AdEx

Standing for Advertising Exchange, AdEx (ADX) is a decentralised platform in which online publishers and advertisers can meet and negotiate contracts for advertising online through they’re portal. The AdEx Project allows users to clearly define which adverts they would like to have published on their sites and also manage all their privacy and data, which is very important in these regulated times.

A Decentralised Advertising Portal

AdEx is emerging in an industry which is already quite saturated, there are a number of well-established ad agencies also using blockchain technologies, such as Basic Attention, Bitclave, Token, qChain and adChain. So what’s going to make AdEx stand out from the crowd? AdEx are offering a platform that is fully transparent for both advertisers and publishers, unrestricted access and no fees for using their services.

At the moment AdEx is a relatively unknown project, they successfully completed their ICO token sale, which has given them funding to launch a beta version of their platform.

The State of the Ad Industry

To understand AdEx’s place in the world it is important to understand the current state of the advertising industry.

Over the last few years, online advertising has finally surpassed all over forms of advertising, including TV, Print and Radio, in terms of revenue. Infact, online advertising now accounts for 40% of all advertising spending.

With technologies and internet speeds continuing to advance at an alarming rate, you are now seeing a shift from mainstream television providers, who are also offering their content online, and the trend towards online media is growing evermore.

Meet the Middleman

The advertising industry are rife with agencies, whose job is it to seed your advertising content out to the general public. An online example of this would be Google’s Adwords advertising platform. They use a bidding mechanic, to determine the price of a particular advert, on a cost-per-click basis and they make money, everytime someone clicks on an adverts. So is 100 people click on an ad spot that costs $1 a click, Google makes $100 and the advertiser spends 100 dollar. There are lots of different types of online advertising structures, such as CPM (Cost Per Thousand Impressions), CPA (Cost Per Acquisition), and so on. But the ultimate goal is to make money by connecting advertisers with publishers.

Transparency

Overall there is little transparency in the advertising industry. Google’s adwords won’t tell you why they charge $10 a click for an advert relating to dogs, but will only charge $5 when it’s related to rabbits. A lot of the time, it’s based on trends, time of year, algorithms, etc, but good luck trying to get agencies to reveal their pricing structure.

Sadly, this makes it quite difficult when it comes to auditing the success of an advertising campaign, It can also mean it can be difficult to measure the quality of traffic and leads coming from publishers. Some publishers have been known to spoof their traffic, in order to gain more money for the adverts being on their site.

Ad blocker and Ad blindness

When a user opens an app or surfs the internet, they are bombarded with advertising from the word go. Frustration has become so apparent, it gave birth to the beginnings of ad blocking extensions on web browsers such as firefox and chrome.

Blindness and disinterest in adverts have also become apparent, where ads are regularly avoided or skipped immediately. For ad agencies and publishers, this becomes a problem. It’s trying to be tackled by social media platforms such as facebook and instagram, by their ability to allow advertiser to target their users through their mountains of data.

How AdEx Solves the Problems

AdEx is looking to implement a solution, which consists of three user stories, the publisher, the advertiser and the user. Each of these stories, addresses the challenges of advertising online from a new perspective. Let’s look at how these three elements are managed.

Publishers

Often known as bloggers, content creators, youtubers, instagrammers, etc, they are digital media owners that users often visit. These publishers can host advertisements on their media and get paid for those particular ads.

Click Verification

Some publishers are only out to make money, so will defraud the ad agency with spoofed traffic to display the adverts too. When running advertisements with AdEx, each impression and click is verified to make sure it’s authentic. This eliminates the fraudsters from the system and overall protects the authentic publisher. AdEx will audit incoming impressions and false clicks will be punished, driving up the value of authentic impressions and ultimately helping publishers make more money.

Advertisers

Advertisers will have their site displayed on thousands of websites and they have no control over what website displays their ads, this can cause problems for the advertiser, especially when they are paying money for displaying their ads.

Target Audience

Similar to Facebook, and other social media platforms, AdEx promises to provide a high-level of customisable target audiences for advertisers. This will allow the advertiser to be able to further target their chosen demographic, ultimately bringing a better return on investment, this feature is what’s making AdEx truly unique. However, the company has limited data to target users from, but collecting more data and developing user profiles is top priority for them.

ADX Tokens

When advertisers pay for an ad placement, they will pay in ADX tokens. However to facilitate this, AdEx are implementing a direct exchange with fiat. When the user cashes out their ADX tokens, they will return into circulation.

This is another challenge for AdEx, both from a legal standpoint and a logistical position. Fiat gateways require fluidity and regulatory compliance.

Users

The final element to AdEx’s development plan are the users. The company will look to implement a portal for the average user, this gives them the option to determine what advertisements they will be able to see from publishers hosting their ads. This will also allow AdEx to develop a more unique look at their users data.

Smart Contracts

As a decentralised app, AdEx is based off the ERC-20 currency. While AdEx was originally based off the Ethereum blockchain model, they are looking to move over to NEO.

The dApp will also look to host a token exchange, which will be used for bidding and advertising space. This will also include messaging channels for direct interaction between advertisers and publishers.

Contract management and negotiations can take place off the blockchain, however all settlements will need to be finished on the dApp.

AdEx wallets

Since the AdEx (ADX) currency is based off Ethereum’s ERC-20 you will be able to store it on all Ethereum wallets, such as MyEtherWAllet. You are also able to store them on hardware wallets such as Trezor or Ledgers.

Bytom

Bytom (BTM) is a blockchain developed exchange, used for the transfer of financial and digital assets. Using Byton, individual and enterprise users are able to use the protocol to register and exchange various financial assets, such as digital currencies, such as bitcoin, but traditional assets as well, such as social security information, bonds and even intelligence data.

A real-world problem

The problem is, assets in the real world are becoming more tokenized as ownership records and exchange ledgers move towards the blockchain protocol. From a digital level, currently there is no unified way to record and map out any of those physical or digital assets. Beyond data recording, there still needs to be flexibility between the digital and the physical assets, this is to help create one cohesive ecosystem and bring it all back into alignments. Bytom are aiming to solve this tokenized world.

