BIS and Hong Kong Regulator To Launch Green Bonds on the Blockchain

The Bank of International Settlements (BIS) is continuing its focus on blockchain technology.

In its new initiative, the agency’s Innovation Hub has partnered with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) to examine the possible impacts of tokenized green bonds.

Using Blockchain to Help the Planet

Also known as climate bonds, green bonds are fixed-income instruments linked to environmental and climate change solutions. They are usually asset-linked and backed by the balance sheet of the issuing entity. So, they tend to carry the same credit ratings as their issuers’ debts.

In its announcement, the BIS introduced Project Genesis, a collaboration with the HKMA to launch a prototype digital infrastructure. The project is expected to enable sustainable investments while examining the transparency of proceeds allocation. The agencies believe that blockchain-based bond tokenization will allow investors to buy small denominations of the assets, thus boosting investment.

Besides spurring investment, the tokenized green bonds will also allow investors to track environmental output in real-time. The objective is to help companies meet regional and global environmental standards.

Along with the BIS and HKMA, the tokenized green bonds project is in sync with several other partners. These include GFT Technologies Hong Kong, Swiss-based Digital Asset, the Liberty Consortium, and SC Ventures – the venture capital arm of British banking giant Standard Chartered.

These companies will deploy permissioned blockchains to assist the project. At the same time, Hong Kong-based start-up Allinfra will provide tracking data to help the partners monitor the projects’ real-time environmental impact.

The head of the BIS Innovation Hub Hong Kong Centre, Bénédicte Nolens, explained that the partners would enable investors to provide liquidity for safe government bonds that will go to a good cause by simply downloading an app. Thanks to blockchain capabilities, tracking the bonds and their performance will be transparent.

BIS Looks to Bring CBDCs to Life

Project Genesis will start with design thinking workshops, although development teams are already working on sprints to build the prototypes. Results will be published in Q4 2021.

The launch of the blockchain-based green bonds is the latest blockchain-based affinity for the BIS, which has primarily focused more on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). Last month, the BIS and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – published a statement at the G20, arguing that CBDCs are a requirement for global financial developments.

In the joint report, the agencies explained that a cross-border network of CBDCs, which will be underpinned by effective global cooperation and efficient technology, will help the world’s economy.

Amongst other things, the agencies criticized the current cross-border payments system, which remains boggled by long transaction times and high costs as several intermediaries need to process transactions before they are verified. Several intermediaries work across different time zones and banking processes, and corresponding isn’t so easy.

The BIS isn’t just talking but has taken steps to achieve this goal.

In June, its Innovation Hub joined the Bank of France and the Swiss National Bank to test a wholesale CBDC. The project, named “Jura,” will also receive participation from several private companies, led by financial services giant Accenture. Other names include UBS, Credit Suisse, and blockchain giant R3.

The experiment will use two wholesale CBDCs – one pegged to the franc and the other pegged to the euro. Per the report, the exchange will involve exchanging financial instruments against each of the CBDCs via a delivery versus payment settlement structure. Settlement on both sides of the transaction will also be conducted in banks domiciled in both countries.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

The Dogecoin (DOGE) Foundation Announces Reinstatement and Official Advisory Board

Ever since it was created, Dogecoin has never particularly fit any purpose. However, a new initiative from its developers suggests a change in that narrative

Earlier this week, the Dogecoin Foundation announced that it had been officially reinstated. In a press release, the Foundation confirmed that this reinstatement will help it to support the DOGE community and build the crypto’s future.

Getting Back to Work

Officially launched in 2014, the Dogecoin Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports Dogecoin’s growth. The group primarily focuses on advocacy, trademark protection, and governance. It had been active for a bit, but the exit of several key members eventually left it dormant. Thus began the story of Dogecoin and its status as a meme currency.

Per the announcement, the primary reason for the Foundation’s reinstatement is to boost DOGE’s adoption and utility. The Foundation promised to launch new projects geared towards increasing the meme coin’s grassroots appeal.

Amongst other things, the projects will complement the current Dogecoin Core Wallet and make it easier to integrate the asset’s API. This way, companies and projects across spaces like finance, charity, and social that would like to accept Dogecoin payments would find it much easy to integrate.

