Blockchain has been touted as a solution for problems ranging from curing cancer to legitimizing the black market in the US Prison System. While some use cases are definitely more tenuous than others, there is currently a lot of faith in blockchain climate change solutions. But is it justified?

The Climate Change Problem Is Getting Worse

In October last year, the UN issued its starkest warning on climate change yet. We have only twelve years left to restrict global warming to a maximum of 1.5 C (2.7 F) compared to pre-industrial levels. Even half a degree beyond this will bring far worse risks of extreme heat, drought, and floods. Furthermore, the damage caused by climate change is expected to displace more than 143 million people over the next three decades, who will be forced to flee their homes to escape climate-related issues.

The Paris Agreement on climate change aims to limit the increase to less than 2 C. Therefore, achieving the 1.5 C rise is at the ambitious end of the existing commitment. The Paris Agreement requires each country to define its own contributions to the efforts to restrict climate change. The contribution of each country is called a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). Each nation must ensure its targets become progressively more ambitious over time.

It’s important to note that the Paris Agreement has no legal enforceability and each country participates through consensus. If countries start to leave, the agreement could fall apart and leave the world with no solution to the problem of increasing global temperatures.

Can Blockchain Help?

Measurement and tracking are the core challenges in tackling climate change. This doesn’t just apply at the macro level necessary to verifying how nations are progressing in their efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Business and people also have to participate. In the words of management expert Peter Drucker: “What gets measured, gets managed.”

Blockchain provides a means of establishing a single point of truth between entities through the application of consensus methods. Real-world assets can become tokenized on the blockchain, including carbon credits or green energy. These assets are tradable, creating value and incentivizing climate change efforts within nations and enterprises.

In January 2018, the United Nations announced the formation of the Climate Chain Coalition. The announcement outlined the mission of the group in “advancing collaboration among members working on issues of common interest, and to help enhance the environmental integrity and results of DLT applications for climate.” The coalition now has more than one hundred members, including NGOs, consulting firms, and various blockchain companies and associations.

Blockchain Climate Change Groups

Given the UN efforts, it seems inevitable that blockchain has a role to play in the future of managing climate change. However, the UN initiative isn’t the only one. Several other blockchain climate change groups and projects are working to further the effort. Here are just a few.

Blockchain Climate Institute

The Blockchain Climate Institute is an international, non-profit, volunteer-led entity. It acts as a think-tank as well as an advocacy group for blockchain climate change initiatives. The mission statement of the Institute is “to raise awareness among the international climate change policy community of the tremendous potential of Blockchain technology to considerably enhance climate actions.”

It aims to achieve this mission in three areas:

  • Addressing climate finance flows, namely helping to fill the funding gap between investment needed for climate change and the amount that countries have already committed to paying under the Paris agreement
  • Increasing transparency in climate funding
  • Helping developing countries access climate financing

 

Climate Change

There’s an impressive line-up of experts from the climate change and blockchain sectors sitting on the Institute’s advisory board. They include the former Director of Climate Change from the World Bank and a former MD of the Canadian Blockchain Research Institute (the professional body co-founded by Don and Alex Tapscott).

Blockchain for Climate Foundation

The Blockchain for Climate Foundation has a single, clear goal: put the Paris Agreement on the blockchain. It’s an ambitious project, involving each country joining a single blockchain ledger and transparently recording their own investments and contributions to climate change. If it’s pulled off, it will be an all-encompassing near-global blockchain climate change record.

Obviously, such a global ledger would be a powerful tool in measuring and managing the impact of climate-related initiatives. However, it would also represent an impressive demonstration of the potential for blockchain technology used internationally for good.

 

Climate Change

The Blockchain for Climate Foundation is based in Canada. As such, it’s starting with putting the Canadian National Carbon Account on the blockchain. This will work as a proof of concept, demonstrating to other countries what’s possible with blockchain climate change tools. The Foundation is also convening a working group of government representatives to help guide and develop the tool.

Climate Ledger Initiative

The Climate Ledger Initiative is another group dedicated to the research and development of blockchain climate change solutions. It’s stated mission is “to accelerate climate action in line with the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through blockchain-based innovation applicable to climate change mitigation, adaptation, and finance.”

CleanTech21, a sustainable development foundation based in Zurich, is behind the Initiative. The Governments of Switzerland and Liechtenstein both provide funding to the Climate Ledger Initiative.

In December last year, the Initiative published a comprehensive paper detailing various ways in which blockchain climate change initiatives could help further the cause. These included using blockchain in carbon pricing and taxation as well as token-based crowdfunding for climate change initiatives. Another example is blockchain in renewable energy development.

Conclusion

Like the technology itself, blockchain climate change initiatives are still very much in their infancy. The fact that there is a multitude of research-based groups and think-tanks is reflective of this. At this early stage, many of them are working separately but towards the same goals.

As blockchain matures, and governments and enterprises gain trust in the new technology, it’s likely that many of these disparate groups will consolidate into broader and more powerful initiatives. When that happens, we will see the true potential of the impact of blockchain in reversing climate change.


This article by Sarah Rothrie was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Sarah ran away from a corporate job so she could travel the world. After doing that, she found herself a much-loved new career as a freelance blockchain technology writer. She is now a full-time digital nomad, who travels the world while working on her laptop. In addition to writing and researching, she also runs her own websites – find out more at sarahrothrie.com. You can usually locate her somewhere near the food.

Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

Have you ever thought about how blockchain could affect the diamond industry? Probably not, right? But now blockchain technology could improve how we track diamonds, from the mine to the jewelry store.

