Cryptocurrency payment processor BitPay has become the eighth firm to receive a “BitLicense” from the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), which oversees what is arguably the most-restrictive state-level framework for the U.S. cryptocurrency industry.
The NYDFS announced on Monday that it had approved the Atlanta-based BitPay’s application, following a “comprehensive review” of the firm’s anti-money laundering, anti-fraud, capitalization, consumer protection, and cybersecurity policies.
“DFS welcomes BitPay to New York’s expanding and well-regulated virtual currency market,” said Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo. “We continue to work to support a vibrant and competitive virtual currency market that connects and empowers New Yorkers in a global marketplace while ensuring strong state-regulatory oversight is in place.”
Beginning today, BitPay can process cryptocurrency payments for New York merchants and residents, and the license also authorizes the company to issue cryptocurrency-funded debit cards in the state. At present, the company, which was founded in 2011, supports bitcoin and bitcoin cash.
BitPay is the first standalone cryptocurrency payment processor to receive a BitLicense. Coinbase, which received its virtual currency license in 2017, also operates a merchant platform, but its core business revolves around cryptocurrency trading.
“New York state has one of the strictest policies around businesses involved in cryptocurrency and working through the approval processes to obtain a License was important to BitPay,” said Stephen Pair, CEO of BitPay. “We believe this hard work will pay off as New York presents significant business opportunities for BitPay.”
BitPay is just the eighth firm to receive a full BitLicense, despite the fact that the framework has been in force since 2015. However, the NYDFS has approved half of those applications in the past three months, perhaps suggesting that the agency is becoming more comfortable with the nascent but maturing industry.
Other NYDFS virtual currency license recipients include Square, Xapo, Genesis Global Trading, bitFlyer USA, Coinbase, Ripple (through a subsidiary called XRP II), and Circle. Gemini and Paxos (formerly itBit) have received NYDFS charters but not full licensure.
Leading hardware crypto wallet manufacturer and developer Ledger sold more than 1 million hardware wallets in 2017, recording a profit of $29 million.
In an interview with Forbes, Ledger president Pascal Gauthier stated that the lack of secure platforms which users can utilize to sign transactions on the immutable public blockchain led the demand for Ledger and hardware wallets in general, to rise.
“Blockchain itself is secure, but signing on the blockchain is a flaw. If you lose the [private key], there’s no bank looking after your assets or any way to recover them,” Gauthier told Forbes.
Eyeing Another Multi-Million Dollar Funding Round
In early 2018, Ledger raised $75 million led by billionaire early stage technology investor Tim Draper and Draper Venture Network funds. The Series B funding round of Ledger was a significant boost from its previous Series A funding round that closed a $7 million investment.
After having recorded a profit last year with impressive financial results, Ledger is set to raise yet another multi-million dollar funding round this year. Already, some of the largest technology conglomerates in the world such as Samsung, Siemens and Google’s ventures arm have viewed the financials of Ledger, with interest of investing in the company, Forbes revealed.
The previous Series B funding round of Ledger was mainly utilized to improve the infrastructure of Ledger and creating products targeted at retail traders and individual investors. In the future, Gauthier said that the company will focus on delivering products for large-scale institutional investors, whose entrance into the cryptocurrency sector is considered to be imminent primarily due to the debut of Coinbase Custody.
Currently, the majority of large-scale investors holding bitcoin are using vault systems of Xapo and Coinbase to store their funds. But, requesting vaults to hold massive amounts of bitcoin still require investors to trust the operators of the vault.
The vision of Ledger in the long-term is to enable an ecosystem that will allow even large institutions to hold cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, ether, and tokens without relying on third party service providers.
“You need a Ledger Nano S solution for institutions, products that are made for big and small financial institutions,” Gauthier explained, emphasizing that clients are “queueing” outside the office of Ledger in France to buy Ledger Vault.
Increasing Demand for Hardware Wallets is Positive
In 2018, the cryptocurrency sector has seen four major hacking attacks, suffered by Coincheck, Bithumb, and Coinrail, large crypto exchanges in the Japanese and South Korean crypto market.
Coincheck for instance experienced a $500 million hacking attack, due to a simple error in the company’s decision making to store all of its funds in NEM in a hot wallet.
