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Bitcoin, Cherch of Blerk, and Brave Volunteers Connect During the Destruction of Hurricane Harvey

Bitcoin, Cherch of Blerk, and Brave Volunteers Connect During the Destruction of Hurricane Harvey

The International Cherch of Blerk (IOCB) is a fully registered crypto-based 501c3 and recognized religion. It is a revolution in peer-to-peer charitable giving and volunteer work using cryptocurrency to give aid where needed during times of crisis.

CoinIdol interviewed Cherch of Blerk Founder and Executive Director, who is also an Attorney, Jason Seibert along with Dr. Rhiana Ireland, an Emergency doctor with an emphasis on EMS and Pediatric Emergency Medicine. Jason Seibert describes how the organization emerged and why Bitcoin is an integral part of its operation. 

“This organization was formed at the beginning of August, but it has been in the planning phase for over a year. There are many people that want to do good, but they don’t want to be affiliated with traditional systems – they wanted something that fit them. People want to know that their charitable giving is going to those that need it – what we call Boots on the Ground giving. We don’t do anything without having eyes on the scene to determine the most impact we can make for the situation. For those that like that kind of thinking, BLERK fits them as a charity. If you wish to believe in our religion, Blockchain, great, if not – it doesn’t matter, those that receive the help don’t care if you believe or not. 

Blerk’s model, as an actual religion and registered 501c3 means that the activities of the organization, donations to it, and the eventual mining and currency activities, will all benefit the users of the network as a vehicle for doing good, but will also provide those incentives to give that traditional organizations like the Red Cross enjoy. 

We had a man two days ago that made a large cash donation, but he wanted to make certain that we were truly a real organization (funny name, serious works). I delivered our Texas formation documents and the IRS letter with our Tax ID number on it, and he handed over cash for us to deploy to Port Aransas and Rockport. This is real. 

Bitcoin/Cryptocurrency adds a unique layer of flexibility, speed, and accountability that traditional FIAT systems just can’t provide. With Crypto, we can put boots on the ground without having to ship anything but a human being and a cell phone. Once that point person is on the ground, they survey the scene, make a wish list, and crypto pours into their phone. Working with local exchangers, that crypto can be quickly converted to local FIAT for supplies, services, and goods to get things moving as quickly as possible without the need for lengthy customs checks at the docks, or paperwork that prevents action from happening in the disaster phase.” 

Jason Seibert

International Cherch of Blerk Delivers 

CoinIdol asked Dr. Rhiana Ireland how long she’s been an Emergency physician, what her role is within the ICOB, and how this organization was vital during the Hurricane Harvey crisis and its aftermath. 

“I have been in Emergency Medicine for 11 years. I trained in South Central Los Angeles with a heavy emphasis on EMS and Pediatric Emergency Medicine. From there I was the Pediatric ER attending in East Los Angeles, prior to moving to Texas. I have worked for various agencies here in Texas responsible for disaster response and Ebola readiness for East Texas. I currently work at St Michaels ER in Sugarland, Texas. 

I work with ICOB as the Medical Director and Disaster Coordinator. Each disaster is different, sometimes my work involved being the medical director at the shelter clinics directly treating patients, other times I have been meeting with city and county leadership at the Emergency Operations Center. 

ICOB was vital during Hurricane Harvey. League City Texas had only one shelter for over 100,000 residents and it quickly became overwhelmed with evacuees. The Red Cross had only 3 volunteers in the shelter none of which had any management experience in mass casualty situations. The shelter took all evacuees, many of which had major medical conditions that required immediate medical assistance. There were two pregnant patients both of which due to deliver in less than two weeks, postoperative patients with surgical wounds contaminated by flood waters, and asthmatics who needed immediate breathing treatment. Ambulances were unable to respond due to high call volume and unable to transport patients due to flood water causing hospital evacuations. Without ICOB and the medical supplies we brought, these patients could have died. 

One of the reasons I became involved with Cherch of Blerk is because they believe in having ‘boots on the ground’ during disasters. This means that our members are at the disaster site determining actual needs rather than depending on second or third-hand information. One of the difficulties in Hurricane Harvey was the multiple rumors that spread throughout the shelters, inciting panic. Evacuees heard that levees had been breached and that the water had been tainted. By being there with city leaders we were able to get accurate information and then dispel those rumors.” 

Dr. Rhiana Ireland

Coordinating Disaster Relief 

CoinIdol inquired about his role as the Cherch of Blerk Executive Director and Bitcoin Attorney during the Hurricane Harvey crisis and its aftermath. Surprisingly candid, Seibert explains that he wore many hats during this emergency crisis. 

“Nobody wants an attorney when their house is flooded, they are cold and wet, and don’t know where they are going to sleep. I wore multiple hats. For the most part, I was in the kitchen! I worked with local leadership to let them know I was available, but they didn’t have anyone during the disaster that could coordinate the acquisition, logistics, and protocols to run a disaster kitchen. Dr. Ireland ran the medical and EMS services side; I ran the food and logistics side. I did have to be a lawyer from time to time to resolve conflicts between the Red Cross and local nurses, as well as the Red Cross and shelter leadership, which is unfortunate. The Red Cross has their way of doing things that may be good for a single-family house fire, but as for huge disasters – they really don’t have the training on the ground and in place to handle the situation. It’s been a real eye opener at just how unorganized and incapable the Red Cross is.” 

