Global Supply Chains Are About to Get Better, Thanks to BlockchainMar-17-2017 12:28:04 PM
When an E.coli outbreak at Chipotle Mexican Grill outlets left 55 customers ill, in 2015, the news stories, shutdowns, and investigations shattered the restaurant chain’s reputation. Sales plummeted, and Chipotle’s share price dropped 42%, to a three-year low, where it has languished ever since.
At the heart of the Denver-based company’s crisis was the ever-present problem faced by companies that depend on multiple suppliers to deliver parts and ingredients: a lack of transparency and accountability across complex supply chains. Unable to monitor its suppliers in real time, Chipotle could neither prevent the contamination nor contain it in a targeted way after it was discovered.
Now, a slew of startups and corporations are exploring a radical solution to this problem: using a blockchain to transfer title and record permissions and activity logs so as to track the flow of goods and services between businesses and across borders.
With blockchain technology, the core system that underpins bitcoin, computers of separately owned entities follow a cryptographic protocol to constantly validate updates to a commonly shared ledger. A fundamental advantage of this distributed system, where no single company has control, is that it resolves problems of disclosure and accountability between individuals and institutions whose interests aren’t necessarily aligned. Mutually important data can be updated in real time, removing the need for laborious, error-prone reconciliation with each other’s internal records. It gives each member of the network far greater and timelier visibility of the total activity.
How Blockchain Works
In a nutshell, this is a global system for mediating trust and selective transparency. Its advocates say it will take the internet’s empowering potential to its next level. Although much attention and money has been spent on financial applications of the technology, an equally promising test case lies with global supply chain relationships, whose complexity and diversity of interests pose exactly the kinds of challenges this technology seeks to address. The technology can reveal hitherto hidden information and allows users to attach digital tokens — a unique, negotiable form of digital asset, modeled on bitcoin — to intermediate goods as they progress along the production, shipping, and delivery phases of a supply chain and as title to them passes between different players. This could give businesses far greater flexibility to find markets and price risk, by capturing the value that they have invested in the process at any point along the chain. What we end up with are dynamic demand chains in place of rigid supply chains, resulting in more efficient resource use for all.
Various endeavors have already started. Provenance, a UK-based startup, tells prospective clients they can use its blockchain-based technology to “share your product’s journey and your business impact on environment and society.” Walmart is working with IBM and Tsinghua University, in Beijing, to follow the movement of pork in China with a blockchain. Mining giant BHP Billiton is using the technology to track mineral analysis done by outside vendors. The startup Everledger has uploaded unique identifying data on a million individual diamonds to a blockchain ledger system to build quality assurances and help jewelers comply with regulations barring “blood diamond” products.
Advances in chip and sensor technology, which can translate data from the automated movement of physical goods, should greatly enhance these emerging blockchain systems. It could be especially powerful when combined with “smart contracts,” in which contractual rights and obligations, including the terms for payment and delivery of goods and services, can be automatically executed by an autonomous system that’s trusted by all signatories.
But this technology’s potential traceability and automation benefits don’t just pertain to things; it could also keep human beings in check. Staff and supervisors from different vendors can be granted special, cryptographic permissions, which, when placed into a blockchain environment, would appear as unique, traceable identifiers — preferably encrypted, to protect the employee’s personal information. This would allow all members of a supply chain community to monitor the activity of each other’s credentialed staff. Chipotle, for example, could see in real time whether a properly credentialed person in a facility owned by one of its beef suppliers is carrying out appropriate sterilization and disinfection procedures.
This kind of provable, transparent credentialing will be especially important for additive manufacturing, which is central to the dynamic, on-demand production model of the so-called Industry 4.0 movement. A team from precision parts manufacturer Moog Inc. has launched a service it calls Veripart, which seeks to overcome a challenge that the director of its additive manufacturing and innovation unit, James Regenor, described to us in these terms: “How can the maintenance crew on a U.S. aircraft carrier have absolute confidence that the software file they downloaded to 3D print a new part for a fighter jet hasn’t been hacked by a foreign adversary?” This underscores one of the most compelling arguments for blockchain technology: Without its solution to the trust problem, the sophisticated, decentralized, internet of things–driven economy that many are projecting might well be impossible.
These potential efficiency improvements, enabled by hitherto unavailable information, suggest blockchain technology could deliver vast savings for companies everywhere. But there are formidable obstacles to overcome first.
