Cryptocurrency rallies…again

If you’ve been following the financial news in the last few weeks, then you have probably seen that some cryptocurrencies have been devalued. This has led to some speculators predicting that this is the beginning of the much-vaunted end for the cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrency news

Ether has lost about 70% of its value this year, with around 50% of that happening in the last three months. It is now lagging behind its main cryptocurrency rivals. However, on each of the last four occasions that it has lost value and trailed its peers, it has rallied strongly and recovered. And it is thought that it could be about to do exactly the same thing, with a big rise predicted before the end of 2019.

The continued recovery of some of the big names in the cryptocurrency sphere just shows how resilient it can be. With each prophecy of doom and destruction, the cryptocurrency only seems to come back stronger. Which leads nicely onto our next bit of news.

 

Markets continue to rise

Although some individual cryptocurrencies have been struggling, overall the market is in very good shape. This is largely thanks to the industry and Blockchain technology receiving support from governments and other institutes. Following a slight slump in August, the market rebounded and daily trading volumes reached more than $16 billion.

In fact, all but two of the top 20 cryptocurrencies saw firm growth towards the end of the month and have surged sharply in the last few days. With a market cap reaching over $200 billion and governments such as that of Austria investing heavily, it looks like cryptocurrencies are here to stay.

 

US lawmakers have cryptocurrency proposal

The US congress is to launch a task force to investigate how cryptocurrencies have been gaining traction in another move that gives credence to the industry. While much of the work will be looking into how the technology can be potentially misused, it is another step towards the eventual mainstream recognition of cryptocurrency and Blockchain technology.

Traditional banking veterans are also making the move into cryptocurrency. Swiss start-up SEBA Crypto has raised $103 million in order to set up a bank offering cryptocurrency services to companies and investors. It’s further proof that the trend of cryptocurrency becoming more accepted by institutions is gaining pace. Large banking institutions have already expressed an interest and have considered making large investments in the firm. The start-up aims to open branches in major financial hubs such as Zurich, as well as offering digital services.

So, despite a rocky start to the month and year, it looks like the cryptocurrency market is in good shape and set to stay that way for the rest of 2018 and beyond. Who knows, you might even see cryptocurrency banks opening up on a high street near you in the not too distant future. With huge amounts of money invested and infrastructure being developed, as well as governmental involvement, cryptocurrency and its associated Blockchain technology are in a healthy position.

Round up of fintech news from August 2018

The world of financial technology, or fintech, moves fast and it can be hard to keep abreast of what’s going on. New developments seem to happen every day and it’s important to stay up to date. With that in mind, we’ve put together this roundup of fintech news from the last month, August 2018, just in case you missed anything.

UK fintechs hit by Brexit talent squeeze

Some derided it as Project Fear, others said it was a simple matter of fact. Brexit would drive talent away and hinder the technological sector in the UK. And according to Wired magazine in August, it seems there was a legitimate cause for concern.

photo of group of people standing in front of building

On the surface, all seems well in the world of UK fintech but there is a war brewing for talent. None of the UK fintech firms have upped sticks and left in the run-up to March 2019 but dig a little deeper and there are cracks starting to appear. Of the 76,000 or so people employed in fintech in the UK, around 42% are from overseas. These are mainly computer experts and software developers and after Brexit, many of them might decide that there are better places to ply their trade than the UK. Watch this space for more news as the facts start to come through.

UK leads the way for fintech investment

Of course, it’s not all bad news for the UK. The country is leading the way for global fintech investments, ahead of both the US and China with $16 billion ploughed into the sector in the first half of 2018. The UK also has four of the industry’s top 10 deals of the past six months. So maybe this will be enough to convince the talent to stay.

Facebook at it again?

facebook internet login screenFacebook were once again in talks with banks to try to get them to join its messenger platform and share user information in exchange for services. This news comes after a tough year for the social media giant in the face of privacy violations and other scandals. It appears that they’ve not learned their lessons about user privacy.

Amazon insurance

kindle technology amazon tablet

Amazon is seriously considering entering the world of insurance price comparison sites and has been in talks with some of Europe’s biggest insurance companies. As yet there are few details about what form this would take but there are strong signs that they will be entering the insurance marketplace in the not too distant future. This would pitch them against current market leaders such as GoCompare and Compare the Market. Amazon already uses its Alexa product for some financial services and has partnered with Amex to bring a credit card to market so who knows where else they might go in the fintech sphere.

 

We’ll keep you updated on any further major fintech stores that happen next month and will bring you any developments on the above stories.

Is tech changing the world for the better?

