
  • Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

The bill aims to improve access of financial services to Americans connecting the Federal Reserve directly to the citizens. The short term $1200 stimulus is currently underway but some Americans are yet to receive the check as the system faces some challenges with third parties.

The initial stimulus bill included a “digital dollar” payment system to allow seamless disbursement of the funds but was later removed without explanation.

The ABC Act aims to transform the digital payments field during this pandemic and beyond looking into various forms of payments including digital wallets, debit and credit cards, online payment systems and access to mobile payment systems.

Direct Competition to Libra?

The current news comes just hours after the Libra Association announced its plans to develop a multi-currency and single-currency backed stablecoin in its updated whitepaper.

Libra platform aims to offer unbanked and underbanked users a digital wallet account that holds the tokens backed by dollars, euros, pounds, and yen. The development of a digital dollar may prove to cause direct competition to the Facebook-led project.

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Author: Lujan Odera

FBI Issues Warning to Crypto Holders About Increasing Coronavirus (COVID-19) Scams

The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has brought the whole world to a standstill, with the majority of countries worldwide placed under strict lockdown measures to contain the spread.

The crypto community remains enthusiastic, despite the ongoing crisis, with the upcoming Bitcoin Halving just a month away. However, this enthusiasm has also made them vulnerable to scams.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has released a warning on Monday specifically for crypto holders, suggesting they be prepared for a surge of coronavirus-centred crypto scams in the coming weeks.

Cryptocurrencies have turned out to be a lucrative investment in the past couple of years, which has drawn the interest and investments from people of all kinds, be it institutional investors, small-time traders, young or old. This rapid rise in interest has also given way for scammers to lure many into Ponzi schemes, promising high returns in a short period of time.

However, the risk of scammers has risen significantly in these troubled times where a majority of the population are uncertain of their financial future, as most of the financial markets hit record lows and scarce investment opportunities.

The FBI believes scammers are praying on these insecurities to steal people’s hard-earned money, and launder it through the complex ecosystem of decentralized coin exchanges. While entities like Huobi have taken steps to prevent these activities, buyers beware.

FBI Believe Scammers May use Humanitarian Aid as Cover for Scams

The FBI warning noted that the scammers might use a number of methods and curtail their pitches on emotion quotient in the ongoing situation, where they might pretend to be from organizations looking for donations to help the needy.

The FBI also believes blackmail could also be a scamming avenue for making money. Where the scammers may threaten to infect the victim’s family with the Coronavirus.

The FBI has also urged people to be cautious and, use common sense and not let their emotions get better of them.

The agency has also stated that people should refrain from donating to anyone before verifying the credibility of the source, and report any suspicious website/s or person/s asking for donations.

While there is no clarity on why the agency suddenly issued such a specific warning, it seems there have been many COVID-19-themed scams in the past couple of weeks, prompting the authorities to issue the warning.

In one instance, scammers managed to collect $2 million from PPE seekers in Asia. A few scammers in the UK and USA were found sending malicious texts which drew attention from financial regulators.

A Chainalysis report has revealed that the ongoing pandemic has brought down funding of these scams by one third. This, however, hasn’t discouraged scammers from trying to phish people as their number of attempts have remained constant.

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Author: James W

60 Organizations Collaborate To Build Blockchain-based COVID-19 Immunity Passports

Blockchain self-sovereign identity (SSI) technologists are working together to develop COVID-19 immunity passports that don’t compromise the users’ privacy.

Having some sort of immunity credentials would allow people to return to normal life, so the COVID-19 Credentials Initiative (CCI) is trying to develop a digital certificate that’s complying with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard of Verifiable Credentials.

Proving the Recovery from the Coronavirus

The certificate allows individuals to prove and to ask others for proof that they have recovered from the coronavirus, that they’re positive for antibodies or have been vaccinated, after a vaccine becomes available, of course. More than 60 SSI organizations are involved in the project, including Streetcred, TNO, esatus, Georgetown University, and others like TrustNet from Pakistan, DIDx from South Africa, Northern Block from Canada and Consulcesi from Italy.

Health Care Institutions to Issue the Certificates

The digital certificates would have to be issued by health care institutions. However, they would be controlled and shared by users in a peer-to-peer (P2P) manner. There’s an agreement in the tech world that some sort of digital certificates should exist. Even Microsoft’s former CEO and founder, Bill Gates, said at a Reddit AMA from last month that:

“Eventually we will have some digital certificates to show who has recovered or been tested recently or when we have a vaccine who has received it.”

Why Blockchain?

Using blockchain protocols like Hyperledger Aries and Hyperledger Indy, the CCI solution is related to the Linux Foundation. With the SSI and Verifiable Credentials, it gets to instill a higher level of trust between the credential’s issuer, the credential’s holder and the verifier. The holder would be in the center of the system, not to mention no longer required to go back-and-forth between the issuer and the verifier. Holders would also have the power of choosing what to share and with whom to share it.

At its core, the certificate would have a decentralized (DLT) architecture that doesn’t run too much data on blockchains. Here’s what the chief trust officer at Evernym, Drummond Reed, had to say about the it:

“It’s a very thin-layer usage of blockchain just for cryptographic infrastructure. All the credentials are exchanged off-chain, peer-to-peer. The role of blockchain is super-important, but it’s thin.”

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Author: Oana Ularu

Govt’s May Accelerate Digital Payment And CBDC Research Due to COVID-19: BIS

Bank of International Statements (BIS) recently released a research report on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic to the overall payment system. According to the research, the virus is causing fear and uncertainty as physical cash sees a dip in usage in favor of digital payments. Additionally, the report from BIS states there may be an acceleration in the development of government-backed digital currencies such as central banks CBDCs.

Public fears cash over COVID-19 pandemic

In the third bulletin of BIS titled, “COVID-19, Cash, and the Future of Payments” the bank highlighted the growing fear of the use of physical cash, despite scientific evidence of low chances of contracting Coronavirus through cash. This growing fear may set in a rush across governments in the quest to develop CBDCs and other digital forms of payments, the report further states.

“Looking ahead, developments could speed up the shift toward digital payments. […]The pandemic may amplify calls to defend the role of cash – but also calls for central bank digital currencies.”

However, with half of the world lacking these digital payments, a sudden shift to such payment systems may set a divide especially in these times of the pandemic. The researchers said,

“If cash is not generally accepted as a means of payment, this could open a ‘payments divide’ between those with access to digital payments and those without.

This could open a divide in access to payments instruments, which could negatively impact unbanked and older consumers.”

A broader look into digital payments

Governments across the world including Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Europe have started embracing digital payments on mobile phones and digital currencies. The U.S government stimulus bill proposed a digital ecosystem to disburse the funds to millions of Americans.

Argentinian governor, Jorge Capitanich of Chaco province, urged the use of digital payment systems across his state to phase out the use of physical fiat money during an internet call with the President, Alberto Fernández

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Author: Lujan Odera