The fundamental purpose of cryptocurrencies as decentralized peer-to-peer financial networks is to enable anyone on a public blockchain to send and receive information securely, in a trustless manner. Rising demand for hardware wallets like the Ledger Nano S and Ledger Vault demonstrate increasing awareness of cryptocurrency investors and users on the importance of security and non-custodial platforms.
While cryptocurrencies remain vulnerable to a number of cyber security attacks, the underlying blockchain technology is being used to protect user data from being modified.
We believe that blockchain technology will be transformative in the tech and IT sector in the coming years, similar to what the internet did for the world back in the 90s and early 2000s, said John Zanni, President of the Acronis Foundation. We started a few years ago working with the Ethereum blockchain to see how to better protect data. Today, part of our storage and backup software lets users notarize any digital data and put that fingerprint on the blockchain to ensure it can’t be tampered with.
As the physical world meets the digital world, data has become a key player for a number of businesses. Yet ensuring that data remains safe, secure, private and authentic has become an ongoing challenge.
For example, the recent Equifax cyber-security breach that occured in September 2017 compromised sensitive information of nearly half the U.S. population. Cybercriminals accessed approximately 145.5 million U.S. Equifax consumers’ personal data. Equifax has also confirmed that at least 209,000 consumers’ credit card credentials were taken in the attack.
Moreover, one of the biggest challenges a business faces today in terms of cybersecurity is “data tampering,” which is the threat of data being altered in authorized ways, either accidentally or intentionally.
Authenticity of data is actually one of the most important factors when it comes to cyber protection. Data can always be changed and modified, Serguei Beloussov, CEO and founder of Acronis, told me. Blockchain technology can be used so that data can be signed with a digital signature. That digital signature, called hash, can then be stored on either a public or private blockchain ledger, which is highly immutable, making its possible to check if data was modified at any given time.
How Blockchain Technology Protects User Data
While blockchain technology is most commonly defined as a decentralized, distributed ledger used to record transactions across multiple computers, it can also be seen as a distributed database that maintains a growing list (also known as a chain) of data transaction records.
Consider that every participant of this decentralized system has a copy of the list of transactions. This means that no “official” copy exists. The distributed nature of the chain prevents tampering and revisions, as every action on the blockchain is fully transparent. In turn, data that is stored on a blockchain can easily remain authentic, since the security of every transaction is recorded.
For example, in order to ensure that data isn’t tampered with, Acronis applies blockchain technology to compute a cryptographic hash, or “fingerprint,” that is unique for each data file it stores. This hash is an algorithm that produces the same output when given the exact same input file, making it useful for verifying the file’s authenticity. Any change in the input file, however slight, results in a dramatically different fingerprint. Because the hash algorithm is designed to work only in one direction, it is impossible to determine the original file inputs from the output alone, making the process tamper-proof.
Let’s image that we have a piece of data and we create a unique description for this data. Even if we modify only a single bit of that data and generate the signature again, created hash value will be completely different. So such hash value is effectively a unique signature of your data, explained Beloussov. With Blockchain, you store that hash in multiple places, so you have multiple journals where you have written your signature in a specially encrypted fashion. If someone would want to modify such a record, they will have to get all of those places to agree to modification. Even after that, one would need to spend a lot of compute capacity to un-encrypt it from all of the journals after the record, and encrypt it back. Even if this theoretically could be possible to get done, it would be extremely expensive to compute, as well as complicated
Dr. Abdalla Kablan, who is a renowned fintech expert and advisor on blockchain and AI for the Government of Malta, further explains why data stored on the blockchain is immutable.
Typically, once data is stored on the blockchain it cannot be manipulated or changed – it is immutable. This is because of the architectural nature of blockchain structures where every block has a specific summary of the previous block in the form of a secure hash value. Since these blocks are structured in the form of a ‘chain’ sequence, the timing, order and content of transactions cannot be manipulated. Also, these blocks cannot be replaced unless all the ‘nodes’ achieve consensus or agree with the proposed change, Dr. Kablan told me.