There are a number of starts ups across the world that are using technology for social good. The potential of the technological revolution to help us all lead better and more fulfilling lives is incredible. All too often we hear about technology being used in a bad way, for negative purposes. You’ve probably read articles about killer drones and weaponised technology, or heard stories about how people are becoming addicted to their phones. And while it may be true that there needs to be some regulation in place, there are other stories out there highlighting the potential positives of technological change. Here is a closer look at just a few of them.

ATLAN Space

action air aircraft aviation

This Moroccan company is using drone technology and AI to identify and report environmental crimes in the seas off the coast. The system uses deep learning technology to verify if boats are allowed to be in certain parts of the ocean, identify their category and report on movements. With plastic in the oceans being a hot-button topic, this could be a game changer. With the knowledge that they are being watched from the skies, polluters are less likely to act with impunity and may take more responsibility for their actions on the water.

Oxford VR

photo of green data matrix

Virtual reality has many potential benefits beyond just gaming. Oxford VR, attached to the prestigious Oxford University, is trialling whether or not they can use VR to cure a fear of heights. People with fears are guided through a virtual 10-story building and set an increasingly difficult set of challenges to overcome. There was a reduced fear of heights in as many as 68% of cases. There is now hope that VR could be used to treat all sorts of other conditions and anxieties.

Spark Horizon

alternative auto automobile battery

This is a company building a network of charging points for electric cars around the continent. The car manufacturers are covering the costs of the project in exchange for advertising options at the charging stations. As we move towards a world that relies less on fossil fuels, this can only be a good thing.

Immersive Rehab

photography of man using virtual reality headset

People who have suffered injuries and accidents that affect their movement often face a real battle to get their lives back on track. It can take months and even years of rehab to get back to even partial fitness. The rehab process is gruelling.

That’s why Immersive Rehab have been working on a project to offer a more cohesive programme that allows people to work on their recovery as and when, without the need for specialists. Again, it uses virtual reality technology to make a difference.

This is just a small selection of businesses that have identified areas where it may be possible to use technology to improve the world around us. The potential is there, it just needs the right people to focus on these areas in order to create a better world. From drones keeping our seas clean to virtual reality physiotherapy, the possibilities of tech are endless.

Can Blockchain help secure elections

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you might have heard that elections – and specifically the rigging of elections – comes up in the news time and time again. Whether it is voter fraud, foreign powers meddling or simply a break down in the current system, the way we vote has been under attack and something needs to change.

Enter Blockchain. Online voting has often been touted as a way forward to make voting easier and to increase participation. How much easier would it be to vote on your phone rather than have to make tour way down to the polling booth? But online voting has often been accused of lacking the security needed for free and fair elections. But with all of this news of Russia interfering in elections around the world and ballot fraud in the US, is it really any more of a risk than the current system?

As Bloomberg has reported recently, Blockchain may be the future of voting technology. It will be used to store and secure digital votes with its distributed ledger meaning that the system will not be open to manipulation. Also, it would mean that people would be able to see how the count was progressing in real time, leading to more open and honest elections. So, not only could Blockchain tackle voter fraud, it could also severely limit the scope and possibility for interference from outside bodies.

In fact, some computer scientists have already piloted the system, investing a $150,000 grant from Tusk/Montgomery Philanthropies Inc., a venture capital fund set up to try and solve the riddle of technology and voting. Their aim is to increase voter participation in the voting system and have identified Blockchain as a key way of making this happen.

three women standing near man holding smartphones

In many ways, the younger generation thinks of it as strange that you can’t vote on a phone. So much else of what they do is carried out using this device so voting can seem rather archaic to them. If these new trials prove to be a success then it may not be too long until they do just that.

In the two trials carried out in Harrison and Monongalia in the US, votes were stored in 16 different locations, including the cloud. They also used various providers so that no one influence was able to be pushed. A hacker would have then had to break into all 16 locations in order to change the voting numbers. Multiply these locations by thousands and you begin to see why Blockchain could be the answer.

Sceptics say that this won’t be the answer and that there will be some way around the Blockchain technology. However, at a time when hackers and foreign governments seem to be finding easy ways to do this, a move towards a more secure system seems like a must. More investors and more trials are needed to fully test the technology in this realm but once this happens it could change democracy forever.

The biggest thing in Blockchain since Bitcoin?

Blockchain is evolving every day, with hundreds of new projects and investments for potential investors. Of course, Bitcoin is to date the most famous of its uses and the reason it was created in the first instance. It was the need for greater online transparency and accountability that led to the introduction of the distributed ledger. But until now, these two ideals have rarely been used in tandem.

ethereum and bitcoin emblems

When conducting their annual audits, companies have needed to communicate with stakeholders and staff to get a snapshot of how the company is performing. But now, thanks to Blockchain technology, real-time reporting means carrying out audits don’t have to be painful.

