Crypto App, ZenGo, Joins Visa’s Fintech Fast Track Program; Debit Card Launching in 2021

  • ZenGo, a crypto wallet app, joins Visa Fast Track program.
  • Allow users to spend crypto at any VISA merchant and withdraw from supported ATMs.

Crypto wallet management firm, ZenGo, announced that it had joined the VISA Fast Track Program on Tuesday. Following the partnership, ZenGo will start offering users in the U.S. VISA debit cards, allowing them to spend cryptocurrencies at millions of VISA merchants and withdraw at supported ATMs.

The crypto wallet provider is joining a stream of payment companies, including PayPal, Square, Coinbase, and Paxful, aiming to push for cryptocurrencies in everyday payments. The company enters the debit card space – joining Coinbase, who recently announced their rewards card, and Binance – in a race to push for crypto adoption.

Unlike the rest, ZenGo offers its users a non-custodial wallet, which leaves the user’s security. Expounding on the benefits of ZenGo’s non-custodial wallets, ZenGo CEO Ouriel Ohayon said,

“Those other offerings are only a half-vanilla taste of what crypto is because they only let you own an IOU over a cryptocurrency.

This is the only one that is tied to a user-controlled wallet where the users have control of their funds, and the funds are on-chain.”

However, the enhanced self-custodial measures make it difficult and complicated to send and spend cryptocurrencies from your wallet, hence the VISA wallet’s launch. ZenGo users will need to convert crypto from their wallet and deposit to their debit card before using it for payment. Regular users can also set a fixed amount to be converted every week and deposited to their debit card.

“The issue if you do it automatically like Coinbase is that you can’t pick which crypto you want to use for spending,” Ohayon said.

“They decide for you, or they force you to make a choice once for all your transactions.”

ZenGo uses Multi-party computation (MPC) techniques to secure its user’s accounts, passwords, and private keys by breaking down the long alphanumeric cryptographic code. This also helps in transactions – saving senders from writing down the long wallet address or remember passwords.

The VISA debit card by ZenGo is expected to launch early next year in the U.S. with plans to launch to other countries also in place. ZenGo aims to offer users a convenient, secure, and scalable way to spend cryptocurrencies seamlessly. Ouriel added,

“We have real estate agents who get paid in cryptocurrency; we have photographers, DJs, independent workers of all sorts. Those guys want to be able to spend it.”

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Author: Lujan Odera

Crypto Lender, Cred, Joins VISA’s Fintech Fast Track Program To Leverage Its Payment Network

U.S. based crypto-financial borrowing and lending platform joins Visa’s Fintech Fast Track Program to leverage the multinational payment gateway resources, expertise, and security systems. The crypto lending platform will improve its payment system to give users a fast and efficient platform to borrow and pay using cryptocurrencies.

In a press release, Visa Fintech Fast Track Program confirmed Cred would join its ranks, leveraging Visa’s capabilities in its payment system and lending and borrowing of digital assets. As a part of Visa’s Fat Track Program, Cred will build its platform to “accept direct interest payments to the customers’ bank accounts and allow Crypto Lines of Credit (C-LOC).” These lines of credit allow users to stake their crypto assets and take out a loan without liquidating their assets.

Cred is a San Francisco based company that provides borrowing and payment services to both retail and institutional customers. The CEO and co-founder of Cred, Dan Schatt, said joining Visa’s Fintech Fast Track program will allow it to develop into a more efficient platform helping the platform “provide users with fair financial services and expand its lending and borrowing services.”

He further stated,

“Cred has always served as a bridge between traditional banking and blockchain based financial services and having a direct relationship with Visa will enable the company to scale much more rapidly to support the significant growth occurring with digital asset lending.”

Fold, the Bitcoin rewards app [and soon to launch Visa Debit Card], joined the Fast Track Program in 2019, shortly after Visa launched it in a bid to increase payment gateways and develop a crypto debit card. The latter was launched in April this year, enabling users to earn BTC from purchases. Ripple’s partner firm, InstaReM, a Singapore fintech firm, also joined the Fast Track Program in early 2019 to leverage Visa’s fast and scalable payments system.