Blockchain In The Real World
When applying blockchain technology for protecting against data tampering in the real world, common use cases often involve protecting transaction logs, proving the existence of legal documents and even confirming creative works originated on a certain date.
For example, a use case might involve a musician who is skeptical about publishing music on the internet due to plagiarism and other security concerns. Using blockchain technology, however, allows the artist to create a backup that contains pieces of digital music or other materials that can be copyrighted. Once the backup is complete, a certificate with cryptographic evidence is issued to help copyright claim, in case of infringement. The record of the original music pieces and their creation dates are recorded in the blockchain, allowing for confirmation that a piece of music existed at a certain time in the past and was authored by that artist.
“In general, blockchain technology today focuses mainly on cryptocurrency and fintech. Yet the world needs to look beyond that to see how businesses and individuals can take advantage of this technology. The day someone figures out how small businesses can apply blockchain technology in a multitude of applications is the day it will really flourish,” said Zanni.
It’s 2018, and here are some things that people are obsessed with: fizzy water, sriracha, purple everything, and… blockchain.
Yes, that blockchain. The thing that everyone — from that guy you know who is suddenly crypto rich, to John Oliver to, well, us — has tried to explain to you. It is, as you may know, the platform that powers every cryptocurrency. And now it’s started to expand beyond it into applications both useful and bizarre.
One more super brief explanation: Think of a blockchain as an expanding list of records (ledger). Each record documents a transaction between two parties, (for instance “Mary gives Paul three bucks for five apples”) and is public to everybody on the blockchain. The data of this ledger is stored across everybody’s computers — no central authority holds all the records. “Mining” a cryptocurrency means doing complex mathematical calculations to verify each transaction on the ledger; by doing so, the miner gets a little kickback in the form of a little bit of the cryptocurrency in question.
If blockchain evangelists are to be believed, the technology truly has the power to change the world. But before you start praying to the Gods of blockchain (yes, blockchain has got its own church), there’s plenty of things the technology just doesn’t get right, at least not yet. In fact, it might be a really bad idea to have society go whole-hog on blockchain.
But let’s back up for a second. Blockchain has plenty of advantages over the conventional ways we store data:
Transparency. All transactions are visible to everybody, eliminating all middle men, like banking institutions or other central authorities; suppliers are directly connected to the customers. This not only makes using blockchain more straightforward to use, it makes every actor using a blockchain accountable for their actions — no shady backdoor deals, or deceiving the public.
Near-anonymity. Anybody can create their own address on a blockchain-based network, like a bitcoin wallet. And while it’s not totally anonymous, it’s at least “pseudonymous” — you are represented by an address or username that, if you choose, has no relationship to your real-world identity.
Security. The entire blockchain is made up of nodes that all act as notaries for every new transaction. That could make banking more secure — it’s in everybody’s interest to have everybody paying attention to all transactions, since just one unverified transaction could undermine the legitimacy of the entire blockchain.
Versatility. Uses of blockchain are not limited to cryptocurrencies. A blockchain network could be used in real estate (real and virtual), package delivery, smartphones, elections, and much more that we’ve already thought of, plus probably a lot more that we haven’t.
Playing with virtual cats. It allows you to collect pointless pictures of cartoon catsfor thousands of dollars. Win.
But before you get your hopes up too high — or, worse, start investing your hard-earned cash in shady ICOs (initial coin offerings) — you should know that blockchain does have some risks.
Privacy Data privacy laws are changing to catch up with the technology sharing user data. Recently, the European Union implemented the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). As the Wall Street Journal points out, blockchain networks that span different legislative bodies (like governments of different nations by simply being online and accessible worldwide) might make those laws impossible to enforce. And that could put user data at risk for abuse if it ends up somewhere with laws that make it more vulnerable. For instance, U.S.-based blockchain networks that hold data of EU citizens may not comply with GDPR. Conventional (but less secure) data storage methods, like storing encrypted user data on private server farms, can be scaled, moved, and modified to suit different legislative approaches to privacy in different countries. That’s not simple for blockchain networks to accomplish — ironically, that’s what makes them so secure in the first place. A scaleable approach to blockchain could ensure that EU citizens get their privacy protections, regardless of where and how their data is stored, but that kind of technology is still in its early stages.