But there’s an issue with diamonds. As with any popular industry, the diamond market isn’t exactly squeaky clean. Some diamonds, known as conflict diamonds, are illegally traded to fund wars abroad. You may not know this due to the high demand for diamonds. Almost 50 percent of the demand for diamonds come from the US — and it isn’t a surprise. After all, it is the go-to jewel of engagements and weddings. And because of its hardiness, diamond is ideal for industrial use.

That said, mining for diamonds can be a violent affair. The 2006 hit Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, introduced the travesties related to diamond mining in Africa to the world’s stage.

Regardless, stakeholders in the diamonds industry rightfully want to stop the trade of conflict diamonds, and blockchain might be the solution.

What Is a Conflict Diamond?

For those who don’t know, a conflict diamond is an uncut diamond that is mined in an armed conflict zone. The diamond is then traded, and the funds are used to finance the fighting. These blood diamonds are usually associated with conflicts in central and western Africa.

According to CNN, about 4 percent of the world’s diamond population came from Sierra Leone during its civil war (1991-2002). And that’s from just one country! In an article by CBS, experts suggested that blood diamonds could make up 15 percent of the diamond trade.

Despite these statistics, there are measures in place that attempt to smother the illegal industry. The primary actor is the Kimberley Process. This certification scheme connects local governments and international organizations to solve the problem. Their solution: Ensure every shipment of diamonds from these areas has certification.

Does It Work?

The Kimberly Process says it does and claims a 99.8 percent success rate.

But with so many intermediaries, and so many steps between mining and selling the diamonds, fraud is still highly probable. Many believe the process could be more effective, including the diamond giant De Beers.

The Diamond Blockchain

The De Beers Group, which owns over 30 percent of the diamond market, has recently announced its intent to pursue blockchain tech. That’s right. One of the industry leaders wants to utilize the blockchain to curb conflict diamonds.

From what we knew about blockchain, it should work. Cataloging diamonds on the blockchain will create transparency. Only a select few will have access to the ledger, in order to ensure that each individual in the process does their job correctly. You no longer need to trust governments, the mines, the shipment team. If the diamond is certified on the blockchain, it’s legit.

De Beers plans to track the diamonds from initial mining to final sale. That way, you can trace every move of the diamonds on the digital ledger.

Their blockchain venture, Tracr, launched in January 2018. Despite being founded by De Beers, the company stresses that it has no access to the data unless it’s shared by the data owner. Using the Kimberly Process as a guide, they’ve invested with diamond offices, producers, graders, retailers, and other stakeholders to make the project a reality.

 

But they aren’t the only ones using blockchain to kill conflict diamonds.

In 2015, Everledger was used to securely track diamonds. It came back in 2017 with a new Diamond Time-Lapse plan (DDLP). This new initiative tracks the whole process, from mining to certification, in real time.

But Everledger isn’t completely unrelated to De Beers, either. This tech was built by Dharmanandan Diamonds, a trust of the DDPL and a sight holder of De Beers. In other words, the creators of Everledger are authorized purchasers of rough diamonds by De Beers.

Is De Beers the Solution?

IBM joined the diamond-tracking trade in April of 2018, partnering with various jewelry firms, and they weren’t alone. In fact, a Canadian NGO, Impact, left the Kimberly Process altogether, citing that the De Beers solution was unsatisfactory.

If this is true, there could be more room for blockchain tech development in the diamond industry.

Summary

Saying conflict diamonds are an issue is an understatement. The funds from these illicitly traded gems are funding violence and terror. Blockchain offers a stunning solution.

So far, we’ve seen industry leaders accept the new tech with open arms, but there’s still room for the technology to grow, and the process can still evolve.

But one thing is certain: These initiatives are making us think about how we can prevent the trade of blood diamonds and pave the way to peace.


This article by Kelsey Ray was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Kelsey Ray Banerjee is a professional content writer and digital marketer specializing in blockchain, forex trading, and sustainability. When not writing, you can find her traveling, reading, or on Twitter.

When we think about industries set for disruption by blockchain, construction probably isn’t top of the list. After all, the traditional image of a building site seems far removed from crypto, coding, and hackathons. But there are potentially enormous benefits for putting blockchain and construction together.

This article will round up some of the possible use cases for blockchain in the construction industry.

Blockchain and Construction Supply Chains

A bad workman blames his tools, right? Maybe that’s a bit harsh, though. After all, the construction industry is dependent on the availability of quality supplies and tools, at the right time and in the right place. Given that the sector is highly fragmented with many different players, big and small, supply chains are a big deal.

Tools for Building

Purchase orders, delivery notes, and invoices are often still paper-based. Firms frequently don’t know if the supplies they need are in stock when they start a project, which leads to delays and incurs costs.

These aren’t even the worst consequences. UK government contract Carillion collapsed at the start of 2018, affecting the jobs of around 43,000 people as a result. Sources pointed to its poor supply chain management as being a critical factor in the collapse, through lousy credit management and a lack of visibility over projects and required supplies.

The blockchain is already proving its ability to transform supply chains, in one instance through the partnership between Walmart and IBM. Using blockchain to manage construction supply chains could create a single source of truth regarding the availability and provenance of construction supplies, as well as tracking payments.

The industry is taking notice of this use case for blockchain and construction. Recent announcements have now confirmed that Probuild, one of Australia’s largest building firms, has partnered with US blockchain construction innovator Brickschain for managing its global supply chain. The announcement confirms that “Probuild has the vision that Blockchain, IoT and Big Data can revolutionize the construction supply chain.”