Cred will also access Visa’s vast resources, experts, and technology through the Fast Track Program, Cuy Sheffield, Head of Crypto, at Visa said.

“As the preferred network for digital currency wallets, we are excited to help innovative fintechs like Cred harness the value of Visa’s network,” Cuy further stated.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Visa’s Fast Track Program On Boards New Bitcoin Lightning Payment Startup, LastBit

The Visa fast track program has onboarded a new Bitcoin Lightning crypto payment startup, LastBit, which recently launched its beta app. This addition comes barely a month since Strike also joined the Visa initiative to scale crypto adoption through Lightning BTC payment solutions.

Lastbit will enable merchants to accept BTC payments regardless of their preference since the underlying tech converts such transactions to fiat upon settlement. Currently, this BTC lightning-based innovation only allows merchants to receive their payments in U.S dollars. However, they are set to release an app that is Euro compatible in a few weeks, according to the company’s founder, Prashanth Balasubramanian.

LastBit’s BTC Lightning for Micropayments

Despite the rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, mainstream adoption is still one of the most significant uncertain factors. Well, BTC lightning solutions, which came up as a result of network congestion, seem to be finding a niche in micropayment fiat-crypto on-ramps, given the convenience in rates and transaction time.

LastBit’s lighting payment, for instance, allows users to load BTC on their applications, after which they can access a digital debit card. With this card, they can then initiate BTC payments, which are received by vendors in dollars and soon Euros.  Balasubramanian has since noted that their goal is to facilitate the mass adoption of Bitcoin as a standard means of payment,

“We simply want to see the masses using bitcoin on a day-to-day basis. To do this, we have engineered arguably the most seamless interoperability between bitcoin and fiat, on top of the Lightning Network, that caters to the needs of both new and experienced users alike,”

Prospect Markets!

As the world continues to move towards digital ecosystems, crypto startups like Stripe and LastBit are looking to capitalize on the growing opportunities in various markets. On this front, LastBit is set to expand into Europe following approval from the EU. Balasubramanian confirmed this prospectus move with Coindesk, highlighting that;

“With a solid product, partnerships and notable investors […] behind us, we’re going to roll out our Bitcoin, Lightning, and EUR interoperable payments layer in the EU to prove that this works and that a small company without millions can pull off a complex payments product to push for Bitcoin adoption,”

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Medalla Testnet Hits 1M Staked ETH; Triggers Speculations of Ethereum 2.0 Launch in 2020

The Medalla ETH 2.0 testnet, which was launched last week, is well on track and could set the stage for the final Mainnet to be rolled out later in 2020.

This milestone is quite significant, given the ETH 2.0 team has launched four testnets before Medalla to smoothen the platform’s transition from a proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus. Recent weeks have also seen the price of ETH rally to break past the $400 mark, highs it had only touched during the 2017 crypto market bull-run.

Medalla Setting Stage for ETH 2.0 Mainnet

With the Medalla testnet now in play, ETH enthusiasts are optimistic that the project’s fundamentals will finally be reflected in its market price. Currently, over a million GoETH have been staked by validators whose role is to propose and attest the blocks in return for annual rewards.

The testnet’s beacon chain is, however, yet to launch as of press time given 524,288 GoETH are still required to reach the threshold. For better insights, GoETH is a simulated ETH version from an earlier testnet dubbed ‘Goerli’.

eth-2-staking-reward
Source: Ethereum.org

Ideally, the validators are incentivized with GoETH rewards in return for securing the network until it reaches consensus. Based on this underlying, the APR keeps on reducing as more GoETH is staked on the Medalla testnet. Initially, validators could earn as much as 21.6% annually but this is now down t0 15.3% and will continue on that trajectory up to a possible 4.9% should the number of staked GoETH hit 10 million.

While the testnet is running smoothly so far, Ben Eddington, a researcher at ConsenSys, has noted that the team might have to adjust the genesis delay in the Mainnet launch. This was because of issues with the client implementations that were set to make attestations for the genesis block in Medalla:

“To improve some of these issues for the Mainnet launch, we’re looking at increasing the genesis delay from its current 48 hours, to 96 hours, or even a week. This buffer will allow everyone to get their ducks in a row.”