Failure to bridge the “last mile.” It can be surprisingly difficult to link the real, physical world with abstract tokens, records, or addresses; to tie an abstract digital representation to an object or person, you have to find a reliable way to do so in the physical word, such as QR codes or RFID tags, but there has to be an honor systems to trust that these tags are where they should belong. Relying on human honesty to record transactions exposes blockchain technology to a ton of vulnerabilities. Governments around the world have been struggling with data breaches thanks to poor identity verification, and blockchain hasn’t addressed this root problem yet, either. But there’s hope. As blockchain technology improves, “new types of intermediaries will emerge that turn the last-mile problem, of keeping digital records in sync with their offline counterparts, into actual business opportunities,” according to a recent piece published in Harvard Business Review.
The environment. Cryptocurrency mining has turned from a harmless way to make an extra buck into something much uglier: an energy behemoth that costs the world as much power as the nation of Switzerland uses each year. Having an army of computers solving extremely complex problems taxes the electrical grid and produces a ton of heat. In many parts of the world, energy production still relies on harmful methods, like coal or the burning of fossil fuels. So using more power to mine cryptocurrency means more harmful byproducts end up in the atmosphere.
“Crypto-jacking” Hackers have found all sorts of ways to take advantage of the crypto-mining process, including taking over your smartphone’s processing power through your web browser to mine digital currencies. Even regular internet-of-things devices like smart kitchen appliances are vulnerable to this growing trend. And once malware is installed on other people’s devices, hackers could have unprecedented control, opening up a huge can of cybersecurity-worms.
Complexity. Cryptocurrency may be in the news regularly these days, but the blockchain that supports it is still complicated. Explaining it to the uninitiated is going to be a slow and arduous process.
This isn’t the end of the road for the blockchain, not by a long shot. We are still in the very early stages of trying to figure out how to best implement the technology. And there are already many creative ways companies have started to address some of these issues, from tying medical records on the blockchain to biometric markers to solve the problem of verifying user identities, or creating more sustainable forms of cryptocurrency mining.
Those who treat blockchain as a panacea for all of society’s ills might not be considering the negative aspects of the technology that haven’t yet been resolved. We have to talk about blockchain’s disadvantages, before we all start devoting our lives to the Gods of blockchain.
There’s more to blockchain than Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency may be one of the most infamous names associated with the platform, but the possibilities for blockchain technology extend into industries far beyond finance. Just ask the third generation blockchain, RChain.
Some of the most imaginative uses for blockchain technology sound like the gadgets and networks that exist only in the world of sci-fi. But the speed and scalability made possible by new blockchain providers are making a futuristic universe more than just a fantasy. The technology has the potential to drastically change the way we mobilize, design smarter communities, and help crack the code on creating social impact.
One of the industries that stands to gain the most from blockchain innovation is transportation. We’ve come a long way from the horse and buggy, where autonomous cars powered by a speedy and secure blockchain network are part of a future where fewer people waste time in traffic and more people have access to a safe ride. The cars will improve safety by eliminating human error that leads to road accidents, and autonomous car services could provide new ways for an elderly non-driver to get to a doctor’s appointment, for instance, or for a tiring commute to turn into extra nap time. An autonomous car owner could also rent their car out via a secure blockchain network, turning an autonomous vehicle investment into another revenue stream.
And the technology doesn’t have to be limited to cars. Amazon has dreamt of a future where autonomous drones deliver its packages, but the potential for a blockchain system that can power such a feat can do more than just same-day delivery. An NGO, for example, could use autonomous drones to send supplies to tsunami victims from Australia to Indonesia. As soon as word spread about the disaster, people from around the world could log into a blockchain-run app that would allow them to instantly donate. More importantly, because of the speed and security only possible on a peer-to-peer blockchain network, that organization would be able to instantly access those funds and start their relief efforts, minimizing the transactional costs and red tape most organizations face in such moments.
Imagining and executing the technology possible to run these kinds of civic applications is critical in today’s world, said Greg Meredith, president and co-founder of RChain, a company creating a blockchain platform that allows its developers to dream big.
