Over 2 Million Test Ethereum Staked On ETH 2.0 Medalla Testnet; Q4 2020 Launch In Sight?

  • Over 2 million staked in Ethereum 2.0 Medalla testnet.
  • Over 63,000 active validators are testing the new update.
  • Spadina Testnet set for launch on Tuesday, September 29.

Over the past four or so years, the Ethereum community has worked tirelessly in developing Ethereum 2.0, an update aiming to switch the current proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanism to a proof-of-stake (PoS) mechanism. According to data provided by Beaconcha.in, Eth 2.0 is edging closer to reality with huge participation in staking on the recently launched Medalla testnet.

The testnet block explorer shows over 2 million test ETH, named Görli ETH, are collectively staked on the Medalla testnet and a further 63,395 validator nodes activated. Over 5,200 validators are in queue to take up validator nodes, as at the time of writing.

Ethereum 2 0 Beacon Chain Phase 0 Block Chain Explorer beaconcha
Source: Beaconcha.in

Such a huge uptake in the testnet version shows an increasingly positive appreciation of ETH 2.0 as the staked amount increases. The participation range of the validators on Medalla testnet has ranged between 70% and 80% in the past 24 hours, averaging 63% since its launch a month or so ago.

ETH 2.0 is set to usher in a new world for Ethereum users allowing any ETH holder to stake 32 ETH to get rewards. Shifting the blockchain to a PoS network will set in a new consensus that will see a network of node validators stake their ETH to verify blocks added to a chain.

Staking on ETH 2.0 is, however, risky for malicious and careless node validators, who may see some of their staked ETH slashed. A validator can be slashed if they violate the Casper FFG rules or if they create two beacon blocks in one epoch. This discourages bad behavior and maliciously trying to cheat the blockchain into accepting a ‘bad block.’

ETH 2.0’s Spadina “small scale” Testnet

Today, Sept. 29, another testnet, Spadina, is set to launch a small-scale experiment to prepare the Phase 0 ETH 2.0 launch. Developers of Spadina aim a three-day “dress rehearsal” for the community to practice sending deposits, launching beacon nodes, and validator clients starting from genesis.

The small scale test net will only involve 1024 validators during the 72-hour rehearsal with the main net spec requiring 16384 validators to launch. Spadina’s mainnet launch will run co-currently with Medalla testnet in a bid to check for any bugs and risky activities in the process of launching ETH 2.0 Phase 0.

Medalla testnet hit 1 million staked ETH at the start of August, fueling the discussions that the ETH 2.0 launch could be fast-tracked to launch before the end of 2020. However, the process to fully transition to the proof-of-stake blockchain could take up to 2 years.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Mastercard Launches a Virtual Testing Platform for CBDCs

  • Global payments company Mastercard launched a virtual testing platform for central banks to test out their CBDCs.
  • The technology company invited central banks, commercial banks, techs, and advisory firms to evaluate the suitability of CDBDs through its custom testing platform.

As the Bank for International Settlements survey revealed, a whopping 80% of central banks are engaged in some form of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs). In the race to embrace digital payments, central banks clearly don’t want to lose its control of the monetary policy in issuing and distributing currency while supporting innovation.

Supporting central banks modernizing payments, Mastercard announced this “proprietary virtual testing environment” today where the use cases for the digital fiat currencies could be evaluated.

“Central banks have accelerated their exploration of digital currencies with a variety of objectives, from fostering financial inclusion to modernizing the payments ecosystem,” said Raj Dhamodharan, Executive Vice President, Digital Asset, and Blockchain Products and Partnerships at Mastercard. And with this new platform, the company wants to support that decision.

On this virtual platform, the interested parties can simulate the issuance and distribution of the CBDC along with the exchange ecosystem with banks and customers.

It can be used to demonstrate how CBDC can be used to pay for goods and services anywhere Mastercard is accepted.

The development efforts of the CBDC that includes the technical, design, and security aspect, can also be evaluated while to determine its value and feasibility in the market, use cases and tech designs can be examined as well.

“Mastercard wants to harness its expertise to enable the practical, safe and secure development of digital currencies.”

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Author: AnTy

Four Top Chinese State-Owned Banks Are Testing The Chinese Digital Yuan Project (DCEP)

In an unconfirmed report, four Chinese state-owned banks are gradually testing the ‘digital renminbi’ wallet app and Digital Currency/Electronic Payment (DCEP) system in different provinces across the country.

The reports, though unconfirmed, follow the recent comments by the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) confirming the “closed pilot of the digital RMB was completed” with plans to launch research on the legal digital currency underway in this second half of the year.