Bytom’s Plan to Solve This

The mission of Bytom is “to bridge the atomic world and the byte world, the build a decentralized network where various byte and atomic assets could be registered and exchanged.”

Bytom’s have described the three assets as:

  • Income Assets: These include, what is known as non-performing assets. These include government investments, and crowdfunding campaigns on places such as kick starter.
  • Equity Assets: These assets require an investor for verification of transfer. Things such as private company equity, as well as shares of a non-public investment.
  • Securitized Assets: These are known to have a predictable cash flow. Good examples of this can include loans such as car loans or mortgages, and debts such as credit card.

With Bytom, you twill be able to trade all of these assets through their dApp (decentralized application), and this will have a number of benefits. Recording the exchange of assets on the blockchain creates a much more efficient and secure protocol than what is currently available in the real world.

Bytom will remove a lot of the bloat, that middlemen organizations create in record keeping and asset transfer. Removing that bloat can lead to faster transfer times and lower costs. This also has the added benefit of giving the user full control of their assets. A user no longer has to trust a middleman to accurately keep records, as they are stored on a secure, public ledger. And because of this, asset records are broken up into block asn distributed all across the world, through individual nodes. This means there is no-longer a single point-of-failure, which malicious users can use to access or manipulate data.

Bytom also has the ability for what is known as cross-chain transactions, through side chains. As a developer you must create a smaller version of the main chain and call the main chain API through smart contracts, which verifies the network activity on the main blockchain. By doing this, the calls allow you to transfer different assets between different chains and even distribute dividends through the side chain.

The Bytom Architecture

The architecture of Bytom has been separated into three layers, Application, Contract m and Ledger. Here we will go through each layer and explain how they work together.

Application Layer

The application layer, is what the end-user uses to interact with the Bytom protocol. The dApp includes mobile and web versions, what the user can work on to manage all of their assets, physical and digital. Interacting with this layer triggers smart contract calls on the next layer.

Contract Layer

The contract layer actually consists of two sub-layers. The first is known as the Genesis Contract, this issues and audits all other smart contracts on the blockchain. Most importantly, it makes sure that all the current assets using the Bytom protocol adhere to the standardization rules set in place.

The 2nd sub-layer of the Contract Layer is known as the General Contract. This has two, similar functions, firstly is facilitates the trading of assets between the dApp users, secondly it sets up and verifies and dividend distributions. If you want to deploy a new asset through the general contract, it must first go to the genesis contract for verification and approval.

Ledger Layer

The ledger layer is the foundation of the Bytom protocol. This is where Bytom will connect to the blockchain. Since this blockhain is permissionless, it will use a Proof-of-work (PoW) consensus algorithm. Unlike other PoW projects, you are able to t use ASIC to mine on the network.

The Bytom Token (BTM)

BTM, has three main uses in the Bytom protocol

  • Transaction fees
  • Dividends
  • Asset Issuance Deposits

Currently the are 987 million BTOM tokens in circulation, with a total supply of 2.1 billion, which will enter the ecosystem through mining. The Bytom team distributed 30 percent of the BTM supply to ICO participants, 33% will go to mining rewards and the remaining gets distributed to members of staff, founders, private investors and business development.

BTM Wallets

If you wish to store your BTM outside of the trading platform, you are able to do this through Bytom’s official wallet. This is available on Windows, OSX and Linux operating systems.

At this moment in time, BTM is being converted to ERC-20, so you will soon be able to store them on hardware wallets such as Trezor or Ledger.

Conclusion

Bytom is creating an ecosystem where the atomic meets the bytesize and it looks to be the future. The team is lead by some of the earliest blockchain evangelists and they’ve been progressing through their milestones steadily since founding in 2017.

If Bytom is successful, we will see a new era or asset management in a tokenized world, with digital asses representing anything from company shares to government intelligence. Although it is too early to tell how the project will pan out, the future looks promising based on their current workload the Bytom team have completed thus far.

Decentraland (Back to the Iron Age)

Welcome to the Brave New World of Decentraland!

If you have been paying any attention to the cryptocraze happening at the moment, you no doubt have realized that the blockchain has moved past just being a platform for cryptocurrency transactions.

The tech community has found a myriad of possible uses for blockchain.

Enter Decentraland.

The founders of Decentraland have seen the future of what can be possible by using the blockchain infrastructure. They created a virtual reality platform using the Ethereum blockchain to support a metaverse of the people and by the people.

They believe that the crypto market has evolved.

To scale this economy, there needs to be a low cost, direct way to make payments between content creators and users. They created Decentraland to act as a decentralized market to facilitate a new way for ecommerce to operate.

In this way, their crypto, MANA, is not just a currency to trade, but the land within the metaverse also acts as currency. Creating a system where land is scarce and MANA can be used to pay for goods and services means that they are forging a virtual economy rather than just a tradable commodity.

What is Decentraland?

While drawing inevitable comparisons to Second Life, (a sort of VR social network complete with your unique avatar) and the Sims, Decentraland aims to enable a shared virtual world based on a peer to peer network.

Within this platform a user can create many varieties of content and applications, either for fun or for profit. The entire world consists of plots of land for sale through MANA, where this content is published.

This land is permanently owned by the community and through a blockchain based ledger, the landowner can control what content is created on it. This content can be anything from a 3D virtual house to a casino, gym, store or anything within the users imagination.

Unlike Second Life and social networks like Facebook, the platform is totally decentralized.  There is no single authority to decide on what kind of content is created, enact rules on the use of the software, or, how it can be monetized. Nor does any exchange of currency have to go through this authority for a fee.

In other words, a Libertarian paradise!

The people behind Decentraland come from various backgrounds but have the same vision about where blockchain can potentially go.

The major players in the organization are Technical Lead Esteban Ordano, co founder of Zeppelin Solutions. That group created Streamium, the first app that implemented payment channels.

