Spruce Partners with Etheruem & ENS to Improve Online Identity Verification

Spruce Partners with Etheruem & ENS to Improve Online Identity Verification

Applications for blockchain technology remain diverse, with different companies coming up with impressive ideas on integrating the technology.

One novel approach comes from Spruce – a decentralized identity software firm. The company is now working on improving identity verification, and it recently got backing from the Ethereum Foundation.

Work to Begin in Earnest

Earlier this week, Spruce confirmed in a press release that it had secured a partnership with the Ethereum Foundation to help build its decentralized identity verification system. The company would work with the Ethereum Foundation (EF) and Ethereum Name Service (ENS) to develop a secure sign-in module built on the Ethereum blockchain.

Spruce’s network had been selected after the EF and ENS submitted requests for proposals in July. The companies had sought developers who would build a secure sign-in package using Open Authorization (OAuth) – an open standard for access delegation that is frequently used to grant websites or applications access to Intenet users’ data.

As Spruce explained, it will focus on giving users more control of their data. This way, they hope to offer an alternative to big tech companies and platforms, which are notorious for data harvesting. The company added that the EF is the perfect partner, thanks to its user base that runs into the millions. Ethereum is also the largest community of developers in the crypto space, so Spruce has many resources at its disposal with this backing.

Spruce added that it would work closely with the ENS and EF to ensure that its solution is compatible with the Ethereum blockchain’s standards. Success with their project will empower millions of Ethereum users to control their digital identities and seamlessly access the web.

The first step will be user research and building specifications drafts. Core development work is expected to begin shortly.

More Use Cases for Ethereum

Identity management has become a significant focus for the blockchain space. Allowing people to seamlessly access the web while controlling their data could be one of the biggest ways that the industry disrupts traditional tech, and Ethereum has had a major role to play in that.

In July, Numio – a layer-two scaling solution, raised $1.25 million in funding to push into decentralized finance (DeFi). As part of the company’s expansion, Numio will also be building on its identity management system. The system uses zkProofs to let users verify their identities on third-party platforms without sending any identity documentation.

Numio’s authentication solution uses public-key cryptography, which is heralded as more secure than the Time-based One-Time Password (TOTP) used by platforms like Authy and Google Authenticator.

Operations like these are some of the reasons why the Etheruem blockchain remains an incredibly important part of the crypto ecosystem. Ethereum’s profile has risen significantly over the last year, and there has been a lot of talk about its token – Ether – flipping Bitcoin to become the most valuable cryptocurrency.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Stellar Dev Foundation Invests $15M in AirTM to Improve Latin American Cross-Border Transfers

Stellar Dev Foundation Invests $15M in AirTM to Improve Latin American Cross-Border Transfers

  • The Stellar Development Foundation (SDF) is deepening its roots in Latin America with a $15 million funding round to Mexico City’s AirTM, a digital wallet, and peer-to-peer crypto exchange.

In an announcement on Tuesday, SDF’s venture arm, Stellar Enterprise Fund, announced the multi-million funding round aims to boost the development of AirTM’s platform. Additionally, SDF will integrate Stellar blockchain to the platform in the coming year to make the transactions cheaper, a statement from the team reads.

Since the launch of the Enterprise Fund, this constitutes the largest ever investment from SDF. Previous investments by SDF include a $3 million funding round in Settle Network, an Argentine payments channel, and U.S.-based credits firm Tribal Credit, which also received $3 million at the end of April. These investments target the growth of digital payments and cross-border transfers across Latin American countries.

In a similar fashion, the $15 million investment will allow AirTM to enhance its financial services in Latin America while widening its market base. With the integration of Stellar, payments and cross-border transfers are expected to become cheaper and faster, which improves the financial access to Latin American people who have suffered under “fragmented financial systems” for long, SDF Executive Director Denelle Dixon said in the statement.

Adding to Dixon’s statement, AirTM CEO Ruben Galindo Steckel stated the investment would also allow businesses to flourish in Latin America – making them more compatible and open to the global economy. The investment further boosts the goal of the SDF to help “consumers and businesses throughout the developing world access stable money that holds its value” which “is instant to transfer with no fees, and can be withdrawn as local currency whenever, and wherever it’s needed” he continued.

Over the past six months, SDF also invested $5 million in blockchain payment firm, Wyre, to help introduce various payment application programming interfaces, commonly known as APIs, which can integrate with different apps within the Stellar ecosystem. In December, SDF invested $3 million (paid in Stellar Lumens, or XLM) to Settle to focus on fiat-to-crypto on-ramps and boost transactions across the LATAM region.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Ripple Rolls Out XRP Ledger Updates to Boost Software Efficiency

Ripple Labs has rolled out new upgrades to its asset’s ledger to improve functionality. The company continues to deal with the fallout of the SEC’s probe into its affairs.