The Brickchain Homepage

Blockchain and Construction Project Management

Construction projects rely on various parties to work together to complete a building based on pre-defined specifications. Each party expects payment based on work done. Therefore, the peer-to-peer connectivity of blockchain, combined with smart contract functionality, brings excellent opportunities to streamline construction project management.

One study into the potential of blockchain in construction project management found that “[o]n the construction site blockchain can improve the reliability and trustworthiness of construction logbooks, works performed and material quantities recorded.”

Industry publication Construction Manager (they don’t mess around with fluffy, ambiguous names in this business) also reported on the development of two prototype applications combining blockchain and construction.

TraderTransferTrust is a payment system built on blockchain that triggers payment only on the completion of work done. Physical proof of work, if you will. ConstructCoin is another project from the same development team. It aims to create a marketplace of information about the construction industry.

Reduce Litigation

The Construction Blockchain Consortium (CBC) is an industry group set up by its members to investigate the potential for how blockchain and construction could play together. While the above use cases are transformational, the CBC outlines some cultural shifts that may occur in the industry as a result of using blockchain.

The building industry has become highly litigious. The CBC highlights how using blockchain to foster a culture of collaboration and ownership could help to reduce incidences of parties suing one another for shoddy work or delays in project completion. Further, the consortium believes that a less litigious environment “should encourage a less ‘defensive’ approach to decision making and thereby encourage innovation.”

Digitized Land Acquisition and Building Rights

In their paper about the future of smart cities, McKinsey points to the current bureaucracy involved in land acquisition and building rights as a barrier to agile construction. The paper goes on to explain how digitized solutions will speed up the process of obtaining land and building approvals.

Blockchain-based land registries provide a vast improvement over today’s paper-laden processes. Blockchain allows for speedier approvals with no loss of paperwork or waiting for multi-party signatures on physical documents.

Additionally, in countries, land disputes are all too common. A permanent, unalterable record of ownership has distinct advantages in proving ownership. India is among the countries that have been trialing the use of blockchain in land registrations.

Building Inspections

Most buildings are subject to inspections at some point or another. Structures used by the public need checks to ensure adherence to safety standards. Building surveys often feature in sales of real estate, as they reveal any structural faults that may impact the valuation.

These inspections are often conducted in a fragmented way. An inspector or surveyor may have limited or no visibility of records from previous checks. This makes the process heavily dependent on the specific inspector, and errors or oversights may happen.

Building Inspection

Blockchain offers the opportunity for a piece of real estate to come with its own permanent record of past inspections. Blockchain data is immune to tampering by any party who may have an interest in ensuring structure passes muster. Similarly, blockchain could also record any structural or maintenance work undertaken on the property over its life cycle.

More Agile Planning

Currently, there is a lengthy process to procure public funds for investment in infrastructure. Governments must justify the need to spend taxpayer funds on a particular initiative. This means that new infrastructure investment can take months or even years to come to fruition.

As we move towards the smart cities of the future, increased connectivity and availability of information could significantly speed approvals for new infrastructure investment. For example, a government body may quickly build a case showing increased traffic flows in a particular area, using sensor data from a blockchain. This enables faster construction investment in road improvements, traffic calming measures or other means.

Hong Kong

Final Word

Blockchain and construction may seem unlikely partners at first. However, like so many other sectors, construction depends on trust-based interactions with other parties along with solid record keeping. Therefore, assuming the industry can adapt, blockchain could provide significant value to the builders of the future.


This article by Sarah Rothrie was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Sarah ran away from a corporate job so she could travel the world. After doing that, she found herself a much-loved new career as a freelance blockchain technology writer. She is now a full-time digital nomad, who travels the world while working on her laptop. In addition to writing and researching, she also runs her own websites – find out more at sarahrothrie.com. You can usually locate her somewhere near the food.

All public blockchains make use of blockchain confirmations. These are important since they can help you understand how confident you can be when making a transaction. When any transaction is first broadcast to the blockchain it starts with zero confirmations. This number then increases as the information is added to the first block, confirmed, given a permanent place, and followed by more blocks.

Blockchain confirmations are vital since they are a way of verifying and legitimizing information that will then become immutable. If a transaction is deemed fraudulent, it will be rejected from the blockchain: zero blockchain confirmations means zero transactions.

On average, cryptocurrency exchanges require a minimum of three confirmations until a transaction is accepted. Coinbase, for example, does not consider a Bitcoin transaction as final until it has received at least three confirmations.

However, the larger the transaction, the more blockchain confirmations are required. This is because the more confirmations there are, the harder the transaction is to reverse. For a transaction of $1 million, it’s not uncommon to wait for at least 60 confirmations. The amount of blockchain confirmations required to verify a transaction varies by blockchain. Let’s take a look at Bitcoin and Ethereum here.

Bitcoin Confirmations

You probably already know that Bitcoin’s blockchain creates a new block about every 10 minutes through the mining process. This block then verifies and records new transactions and appends them to the Bitcoin blockchain. This means that a transaction is unconfirmed until the new block is generated. Therefore, if you’re sending or receiving Bitcoin, it’s essential to wait until you see that the transaction has been confirmed.

One confirmation usually takes up to 10 minutes. But, since one confirmation is not enough to be confident about the validity of the transaction, users have to wait for each new block to be created and verify the information. Depending on the amount being sent, this may take anywhere between 30 to 600 minutes. Ten hours is a long time to wait for a transaction confirmation!

Some Bitcoin services are instant and require only the first confirmation, however, the majority ask for more, with some companies requiring at least six Bitcoin blockchain confirmations before accepting the transaction.