“We have to coordinate at a level we have never coordinated at as a species,” he told Futurism. “We have to be able to form groups that are as agile as the best dancers, as clear-minded as the best poets and mathematicians and software engineers. The good news is there are all these coordination technologies that we’ve barely scratched the surface of. It’s a place where tech in the sense of bits and bytes and code meets tech in the sense of how we govern ourselves.”
The spirit and ability necessary to govern ourselves has gotten lost in industries plagued by bureaucratic slog, inefficiency, and paperwork. But a blockchain technology seamlessly woven into our stodgy systems could make expensive, time-consuming, or confusing tasks suddenly easy and affordable.
“There are so many applications of blockchain technology, it’s hard to know where to start,” Dr. Mike Stay, the CTO of Pyrofex, the partnering company building out the RChain blockchain, told Futurism. “If you’re buying a house, you’ll be able to check a title claim on the blockchain instead of purchasing title insurance for thousands of dollars. You’ll be able to see the history of repairs on your car instead of paying Carfax or AutoCheck. If a company does all its transactions on blockchain and the auditors run some of the nodes, then the audit process is orders of magnitude cheaper.”
In addition to saving time and money thanks to these applications, citizens could also be rewarded via the blockchain for the efforts towards creating a smart community. For instance, a city looking to control water consumption to avoid drought could incentivize homeowners by offering them cryptocurrency via the blockchain that they could then use at local stores or restaurants. Similar rewards exist today, but companies or governments waste valuable time and money on the labor and transactional costs that it takes to distribute those rewards. With the scale of a blockchain like the one the RChain envisions, those incentives could be distributed immediately at a fraction of the cost.
Developing and maintaining these smarter communities could reinvigorate geographic areas that have been restructured as a result of industries dying or relocating, said Nash Foster, the CEO of Pyrofex.
“I became very interested in Greg’s [Meredith] ideas about decentralization of the global compute infrastructure,” Foster told Futurism. “I realized that Greg’s vision dovetailed with my own desire to re-energize American communities that had been left behind over the last few decades. I’ve seen many of the communities I love lose access to the productive economy as manufacturing and technology jobs were moved overseas. I have long been interested in finding a way to use the Internet to create more economic opportunities in such areas.”
Pyrofex, helmed by Foster and Stay, is one of the many companies investing in a future with RChain. Stay is a longtime colleague and collaborator with Meredith, and their research efforts formed the mathematical foundations of RChain’s technology. Like many of the collaborators behind RChain, they understood the possibilities of the blockchain platform but felt stifled by the limitations of its architecture. They knew that the massive centralized data centers that brought us search engines and social media lack the speed and efficiency to power autonomous vehicles and smarter communities. But they also knew that many of the current blockchain technologies were never designed with scale in mind. Original blockchain architecture relies on a single chain that works for small endeavors, but isn’t equipped to handle massive growth without taking up the energy supplies of entire countries.
RChain approached blockchain with that massive growth in mind, setting out to create a network that would have the scale of Facebook and the speed of Visa credit card transactions. Their decentralized system is powered by what they call the Rho Virtual Machine, or RhoVM.
Rather than having to only build up, bit by bit, the RhoVM allows for a network of parallel blockchains. That means that as the platform continues to grow, it can manage the load by building out linearly on top of a solid and secure foundation. Any kid who has played with building blocks can understand the technique. A tower made of a single stack of blocks will crumble in under a minute. But a fortress built short and wide with a strong base is one that will act as a foundation for several more hours of block building.
It’s only a foundation like RChain’s that can support the growth necessary for futuristic blockchain applications like autonomous medicine-delivering drones or smarter communities free of bureaucratic inefficiency. While RChain achieves scaling and safety through fundamental mathematics and computer science, other blockchain infrastructures might attempt to engineer around a problem to manage such a feat in a lab, but to operate on a global scale, these burgeoning technologies need the speed, efficiency, and scale of RChain’s RhoVM. With the help of a growing network of partners, developers, and bright minds that won’t settle in the past, they’re welcoming a future full of sci-fi dreams made into reality.
On June 23, CNBC Fast Trader hosted a show dedicated to presenting the “Bitcoin Funeral,” a witty introduction to BKCM founder and cryptocurrency investor Brian Kelly’s discussion on the recent bitcoin correction and its future price trend.
