Crypto-Friendly Mayor of Miami Announces New CTO Role to Boost Big Tech Engagement

Crypto-Friendly Mayor of Miami Announces New CTO Role to Boost Big Tech Engagement in the City

Avid blockchain supporter and Mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, named the city’s first-ever Chief Technological Officer. Saif Ishoof, Vice President of Florida International University’s engagement, as his pick for the new role.

Over the past few years, Miami’s city has rapidly built its name as the next tech hub in the U.S. intending to snip Silicon Valley companies from San Francisco Bay and build on new technologies such as crypto and blockchain. In a call with Bloomberg’s Quicktake, Suarez revealed the city would welcome its first-ever chief technological officer, CTO, who assumes the burden of building Miami into a fully-fledged technological city.

Saif Ishoof, Suarez’s pick for the new role, is currently the vice president of tech advancement for Florida International University and will become the head of engagement and entrepreneurship in Miami. The new role entails communicating with big tech founders, venture capitalists, and engineers who want to move to Miami. The CTO will provide “concierge services” to tech companies who’d wish to move to the city.

On why the new role is important, Suarez said the city needs “somebody that can reach out to them [big tech and VC firms], somebody that can have a subject of conversation…can connect them to incentives that make it more attractive to come [to Miami].”

Suarez has been a vocal advocate of crypto and blockchain technology in the past. Speaking on the Pomp Podcast in December, Suarez stated the city is open and exploring allocating at least 1% of its Treasury reserves to purchasing Bitcoin to promote its tech city plans. Furthermore, he has held meetings and interviews with top crypto personalities, including Gemini exchange founders, Winklevoss twins.

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Author: Lujan Odera

USDT Launches on Hermez Network, Bringing Layer-2 Tech to Tether Transactions

USDT Launches on Hermez Network, Bringing Layer-2 Tech to Tether Transactions

Layer-two solution Hermez will dedicate its scaling solution to make USDT transactions cheaper.

Hermez, a layer-two scaling solution on the Ethereum blockchain, has announced its first crypto partnership as it sets its sight on making Tether transfers much cheaper.

Batched Transactions Using ZK-Rollups

Hermez is a layer-two technology that utilizes ZK-Rollups. The rollups are a layer-two solution that improves scalability in the Ethereum blockchain.

They batch hundreds of transactions into one, freeing up more data and reducing gas fees for transaction validation. They also use zero-knowledge proofs, a cryptography technique, to run off-chain computations and submit validity proof to the Ethereum network.

The pairing between Tether and Hermez appears to be a perfect one. Data from ETH Gas Station shows that Tether stablecoin-denominated transactions account for a significant portion of activities on the Ethereum network.

By improving scalability, Hermez could free up more space on the Ethereum network and help combat rising gas fees.

Ethereum’s Gas Problem

The Ethereum network has had a significant problem with rising gas fees of late, thanks in no small part to the growth in the decentralized finance (DeFi) space. With most DeFi protocols operating on the blockchain, gas fees on the network have also skyrocketed.

Last week, the average gas fees on the network reached an all-time high, topping out at $17.43 per transaction, according to data from YCharts. The figure represented a considerable jump from the previous all-time high – $12.54, which was recorded back in September during the DeFi mania’s height.

Thanks to yield-chasing on several DeFi platforms, stablecoin transfers increased significantly, increasing usage on the Ethereum network. The average gas fees went through the roof. Sadly, this also occurred to the detriment of several market participants.

Aavegotchi, a non-fungible token (NFT) project, announced around that time that it would postpone its mainnet launch. Aavegotchi blamed the delay on the rising gas fees, explaining that it was considering using layer-two technology to facilitate the mainnet’s release.

In part, the company’s post explained that its project on layer-two would improve speed and scalability while reducing transaction fees. All in all, it could enhance the gaming experience a great deal.

So far, layer-two technology provides perhaps the most significant reason for solving expensive gas fees. Many have pointed to the launch of Ethereum 2.0, the long-awaited upgrade that transforms the Ethereum network into a proof-of-stake consensus.

However, while the upgrade has begun, Kosala Hemachandra, the founder of MyEtherWallet, recently told news sources that the process might take years to complete.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Centra Tech Co-Founder Sentenced One-Year in Prison Over $25 Million ICO Scam

Robert Farkas, 34, the co-founder of the cryptocurrency firm Centra Tech was sentenced to a year in prison on Tuesday by US District Judge Lorna G. Schofield in Manhattan.

Farkas pleaded guilty to tricking investors of over $25 million in an investment scam that was promoted by the likes of Floyd Mayweather and musician DJ Khaled, who settled their own charges with the SEC for failing to disclose that they had been paid to promote the project.

The other two co-founders have also pleaded guilty to their roles in the scam.