Bitcoin Confirmations

What Is the Bitcoin Mempool?

The Bitcoin mempool is the sea of unconfirmed Bitcoin transactions on the Bitcoin network. As explained above, once a transaction is uploaded to the blockchain, it is not confirmed immediately but is released into the mempool of transactions, which are considered in-motion.

All nodes on the Bitcoin network are connected to the mempool, and that includes the miners who collate transactions from the mempool into a block. The miner who first solves the mathematical equation and adds the block to the blockchain is the first to confirm the block. Therefore, the first to receive the miner reward of 12.5 BTC.

This is fairly straightforward, however, some transactions are picked out of the mempool faster than others. Why? Because miners also earn a bonus percentage of transaction fees (called the Bitcoin mining fee).

Miners will pick out the transactions with the higher fees first to earn a higher bonus. It also explains why not paying transaction fees can lead to your transaction getting stuck. In fact, as more people join the Bitcoin network, this bottleneck is one of the greatest challenges to the Bitcoin community.

How to Speed Up Blockchain Confirmation Times

The higher the fee you pay, the more likely your transaction will be confirmed in a timely manner (there is a 60 percent chance that it will take 10 minutes or less). However, if your transaction remains unconfirmed, the recommended wait time is 72 hours before sending it again.

If you want to avoid paying fees, however, you can check to see how many unconfirmed transactions there are at a given moment and calculate how long it will take.

Ethereum Blockchain Confirmations

When it comes to Ethereum blockchain confirmations, the agreed-upon number seems to be undecided. According to the Ethereum white paper, 7 confirmations should be enough to confirm the transaction (about 2 minutes).

However, Ethereum miners must check the parameters of the last 250 blocks. So, if you want to err on the side of caution like the miners, you should wait for 250 confirmations. This sounds like a lot, but in practice is only about an hour.

Stack Exchange

Coinbase requires 50 ethereum confirmations before considering a transaction complete. It should also be noted that the Ethereum blockchain faces significant scalability issues as well. Ethereum is working to scale quickly to take on more users, and through Proof of Stake, confirmations should be even quicker.

Etherscan and Ether Gas

Ethereum doesn’t have a mempool for pending transactions; it’s simply called the transaction pool. The pool contains all the transactions submitted that haven’t yet been assigned to a block.

There are multiple methods for speeding up your transaction and deciding on the best gas price when sending your Ethereum transaction. You can try ETH Gas Station to see an overview of gas usage, and you can see how many transactions are pending by using Etherscan.

ETH Gas Station

Etherscan is particularly popular since you can order transactions by gas price (simply click on the GasPrice column). You’ll then see more or less the same list that miners see and, if you select a gas price that is within the first couple of pages, you should enjoy short confirmation times.

The Takeaway

Blockchain confirmations are essential for securing your transactions. The best way of ensuring a faster confirmation is by paying a higher fee. As all blockchains begin scaling up to prepare for even more users, it will be interesting to see how that affects the prices we pay and the times we wait.


This article by Christina Comben was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Christina is a B2B writer and MBA, specializing in fintech, cybersecurity, blockchain, and other geeky areas. When she’s not at her computer, you’ll find her surfing, traveling, or relaxing with a glass of wine.

Many enthusiasts immediately think of Switzerland when looking into crypto friendly locations. The tiny island nation of Singapore, however, is making its own moves up the ranks. Such an official ranking system doesn’t actually exist of course, but that hasn’t stopped several opinion lists from appearing online in recent months. Expect “blockchain Singapore” to be two words you hear more often as the country looks to make its mark as a leader in the cryptocurrency field.

Cryptocurrency Startup Culture

Despite its size, Singapore is well respected in many areas for its progressive values. It ranks particularly high in the fields of banking and technology. But perhaps more importantly, it has remained open to new ways of doing things.

In an area where other large economies like the US and China have fallen behind, due mainly to over-regulation, it’s no surprise then that a large number of blockchain startups are making their home here in the Asian south.

Exit Stage Right

While the US has not gone so far as to remove cryptocurrency investment outright, China took that step late last year by banning initial coin offerings (ICOs). According to leaders in Beijing, ICOs are now defined as illegal fundraising tools because of the increase in cryptocurrency fraud. To illustrate this, a recent study by ICO advisory firm Satis Group concluded that as much as 80 percent of all ICO’s in 2017 could be identified as scams.

Now whether or not that number is accurate is anybody’s guess. The industry is so young that it’s wise to take any research with a grain of salt. But one thing is for sure, a clear trend is emerging. The number of blockchain startups moving to crypto friendly locations is on the rise. Both Hong Kong and Singapore have already absorbed many startup relocations and more are likely on the way.

Due to its proximity to the mainland, similarities in culture, and more importantly open-mindedness to change, Singapore will remain a hot spot for digital currency talent. Some of the most well-known names in blockchain now call Singapore their home and include the likes of TenXQtumKyber NetworkWanchain, and Zilliqa to name a few.

The Circuit

Popular industry TV shows like CNBC’s Crypto Trader are developing quite the reputation for traveling the world and meeting local blockchain talent. As the number of conferences continues to grow, media coverage is further cementing Singapore’s reputation as a global player.

Blockchain Summit Singapore is hailed as the largest blockchain event in Asia. The conference concluded not too long ago (August 2018) and will be a yearly event. It brings together over 700 entrepreneurs, investors, industry leaders, programmers, and technology innovators into an intensive one day summit.

In addition, the incredibly successful annual Consensus event by Coindesk now has an Asian branch. And, you guessed it, Singapore will be its host. The cryptocurrency circuit remains an effective drawcard as new and established projects look to collaborate and pitch ideas to investors around the world.

