F2Pool Formalizes SegWit Support, Considers Big Blocks “For Future”

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Chinese mining pool F2Pool has released a statement officially signaling support for Segregated Witness (SegWit) for Bitcoin.

The post, released on Tuesday and translated by local crypto news resource cnLedger, says that the debate over a scaling solution has already “taken too long.”

“F2Pool always favors Segwit [and] Big Blocks,” the pool said. “Segwit can solve some technical problems and can bring some benefits.”

Non-Chinese demand

F2 additionally cited international – specifically non-Chinese – demand for SegWit as a reason for its going along with the consensus to activate it.

“We see the strong demand of scaling, and many foreign users are supporting Segwit. Therefore it’s time we move on and activate Segwit first,” it continued.

Regarding alternative solutions such as increasing the block size, F2 did not dismiss the concept.

The post explained:

“Big blocks are also beneficial to the bitcoin network in the long run. However the reality is that we have not achieved Segwit [and] Big blocks up to now… we’ll leave the big blocks for future discussions. We believe by that time, we will naturally arrive at a (good) result.”

F2’s decision comes as no surprise, with leading figure Wang Chun previously being vocal on Twitter about the need to go along with majority consensus with regards to SegWit implementation.

Having run a user poll on how to proceed, Chun announced on Friday that 56 percent SegWit support meant that implementation for both Bitcoin and Litecoin would occur “soon.”

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Bitcoin Price Watch; Here’s What We’re Going For Today

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OK, things are finally starting to pick up with our bitcoin price trading efforts. Overnight on Monday, we saw some real movement, and price picked up some sustained bullish momentum for what must be the first time in a couple of weeks.

How long it’s going to last remains to be seen. We’ve seen this sort of thing before, and it’s come and gone, corrected and reversed. That said, we’ve been looking for this sort of run for a while now, and it’s here, so we’re not going to write it off.

So, we’re not going to spend too much time on what happened overnight. The chart below highlights the action to this point, and it’s a much better representation of the run than we’ll be able to describe in words.

Take a look at that chart, then, before we get going with the details for today’s session. As ever, it’s got our range overlaid in green, and we’re going with a fifteen minute timeframe this time around – something that we’ve done on a couple of occasions over the last week or so in order to accommodate any sustained volatility we see on the back of today’s markets.

Bitcoin Price Watch; Here's What We're Going For Today

As the chart shows, the range we’ve got in our sights for today’s session is defined by support to the downside at 1248, and resistance to the upside at 1264. There’s probably just about enough room to go at things with an intrarange approach today, but we’re going to stick with breakout. Readers should diverge from this preference at their own discretion.

Looking at breakout, then, if we see a close above resistance, we’ll be looking at getting in long towards an upside target of 1280. A close below support, on the other hand, will get us into a short position towards a downside target of 1235.

Charts courtesy of SimpleFX

Disclaimer: The information contained herein is not guaranteed, does not purport to be comprehensive and is strictly for information purposes only. It should not be regarded as investment/trading advice. All the information is believed to come from reliable sources. NewsBTC does not warrant the accuracy, correctness, or completeness of information in its analysis and therefore will not be liable for any loss incurred.


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Japan’s Government Develops Method for Assessing Blockchains

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In light of the hype and lack of clarity surrounding blockchain, one of Japan’s government ministries has developed a methodology for evaluating projects in the industry.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) published details about the methodology, which was created by the Information Economy Division of the ministry’s Commerce and Information Policy Bureau.

According to the published presentation, METI is positioning the process as a way to assess projects for a variety of use cases, while evaluating 32 necessary characteristics such as scalability, privacy and overall reliability.

Those involved with the methodology’s creation say it was developed to objectively weigh blockchain implementations.

The presentation states:

“[N]o evaluation indices or criteria had been established to adequately assess the features of the technologies and to compare them with existing systems. This causes the public anxiety, misunderstanding, and unreasonable hopes to blockchain technologies, and leading to a potential unwillingness to introduce the technology.”

That the ministry would take such a step is unsurprising, given that it has fostered blockchain work in the past.

METI has been publicly researching the tech since late 2015, arguing the government itself should play a supporting role. The ministry has also sponsored a trip abroad for domestic bitcoin and blockchain startups.