The guilty parties solicited investors in 2018 to commit frauds to an initial coin offering (ICO) for its “Centra Tokens” by falsely claiming that they have developed a debit card that will allow the users to make purchases with digital currency at businesses accepting Mastercard and Visa, said prosecutors.

In other news, the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Argentine city of Córdoba indicted 12 people in connection with the Onecoin Ponzi scheme last week.

One of the biggest scams in crypto history, this Bulgaria-based project netted about $4 billion.

The local police carried out multiple raids and arrested eight people over the years in different countries. Onecoin founder Ruja Ignatova, who was also indicated, is still at large.

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Author: AnTy

IBM Granted Blockchain Gaming Consensus Patent For Massively Multiplayer Online Games

Tech giant IBM has secured a blockchain-based gaming protocol patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The patent, which was published today, was granted to IBM last week; and focuses on the multi-player games that are played online.

Notably, IBM had filed for the patent back in 2018 and has previously hinted at a blockchain use case for gaming, especially through Non-fungible token (NFT) innovations, which can be used assets in a game.

Dubbed the ‘Gaming consensus protocol for blockchain,’ this patent is part of IBM’s vision to create a blockchain ecosystem that supports transactions within MMO games with a big user base. Per the patent’s proposal, the participants in a particular multi-player game can leverage IBM’s blockchain consensus protocol to harmonize the game’s flow. The patent reads,

“In one embodiment, the consensus algorithm is provided as a service from the game network to any blockchain network; thus blockchain networks can delegate consensus to a distributed network of game clients within the gaming peers.”

Other than using the consensus to select subsets for transaction verification within a game, the patent also outlines that participants might receive some incentives based on their fees.

“These fees may be distributed between the participants of the consensus round (i.e., participants/users associated with each gaming peer) as an incentive, be used to maintain the network infrastructure or any other purpose that serves the gaming network and the players.”

While the patent states that participants will only leverage the consensus to order transactions, smart contract execution will remain on the blockchain unless the gaming peers have enough computing power.

“In some embodiments, smart contract execution could be moved to the massively multiplayer online gaming network if the gaming peers have sufficient computing power to perform the additional task of executing the smart contracts and if the business case allows it in terms of security and confidentiality.”

Target ecosystems include popular games such as Fortnite, Warzone, or Call of Duty; notably, this development comes as the blockchain gaming space continues to bloom.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Apple is Censoring DeFi & ‘Stifling Innovation’ in Crypto Industry: Coinbase CEO

Apple having a row with developers and app providers is nothing new, but the tech giant seems to be especially targeting the cryptocurrency industry.

Last month, Epic games and Apple got into a legal battle when the Fortnite creator launched its own in-app payment system, which also involved the use of bitcoin and cryptos, to circumvent Apple’s “monopoly over in-app payments on iOS.”

As a fact of fact, Apple doesn’t allow to add the ability to earn money using crypto and access Defi apps or Dapps in their iOS apps, said Brian Armstrong, CEO of crypto exchange Coinbase, which has regularly come under fire for taking up the authorities’ side against their customers.

“Why would Apple want to prevent people from earning money during a recession? They seem to not be ok with it, if it uses cryptocurrency,” he said.

According to market participants, tech giants want to be everyone’s bank, and as Podfather Adam Curry told Joe Rogan, it is how they control people.

Stop This!

In a Twitter thread, Armstrong shared the struggles Coinbase is also going through with Apple, which end up creating a “worse” experience for customers.

Besides the company’s Coinbase Earn program, Apple doesn’t let them provide a list of decentralized apps, “which are really just websites” to iOS users.

In the past couple of months, the DeFi sector has exploded, reaching almost $10 billion, amidst the central banks’ quantitative easing and interest rate cuts, which have been devaluing the fiat currencies around the world.

“DeFi and Dapps are a major area of innovation in financial services that has seen rapid growth lately,” and has “enormous potential.”

But Apple doesn’t let companies help the “unbanked and underbanked” on the grounds that the “app offers cryptocurrency transactions in non-embedded software within the app, which is not appropriate for the App Store.”

According to Armstrong, Apple is “holding back progress in the world” by censoring the features and further protecting competition.

He likened Apple’s actions with Microsoft forcing users to use Internet Explorer on Windows, which “led to all their antitrust issues.”

“Apple, it’s time to stop stifling innovation in cryptocurrency. We would like to work with you productively on this. Some day, cryptocurrency could even be integrated into IAP to give people in emerging markets better access to the financial system globally,” said the Coinbase CEO.

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Author: AnTy

Web3 Foundation Awards Grant to Swisscom Blockchain To Secure Polkadot PoS Network

Swisscom Blockchain, the blockchain tech arm of Swiss telco giant, Swisscom, received a grant from Web 3 Foundation to build guard operators for Polkadot’s and Kusama’s nodes and validators.