It was first revealed by a local newspaper, 21st Century Business Herald, who spoke with some of the employees working on the app. As reported, the app is in extensive scale testing in Shenzen and other parts of the country with four major banks – China Construction Bank, Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China – participating.

According to the report, users will need to have to open a digital account with either of the four banks to register the app. The digital wallets are then linked to various banks allowing the users to recharge their accounts and also spend on different utilities directly – similar to Alipay and WeChat payment services.

However, the app is still not publicly available for downloads as one respondent confirmed:

“Our bank is testing the ‘digital renminbi’ app on a large scale. The app cannot be downloaded publicly for the time being, and it has an identity code after opening it.”

The app allows users to transfer amounts to others by using their phone number or a QR code, pay, save, and spend RMB digitally across several merchants across China.

Read More: Will China’s CBDC See Strong Adoption Or Will Dollar Pegged Stablecoins Cause Resistance?

China has, in the past, hastened its efforts in launching a legal digital currency since the announcement of the Libra project, championed by Facebook. The leading committee on the digital currency, Central Bank’s Digital Currency Research Institute, launched closed pilot tests in Shenzhen, Suzhou, Xiong’an, and Chengdu in preparation for a Winter Olympics 2022 date release.

Moreover, the CBDC is in testing on Tencent Holding’s food delivery app, Meituan Dianping, as well as the Chinese Uber, Didi Chuxing, which are processing billions of dollars annually. China’s hastened launch of its DCEP project aims to reduce the dollar-influence across the country and East Asia.

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Author: Lujan Odera

‘Earliest Practical Date’ of Phase 0 of ETH 2.0 is Not Until Bitcoin’s 12th Anniversary in 2021

Yes, July 2020 was the target as the likely launch for phase 0 of ETH 2.0, but it is still “in the final testing stages with large multiclient testnets,” and client teams are putting on the final touches.

They could be ready for a relaunch of a larger public testnet in a matter of weeks.

However, during the Reddit AMA today, Justin Drake, a researcher at the Ethereum Foundation, shared that the “earliest practical date for genesis” is January 3, 2021, that would be Bitcoin’s 12th anniversary.

This delay is caused by several things that need to happen before genesis, including a public testnet with over three clients running smoothly for two-three months and an incentivized “attack net” running for the same duration.

Adding a bug bounty program running for 2-3 months and serious differential fuzzing across clients, and all of this can’t happen in Q3 2020, and Q4 has Thanksgiving and December holidays.

Some developers are still optimistic about the launch date by a handful of weeks and “putting money on 2020.”

The good thing is Phase 1 is “looking like the extension of Phase 0” the real heavy lifting on the engineering side won’t start until later this year because, for now, most eth2 client resources are dedicated fulltime to shipping Phase 0.

Also, Drake believes, even the late launch comes with “goodies which may get you excited.”

In conclusion, they are expecting 3-4 production validator clients for genesis, BLS12-381 hardware wallet integrations are happening, and a new deposit contract is written in Solidity with lower gas consumption.

The ETH Lock-Up Issue

The Ethereum community is extremely excited about staking, a hot trend in the crypto market. The number of addresses holding 32 ETH, the requisite for staking has been fast-growing, and just last month, ConsenSys announced six crypto heavyweights — Binance, Huobi Wallet, Crypto.com, DARMA Capital, and Trustlogy, and Matrixport that will join its Staking Pilot Program.

During the AMA, Drake also shared that resolving the issue of not having staked ETH lock-up until Phase 1.5, which could take years, is a priority.

“It is also a thorny issue without a fully satisfactory way forward as of now,” said Drake. There are various possible outcomes, including ETH1 being fully merged into ETH2 being the cleanest but hardest to pull off.

Despite the issue of ETH being locked up for a long time, Drake believes they will “easily reach the 0.5m ETH threshold to trigger genesis” because staking rewards will be high during the early days and also because “many enthusiasts are keen to jump in.”

Phase 1 Much Simpler to Implement

Currently, more than 100 people are contributing to the ETH 2.0, which the researcher believes they have made hard for themselves.

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin feels the same way as he shared his biggest regret today is “not launching” ETH 1.0 about a year later with all the deficiencies fixed.

For now, they are working on launching the testnet for Phase 0, which has apparently higher implementation complexity.

Phase 1 has two components, one being data only shard chains, which is “much simpler” than the beacon chain, and Phase 0 will already lay all the groundwork for it. The other one is a custody game and a crypto-economic game where complexity arises from challenge-response type interactions that have continually been refined and simplified.