Security is a Priority!

Other than the Medalla testnet, Ethereum foundation has been running parallel attack-nets and recently discovered a 9-year-old bug in Prysm’s Go standard library. The foundation has since added $15k as an incentive for hackers to look for other bugs within its ecosystem. It is also quite noteworthy that ETH 2.0 is currently looking to hire an internal security team as they prepare for the final Mainnet launch.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Rhode Island Policymakers Table Blockchain Bill To Spur Economic Growth in the State

Rhode Island is on track to join blockchain-friendly jurisdictions after they introduced a bill on leveraging this tech for economic growth. The state’s goal is to create a sustainable ecosystem that will allow innovations around distributed ledgers to thrive.

This bill was tabled on March 11 by two GOP policymakers and partly read that;

“The state of Rhode Island understands that to compete in the twenty-first century economy, Rhode Island must offer one of the best business environments in the United States for blockchain and technology innovators, and should offer a comprehensive regulatory technology sandbox for these innovators to develop the next generation of digital products and services in Rhode Island.”

The State of Rhode Island plans to establish grounds for collaboration between private and public entities with interests in blockchain technology. In doing so, they are hopeful to consolidate ideas for spurring economic growth through emerging tech. One of the practical approaches to this includes forming ‘an immutable interagency-industry-operability blockchain filing system.’

Blockchain Banks and Hemp Supply Chain

The bill noted that the current legal framework has been a big challenge to blockchain-based projects looking for financial intermediary services. This is mainly because a large number of banks are skeptical given the US Fed and SEC are yet to issue clear guidelines. Rhode Island, however, suggested a solution to this shortcoming;

“A new type of Rhode Island financial payments and depository institution that has expertise with customer identification, anti-money laundering, and beneficial ownership requirements.”

Ideally, the financial institution should provide custodial services for both traditional and digital assets within the state’s compliance scope. Rhode Island has since formed an advisory council comprising 13 people who are expected to look into blockchain tech in detail on behalf of the state.

Another proposition by this bill was the integration of blockchain within the supply ecosystem of hemp products. According to the bill, such an initiative would ensure that there is accountability, product safety and legal compliance in this booming market. Furthermore, hemp derivatives that are not fit for the public would not make it to the blockchain.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

BTC Price Still on Stock-to-Flow Track Despite ‘Extreme Fear’ & ‘Bearish Sentiment’

  • Market in “extreme fear” is an opportunity rather than “panic”
  • Bitcoin still spot on S2F track but network signals indicate “bearish sentiment”

2020 started on a positive note. We kicked off this year at around $7,200 and climbed to above $10,500, recording about 45% gains on a year-to-date basis.

However, the spread of coronavirus all over the world soon took over the global markets, which had bitcoin acting as a risk on market as well. As the deadly virus continues to spread notwithstanding the central banks announcing stimulus, the global markets recorded substantial losses.

For the past three weeks, bitcoin has been tumbling only to see positive momentum last week. But not for long.

The oil price war on the weekend hit the already weak markets. Bitcoin also dropped over 16%, all over again, going as low as $7,685.

An opportunity rather than “panic”

According to Crypto Fear & Greed Index, the market is in “extreme fear” with a reading of 17. However, commentators say this is an opportunity rather than “panic.”

Interestingly, despite the bloodbath in the crypto street, bitcoin is spot on the S2F track.

Bitcoin price is exactly in line with the value put by the stock-to-flow model. The daily RSI is also below 40, meaning it could be a good buy the dip opportunity.

The S2F model puts bitcoin’s price at $8,636 while the actual price is currently just above $7,900.

Meanwhile, Fundamentals Turns Bearish

When it comes to the fundamentals, with the continued increment in the hash rate and difficulty adjustment in the network while price drops, many miners will be in loss that would propel them to sell their BTC to stay afloat.

The global scenario is not presenting a good picture, with oil price war started on the weekend further adding to the pressure on the market.