Project Ubin

ICOs are clearly bringing a new class of investor into the startup funding game. And while Singapore is establishing itself as a corporate honeypot for this technology, don’t bet on the authorities taking a back seat.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore has every intention of getting involved. In 2016 the World Economic Forum published a report that predicted that up to 80 percent of banks would develop some kind of distributed ledger technology (DLT) in the following years.

DLT

 

DLT is a controversial topic since the banking sector has been quick to dismiss Bitcoin but embrace the so-called underlying ledger technology. Project Ubin is the government-led initiative to bring DLT to Singapore’s national currency. The central bank is partnering with three different technology providers to develop a delivery versus payment (DvP) platform. Its main goal is to create a token form of the Singaporean Dollar (SGD).

A Singapore digital currency won’t be a surprise to many readers though. There is already a push worldwide for cashless societies. Countries like Sweden are already heavily invested in this idea to the point that many businesses simply refuse to accept cash payments. Ubin might just be the project that brings that reality home for the city-state.

Authorities and corporations worldwide are promoting the idea of DLT in business practices. But where does the consumer stand in all of this? Skeptics will have their debating hats on though as many in the cryptocurrency community question just how distributed these projects really are.

Blockchain Singapore

The race is on. A whole new way of doing finance is upon us, and cities are scrambling to be the leaders in this emerging field. Which location will be the capital of blockchain technology? Switzerland? Singapore? Malta? If the boom of the tech companies of the early 2000’s is anything to go by, the early players will almost certainly have a major advantage.

It may be interesting to play devil’s advocate and question whether cities will indeed play such an important role in the future. We already have many talented companies with teams scattered across all four corners of the globe. Both the internet and Bitcoin have pioneered this idea of decentralization, and that concept is making its way into other areas of our lives. It’s not too far-fetched to imagine a programmer coming up with a groundbreaking solution from somewhere remote like Greenland.

While that kind of scenario is exciting, it’s not what we are currently seeing. For now, at least, hubs like Singapore will continue to attract investment, entrepreneurs, and dreamers wanting to make a name for themselves in the most exciting field around.


This article by Ryan Smith was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Ryan is a web developer, writer, and cryptocurrency trader who hails from sunny South Africa. He eats, breathes and lives crypto. He has experience trading in the foreign exchange markets and is always trying to understand the bigger economic picture. When not meticulously looking over charts he can be found planning his next road trip or running around a 5-a-side soccer field.

In this article, we look at the World Bank blockchain initiative and the rising popularity of blockchain bonds. Even though this is a relatively new concept, banks and governments of all sizes are beginning to issue blockchain-based bonds and minibonds. Let’s examine these use cases and try to understand how these changes might impact the future of government fundraising.

Why Blockchain Bonds?

The first general government bonds were issued in the Netherlands in 1517. Since that time, this form of fundraising has played an integral role in public sector fundraising around the world. Traditional government bonds have served as a link between governments and citizens. Bonds of the past have usually been denominated in a given country’s own fiat currency. This, however, has already begun to change with the advent of blockchain bonds.

There are a number of reasons governments at all levels might want to use blockchain bonds over traditional bonds. For instance, utilizing blockchains can eliminate the need for third-party firms and financial institutions. In other words, blockchain technology has the potential to directly connect issuers (governments) and recipients (citizens). Now, let’s examine some relevant case studies.

World Bank Blockchain Bonds

In August 2018, The World Bank announced its plans to launch the world’s first blockchain bond. However, cryptocurrency will not be used as a form of payment. This is likely due to the fact that there isn’t a widely adopted, government-issued digital currency yet in existence.

Unfortunately, most of these options are regarded as Ponzi schemes. Therefore, fiat currency will be used. On August 10, 2018, the World Bank designated the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) as the sole arranger for a two-year bond. The organization aims to raise 50 million $AUD (the equivalent of $36 million).

Paul Snaith, manager of the World Bank’s Treasury Operations Capital Markets, has said that the institution is partnering with Microsoft in order to meet the technical demands necessary to create their software and platform. While World Bank blockchain bonds offer a promising step forward for investors, it’s important to note that anyone who purchases a bond will still follow the traditional path.

For instance, each individual purchaser still has to go through an official registration process. In addition, all cash will be transmitted separately from the blockchain through normal bond channels.

World Bank Blockchain

BNP Paribas Minibonds

The World Bank blockchain effort to become the first global issuer of blockchain bonds is quite an accomplishment, but it isn’t the only large financial institution working on such an initiative. BNP Paribas, France’s largest bank and the 8th largest bank in the world, also has a similar program in the works. In 2016, this bank started building and testing a blockchain platform to allow private companies to issue minibonds.

BNP Paribas Securities Services, the bank’s custody arm, is actively developing a solution that can maintain records of all minibond issuances as well as ownership changes. The bank also partnered with three French companies to further its eventual goal of real-world implementation. These included two renewable energy companies as well as an investment platform called SmartAngels, which worked on creating the first pilot platform.

According to a February 2018 article, Johann Palychata, head of blockchain at BNP Paribas Securities Services’ digital transformation department, said that more improvements are needed to integrate blockchain with existing market practices and stakeholders. Palychata also cited the need for regulatory changes to make widespread adoption a reality.

There haven’t been many updates regarding the possibility of BNP Paribas’ real-world implementation of blockchain minibonds. Nonetheless, BNP Paribas is also bringing blockchain innovation to other areas of finance like asset management. In January 2018, BNP Paribas Asset Management announced that it had utilized BNP Paribas Securities Services’ blockchain technology to conduct the successful trial of blockchain-based fund distribution in Luxembourg.