The Foundation’s advisory board already has several notable members, including Ethereum (ETH) co-founder Vitalik Buterin, Dogecoin co-founder Billy Markus, and Dogecoin core developer Max Keller. It will also feature Jared Birchall, the chief executive of neurotechnology company Neuralink Corporation.

Neuralink is one of the many companies founded by Tesla CEO and prominent Dogecoin hype man Elon Musk. Birchall will be on the Foundation to represent Musk’s interests.

Besides these members, the Foundation has also said that it will be creating a three-year operational budget as it looks to expand and recruit more people.

Payments et al.

The Foundation’s reinstatement should provide some direction for Dogecoin – a currency that has so far survived off memes and a strong community. Meme coins are all the rage, especially considering how quickly their values can spike. However, a coin without utility will only last for so long.

Dogecoin already amassed arguably the strongest community of believers in the crypto space. If it can create a set of specific use cases and grow in adoption, the coin should be able to see its price jump even higher and provide value to investors.

There have been several moves that sought to identify Dogecoin’s potential as a medium of exchange. Earlier this year, Musk himself ran a Twitter poll, where he sought the view of his online community on Tesla’s possible integration of Dogecoin payments for their sedans. This came after the company paused Bitcoin (BTC) payments over the crypto’s environmental concerns.

Also, Scott Paul, founder of Utah-based marketing agency Wooly, offered his home up for sale earlier this month and even gave a 10 percent discount to anyone who would pay using DOGE. given that the property goes for $399,000, that’s a pretty hefty discount.

Instances like these show that there is a demand for DOGE payments – no matter how small. The Foundation could explore this use case – as well as many more – going forward.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Cardano and Nervos Research Initiative to Find Solutions to UXTO Security Issues

Cardano Foundation is partnering with the Nervos network in a joint research initiative to secure smart contracts, especially on a blockchain, using the Unspent Transaction Output (UTXOs) transaction model. The research efforts come in handy as Cardano aims to take over the decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem following the Goguen testnet.

Cardano, and Nervos, two public chains using the UXTO accounting method on their networks, announced a joint research partnership that will see them share proprietary information and write research papers on open-source accounting models, UXTO-based security, and develop a universal standard of accounting across blockchains.

This initiative is set to enhance and develop better security systems on UXTO-based blockchains to provide more efficient interactions with DeFi applications.

First conceptualized and adopted by Bitcoin (BTC), the UTXO accounting model has grown as the most secure across blockchains. A UTXO accounting model entails recording the number of coins remaining in a specific wallet after executing a transaction while monitoring every transaction continuously. This accounting model provides a more secure network than the account-based model, which is used by smart contract-based blockchains such as Ethereum (ETH) and ERC20 tokens, the statement further reads.

The account-based accounting model offers a less cumbersome network to store transactions as opposed to the UTXO module. Account-based accounting models only focus on the balance of the wallet account, ignoring the individual transactions within the address, opening up a loophole to steal funds while no one is monitoring the wallet. Kevin Wang, co-founder at Nervos said,

“UTXOs are superior to account models in many ways and provide improved security, privacy, and scalability, all of which are critical for DeFi.”

This makes the account-based model susceptible to hacks and external attacks, as seen repeatedly across the DeFi space in 2020. According to a CipherTrace report, the overall value of DeFi hacks in 2020 rose to nearly $100 million as hackers turned their eye to the ballooning space.

Cardano and Nervos are both lining up to nab DeFi projects from Ethereum – both taking a step forward in 2020 to strengthen their market position. Nervos Network announced a collaboration with Huobi exchange to develop blockchain framework testnets on DeFi applications in March this year. Additionally, the network also added Chainlink’s decentralized oracles to enhance smart contract development on the platform.

Cardano recently announced its first-ever DeFi project built on the platform, Bondly, lending and borrowing DeFi app, earlier this week. This followed the launch of “Project Catalyst,” a $250,000 fund aiming at incentivizing DeFi developers to build on Cardano.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Square Commits $10M to Bitcoin Clean Energy Initiative; Net-Zero Carbon by 2030

Square has launched a clean energy investment initiative to help make the “bitcoin supply chain greener.”

In its press release on Tuesday, the San Francisco-based company announced its plan to become net-zero carbon for operations by 2030. A verified carbon removal portfolio is expected to be launched in Q1 of 2021.