In a blog post released on Wednesday, Swisscom Blockchain’s Kubernetes Operator will enhance the robustness of both chains making them, “less prone to attacks on network participants.” This aims to strengthen the trustworthiness of network participants on the blockchain platforms.

According to the statement released, the Kubernetes Operator aims at protecting network participants on a proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchain, Polkadot and Kusama, in case the network goes down or is compromised.

PoS consensus mechanism introduces a concept of slashing, which happens when a node validator does not function correctly or tries to cheat the system. For example, if a node operator modifies the system updates without community approval, they are at risk of getting ‘slashed’ – lose all their staked coins.

This brings about a challenging prospect to PoS blockchains hence the need for Kubernetes Operator to monitor the availability and behavior of these node operators.

The operator is a set of tools that enable the deployment and monitoring of node validators and network participants for high availability; Swisscom Blockchain AG makes it easier for network validators on Polkadot and Kusama to interact easily with public Blockchain networks through a network of “highly secured sentry nodes.”

Swisscom Blockchain received an undisclosed Wave 5 grant from the Web 3 Foundation through the General Grants Program. According to Jorge Alvarado Flores, Head of Technology at Swisscom Blockchain, the grant will allow the telco to set up, “an open-source repository that other startups and enterprises can use to setup/manage their infrastructure in an automated way” in tandem with “high-security protocol resources hosted in the enterprise.”

Web 3 Foundation also offers grants through the Open Grants program.

Dieter Fishbein, Head of Ecosystem Development at Web3 Foundation, has a hopeful wish that the solutions provided by Swisscom Blockchain will reduce the cases of “validator unresponsiveness.” In his statement, he stated,

“Providing Kusama and Polkadot with a Kubernetes Operator contributes to a more robust network, helping validators ensure high availability in their operations, and reducing the chances of validators getting slashed for unresponsiveness.”

Polkadot is an interoperable layer 1 blockchain that “connects several chains together in a single network, allowing them to exchange data securely and process transactions in parallel.” Kusama, which runs on a similar codebase to Polkadot, enables users and development teams to deploy their projects faster on Polkadot.

Flores further commented on the partnership stating his hopes for a better and more secure future for Polkadot. He said,

“Looking ahead, we are hopeful that our contributions to the Web3 Foundation on the automated deployment of sentry and validator nodes will be useful for other enterprises to engage in the Polkadot ecosystem.”

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Author: Lujan Odera

Tech Mahindra Collaborates with Amazon to Build Blockchain Services for Supply Chains

Tech Mahindra has partnered with Amazon to provide blockchain-built supply chain solutions for the telco, healthcare, and aviation industries. This Tech subsidiary of Mahindra Group, a leading Indian Conglomerate, has been pursuing blockchain built innovations for a while. It is set to scale its efforts towards other sectors, including financial services and energy, within the next 12-18 months.

Initially reported by the Economic Times, the firm will leverage Amazon’s managed blockchain to integrate industry-based solutions. Consequently, Tech Mahindra clients with access to Amazon Web Services will be able to use the company’s open-source infrastructure on AWS to track their supply-chains via a blockchain ecosystem.

With COVID-19 taking a toll on supply-chain networks, the initiative by Tech Mahindra and Amazon comes as a relief to most industries whose operations are reliant on procurement processes. Tech Mahindra’s Blockchain and Cybersec Practice lead, Rajesh Dhuddu, was keen to highlight the need to ensure sustainability through tech innovations,

“Global businesses are facing sustained headwinds and struggling to collectively navigate and strategize in this new, unchartered territory and facilitate business continuity in the current COVID world … Organizations are advised to leverage technologies like Blockchain to address the challenges and create a competitive advantage for themselves.”

This development coincides with a spike in blockchain innovations for supply chain processes, according to the latest Forrester report. The analysis notes that despite a drop in progress by most blockchain projects, those whose niche is supply chain have actually accelerated following the COVID-19 threat on global networks. Tech Mahindra, which now seems to pull more weight on this area, will assist the healthcare industry in issues tracking, hence easy identification of counterfeit products.

Notably, this Indian Tech giant has been involved in other blockchain projects before the pandemic. Earlier in the year, the firm collaborated with India’s Telengana state to launch a blockchain accelerator; other initiatives include a partnership with Samsung SDS back in 2019 as both company’s started making significant moves in the blockchain market.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Huawei and Beijing Municipal Government Collaborate to a Build Blockchain-Governed Smart City

Huawei, the Chinese tech giant, has partnered with Beijing Municipal government to develop a blockchain-governed smart city to improve service delivery and data-sharing. This initiative comes as China intensifies its tokenomics dominance with the DC/EP set to be rolled out in major cities such as Beijing. Notably, the two entities have been working together since 2019; a recent official report on the project highlighted that it is still in trial phases.