One challenge lies in the development and governance of the technology. Ideally, to encourage free access, competition, and open innovation, global supply chains would have the option to anchor to a public blockchain that no entity controls. In other words, data extracted from commercial and production activity would be cryptographically recorded in open ledgers. But, inevitably, private, closed ledgers run by a consortium of companies will also arise, as their members seek to protect market share and profits. Both imperatives pose challenges. For one, achieving global economic capacity for the most significant public blockchains, digital-currency service bitcoin and smart contract platform Ethereum, is constrained by divisions in their open-source communities, making it difficult to agree on protocol upgrades. Second, there needs to be interoperability across private and public blockchains, which will require standards and agreements.
Another big obstacle: the law. A complex array of regulations, maritime law, and commercial codes governs rights of ownership and possession along the world’s shipping routes and their multiple jurisdictions. Marrying that old-world body of law, and the human-led institutions that manage it, with the digitally defined, dematerialized, automated and denationalized nature of blockchains and smart contracts will be difficult.
Even before governments can be convinced to support this effort, and to do so in a globally coordinated way, industry must agree on best practices and standards of technology and contract structure across international borders and jurisdictions. In Hong Kong, the recently formed Belt and Road blockchain consortium seeks to bring order to this process by adopting internet governance approaches pioneered and tested by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the organization that manages domain names. As an international, private sector–led body, ICANN has already proven itself to be an effective global administrator and adjudicator.
These challenges must be weighed against the demands of a global economy that hasn’t properly recovered from the financial crisis of 2008 and is fueling disintegrating, isolationist forces in the U.S. and Europe. Any system that promises to counter those trends by removing the intercommercial frictions that curb trade while also enhancing transparency and control for businesses and their customers is inherently worth exploring. It’s why an increasing number of investors, businesses, academics, and even governments are starting to view blockchain technology as a much-needed platform for economic renewal.
Bitcoin Hits $1,280, More to Come?Mar-6-2017 12:44:19 PM
We’re starting off this week with the price of Bitcoin near the US$1,280 mark as seller pressure has lead to
Other news that this week also brought was those of a darkweb seller who is reportedly looking to trade over 1 million accounts from Gmail and Yahoo for a price of less than 1 Bitcoin. The cyber criminal, believed to be hiding under the username “SunTzu583”, is trading accounts from several data breaches, including ones from as early as 2008.
According to IBT, among the accounts batch are usernames, e-mails, and passwords from the MySpace (2008), Last.FM (2012), Adobe (2013), Bitcoin Security Forum (2014) and Dropbox hacks, among other cases. The breached accounts are most probably going to be bought by any groups or individuals looking to use them for identity thefts, ransoms, etc.
Bears Look for Profits
During the weekend, the price of Bitcoin struggled to form support at the $1,280 level as both sellers and buyers swooped the market. After reaching a new milestone on Friday, there have been several price swings that allowed the price to move from its weekend high point of $1,277.68 to as low as $1245.21, after which it recovered to the current levels.
The price drops coincided with a loss in interest, as the trading volume went down by two thirds to the current $130,236,000. However, there has been a small uptick since last night, so if it goes high again, there will be more room for faster price changes. On the other hand, the market cap sits at $20.6 billion.
Our technical analysis shows that the long-term trends are heavily pro-buy, which is great news for those who want to see the price growing. However, short-term signals are also showing that 5 out of 12 oscillators and 5 out 12 averages are in the sell zone, indicating a formation of seller pressure.
Thus, the overall signal is that the price is headed for a slow growth, as long as sellers don’t keep pressuring the market. If they do, we will see a test of the $1,260 range. So, keep your eyes on the market and don’t be surprised by more price swings.
Bitcoin or Gold?
During the past week there has been plenty of talk whether Bitcoin has become a better alternative to gold in the eyes of investors. One interesting comparison comes from Forbes, who report that Bitcoin Investment Trust Shares have grown almost three times during 2016, or over 30% in the past quarter alone, while Gold Shares (SPDR) have dropped down by 3.78% in the year, and 4.49% in the last quarter.
The positive and impressive rise coincides with the increasing mistrust in fiat currencies which has subsequently resulted in people turning to Bitcoin. In the past year, there have been several instances where problems with traditional currencies have caused an uptick in Bitcoin trading, the most notable being the demonization in India and Venezuela where Bitcoins are rapidly gaining popularity.
This, combined with the practicality of Bitcoin and its limited supply, is perhaps the only logical explanation why Bitcoin has grown so fast and so big in the past 6 months alone. However, being the complex digital currency that it is, it is likely that most of its appeal lies among the Millennial generation, rather than older investors.
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Is Bitcoin Better Than Gold?Jan-18-2017 05:16:36 PM
Early on in its life cycle, prescient investors began questioning the legitimacy of bitcoin value and debating how such a commodity could command a market price. What differentiated bitcoin from a mere collectible and what made it similar to precious metal assets?