Keyboard image via Shutterstock

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Bitcoin Price Returns to $1,200 Again, New Normal For Now

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BTC chart

Bitcoin price has passed the $1,200 line once again. As early as 04:00 am GMT it was being sold at $1,207.00. For the second time within a period of a month, Bitcoin price has reached the $1,200s but couldn’t sustain it in the first instance and retreated back to the $1,100 region.

This time around, positively, it might be able to maintain the gains in the face of all the rancor and disagreement.

Scaling headache

It dawned on the community after the ETF fiasco that we still needed to deal with the nagging scaling headache that has bedeviled the landscape. When the conflict became so protracted that a BU Hard Fork was becoming imminent, the price started tanking. It went down as low as $920 and some pundits started calling for the beginning of the end of Bitcoin, whilst others advised that holders should sell since we are in scary times.

Unexpectedly, the price started climbing steadily to the $1,000-1,200s again, proving Bitcoin’s resiliency and shutting up its critics. Experts like Vinny Lingham, who is very accurate with Bitcoin price prediction, have connected the astonishing price recovery to altcoin holders swapping their altcoins for BTC, specifically stating ETH price clearly moves inversely to BTC.

However, others are convinced it is the new wave sweeping through Japan and bringing Bitcoin to the mainstream accounts for the new price trend.

BTC chartConflict and sustainability

With no resolution in sight for the scaling crisis coupled with the entrenched positions taken by SegWit and Bitcoin Unlimited advocates, the road seems bumpy. Will the pioneer cryptocurrency be able to maintain its gains and keep its price up?

Most people in the community have been trying to avoid this question preferring to leave it to time to play it out.

But we can’t sit down and watch the whole scenario unfold unconcerned. It is important everyone gets involved.

Let us work towards bringing the bitterness and the enmity down so that a compromise can be reached for a new path to be charted for the ecosystem.

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Dubai Government Greenlights Citywide Blockchain Payments System

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The Smart Dubai Office, a government-backed initiative led by the Crown Prince of Dubai has partnered a FinTech specialist firm to implement a citywide payments platform based on blockchain technology.

The government initiative has entered a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with FinTech consulting and development firm Avanza Solutions, signed in the presence of Hamdan bin Mohammed, the hereditary Prince to the crown of Dubai.

Announced by Avanza quietly last week, the sweeping citywide project planned by the Smart Dubai Office will see a rollout of the blockchain payments platform to all existing 38 partner government entities, financial institutions and other departments in the city of Dubai.

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Avanza’s proprietary blockchain ‘Cipher’ is the chosen platform selected by the smart city initiative. Cipher was picked for a pilot project under the Dubai Future Accelerators program earlier in February this year. The pilot, launched in collaboration with Dubai’s largest bank Emirates NBD and the Dubai Smart Government, proved successful. Emirates NBD has notably conducted blockchain-based international remittance trails with an Indian partner last year.

A notable excerpt from Avanza’s announcement reads:

Smart Dubai Office plans to roll out Cipher across all its existing 38 partner government entities, partner financial institutions and Departments to set up the first blockchain based building block within its financial plumbing.

Details from Cipher’s webpage reveals the platform’s adaptability to both public and permissioned blockchain networks with the implementation of smart contracts through the open-source HyperLedger & public blockchain Ethereum platforms. IBM’s Bluemix and Microsoft’s Azure BaaS are also listed.

Dubai Government Greenlights Citywide Blockchain Payments System

A blockchain payments platform for the city of Dubai takes shape with a MoU. Credit: Avanza

Dr. Aisha Butti bin Bishr, director general of Smart Dubai stated:

I am confident with Avanza’s expertise in payment solutions combined with their Cipher blockchain platform, they will support the Smart Dubai Office with technology that not only bridges current gaps but also becomes a vital piece in Smart Dubai’s roadmap for payment processes in the near future.

Dubai’s ongoing blockchain agenda first took shape with the launch of ‘Dubai Blockchain Strategy’, a comprehensive initiative that began with the plan to transfer and maintain all documents of the Dubai government on a blockchain by the year 2020.