Three Reasons why Bitcoin Isn’t Dead
On CNBC Fast Trader, Kelly outlined three major reasons bitcoin will recover in the mid-term back to its previous support levels at over $10,000:
Negative sentiment from investors signalling imminence of a bottom
Positive development within the Japanese cryptocurrency exchange market
Mt. Gox liquidation of bitcoin postponed to 2019
Referring back to the basic rule of investing, Kelly noted that during a period in which the market is extremely bullish and optimistic, it is better to sell and eye a timely opportunity to enter and when the market is overly pessimistic, it is wise to look for a position to enter.
Given the negative sentiment towards the cryptocurrency market by investors, Kelly explained that the major correction of the cryptocurrency market will likely bottom out in the near future, likely in the next two to three months to begin a mid-term rally in the fourth quarter of this year.
More importantly, Kelly stated that the Japanese government’s move to tighten regulations, clean up the cryptocurrency market, and legitimize the Japanese cryptocurrency sector is a positive development for the long-term, as it would prevent major hacking attacks like the Coincheck security breach and allow investors in the public market to gain trust in local exchanges.
“Japanese exchanges were ordered to improve business conditions [by the government]. It’s actually a good thing. Short run it’s going to be a little tough because they’re stopping new accounts from coming in but actually they’re cleaning up the system. They’re making sure it’s more robust. Making sure it’s better for people.”
South Korea, the third largest cryptocurrency exchange market behind the US and Japan, have also started to prepare a cryptocurrency regulatory framework to regulate cryptocurrency exchanges as banks, to prevent hacking attacks and money laundering, while legitimizing the cryptocurrency sector to protect investors and set an industry-wide standard for businesses.
No More Mt. Gox Liquidation
Throughout 2018, several Mt. Gox sell-offs of tens of thousands of bitcoin led the market to crash, preventing BTC from gaining momentum at certain periods.
Kelly emphasized that the delay of Mt. Gox bitcoin sell-off until early 2019 is an optimistic factor to consider, as a major factor to a potential market sell-off has been eliminated, at least in the mid-term.
“Mt. Gox is going into rehabilitation and they’re going to distribute the rest of the $1 billion worth of bitcoin. But here’s what is great about that, they’re not going to distribute it until quarter 1 of 2019. All of the sudden everyone thinks there is going to be a wave of selling. Not happening now,” explained Kelly.
The three factors outlined by Kelly could fuel the next mid-term rally of BTC and the positive developments in the Japanese and South Korean cryptocurrency markets will enable the market to grow with stability and trust from investors, that will be largely beneficial in the long run.
Healthcare in developing parts of the world has remained below standard over a long period of time. The reasons for this can be related to system weaknesses in terms of leadership, governance, workforce, technology, finance among others.
Traditional implementations in attempt to achieve lasting solutions to these problems have left the people going round in circles with most nations depending on international aides. Perhaps the lack of motivation by healthcare beneficiaries who usually go through rigorous processes also plays a huge role in the existing setbacks experienced.
Blockchain in Healthcare, a Growing Trend
Blockchain implementation in the healthcare industry is becoming popular practice. It is being adopted for several purposes which include enhancing supply chain management, especially in the pharmaceutical sector. Data and process management, security and information confidentiality, public health surveillance among other purposes are also being enhanced using blockchain.
Tokenization appears to be one of the most dynamic aspect of blockchain technology that is enabling the extended flexibility ever present in its implementation. The existence of underlying tokens has enabled trustless and transparent transactions and goes a long way to reducing the human influence that has been blamed for most of the bottlenecks that exist within administrative settings. Payments, rewards and incentivisation processes have also been sanitized using smart contracts, thereby re-establishing trust and building motivation for participants in blockchain settings.
With the achievements made so far, it is no secret that blockchain technology presents immense opportunity for healthcare on a global scale. Digital Health expert and CEO of Izzy Care, Kenneth Colon tells CCN that one of the biggest promises of blockchain technology is enabling patients to monetize their health data, if they so choose, allowing them personally to benefit financially from their data, and not the corporations who traditionally maintain control of this data.
