Blockstream in space, South Korea starts new blockchain trial, and Atari gets into blockchain gaming. Plus, Coinbase opens crypto-crypto pairs.
Blockstream Seeks to Divorce Blockchain from the Internet
Currently, blockchain technology is limited on its need to connect to the internet to work. In effect, this limits the technology’s sphere of usefulness to internet-ready regions, excluding much of the developing world. One company, however, seeks to change this.
Forbes is reporting that Blockstream, a blockchain startup that raised $101 million in venture funding, seeks to utilize satellites to stream blockchain connectivity to all major landmasses on the planet. Using bitcoin’s Lightning Network and Blockstream’s network of satellites, users in even remote areas can send encrypted messages to each other and create payment channels.
“We see the increased robustness of the bitcoin network and the lower cost of participation contributing to helping businesses rely on the service for backup,” said Blockstream CEO Adam Back. “And for emerging markets to use as their primary access to the bitcoin network at a lower cost.”
Blockstream currently maintains four satellites broadcasting to North and South America, Europe, and Africa, with a fifth satellite recently announced. With the launch of the fifth satellite, Blockstream can reach all significant landmasses, except for Greenland and Antarctica. Furthermore, the service expansion will allow for all bitcoin transmissions to be broadcast, instead of just the last block’s data. This will allow users to send and receive messages about price and more without the need of the internet.
Potentially more important, this technology allows crypto transactions without the need for an ISP. With “onion-routing” technology, users can send crypto messages and transactions that are shielded from third-party observation.
South Korea Opens Shipping Blockchain Trial
The South Korean ministry for science and ICT, along with the ministry for oceans and fisheries, has announced a blockchain-enabled pilot program to improve efficiency with the nation’s shipping container industry.
Starting in January, the year-long trial will be held in the port of Busan and will test to see whether blockchain technology can improve transparency between parties, enhance the real-time sharing of information, and increase imports and exports. If successful, the blockchain platform will be shared with other ports in the country.
The project was announced by the South Korean government in June as one of six blockchain pilots. The government is also running trials in online voting, livestock supply chain management, real estate transactions, cross-border e-document distribution, and customs clearance.
Video Gaming Pioneer Atari to Get into Blockchain Gaming
Former videogaming mainstay Atari is getting into the blockchain software business. In exchange for a $250,000 stake in the company, Atari will allow Animoca Brands to develop several of Atari’s properties, including RollerCoaster Tycoon and Goon Squad, to run on blockchain. Atari says it will revenue-share once the project grosses $500,000, with the agreement slated to last until March 2022. Animoca and Atari have also entered a deal to explore future opportunities.
While Atari today is a French-owned mid-level PC software developer, it was once the leading name in home videogames. The popularity of the Atari Video Computing System (later rebranded as the Atari 2600) and successive systems helped to pave the wave for companies like Nintendo. However, the fallout from the video game crash of 1983 created a downward spiral for the company, leading to bankruptcies and a series of corporate buyouts before the creation of the current company.
Atari has since announced it will return to the video game console business with the launch of an updated Atari VCS, which would pay homage to the original system but would run Linux and have modern hardware. Atari has been encouraged by the popularity of “nostalgia consoles” such as NES Classic.
Coinbase Opens Direct Conversion for Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin
Popular crypto exchange Coinbase has announced that it will support direct conversion of crypto from one type to another. Prior to this, Coinbase customers had to sell coins they intended to transfer and then buy coins in a separate transaction, incurring two transaction fees. Currently, users can exchange between Bitcoin (BTC), Litecoin (LTC), Ether (ETH), Ethereum Classic (ETC), 0x (ZRX), or Bitcoin Cash (BCH).
Coinbase unveiled the feature, Convert, as part of its 12 Days of Christmas program. Use of the service will incur a transaction fee of one percent of the total transaction amount. Another of Coinbase’s “12 Days” program – instant and free Coinbase balance withdrawals to PayPal– has proven controversial following a string of PayPal accounts being frozen.
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Frederick Reese is a politics and cryptocurrency reporter based in New York. He is also a former teacher, an early adopter of bitcoin and Litecoin, and an enthusiast of all things geeky and nerdy.
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