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Today's catch up on what is hot in Blockchain and CryptoAssets brings you the following 6 stories:
In Decentralized Finance news, Ethereum’s deposit contract has achieved the necessary minimum threshold in order to confirm the December 1st launch of Ethereum's proof of stake blockchain.
Chainalysis Raises $100 Million at over $1 Billion Valuation To Expand Its Global Regulatory Platform.
More than 30 major Japanese firms will begin testing a private Digital Yen.
DAiM launches employer-sponsored 401(k) bitcoin retirement plans in the US.
Hublot watches is launching a completely digital warranty stored in the AURA blockchain.
And following on yesterday’s news from Qantas that they will require proof of Covid-19 vaccination to fly, we have the International Air Transport Association's announcement that it is in the final phase of development for its Travel Pass digital health pass.
This week is one of my favorite speaking opportunities, the Blockchain Expo.
One of the reasons that I loved it as a physical conference was that it's actually co-hosted with four other expos: AI & Big Data, Cybersecurity and Cloud, IoT Tech, and 5G. Like everything else, this edition is being held virtually and you can still sign up for a free ticket.
I have a great Decentralised Finance vs. Traditional Banking panel on Thursday with Ioana Surpateanu, co-head of European Government Affairs at Citibank, Elisabeth Noble from the European Banking Authority, and Alexandre Lemarchand from Ledger.
You can request to attend as my guest here.
There are a lot of happy Ethereans today as Ethereum officially hit the minimum necessary threshold of 524,288 deposited ether (with almost half of that being sent in the last day it looks like). This means that 7 days after the deposit contract's threshold was met, so December 1st, the Ethereum proof of stake Beacon Chain can launch. This will have not only a significant positive effect on DeFi in general, it will also begin to improve the network speed and transaction costs that have been problematic recently as DeFi projects try to scale.
Staking cryptocurrencies is a way to participate in the operations of the respective network and to then receive a commission. You're kind of loaning your crypto to the network. While it isn't without risk, staking creates a way for you to earn revenue by holding cryptocurrencies, potentially crypto that you already own. If you are curious about that, you should connect with the good people at Staked.US.
Blockchain analysis company Chainalysis has closed a $100m Series C financing round making it an official unicorn with this billion-dollar valuation.
Chainalysis provides data, software, services, and expertise to government agencies, exchanges, and financial institutions in over 50 countries. Its tools power compliance, risk management, and investigation of cryptocurrency money laundering and crime.
This capital will be used to further support the international expansion of Chainalysis's network of government agencies, financial institutions, and other private sector businesses that relies on Chainalysis's data platform and software solutions for transparency into cryptocurrency transactions and markets.
Addition led the round and existing investors Accel, Benchmark, and Ribbit also participated.
Founder of Addition, Lee Fixel, said
"Chainalysis is the financial regulatory platform for the future of digital assets. The firm's data, technology, and network are foundational to the blockchain ecosystem. With impressive growth to date, the opportunity for continued global expansion as the preferred partner to governments and businesses seeking compliance and investigative insights is massive."
Michael Gronager, Co-Founder and CEO, Chainalysis, adds that
"Government agencies and the private sector need the right data, tools, and insights to responsibly oversee and participate in the cryptocurrency economy, We have established a network of government agencies in over 30 countries and more than 250 of the most important businesses around the world who are making it safer and easier for consumers and businesses to transact, fundamentally changing the way money works. Our partners at Addition understand the power of our platform and are a natural partner for this next phase of growth."
Reuters brings us more CBDC news.
More than 30 major Japanese firms will begin experiments next year towards issuing a common, private digital currency to promote digitalization in one of the world's most cash-loving countries, the group's organizing body said on Thursday.
The group, consisting of Japan's three biggest banks, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc, Mizuho Financial Group Inc, and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc, as well as brokerages, telecommunication firms, utilities, and retailers, will conduct experiments for issuing a digital currency that will use a common settlement platform.
Japan has some of the most cash-loving people in the world, with cashless payments making up only 20% of total settlement – well below the United States at 45% and China with 70%.
Japan's main messaging app, LINE, has also spent the last year scaling up its payments offer. LINE has 200 million users across the region (over 84 million of them in Japan) and more than 50 million users for its Line Pay product that can be used in Japan for in-store payments using QR codes. They have partnered with Visa and one of Japan’s largest credit card issuers, JCB, around payments and are looking to develop other blockchain payment solutions together with Visa. LINE has also recently released its own digital currency called LINK available through their subsidiary, Japanese crypto exchange BITMAX.