A new project, called Auditchain is following in the footsteps of Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto and represents a culmination of everything that was exciting about the original Bitcoin project. The technology will be used as if an army of external auditors are validating every transaction the company makes. It will then be presented in the form of audit analytics. The accuracy of accounting and reporting compliance is checked and any investors looking to gain access to accurate information can purchase a subscription to financial statements, with more detailed analysis available for an additional cost.

This means investors and stakeholders would be able to understand exactly how the business is operating in real time. It would also mean the ability for committing fraud would be reduced to almost zero. Businesses would no longer be able to mislead potential investors. And, what’s more, this kind of technology could be used at a governmental level. We would all be able to know what is spent by departments, including how our tax money is being used. This could be a truly watershed moment for how our world works.

With every piece of financial information recorded and integrated with other facts about the company, the Blockchain would be providing valuable information about updated balance sheets, cash flow, income and more. And what about the benefit to the companies, you may ask? Well, all of this would be significantly cheaper than carrying out a traditional audit. Real-time accounting could make the whole process cost neutral.

This kind of de-centralised auditing feels like the kind of thing that Blockchain was created for. The world of business accounting is potentially going to change forever, and once it does, who knows what might be next. Imagine living in a world where the government’s accounts could be held up to scrutiny, where anyone could access what they are spending our money on, all in real time.

The distributed ledger is updated automatically every time it changes and it is protected from hacking and other cybersecurity threats. Is true unlocking of the potential of Blockchain?  What started out as a platform to run cryptocurrencies could be about to change the way that business and governments go about tracking their money. Watch this space to find out more about Blockchain is changing the world around us every day.

How is fintech changing financial inclusion?

Financial technology, known as fintech for short, uses software and digital platforms to deliver financial services to customers. These new tools have been disrupting traditional banking models by creating more user-friendly and efficient services.

group hand fist bump

What this has meant in practice is that fintech has opened up boundless financial potential for a huge range of people. Access to financial products and services is more attainable than ever before, with more affordable options making services more inclusive in every respect.

Lowering the cost of doing business has also resulted in much bigger savings for consumers. This, combined with a much more prevalent and affordable use of mobile technology, has opened doors to many people previously excluded from the world of finance. Here are just a few examples of how this has been possible.

 

Money transfers

Moving or sending money from one country to another used to involve a trip down to your bank, Western Union or an equivalent service provider. This would include paying a fairly hefty charge for their services. These days you can do exactly the same thing on your phone for a fraction of the cost. Moving money has never been more convenient or cost-effective.

With the introduction of blockchain in recent years, the international money transfer industry has been turned on its head. The old guard is facing fierce competition from new fintech organisations utilising blockchain to lower the cost of international money transfers. An excellent example is Cashaa, who are building a blockchain based bank in 200 countries providing micro-financing and helps to build your credit score for those in developing countries.  Even Santander are launching a blockchain based foreign exchange service.

 

Credit history

This can be a massive stumbling block for people trying to secure loans or mortgages. Lenders look at traditional data such as loan repayments to assess suitability. Now, technology has opened up a new world of data sources, such as mobile phone payment history, to provide a much clearer picture of credit history.

Kora Network is a blockchain solution that provides a system for individuals in developing nations to build their credit score through Kora’s immutable ledger technology (blockchain).  This, in turn, allows them to gain access to financial services such as loans and credit cards which they previously wouldn’t be able to access. A simple yet brilliant solution that economies and the existing financial solutions do not solve due to lack of profit margins.

 

Cashless payments

For merchants around the world, this has been a huge development. The simplicity and security of digital payments has expanded across the world, with payments now being possible on mobile phones as well as credit and debit cards.  Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay are some of the most popular methods due to their amazing market share in the mobile industry.

 

Microfinance

Without the need for travel and mountains of paperwork, loan applications and banking services can now be carried out in seconds rather than hours. This makes it easier and more convenient for people in all corners of the globe, including remote locations, to become part of the online banking system. Businesses can access loans and digital banking solutions that make operations significantly easier.

 

Deferred payment plans

Rather than having to access large sums of cash to make payments, it is now possible in some instances to pay in instalments over time electronically. This has allowed businesses to bring technology and development to remote locations without the need for lump sums. Case studies have seen deferred payment bring electricity to African villages which would otherwise not have been able to afford it.

As fintech continues to develop, it will doubtless open up even more options for including more people from around the planet. This levelling of the playing field could have huge potential benefits for all of us. As always, blockchain technology is behind many of the major advances, with its distributed ledger system allowing more and more boundaries to be broken down and greater inclusiveness in all areas of the financial system.