 

The initiative will be helped by the Dubai Future Foundation in formulating its strategies, while the Smart Dubai Office executes the directive – of which the citywide blockchain payments platform is one. Another prominent example of the blockchain directive sees Dubai’s government partnering technology giant IBM to develop a blockchain platform for trade finance, to streamline efficiency with its status as one of the world’s major trading hubs.

Dubai’s foray into blockchain solutions and research began with the launch of the ‘Global Blockchain Council’ in early 2016, led by the Dubai government’s Future Foundation.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Dubai Government Greenlights Citywide Blockchain Payments System

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Bitwage Introduces Unique IBAN Accounts for EU-based Bitcoin Payroll Users

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Bitcoin payroll services are a great tool to introduce new people to cryptocurrency. Bitwage is one of the market leaders in this regard, with a strong focus on EU clients. As of yesterday, the company announced a new feature to improve their payroll service. All users receiving wages in the EU now have access to unique IBAN numbers. An intriguing development, to say the least.

It is good to see companies such as Bitwage step up their game. Providing bitcoin payroll services has been a significant development. The company has seen its fair share of success over the past few years, especially in Europe. As a result, Bitwage has been working hard on further improving their service. As of right now, it is possible to access a unique IBAN for all users who receives wages in the European Union.

Big Bitcoin Payroll Upgrades For EU Users

Unlike their US counterparts, EU citizens can’t split a payroll into two accounts. Instead, European bitcoin enthusiasts have to use services such as Bitwage to have part of their paycheck sent in bitcoin. Moreover, the platform also allows full conversion to bitcoin, should the user prefer so. All things considered, it is a more than valuable service to bitcoin enthusiasts.

The introduction of unique IBAN accounts is quite interesting, though. These new accounts allow users to receive a direct deposit into any wallet of their choice. Bitwage has been able to provide this service thanks to a new banking partnership. Two major changes will be coming to EU Bitwage users, the first of which is real-time transaction viewing. Users can exactly see when Bitwage receiving the funds, which is a nice feature.

The second change comes in the form of no deposit claims required. Users will no longer need to verify the funds belongs to them. That is a big step in the right direction, a sit removes unnecessary delays altogether. Since payment descriptions are no longer required, the whole process has become a lot smoother for all users. A very nice change that will be appreciated by many people all over the world.

To access these new features, Bitwage users must receive over 1,9999 EUR in volume per month. Additionally, Bitwage Premium users will receive these new perks automatically. One other advantage of the Premium feature is how Bitwage users will receive wages the same day as the company receives the money. The company is firing on all cylinders as bitcoin payroll services start to gain more traction in the EU.

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock

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Rootstock Engineer Discovers Quadratic Delays in Bitcoin Scripts

Engineer

On April 16 the chief engineer of Rootstock, Sergio Demian Lerner, revealed in a blog post that he had found new quadratic delays in Bitcoin scripts while researching the Segregated Witness (Segwit) protocol.

Also Read: Lerner Offers a Block Size Compromise with Segwit2MB

Rootstock Chief Engineer Reviews Segregated Witness

Rootstock Engineer Discovers Quadratic Delays in Bitcoin ScriptsLerner details he began researching Segwit scaling last week and started studying the code “specifically, the EvalScript() function.” During this time, Lerner found two quadratic complexity loops in the Bitcoin Core protocol. The results of the tests shouldn’t make anyone worry, Lerner says, as he believes there are “worse problems in Bitcoin block verification.” However, he goes on to detail one possible attack scenario from a malicious miner within the network.        

“A malicious miner can create a Segwit block that requires approximately 10 seconds to be verified,” explains Rootstock’s chief engineer. “Since the examples presented in this post consume less than 10 seconds.”

I don’t consider my findings as vulnerabilities. However, if the block size is to be increased in the future, these problems should be solved prior to increasing the block size. The scripts presented here as examples do not leave the value stack empty, but the Bitcoin protocol does not require it. Bitcoin only requires the top value to be true to accept the script.

‘Optimizations Needed to Prevent Future Surprises in the Scaling Path’

Lerner goes on further describing an issue that he calls “the unsatisfied questioner: OP_IF abuse” problem, and an issue called “Rock-and-Roll” which is located in the OP_ROLL opcode. He also details that a lot has been done as far as optimizing block processing but says “there are a few pieces of old code that still require some minor optimizations to prevent future surprises in the scaling path.”