When CoinIdol asked about how challenging it was to coordinate and create several shelters in Galveston County, Texas along with producing nearly 12,000 meals for four shelters, Seibert shares how the community collaborated by volunteering in the midst of this tragedy. 

“The volunteer effort in the community was amazing. There is a time in any massive effort where you really have to step back and let others serve. For example, T-Bone Tom’s, a local BBQ place made famous by the Food Network, showed up and cooked outside in the storm for 13 hours to make chicken and sausage. A local seafood supplier provided a refrigerated truck so we could keep all the food cold until it was time to prep for meals, members of the community poured in dried goods and supplies. We never had a shortage of volunteers. 

As for victims of the flood – they absolutely wanted to help, but we had enough volunteers that were not impacted so there was no need, and frankly, that was ideal. Flood victims are exposed to all kinds of bacteria and contaminants. We ran a full infectious disease and contamination protocol out of the kitchen. It would be hard to keep those protocols if Uncle Harvey walked into the kitchen to help, covered in raw sewage.” 

Dr. Ireland adds, “The community was amazing. I began posting live feeds from the shelter and as soon as people became aware they showed up to help. People put their entire lives on hold to bring in supplies, dry off hypothermic patients and began pushing out hot meals for hungry evacuees. Money is important in a disaster, but so is someone being there for you, getting you out of wet clothes and bringing you a hot meal. Our community was lucky however, we took primarily flood damage and retained city services. ICOB went to the eye of the storm in Rockport, Texas and no part of the town remained unscathed. The city has no working sewage, power, or cell phone communications which create so many hardships for the citizens who are trying to bounce back.” 

Red Cross Falls Short 

Seibert shared with CoinIdol the effort of Blerk’s volunteers and Dr. Ireland as they assisted in advising local officials on how to proceed during the crisis. Seibert explains that the lack of experienced help from the Red Cross was glaring at this crucial time during which Houston was being inundated by flooding and disastrous winds from Hurricane Harvey. 

“Dr. Ireland is a fully trained Emergency Room Doctor who trains EMS on situations just like this. She was instrumental in getting facilities open, maintaining calm in leadership by having a structured plan to open and close shelters, getting families the help they needed, and, when necessary, being the bad guy by telling shelter residents it was time to leave for their next destination. As a lawyer, when I wasn’t cooking, I advised leadership on their liability in the numerous facilities, best practices under good Samaritan laws, and how to proceed in a humane way while still accomplishing the mission. 

The Red Cross claims they were cut off by the storm. As a fraud lawyer, I’m not sure I’m inclined to believe them; however, that’s really not for us to decide. The truth is the young man from the Red Cross that was running the Bay Harbor Shelter, the only ‘Red Cross’ shelter in the area, was untrained, overwhelmed and completely unprepared. There were two other volunteers from the Red Cross that tried to step up, but they had little experience as well. Bay Harbor is a church, and through Blerk’s advice and strategies, they quickly took back control of their facility and flourished while serving the community. They did a great job.” 

Dr. Ireland explained her first-hand experience with the initial Red Cross response. “The initial Red Cross response was inadequate to the scale of the disaster and I cannot say exactly why that was. We know that the Bay Harbor United Methodist Church initially was told they would have 16 volunteers and only take in 100 evacuees. On day one of the disaster only 3 volunteers came to the shelter and the church took in over 700 evacuees. The Red Cross has been plagued with scandals in recent years regarding their handling of disasters and the ProPublica and NPR series on them from a few years ago may give more detail as to the problems with the institution. 

We had well over 50 volunteers between the 4 shelters I helped manage. Some people provided direct care, some donated medical equipment from their own practices and medical supplies.

The HEB in League City, before being flooded out, was able to get us medications free of charge from their pharmacy. I am indebted to them for all of their help.” 

Bitcoin To The Rescue 

Seibert disclosed to CoinIdol how difficult it was to get supplies during the crisis and what challenges the team faced after Blerk’s truck died. 

“Scrounging for supplies was tough at first, but the community response was amazing. We quickly figured out that there was no magic truck of food and supplies coming from the government or the Red Cross. A local grocer was still open. With the limited funds Blerk had (we just opened!) and with community volunteers, we rounded up ‘high profile’ vehicles and made a grocery run after grocery run and filled the refrigerated truck with as many supplies as we could, knowing we were going to have to hang on for at least five days. Also, members of the community made direct donations by purchasing thousands of dollars of food as well. Tookies Seafood and T-Bone Toms were great examples of that. 

As for Blerk’s truck, it was a true champion. It crossed many flooded roads and access ways to get medical supplies, food, and personnel to multiple needed destinations. After it suffered damage from debris, and water in the systems while making one last crossing, our ability to keep medical supplies and food moving was severely limited.” 