BNP Paribas Blockchain Bonds

Berkeley, California: First Blockchain Bond Municipality?

When it comes to bond issuance, most people likely first think of either international institutions like The World Bank or large banks like BNP Paribas. But local governments also have the authority and ability to issue bonds. Now, local and state governments across the globe are starting to implement a variety of blockchain solutions.

In May 2018, the city council of Berkeley, California voted to move forward on a project that would make it the first municipality to offer blockchain bonds. What makes this initiative interesting is the fact that it would lower the investment threshold for all investors. Typically, the minimum investment for municipal bonds is $5,000. In contrast, Berkeley’s program would allow people to buy bonds for much smaller amounts (i.e. $10 or $25) to support community projects.

This concept is similar to how cryptocurrency projects have reduced or even eliminated the minimum amount of funds required to participate in ICOs. Additionally, the city plans to issue the bonds in dollars. There is also the possibility that the city could create its own token, offering citizens two currency options.

Berkeley’s Vice Mayor Ben Bartlett told Bloomberg that circumventing Wall Street is one of the city’s motivating factors. If this initiative is successful, it could set a model where governments are no longer dependent on the services offered by traditional debt capital markets. For the city of Berkely, some possible initiatives include a muni-bond backed ICO for affordable housing. The city has already partnered up with a tech startup called Neighborly to make this vision a reality.

Berkeley University

Trends and Takeaways

Blockchain bonds and minibonds can change the future of bond financing. Governments and banks haven’t been quick to utilize cryptocurrencies in bond issuance or payments, but this could be a possibility in the future.

It’s yet to be determined whether governments and financial institutions are firmly in the “blockchain but not bitcoin” camp. Regardless if fiat or crypto is used, blockchain bonds create another potential use case for decentralized technologies. Most importantly, they represent a big step forward for the adoption of blockchain technology.


This article by Delton Rhodes was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Delton Rhodes:

I enjoy researching new, innovative, and interesting blockchain/crypto projects that have the potential to impact the world. Whenever I’m not writing, I’m usually playing sports or producing music.

Blockchain may not be a panacea to the all the world’s problems but there are many areas where it shows potential. Perhaps one of the most important is human rights. According to a 2014 report by Freedom House, only 40 percent of the world live in “free” countries. These are the nations that supposedly respect basic human rights. But a lot has changed since 2014, and not for the better.

A Snapshot of Human Rights Around the World

We often take basic human rights, such as freedom of speech or movement, for granted. Many of us forget that in some countries, simply speaking your mind can land you in jail–or even get you killed. While much of the world remains under the thumb of corrupt and oppressive governments, blockchain technology could provide at least the start of a solution.

The universal declaration of human rights from the United Nations covers a score of fundamental rights that all people deserve. Yet far too many citizens around the world do not receive them. Among the list of 30 articles are the rights to equality, freedom from slavery, discrimination or torture, and freedom of opinion and information.

An Amnesty report published this year revealed that many supposedly “free” countries are failing to comply with basic human rights. The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is one of the worst in the country’s history. The ongoing state of war in Yemen shatters all basic human rights to food and shelter. Turkey’s continued clampdown on journalists and political activists and Russia’s curtailing of freedom of speech are all in direct conflict with the human rights agreement.

We often associate human rights violations with developing countries and oppressive regimes. But the US, EU, and Australia all earned a place among the worst human rights violators on Amnesty’s list.

The EU and Australia were called out for their “callous” treatment of refugees, and Trump’s controversial travel ban borderline violates the human right to freedom of movement while discriminating on religious grounds.

Blockchain and Human Rights

With blockchain technology, we could track human rights issues more easily. This could bring transparency and accountability to both developing and developed countries. Very often, though, speaking about blockchain involves hypothetical use cases for some faraway date in the future. Yet there are many practical use cases of blockchain and human rights right now. Let’s look at a few examples.

The Right to Adequate Living Standard

From Zimbabwe to Venezuela, Yemen to Syria, people all around the world are unable to access their right to an adequate living standard. This means having food to eat, water to drink and not being forced to live in a conflict zone or in fear of persecution.

In countries where hyperinflation is wiping out people’s life savings, blockchain and human rights are starting to team up. Cryptocurrency is beginning to make a dent in the deepening humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

With a national currency devaluing by 95 percent from one day to the next, more and more Venezuelans are turning to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Dash as a solution. In fact, there are now over 900 merchants that accept payment in Dash across the country. The founder of Dash Venezuela told Coin Central:

“Venezuelans have been using cryptocurrency for years now to protect their capital from inflation. But now with Dash, it has opened a new window as a means of payment. It is an easy way to receive something that is stronger than the Bolivar and is within the law.”

Cryptocurrency further allows for micro trade and microlending. Since you can assign a value to the most minute quantity, the size of trade that is economically viable becomes smaller. Blockchain and human rights make a more compelling case as people around the world can finally access the banking system, start their own business, and buy and sell smaller amounts.

The Right to Participate in Government and Free Elections

Another of the UN’s articles is the right to participate in government and free elections. Yet this is willfully denied to many people. Electoral fraud is common around the world. Even in countries like the United States, self-proclaimed as ‘the land of the free’, significant aspersions were cast over the 2016 presidential elections.

The Kenyan elections of 2017 thrust bloodshed, controversy, and chaos front and center. There was a widespread sentiment that the election was rigged, and many Kenyans were unable to take part due to voter intimidation.