Cryptocurrency News 21 June 2018

Value rise is good news for investors

Last week saw was good news for bullish cryptocurrency investors as the market added $12 billion in value in just 24 hours. Bitcoin rose from $6,300 to $6,700. This halted a decline that had been happening since 3 May, despite falling short of the highest $10,000 valuation. However, these gains could still signal the start of a mid-term rally for the currency.

blue and yellow graph on stock market monitor

Bitcoin has been relatively stable in the $6,000 region and this demonstrates more momentum for the currency. It has also meant that investors have become more bullish. They are predicting that the value will creep back up again to the $7,000 mark.

 

 

Blockchain platform to challenge App Store with borderless payments

A new platform, Bezant, is going to allow anyone to establish their own eCommerce content store and receive payments from anywhere in the world. This will reduce costs for consumers and open doors to emerging markets around the world. Currently, many small businesses and individual traders are missing out on the opportunity to grow as they cannot accept alternative payment methods.

Businesses unable to accept credit card payments or bank transfers could be missing out on many customers with money to spend. A new Blockchain-based system will help this large number of businesses and consumers benefit from end to end distribution and payment with vastly reduced transaction fees.

Large providers such as the App Store put small businesses at a disadvantage, with more than 90% of their revenue coming from just 1% of suppliers. Smaller businesses can lose up to 50% of their revenue once marketing fees and commissions have been deducted. This new form of Blockchain payment could make it much easier for small businesses to prosper in global markets.

Blockchain developers still in demand

The University of California Berkeley has launched a drive to help equip people with the skills they need to become Blockchain developers, launching an online certificate programme to help them learn the skills. They have identified that Blockchain developers are increasingly in demand and represent the wave of the future.

woman reading book

Berkeley has realised that Blockchain developers are needed around the world, and with more than 7,000 students signing up to the course, it seems that it is already a hit. As people and businesses become more comfortable with the technology, interest has grown, and more and more Blockchain-based projects are being launched. But the industry has been slow to catch up, leaving a shortfall of developers.

The program is the first of its kind and will span three months, focusing on cryptocurrencies and permissioned Blockchains. It will hopefully equip students for a career in the distributed ledger technology industry. Blockchain skills have ranked in the top 20 for fastest growing job skills, with available positions growing by more than 200% in the last year. This looks likely to be the first of many similar programs to be launched in the field.

Technology isn’t bad, or good?

These days there is a lot of talk about how technology is posing a huge threat to our safety and security. From weaponised drones to large-scale hacking, the fabric of society is at risk of a technological meltdown. It can be very scary reading about it in the papers, but in reality, technology has been a force for immense good.

Think about all the lifesaving operations that have taken place thanks to pioneering surgical tools. Think about how reassuring it is to be in contact with our loved ones through mobile phones and online chat services. These are just a couple of examples of the millions of ways that technology has enhanced our lives – and that’s not even counting the little things like electric toothbrushes.

blur business close up computer

But what about in the area of social projects? Is technology a cause of harm or promoter of good? Things like social media have undoubtedly caused a great deal of misery, through online bullying, body shaming and mental health issues. But they have also brought people closer together, allowed the fostering of shared ideas across national borders and held governments to account.

Cryptocurrencies have infringed on the power held by established elites, such as the international banking institutions, creating the potential for a more democratised social framework. It has allowed business to flourish in otherwise hostile environments and points towards a future where the people, rather than the big corporations, control the power.

metal chain in grayscale and closeup photo

Through this kind of technology, enormous social good can come about. Imagine the projects that can get off the ground with funding from crowdsourcing that would otherwise have been turned down at bank or state level. Think of the humanitarian aid that can be raised in a matter of minutes when a disaster happens somewhere in the world. And imagine a world where all transactions are transparent, waving goodbye to a world of clandestine corruption and underhand politics. This is the potential power of cryptocurrency technology. But it needs to be harnessed and managed in the correct way.

 

Technology can also localise design to help meet specific needs. It is not always the right answer to a problem to throw money at it. It is often better to ensure that the right technology can be used in the correct destination. Social media and mobile technology make this a reality, allowing local people to get access to the solutions they need at the right time.

Technology in and of itself is neither good nor bad. It is what we do with it that counts. We are the driving force behind the technology, so we have the responsibility to make the right choices. Some people might be designing weaponised drones, but others are using technology to force governments to pay more attention to their citizens or take down large corporations that are polluting the environment. This is the social good power of technology that we can really use in the coming years. Be part of that change.