Seibert reveals to CoinIdol how Bitcoin played a major role in the solution. 

“We needed another truck. The supply of trucks in the Houston area after the flooding was pretty limited. I put out a call on social media for anyone that knew of an available truck. After calling around, we found the perfect vehicle, a diesel 4×4 chevy truck with a crew cab. It was 70 miles away on the north side of Houston and we were on the south side. After working with the dealer to secure the truck, I realized we didn’t have enough funds in the Blerk coffers to make it happen, I had to make another donation from my own funds. 

I contacted Rob Gonzalez in Dallas (registered FinCEN MSB), and asked him if he could liquidate my assets and wire transfer those funds to the dealer. Rob said, ‘No problem. Oh – wait… it’s after 3 pm on Friday and the banks won’t be open until Tuesday because of the holiday.’ Okay – we switched to cash. Rob worked with another FinCEN broker, Jesse Wilkinson, to get cash on the road and in the dealer’s hands in under four hours. I drove the truck off the lot that night – of course, I had to ride my motorcycle through an awkward route through Houston (flooding), and then load the bike in the back of the truck for the return trip to League City, but it all worked out. If I had to rely on a bank, we would have been shut down for the entire weekend. As a result, we were able to get over to Port Aransas and Rockport (ground zero) and deliver direct aid to the front lines in the form of monetary support and supplies.

Dr. Ireland continues, “Bitcoin has helped the relief efforts by allowing us to rapidly scale up as the disaster presented itself. We lost equipment during the hurricane and were not nimble enough to allow us to buy things late at night and during the weekend. Banking hours are fixed but a hurricane doesn’t care about that. Bitcoin is a 24-hour currency for a 24-hour disaster.” 

How Boots on the Ground, Cherch of Blerk, and Responsive Bitcoin in Crisis Mode Saved People 

Discussing the challenges of this flooding disaster, Seibert explains how each crisis is different and how innovation and personal effort are key as the government and Red Cross did not save them. Lessons learned will be used for future experiences such as another disastrous hurricane. 

“Each disaster is different. Each situation is different. That’s why boots on the ground and targeted efforts are so important. We’ve already been asked to try to find medical supplies and sleeping cots (of all things) in advance of Hurricane Irma.” 

As the Cherch of Blerk founder, Seibert reflects on what he has learned from their first disaster. “I formed the Cherch of Blerk, so I guess it makes sense that I’m the Executive Director. I’ve learned that if you are going to wait around for the government to save you, that’s a long wait for something that’s not going to happen.” 

The coordination success of Blerk’s efforts differs from other crises Seibert has been involved in. “It took folks a bit to get used to the idea that someone, where a shirt said “Cherch of Blerk” on it, was an expert on anything. After that barrier was gone, everyone got down to work.” Though the Cherch of Blerk is a registered religion, the word “Cherch” is spelled this way out of respect for more traditional faiths that use “church.” Blerk is at the core of how this religion is defined: BeLiEve in Random Kindness. 

Dr. Ireland also reflects on the inspiration of volunteering during this crisis and people helping each other during a momentous time of need. “I will never forget the enormity of this disaster. It is awe inspiring to see a helicopter, the national guard Humvees and giant dump trucks filled with people just trying to escape from the storm. I remember standing in the rain as a city dump truck arrived with the back loaded with people and pets soaked to the bone in the rain. People were handing us all their worldly possessions, their entire lives in trash bags, passing us their children just needing someone to shelter them from the storm. 

Without Bay Harbor Church, people would have died. It was able to withstand the flood and was the staging ground for food, warmth, and medicine. The volunteers’ generosity prevented the church leaders from getting overwhelmed and allowed them to continue working problems in real time to allow us to scale up to meet the needs of the disaster. Government is good at handling many parts of national disasters but in the beginning, it is volunteers and the community who puts itself in harms’ way to take care of each other.
As a result of this experience, Seibert respects the power of Bitcoin even more and realizes how it can benefit future charitable organizations and causes during times of crisis. 

“We didn’t fully use the power of Bitcoin in this disaster response. We only scratched the surface. We hope to get the token launched (which we delayed so we could focus on Harvey efforts) so we can get our software and services ramped up and out the door. We have so many great ideas based on the lessons learned from this and other disasters. 

But our uses are not limited to just the software side, we are using innovations in hardware as well. We are using lessons in high-density rack design, based on mining equipment, to recalculate power consumption to configure lithium batteries more efficiently to power field refrigerators for medical supplies. Yep – read that last sentence again. Just awesome. Bitcoin mining tech revolutionizes medical delivery. It’s awesome.” 

Hurricane Harvey

Value of the Human Spirit and Lessons Learned from Collective Collaborative Creativity 

CoinIdol asks Jason Seibert and Dr. Rhiana Ireland what lessons they learned from collaborating and operating during a real-time disaster such as Hurricane Harvey. 

“The biggest lesson I learned was that ‘ignorance is the demon.’ There was a time when I was really tired. I think I had been up for 3 days, we were slammed, nobody knew if or when the flooding would stop. I got word that a man on dialysis had been discharged from a hospital and was at the front of the shelter. The shelter had to turn him away and they had no idea where to send him. It was only a matter of time before he would die. 