So loud was the clamor of voices crying out against the election that it led to a second one. But that was boycotted by the main opponent and the incumbent won by a surreal landslide with 98 percent of the vote.

But rigged elections and voter fraud aren’t by any means limited to Africa. They’re widespread around the world and even common in private companies and public corporations. Blockchain and human rights projects in this area are showing positive results.

People can vote from the privacy of their own homes, free from intimidation. And all votes are tamper-proof on the immutable ledger, akin to anonymous voting in a ballot box.

There are still some issues to be ironed out when it comes to blockchain voting. Verifying voter identity and making sure the same people don’t vote twice, for example. But countries like Estonia are already proving that it is possible. In fact, all Estonians have their own ID cards they can use to vote on the blockchain securely and quickly.

Blockchain and human rights

The Right to Freedom of Opinion and Information

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in December of 2017, a record high number of journalists were imprisoned around the world. The largest concentrations being in China, Turkey, and Egypt. Freedom of opinion and information is a luxury to many in these parts of the world. If a government doesn’t like a certain website, they can shut it down or monitor it. Wikipedia, for example, is censored or banned in many countries, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Turkey, and even France.

The very fact that blockchain provides us with a decentralized technology that is global and uncensored means that no one centralized entity or government can shut it down.

Privacy-focused messaging app Mainframe, and mesh networking startups Open Garden and RightMesh are working to provide censorship-resistant platforms to ensure continued, unbroken connectivity. Blockchain and human rights show endless possibilities when it comes to freedom of information.

Closing Thoughts

More and more blockchain and human rights use cases will develop over time. Of the 30 articles on the UN’s human rights list, blockchain technology has the potential to help with many.

With its correct use in identity management, we may be able to eradicate illicit slavery and human trafficking. And the ownership of land deeds recorded on a transparent ledger could put an end to the illegal seizure of land.

There are certainly many human rights problems to tackle. And it will be interesting to see how many cases blockchain technology is instrumental in.


This article by Christina Comben was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Christina is a B2B writer and MBA, specializing in fintech, cybersecurity, blockchain, and other geeky areas. When she’s not at her computer, you’ll find her surfing, traveling, or relaxing with a glass of wine.

Blockchain Remittance

Blockchain remittance firms are experiencing record growth thanks to an increase in global migration. As populations continue to migrate, the need to send money back to their home countries is growing. Blockchain remittance firms are providing this essential service at a reduced rate.

These international payments are vital to the livelihood of millions of people around the world. They’re primarily used for living expenses such as food, transportation, and education. Making these statements more tangible, East Asian countries received $129 billion in remittance payments last year according to the World Bank.

Remittance Stats

A recent study revealed that the remittance sector has grown to a staggering $585 billion industry. In 2017 alone, $439 billion was sent to developing countries, equating to around 700 million families living off of remittance payments globally.

Remittance payments have also become the main source of foreign income for many nations. According to a May report in Forbes, Mexico’s remittance payments have now superseded their oil industry to become the country’s main source of foreign income.

Mexico isn’t alone in their dependence on remittance payments. The World Bank released their 2016 remittance statistics in April of this year. The report revealed that remittance payments are now more stable than private capital flow in terms of international growth. This means that the remittance industry could be a smart investment in most parts of the world.

The High Costs of Sending Remittance Payments

Sending money internationally isn’t cheap, and non-profits such as the World Bank have been combating these high fees for years. Since 2008, remittance fees have declined 7.32 percent. This decrease saved migrants $90 billion in fees over the same time frame.

Whenever someone sends money internationally, numerous third-party organizations are involved in the transaction. Each verification step adds a small fee to the total cost. In addition, international conversion rates must be accounted for. World Bank reports have averaged these costs to be around 7.45 percent of each transaction processed.

Blockchain Remittance Fintech: Technology to Help Millions

Blockchain remittance companies are taking the industry to the next level by facilitating a frictionless experience for users. Traditionally, international money transfers can take days to complete due to the number of verifications that are required. Blockchain remittance companies provide instant money transfer services.

Remittance Firms: Abra

Africa relies heavily on remittance payments. Until recently, large financial firms, such as Western Union and MoneyGram, dominated the market. This changed when blockchain remittance companies began to spring up across the continent. Firms such as Abra are now changing the local markets.

The Abra platform allows users to transfer money for free across the globe. In addition to these cost savings, users are able to send transactions directly from their mobile devices. Abra offers a direct peer-to-peer money transfer technology that doesn’t require the use of any bank. And, the platform automatically deposits funds onto debit cards that it provides for users.

Remittance Payments via Abra

Abra is pioneering remittance FinTech with this all-inclusive approach. This non-reliance on the traditional banking system is important in developing nations because they often lack the means to implement the expensive infrastructure required to institute these organizations. By circumventing the current system, Abra users don’t have to worry about how to transfer money from blockchain to bank account.

Migrants are saving on fees and conversion rate costs by removing the middleman from the remittance system. These savings are too large to ignore, and now, industry leaders are researching this technology.

Blockchain Remittance on the Rise

For the first time ever, this year’s Global Money Transfer Summit (GMTS) will feature blockchain remittance FinTech. The GMTS is the largest international money transfer conference in the world. Every year, representatives from major financial institutions are chosen to speak at this event.

Among those invitees are representatives from Ripple, Stellar, and Cashaa. These popular cryptocurrency representatives will discuss the future of the money transfer industry and why blockchain technology is an essential path for the industry to travel.

