Tag: #Bitcoin

IBM-Maersk blockchain alliance cuts oceanic shipping times by 40%

The TradeLens shipping partnership now has 94 partners, despite blockchain skeptics.

Did you just get a TV from Tokyo or flowers from France? Blockchain, that potentially disruptive but much-derided technology, might have helped deliver the goods.

A blockchain-based IBM partnership with global shipping colossus Maersk has now expanded to include 94 partners, Big Blue said Thursday. That includes shippers, customs houses, ports and others that have to wrangle paperwork as containers full of goods move around the world.

The result is shipping times that dropped a whopping 40 percent on average, according to Marie Wieck, who leads IBM’s 1,600-employee blockchain work.

That’s the kind of improvement that every inventory manager and bean-counter in accounting loves. And it ultimately means lower prices for anyone buying that TV or those flowers.

Six decades ago, the standard-size shipping container famously revolutionized shipping. Blockchain could do the same. 

“We believe it has the potential to have the same amount of impact on the process,” Wieck said.

Wait, what’s blockchain again?

Blockchain cuts paperwork-handling hassles by a factor of 10 by making it easier for everyone involved to get bills of lading, sanitary certificates, customs releases, invoices and other necessary documents, Wieck said. Before blockchain’s swifter processing, a “container spent more time in the ports than in the ocean” when shipping flowers from Mombasa, Kenya, to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, she said.

Blockchain lets cooperating companies or people share data — sales transactions or property records, for example — on a shared network of computers. The information is distributed across all of them instead of isolated on just one, an idea called a shared ledger, with encryption technology writing the data to all the systems in an ever-lengthening series of interlinked blocks.

Blockchain bakes trust into transactions because a single database eliminates some he-said, she-said disagreements that ordinarily crop up when multiple parties are trying to reconcile two separate databases. Encryption technology ensures that transactions really are between the parties involved.

The blockchain idea grew out of bitcoin and stores transaction data for all other cryptocurrencies, too. But much of the enthusiasm for blockchain is from its use in other domains, everything from voting and lotteries to ID cards and graphics rendering.

Blockchain skeptics

Still, blockchain has plenty of detractors who think of it as a solution in search of a problem.

Vint Cerf, one of the creators of the internet, tweeted a photo of a flowchart for tackling the issue. The top box in the flowchart states: “Do I need a blockchain?” A single arrow points to another box: “No.”

The chief executive of Western Union, a partner in a high-profile blockchain money-transfer project from startup Ripple, said in June that so far, “it’s still too expensive.”

But TradeLens shows there’s enthusiasm, too. Among its 94 partners are shippers Pacific International Lines and Hamburg Süd; customs authorities in the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Australia and Peru; and port operators in Philadelphia, Hong Kong, Rotterdam, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Bilbao, Spain.

IBM rival SAP, a business software maker and another blockchain fan, said that the reality of blockchain is that it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme.

Blockchain is a business network, said Gil Perez, SAP’s senior vice president of products and innovations. “It is critical for multiple companies to come together and agree on a business process, which is lengthening the adoption of blockchain in the enterprise,” he said.

SAP has a blockchain project for shipping, logistics and customs, too, and it’s working with partners including the US Customs and Border Protection agency and shipping company UPS.

Logging a million events per day

That work is in the proof-of-concept stage. IBM’s TradeLens service is part of IBM’s early adopter program, but it’s up and running in the real world. It captures more than a million shipping events each day, 154 million in total so far. 

“We don’t see scalability as a factor at all,” Wieck said.

TradeLens for now has been a closed partnership, but that’s changing. “We’re anticipating opening up general availability for anybody who wants to join later this year,” Wieck said. Cryptocurrencies use public blockchains, which means anyone can operate a node on the network and contribute transactions, but TradeLens uses a more restrictive “permissioned” approach with some controls on participation. It maintains the core blockchain idea of distributing data across multiple servers, though.

Also Thursday, IBM opened a programming interface that will let other companies’ computer systems interact with the blockchain. IBM charges for access to the TradeLens, offering it online as software as a service and sharing revenue with founding partners.

IBM has found it’s needed to make course corrections with TradeLens — for example, in the types of documents stored on the blockchain and the “onboarding” process to enlist new partners. But when done right, the blockchain greases the wheels of commerce.

“When there is real transparency to all data on the chain, you have less disputes because everybody has seamless visibility,” Wieck said. “We feel very comfortable about the model having value for the different types of participants.”  

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Starbucks may let customers pay with bitcoin

Starbucks customers may soon be able to pay for their lattes with bitcoin.

The company announced on Wednesday that it’s teaming up with Microsoft and Intercontinental Exchange, the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, to let customers use cryptocurrencies to buy items in stores.

The companies are working on a platform called Bakkt to allow users to store digital currency and trade it for products. Starbucks won’t store or accept the cryptocurrency directly, but Bakkt will turn people’s digital currency into US dollars that can be used at the coffee chain.

Starbucks said the move is part of an effort to stay innovative and offer customers more ways to pay.