Rewards for Regimen
Colon elaborates that blockchain technology can further be used to tokenize a patient’s health and wellness. For example, token rewards can be issued, in a trustless fashion with smart contracts to patients for following their prescribed treatment regimen and making progress towards their personal health and wellness goals.
Such development is expected to enable patients across the globe to bring down the cost of their medical care and benefit financially from achieving their personal health goals.
With the proper structure, token economies could also enable the subsidizing of care for individuals and families with little-to-no annual income, who otherwise may be unable to afford access to the high-quality care they deserve as is obtainable in most developing nations.
Blockchain Alone Is Not Enough
As promising as blockchain technology is, however, it is also important to note that blockchain alone isn’t enough to solve healthcare globally.
One of the key areas that must be addressed is what kind of care is delivered. The type of one-off, transactional model we currently see in healthcare like local and international aides as mentioned above appears to be counterproductive. These methods have a way of discouraging patients from seeking help in the first place, considering the stress and rampant mismanagement that exist in such circles. The siloed nature of this care is equally counterproductive. You cannot expect someone, a patient, to thrive if you’re not caring for them holistically, taking into account their general medical needs, mental health, nutrition, etc.
The focus should be on some robust, all-inclusive payment models to deliver highly personalized, integrated care. This means treating patients as individuals, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, and taking into account not only their physical health, but their mental health and access to proper nutrition.
Hence, it is also necessary to address provider shortages by embracing other technologies and using them in conjunction with blockchain. For example, using artificial intelligence to further automate clinician workflows, enabling healthcare providers to focus on higher-yield tasks, such as seeing more patients and forming stronger patient-doctor relationships. Or utilizing telemedicine (encrypted messaging, live video) to bridge provider gaps, connecting patients and providers across the globe.
Solutions that allow patients to monetize their own data, reward patients for engaging in their care and drive down costs, make treatment accessible to all, support the evolution of delivery models to support precision medicine and integrated care, and embrace technologies to automate workflows and help physicians have higher-quality interactions with more patients, I believe, are crucial for the advancement of healthcare worldwide.
If the cryptocurrency world is the “Wild West,” Valerie A. Szczepanik is its first sheriff.
On Monday, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) named Szczepanik its Associate Director of the Division of Corporation Finance and Senior Advisor for Digital Assets and Innovation for Division Director Bill Hinman (ADDCFSADAIDDBH for short?).
According to a press release from the SEC, Szczepanik will coordinate the agency’s efforts involving “emerging digital asset technologies and innovations.” In other words, she’s the person who will make sure everyone knows how to enforce SEC laws with regards to initial coin offerings (ICOs), cryptocurrencies, or other digital technologies.
Just like the Wild West, the crypto world is largely unregulated, volatile, and home to plenty of ne’er-do-wells. Experts agree that crypto is here to stay, the U.S. government appears determined to bring some order to the chaos, steadily ramping up its involvement in crypto over the past few months.
In September, the SEC created a Cyber Unit designed to crack down on any illegal activity involving, amongst other things, ICOs and distributed ledger technologies. In February, several members of Congress expressed interest in creating laws that would increase government oversight over cryptocurrencies. The next month, the SEC issued subpoenas and information requests to “scores” of tech companies, asking for the 411 on their ICO dealings. Then, in April, New York’s Attorney General launched an official inquiry into cryptocurrencies, asking 13 crypto platforms to fill out questionnaires with information on their policies and general dealings.
That created a need for someone exactly like Szczepanik, who’s been with the SEC since 1997, served as the unit’s Assistant Director. According to her new boss, she’s had her eye on the crypto world for a while now.
“Valerie recognized early on the securities law implications of developments like blockchain and distributed ledger technologies, and of cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings, tokenized securities, and other digital instruments,” said Hinman in the SEC press release. “She is a recognized leader in responding to developments in our markets.”
“I am excited to take on this new role in support of the SEC’s efforts to address digital assets and innovation as it carries out its mission to facilitate capital formation, promote fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and protect investors, particularly Main Street investors,” said Szczepanik, who, when Futurism reached out to her for further comment on the nature of her role, declined to provide further comment.