As the research from Lerner gained attention across forums and social media, most people were pleased with the engineer’s discoveries. One Reddit user exclaims, “It’s important that these exploits are found, disclosed, and hopefully patched.”

In addition, Bitcoin security expert Kristov Atlas complemented Lerner and his findings via Twitter, stating:         

Another great write-up on DoS vector. Thanks for researching and posting.

Parallel Validation

Another idea brought to light on Lerner’s blog post comes from a commenter asking, “Do you have already an opinion on BUIP033: Parallel Validation?” BUIP033 is a concept conceived by Bitcoin developer Peter Tschipper in October of 2016, which proposes to create a separate thread for block validation. Essentially this would be in contrast to the current method of validating each block through the main processing thread.

“I think it is essential to scalability,” Lerner replies to the comment. “It reduces the impact of all block-size related issues.”

Lerner’s Involvement with the Scaling Debate

The Rootstock engineer has voiced his opinion quite a bit throughout the great Bitcoin scaling debate. The developer has also written a block size proposal recently which involves Segwit and a 2mb block size increase. The “Segwit 2mb – combined soft/hard fork” scaling plan got mixed responses and reviews from Bitcoin developers last month. Lerner is also one of the inventors of the controversial mining patent ASIC Boost which has escalated the scaling discussion to new levels.

What do you think about Sergio Demian Lerner’s quadratic delay findings? Let us know what you think in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Twitter, and Pixabay.


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How Blockchain Could End Travel Industry Pain Points

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Trond Vidar Bjorøy heads new product development and implementation for Nordic markets at travel management firm ATPI.

In this opinion piece, Vidar Bjorøy argues that blockchain can eliminate a number of pain points for both travellers and travel companies. 

luggage, lost

At this point, most blockchain enthusiasts know that distributed ledger tech has potential beyond fintech. Yet, one industry that hasn’t seen much attention from those enthusiasts is the travel industry. And it’s one that deals regularly with a number of pain points that blockchain technology has the potential to solve.

Here are some of the more notable issues and how blockchain could help:

1. Overbooking

Everyone saw that man get dragged off a United Airline’s flight last week, right?

Blockchain’s ability to prevent double spending could in theory remove the problem of double bookings in the industry, which would hopefully (for both passengers and airlines) eliminate instances like this from happening.

It should be noted, though, that overbooking is very much a part of a decades-old strategy to increase profits and optimize resources, so unless the practice is made illegal, it might not be the use case that will drive widespread adoption of blockchain in the travel industry.

2. Fraud

Merchants that sell travel are typically seen as high risk because of the amount of refunds and chargebacks that occur in the industry.

But with blockchain, once a payment has been made, typically you can’t reverse it. And this mechanism will make fraudulent cases easier to spot and less likely to occur.

Blockchain could also ease PCI DSS compliance (a credit card security standard), at least for travel management companies and other incumbents in the space.

In a blockchain-enabled world where cardholder data is no longer stored in corporate databases and instead stored on a distributed network, along with the booking transactions – to whom does PCI apply? Probably the companies that develop the solutions that will let travel companies store our sensitive data on the network.

3. Identity and reputation

A big part of the world’s population is excluded and disconnected from the global economy today.

Decentralization through crypto-economies will enable billions of people to get access to basic financial services, connecting them with the rest of the world. And to give everyone in the world the opportunity to travel, consumers need a means of proving their identity, one that is impossible to forge or change. This could be provided through access to reputation-based identity systems.

Even though there are identity systems in use for authentication today, like federated identity and social login, you can’t easily build on them to pull in data from many sources or use the attributes that you want when you want them – unless you integrate with every party.

Decentralized identity systems are here to fix that.

As a trusted individual with a reputation guaranteed by the blockchain, you could say goodbye to waiting in lines, TSA and obtrusive checking of personal details.

4. Traveller profiles

While blockchain is very much about moving values, it’s also about handling and securing data in better ways.

In travel, user profile security and privacy have always been hot topics. When a company enters into an agreement with a travel management company (TMC), airline or other supplier, the company usually needs to give that supplier access to employee data so they are able to provide the expected service.

Whether that process is manual or automated, building a well-functioning profiling process takes time and effort and creates friction on both sides.