 The Project Lead and face of the company is Ariel Meilich, the founder of Benchrise, a big-data company whose product helped find software engineers for tech companies. He is basically the money man, as he has had a lot of success in securing venture capital funding for lots of tech companies.

How Does Decentraland Work?

As previously mentioned, the Decentraland platform runs on the Ethereum blockchain.

But, what exactly does that mean?

Well, for one, unlike the Bitcoin blockchain which only handles transactions, Ethereum’s blockchain can handle transactions and store programming logic.

In addition, you can execute smart contracts with Ethereum’s blockchain.

A smart contract is created on the blockchain in which a ledger of ownership of a land parcel is maintained.

Within that ledger are the coordinates (x,y) of the parcel, as well as a reference to the contract description file. In other words, something like a deed with reference to what you are doing with the parcel.

Any application or content that a user builds upon that parcel will connect to the Ethereum network for updates to the land and the contract.

Since the platform works with a peer to peer connection, there is no need for a big, expensive central server. For now a Bittorrent network stores the link for each parcel, eventually to be replaced with the Inter-Planetary File System.

 This puts the world within the users’ hands and enables a censorship resistant environment free from a central authority to regulate what happens within it.

What Can You Do In Decentraland?

This is where things get interesting and is why users are calling Decentraland the fun crypto.

Once you have your land, paid for with MANA, you are free to build whatever you like on it. What you do with it depends on what your intention is.

If you are looking for a social network to interact with others in a virtual world, then you may just want to build a gameroom, as an example, where friends can come and hang out with you. With the peer to peer connection, you can voice chat with whoever shows up on your land.

For those with a more entrepreneurial spirit, you may want to build a business on your land. What kind of business? Well, anything that you may find in the real world would be a good business idea. A casino, a store, a bar with live music. There is no limit to what you can do.

You can offer your services for a fee. If you are a 3D artist, you could make a studio where others come for you to build them bespoke items that they want to use within Decentraland.

If you are just looking for a passive way to make money from cryptocurrency, you could even just buy up a parcel to sit on while you wait for the neighborhood to develop and then sell it at a tidy profit. If you can imagine a virtual Las Vegas building up around your plot, you can see the possibilities for investment without needing to actually interact within the virtual world. Scarcity of land supply makes this a possibility.

The land is also adjacent, so plots are all sold contiguously. This helps neighborhoods to form which, when the plots are developed, will make it easy for people to find interesting content and also, potentially, sell their goods and services.

Who is Decentraland For?

In the words of the creators, it is for gamers, artists, students and online communities.

But, it shouldn’t be seen through such a limited prism.

Sure, gamers will love Decentraland. They can have a Minecraft like experience by building within the metaverse. Or, they can find places within that world where they can enter and have just about any kind of gaming experience they are looking for.

Same goes for artists that want to set up a virtual gallery in an up and coming neighborhood where they can sell their artwork, whether virtual or actual.

Students can find libraries within this world or attend lectures.

Beyond all that, entrepreneurs can find a very business friendly environment to make money. Either by investing in land or MANA, or by setting up a business.

The barrier to entry for many businesses within Decentraland is very low. For the meantime, at least. Anybody with a business idea that seems out of reach in the real world may want to consider buying a plot of land to develop.

Content marketers could also have a field day in Decentraland. Within this virtual world they may find the perfect avenue to build a brand.

And of course, investors that are looking for a different kind of cryptocurrency to get behind. Forward thinkers will see the possibilities here that may go over many crypto traders’ head.

What Is the Future of Decentraland?

The future of VR in general is very bright. Currently there are roughly 60 million people worldwide who play virtual reality games. And among those people, there are many who are already making money in some of those games, through mining, ecommerce and more.

As VR technology gets better, and by using the blockchain, the team behind Decentraland believe that more and more people will be making virtual reality an indispensable part of their daily lives.

By being among the first to create a virtual reality metaverse completely owned by its users, they are strategically positioned to leverage their position to being the principle platform for people to engage. They envision limitless possibilities in community building, commerce, and content creation.

 Virtual reality technology still needs to catch up with this vision. Within the next few years, however, Decentraland could be a dominant player in not only the virtual reality sphere, but in social media. Possibly even pushing aside a giant like Facebook.

Conclusion

Decentraland is very intriguing, both from an investing standpoint and as a possible next generation of social network.

As an investor, getting in on the ground floor of something so different compared to other cryptocurrencies, makes for a very interesting opportunity.

As an entrepreneur, the ability to scale a business from the ground up is very tempting.

And as somebody who uses social media for a good portion of the day, the possibility to use virtual technology to connect with others just seems like a lot of fun.

This is unlike any currency out there as its value is really in what the users perceive it to be. In other words, it may take a while for this thing to really come into its own and an economy to really develop.

What’s most exciting about Decentraland is it could herald what the future of the internet looks like.

And that might be worth quite a bit more than just a dollar figure.

Ethlend

With blockchain uses going beyond just trading cryptocurrency, it didn’t take long for somebody to see the potential in creating a lending platform.

Ethlend is quickly becoming a major player in the peer to peer lending arena.

With a free market, decentralized ethos to lending, Ethlend is quickly garnering a lot of attention for the possibilities it presents.

In their attempt to teardown institutionalized lending, they are beginning to make waves within the industry.

If you are only just learning about what is possible with Ethlend, then this article will help you understand how Ethlend works, what are some possible case uses and give you enough information to decide for yourself if Ethlend is right for you.

What is Ethlend?

Simply put, Ethlend is a new, decentralized peer to peer lending platform on the Ethereum blockchain. The founders, so and so, have arrived at this project after years in the fintech industry.

Before we continue, we need to be clear about what Ethlend is not. Ethlend is not a lending institution. They merely facilitate lending between users of the decentralized application. Ethlend allows for secured, trustless loans by way of smart contracts on the blockchain.

The founders of Ethlend are convinced that the future of blockchain technology will enable a more democratic way for people to borrow money, and for ordinary people to become their own lending institution.