Digital Asset Investment Management (DAiM) has launched what it says are the first company-sponsored retirement plans supporting bitcoin, after a year-long test phase.
DAiM will serve as the 3(38) advisor and fiduciary to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)-compliant plan, helping companies create a 401(k) Plan that offers several recommended model portfolios of varying risk to traditional assets and allocation of up to 10% to Bitcoin. Bitcoin will be held securely in Institutional Cold Storage Custody through New York's Gemini Trust. Should the employee leave their company their Bitcoin will be able to transfer with them. And should an individual want to allocate more to Bitcoin, they can schedule an investment consultation with DAiM.
According to DAiM,
"From the moment we were approved by the State of California in June 2018, we've seen incredible inbound demand from individuals eager to invest Bitcoin in 401(k)s. Conventional 401(k) plans are restrictive and often lack investment options, causing participants to not only be frustrated but have poor risk-adjusted returns that barely keep up with the rate of inflation. This is a bad deal for savers given the current environment. We believe Bitcoin has demonstrated it has a place in the modern portfolio and individuals should have an opportunity to "Get Off Zero" and invest directly through their retirement account."
If companies are interested in offering an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan with Bitcoin available for 2021, the plans need to be put in place by mid-December of this year.
According to Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot,
“After being one of the first companies in the world to equip its watches with an electronic warranty in 2009, Hublot is once again innovating with the Hublot e-warranty. Hublot will use an electronic passport and warranty system, much like facial recognition, based on the uniqueness of the materials that make up its watches. Today, thanks to the Hublot e-warranty, a simple photo taken with a mobile phone is all it takes to activate the warranty and access it, while verifying the authenticity of the product. Although the technology developed relies on complex algorithms, it is simple and user friendly. A perfect fusion between technological complexity and ease of use.”
The new warranty system developed by Hublot is part of a global trend to fight counterfeiting and to track and trace product lifecycles, initiated by LVMH. The Hublot e-warranty will be stored in the AURA luxury brand-focused blockchain, developed by Microsoft and ConsenSys. AURA is the first international blockchain designed to help consumers trace items and assess their authenticity. Designed by and for luxury brands, it enables the tracking of raw material sourcing and the protection of intellectual and creative property.
In order to reopen borders to travelers without requiring quarantine, governments are exploring how testing and vaccination could limit the risk of COVID-19 importation. The International Air Transport Association and the International Airlines Group have announced that they will soon begin piloting the IATA Travel Pass powered by One ID.
In order to manage and verify the secure communication of required testing or vaccine information between governments, airlines, laboratories, and travelers, the travel pass incorporates four open-sourced and interoperable modules which can be combined for an end-to-end solution:
Global registry of health requirements– enables passengers to find accurate information on travel, testing, and eventually vaccine requirements for their journey.
Global registry of testing/vaccination centers – enables passengers to find testing centers and labs at their departure location which meet the standards for testing and vaccination requirements of their destination.
Lab App – enables authorized labs and test centers to securely share test and vaccination certificates with passengers.
Contactless Travel App - enables passengers to (1) create a ‘digital passport’, (2) receive test and vaccination certificates and verify that they are sufficient for their itinerary, and (3) share testing or vaccination certificates with airlines and authorities to facilitate travel. This app can also be used by travelers to manage travel documentation digitally and seamlessly throughout their journey, improving the travel experience.
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said that
“Today borders are double locked. Testing is the first key to enable international travel without quarantine measures. The second key is the global information infrastructure needed to securely manage, share and verify test data matched with traveler identities in compliance with border control requirements. That’s the job of IATA Travel Pass. We are bringing this to market in the coming months to also meet the needs of the various travel bubbles and public health corridors that are starting operation.”
The first cross-border IATA Travel Pass pilot is scheduled for later this year and the launch slated for Q1 2021.
For more information, check out their press release from November 23rd as well as the main IATA travel pass page where you can also download the presentation from Alan Murray Hayden, Head Airport Passenger & Security Products, at this week’s #IATAMediaDays.
The Blockchain in Aviation white paper outlines the results of IATA research and development activities on Blockchain in collaboration with airlines and the wider value chain. The paper covers the fundamentals, areas of application, challenges, and opportunities of Blockchain technology across the aviation industry. You can download the whitepaper here.
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