With this came the ‘Bitcoin Clean Energy Investment Initiative‘ to which Square is committing $10 million to support companies that “help drive adoption and efficiency of renewables within the bitcoin ecosystem.”

The new initiative will support companies working on green energy technologies within the bitcoin mining space and accelerate its transition to clean power. Any gains made from this investment will also be reinvested back into the initiative.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is a Bitcoin proponent and his company Square, which has invested $50 million in BTC, purchases the largest cryptocurrency on behalf of its Cash App customers.

“We believe that cryptocurrency will eventually be powered completely by clean power, eliminating its carbon footprint and driving adoption of renewables globally,” said Square co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey.

At the end of October, as we reported, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) sent out a letter to banks and cryptocurrency businesses to pay attention to the financial risks associated with climate change and incorporate them into their business strategies. Dorsey said,

“Published estimates indicate bitcoin already consumes a significant amount of clean energy, and we hope that Square’s investment initiative will accelerate this conversion to renewable energy.”

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Author: AnTy

Over 100M Unique Users in the Crypto Ecosystem; University of Cambridge Digital Asset Study

The 3rd Global CryptoAsset Benchmarking Study, an initiative by Cambridge researchers to analyze the developing growth of the industry, has estimated that over 100 million people in the world currently hold BTC or alternative crypto assets. According to this publication, the number of new digital wallets increased significantly, with around 191 million accounts opened in Q3, 2020 alone.

Going by these stats, the number of new people who own crypto assets has skyrocketed compared to the 2018 estimates, which barely hit 36 million. The research attributes this growth to an increase in activity and awareness within the main functions of the crypto ecosystem. Other metrics highlighted include mining, off-chain service provision, regulatory compliance, and improvement in IT infrastructure.

A Vibrant Outlook

Despite taking a hit after the 2017 ICO boom, crypto onboarding has been at its highest post the bubble. More off-chain service providers have launched to on-ramp newbies through fiat-crypto ecosystems and vice versa. Notably, the usage demographics were found to vary between different regions greatly; for instance, crypto exchanges domiciled out of APAC emerged as more crypto-focused trading platforms. Reads the report:

“While North American and European firms primarily serve crypto asset hedge funds and traditional institutional investors …

a notable share of APAC service providers deals with miners (41%), in part explained by the high level of mining activities in the region, especially in China.”

Regulatory and Compliance

As for the regulatory scope, much still has to be done according to figures revealed by the research. Over 2 out of 5 firms surveyed have obtained a license or are in the process of doing so. This is despite the FATF Travel Rule coming in place last year, requiring all Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs) to comply with new KYC/AML standards.

However, the research also argues that general compliance has increased, and some of those who are not licensed are because their activities do not fall within current regulatory frameworks or established guidelines.

“However, the remaining 58% should not be perceived as the share of entities conducting unregulated activities or evading regulations: some surveyed service providers are engaged in activities that do not yet warrant any authorization process.”

IT Security

With scamming being prevalent in the crypto ecosystem, the research notes that at least 90% of the VASPs keep the entrusted assets in cold storage. Nonetheless, there’s always a downside risk attributed to insurance since this line of service is yet to make in-roads into the crypto market. Had it not been the case, ‘Those who do have insurance plans are primarily insured against cybercrimes, professional errors, hazards, and loss or theft of private keys.’

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Bermuda Govt Partners With Stablehouse to Test A Stimulus Token for COVID-19 Aid

On Tuesday, the Government of Bermuda announced that it has rolled out a pilot initiative for digital stimulus token. The program is being run in conjunction with Stablehouse, a Bermuda-based payments startup. The program is expected to offer crucial feedback on whether digital tokens can be used for buying essential goods and services in the country.

Stablehouse claims to be ‘a global virtual currency clearing house’ and facilitates the exchange of stablecoins. The startup is being advised by ex-Tether executive, Phil Potter, who will offer his expertise to the government in the provision of Bermudian Dollar Token, BMDT.

The government is seeking to collect vital information and data on whether merchants will readily accept digital tokens as a payment method. The pilot phase will also establish whether Bermudians are ready to use the tokens to buy essential goods and services.

At the moment, the government has recruited three merchants as well as 20 individuals who were given a stipend of free BMDTs that they use to test the initiative.