Lending on Ethlend is done between ordinary people who act as their own lending institutions.

This opens the possibility of a truly global lending market.

How Does Ethlend Work?

By using Ethereum’s blockchain, a smart contract can be made between a lender and borrower.  The interest rates, premium and terms of the loan are decided on by the two parties.

Why use the Ethereum blockchain?

The Ethereum blockchain deals with more complex transactions than merely sending and receiving value. There is also the possibility to add, store data and perform complex requests and calls. This makes it an ideal solution for storing smart contracts.

Since it is completely decentralised, the loan process is trustless, transparent and immediate. Once a loan is transacted, the funds are available within minutes.

The borrowers are pledging Ethereum-based ERC-20 compatible digital tokens (ERC-20 Tokens) or Ethereum Name Service domains (ENS domains). This is the collateral for the loan and gives the lender security that the loan will be repaid.

Once the loan terms are agreed upon by the participants, a smart contract is placed on the blockchain. Once this transaction is on the chain, it cannot be changed by anybody including Ethland. To reiterate: Ethlend is completely decentralised and cannot dictate to the users how they should proceed, or change the terms already agreed upon.

All transactions, therefore are open to review by anybody. This access seriously levels the playing field in terms of lending and creates a global marketplace.

Since there is no central institution, a borrower in Ghana can request a loan and somebody from Argentina can supply it. There is no inflation to consider, no exaggerated interest rates determined by a government agency and no liquidity issues caused by cross border lending.

There also is no credit agency involved to assess how risky a borrower may be. This may seem like a red flag, but since collateral in the form of tokens has to be presented by the borrower to secure the loan, there is less risk of a default.

What happens if a borrower doesn’t repay the loan?

The tokens used as collateral will be given to the the lender if the loan is not repaid. The borrower also has a 0 rating and will not likely see more loans in the future as lenders will deem him to be too risky.

 Of course, even with the collateral, a lender must do his due diligence.

How To Use Ethlend

To lend and borrow on Ethlend, the first thing you will need is some LEND, the tokens used to send the loans.

To do this, you will need to use Ether to buy some LEND.

Using Ethlend requires Google Chrome. If you are not already using Chrome, you should download it and get it set up.

Next, you need to install a Chrome Extension called MetaMask. This plug in will facilitate setting up your smart contract on the blockchain.

As a borrower, before you submit a loan request, you will need to assess the value of your tokens and collateral. To do this you need to take the price of the ERC-20 from the exchange. Once you know the price of the ERC-20 you can then deduce what a lender would be willing to lend to ensure they are repaid.

Now, you simply need to go to MetaMask, the decentralised app, or dapp, that you added to Chrome and fill in all the criteria pertaining to your request. For instance, how long the terms will be, what the collateral is, the price of the ERC-20 token, etc.

At this point you will need to wait for a lender to find your request and the rest of the terms agreed upon.

As a lender, you will also need to have LEND tokens as that is what will be transferred to the borrower.

Next, search through the loan requests and try to find a suitable one for you. Both in terms of how much you are being asked to lend and as to whether you like the looks of the collateral.

Once you have found a suitable loan request, click on it and confirm when the MetaMask asks for the confirmation.

Once confirmed, a ledger with all of the loan information is set up in a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain.

This all sounds very simple, and the execution of it is. However, it must really be stressed at this point that knowing how lending and borrowing works will ensure your success as either a lender or borrower. The process might not be complex, but, finance certainly can be.

Possible Use Cases of Ethlend

Below are some of the possibilities when using Ethlend to either borrow or lend funds.

Participate in different ICOs 

            When dealing in crypto, liquidity is a very common issue. To get around this, many borrowers are seeking out solutions like using Ethlend to finance their purchase of tokens and altcoins.

            Since you may not wish to cash in your currency, be it fiat or crypto, you can take out a loan that pays you in minutes to exploit a volatile market where time is of the essence.

Getting Unbanked

            As more and more people are tiring of the mega banks, they seek to add more control into their lives. Using a peer to peer lending platform effectively cuts out the middleman.

            With crypto wallets keeping your savings, and using decentralised blockchain technology for loans, you are able to save money and time. All the while, keeping your data safe from hacking and changes to government monetary policy.

Long Term Holding

            If you are in the crypto world and thinking long term, then being a lender can pad your wallet even in the short term. Without needing to risk trading your favorite currency, you can still be making some money by interest generated by lending.

Traditional Loans

            Of course, for time immemorial, people have been taking out loans from financial institutions for personal and business reasons. Ethlend is no different.

 If you are having cash flow problems and want to expand your business, then taking a loan without needing to sell off precious crypto has obvious benefits.

Other Uses For LEND

In addition to funding your loans or putting up collateral, there are other reasons to use LEND.

  1. Receive 25% price reduction on platform fees (Loan request fee and Loan funding fee) compared to paying with ETH.
  2. Rewarding active lenders and borrowers with airdrops. ETHLend will use 20% of the decentralized application fees (loan request fee and funding fee) to purchase LEND from the market and airdrop the LEND for all the lenders and borrowers on ETHLend.
  3. Rewarding Introducers with LEND, basically EThlend’s affiliate or referral program. Send a friend to Ethlend and receive some benefits in the form of LEND tokens.
  4. Featured functions that are accessible only with LEND tokens. With LEND, you will be able to get your loan request higher in the rankings for better visibility, pay for credit assessment bots and enter into email marketing campaigns for new listings.

Conclusion

Ethlend believes Capitalism works best when the barriers by large institutions are removed, and more control is put into the hands of regular people.

Creating a global lending market can help grow local economies all over the world which benefits everybody.

Take a borrower in India, for example, that previously might have needed upwards of 12% to secure a loan to expand his business. With lower interest rates and an immediate payout, he can keep his investment in crypto and still set himself up for success in his business.

Taking inflation out of the equation has obvious benefits, as well. In this scenario, everybody is equal. As long as a borrower has the collateral, then they can get a loan and negotiate the terms themselves instead of being at the whim of a bank.