We always had hot chicken and rice soup on the stove for anyone that walked in the door. I grabbed a bowl and a slice of bread, a few bottles of water and walked it up front myself. The man was frail and hunched over in his wheelchair. I placed the bowl in front of him and he looked up at me and smiled. I shook his hand. I walked back into the kitchen and went to the sink to wash my hands, but just shut down. I couldn’t move. ‘Did I just give that man his last meal?’ I was overwhelmed with the disaster and the tragedy. I started to sob. Bay Harbor is a Methodist Church, and its leader, Pastor Paul, saw me and asked me how I was doing. ‘I just need to reset,’ I said. He invited me to visit the Church’s sanctuary. I did. 

In that moment, I realized that I could not know or own what happens to every person that walks through the door. We can only serve those that are right in front of us the best we can, and then allow them to be served by the next. If we focus on the thought of ‘what will happen to that person next?’ we will never be able to help the person that is right in front of us. It took me a few minutes to resolve, reset, and get back in the game. 

As for human spirit, creativity, and inspiration, it thrived for four days as the community fixed its own issues. League City is in the phase called, ‘return to normal.’ That means that the disaster is over, recovery is nearly complete, and folks are getting back to their lives. But just a few miles away, there are houses still under water. We have a lot of work to do.” 

Dr. Ireland shares the lesson she learned by being a witness, volunteer, and Emergency doctor when people were in desperate need of help during a grand scale crisis. 

“The most important thing I realized from this was that people are the most important resource in a disaster. Some people truly rise to the occasion in stressful situations and those people become indispensable in an emergency.”

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China UnionPay Files Blockchain Patent to Connect ATM Network

China UnionPay Files Blockchain Patent to Connect ATM Network

China UnionPay, one of the major payment processors, has recently patent a new blockchain-based system for connecting a network of automated teller machines (ATM’s).

Last month State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China released a set of documents revealing a concept, under which ATMs are presented as nodes within a blockchain-powered network. All transactions are shared through a distributed database, which guarantees high level of security and operating time.

Regardless of using only limited amount of data coming from a single point of communication, which hardly seems to be reliable, the system is designed to maintain all transactional information in total security.

The explanation can be found in the patent application:

“According to the present invention, the server can synchronize all the information directly as the monitoring node, facilitate the aggregation of the transaction information, and perform the predetermined processing on the transaction information by using the asymmetric encryption algorithm, thereby ensuring the security of the transaction information.”

However, whether the leading payment card giant is going to apply the new blockchain patent system for commercial needs or not, still remains under question.

The patent for ATMs is not the first blockchain project developed by China UnionPay. In September 2016 the company presented a blockchain-based system for trading loyalty points between the customers, developed in cooperation with IBM. In the words of China UnionPay’s Electronic Payment Research Institute director He Shuo, blockchain technologies are a “breakthrough” in the electronic payment industry. Global credit card issuer Mastercard, which has recently filed its “Information Transaction Infrastructure” patent, and Bank of America with its three latest patent applications for DLT, seem to share He Shuo’s view.

The post China UnionPay Files Blockchain Patent to Connect ATM Network appeared first on CoinSpeaker.

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SmartContract.com, Used by SWIFT, Announces Technical Leaders as Advisors, Launches ChainLink to Connect Smart Contracts to Off-chain Data & Payments

SmartContract.com, Used by SWIFT, Announces Technical Leaders as Advisors, Launches ChainLink to Connect Smart Contracts to Off-chain Data & Payments

SmartContract.com, the secure blockchain middleware provider enabling smart contracts to securely connect with external data sources and off-chain payment methods, has today announced that three of the industry’s most respected figures, former RSA Chief Scientist Ari Juels, decentralized consensus expert Andrew Miller, and Ethereum Community Manager Hudson Jameson have joined its Board of Advisors. In a related announcement, SmartContract.com has unveiled plans for the release of the ChainLink Network and the token sale for its Ethereum blockchain-based token LINK.

SmartContract.com Founder and CEO Sergey Nazarov said: “SmartContract.com and the entire team building the ChainLink Network are proud to incorporate such intelligent thought leaders into our team. We are confident that Ari, Andrew, and Hudson will prove to be invaluable assets as the ChainLink Network is built into the preferred way to connect smart contracts to critical data, APIs and traditional bank to bank payments.”

Ari Juels was previously the Chief Scientist at RSA and is currently a distinguished professor of Computer Science at Cornell Tech’s Jacobs Institute, as well as a Co-Director of IC3, an initiative of faculty members at Cornell University, Cornell Tech, UC Berkeley, UIUC, and Technion. As the former Chief Scientist of RSA, an industry-leading provider of business-driven security solutions, he played a key role in making significant contributions to the field of cybersecurity. Beyond his many contributions to cybersecurity, Juels also produced world-changing contributions to decentralized infrastructure through work such as the Proof of Retrievability paper, which leading decentralized systems like Storj and Filecoin are heavily based on.