Top blockchain company Ripple Labs continues to make progress with its XRP asset and other affiliated projects despite the looming lawsuits against it.

In a recent update, the company has announced operational developments that will improve its XRP Ledger’s efficiency.

Improved Speed, Reduced Bandwidth

Yesterday, the Silicon Valley firm published a press release confirming the launch of version 1.7.0 of its XRP Ledger. In the release, Ripple confirmed that the updates would go a long way in bolstering the ledger’s security, efficiency, and operational decentralization.

RippleX, Ripple’s open payment integration platform, has been working to improve the XRP Ledger’s resources and compatibility with various server configurations.

David Schwartz, Ripple’s technology chief, was given the most credit for this, following his work to reduce several caching layers. With his move, the payment platform has reduced execution time and memory by 50 percent.

Along with the optimizations, the latest update will also provide enhanced proposal routing, and transaction validation, and validator manifests, which will improve visibility into operators’ work across the XRP ecosystem.

There is also the introduction of forward ledger replay, which will enhance security on the XRP Ledger and improve server synchronization with the rest of the network. This way, the Ledger can reduce bandwidth and work faster.

On its plans, Bharath Chari, a member of the XRP Ledger Foundation, explained that they would be working to support the broader XRP ecosystem even more. For now, their focus will be on expanding the validator list and enhancing the XRP Ledger’s core code.

MoneyGram Joins the Movement to Ditch Ripple

The recent updates show that Ripple Labs isn’t entirely giving up on XRP yet. The company has had a bit of a rough patch over the past few months, following a lawsuit from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that accused it of organizing an illegal securities offering in its XRP Initial Coin Offering (ICO) back in 2013.

Since the SEC suit came out, Ripple Labs has been faced with significant industry pushback as exchanges, investment firms, and more distanced themselves from it.

Another pushback came earlier this week as payment processor MoneyGram, one of Ripple’s high-profile partners, suspended trading from its end. In its quarterly outlook, MoneyGram reported that it doesn’t plan to see any benefits from its Ripple market development fees in Q1 2021. Due to litigation from regulators, it has chosen to close all Ripple trades for the time being.

The MoneyGram partnership is one of Ripple Labs’ crown jewels. Ripple purchased 10 percent of the company in 2019, while MoneyGram incorporated its on-demand liquidity (ODL) tool to make quicker and safer cross-border transactions. While the relationship appeared rosy, Ripple did sell off a chunk of its MoneyGram shares last November 2020.

Asides from suspending its asset, the payment processor has also reiterated that it never used the ODL tool for direct customer transfers or forex transactions. With MoneyGram further distancing itself from Ripple amid its SEC lawsuit, the blockchain company is finding itself further in need of supporters.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Chainlink to Automate Auditing for REN Assets & Make Them ‘Highly Reliable’ as Collaterals

Chainlink is collaborating with another popular DeFi project RenVM to improve the “transparency and auditability” of renBTC, renBCH, and renZEC.

Last week, we reported how Chainlink joined hands with BitGo for auditing Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC), which has nearly $1 billion BTC bridged on Ethereum.

The popular decentralized oracle network has already secured billions of dollars for leading DeFi protocols like Aave and Synthetix, and now it has found a new partner in RenVM.

Ren has just over $300 million funds locked in it with its token REN trading at $0.263, down only 7.4% since Oct. 1st, unlike many other Defi projects which have crashed during this period. LINK itself is down 51% from its ATH of $20, hit in mid-August.

RenVM, which has $900 million bridged, will be using Chainlink’s Proof of Reserve mechanism, fully automated and censorship-resistant, which is live on testnet and will soon be coming to mainnet.

By leveraging Chainlink, “smart contract applications on the Ethereum blockchain now have the ability to autonomously verify on-demand the current collateralization of each cross-chain asset minted within the Ren ecosystem,” said Michael Burgess, COO at RenVM.

Here, a Proof of Reserve Reference Contract will be deployed on Ethereum for renBTC, renBCH, and renZEC each. Through Chainlink’s oracles, the contracts will be kept up to date with the most recent collateralization. In case of deviation in reserves due to new minting or burning events, push an update.

