Sunday, December 29, 2019

Huobi Japan to raise another $4.6M in January 2020


Huobi Japan, the Japanese subsidiary of Singaporean crypto giant Huobi Group, is set to raise $4.6 million in January 2020. The exchange will raise the funding from Japanese financial services firm Tokai Tokyo Financial Holdings. The new funding comes just two months after the exchange raised another $4.6 million from FPG Corporation.

Tokai Tokyo signed a business alliance agreement with Huobi Japan which will see the two firms strengthen cooperation in the digital assets business. The financial services giant, which mainly deals in brokerage services, believes that blockchain and cryptos are about to explode in the Japanese market and it doesn't want to miss out.

In its press release, the company stated, "Here in Japan, the relevant ministerial ordinances are expected in force next spring. Therefore, we believe that the business dealing with crypto assets and blockchain will accelerate further."

Tokai Tokyo will promote new businesses in areas such as initial exchange offerings, crypto exchange, local currency issuance and the storage and management of cryptos. The firm will "consider expanding this business to partner regional banks in the future."

Huobi Japan was launched in January 2019. This was after Huobi Group acquired local crypto exchange BitTrade in September 2018, rebranding it into its Japanese subsidiary.

In October, the company raised ¥500 million ($4.6 million) through the issuance of new shares to FPG Corporation, a Japanese financial services group. The exchange pledged to channel the funds to expansion, staying true to their promise that they would 'aggressively scale up their platform.'

While Huobi Group has found great success in Japan, its push into the United States hasn't been as smooth. Last month, the exchange announced that it was set to freeze all U.S. accounts in a few weeks' time. The freezing followed months of gradual disabling of U.S. accounts as regulatory scrutiny mounted. Users were urged to withdraw their funds before November 13 or risk losing them.

Earlier this month, its U.S. subsidiary HBUS announced that it was halting operations. HBUS was around for just over 18 months before calling it quits. In more positive news however, Huobi has continued to expand into other territories including Thailand and Argentina.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Why Quantum Computing’s Threat to Crypto May Be Further out Than Previously Thought


According to one researcher, quantum computing faces more hurdles than many realize when it comes to achieving viability in breaking encryption. In a recent report Dr. Subhash Kak, Regents Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Oklahoma State University, notes that there are issues such as "noise" and error correction that render the buzz about quantum supremacy when it comes to Bitcoin, still largely theoretical.

Where Quantum Supremacy Falls Short
In essence "quantum supremacy" refers to the demonstration that a quantum computer can solve some problem classical computers can't. There's no doubt this has been done, but the important question for those in the crypto space centers on what kind of problem is being solved. While the development of quantum supremacy is a haunting specter indeed for hodlers worried about their private keys, there's yet little evidence the problems being solved by this technology have much utility in cracking encryption where cryptos are concerned.

"These companies are trying to build hardware that replicates the circuit model of classical computers. However, current experimental systems have less than 100 qubits. To achieve useful computational performance, you probably need machines with hundreds of thousands of qubits," states Dr. Subhash Kak in a recent article.

Though groups like D-wave boast 2000 qubits (quantum bits) the applications are different. D-wave's focus is on optimization via a process called quantum annealing which, according to Kak, is a "narrower approach to quantum computing … where qubits are used to speed up optimization problems." As such, D-wave's claims have garnered some criticism, with one recent report on the topic calling the D-wave system "skim milk" compared to other computers.

Noise and Error Correction
The real difficulty in achieving practical quantum code-cracking resides in the concepts of noise and error correction, according to Kak. The researcher details:

"For computers to function properly, they must correct all small random errors. In a quantum computer, such errors arise from the non-ideal circuit elements and the interaction of the qubits with the environment around them."

For these reasons the qubits can lose coherency in a fraction of a second and, therefore, the computation must be completed in even less time. If random errors – which are inevitable in any physical system – are not corrected, the computer's results will be worthless.

This error correction complicates things even more. The potential for noise-related errors necessitates the need for more qubit power. Theoretical physicist Mikhail Dyakonov describes the mind-boggling nature of the problem, saying:

"While a conventional computer with N bits at any given moment must be in one of its 2N possible states, the state of a quantum computer with N qubits is described by the values of the 2N quantum amplitudes, which are continuous parameters (ones that can take on any value, not just a 0 or a 1). This is the origin of the supposed power of the quantum computer, but it is also the reason for its great fragility and vulnerability.

So the number of continuous parameters describing the state of such a useful quantum computer at any given moment … is much, much greater than the number of subatomic particles in the observable universe.

In other words, the strength of practical quantum computing can also be seen as its Achilles heel. Because it can process so many variables, these seemingly endless variables also open the door for greater potential error. Resulting hardware and logistical considerations are not as often discussed as other issues, but according to the two researchers these areas are of critical importance.