Speaking to Decrypt, chief fintech advisor to Bermudian prime minister, Denis Pitcher explained that the project will kick-off with a small number of participants but will gradually expand.

“Our ultimate goal is to end up with a wallet on every phone because wallets are the browser of the future when it comes to money and the future of finance.”

The partnership will see Stablehouse offer point-of-sale services to the merchants as well as provide its Green Wallet that enables clients to store coins while offline easily. The startup will also be handling issuance as well as redemption of the BMDT. It’s important to note that every token is backed by the Bermudian dollar, which is also pegged to the US dollar.

The token will run on Blockstream’s Liquid, which is a sidechain protocol that is designed to link together various exchanges.

The token stimulus initiative has been in the works since last year and is part of a comprehensive plan to introduce digital currency on the island.

Bermuda has implemented various crypto-friendly policies in the recent past. For instance, in October last year, the island allowed its residents to clear their taxes and fees using US dollar-backed stablecoins.

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Author: Joseph Kibe

Anheuser-Busch InBev, ING Bank, & Rolls Royce Join Mousebelt’s Blockchain Education Alliance

Blockchain Education Alliance, an initiative by Mousebelt, has gained four new significant members according to an announcement by the blockchain accelerator on August 17. They include margin crypto trading platform, Rolls Royce, Belgium brewing firm Anheuser-Busch InBev and Dutch-based ING bank.

The project whose fundamental goal is to accelerate blockchain education and research now has 26 members following this addition. Having launched in October 2019, pioneer members included ETC Labs, Nem, LTO Network, Harmony One, Wanchain, ICON, Tron, and the Stellar Development Foundation. It was not long before the initiative attracted the likes of Binance, Mastercard, KuCoin crypto exchange, and Constellation Labs onboard as well.

With such players already approving the Blockchain Education Alliance strategy, some of its milestones include a 72-hour live blockchain education event that was held in May. This virtual conference was dubbed ‘REIMAGINE 2020’ and featured networking events, panel and debates, and a continuous livestream of the keynotes.

Given the prevailing lockdowns at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, REIMAGINE 2020 attracted students from various universities, giving them exposure to cutting edge tech like blockchain as well as an opportunity to meet with the industry veterans. Mousebelt’s head of Education, Ashlie Meredith, further pointed out that they are looking to nature skills given the looming uncertainty in the global economy,

“In a time when many students will not be returning to campus, increasing opportunities for educational experiences, jobs and internships is of utmost importance.”

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Author: Edwin Munyui

CoinMarketCap Launches ‘Earn’ Initiative That Will Pay Users to Learn Crypto

Leading crypto metrics site, CoinMarketCap, has launched an initiative that will enable its account holders to earn tokens for learning about projects in the industry. Dubbed ‘CoinMarketCap Earn,’ this program intends to scale educational activity in the crypto space as opposed to providing investment or financial advice. Notably, a similar initiative was launched by Coinbase back in 2019, although it runs as an education rewards program.

The CoinMarketCap Earn program is an interesting prospect, given the platform’s cutting edge in crypto traffic. A good percentage of stakeholders in the industry, including newcomers, visit the site regularly for price updates alongside other market stats. With such an established audience, its Earn program could onboard millions into the crypto ecosystem.

According to the FAQs on CoinMarketCap Earn, the program will enable interested users to watch educational videos of featured crypto or blockchain projects, after which they will take quizzes. Should one be successful in answering all the quiz questions, they can earn up to $10 worth of the project’s underlying tokens.

A source from CoinMarketCap has since told The Block that the program will be featuring two projects every month with an 8-day campaign period for the token offers. While the news comes as a boost to the crypto community, markets including Mainland China and the U.S, have been excluded from the product. This is where Coinbase, which serves the American market, still beats CoinMarketCap despite a recent acquisition by Binance.

Band Protocol Debuts First

Following the progress made towards crypto education, Band protocol, which is a cross-chain focused on data oracles for the smart contract and DeFi space, will be first to launch an earning program. The Sequoia Capital-backed project has already allocated $160,000 worth of its native tokens ‘BAND’ to this course. Band Protocol CEO, Solaris Srinawakoon, emphasized on the value addition in scaling crypto education,

“Education is key to accelerating the use of crypto assets, and we are thrilled to be part of CoinMarketCap’s efforts to help users learn more about their underlying technology.”