Among many circles, especially gold bugs and older-generation investors, bitcoin was not considered a valid investment up until very recently.
In order to properly analyse the value proposition of bitcoin vs gold, we must clarify which attributes of gold are valuable and prop them up against the promise of bitcoin. When we measure the implications of today’s economic environment, it is clear to see why bitcoin is being considered the ‘gold of the 21st century’, or as some pundits have advocated, a ‘digital gold’.
Bitcoin vs Gold
Gold has perceived value because it is scarce, quasi-indestructible, and serves an industrial purpose. Bitcoin inherits all of these attributes and also adds the characteristics of portability and perfect divisibility. Both are exceedingly durable and cannot be counterfeit. The main advantage for bitcoin over gold as a commodity is that bitcoin has perfect portability, while gold must be insured, stored, guarded, and verified that the integrity of the substance has remained intact and not mixed with other filler metals.
If you are moving precious metals across borders, you must declare it. However, no amount of border authorities or cash sniffing dogs can detect if you hold bitcoin, as ownership can be distilled to memorizing a private key.
If you are attempting to buy something with gold, it usually needs to be exchanged for currency first. Bitcoin payments need only a smartphone to transact.
One of the main reasons to add gold to an investor’s portfolio today is as a hedge against economics disaster, that of collapse or hyperinflation. Outside the gold-bug crowd, and among the current generation, gold as a valid form of transaction is a stretch of the imagination. If such a disastrous event were to occur, would people be exchanging pieces of gold if internet connectivity were still available? At the blurring rate of current technological advancements, does considering a shiny metal to be valuable seem like an increasing trend?
Gold may have been reliable in the 20th century, but among a generation of digital natives who are connected psychologically to their mobile devices, bitcoin will increasingly be the method of choice for commerce. This is the information age, and in it, information represents the most valuable form of commodity. Bitcoin is financial information stored on a collective, distributed computing network. Gold comes nowhere near to competing with this network of trust.
In terms of commodity fungibility, having one unit exactly similar to all others is important. With bitcoin, this is guaranteed by cryptographic algorithms, yet every coin carries with it the entirety of its transaction history. With gold, this is not so simple. Metals can carry dilutions and value estimates can differ depending on the mint which issued the coin or bar. We also know that the benchmark used by investors and central bankers to determine the value of precious metals has been (and continues to be) heavily manipulated. According to Bloomberg, authorities around the world are already investigating the manipulation of benchmarks from interest rates to foreign exchange, and examining the $20 trillion gold market for signs of wrongdoing.
With bitcoin, network integrity can be cryptographically proven, representing a digital asset which has transcended physicality and operates within the cyber domain. It’s very possible to send millions of USD worth of bitcoin within seconds and only the sender and receiver are aware of the identities involved. Physical actors cannot exert control over the portability of this commodity, and therefore, ‘digital gold’ represents bitcoin accurately.
Gold is a store of value which relies on tradition to support its value base along with a few minor industrial purposes. When you take away this perceived tradition of value you are left with a few manufacturing uses and nothing more. Tradition has built an idea in the consumers’ mind that gold holds tremendous value.
It could be argued that the valuations behind precious metals are artificially high due to a market perception which has vastly underestimated the quantity of these metals. Despite what a merchant may tell you, we have no clear idea on the supply of gold. We have barely begun to explore the depths of the ocean let alone mine deeper than a scratch in the Earth’s crust. Who is to say how much gold and precious minerals near-Earth asteroids contain? It’s possible that gold’s perceived scarcity may prove to be illusory in 20-30 years when private enterprise is mining rocks in space.
The fact that bitcoin is instantly transferable across the globe with the ability to be divided ad infinitum, is why it holds a tremendous advantage over precious metals. Bitcoin, and other developments in cryptocurrency, will challenge precious metals as history’s de-facto store of wealth.
Why more and more people love Bitcoin more than Fiat?Jan-8-2017 03:36:59 AM
Block chain tech is a awesome technology and bitcoin is getting popular.
And some people love Bitcoin more than Fiat.
Following are some advantages that fiat does not have comparing with bitcoin:
1. There can be certain restrictions that only bitcoin can bypass. People prefer Bitcoin over fiat because it gives em freedom fiat doesn't. For example, in many countries, underage people can't open bank accounts to their name without parental consent. Bit more importantly, entire countries are limited by things like capital controls.
2. Some people prefer bitcoin over fiat because on some places bitcoin is tax free. Basically people prefer bitcoin than fiat because we can freely use it. In addition bitcoin prices that fluctuate make users can get profits. Moreover fiat has a lot of issues like the cash being destroyed, lost, robbed while with digital payments with a system like bitcoins we are at least sure that we won't loose our hard earned money. Plus bitcoins are best for this purpose since no fees is taken as its decentralized.