As we saw in 2020, the external factors have been affecting the price of bitcoin. Besides price, the network is growing slower, and there are fewer addresses in the money, shared crypto data provider IntoTheBlock. Moreover, the number of large transactions dropped with smart price and bid-ask volume showing negative numbers as well.

For bitcoin price, the bearish scenario could see the digital asset crashing to $5ks.

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Author: AnTy

European Space Agency to Use Blockchain-Powered Satellite Data For Mining Transparency

Blockchain tech is fast on the track of providing solutions from space despite a skeptical approach towards its major use as per now ‘cryptocurrencies’. The European Space Agency (ESA) has committed to fund a blockchain project that aims to cut costs in the mining chain processes through satellite data.

Hypervine, a Scottish startup headquartered in Glasgow, is the entity behind this idea of space data and blockchain integration. The firm set out to smoothen information storage for quality improvement in mining environments. Today, Hypervine is part of the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications (SoXSA) and has previously collaborated with Tontine incubator and Napier University in Edinburg.

Hypervine’s Blockchain Solution in Mining

Just like other industries, Mining has to adopt given the inevitable nature of change especially with the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). It is this niche that has seen Hypervine establish an operation suited to pace up the multi-trillion industry.

One reason for settling in the use of blockchain tech is its immutable nature. The proposed Hypervine model will allow true records to prevail in perpetuity hence very fine details that initially resulted to miscalculations can be audited for decision making. Fatal accidents that are common in quarries can be averted with the satellite stored data accessible via blockchain.

Furthermore, mining firms which opt to leverage this tech in the future stand a chance of reducing their data management costs while increasing efficiency in strategic decisions. This is mainly because a coordinated database provides comprehensive and timely information to act on compared to gathering from different sources. According to ESA’s technical officer, Beatrice Baressi, funds are flowing into the mining industry for new tech;

“The use of satellite-based data for mining work is already a sector experiencing huge investment and funding across private and nationalised space programs.”

The Environmental Prospect

ESA supported its funding towards Hypervine noting that their innovation would greatly improve the environment. Beatrice added that blockchain can be an indirect driver to reducing carbon emissions which ultimately is good for earth;

“It is a core goal of ours to make industries such as quarrying safer, cleaner and more accountable. Working with companies such as Hypervine allows us to achieve these goals whilst improving the standards across multiple industries.”

Hypervine is not the first blockchain project ESA is funding, the European intergovernmental organization allocated $66,000 to SpaceChain back in 2019. This is a blockchain start-up developing a multi sig satellite-based wallet.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Did The Chinese Govt Use Alipay, WeChat Payment Systems to Track Coronavirus Victims?

Chinese Authorities Using Alipay and WeChat to Track Coronavirus Victims? Hubei, the Chinese province that’s the epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak, had its government releasing a report on February 18th that gives details about the measures taken to combat the disease.

Hubei officials said they have been tracking online and offline fever medicine purchases in order to organize their relief efforts. Since the virus doesn’t show any sign of slowing down, medical institutions and pharmacies need to ask people who buy fever medicine for ID since these individuals may look to treat the deadly disease. While Alipay and WeChat haven’t been mentioned, it’s only logical that especially online purchases of fever medicine have been monitored through these apps.

Is the Digital Yuan Truly Necessary in Such a Situation?

China is known for the digitization of payments. It has now used for a while QR code-based mobile apps. To make things even more digital, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) is the most encouraging institution of the digital yuan, at a global level. However, when it comes to financial monitoring, issuing a digital currency would be detrimental because WeChat and Alipay payment mechanisms would be displaced. With such mechanisms, the Chinese government had most likely monitored its citizens’ purchases, which it couldn’t do in the eventuality of payments made with the digital yuan.

Can Bitcoin Come and Fix Everything?

The way in which the Chinese officials have tracked Coronavirus victims is only possible through centralized payment systems. Medication purchased in Bitcoin (BTC) would have been easily tracked because identities would have been assigned to wallet addresses.