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Author: AnTy

Despite Testing $10,000 Multiple Times, Bitcoin Bulls May Not Arrive Yet

Yet another week of bitcoin testing $10,000 and we are back at trading around $9,600. Since the halving on May 11, the digital currency has been trading in narrow ranges.

Historically, the event has led to bitcoin rallies. Since halving, so far BTC/USD has gained just over 12% but the overall technical momentum was still negative as it had more down days than up days. Nicholas Pelecanos, head of trading at NEM Ventures said,

“Bitcoin is on a see-saw, between bulls and bears.”

“On one end, we have network data and technicals; the other, strong fundamentals and a correlation to U.S. stock indices.”

The bitcoin network data is flashing more bearish signals than bullish, as such, he is expecting further short-term selling.

Cryptocurrency exchanges are also seeing a huge inflow of BTC which could be with the intent to sell their coins.

On-chain data also indicates a change in behavior from miners and they are selling inventory but according to Adamant’s Tuur Demeester this is “bullish” because “healthy bitcoin miners are hodling, and struggling miners have little BTC left to sell.”

According to Miner Outflow Multiple, the ratio of miner outflow in USD and its 365 day MA, miners moving a large amount of bitcoin is currently near its all-time low.

The underlying fundamentals of bitcoin are healthy with mempool data back to its normal levels, transaction fees reverting to lower levels and the hashrate stabilizing at a reasonable level.

Major Chinese mining equipment makers, Bitmain and MicroBT have also been dispatching their most efficient ASIC miners; AntMiner S19 and WhatsMiner M30S. Miners have also been active users of the fast-growing borrow/lend crypto market.

Meanwhile, futures premiums continue to go up with CME traders still more bullish than the retail-focused platforms.

Bitcoin has barely scratched the surface

In the short term, bitcoin might still have to weather the bears but in the next six to twelve months investors are expected “to reap the rewards of post-halving price movements.” Lennard Neo, head of research at Stack Funds said,

“In reality, there is a significant time lag between the halving event and the establishment of renewed market equilibrium based on general supply and demand.”

Besides the supply side affected after the halving and the times for miners to find their break-even point increased, investors are also banking on institutional demand.

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, fund flows into crypto asset managers have been robust.

Grayscale is already consuming more Bitcoin than mined since halving. Since April, the firm has had its bitcoin investment funds ballooned to $3.5 billion as of June 2nd, up from $2 billion at the end of the first quarter. Michael Sonnenshein, managing director at Grayscale with $4 billion in cryptos assets under management said,

“There’s a lot of momentum and interest in investing in digital currencies particularly in the face of uncertainty, the pandemic, political tensions, and the amount of stimulus being pumped into the global economy.”

According to James Wo, chairman of Digital Finance Group, a $500 million crypto and blockchain fund, bitcoin is digital gold and as such, has barely scratched the surface. He said,

“Bitcoin has great potential to grow.”

“Gold has an eight trillion-dollar valuation, while bitcoin has less than $200 billion dollars in valuation. It just needs more time for mainstream adoption. People need enough time to fully understand and believe in it.”

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Author: AnTy

LG CNS Testing AI & Blockchain-Based Facial Recognition Tech For Contactless Digital Payments

LG CNS, the IT subsidiary of the electronic good manufacturer is testing an AI-based facial recognition system for making digital payments, as reported by IT Times on 23rd April. The IT Times report also noted that the company is already testing the new tech on its employees. The firm has been testing the new technology since March.

LG’s facial recognition tech makes use of Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and cloud technology. The testing phase of the tech on company employees saw them using it for making payments in the cooperate canteens and restaurant in blockchain-based cooperate currency.

The facial recognition scans the face to detect the customer than match it with the data available on the blockchain and later charge them from their cooperate account. All these processes happen simultaneously in a matter of a few seconds.

Is Facial Recognition Based Payment Gateway Secure?

Blockchain-based data storage networks might be considered as secure, and a contactless payment system might sound convenient, but Trent Lapinski, a whitehat hacker disagrees. Lapinski explained that decentralization might sound fancy and secure to many but one must understand that privately owned and developed blockchain networks are not truly decentralized. He explained that a couple of code changes in the blockchain code could potentially corrupt the network and hijack the data easily.

Since blockchain is used to store data, its authenticity and security depend on immutability and if that is bypassed, it could be used to run havoc on the people who trusted the system in the first place.

Blockchain Being Increasingly Used By Mainstream Tech Firms

Mainstream tech firms are showing an increasing interest in the decentralized techs and have invested in multiple ventures based on blockchain technology. IBM is one such firm that has not just invested heavily in multiple blockchain ventures but has also emerged as a choice for a blockchain infrastructure provider to enterprises.