If employees had their information on the blockchain, this could remove much of the pain on both sides. The companies wouldn’t have to build new API connections between the supplier’s profile database and the buyer’s HR system for every new implementation. And manual profile workflows would become history.

There’d be no need for employees to create user accounts with multiple suppliers, duplicating their information along with thousands of other users on systems that stand the risk of being breached. Nor would they have to adopt every new supplier’s user interface.

Instead, there’d be just one unified profile available to those explicitly given access.

5. Settlement

Among the more obvious improvements we will see from the blockchain is the ability to move money faster.

Many fintech innovations – the removal of middlemen and their fees, money transfers in real-time, instant settlement, streamlined and continuous auditing – will benefit the travel industry as well.

6. Loyalty

By now we’ve probably all heard about the promises of interoperable loyalty programs: instant credit, exchanging points, transferring points between friends, receiving personal promotions, converting points into cryptocurrency.

But what about buying a flight ticket with points that you earned from flying with a competing airline?

When traveling, I’m not a very loyal person. I just want to enjoy the best offers I can at any time so this setup is perfect for me and multiple other travellers that aren’t loyal to one airline.

But could this become a predicament for the loyalty program owners? Maybe. But we might also see models emerge where participating businesses unite forces to meet these traveler expectations.

7. Policy and compliance

TMCs today have a role as the gatekeeper, there to help corporates stay compliant.

But what if blockchain could take over this responsibility?

Imagine the company travel manager receiving real-time alerts for policy breaches that are about to happen. Whenever an employee is trying to book a trip outside the correct channel, a direct two-way communication channel is set up between the travel manager and the, knowingly or not, disloyal employee.

Or perhaps we’ll see a paradigm shift in managed travel and booking behaviour.

Remember open booking? Perhaps the blockchain with its potential for unmatched transparency, security and privacy will be the enabler of this promised model for the future of managed travel. Book where you want as long as it’s within policy. Your travel data still gets collected, consolidated and made available to you, instantly.

8. Duty of care

With blockchain, it’s easy to foresee how risk management systems could be granted access to a traveler’s location at any time.

The travel manager, looking at the map of her employees’ whereabouts, would see this update whenever a new reservation gets created, modified or cancelled, plus when a traveller boards the plane, checks in at the hotel or starts the rental car. Or perhaps the system doesn’t use reservation details for traveller tracking, but instead receives real-time updates from an IoT-enabled device.

Health records stored on the blockchain network could also aid a traveller in need of medical help.

9. Smart contracts

Smart contract transactions are executed in autonomous software code, not law.

If we look at a legal contract or a business agreement, it’s basically the same as code – a series of if-then statements.

For example:

Hotel A enters an agreement with TMC B with a clause saying that for the next six months, room nights booked more than seven days in advance will give a higher commission than those booked later. With today’s model, both parties would sign a contract. When the period ends, both the TMC and hotel might have to run reports to identify the total number of online bookings from the TMC, or they use some commission consolidation service to document it for them.

Eventually, the correct commission amount gets paid out, although this takes time and effort, plus there might be middlemen involved in the process taking their piece of the pie.

What if all that was programmed into a smart contract?

There are obviously many benefits to this, including cost savings with the removal of intermediaries (lawyers, notaries, brokers, etc), time savings from cutting down business processes and the trust achieved from storing documents encrypted on a shared ledger.

For now, it helps knowing how to code if you want to build smart contracts, but there are currently visual editors that help write and deploy smart contracts for you. Eventually tools will come that enable any business role to create smart contracts.

10. Removing silos

Will we see a predominance of permissioned and private blockchains in our industry as the big incumbents try to evolve and maintain their power?  We’re already good at closed ecosystems, so this could be the next natural step in that direction.

On the other hand, perhaps the very nature of the blockchain – the more open and public you keep it, the faster more nodes can connect to it, and the bigger, stronger and more secure your network gets – could actually be what this industry needs to really disrupt itself?

There are initiatives that seek to enable connectivity between different blockchains, building an ‘internet of blockchains’, if you will, so there’s hope of seeing large-scale systems that open up for collaboration even if the industry should go down the route of private networks.

However, both public and private blockchains have advantages in the travel industry.