Trustless, secure and decentralized lending between peers may be the way of the future. Time, of course will tell, but for now many people are benefiting from a more democratic system of finance thanks to Ethlend.

ICON

Scalability, if you have been keeping up to date with blockchain technology then you have heard this word a lot.

It is the major obstacle that everybody involved in blockchain development is trying to solve.

The most ambitious among the groups trying to find a way to best scale the blockchain has to be ICON Republic. The group behind ICON believe the best way forward is to go big and make a huge network that can bring together the various blockchains in a way that they can integrate with each other.

In their own words they want to Hyperconnect the World.

What is ICON Republic?

ICON is a South Korean group that is trying to implement a network that can connect various blockchains together.

By using smart contracts and a loopchain, different blockchains will be able to communicate with each other. A network of communities is how they describe it.

Calling it a Republic belies the fact that there is no central authority. The way the network is set up is simple.

There are groups of nodes on a blockchain called Communities or C Nodes. Each Community can govern itself any way it sees fit. However they wish to validate blocks and create consensus is totally up to them. ICON Republic won’t be telling them how to do it.

A community can be made of of different institutions like banks, insurance companies, hospitals, etc. They can work together in the community or even individually. But, the main point being connectivity means that it is hoped that nodes will be occupied by institutions that need to streamline how they communicate.

A C-rep is a representative that is voted on by the Community to represent that blockchain within the Republic. That representative can vote on governance of the network within the Republic.

The Republic, then, is the group of representatives from the different communities.  The ICON Republic functions as a communication channel between communities, and does

not affect the governance of the communities. So, again, the name Republic implies that it is a central authority, but the reality is that is is totally decentralized.

Why Form a Network of Blockchains?

The way things work right now with a central server that needs to connect with other servers to communicate between institutions is becoming unwieldy.

Blockchain technology is developing at just the right time for these transactions to become more streamlined and efficient. That works for the institutions themselves to save money and manpower and for the consumers and users of the institutions, as well.

Let’s take an example from the ICON whitepaper on how things work now and how it may look later.

They made the example of somebody buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks with their credit card. Once a card is swiped, it has to go through many different channels for the money to transfer from your bank to Starbucks. Passing through many different servers, communicating and sharing information to make that simple transaction insanely complicated.

What ICON envisions is that same transaction happening within a network of blockchains. With the bank, your credit card company and Starbucks communicating with smart contracts, this takes all of the complication of different servers needing to transact with each other. Cutting out the middleman is efficient, economical and safe.

Can this type of network work?


Well, it already is. It is being implemented with the Korean healthcare industry, for example. A patient can have their entire health history including DNA stored in their own smart contract. This sensitive information can only be shared with others that have access to the contract. This makes for a secure distribution of medical information through blockchain.

In addition, banks, insurance companies and universities are already on the network and able to seamlessly communicate with each other.

 On a level that is interesting especially to cryptocurrency investors and traders is the Decentralized Exchange, aka DEX. This exchange can take the wait out of trading crypto for crypto currency as different blockchains will be able to communicate with each other. Bitsquare and Bitshares work within the same principle, but since they require somebody to always be online they have limitations that DEX won’t. All transactions can be processed in real time.

How Will the ICX Coin Work?

As is the case with other blockchains that are looking to enable more real world applications, ICX tokens will be used to pay for transactions and incentivize voting and governance of the network.

In other words, ICON is a Delegated Proof Of Stake network.

ICX tokens entitle its holder to cast one vote for the delegate of their choice. Transactions will be confirmed and rewarded with ICX tokens and delegates will have more weighted votes based on how many tokens they possess.

How much value the token has will rise with the number of users in the network. The more users, or C-Nodes, the more transactions, the more transactions, the more ICX gets spent and the more ICX that gets spent, the higher the value of the tokens.

With blockchain development happening rapidly, it will be interesting to see how this Republic can grow. It seems to have tackled the issue of scalability by allowing blockchains to communicate and connect. It is already a proven model at the stage where it is now. But, as we have seen time and time again, there are always unforeseen circumstances that develop, and develop quickly, that can sidetrack a blockchain’s development.

 But, isn’t that what makes it so interesting?

OmiseGO

For decades now people have been talking about the future of a cashless society.

It was always the stuff of science fiction since the reality of having no cash faced too many hurdles. Between banks, currencies and borders, it didn’t really have a feasible way to be done.

With blockchain technology, suddenly those barriers are starting to fall.

Moving away from cash is not only achievable but it is starting to seem inevitable.

In fact, OmiseGO, a Thai, Japanese and Singaporean  company, is already using the blockchain to that effect. It’s still early, but it seems to have the foundation laid for a system that works between blockchains. Enabling transactions for B2B applications right down to ordering your morning cup of coffee without needing everybody to operate on the same system or application.

What is OmiseGo?

OmiseGo started in 2013 in Asia as a Stripe-like payment system. Working mainly as a mobile app, people have been using it as an easy way to make payments or buy goods.

As they transition from a centralized database system to the blockchain, the way to look at it is not as an altcoin, but as a financial platform that unites many different platforms.

To become a mainstream application, OmiseGO realizes that they need people and businesses to use it without realizing they are using the blockchain, or need to know how a blockchain works.

The real beauty of that premise is that it will enable different blockchains to communicate with each other so you won’t need people to all be on the same platform. If people with a OmiseGO wallet could only transact with other users with the same wallet, you can see how limiting that would be. With OmiseGO, it doesn’t matter what app or platform they use to be able to make a transaction.

OmiseGO describes itself as: “The answer to a fundamental coordination problem amongst payment processors, gateways and financial institutions”. In other words, to act like an exchange without needing to be an exchange.

There are tens of millions, if not more people, in Asia right now that don’t use banks and want an easier way to use cash. Whether it’s to make payments, buy something or even transfer money to friends or family, even across borders. Right now many are using OmiseGO as their bank. They fill their wallet with whatever currency they want and use it to buy things, make payments and even send currency across borders to friends and family.