Similarly, for the LG Group CNS, the AI and Blockchain-based facial recognition is not the only blockchain venture they are working on. Last year in July, the firm revealed that they are looking forward to introducing blockchain in supply chain management for school cafeteria lunches, where they would put the data of the food items including their origin, where they were processed and when they were packaged to ship, to make it easy for anyone to check the origin of their food with a simple barcode scan.

LG CNS has also partnered with the blockchain subsidiary of internet service provider Kakao to develop infrastructure which is mutually compatible. LG is planning to narrow the gap between public and private blockchain which would not only make them more widely usable but also bring down the cost of the infrastructure significantly.

Lee Joon-won, solution business development manager at LG CNS, talked about the company’s interest in the decentralized tech and what they intend to achieve through these investments. He said,

“It is expected that blockchain-based community currency will be used by a lot more people as it becomes more convenient when it meets AI.

As non-face-to-face technologies are applied recently, a blockchain that increases transaction reliability will be used more widely.”

Here is a demonstration:

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Author: Silvia A

China’s PBoC Completes ‘Top-Level’ Design For Digital Yuan, Launch Date Still Unknown

The People Bank of China (PBoC) has just completed a top-layer design and the testing of its central bank digital currency (CBDC) that should be released very soon.

As reported by Chinese news outlet Sina on January 10, the tests and top-layer design for the digital Yuan were accomplished and developed according to relevant standards. PBoC carried out with the CBDC research, development and testing for a while now.

The latest developments were presented by the bank in a special article that also highlights its plans on improving the financial industry network’s cybersecurity and the rules for accrediting the most important information infrastructure.

Plans to Conduct CBDC Real-World Tests Revealed in December 2019

PBoC’s plans to conduct real-world tests for its CBDC were revealed in December 2019. The pilot project was set to be conducted in the city of Shenzhen by the end of last year, with the city of Suzhou possibly being included too. At the tests, the digital Yuan was expected to enter multiple service scenarios like education, transportation, medical treatment and others. Earlier in January 2020, PBoC said its CBDC is progressing smoothly.

Digital Yuan’s Encryption Standards

China has a law on cryptographic password management, a law that sets some standards when it comes to the management of passwords and cryptography. On Rand Corporation’s China professor of blockchain technology and policy analyst Sale Lilly’s opinion, this law complements the efforts and tasks that rolling out a CBDC require. This is what Lilly commented on the digital Yuan’s progress in relation to the importance of encryption levels:

“If China’s experience in trying to unify government cryptographic standards is anything like the U.S. Military’s experience, higher standards of encryption and trust scale users at a slower rate, so onboarding oracles and trusted agents for a private or permissioned access CBDC blockchain implies a natural trade-off between key security and speed of onboarding digital economy participants; banks, vendors, and a slew of Chinese government entities in tax and finance roles.”

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Author: Oana Ularu

Central Bank Chief Says Facebook’s Libra Would Have ‘Greater Potential’ in Emerging Markets

  • Germany testing a blockchain as a supplement to the previous central, account-based solution
  • Facebook’s Libra will create an exchange rate risk for the users
  • It has the potential to become a dominant player right from the start

On the backdrop of Germany’s second-largest bank, DZ-Bank’s report that says crypto usage is “just a matter of time,” cryptocurrencies made its way into 2020. As DZ analyst Sören Hettler talked about a “change in citizens’ expectations,” central banks are working on their own digital currencies.

However, Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann doesn’t believe in going with the state right away. He said:

“In a market economy, it is first up to the company to develop an appropriate offer for customer requests. Competition gives legs to market participants.”

As for the one the bank is developing, he says it is about payment transactions between the central bank and other banks.

“We are testing a blockchain as a supplement to the previous central, account-based solution,” said Weidmann. But initially blockchain, he says is “no more efficient than a central processing.”

And China might be ready to launch its central bank digital currency, but Weidmann says they have a different political system, adding that “a social market economy will ultimately find better solutions in a free society.”

Sweden is another one that has plans for e-Krona as cash gets increasingly out of use. But in Germany, as Weidmann says three-quarters of all payments are still made in cash. Even then, deposits with banks are another available option.

But he assures, “it is clear that we will provide cash as long as citizens want it to.”

Libra has the potential to become a dominant player

Tech giants have also joined in, with Facebook planning to launch its stablecoin Libra this year. However, it has raised the hackles of regulators around the world. Weidmann said,

“Facebook is planning a digital form of payment, tied to a basket of multiple currencies such as the euro and the US dollar. This creates an exchange rate risk for the users. We have stable money with the euro that has proven itself over the past decades.”