Looking Past the Hype
Dyakonov, like Kak, points to the hype surrounding the field of quantum computing, which has been in development and a source of energized speculation for decades. While it is unclear exactly how far classified government and high-level scientific developments may have come by now, as far as the educated observer can tell, it seems there's a long way to go before the Bitcoin network may be in danger. At which point algorithmic upgrades have been suggested by many as a potential solution.

Still, like ongoing work in nuclear fusion, quantum computing is not to be ignored. An unforeseen breakthrough could theoretically happen at any time and change the game. Kak, for his part, remains skeptical: "As someone who has worked on quantum computing for many years, I believe that due to the inevitability of random errors in the hardware, useful quantum computers are unlikely to ever be built."

This week in tech: Asia shows the blockchain world how it’s done


More global giants continue to adopt the blockchain, setting the stage for what could be a momentous year in 2020 for the technology. Asia has continued to set the pace, with China, South Korea and India leading the pack.

This week, China's internet giant ByteDance launched a new partnership which will develop blockchain and AI solutions for its clients. Known mainly as the owner of video sharing app TikTok, ByteDance partnered with a state media conglomerate to launch a new company named Pengpai Audiovisual Technology Co.

Also in China, the country's judiciary revealed this week that the smart courts system has been quite a success. The courts are powered by blockchain and other technologies such as AI and cloud computing. According to a recent report, these smart courts settled over 3 million cases between March and October this year.

The race for a national digital currency is still on course, with Iran revealing its intentions this week. The country's president proposed the development of a Muslim crypto this week, aimed at checking the U.S. economic dominance. He called on Muslim nations to come together and back this crypto as they seek to strengthen financial and trade cooperation.

This week, Thailand announced that it would apply blockchain in the issuance of its electronic visa on arrival. The application of the technology will speed up the process, while enhancing transparency and security.

Over in East Asia, a leading telecom operator announced the launch of a blockchain-based currency to revitalize the local economy. South Korea's largest telecom company KT partnered with Busan city to launch the currency, which will be known as Dongbaekjeon. Busan, South Korea's second largest city after Seoul, believes the currency will "revitalize its local economy and ease the management burden of small business."

In South Asia, one of the largest consultancy companies released a blockchain development kit this week, aiming to accelerate the development of decentralized applications. Tata Consultancy Services, which is the largest Indian company by market capitalization, launched the kit to allow enterprises to build and deploy dApps in a simplified way. The company claims that developers who use their kit write smart contracts 40% faster than their peers.

In Hong Kong, the United Nations is turning to blockchain to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers. Through the International Organization for Migration, the U.N. launched a blockchain tool that will introduce transparency in the immigration sector. Hong Kong is home to nearly 400,000 migrants and over half this number has been exploited in one way or another.

Over in the U.S., chipmaker AMD this week joined a blockchain alliance which aims at promoting the technology in the gaming industry. AMD becomes the first major player to join the Blockchain Game Alliance. Still in the U.S., a Gartner report this week revealed that over 75% of major companies are integrating blockchain and IoT in their operations. According to the report, transparency and security are some of the key reasons for the continued uptake.

The week also saw some legal enforcement, with two Russian crypto miners charged for using government resources to mine. This came just a month after a Russian nuclear physicist had been sentenced to three years in jail for a similar crime.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Crypto bank SEBA expands to nine new jurisdictions


Cryptocurrency-focused banking startup SEBA Crypto AG has expanded into nine new jurisdictions, just months after it received a Swiss banking license. With its latest expansion, the startup aims to bridge the gap between digital currencies and the legacy banking system.

Based in the Zug crypto valley in Switzerland, SEBA aims to offer the crypto industry with the banking services that it has lacked for so long. It obtained a Swiss banking license in August and became fully operational a month ago.

In a statement shared with media houses, the company revealed that it had expanded into nine new jurisdictions. These are Hong Kong, Italy, Singapore, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, the U.K and Portugal.

For SEBA, it's all about bridging the gap between the traditional financial system and the new era of digital currencies. As CoinGeek has reported severally, crypto companies have struggled to access even the most basic banking services. For banks, it doesn't matter how big the company is or how much revenue the bank stands to lose, as has been seen with the Bitfinex banking debacle.

In its statement, SEBA criticized the great discrepancy that exists between legacy financial institutions and the crypto industry, stating, "More than 10 years after the invention of Bitcoin, there is still a tremendous gap between traditional banking on one side and decentralized finance on the other side."

SEBA provides several products to its clients, starting with the most basic bank account needs. It'll also allow its clients to tokenize all forms of assets, from real estate to investment products. It also offers an e-wallet alongside its SEBA card. Its services allow its clients to manage five cryptos currently, among them Ether, Litecoin and Stellar. They can easily exchange these cryptos into fiat on SEBA's platform, and vice versa.