How does OmiseGO differ from an exchange?

OmiseGO is currency agnostic. That means that it is not tied to any one currency over another. In a typical exchange of Bitcoin to Ethereum for example, you would have to buy BTC with cash, then find an exchange that converts BTC and ETH, then send the BTC from your wallet to the exchange, then convert the BTC back to fiat, then finally to ETH. With a lot of transaction fees and time required to complete what should be a simple transaction.

OmiseGO is an application that allows different blockchains to operate with each other. (Interoperability is a word that you will hear often when discussing blockchain potential) Since it is currency agnostic, it doesn’t matter what type of currency is in your ewallet, you don’t need to go to an exchange to get another currency. The wallet will communicate across blockchains. Sort of a liaison that links different chains without needing to be on the same platform.

Streamlining this process of exchanges opens up a huge swath of the financial market that paves the way for the phasing out of cash and makes digital currency, or even digital assets, a mainstream currency.

How Can OmiseGO Be Used?

There are infinite ways for this system to work, but for the sake of brevity and simplicity I will give just a few real world examples of how this will be implemented.

Let’s say you are businessman or tourist from the UK. You will be going to a few different countries with different currencies. As you exit the airport at your destination, you can pass right by the currency exchange windows as you won’t be needing any local currency.

You go to a restaurant and pay with your OmiseGO wallet that has BTC, the restaurant only takes Swiss Francs. Not a problem. The wallet takes the BTC out of your wallet and sends the exchange in Francs to the restaurants bank account.

In another example, you need to pay your electricity bill. You don’t have a bank account, either because you are trying to live off the grid, don’t like how unsafe your information is in a central database, or you simply don’t qualify for a bank account. You now can use your wallet with whatever the currency of your choice is and make payments to other institutions.

Let’s say that you are a loyalty member on many different stores. Rather than keep a dozen loyalty cards on you to accumulate points as you shop at those stores, you can have them all linked into your wallet. When you use your wallet, it updates whatever the relevant loyalty program is.

Then, there is the possibility of loans when you don’t have a bank. With platforms like EthLend and SALT, you don’t need a bank to get a loan. You can use your cryptocurrency in your wallet as collateral to secure a loan that can be used for anything you want. And since you can use your wallet for non crypto transactions, it doesn’t matter what currency you take your loan out in.

As I said, these are just a small fraction of the possible use cases of OmiseGO. And they only represent consumers. There are infinite applications for B2B transactions and foreign exchange markets, to name only a couple.

How Does the OMG Token Work?

OmiseGO is a proof of stake concept, so tokens buy the right to validate transactions.

OMG tokens will be the token to pay the transaction fees for things like making payments, currency exchange, etc.

The value is in the stake of the blockchain. The more transactions the more tokens distributed, the more value they have.

Ignoring the silly name of the OMG token, it is an ERC-20 token on the Ethereum blockchain until OmiseGO has finished its own blockchain. Right now the ICO sale of the tokens is being used to develop the platform. It may take a while before it is complete and may see many iterations before it feels completed.

Using tokens as incentive rather than a currency is becoming the easiest way to fund a huge project like this one without needing to go for venture capital.

As more and more aspects of finance are being disrupted, the more likely we are to see cashless societies come to fruition. OmiseGO is in an enviable position to be the company leading the way to this future.

Railblock

What is Raiblocks?

As maintaining a huge, unwieldy blockchain becomes more expensive, slow and non eco friendly, an alternative cryptocurrency has come on the scene.

Colin LeMahieu, the founder of Raiblocks, decided to create a new kind of blockchain that would enable feeless, fast and efficient transactions.

Though Satoshi’s blockchain was revolutionary, LeMahieu saw it as unscalable. Because each transaction on the Bitcoin blockchain has to reference a previous transaction as proof, it has become so big that transaction times can take hours to complete.

Raiblock uses a block lattice instead. Still using blockchain technology, each transaction is its own blockchain between the sender and the receiver of XRB, the Raiblock coin. Each block is just one transaction and the global register of transactions is stored in their ledger.

Since the block lattice creates blocks asynchronously by transaction, it also has limitless scalability.

It can run on low power hardware, so is also more eco friendly than a traditional blockchain based currency.

How Does Raiblocks Work?

Each user has his/her own account which includes a public and private key.  The public-key, also referred to as the address, is shared with other network participants while the private-key is kept secret.

When a transaction is started, a block on the lattice is made. It’s then signed by the private key. Other users can’t see the information of the private key, but the block can be verified by the information within it, including the digital signature.

The blockchain only extends as far as that accounts history. With no other transactions to store, the blockchain is lean and lightweight. All these transactions are then stored on the global ledger to be viewed and verified by other account holders.

Each account chain, however, can only be added upon by the account holder. Because of this, updates to the chain happen immediately and asynchronously to the rest of the block-lattice, resulting in quick transactions.

This means that there is no need for miners to verify the transaction. The only thing that needs verifying is a possible double spend showing on the chain. But, since each spend requires a reference to a previous block with the digital signature, a double spend would only occur if someone tried to reference the same previous block in two seperate send transactions.

So, how do Raiblock transactions get verified then?

When you create a Raiblock account, you select another account to act as your proxy and vote on transactions. When an apparent double spend occurs, one of these accounts votes on which transaction is the right one. There are so many of these accounts that vote, that there is always one online.

The Raiblock protocol is extremely light-weight and can be sent within the required minimum UDP (User Datagram Protocol) packet size for being transmitted over the internet. Hardware requirements are small, as well. All this adds up to a fast, cheap and scalable system.

The coin, the XRB, is founded on a Genesis Balance which is a fixed quantity

 and can never be increased. It was funded in October 2017.

How Can Raiblock Prevent Attacks?

Since Raiblock does not use a traditional blockchain, it seems like it could be susceptible to attacks.

The simplicity of the system is what actually prevents the known attack scenarios.