Andrew Miller is a well-known authority on decentralized consensus and the creation of highly secure decentralized systems, which has led him to advise a limited number of top-tier decentralized infrastructure initiatives such as Zcash, Tezos, and the ChainLink Network. In addition, Miller is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at the prestigious University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an Associate Director of IC3.

Hudson Jameson brings extensive experience in blockchain, digital currency, and finance to SmartContract.com’s Board of Advisors. Jameson serves as the Ethereum Community Manager and is a well-known authority on smart contracts and the Ethereum development roadmap.

In describing SmartContract.com, Hudson has said: “They have been working on this problem since before Ethereum was even a thing and I believe they have the most experience tackling this problem.”

Juels, Miller, and Jameson join blockchain industry leaders Jake Brukhman and Brian Lio on SmartContract.com’s Board of Advisors. Brukhman was previously the CTO at Triton Research, and also launched CoinFund, a blockchain technology research company and crypto-asset investment vehicle. In addition, he serves as the token sale advisor to leading projects like Kik’s Kin Token. Brian Lio is CEO of Smith+Crown, a widely accepted leader in blockchain research and analysis of both ongoing token sales and the larger evolution of decentralized technology.

The problem the ChainLink Network seeks to solve is that smart contracts are unable to access any off-chain resources like data feeds, APIs and/or bank payments. This is an inherent limitation in all smart contracts caused by the method in which consensus is reached around a blockchain’s transaction data.

The ChainLink Network will allow smart contracts to securely access the many off-chain resources they need to become truly useful for the majority of financial agreements. The LINK token will give developers the ability to easily pay each ChainLink Node Operator for the unique data, API, and/or off-chain payment capabilities they provide access to. The ChainLink Network provides a way to securely, quickly, and verifiably connect to external data sources, APIs, internal systems, and existing banking infrastructure.

SmartContract.com Founder and CEO Sergey Nazarov said: “The ChainLink Network is proud to offer a solution to the pressing connectivity problem between smart contracts and external data by creating a fully decentralized blockchain middleware that serves as a conduit between smart contracts, data feeds, APIs, bank payments and back office systems, while making it accessible to smart contracts that need these resources via our LINK token.”

Funds raised in the token sale will be distributed as follows: 35% will go to the node operators incentives fund to incentivize node operators to provide key data feeds, APIs, and off-chain payments to smart contracts, 35% will be sold in the public token sale, and 30% will go to the company for continued development.

SmartContract.com has already acquired industry leaders in financial technology as paying customers for its revolutionary blockchain middleware technology. SWIFT, the leading global provider of secure financial messaging services, is working with the company to create its own SWIFT Smart Oracle, which will allow smart contracts on various networks to make payments, send governance instructions, and release collateral with more than 11,000 banks. After completing a successful phase 1 implementation in May, the details of which are set to be announced at the upcoming SIBOS conference, SWIFT has continued to work with SmartContract.com towards a Phase 2 Implementation.

Gartner, one of the world’s largest technology research and advisory firms, has selected SmartContract.com as a 2017 Blockchain Applications Cool Vendor, validating the significant business value that CTOs, CIOs, and Lead Architects have seen in ChainLink’s secure approach to connecting smart contracts with critical external resources.

In addition, SmartContract.com has partnered with IC3 to launch Town Crier, the only method for generating trusted hardware backed (Intel SGX) oracles on production environment.

Sergey Nazarov said: “SmartContract.com is extremely excited by the immense potential created by these critical partnerships with industry leaders like SWIFT, Gartner, and IC3. This momentum validates that ChainLink is already providing value to industry leaders and solidifies our belief in the ability of the network to securely connect smart contracts to the key off-chain resources they need to become useful for the majority of real world use cases.”

About SmartContract.com:

SmartContract.com is creating the first fully decentralized oracle network (The ChainLink Network) that allows smart contracts to securely, quickly, and auditably connect to external data sources, APIs, internal systems, and the existing bank payments infrastructure.

The post SmartContract.com, Used by SWIFT, Announces Technical Leaders as Advisors, Launches ChainLink to Connect Smart Contracts to Off-chain Data & Payments appeared first on CoinSpeaker.

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The US Navy Wants to Connect Its 3-D Printers with a Blockchain

The US Navy Wants to Connect Its 3-D Printers with a Blockchain

The US Navy’s innovation arm has revealed plans to trial blockchain’s potential to bring added security to its manufacturing systems.

In an announcement released last week, the Navy said it will apply the technology to its processes for additive manufacturing – known more popularly as 3-D printing – in a bid to “securely share data throughout the manufacturing process” as it creates “critical” equipment for deployed forces.

Led by the Naval Innovation Advisory Council, the trial will use blockchain to create a data-sharing layer between the Navy’s 3-D various printing sites over the summer, with a report on its proof-of-concept effort due this autumn.

Lieutenant commander Jon McCarter wrote in a blog post last week:

“This summer the [Naval Innovation Advisory Council] will conduct a series of experiments (including a proof of concept) using blockchain technology to both securely share data between Additive Manufacturing sites, as well as help secure the digital thread of design and production.”