Huawei & Beijing’s Blockchain-based Directory

The blockchain-based public directory by Huawei and Beijing Municipal government leverages the former’s Cloud Blockchain ecosystem for real-time data sharing and management. It will link over 50 municipal agencies and support cross-departmental communication as well. In doing so, Beijing authorities are optimistic about enhancing trust through verification as per the technical fundamentals of blockchain tech.

The project is, therefore, set to play an important role, especially within the healthcare niche where COVID-19 responsive services are dependent on communication. Other areas set to benefit are real estate transfers, appeals to city government rulings, fundamental risk assessment, and finding local parking spots hence a direct trickle-down effect to Beijing natives.

Huawei Still China’s Tech Poster Boy

This Chinese tech conglomerate has not been short of controversy, with most of the pressure coming from the western world. Nonetheless, Huawei appears to be thriving in China’s market as well as emerging markets in African countries where it has partnered with the most significant service providers. The recent milestone in being part of Beijing’s shift towards a smart city further confirms the firm’s position as a leading tech in China despite criticism from International foes.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Blockchain Interoperability Takes A Step Forward This Week As New Cross-Chain Solutions Launch

Blockchain interoperability has been one of the fundamental research and development areas in this emerging tech. Well, the efforts by developers to solve this shortcoming seem to be paying off with multiple projects set to launch interoperability protocols as soon as this week.

The blockchain industry players that plan on launching their cross-chain solutions include Switcheo, Neo (NEO), and Ontology (Ont); the three have been working collaboratively towards an initiative dubbed the Poly Network ‘heterogeneous interoperability protocol alliance’. Another project set to debut is the Rainbow Bridge by Near Protocol, the innovation connects Near and Ethereum blockchains.

The Value Proposition in Blockchain Interoperability

The developments from these three will play an essential role as blockchain becomes widely adopted. Pioneer blockchain ecosystems had not integrated the aspect of collaboration based on data sharing between platforms, a function that is undoubtedly important in today’s globalized world.

Maksym Zavershynskyi, Near’s engineering manager, highlighted that a shift to cross-chains would not only enable broader blockchain communication but scale development opportunities as well:

“we want to freely move our assets and data between blockchains, or even better — run our product on several blockchains at the same time and leverage each of them.”

While Ontology was already connected to Ethereum via cross-chain functionality, the new interoperability solution under Poly Network will further increase the platforms with which both blockchains can relay data.

Ontology’s co-founder, Andy Ji who believes interoperability is becoming fundamental as blockchain innovators and big corporates shift from a siloed working approach, highlighted that:

“Now, through Poly Network, an enterprise leveraging the Ontology blockchain will be able to seamlessly interact with an enterprise leveraging Ethereum, Cosmos, or Neo, helping these platforms overcome challenges to scalability, mainstream adoption, and collaboration.”

Other projects that have been launched to solve similar challenges include Enjin’s bridge, which enables the platform’s ERC-1155 to be compatible with Hyperledger blockchain. Last but not least is Thorchain; this decentralized cross-chain facilitates the transfer of USDT, ETH, and BTC amongst other digital assets, hence acting as a liquidity blockchain network.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Bank of England Taps Accenture to Update Real-Time Gross Settlement Service to Support CBDCs

The Bank of England (BoE) has appointed an Irish tech consultancy giant, Accenture, to assist in the renewal program for its Real-Time Gross Settlement Service (RTGS).

According to the announcement on July 30, the contract awarding follows a public procurement process that began back in February 2019. BoE has since noted that the renewal of its RTGS is set to add value to the U.K payment system in several ways. The announcement reads:

“…the renewed RTGS service is to increase resilience and access, offer wider interoperability, improve user functionality and strengthen the end-to-end risk management of the UK high-value payment system.”

The UK’s RTGS plays an essential role in the country’s financial ecosystem, settling an average of £685billlion every day. Executive Director for Banking, Payments, and Innovation, Victoria Cleland, noted that this milestone would play a significant role in shaping the future of UK’s payment network:

“The Renewal Program is a key priority not just for the Bank but also for the wider UK payments industry.  It will support a resilient financial system that protects the UK’s financial and monetary stability in the years to come.”

CBDC’s Also in Consideration

Reporting the news first, Coindesk, revealed that the BoE renewal RTGS might be compatible with a digital pound amongst other CBDC’s. The new design will feature tools for ‘bolt-on’ functions, should the BoE decide to integrate CBDC’s. Cleland further echoed that it will keep the U.K. on track when it comes to FinTech innovation:

“The renewed RTGS service will be designed not only to benefit everyone in the country which makes payments but to keep the UK at the leading edge of payments innovation.”

This development coincides with a new spark in CBDC interest by governments and regulators. China is currently ahead of the curve, having launched its digital yuan pilot back in April. Nations like France and Italy have shown willingness to participate in a digital Euro as soon as one is formalized.

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Author: Edwin Munyui