For example, in some cases a block that is not properly transmitted could be exploited in most situations. In the block lattice, a bad block would be ignored, or a request for a resync with the node happens. The increase in traffic this causes a denial of service. Before it can connect a vote happens, in which case it is deemed junk data. Attack averted!

With transaction floods, Sybil attacks and penny attacks, the way the block lattice operates makes it not just impossible, but not worth the effort or expanse. Voting by accounts can see these as they happen and deny the transactions. Since nodes that set up the block are pruned, there are few historical blocks to exploit.

Another stop gap is the fact that votes are account balance weighted. The bigger the balance on an account, the more weight the vote has. If somebody wanted to rig the vote, they would need to have over 50% of the voting power. This is only possible by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on XRB. Theoretically a foreign country could try this (I’m looking at you, China!), it is highly unlikely.

Raiblock vs Iota

What makes Iota and Raiblock similar?

These two crytpos were the first to figure out a fast, free and minerless system to make their crypto work more like fiat currency. They both use DAG, directed-acyclic-graph data structure.

It’s just the ways they implement their systems are different.

Raiblock uses Proof of Scale with the block lattice. A transaction is run through the ledger to ensure that the signatures are authentic. Once it syncs with the node, the node reads the signature and it is confirmed instantly

Iota works on Proof of Work. This means that a block gets confirmed once it is surrounded or stacked by other blocks. The time it takes to confirm, then, is reliant on how many users there are in the system.

 Though, Proof of Work is lower cost than the Bitcoin blockchain to operate, there is still some cost since there is computing that needs to be done.

Besides the differences being in how they enable transactions, the biggest separator is what they each hope to achieve.

Iota is looking to dominate the protocol for the Internet of Things devices. They are not exactly decentralized as they require a coordinator to manage transactions. Big corporations like Volkswagen and Bosch like that and have signed on as partners.

Raiblock, on the other hand is looking to become a daily peer to peer payment system for arbitrage through quick transactions, or to simply buy your morning cup of coffee.

At the end of the day, it is becoming clearer that for cryptocurrency to be used in place of fiat, it has to be instant and free. Otherwise it can never replace cash.

Now, there are many who could not care less about replacing fiat currency. They are either unbanking and want a safe place to hold their wealth, they are looking to invest by trading crypto or whatever personal reasons they have to buy up coins.

But, the people behind Raiblock and many other believers in decentralizing finance and currency are looking forward to a day when they can uncouple from government monetary policies and decide for themselves which currency they want to use. A coin like XRB could be just the thing they are looking for.

SALT Lending

What happens when a crypto millionaire walks into a bank looking for a loan?

Usually, nothing.

Most banks won’t issue a loan with digital assets as collateral. SALT lending has stepped in to fill that gap. As long as you have some crypto, you can secure a loan.

Seeing how inefficient traditional lending is in this digital age, Shawn Owens, CEO of SALT, decided to start a platform on the blockchain that would give crypto holders access to loans based on the collateral of their crypto currency.

With no credit scores to worry about and instant access, it has become a very attractive way for people to secure lending. Not least of whom are the unbanked.

What is SALT Lending?

SALT, Secured Automated Lending Platform, is as mentioned a collateral based lending platform that lets you put up your digital assets, ie, crypto currency, in exchange for fiat cash.

The platform is tethered to ERC-20 tokens on the Ethereum blockchain.

Using the blockchain, loans are made via smart contracts. The SALT Platform is automated, efficient, and cryptographically secure.

Traditional lending is sometimes difficult to secure, always expensive and slow and sometimes unsafe as central servers can be hacked. Sending personal information into nefarious hands.

By utilizing the blockchain, SALT makes access to capital inexpensive to transfer, store, and liquidate. And the trustless system of the blockchain means you won’t have to wonder how secure the lending institutions servers are. All the transactions are on the chain, validated and immutable.

What are the Benefits of SALT Lending?

Using a system that requires no credits checks means that there is really no barrier to entry when it comes to securing a loan. If you have the collateral, you will get the loan.

Lenders post what the terms and interest rate they are looking and users can shop around to find the loan that best suits their needs. This puts a lot of power in the hands of the person getting the loan.

There is also no need to even announce what the loan is going to be used for. In a traditional lending scenario you have to apply for a special loan for auto, mortgage or other types. On the blockchain nobody cares what you want the money for.

What is probably the most attractive reason to get a loan from SALT, is for arbitrage if you’re looking to buy more crypto currency.

It would be very sad to have to cash out your bitcoin, for example, to buy another coin and watch as Bitcoin has a rally and you no longer have any. In this case, you can put up the Bitcoin as collateral, secure a loan instantly and buy the tokens you want. Even better is that during the time of the loan terms, if the value of your digital asset collateral rises, you are making money on that, too.

With the volatility of the crypto exchange market, hours count. If you have to waste an entire day at the bank trying to get a loan to buy coins, then have to wait days for the funds, you will likely miss out on a prime buying opportunity. SALT gets you cash instantly and directly into your bank account.

There are no penalties for paying off a loan early, unlike with most banks.

And with many tangible assets, such as land, jewelry and intellectual property making their way onto the blockchain becoming digital assets, it means easier liquidation of just about anything.

How Does SALT Lending Work?

To use the SALT lending platform, you first need to pay to become a member.

There are three different membership types. For small loans up to $10,000 and terms of 3 to 24 months there is the Base membership which costs 1 SALT token per year (more about the tokens later). The Premium membership costs 10 SALT tokens per year and gives you access to up to $100,000 and a line of credit. Fiat currency is available in USD, EUR, JPY, RMB and GBP. Terms are 1 hour to 36 months. The Enterprise membership costs 100 SALT tokens. Including access to 1 million USD, with ad hoc currency selection and metered terms.

To create an account you only need to give your first and last name and email address.

As a borrower, you get matched automatically with some of the capital from SALT’s extensive network filled with lenders.

Throughout the term of your loan, your digital assets remain in an ultra-secure architecture that is fully audited.