Calling the intersection of blockchain and 3-D printing “a perfect match”, McCarter wrote that identifying new avenues to share information between building sites “will form the foundation for future advanced manufacturing initiatives.”

This is the first publicly acknowledged use case for blockchain announced by the Navy, though the Department of Defense has explored other applications for the technology. Further, a former DoD official recently called on the US government to more actively support the tech in the fight against cyberthreats.

Navy jet image via Shutterstock


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Three Technical Requirements to Connect Blockchains Without a Token » Brave New Coin

Three Technical Requirements to Connect Blockchains Without a Token » Brave New Coin

In my last article, I was talking about how connecting all blockchains is the final stepping stone for mass-crypto adoption. Here I want to outline the technical building blocks with which this idea can be implemented. If you want to watch this as a 1hr video, here it is:

Since I see a lot of downsides to having one large uber-blockchain connecting all others, I will focus on a token-LESS solution. This would have several advantages:

  • No need for an additional token.

  • Users can “remain” on their blockchain.

  • No need to trust a centralized third party.

There are a couple of downsides to such an approach however. Since there is no uber-blockchain or a centralized party ensuring the connection, there needs to be enough liquidity between two blockchains to be connected. If I want to transfer funds from the Ethereum to the Bitcoin blockchain, for example, I need someone who, at the same time, wants to go from bitcoin to ether. For these two large blockchains, you will always find someone willing to go in either direction, but what about from Ethereum to a smaller blockchain or a small blockchain to another small blockchain? While I will be laying out a way on how that could even be solved, I want to stress that liquidity is the key economic factor in such a cryptographically secure multi-asset network.

Basic Building Blocks

Let’s look at the three very basic building blocks that are needed to connect any two blockchains:

  1. Multisignature feature (Multisig);

  2. Hashing functionality; and

  3. Time-lock functionality

Let’s work through each of these three and combine them into a larger single picture.

1. Multisig is an old and well-trusted concept that can be compared to a shared checkbook with multiple required signatories. A multisig transaction allows for the enforcement of arbitrary joint signature rules. In the case of a cryptographically secure, off-chain, multi-asset, instant transaction network (COMIT) one would use 2-of-2 multisig transactions for which both signers have to sign a transaction to become valid and be accepted by the network (an example of this will follow right after). This means a multisig transaction established between two parties needs to be signed by both so that its outcome becomes valid and can be accepted by the network.

In the picture below, a transaction was created with 1 BTC as input; however, in order to get it out, both parties (Alice and Bob) have to sign the transaction:

2. Hash functions are standard cryptographic concepts. These are one-way functions to convert arbitrary data (in our case a secret “s”) into a unique hash “h.” This hash h can then be shared safely without anyone being able to compute the secret s used to create it. This allows us to build a hash-lock transaction which will only unlock the funds with the knowledge of the secret s. In order to route across different blockchains, we need the same cryptographic hash function available in the smart contracting language of each blockchain participating on such a route.

In the picture below, someone put 1 BTC into a contract, but Alice can only take it out once she has the secret (which she normally would get from Bob).

Technicals 6

3. Time-lock is a simple requirement for funds to be locked up until a future date. Blockchains are found to have two different time-locks: relative and absolute. Absolute time-locks will lock a transaction output until a fixed point in time in the future, whereas relative time-locks will lock a transaction output relative to an event or a point in time. That is to say, a relative time-lock rather defines a time span than a specific point in time. Time-locks are a requirement for trustless payment channels, and relative time-locks are recommended as they allow for indefinitely open payment channels.

In the example below, someone put 1 BTC in, but in order for Alice to get it out, she has to wait a predefined time.

Technicals 7

Putting It Together

If we go ahead and combine these three building blocks, we get something called HTLCs (Hashed Time-Lock Contracts) whose states can be updated on a multisig basis.HTLCs combine the concept of a time-lock for refund purposes with a hash-lock. If the recipient can provide the secret s for the hash-lock before the expiry of the time-lock, he will be able to retrieve the funds. Otherwise, the sender can safely reclaim the funds. In case one party wants to update the HTLCs state, he needs the other party’s approval (signature). This is how the multisig function comes into play.

In the example below, Alice put 1 BTC into the contract with Bob. Bob can either take the 1 BTC out if he gets the hash from Alice within a predefined time, or Alice will get the funds back automatically after that predefined time has past.

Technicals 8

Two HTLCs can be coupled with each other resulting in something called atomic transactions. To do so, the recipient first generates a secret s and computes its hash h. Subsequently, the recipient will share this hash h with a sender who in turn creates the first conditional transaction, i.e., its output is (hash-)locked by h. This output can only be redeemed with the knowledge of the secret s.

In layman’s terms, this would mean that if Bob wants to send Alice 1 BTC and wants ETH in return, they could open two payment channels (one with BTC and the other with ETH) and couple them with a hash h. Bob sends Alice BTC as long as she sends him ETH. In case either one backs out, the original amounts would just be returned.

