Blockchain Start-Up Orbs Raises $15 Million With Kakao’s Help

Orbs blockchainOrbs blockchain

South Korean app provider, Kakao, has helped to raise over $15 million in cryptocurrency for Orbs, a hybrid blockchain platform.

Orbs Blockchain Raises $15 Million

Kakao joined the fundraising venture through its investment arm because it “always seeks to invest and support innovative startups and Orbs is a good example.

It also builds on the pair’s existing partnership; Orb already partners with Kakao’s blockchain subsidiary, Ground X. The two companies develop blockchain applications, along with researching and developing projects.

The latest investment will “focus on helping Orbs further the protocol’s development and growth.”

On the investment, Daniel Peled, Orbs CEO and Co-Founder said:

“With Kakao’s consumer applications counting more than 50 million active users worldwide, the investment in Orbs represents a significant endorsement of the long-term potential of our technology.”

About Orbs Blockchain

But what exactly is Orbs doing? How is it innovative?

According to its website Orbs is “a public blockchain to complement base-layer protocols.”

Describing itself as a “universal and scalable second layer for decentralized applications with the liquidity of a base layer,” Orbs is a hybrid public blockchain that proves performance without compromising security.

Raising Funds

The startup raised approximately 139,000 Ether and 892 Bitcoin. This amounts to around $15.4 million USD at the time of writing.

>> Is Bitcoin ABC the Real Bitcoin Cash? OKEx Thinks So!

Orbs is planning on putting the cash into further research and development of its core technology.

Peled explained further:

“A lot of the funds have been used for R&D and research, and one of the other verticals that are very important is obviously to enable the growth of the ecosystem around the infrastructure […] The test product is already live, and people can use the APIs and we’ve released a testnet version.”

The fundraiser has been running throughout 2018, and the company has been clever with its raised cryptocurrency. To avoid market decline (and 2018 has been one big decline!) Orbs has been converting some of its cryptos along the way into fiat currencies.

Orbs’ mainnet is scheduled to go live in April 2019.

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Blockchain Phone: Will Samsung Enter the Ring? Trademarks Say Yes!

Blockchain PhoneBlockchain Phone

The excitement of late in blockchain has centered around a particular blockchain phone. A first of its kind, this phone has crypto nerds alike beaming with joy; the idea of decentralized apps running on your phone is exciting, and that’s before we consider all the crypto possibilities.

Blockchain Phone

It started with Sirin Labs, whose pioneering phone ‘Finney,’ let people store and use digital currencies without transaction fees. Then HTC came to the party with the world’s second blockchain phone called Exodus 1. This phone boasts a “Social Key Recovery” function that lets a user use a select number of trusted contacts to regain access to their funds, should they lose their private key. Kinda cool.

But now… Samsung is about to join the battle. Yes, one of the world’s biggest phone makers is reportedly on the verge of creating its own blockchain smartphone.

But how do we know this? Well, we don’t know it for definite, but there’s something cooking in the kitchen.

European Trademarks

Earlier in the week, Samsung submitted three European trademark requests for blockchain-based smartphone features. They are named as the following:

  • Blockchain KeyStore
  • Blockchain Key Box
  • Blockchain Core

So while it’s not necessarily definite, its pretty obvious.

>> State Farm is Now Testing Blockchain Technology for Auto Insurance Claims

So the news has enthusiasts’ brains ticking over. Is Samsung working on a form of hardware wallet that will be implemented into future devices? Do these names allude to forms of private or public key storage?

One particular clue is that the document states that the trademarks will apply to “Smartphones; Software applications for use with mobile devices; Computer software platforms; Application software.”

But that’s all we know.

Advocate

Samsung has been an advocate for storing cryptocurrency on its phones, stating “smartphones have the best security for blockchain and cryptocurrency.” However, many security experts have disputed this statement.

Further, with $761 million in cryptocurrency thefts this year alone, security is not something you want to take lightly. Perhaps it is time for Samsung to create a blockchain phone made for cryptocurrency storage and then it can truly back up its own statements.

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State Farm is Now Testing Blockchain Technology for Auto Insurance Claims

State FarmState Farm

US automotive and life insurance group State Farm is now testing blockchain technology to potentially speed up auto claims. The company announced the new pilot for its blockchain-based subrogation platform on its website yesterday.

State Farm Testing Blockchain Technology

According to the company’s website, the company processes just over 38,000 claims per day and has 519,000 accounts in mutual funds.