Ren will also support Chainlink’s Price Reference Feeds to ensure RenVM based assets are “highly reliable” to be used as collaterals in DeFi. Loong Wang, CTO, and Co-founder of Ren said,

“Chainlink’s ability to automate the on-chain auditing process in a highly reliable and transparent manner, allows users to further trust Ren assets without having to track the reserves on their own manually.”

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Author: AnTy

Central Bank Of Sri Lanka Launches A Proof Of Concept (PoC) Blockchain Solution for KYC

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) launches its KYC proof-of-concept (POC) blockchain aiming to improve shared Know-Your-Customer (KYC) services across financial institutions. According to the release, the CBSL aims at financial inclusion across Asian countries and a global scale through digital payment systems.

The PoC blockchain has been in the works since 2018 when the CBSL launched an inter-industry study on the advantages of integrating blockchain systems. The central bank also started a campaign at the tail end of 2019, inviting companies with blockchain expertise in shared KYC proof of concept platform to join its cause on a voluntary basis. With over 40 applications (17 coming from foreign companies), CBSL selected three companies to develop PoCs concurrently.

These companies are Sri Lankan, Sampath Bank PLC, together with the University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC) as joint applicants, Norbloc AB from Sweden, and Yaala Labs (Pvt) Ltd and Linearsix (Pvt) Ltd, Sri Lanka startups as joint applicants.

The three companies signed agreements on developing shared KYC systems in a meeting presided over by the Governor of CBSL, Deshamanya Prof. W D Lakshman, and Chairman of the National Payment Council, Deputy Governor of the CBSL, Mr. H. A. Karunaratne.

Solutions for the Global Financial Industry

The world is increasing its focus on digital payment systems and currencies, and Sri Lanka aims to be at the driver’s seat in pushing innovation in the field, Lakshman said. On the opportunities that lay ahead with the development of the PoC, he said:

“Evaluating the feasibility of using a technology such as Blockchain to securely share KYC information has the potential to vastly increasing the digital financial inclusion of Sri Lankans. Shared KYC opens avenues to seek opportunities for increasing access to financial services through digital and remote onboarding.”

Other senior officials at the central bank believe the integration of a shared KYC blockchain system will significantly impact the financial operations in Sri Lanka and further provide solutions on a global scale.

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Author: Lujan Odera

OMG Network Partners With Bitfinex To Add Tether (USDT) Stablecoin On The Plasma Sidechain

OMG network becomes the first sidechain ever to add USDT capability aiming to improve the scalability and reduce costs of transaction on the platform. In the official announcement released on June 1, 2020, OMG Network announced a partnership with Tether’s sister company, Bitfinex Inc., to successfully integrate of the stablecoin on OMG’s Plasma sidechain.

Tether (USDT) becomes the latest token to join the OMG Network’s, once called OmiseGo, Plasma sidechain. The partnership between OMG Network and Bitfinex, adding the stablecoin, aims at “reducing the confirmation times, making payments faster, and lowering the transaction costs” on the Ethereum network. The upgrades will not affect the security of the platform – statement says it will operate at “the same level of security as Ethereum”. CEO at OMG Network, Vansa Chatikavanij.

“Today, we’re excited to announce the launch of the OMG Network that supports thousands of transactions per second and reduces transaction costs to a third of Ethereum.”

OMG Plasma sidechain to solve scalability issues

Ethereum has seen increased gas prices over the past few weeks as reported by BEG as the network’s usage reached an all-time high in anticipation of the Ethereum 2.0 launch. ETH currently offers a capped number of transactions per second at 7-15 TPS causing lags when there is high traffic on the network. USDT is currently approaching 50% of the total transactions on Ethereum and Bitfinex is looking to let off some pressure to an Ethereum sidechain.

Addition of USDT will solve most of the issues with Ethereum – improving scalability and reducing volatility on the platform.

Paolo Ardoino, CTO at Bitfinex, supported Vansa’s statements saying the reduction of fees and scalable platform “allows traders to react faster to trading opportunities.” He further says,

“By migrating USDt value transfers to the OMG Network, we save costs, drive performance improvements, and relieve pressure on the root chain. This is good for Bitfinex, our users, and the entire Ethereum ecosystem.”

OMG Network mainnet test launches

OMG Network, a platform based on the Ethereum network also announced the launch of its mainnet test on June 1. The new blockchain iteration of its Minimal Viable Plasma design will introduce a “Tesuji Plasma architecture” and employ a “proof-of-authority” (PoA) consensus mechanism.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Facebook Calibra Wallet Devs Reveal Distributed Auditing Proofs of Liabilities (DAPOL)

  • Facebook has recently introduced a new audit protocol on its Calibra wallet app for auditing of its assets.
  • In a bid to improve the already existing distributed audit process, Calibra’s research team brought forward the Distributed Auditing Proofs of Liabilities (DAPOL) onto the platform.