Moreover, according to him, such a currency has “greater potential” in countries such as emerging markets where their official currency is weak and the payment infrastructure is not well developed.

But the fact that the social media giant has more than two billion users, it has such a strong impact that Weidmann says, “would give Libra the potential to become a dominant player right from the start.”

However, one of the criticisms thrown at Libra is that it threatens to create a private monopoly. To prevent that, regulators want the digital currency to follow regulations that prevent money laundering and terrorist financing.

Weidmann also wants banks to counter Facebook by focusing on speed, ease of use, low costs, and security.

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Author: AnTy

After Being Banned on Telegram, ISIS Adopts Blockchain-Based Messaging for Propaganda

It has been reported by Vice that the organization has already started testing a blockchain-based messaging app in order to spread propaganda and communicate anonymously. This app is known as BCM Messenger and comes after the group has already tried using Riot, TamTam, Hoop, and RocketChat. BCM is more advantageous for the terrorists because it’s encrypted and those using can remain anonymous.

BCM Messenger Available on Both iOS and Android

Working on iOS and Android too, the BCM Messenger is advertised as very secure, as its messages are strictly encrypted, and a third party could never decipher their content. Besides, it has the option to create supergroups with more than 100,000 people. Different from other similar platforms for instant messaging, BCM doesn’t require a phone number or an email address. This means anyone can use it without providing personal details, which furthermore indicates law enforcement agents can’t track criminals sending messages on it. This is what Brenna Smith, a disinformation researcher, had to say about BCM in her latest newsletter:

“The app’s core features of anonymity, encryption, and large group-chat sizes also pose a great risk for adoption. Extremists covet technologies that can get their message out to thousands all while concealing their identity.”

Telegram No Longer Accepts Terrorists

Terrorist organizations have been using encryption-enabled instant messaging (IM) platforms to distribute their propaganda for quite a while. Telegram has been their choice in the recent past, since Decrypt reported in August that this platform has been used widely by terrorists from all over the world, as the DC-based Middle Eastern Media Research Institute (MEMRI) says. This is what the MEMRI’s executive director, Steven Stalinsky had to say about the situation back then:

“Telegram is the number one source for terrorist organizations online.”

The EU Made an Effort to Discover and Destroy ISIS IM Accounts

The European Union (EU) made an effort to discover and destroy the ISIS IM accounts, which means the same can happen with BCM. This is what Pavel Durov, Telegram’s CEO has declared in the past about ISIS using Telegram:

“ISIS and their likes will have [a] hard time on Telegram if they continue to spread their message of violence and hatred.”

ISIS isn’t using the blockchain technology for the first time. As a matter of fact, it has been raising funds through cryptocurrency transfers, regardless of the fact that the group is employing public ledgers and are quite easy to track.

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Author: Oana Ularu

JPMorgan Tests Blockchain Solution To Track Automobile Inventory

  • JPMorgan is testing a new blockchain solution that it would allow it to track auto dealer inventory. In this way, it would be possible for companies to avoid linking the same cars for different loans.
  • The information was unveiled in a recent patent filed by the car financing arm.

JPMorgan Develops Blockchain Solution For The Automotive Industry

The patent describes a blockchain lending system that would allow car companies to handle car loans and their inventories.

It is worth mentioning that each of the cars in the market has an individual vehicle identity number (VIN). In this way and with the help of a blockchain system, it is possible to reduce inefficiencies in the industry and improve loans, services and solutions.

According to the head of research and development at Chase Auto, there is a responsible person that identifies each of the vehicles and reconciles the inventory on the dealer’s and the bank’s systems.

Clearly, this is an inefficient way of handling loans and inventories. This is why JPMorgan, with several years of blockchain experience, is trying to offer improved solutions in the industry.

Christine Moy, blockchain lead at JP Morgan, mentioned that the pilot is being tested with some partners but it is not ready to be released to the market as of yet.

Blockchain technology has been expanding during the last few years and several companies, including JPMorgan, are offering solutions to clients and other firms.

The automotive industry is also very important for the U.S. economy and it is clearly a large market for it to have old financial and tracking systems.

This is not the first time that JPMorgan is working with distributed ledger technology. The firm has also been developing its own permissioned blockchain network that would allow the bank to improve its presence in the market and offer better services.

It is possible for dealerships to pledge the same vehicle as collateral for one floor plan with one bank and using the same car for another floor plan and with another bank. With this new blockchain system that is currently being tested, this problem is solved and the whole system becomes much more efficient and fast.

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Author: Carl T