Appointing Szczepanik to her new position is just the latest sign that, like the real Wild West, the U.S. government’s hand-off approach to crypto is now a thing of the past.
Imagine a world where millions of people abandon the land to live on the sea. On their floating habitats, and free from governmental overreach, people can dine on sustainable algae and live in harmony. They can sail from their own artificial island micro-nation to whatever country they’d like to be part of for a day. Plus, the people would trade exclusively using the cryptocurrency Varyon.
But this isn’t just a strange thought experiment. The Floating Island Project is a very real collaboration between the Seasteading Institute and Blue Frontiers. The latter intends to build floating island habitats after selling enough of the cryptocurrency Varyon to fund the ambitious endeavor. The team hopes to launch the first settlement by 2020, as Futurism previously reported.
In an interview with CNBC, Nathalie Mezza-Garcia –researcher for the Floating Island Project – spoke about the project’s goals to create hundreds of floating island-nations, where people could live by whatever rules they so please. Other goals include: housing refugees who are displaced as climate change gives rise to higher sea levels, enriching the poor, curing the sick, feeding the hungry, living in balance with nature, and powering the world.
Lofty goals, huh? It might all sound positive, but there are some concerns. For example, their version of “curing the sick” involves avoiding regulations like those that the FDA imposes on untested medical procedures. While the FDA does have its issues (advocates of the Floating Island Project point out that the organization blocks promising stem cell treatments) removing all medical regulations is a dangerous and somewhat nuclear response. While casting off and living a free, pirate’s life with no unnecessary burdens has a certain appeal, it’s little more than a daydream.
But ultimately, it does seem like a daydream. Advanced, sustainable island technology is flashy, downright awesome, and makes for an invigorating experiment on how future societies could interact with the world. But thus far, it seems little thought has been given to how all of this will work.
It may be difficult to convince the various nations of the world to interact or trade with these floating libertarian utopias, especially if the seasteaders intend to float in and out of sovereign waters as they so please while basing their entire economy on a cryptocurrency. One can tell from the history of the Principality of Sealand that it’s no small task for new, small, seafaring nations to be recognized by their neighbors.
And all this leaves out that the Floating Island Project’s original goal is to help people — like the indigenous and other marginalized people who are displaced by climate change. So far, it’s unclear how they’re supposed to buy into these high-tech, floating vessels. Rather, we may have just found the next great plaything for the rich.
At this point, mining Bitcoin requires such intensive, specific hardware that the only way for most people to get in on the crypto game is to simply purchase the coin via an exchange. But that doesn’t mean mining has slowed down. Rather, the opposite has been happening, giving environmentalists (and anyone but the most adamant cryptobros) cause for concern.
Between cooling fans, manufacturing hardware, and the outrageous, ever-rising energy costs needed to operate a bitcoin mining rig, the world’s Bitcoin network is expected to use as much as 7.67 gigawatts of power by the end of 2018, according to new research and models. That’s one two-hundredth of all the electricity used on the planet. And that’s terrible.
Let’s put that another way. According to that research, which is admittedly based on some imperfect assumptions and averages, the Bitcoin network currently uses about as much power as the entire country of Ireland (which uses 3.1 gigawatts) and is expected to grow to the same energy consumption level as Austria, which is currently at 8.2 gigawatts.
The world’s population is right around 7.6 billion people. If everyone used the same amount of energy (which they don’t but bear with me) that would put Bitcoin’s energy consumption — and toll on the environment — at the same level as that of 38 million people.
Now, this certainly doesn’t mean that bitcoin should be cancelled. And while it seems like nothing can convince crypto fans that bitcoin is anything but the way of the future, these findings show just how much of an impact the cryptocurrency is having on the world. And not a “we’re gonna take back the financial markets and build a better tomorrow!” kind of impact. More of a tangible “oopsy-daisy, we’re accidentally scorching the planet” kind.
If cryptocurrencies are truly going to become the money of tomorrow, then we’ll absolutely need to grapple with the environmental damage caused by this major energy suck (assuming the price of Bitcoin continues to climb). Or, figure out how to mine more efficiently. Because again, in the next six months we may see Bitcoin using as much electricity as a major industrialized nation.
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