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Society2 to Launch IOTA Based Decentralized Social Media Platform; Exchange Privacy for MIOTA

Society2, a new decentralized social media initiative by IOTA is trying to change the way the user’s personal data is handled on the internet.

The project called DeSM aims to help consumers regain control of their data and make social media a truly private experience. Though this project, IOTA node owners would be able to run their own social media websites and applications.

Today any internet-based service or application has become a sophisticated data phishing portal where they track and collect user’s personal data on the behest of offering their service.

Social media services, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or similar other services collect every possible data of the user like their locations, their call record, their search history and then sell it to the highest bidder without any moral check. This not only puts the user’s interest and privacy at danger but if it falls in the wrong hands it can be conveniently used to harass the user as well.

While there have been many decentralized social media initiatives, they never enjoyed widespread adoption and Society2’s team is looking to change the factor.

The developer team has started to develop an IOTA-based DeSM framework that would enable new privacy standards and how the user’s data is shared between social media platforms. Ben Royce, head of development at Society2 said:

“SOCIETY2’s framework is very different from existing social networks. An owner of an IOTA node can run a social media site or app as easily as downloading an open-source template from a menu, customize it or not.”

The developer team has promised that the decentralized social media solution would come with privacy and security controls, which are not available on current, more centralised platforms.

In fact, present social media platforms make it extremely difficult for anyone to read or get notified about privacy policy changes and bury this information at the bottom which can’t be easily found by those unfamiliar with technology and the importance of privacy.

Society2 Users can Decide Who Can Access Their Private Data

The decentralized social media platform would not only give total control of user’s data in their hand, but would also give them the power to decide who can access it, and in return, they receive micropayments and rewards in IOTA.

The social media platform would be strictly based on IOTA’s framework, utilizing its peer-to-peer micropayments system in case a user is ready to offer their data to advisors.

Rayce also revealed that the decentralized social media solution would only support the IOTA token since they believe that the IOTA framework is best suited for such an initiative, having the scalability and security to assure it of being successful.

Society2 Would Work on Top of IOTA Streams

Society2 would not only use the IOTA currency as the fuel for its network, but its framework would work on top of IOTA’s distributed Ledger Technology – called IOTA Streams.

IOTA Streams is a framework for cryptographic applications which would enable social media content encryption and distribution.

The Society2 project was officially launched this week and is expected to deliver an early prototype for DeSM system by Q3 of 2020 for community feedback.

The development team behind the project also believes that the framework for the decentralized social media solution could also be utilized by modern-day social media giants like Twitter. Joseph Skewes, the project’s head of operations said:

“Twitter recently funded the independent team bluesky, which is researching the decentralized social media landscape for a standard that Twitter itself could eventually use. A framework like SOCIETY2 may develop into a suitable candidate for such a platform.”

Skews comments towards the use of their DeSM framework by Twitter could have been inspired by an announcement made by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey towards the end of 2020, where he revealed that they have funded a developer team to develop decentralized standards for social media.

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Author: James W

Japan’s FSA Rolls Out New Initiative (BGIN) To Create ‘Open and Neutral’ Blockchain Dev

Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA), has announced the launch of the Blockchain Governance Initiative Network (BGIN). The regulator revealed this at the “BG2C – Special Online Broadcasting Panel Discussion,” held in collaboration with Nikkei on March 10.

According to Georgetown University Professor, Dr. Shin’ichiro Matsuo, this project is meant to create a sustainable ecosystem for blockchain tech development. The fundamental idea is to develop an open network that can facilitate dialogue between industry stakeholders.

Apart from a communication avenue, BGIN will serve as an archive for academic research and development on distributed ledgers. The project is set to create a common language which will enhance interaction and sharing of perspectives amongst network stakeholders like the JFSA;

“an open and neutral sphere for all blockchain stakeholders to deepen common understanding”

These developments are part of the G20 Osaka declaration where the JFSA spearheaded research initiatives around blockchain. The roundtable took place back in 2019 and prominent regulators across the world were in attendance. Some notable mentions include the United Kingdom, Singapore, Germany, and France.

Given Japan’s advanced crypto laws, BGIN is more likely to complement regulatory development so far. This open network will take blockchain discussions to distributed ledgers which means more input and consolidation within the industry.

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Author: Edwin Munyui