As we reported previously, SEBA's promising future has pooled in investors, allowing it to raise $100 million in its most recent funding round. At the time, the startup's CEO Guido Buehler reiterated that its mission is "to become a market leader in the convergence of traditional finance with the crypto economy."

Indian Parliament member Dr. Subramanian Swamy has shared his view on cryptocurrency. Advocating for India to make the transition to crypto, he reportedly said, "cryptocurrency is inevitable." The lawmaker will chair a conference at the UN India's headquarters next week where issues surrounding cryptocurrency in the country will be discussed.

Indian Member of Parliament (MP) Dr. Subramanian Swamy has reportedly spoken about cryptocurrency following the statements made last week on digital currency by the governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP was nominated to Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India's parliament, by the President of India. According to Sarkaritel news portal, Dr. Swamy supports cryptocurrency adoption. He was quoted on Wednesday as saying:

Last week, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das revealed that the central bank had examined internally the prospect of issuing an RBI-backed digital rupee. "I think it is an area where the Reserve Bank will certainly look at seriously at an appropriate time," he confirmed. The RBI, however, has not warmed up to cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. Its banking restriction, enforced on the Indian cryptocurrency industry in July last year, is still in effect. The supreme court is expected to resume hearing the arguments against this ban in January.

Crypto Conference at UN India
Dr. Swamy will chair a closed-door conference at UN India's headquarters in New Delhi on Dec. 18. The event is co-organized by United Nations Technology Innovation Lab – UNTIL India and BEGIN India Think Tank. The aim of the conference is to deliberate on methods, technology and delivery mechanisms of digital currency that make nations, particularly law enforcement, "vulnerable in monitoring/ controlling/ stopping the invisible vaporization of fiat currency towards terror financing," the UN's website described.

"The scheduled conference on cryptocurrency organized by Mr. Deepak is most timely," Dr. Swamy was quoted by the news outlet as saying. "China is today even ahead of U.S. in its decision to begin a trial run in two cities for digital transactions." Deepak Kapoor is the founder of BEGIN India Think Tank. The MP elaborated:

I advocate that India as an established super power in software should accept to make the transition to cryptocurrency.

The conference will be attended by leaders from key Indian investigative agencies, law enforcement agencies, as well as state and central government IT departments. BEGIN India Think Tank focuses on addressing issues surrounding blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. The organization helps investigative agencies, law enforcement agencies, and banking institutions understand cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. Kapoor affirmed:

We are committed to addressing a range of issues around cryptocurrency, globally, starting in India.

"From its damaging negative aspects that contribute to undermining [the] dominance of central banks in a nation's economy to the overwhelmingly positive aspects of how policy should be formulated around the most secure technology till date which was essentially built to decimate the control of governments and central banks," he continued. "We must work to retain the safeguards."

Among topics that will be discussed at the conference is how to fight crypto-related crimes. "For this purpose, such conferences are necessary in a democracy that India is, and move to digital, orderly and tamper-proof transaction just as in the past, the world had moved from barter to precious metals to paper currency for transaction," Dr. Swamy detailed.

"The banking system is unable to track any financial transactions and law enforcement agencies are helplessly unable to deal with high-end cryptocurrency technology," Kapoor remarked. "Investigators have not yet even understood how to ascertain/ calculate the total value of siphoned off funds, leave alone locating and seizing it," he further asserted.

Despite various efforts by the Indian government and law enforcement agencies, BEGIN India's founder claims that "not a single case of cryptocurrency has yet been successfully solved, nor a fraction of the money recovered so far." He noted that "Alarmingly, with each passing day, larger amounts keep getting converted to cryptocurrency and vanishing into the thin-air invisible economy, thus weakening India's economy and hurting its GDP." Meanwhile, the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy has introduced a few courses teaching high ranking police officers about cryptocurrency.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Weiss Ratings Downgrades EOS to 'C-' Due to Centralization - How Other Coins Measure Up


Weiss Ratings has downgraded EOS once again, taking its ranking from a B to a C-. The group cites "failure to decentralize," "misallocation of resources," and a congested network as reasons for the fall in rank. "Weiss Crypto Ratings model is not based on opinion. It's driven by data," the group claims. In this article we'll look at EOS, as well as top coins by market cap to see how Weiss — and other voices in the space — view their progress.

The Weiss Rating System
The self-described "only ratings agency that combines the broadest coverage, strictest independence, complete objectivity, high ethics, and a commitment to safety," has moved EOS down to a C- rating. Weiss Crypto Ratings took to Twitter over the weekend to explain their reasoning. "We've had great respect for work and thinking that went into the EOS project. But the Weiss Crypto Ratings model is not based on opinion. It's driven by data," the group tweeted. "And that data has now caused a downgrade from B to C-. Here's why (full article to be published soon)."