Privacy coins such as Zcash (ZEC) and Monero (XMR) could solve the anonymity problem, but on the other hand, extreme surveillance measures were taken to prevent the spreading of a deadly virus, not to track down people for the sake of it. Just like cash, some cryptocurrencies can impede the investigations in emergency situations like the spread of an infection from being conducted.

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Author: Oana Ularu

Mnuchin Tells Congress Tougher Laws Will Be Introduced On Cryptocurrency Payments Soon

  • US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is on track to releasing new requirements for the dynamic cryptocurrency space, Steve Mnuchin assured Congress.
  • Authorities need to follow funds to ensure they don’t end up for Money Laundering purposes

During a recent Senate Finance Committee hearing, Steve Mnuchin the U.S. Treasury Secretary called on the FinCEN, a U.S financial regulatory authority, to put in place new cryptocurrencies regulations and guidelines in a bid to reduce the money laundering, illicit trades and activities that cryptocurrencies purportedly enhance.

Mnuchin was in Congress answering Senator Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), on how the budget increases Treasury plans to bolster monitoring and prosecution of terrorists and criminal rings that funnel funds using crypto. He didn’t give much details but he stated that they had zeroed in on cryptocurrencies, a topic they had given much thought after lengthy discussions with other agencies and watchdogs.

They would want technology to progress with caution by ensuring that digital assets aren’t simply being stashed for criminal enterprises. This would be made possible only if the authorities would be able to follow a trail ensuring that the funds weren’t for money laundering purposes.

“We want to make sure that cryptocurrencies aren’t used for the equivalent of old Swiss secret number bank accounts.”

In a previous White House briefing Mnuchin has argued that the cryptocurrencies in place have been breached by criminal fronts to facilitate illegal dealings such as ransomware, extortion and even in extreme cases Human and Narco trafficking. He added that the regulators wouldn’t stand by as crypto firms facilitate such with mentions of BTC and Libra.

“To be clear: FinCEN will hold any entity that transacts in Bitcoin, Libra, or any other cryptocurrency to its highest standards.”

FinCEN Tough Stance

FinCEN’s top brass has constantly reiterated their position on Crypto regulations. Previously Kenneth Blanco, director FinCEN has offered stern warning to crypto firms and start-ups that don’t follow BSA and AML regulations of dire consequences. The Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CTFC) and FinCEN recently released a joint press statement where they reminded actors in the crypto space to follow BSA and AML regulations set aside by regulatory authorities.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Ukrainian Watchdog to Track Cryptocurrency Transactions Over $1,200 For AML

Authorities in Ukraine are planning to track all crypto transactions that exceed $1,200, says Oksana Makarova, the Ministry of Finance’s head in the country.

The matter was discussed in an interview with MC Today, a local news outlet. It was also mentioned the law for anti-money laundering in crypto transactions, the law that President Volodymyr Zelensky signed just last month. It’s a first for the anti-money laundering law in Ukraine to address crypto too.

Operations Considered Suspicious to Be Reported to the SFCM

In case a payment service provider finds an operation to be suspicious, it needs to report it to the State Financial Monitoring Service (SCFM), the agency that can block any transaction and even confiscate the cryptocurrencies that are obtained illegally. Makarova said,

“SCFM has access to an analytical product that allows investigations into the origins of crypto-assets and their uses. It is impossible to stop operations now, but it is possible to block crypto wallets and remove illegally obtained crypto assets. This can be done by accessing the crypto’s private keys as a result of complex investigations.”

Cryptocurrency Not Yet Defined as an Asset Class by the Ukrainian Law

The Ukrainian law doesn’t yet define cryptocurrency as an asset class. Makarova mentioned that a few national agencies are working together to make a new virtual asset regulation, which regulation is supposed to be revealed to the public in the next 4 months. The Ukrainian parliament already has under consideration a bill that proposes a 5% tax for crypto revenue.

While it’s not yet known just how much crypto is now circulating in the country, Makarova thinks the volume is high but that money laundering is still mostly conducted with cash. She also said the legalization of cryptocurrencies brings new opportunities for the crypto industry to develop in the country.

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Author: Joseph Kibe