The established public blockchains, such as bitcoin and ethereum, have an advantage in scale both of payments and the applications that can be built on them, compared to the newer alternatives. Newer and smaller blockchains, on the other hand, will have an easier task achieving the network-wide consensus required to make strategic changes to the protocol.

I’m hoping, although I’m not yet fully convinced, that blockchain will revolutionize the travel industry. After all, we’re talking about an industry where fax is an indispensable part of many business processes and where 40-year old tech dominates distribution.

Lost luggage via Shutterstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, CoinDesk.

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OneCoin Partner Banned in Germany, Threatened With €1.5 Mln Fine

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Germany’s Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) has blocked the accounts of a OneCoin satellite firm for operating without a license.

In a statement published last week, the authority confirmed that the bank accounts of IMS International Marketing Services GmbH were to be frozen, “effectively immediately as per the law.”

IMS had engaged in money transfer operations on behalf of various OneCoin-affiliated entities with the aim of gathering and forwarding investor funds.

The company would act as an intermediary for those purchasing OneCoins with fiat currency in Germany, “forwarding it on to third parties, notably those outside Germany, on behalf of OneCoin,” the statement continued.

In accordance with German regulations, BaFin reiterated that such activities “qualify as a money transfer business” which “as a payment service falls under licensing requirements.”

IMS faced a fine of €1.5 mln if it continued doing what it had been – ignoring the ban.

Despite OneCoin’s broadly negative reputation and endless press coverage warning the public to avoid what is a suspected Ponzi scheme, the sums already handled by IMS are astonishing.

“In total IMS International Marketing Services as a result of the arrangement with OneCoin collected around €360 million between December 2015 and December 2016,” BaFin wrote.

The now-blocked accounts contain approximately €29 mln.

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Blockchain is Most Innovative Technology For Digital Transactions

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Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADSM), a stock exchange in Abu Dhabi with a market cap of $135 bln, considers the Blockchain as the most innovative technology in finance and digital transactions.

In 2008, the government of UAE released the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, a 22-year-long strategy and roadmap for the country’s economic progress. A major component of the agenda drafted and implemented by the UAE government was the development of a sufficient and resilient infrastructure capable of supporting anticipated economic growth.

Rashed Al Baloushi, the CEO of ADSM, stated that the development of Blockchain technology is an important part of the company’s vision derived from the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030.

Baloushi stated:

“Blockchain is the most innovative technology in digital transactions. It represents the second generation of the internet and has enabled ADX to join the elites of top 10% of institutions globally who have already taken steps in adopting this technology.”

The global banking and finance industries currently lack an efficient and secure infrastructure for digital payments and transactions. The settlement of cross-bank and cross-border transactions is expensive, slow, opaque and insecure.

Latest development

To meet the expectations of the UAE government and to follow the economic roadmap laid out for the private sector, local banks and financial service providers including ADSM have already begun to look into various technologies such as the Blockchain.

Upon the evaluation and analysis of Blockchain technology, researchers at ADSM perceived a great potential for the technology in the finance industry and particularly in the digital transactions market. Since their initial discovery of the Blockchain, ADSM led the development of several Blockchain projects, including a Blockchain platform for e-voting at an annual information technology exhibition held in Dubai.

Maintaining its momentum, ADSM plans to demonstrate the applicability of Blockchain technology in the realm of finance and digital payments in their next projects.

Baloushi reaffirmed that the company will collaborate with emerging startups and innovative developers in the Blockchain industry to ensure that ADSM and the rest of the finance industry adopt a revolutionary technology such as the Blockchain to optimize operations and reduce operating costs.

Strategy

“Abu Dhabi Plan is what inspires us to accomplish our strategic goals. ADX is committed to creating a business environment that is both competitive and flexible. Accordingly, adopting Blockchain technology in our projects comes in alignment with the digital transformation of Abu Dhabi’s government services as we constantly strive to introduce new ways that ease the process of doing business in the Emirate,” said Baloushi.

Previously, Cointelegraph reported that Dubai aimed to become the first Blockchain-powered city by 2020, with the help of local authorities and startup incubators such as 1776. With Abu Dhabi joining the Blockchain race, UAE seeks to see a rapid development and growth in its local Blockchain industry.

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