“Today, subrogation is a relatively manual, time-consuming process often requiring physical checks to be mailed on a claim-by-claim basis between insurers,” said Mike Fields, innovation executive of State Farm. “You can imagine the time and resources required to complete these transactions.”

If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you know how long the grueling process of filing claims and bringing those claims to completion can take. State Farm is trying to keep up with new technology to speed up that process and in turn, save themselves time and money.

In the cycle of the claims process, State Farm is applying blockchain to the very last part of the cycle that tends to take the longest. Subrogation is where the insurance company recovers claim costs it paid to its customer for damages from the at-fault party.

>> Major Brands are Now Using Blockchain Tech for Customer Loyalty

“The blockchain solution we are working on has many potential benefits,” says Fields. “It helps us automate a manual process securely and creates a permanent transaction record of each payment which can easily be verified for accuracy. It also has the potential to decrease the amount of time for consumers to receive their deductible reimbursement.”

Insurance Companies on the Move

State Farm isn’t the only insurance company to attempt to make a transition to the blockchain. Last month, Japan-based Sompo partnered with BitPesa and the partnership focused of the “digitalization of global remittance services.” Back in September, the People’s Insurance Company of China (PICC) partnered with VeChain to improve fraud and Know Your Customer (KYC) practices.

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The US Department of Homeland Security Offers $800K for Blockchain-Based Anti-Forgery Software Development

The US Department of Homeland SecurityThe US Department of Homeland Security

The US Government has just released an announcement that it is offering grants up to $800 thousand for the development of a blockchain-based anti-forgery solution. The US Department of Homeland Security is focusing its blockchain efforts on enhancing its capabilities of spotting fake documentation.

US Department of Homeland Security and Blockchain

The DHS, through its unit Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), will distribute the non-dilutive funds in four phases. The department chose the non-dilutive route so that the entity doesn’t need to sell equity in order to receive the funding. The funds will be distributed through its Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP).

The things that the US Department of Homeland Security hopes the blockchain can effectively track are identity documents for travel, tribal identity documents for travel, cross-border oil import tracking, raw material imports, and citizen, employment, and immigration authorization documents.

“The broad Homeland Security mission includes the need to issue entitlements, licenses and certifications for a variety of purposes including travel, citizenship, employment eligibility, immigration status and supply chain security,” said S&T SVIP Technical Director Anil John. “Understanding the feasibility and utility of using Blockchain and distributive ledger technology for the digital issuance of what are currently paper-based credentials is critical to preventing their loss, destruction, forgery and counterfeiting.”

>> Binance Blockchain: Binance to Launch the Binance Chain

This $800 thousand of funding is open to small businesses and start-up companies that have not had funding from a government contract in the last year that totaled $1 million. The organization isn’t allowed to have less than 200 employees at the time of application, either.

This isn’t the first time the US Department of Homeland of Security has explored blockchain technology. The organization started accepting research proposals on the technology back in 2015.

In addition to the government entity, the US Air Force graduate program released a course centered around blockchain technology for supply chain use.

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Will the US Air Force Soon Be Using Blockchain for Supply Chain?

US Air ForceUS Air Force

The grad school for the United States Air Force just developed a tool to help supply chain professionals learn about blockchain. The US Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) released its free tool in hopes of advancing the current infrastructure built around supply chain management.

This news was released by the US business journal Modern Materials Handling (MMH) back on December 3rd.

US Air Force and Blockchain Technology

AFIT has put together a live application that is paired with a set of video tutorials. This application can be accessed from any smartphone or computer. AFIT built it in hopes that the tutorials and module would be used in a classroom or business meeting setting, as well as for individual use.

When blockchain emerged into the mainstream tech scene in 2017, supply chain was one of the hot topics surrounding the new tech. While the blockchain is anything but new, it didn’t start catching big eyes until the last few years.

The report by MMH emphasizes that even some experts have predicted that blockchain will revolutionize the way we think about “designing and operating the digital infrastructure of supply chains.” The US Air Force grad school deciding to take on this task must mean it sees flaws in its own supply chain system. Blockchain technology could provide the military with better visibility into extremely complex logistic networks.

>> A Blockchain for Europe: A New Association Sets Out to Educate

With the US Air Force being deployed everywhere, it can be difficult to track parts that are sourced from one region and then assembled and used on a completely different continent. While this sounds like a no-brainer, blockchain technology can be difficult to understand for most. That’s the exact reason why AFIT built this module and live application.