To secure a loan you have to put up as collateral 125% of the loan. If you need $1,000, then you’ll need to offer $1,250. If somehow you are unable to repay the loan, then your collateral is deducted from the unpaid remainder and given to the lender.

This is important to remember, since with a traditional loan it doesn’t matter how much you have already repaid. Whatever collateral you used to secure the loan will be repossessed. This is another outstanding benefit of a SALT loan. If you borrowed $1,000 and only managed to repay $750, then you lose $750 and that’s it.

If the value of the assets used as collateral increases, the borrower can decide to add to the principal of the value of the loan, or withdraw some of the collateral.

What happens if the value of the collateral decreases? Addition collateral will be required to be provided or the monthly loan payment will need to be increased. The SALT Oracle smart contract issues a notice to the borrower alerting them to this so there are no surprises. If the borrower fails to do either of these then the smart contract issues a liquidation of the collateral automatically.

What is the SALT Token?

A SALT token is simply called a Salt.

How will Salt be used? The Salt token will be used for membership to the platform. It’s a fee for a loan in essence depending on what tier you want to be in for loan access.

So, unlike many new altcoins, it is not being used as a way to crowdfund the development of the platform.

There is a fixed supply of 120 million Salt tokens. As more borrowers buy memberships the value of the token will rise. Once a token is bought for membership, it is essentially given back to SALT to be then sold to somebody else for their membership and so on.

There are a few other crypto lending platforms, most notable EthLend. Which one will win the biggest market share? Well, nobody knows of course.

One thing is for sure, SALT and Ethlend and others will not be the last to offer digital asset collateral backed lending via smart contracts. The unbanked, crypto traders and anybody else looking to take advantage of this Brave New World emerging thanks to the innovations of blockchain technology will soon have an easier way to gain access to cash, no matter who comes out ahead.

How Does Bitshares Work?

If you have spent any amount of time in the crypto world, you no doubt have heard about the hacking of Mt. Gox.

After the hacking and subsequent loss of roughly 450 million USD, Dan Larimer understood that exchanges were the weak link in the blockchain.

He developed BitShares as the first decentralized exchange where you can use BitAssets to trade currency in a trustless way.

What makes exchanges the weak link in the blockchain system is the fact that they are centralized. When you buy crypto in an exchange, either with fiat or another cryptocoin, you are essentially buying an IOU towards a future redemption of your coin. You don’t actually own the coin until you withdraw it into your own wallet.

This leaves the possibility open to be exploited very easily.

BitShares is a truly decentralized exchange that is completely on the blockchain. It even has a user friendly wallet that you can name rather than relying on a string of random numbers and letters.

How Does BitShares Work?

BitShares is a peer to peer distributed ledger. It works with a Delegated Proof of Stake protocol.

Working the exchange on a blockchain rather than a central server means that the block transactions need to be verified and agreed upon. The Bitcoin blockchain uses a Proof of Work protocol, so blocks need to be mined, which takes time to verify a block and is expensive.

Bitshares, instead works by voting for delegates or Witnesses, so the validation process is streamlined. A BTS token holder can vote for 120 delegates. The top 101 delegates validate the blocks. The token then pays the delegates for their work.

Not only is this more efficient but it’s also safer since there is no incentive to try to game the system. Since taking down the blockchain will undermine the value of their own tokens.

By using the Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS), transactions can be done quickly. Though it has yet to be tested, in theory BitShares can handle 100,000 transactions per second compared to Bitcoin’s 5 per second.

Transaction fees will be paid by the BTS token. To bypass the IOU nature of current currency exchanges, BitShares uses BTS tokens as collateral for an exchange. This results in the token being used more as an equity than as an altcoin.

The transaction fees, which will amount to fractions of cents instead of dollars, will be paid by these tokens.

Then there are payments which are done by use of Smartcoins. Since markets are volatile and to get more people using the platform they need to trust the value of it, there are coins tied to fiat that does not fluctuate. For example, there is a bitUSD that is always going to be 1 bitUSD per fiat USD. 1 week, 1 month 1 year from now it will still be 1 bitUSD to 1 fiat USD.

You can invest in the USD, or other Smartcoins like bit EUR, bitGold, etc, and know that it will trade at the same value as other traditional exchanges. This difference makes it very stable compared to other crypto exchanges.

There are also digital assets, called User Issued Assets. These can be literally anything of value, with the value determined by the issuer. Something as small as loyalty points from an issuers rewards cards to property deeds can be registered with a smart contract and placed on the blockchain.

This means incredible liquidity on any assets. Somebody could put up their assets in gold, stocks, property etc and then use it to borrow or exchange for fiat, or other crypto currencies. You could then withdraw that to be able to make payments or put in your mattress if you are so inclined.

What is Bitshares, then, is not such an easy question to answer.

Everything about it is decentralized. The software it uses is open source. In theory anybody can take that software and create their own decentralized blockchain exchange.

Even the way they pay their workers is decentralized. Anybody can propose a project to start on the blockchain and the delegates vote on it. If they get approved, they get paid in tokens to work on their project. The token holders, then are the company.

It started out trying to be a decentralized NYSE sort of crypto exchange, but has morphed into something more utopian than that even. One thing it isn’t is a currency.

Though they issue their own token, BTS, the token is just for ease of use and to pay it’s witnesses and make payments. The value of BTS of course rises and falls. But, that is the nature of a token. It isn’t mean to be used as a currency. That is what the Smartcoins and User Issued Assets are for. The BTS token is equity or collateral to represent the coins or currency being traded.

Just like in most airplane crashes, user error is almost always the case for crypto currencies getting hacked or stolen. Though it remains to be seen if Bitshares will end up the top dog in the decentralized exchange realm, it definitely has signaled that centralized exchanges can be replaced.

 If crypto is going to have a future of an actual currency, then it has to be indeed trustless. If current exchanges continue to erode that trust then we may be seeing more exchanges based off of the example of Bitshares.
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