The Full Route

Now we can stack an arbitrary amount of transactions onto each other as every node in this chain can safely use the same hash to create a transaction which is also conditional on knowing the secret s. This hash is initially shared with the sender, who will then subsequently send a conditional payment to the first node requiring knowledge of the secret s to redeem it. Each node in the route can then safely forward the transaction while adding the same condition to the transaction redemption. Through the use of HTLCs we can guarantee that either all of the transactions via this route get fulfilled or all payment channel transactions will be unredeemable. No trust has to be put in any of the nodes in the middle of the route. In the end, you have a chain of transactions which all depend on the same secret to be fulfilled. When the receiver takes the last transaction and uses the secret to redeem the money, every other node will see the secret that was used and can then fulfill their own incoming transaction.

Technicals 5

After the secret s has been shared across the route, every payment channel will then settle the transaction back into the channel. This is done by updating the payment channel’s state to the final balances and then invalidating the HTLC transactions by revealing the invalidation key k to the payment channel counterparty, which will eventually make the transaction complete.

The time-lock mechanism is used as a refund mechanism in case of an intermittent routing failure. The time-locks need to be stacked from receiver to sender to make sure no one is able to cheat by having a shorter period than someone after him/her and thereby being able to pull out first.

Conclusion

These transactions can span within the same blockchain, but can also go cross-chain as long as you find someone who is willing to transact on both blockchains. This is where the concept of liquidity and routing comes in. To go back to the beginning where we thought about connecting two low-liquidity blockchains we see now, that we actually don’t necessarily transact between those two directly. By using stacked payment channels one after the other, money could flow from one low liquidity chain to a high liquidity chain and then to the final low liquidity chain.

This concept connects payment channels to a large network that is now:

  • Cryptographically-secure (relies on cryptographic standards),

  • Off-chain (like the Lightning- or Raiden-Network) ,

  • Multi-Asset (cross-chain),

  • Instant (no need for a transaction to settle on the blockchain as updates only happen between the parties until it gets broadcasted)

  • A Transaction Network

such as COMIT, an open source project that connects any blockchain without creating an extra token.

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Reddit Handles Connect With Wallet Addresses Via Ethereum

Reddit Handles Connect With Wallet Addresses Via Ethereum



Register.eth sets out to make sending Ether to an address linked via reddit possible.

An open source registration project would allow users to link Ethereum addresses to accounts on popular social media site reddit.

Shaun Schutte posted a Medium blog announcing Register.eth, which was incubated in the reddit community and collaborative site Ethlance.com. Part of the work was financed through donations and the rest was completed by volunteers.

According to Schutte, the simple interface provides “an infrastructure on which other services can build.”

“Instead of collecting new online identities each time, projects can pool their user profiles and tap into an ever growing database.”

The Register.eth service will eventually link Ethereum addresses to more than reddit, encompassing Twitter, email addresses, and any other social media accounts. Linking an address to a user-handle allows other users to reward those whom they see fit with virtual currency, bolstering meaningful participation. The registry is also designed to help build reputation relative to online identities in an era when quality information is increasingly difficult to discern.

Register.eth works with the Metamask plugin which runs on top of a Chrome browser. Once installed, users can create a password, choose the Ropsten Test Network, and acquire test Ether. After posting an Ethereum address on reddit, users must navigate to the testnet registration site and follow the instructions provided.

While the basic components of the Register.eth project continue to manifest, volunteers are needed to help with various tasks, including: reddit front end development; architectural review to prove extensibility and modularity; security review; community and startup engagement; user interphase design; and more social media integration across different platforms.

Schutte invites every Ethereum project that can find a use for the databases tojoin the Register.eth community effort on Gitter and increase the value of the service, together.” 

Jeremy Nation is a writer living in Los Angeles with interests in technology, human rights, and cuisine. He is a full time staff writer for ETHNews and holds value in Ether.

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His Quest to Connect Merchants and Bitcoin Users |

John Adair

John Adair

Talk to John Adair and you quickly realize that life is about stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. A former automotive technician and father of two, Adair’s life was forever changed in 2016 with the passing of his wife to cancer. Today, in addition to caring for his two daughters,  he’s championing a mobile tool called *thisApp with the hopes of boosting merchant acceptance of bitcoin in the U.S. and beyond.

Below is a brief interview with Adair as he briefly shares about his matriculation through the University of Hard Knocks, early evolution in the tech world and what sparked his desire to create thisApp.

Tell us a little about your early interest in the tech world

My first computer was a Commodore 64 and I have been doing programming on and off ever since. I went to Lawrence Tech University (LTU) in the early 90’s. At that time I heard about the encryption program PGP but never got too involved in cryptography. In fact, I got side tracked into engineering due to my math skills and the need for engineers in our local area.

What happened next?

I live in Michigan and like many Michiganders, my job was closely related to the automotive industry. So I went to work in the design and engineering of automotive conveyor systems. I’ve also dabbled in equity markets and for a time considered myself an options trader. Then, the 2008-2010 financial meltdown left me without a job for a protracted period of time. I decided that being in debt was my biggest mistake and that the market was rigged. So because my wife was working, I went back to LTU and completed my degree in Information Technology.