Dating back to April 2014, the cryptocurrency world witnessed one of its biggest heists when a hacker managed to illegally transfer a large number of Bitcoins to himself. This was after allegedly getting hold of an Mt. Gox auditor’s credentials. In April 2014 Mt. Gox announced that Bitcoins, worth $450 million, had been stolen from customers. This ultimately led to the company’s liquidation. The company, however, would have survived had it adopted a legit protocol for asset auditing.

Calibra team leader and blockchain engineer Konstantinos Chalkias recently told the public that DAPOL protocol was setting a platform to improve on the already existing auditing methods. Most importantly to enhance privacy. The protocol allows a distributed audit of liabilities to be undertaken on entities.

DAPOL’S Main Advantage Over The Old Auditing Techniques

Arguably the main advantage brought to the table by DAPOL is its enhanced privacy, where a third party is combined together with a decentralized audit. This typically means that during an audit, all accounts are focused on and none is overlooked. In his statement, Konstantinos Chalkias explained that in the Distributed Auditing Proofs of Liabilities (DAPOL), it does not expose the number of people who verify their inclusion in the totals. He said,

“The Distributed Auditing Proofs of Liabilities (DAPOL) are schemes designed to let companies that accept a) monetary deposits from consumers (i.e., custodial wallets, blockchain exchanges, banks, gambling industry etc.) or b) fungible obligations and report claims from users (i.e., fake news and hate speech reporting, disapproval voting etc.) to prove their total amount of liabilities or obligations without compromising the privacy of both users’ identity and individual amounts.”

He gave an example of the Enron corporation scandal case which ran bankrupt and collapsed some years back after the company in an attempt to cover up its illegal dealings paid an auditor Arthur Andersen to tamper with the information. He added that the corporation’s downfall would have been avoided had it adopted a more private and transparent auditing process.

Full Transparency For Everyone

DAPOL has proved to be an improvement from old distributed auditing processes in that it comes with new features. One of the features is that it allows everyone to take part in processes like proof verification and offers a more sophisticated validation tool than was not offered before. Calibra’s team is not fully sure but is quite optimistic that DAPOL can be integrated onto Facebook’s Libra project to have an impact on such domains as economic data, crypto blockchain wallets, and public health.

The team is open to inviting any player that shares the same development enthusiasm on DAPOL’S project as them. This is after they released their plans to make the code open-source soon. It is their hope that with time this new DAPOL distributed audit process will be adopted widely by crypto firms globally.

“The backbone of this proposal is based on the enhanced Maxwell’s Merkle-tree construction and is extended using balance splitting tricks, efficient padding, verifiable random functions, deterministic key derivation functions, and the range proof techniques from Provisions and ZeroLedge solvency protocols, respectively.

Because Bulletproofs, Gro16, Ligero, Plonk, Halo and other efficient zkSNARK or zkSTARK constructions were not available or mature when the above solvency protocols were published, we will assume that any efficient zero knowledge scheme for set membership in summation structures can be a good candidate.”

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Author: Lujan Odera

Bitcoin’s Privacy Update Schnorr/Taproot Reaches a New Milestone

  • One of Bitcoin’s biggest upgrades that will improve the privacy of the network has been published on the GitHub as BIP 340, 341, and 342

One of Bitcoin’s largest to date upgrades that would bring privacy and scalability to the world’s biggest network has passed a new milestone.

Earlier this week, a BitcoinCore contributor, Pieter Wuille published the update Taproot as the Bitcoin Improvement Proposal. A pull request, however, doesn’t mean it is official rather that it is now ready for developers to take a look and for it to get accepted into the ecosystem.

What’s most interesting is that because Bitcoin isn’t controlled by a single entity, major changes like these have to be agreed by everyone in order for it to be implemented.

Bitcoin Core contributor Anthony Towns conducted a review group for developers to assess the BIPs and submit their comments and suggestions. Towns said:

“This is a way to make sure more people understand the proposal as early as possible.”

16 of the developers submitted their feedback and everyone approved of the changes. Jake Chervinky, General Counsel at Compound Finance pointed out:

“Schnorr/Taproot is not only a significant upgrade for Bitcoin, but also an important data point for the ongoing study of Bitcoin’s governance model.”