Remittance Cryptocurrencies: Ripple

Ripple (XRP) was one of the first bank-focused cryptocurrencies to enter the market in 2012. Designed primarily for large international inter-bank money transfers, Ripple’s developers describe it as a real-time gross settlement system. The Ripple platform utilizes the XRP token to facilitate these global transfers instantly.

Ripple has managed to secure major partnerships with numerous large financial organizations including Fidor Bank in Munich, Bank of America, and Santander. In May 2015, Ripple became AML compliant after receiving a $700,000 fine from FinCEN for not complying with the Bank Secrecy Act. Today, the cryptocurrency remains in the top five coins in terms of market capitalization.

Remittance Fintech: A New Horizon

Blockchain technology is transforming the remittance sector, and Ripple isn’t alone in their quest to service the international money transfer industry. Today, numerous remittance-focused cryptocurrencies are available. You can expect to see further integration of this game-changing technology.

Now that the industry has openly acknowledged the benefits that blockchain technology brings to the table, the demand for blockchain-based remittance services is expected to increase significantly. This is great news for the millions of families that rely on this lifeline to survive.


This article by David Hamilton was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

David Hamilton aka DavidtheWriter has published thousands of cryptocurrency related articles. Currently, he resides in the epicenter of the cryptomarket – Puerto Rico. David is a strong advocate for blockchain technologies and financial sovereignty.

Blockchain has already established its use cases in a number of worthy causes. Helping refugees, and reducing poverty in the developing world to name a few. Now, blockchain is also proving its value to vulnerable people closer to home. Several cities are now running blockchain-based initiatives to help the homeless gain quicker and easier access to the services they need.

The Scale of Homelessness

As many as 3.5m US people experience homelessness each year, with over 550,000 sleeping rough on any given night. More than half of those experiencing homelessness are families with children. Many are in the bigger cities, with 1 in 5 homeless people in either New York City or Los Angeles. Things in the UK are even bleaker, with more than 300,000 homeless people, but for a far smaller national population than the US.

People end up homeless for a wide variety of reasons, including tragic changes in life circumstances like the loss of a family member or a job. Mental illness and addiction are also often responsible. Among younger people, it can often be family disputes that force them to leave home with nowhere to go. Although some end up on the streets, others may be sleeping rough in cars or moving from place to place sleeping with friends.

The Necessity of ID

With virtually no means of personal security, homeless people can struggle to secure their belongings. Documents that prove their identity and social security status can quickly become damaged, lost or stolen. Without valid ID documents, homeless people cannot access the everyday services that we usually take for granted.

One US study showed that of homeless people without an ID, more than 53 percent were denied access to food stamps, and more than 51 percent were denied access to social security benefits.

Additionally, even if a homeless person who has lost their ID goes to get a replacement, the horrible irony is that they usually need to provide some form of ID to get a replacement ID. So they are stuck in a bureaucratic Catch-22. The services that can help them get off the streets are inaccessible to them.

How Blockchain Can Help the Homeless

MyPass Project in Austin, Texas

Blockchain is revealing its potential in the area of self-sovereign identity. Identity documents can be verified and stored digitally on the blockchain, which negates the need for individuals to carry physical ID documents. A new project in Austin, Texas is now putting this blockchain use case to work in service of the city’s homeless population.

MyPass stores digitized documents for homeless people. The system stores ID papers, but may also store medical records, which means someone could receive treatment from different clinics. The individual is provided with a secure login so that they can access their document store from any computer, smartphone or via SMS. So if they use a clinic they can use the computer at the clinic to enter their details. They can then provide any documentation needed for treatment or evidence of medical history.

Austin, Texas

Although this is still in the pilot stage, hopes are high that it can be replicated on a larger scale. The project received funding from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge. Now, a number of charities and other organizations in Austin are trying to work out some initial problems, such as how to handle lost login details. But given the potential of the project to help the homeless in Austin, these are not significant hurdles to overcome.

Fummi Project in New York City

New York City has also been trialing a similar project in partnership with the organization Blockchain for Change. In 2017, the organization handed out smartphones to three thousand homeless people in New York. The phones were already loaded with an app called Fummi.

Working in partnership with other service providers, the group created digital identities for the phone recipients. With the digital record, individuals also had access to an account to receive digital Change Coins. The phones contained a preloaded balance of the coins. Recipients could earn more coins through activities such as referring new users and buying services through the platform.

Smartphone and Blockchain

Taking It Further

These two projects are currently the only documented examples of blockchain being used to help the homeless. Nevertheless, members of the blockchain community are speculating about next steps. Digital identity seems a natural progression, mainly since it has already been deployed with success by the World Food Program in feeding refugees.

Registering the identity of homeless people on a blockchain has other benefits for the service providers that are helping them. A permanent shared record brings efficiencies for providers such as shelters. With a shareable digital record, they no longer need to spend time and resources on-boarding someone each time they move.

Particularly, using secure digital wallets for distributing funds to homeless people creates a safer alternative than actual cash. Carrying cash makes homeless people easy prey to theft. Digital currency expenditure is also traceable, so that homeless charities could demonstrate where funds are spent.

Homeless people are among the most vulnerable in society. If blockchain can help the homeless to get better and quicker access to the shelter, medical, and financial services they so desperately need, then so much the better for the world.


This article by Sarah Rothrie was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Sarah ran away from a corporate job so she could travel the world. After doing that, she found herself a much-loved new career as a freelance blockchain technology writer. She is now a full-time digital nomad, who travels the world while working on her laptop. In addition to writing and researching, she also runs her own websites – find out more at sarahrothrie.com. You can usually locate her somewhere near the food.

 


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