When did you discover bitcoin?

I heard about Bitcoin on CNBC in 2013 and quickly recognized the application of it would change the world. My wife pointed out, that the problem with Bitcoin was — and still is (IMO) — the lack of places to spend it. A term used quite often back then was “on-ramps and off-ramps” and the solution I created called thisApp eliminates both.

So when did you begin to pursue the creation of it?

I originally came up with the *thisApp concept back in June of 2014 and created the first video. From there, I found my first developer Leo Wandersleb who now works with Mycelium, and then another lead developer Mohammad Rafigh.

How long did it take you to launch it?

Well, the development of it slowed substantially when my wife was diagnosed with cancer. She eventually succumbed to the disease in early 2016, leaving me with a 3 and 5-year old. To say the least, I learned a lot about things which I never wanted to learn about: How vulnerable life is. How ridiculous the fees are associated with fund-raising for good causes. And how cancer research funding is so screwed up (and rigged). I am hoping that thisApp forms a solid platform to solve some of these problems.

And how did you come up with the name *thisApp?

In computer programming there are reserved words and ” this ” is one of them. If there is an asterisk before ” this “, it means that it is a pointer. So *thisApp is a pointer to Bitcoin, or any blockchain technology, or even to the idea that the community will come up with ideas to solve problems. If you see *thisApp without the asterisk, then it is a reference to our particular implementation. If I start a sentence with *thisApp though, I like to add the asterisk instead of capitalizing the first letter.

What exactly is thisApp?

*thisApp works like an old school gift certificate but rather than a piece of paper being used as the token to redeem, it allows users to take advantage of digital tokens known as bitcoin credits to make purchases at local merchants. This video best explains how it all works:

So it makes use of a digital gift certificate of sorts?

Correct! Gift certificates are commonplace, everyone knows what they are and how they work. One difference between a gift certificate and a certificate used by *thisApp involves a token being used to redeem the product or service. And all through the use of the bitcoin blockchain which is significantly better ledger than a piece of paper or excel spreadsheet that the merchant might maintain

It appears that merchant adoption is key to making all of this work

Absolutely! In my opinion, there are three reasons why merchant is hesitant to accept bitcoin. One, they are really unaware of how many bitcoiners there are. Secondly,  merchant’s don’t want to deal with the volatility of holding onto bitcoin. In other words, they want to accept bitcoin but risk-free. And thirdly merchant’s don’t want the headache of implementation. Most small businesses, unfortunately, have few resources for IT deployment.

So what sort of benefits can a merchant accrue by accepting bitcoin?

The primary benefit of a merchant in accepting bitcoin is in reducing their credit card fees, therefore, increasing profit margin. A secondary benefit for a merchant in accepting bitcoin through *thisApp is that they can incentivize user’s to frequent their establishment on a more regular basis.

What’s your gameplan for getting more merchants interested in it?

For me personally, bitcoin becomes much more valuable when I go and get all my favorite places to start accepting bitcoin. *thisApp is a decentralized solution to both acquiring bitcoin and accepting bitcoin whereas the payment processors are centralized on-ramps and off-ramps. As I get merchant’s accepting crypto, and so do other users of *thisApp all over the world, we could see rampant merchant adoption in the next 12 to 18 months. *thisApp currently supports roughly 160 fiat currencies and only bitcoin.

And bitcoin enthusiasts?

The benefit to a bitcoiner depends.  If you’re a 5th grader, then you’ll benefit because you can get bitcoin with *thisApp rather than having to persuade your parents to set up an account with a payment processor or meet a stranger off the street through localbitcoins. If you’re older, then maybe the previous two issues are not a concern. But by using *thisApp, everyone is promoting the idea that bitcoin and the acquisition of it is supposed to be decentralized.

What’s your long-term vision for *thisApp?

Many say bitcoin is not backed by anything. This is true. But, if people want to see merchant adoption at their favorite stores, then they will need to provide a risk-free environment for the merchants to become familiar with conducting bitcoin transactions. Until then, expect merchant adoption to remain lackluster.

What are you learning during your ongoing development process involving *thisApp?

The last week of March 2017, we had a booth at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas to promote Bitcoin Pizza Day (i.e., May 22nd) and launched thisApp into open beta. About 70% of people had never heard of bitcoin but most were very interested, especially in cutting out credit card fees.

One of the biggest concerns of pizzeria owners was that they believe few people where they live have bitcoin to spend. This is because, over the last few years, most bitcoin enthusiasts have stopped attempting to get brick and mortar businesses to start accepting bitcoin. I hope that bitcoiners will take a look at *thisApp and then start encouraging pizzerias and other merchants to begin accepting bitcoin while educating them on how Bitcoin works.

Any final thoughts?

Let me says this. Of the 30 percent of people who had already heard of bitcoin at Pizza Day, most of them loved *thisApp.  We even got high-fives from some, but of course, there was one hater. That’s just part of the journey.

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Posted by Bitcoinist in News