The truth about blockchain technology

In this modern computer age, contracts, transactions and their associated records underpin the way the world works. These are the building blocks of our economy, our political systems and the way the legal world operates. These are the things that keep our society running the way it is supposed to, they preserve our identity and they keep track of all the events that happen on a daily basis.

abstract art blur bright

These digital transactions maintain governments, manage social interaction and determine the way governments communicate with their citizens. But there is a bit of a problem. The speed at which transactions are made is now far outstripping the way they can be safely stored and recorded. The way in which we administrate these communications is too slow, potentially exposing them to risk. And that’s where Blockchain comes in.

Blockchain is an open and distributed ledger that records transactions between two parties efficiently in a transparent and permanent way. It is the technology at the heart of the virtual currency boom but its potential spreads much further than this.

The ledger created by blockchain lets us think about a world where contracts are stored safely in digital code, stored in shared databases where they can be identified and validated. This means that the classic intermediaries, such as brokers, lawyers and bankers may not be needed. Organisations and individuals may be able to use algorithms to quickly and freely transact with each other in a way that removes dispute and insecurity. In short, blockchain technology could change the way the world works.

However, this revolution in the way we operate does need to be carefully managed. If blockchain is to change the way we do business, and how economies operate, then we need to think carefully about what will follow. Blockchain allows for greater security through its open ledger system but what are the new potential security risks? In order for blockchain to reach its potential many old systems will have to be swept away, and this needs to be managed carefully.

The time when blockchain leads governments and business may be some years away. That’s because it is what is known as a foundational technology. This means it has the potential to create new foundations for our current systems rather than being a disruptional technology, which is when it shows a new streamlined and better way of doing what currently exists.

gray ipod classic
The rise of MP3s led to the decline of CDs

Foundational technology generally needs things to reach a tipping point when a majority of the organisations or major players decide that a change is necessary, such as when MP3s replaced CDs. But as blockchain gathers momentum, this moment in time is looking ever more likely.

There’s little doubt that blockchain will come to dominate the way things are done in the future. The big questions that remain are when this might happen and how the change will be managed. So maybe it’s better to be part of the process sooner rather than later?

Blockchain developers in hot demand?

Blockchain has moved into the spotlight as one of as the hottest job skill in the freelance market. The sector has grown more than 6,000% since this time last year and it could become the new ‘cloud’ in the coming years.

startup-photos.jpgDevelopers with Blockchain skills are fast becoming the hottest property in the marketplace according to a recent report by Upwork. They have shown that postings for Blockchain skills have grown exponentially in recent months, with only those with skills in robotics in more demand.

The Upwork report says: ‘Blockchain appears to be the next uncharted, highly talked about technology similar to what the “cloud” was back in the mid-2000’s. Its growth exceeded 2,000% for three quarters in a row on Upwork.com, and in Q1 it experienced more than 6,000% year-over-year growth, making it the fastest-growing skill out of more than 5,000 skills on the site.’

More than half of managers said that access to Blockchain skills is their biggest challenge when hiring and around 59% are already using flexible talent. Over the last 12 months on the site there were 5,743 postings for full-time openings requiring Blockchain skills, a growth of 320% on last year.

This is because the initial hype around the technology is now being taken very seriously by many employers as they realise the potential of the distributed ledger that Blockchain uses.

The Upwork report said: ‘Major companies such as Samsung and IBM are already leveraging it in innovative ways, while Salesforce is planning on unveiling a Blockchain offering for its customers during Dreamforce in September.’

pexels-photo-1037914.jpegCryptocurrency developers, who rely on Blockchain skills, were also in high demand in the freelance marketplace – up to the third most wanted in the list of desirable abilities. And people with Blockchain skills can earn as much as $250 an hour according to some listings. In fact, the median income for a Blockchain developer in the US is around $140,000 a year. This is compared to general software developers who only earn around $105,000. This is mostly concentrated in high tech areas, but it also means there is plenty of scope for work in the freelance market.

CEO of Upwork, Stephane Kasriel, said: ‘As skills become more specialized, companies either need to invest in re-skilling to prepare workers for the jobs of tomorrow or leverage freelance professionals who are nearly twice as likely as traditional employees to proactively take re-skilling upon themselves.’

As businesses still try to figure out how they can best utilise the potential of Blockchain, and start to take the technology seriously, demand is far outstripping supply. It is very likely that this trend will continue in the coming years until the infrastructure is in place to provide adequate training on the job. Until then, those with Blockchain skills, just like the cryptocurrencies they run, are in very high demand. If you’re looking to learn new skills or just an area of fintech in which to invest, now could be the time to make your move.