If the community agrees to Taproot, it could be the biggest change to the world’s leading digital currency since the scaling upgrade Segregated Witness (SegWit) in 2017.

The Schnorr/Taprioot proposal is published on GitHub as BIP 340, 341, and 342. Schnorr is a cryptographic signature scheme to prove the ownership of BTC. It eliminates the need for a multi-signature scheme by combining the signatures of all the transaction inputs into one.

Schnorr signatures do not reveal any information about the inputs which means only the owners of the private keys are capable of unlocking scripts.

In comparison to traditional ECDSA signature, these signatures are easily verifiable and offer a higher degree of flexibility and robustness.

Using Schnorr, Taproot strengthen privacy by adding smart contract-like capabilities to Bitcoin. This technology makes Bitcoin transactions look exactly the same on a blockchain explorer, hence boosting Bitcoin’s privacy.

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Author: AnTy

ECB: Central Bank Digital Currencies Could Be Used To Improve Payment Systems

A digital currency could be used by the European Central Bank (ECB) in order to improve payments around the world. According to a document released by the ECB, adoption of this digital asset could be accelerated due to the lower cash usage in several countries.

ECB Analyses Effects Of Digital Assets

As reported by Reuters, the ECB is analyzing the effects of creating a digital currency that would make international payments cheaper. This would only be implemented or planned only within Europe and if payments across the continent remained too expensive.

Considering that the digital currency could have large implications for financial, monetary and economic stability, the implementation of this currency should be carefully studied and assessed.

This document is expected to be presented to Finance Ministers of the European Union on Thursday.

At the same time, Christine Lagarde, the president of the ECB, explained at her first hearing before the European Parliament that central banks may adopt a digital currency.

Mrs. Lagarde has always been very positive about digital assets and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). When she was the president of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) she has supported different researches on the matter and showed they were open to discussing positive and negative aspects of CBDCs if implemented.

According to Lagarde, users will be able to use central bank money for daily transactions. Nevertheless, there are some risks that must be assessed in terms of monetary policy and how it could affect the real economy. This is in line with what the aforementioned document explains.

The European Central Bank has established negative interest rates in the economy in order to promote economic growth through spending rather than through investment and savings. Some banks are already passing these negative interest rates to clients.

The ECB is also a key player in Europe’s economy considering that it has been working as a lender of last resort to banks in all the continents.

There are several countries that have already analyzed the possibility to implement CBDCs in the economy. Some of these countries include the UK, Ukraine, Canada and Uruguay, among others.

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Author: Carl T

SWIFT Payment Protocol Embraces New Blockchain Initiative To Improve Its Services

SWIFT Payment Protocol Embraces New Blockchain Initiative To Improve Its Services
  • SWIFT is working with blockchain technology to improve its services and remain competitive
  • Several blockchain firms have entered the financial market during the last few years

SWIFT, one of the most recognized providers of financial services around the world, announced that it is moving all in on blockchain and open finance. The main intention is to remain competitive in the blockchain market that is welcoming new participants and initiatives that could harm its market share.

SWIFT Works On New Blockchain Initiative

According to Finder, SWIFT released a new paper titled: Payments: Looking into the Future, that was written by the CEO of the company Gottfried Leibbrant and the CMO Luc Meurant. In this paper, they inform that they will be pulling all the world’s banks onto a blockchain network. This would allow third-party businesses to develop their own financial services and applications within the ecosystem.

In order for banks and financial institutions to compete in this market, it is necessary for them to use open systems. According to SWIFT, this is “do or die in payments.”

About it, SWIFT wrote:

“We don’t think that cross-border payments challenges should be solved for with closed loop systems. Doing so would easily solve for a subset – or multiple subsets – of participants, but value needs to move everywhere – from every account, to every account. Loops create barriers and friction; they reduce fungibility and portability, they limit competition and they fragment liquidity.”

Banks have also to adapt to these new realities in which blockchain technology is surging and helping firms to improve their services and products. As the CEO and CMO of SWIFT explain, value needs to shift further and faster. This is why they consider only a seamless open global value transfer system can enable this.

The authors of the paper explained that there are key players around the world that have the ambition and commitment to realize the goal of improving their services by embracing new technologies. According to Finder, GPI (Global Payments Innovation) is the answer that SWIFT has to all the dust blockchain that has been growing in the last years. After trying during the last years, they have confirmed that distributed ledger technology (DLT) is going to be at their core.

With their approach, banks can differentiate themselves by layering services and new products so as to distinguish their offerings. Moreover, FinTechs and other players can also create and offer new value-added services.

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Author: Carl T