The first reason given is a perceived failure to decentralize. Weiss notes that 0.01% of EOS token holders "control a whopping 68% of the voting power. So much for the claim that EOS is a major improvement over older cryptos like Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH)," the group asserts. The second reason is a "misallocation of resources" that has resulted in network congestion, and frozen transactions for small token holders. "The issue of CPU, REX and the clogged network is too complex to explain in a simple Twitter format, so on this topic, see our article explaining EOS downgrade in detail, coming out soon," Weiss details.

Bitcoin Core
Weiss gives market cap leader Bitcoin Core (BTC) an overall rating of B+. Weak areas are "risk" and "momentum" and the coin receives a D grade in market performance. Adoption and technology both score well, getting an A. In a recent article published to the American Institute for Economic Research, Austrian economist and Bitcoin advocate Jeffrey A. Tucker seems to lend credence to the Weiss assessment on momentum, writing:

Consider the core data. Transactions per day are at 2016 levels. Exchange volume is at 2017 levels. Wallet use is at an all-time high but most new users come in through exchanges and keep their money there, which belies the hope of disintermediated money.

Ethereum also garners a B+ grade by the Weiss system, ranking "fair" and "excellent" in technology and adoption, respectively. A D- score in market performance counterbalances this positivity. While some in the crypto space would argue that there are serious scaling issues with Ethereum and question the technology and adoption score, Weiss nonetheless gives these an A, based on its ranking system.

XRP receives a B-, rated "very weak" in the momentum category and "weak" in the risk category. "Momentum," according to the Weiss system, "evaluates the upside potential an investor could benefit from." XRP's most highly scored aspect is adoption, categorized as "excellent." Centralization has been a big issue in the crypto space for critics of XRP, as some see the asset as being controlled directly by the company, and not a decentralized community.

Bitcoin Cash
Bitcoin Cash, whose community and tech seek to address some of the issues with BTC Tucker discusses in his article, gets an overall Weiss rating of C. Interestingly, no 90-day performance history is shown for BCH at press time, and this metric would ostensibly be needed to effectively establish risk and momentum, both of which Weiss rates as weak. In any case, BCH shines most brightly in the category of adoption, which is rated "good."

Monday, December 2, 2019

How the Upcoming Bitcoin Halving Compares to Previous Cycles


For those standing very close to the crypto charts, it might be easy to get discouraged by the gloomy nature of recent markets. However, new comparisons of the current halving cycle to those in the past have emerged and might put some wind back into the sails of traders, hodlers, and cryptocurrency enthusiasts in general.

Miners Unfazed as Halving Approaches
Though crypto prices took a big dip in November, with BTC falling 30% from a high of $9,486 to a bottom of around $6,575, hash rates on both the BTC and BCH chains have held relatively steady as the next block reward halving approaches. Data also points to miners hoarding coins in view of the upcoming subsidy reduction, as the event is generally viewed as price favorable. In combination with these factors, new analysis has emerged which might suggest that in spite of the recent bearish climate, things might be more on track than previously supposed.

Comparing Halving Cycles
The image above aligns the block reward halving points of three cycles (the latter half of pre-halving and the first half of post-halving), with the three cycles anchored at a common line of 100% of the cycle low. The first two cycles which are completed, and the pre-halving phase of the current cycle are displayed. Interestingly, the movements in the latter half cycles appear to follow a similar trend. As creator of the graphic, @Chartsbtc, states on their Twitter post:

Each cycle is 210,000 blocks (~4 years). This chart starts half way through the cycle and goes half way into the next cycle. This is my attempt to show the lows prior to halving and the peaks post halving but keep everything centered around the halving.

The graphic is compelling, and has many hoping for great moves price-wise in 2020 and beyond. Discussing the methodology of creating the graphic further, @Chartsbtc explains why the green price action line does not touch the 100% cycle low level: "The low was a intraday price and the chart only plots the closing prices to the nearest 105th block. I wish I actually had prices per block." They further note that viewers should "Keep in mind that each cycle peak will likely be lower than the prior one." Even so, should the trend repeat BTC could see a post-halving peak around $80,000. Still, this is all speculation, and other factors must be kept in mind.

Into 2020
With the Bitcoin Core halving estimated to be taking place in mid-May, 2020, and the Bitcoin Cash halving to likely occur a month earlier, speculation of course abounds. Other factors playing into market perception and possibly price, such as proliferating development surrounding the BCH chain, and a trend of businesses dropping BTC as a payment method due to fees and congestion (not to mention an overall shift in attitude in the BTC community from user to mere hodler), could also have unexpected affects. If the projections of the above halving data are correct, however, everyone may be in for an interesting ride in 2020.