It remains unknown if the Department of Defense will utilize blockchain technology in the near future for supply chain, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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A Blockchain for Europe: A New Association Sets Out to Educate

Blockchain for EuropeBlockchain for Europe

It seems that blockchain ventures are popping up almost by the day. In order to promote understanding and regulation of blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT), a ‘Blockchain for Europe’ Association has formed.

The latest endeavor comes from four already pretty major and renowned blockchain companies that have joined forces to establish the Association.

Blockchain for Europe

The four members of the association are Ripple, the NEM Foundation, Emurgo, and Fetch.AI.

But what’s the point of Blockchain for Europe? The companies want to address the European Union’s “fragmented” policy debate which surrounds and impedes blockchain business and proactivity.

The association claims that “inconsistent information from those outside the emerging sector” is wreaking havoc on the current policy.

So education will be a major focus of the group, and its targets are EU member state institutions. The goal is simply to teach about blockchain technology and all its potentials.

According to Finextra.com, the group will look for “smart” regulation that will have the best interest of blockchain technology at its core.

Active

The group has already been active. One week ago, it hosted a Blockchain for Europe Summit at the European Parliament in Brussels.

It was joined by The European People’s Party group, The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, European Conservatives and Reformists, and The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. The summit got to the point and addressed blockchain’s potential for multiple sectors including government uses, healthcare, finance, trade, transport, and digital assets like cryptocurrencies.

>> Binance Blockchain: Binance to Launch the Binance Chain

Another regional industry group focused on supporting blockchain initiatives is The European Blockchain Partnership. It was established in early 2018. The group describes this aim further:

“the establishment of a European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) that will support the delivery of cross-border digital public services, with the highest standards of security and privacy.”

The blockchain industry continues to grow. And its potential has expanded far beyond its founding use of cryptocurrency. As such, understanding it and allowing industries to yield its potential fully will be crucial to its adoption.

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Facebook Cryptocurrency: Is the Tech Giant Developing a Stablecoin?

Facebook CryptocurrencyFacebook Cryptocurrency

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is reportedly developing a cryptocurrency that will let users send money via its WhatsApp messaging app. The new cryptocurrency would launch first in India—a country with over 200 million Whatsapp users and the world’s leader in sending money home.

Facebook Cryptocurrency

According to Bloomberg, the company is creating a stablecoin, a digital currency that is pegged to a fiat currency—often the US dollar. These types of cryptocurrencies are supposed to be less volatile than regular cryptos.

Though not nearly at a launch stage, sources say that Facebook is currently working on the strategy “including a plan for custody assets, or regular currencies that would be held to protect the value of the stablecoin.”

First Blockchain, Now Crypto?

The company has been very hush-hush about its blockchain initiatives. However, what is known is that Facebook has already hired 40 members for its blockchain team. A spokesperson gave little away but confirmed the company’s plans to move in this direction:

“Like many other companies, Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of blockchain technology […] This new small team is exploring many different applications. We don’t have anything further to share.”

The company also hinted at movements into the financial sector when it hired David Marcus to lead its Messenger app team in 2014. Marcus was the former president of PayPal. He then moved to lead the blockchain initiatives team in May of this year.

>> Bitcoin Cash (BCH) vs. Bitcoin SV (BSV): The Race Continues

Stablecoins

There has been a surge in popularity for stablecoins this year. The most high-profile stablecoin is also the pioneering one—Tether. Surrounded by controversy, Tether’s refusal to be audited has led to questions over each token being backed by one US dollar, as purported by its creators.

However, Facebook has 2.5 billion global users and more than $40 billion in annual revenue. It may just have everything it takes to develop a stablecoin that works. If it is successful in this venture it would be the first large technology company to launch such a project.

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Western Union: Testing Ripple’s Blockchain, Will It Take on Crypto Next?

Western UnionWestern Union

According to the president of Western Union Global Money Transfer, the company is “ready to adopt any kind of currency.”

And interestingly, this includes cryptocurrencies.

Western Union Ready to Adopt

Odilon Almeida held an interview with Reuters Plus yesterday. Here he stated that there was no big difference between cryptocurrencies and regular digital payments, of which the Western Union has handled for years now.

The president stated further:

“We already operate with 130 currencies. If one day we feel like it is the right strategy to introduce cryptocurrencies to our platform, technology-wise, it’s just one more currency. I think cryptocurrencies may become one more option of currency or assets around the globe to be exchanged between people and businesses. If that happens, we would be ready to launch.”

This is a case of age and experience giving Western Union the potential to launch any type of currency inclusive of those based on the blockchain.

So we know it has the ability to adopt cryptocurrency but will Western Union actually do it?