3. Bitcoin can be use in many ways compare to fiat that can only be use in limited ways. Also bitcoin have more benefits than fiat, bitcoin is faster and convenient rather than using fiat online when buying stuffs and so on. Bitcoin is more valuable than fiat too, because its price is always fluctuating, right now, its price is fluctuating from lower to higher.
4. Some people don't want to do business with banks so with using bitcoins they avoid that. Or they are trying to be anonimous so they use Bitcoin transactions instead of fiat.
5. There is no doubt that the bitcoin price has been a huge factor to it being popular but most of the people don't actually prefer bitcoin over fiat , they just see bitcoin as a way to get real money , they see it as an investment to help them get fiat , but if there is people out there saying that they like bitcoin over fiat they are lying because they can't go to the supermarket and pay with btc.
6. Fiat is centralize and bitcoin is decentralize. People choose decentralize thats why bitcoin is on the top right now. Besides, bitcoin can make people more profit because its price is increasing rapidly. While fiat is not profitable and losing its value. Theres no sense holding fiat if the value is failing.
The 2 Factors That Drove Bitcoin's 20% Overnight Price PlungeJan-6-2017 09:46:57 AM
Bitcoin’s price has been on a tear recently.
After spending months in the $600 range, it shot from about $750 a month ago to $1,150 yesterday.
But that changed overnight as the price dropped about 22%, according to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index. It’s rebounded slightly and is now trading at around $975 as of press time.
Two main factors appear to be at play.
“What happened overnight is the yuan strengthened,” says Chris Burniske, blockchain products lead at ARK Investment Management. China accounts for more than 95% of all trading in Bitcoin, so developments there have a large impact on the price. Another factor may be traders taking profits since $1,150 is in the range of bitcoin’s previous all-time highs.
Burniske points out that the Chinese yuan had recently been devaluing, which tends to correlate with bitcoin strength, but that it rose 1% overnight.
“As a result, one of the notable things I saw is that Chinese bitcoin exchanges fell from trading at a premium over U.S. exchanges to actually trading at a discount, so there was a drop in demand on the Chinese exchanges,” says Burniske. Chinese bitcoin exchanges typically show higher prices for bitcoin than exchanges in other locations because of increased demand there.
“The fact that they’re at parity or at a discount shows the effect that the strengthening yuan has had on bitcoin markets,” he says.
The reason developments with China’s currency are correlated with bitcoin has to do with the Chinese government’s attempt to limit the flow of money out of the country. In response, many Chinese citizens, to get money out of China, have been buying bitcoin with renminbi and then selling bitcoin on another exchange for U.S. dollars or euro. “Chinese capital controls are a big part of what creates demand for Bitcoin,” says Gil Luria, director of research at Wedbush Securities.
As devaluation of the yuan drives investors there to seek out other currencies, that creates demand for bitcoin, which could have driven the surge in price in recent weeks.
“People have been expecting a continuation of yuan weakness, so what you’ll see with the bitcoin markets is a lot of times, bitcoin will experience a price increase prior to a significant yuan devaluation,” says Burniske. “So a lot of people may have been forecasting a significant yuan devaluation and what they got was actually the opposite. It’s really shaking off a lot of people who have been trying to short the yuan.”
Luria says that the other main activity around bitcoin in China, “pure speculation — people in China buying bitcoin because they believe it will appreciate, causing it to appreciate same with oil, real estate, stocks,” could also have pushed down the price.
“People that bought bitcoin at $500 a year ago, $600 six months ago, $800 two weeks ago are locking in their profits from that trade,” says Luria.
Noting that the previous all-time high of around $1,150 back in 2013 is a psychological barrier, he says traders may have decided that price was the right time for them to lock in profits.
This time around, however, bitcoin’s fundamentals are quite different.
“The usage is many multiples higher than it was in 2013. There’s a lot more development activity, a lot more application, a lot more usage. The network is much healthier and more robust,” says Luria. Trading volume in late 2013 was less than 10 million bitcoin a month and has recently been about 170 million bitcoin a month, according to Bitcoinity.org.
That also means that even this price fluctuation is less dramatic than it was in 2013.
“When you look at 2013, the bitcoin price actually doubled within the period of a month. We haven’t had that happen with this recent ascent,” says Burniske. “We’re starting to see signs of increased volatility in these last couple days but it’s still nothing near what we saw around the November 2013 price spike.”
Bitcoin’s notorious volatility has lessened to less than that of Twitter stock. Its volatility is now same as the USO oil futures ETF and comparable to that of a small cap stock.
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