Volatility

It’s a word that is synonymous with the crypto industry and in this case, it is no different. Volatility is one major problem that the industry needs to sort out first before Western Union could involve itself. The crypto market also needs to take control of governance and compliance.

However, price volatility can be addressed by pegging coins to “strong currencies, such as the dollar,” says Almeida.

>> The Crypto Donations Continue! Vitalik Buterin Donates $300K

In this instance, stablecoins would be a necessity.

Blockchain

The company has already begun exploring blockchain. It has partnered with Ripple to “test whether sending payments by blockchain was faster and less expensive.”

The answers are inconclusive at present and tests are ongoing.

Almeida’s openness regarding cryptocurrencies shows a different stance than what the Western Union’s CEO Hikmet Ersek iterated in June. In his case, he felt that until people were paying “hospital bills in cryptos,” Western Union would not add a cryptocurrency transfer solution to its services.

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The Crypto Donations Continue! Vitalik Buterin Donates $300K

crypto donationscrypto donations

Crypto donations are not new. They weren’t in 2017, the year of the crypto boom, nor are they in 2018. But each time they happen, whether it’s donations in cryptocurrencies or fiat currencies, it’s proof that not everyone in the crypto space is there for only themselves.

Vitalik Buterin (age 24), the creator of Ethereum, was the latest to make a donation. 

Crypto Donations Continue

Back in May of 2018, Ashton Kutcher, alongside Ripple, donated $4 million to the Ellen Wildlife Fund. In June, Ripple gave a whopping $50 million to universities in the United States. Following the destructive floods that hit West Japan in mid-July, Binance (the largest crypto exchange in the world) called for crypto donations. They were intended to provide relief for those affected. Then in August, Ripple was back at it again, partnering with Madonna to raise funds for the Malawi Orphanage.

This week we have seen more crypto donations, this time coming from Vitalik Buterin. The decision to make these donations came out of various threads on Twitter. You can find them on Buterin’s page. Here is one the responses:

The Recipients 

The recipients of the $300,000 in cryptocurrency Buterin donated this week include Prysmatic Labs (see tweet above), Sigma Prime, and ChainSafe Systems. All three are blockchain startups.

>> Ripple (XRP) and Bitcoin Cash (Bitcoin ABC) Surge!

The Takeaway

Even if you are skeptical of crypto donations, or perhaps even Vitalik Buterin, who has been at the center of a few scandals (like when he said he was against Apple), it’s nice to see people in the same space helping others. And to do it in December, well, it looks like Christmas came early for Sigma Prime, Prysmatic Labs, and ChainSafe Systems. 

What do you think of Buterin donating $300 thousand in crypto? Do you think it will help these startups achieve their goals in the new year? Let us know what you think in the comments below! 

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Crypto Users Increased to 35 Million in 2018: What Will 2019 Bring?

crypto userscrypto users

As we approach the new year, it’s time to reflect on all that happened in 2018. In the cryptocurrency sector, there were a few ups and downs, more so than in 2017, the year the crypto boom took flight. But while various companies (and coins) had their share of plunges, the number of crypto users in 2018 doubled.

Well, almost.

Crypto Users in 2018

On Wednesday, December 12th, the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance published a study detailing the number of ‘verified’ crypto users the sector gained in 2018. The figure was over 15 million (17 million, to be exact).

The study also said the number of ID-verified crypto users came close to doubling in the first three quarters of the year. It went from 18 million to a whopping 35 million.

Despite the 2018 crypto market decline, which caused many to run in the opposite direction, the Cambridge Centre study puts the future of crypto in an optimistic light. In fact, Bloomberg, when analyzing the study, concludes that even though the market declined in 2018, the increase in crypto users is evidence that an eventual recovery might be on the way. Bloomberg also believes the study indicates that most crypto users are “still speculators and long-term investors.”

>> Ethereum (ETH) Constantinople Hard Fork Nears and ETH Hacks Rise

Should We Believe the Crypto Study?

Crypto 2018 was a rollercoaster ride. Some lost hope, others did not. Cameron Winklevoss, a co-founder of Gemini, described the year well in a tweet:

One thing, however, that we can take away from the Cambridge study is that it’s not just business clients who are investing in cryptocurrency. Instead, it’s individuals, like consumers, retail investors, and anyone “seeking a better investment or payment alternative.”

As long as there’s an audience seeking these market changes, it’s likely crypto 2019 will see continued user growth; even if the prices of coins plunge from time to time (looking at you, Bitcoin).

What do you think?

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