Bitcoin(BTSC), the first currency that’ll be available on Bakkt, is a buzzy alternative currency, but its rise in popularity has been far from stable. Late last year, the value of one bitcoin was as high as $20,000, but it’s currently priced at just over $7,400. People can also purchase a fraction of a bitcoin.

Bakkt is expected to launch in November, and it’s unclear when Starbucks will be able to implement the technology for customer use. The platform will also be available for other merchants to use.

Related: The Winklevoss twins’ bitcoin ETF was rejected

This isn’t the first time Starbucks has jumped on the digital payments bandwagon. In 2011, it became one of the the first major retailers to accept in-store mobile payments.

Starbucks’ decision to embrace cryptocurrencies may help to further legitimize the use of alternatives like bitcoin.

But it’s not the first US company to do so. Overstock (OSTBP), Expedia (EXPE) and Microsoft (MSFT) are among a growing number of companies that allow customers to buy products with bitcoin online.

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World’s Biggest Stock Exchange Operator is Launching a Bitcoin Market

Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the owner of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), has announced that will list a physically-settled bitcoin futures contracts and form a new company whose mission is to make bitcoin a mainstream financial asset.

ICE to Launch Physically-Settled Bitcoin Futures

ICE made the groundbreaking announcement on Friday, revealing that the new platform — Bakkt — has been developed in partnership with a variety of blockbuster names, including Microsoft, Starbucks, and BCG.

Bakkt will integrate with the ICE’s U.S. futures market and clearinghouse to list a physically-settled one-day bitcoin futures product, complete with physical warehousing managed in-house by ICE. This product will launch in November, pending regulatory approval.

Because ICE — one of the biggest names in finance — will serve as custodian for all assets stored on the Bakkt platform, institutional investors such as pensions, endowments, and insurance companies may be less hesitant to take a bet on this burgeoning asset class. As CCN reported, analysts and others with knowledge of the institutional investing landscape had consistently fingered a lack of a respected, regulated custodian as the primary reason that institutions were staying away from bitcoin.

“Bakkt is designed to serve as a scalable on-ramp for institutional, merchant and consumer participation in digital assets by promoting greater efficiency, security and utility,” said Kelly Loeffler, CEO of Bakkt. “We are collaborating to build an open platform that helps unlock the transformative potential of digital assets across global markets and commerce.”

However, far from just a bitcoin futures exchange, Bakkt — whose other investors include Microsoft subsidiary M12, Fortress, Susquehanna, Pantera Capital, and Galaxy Digital — is intended to be a full-fledged platform that helps digital assets evolve into a mainstream financial asset class.

“In bringing regulated, connected infrastructure together with institutional and consumer applications for digital assets, we aim to build confidence in the asset class on a global scale, consistent with our track record of bringing transparency and trust to previously unregulated markets,” said Jeffrey C. Sprecher, founder, chairman, and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange.

Taking Bitcoin Mainstream

bitcoin price predictions
Source: Shutterstock

Indeed, Sprecher and Loeffler lay out their ambitious plans for Bakkt in an interview with Fortune, revealing that the platform will feature its own “omnibus ledger” that operates on top of the Bitcoin blockchain, similar to the Lightning Network (LN).

They said that they envision that, with ICE’s help, bitcoin can become a bona fide currency that could become the asset of choice for international payments.

Once a firm’s assets are custodied with ICE, they will be able to conduct frictionless transactions with other institutions and businesses that are connected to the Bakkt ledger.

”Bitcoin would greatly simplify the movement of global money,” Sprecher told the publication. “It has the potential to become the first worldwide currency.”

Toward that end, Bakkt is exploring how to increase bitcoin’s utility as a payment instrument. The announcement states that Starbucks will take an active role in providing consumers with the ability to seamlessly convert their holdings into USD so that they can use them to pay for items at Starbucks locations.

“As the flagship retailer, Starbucks will play a pivotal role in developing practical, trusted and regulated applications for consumers to convert their digital assets into US dollars for use at Starbucks,” said Maria Smith, Vice President, Partnerships and Payments for Starbucks. “As a leader in Mobile Pay to our more than 15 million Starbucks Rewards members, Starbucks is committed to innovation for expanding payment options for our customers.”

But while ICE believes it can be the one to take bitcoin mainstream, it also says that that reality likely will not resemble the crypto-anarchist vision harbored by many early cryptocurrency adopters.

“Bitcoin can’t survive as a rogue idea,” Sprecher said in the Fortune profile. “To evolve, the cryptocurrencies need to run on established infrastructure. They need the trust and rules that have been built into our financial system for many years. They need the kind of trust that the Big Board represents.”

The bitcoin price saw moderate bump in the hours following the announcement, rising as high as $7,503 on Bitfinex after dipping as far as $7,282 earlier in the day.

Developing…CCN will continue to update this story, so check back for more information.

Images from Shutterstock
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Flow and Cryptomkt Enable Crypto Payments at 5000+ Stores

Cryptocurrency exchange Cryptomkt has partnered with Chilean payment platform Flow to allow customers to pay with three cryptocurrencies at over 5,000 stores. The announcement follows two Chilean courts ruling that banks must reopen the accounts of crypto exchanges they previously closed.

5,000+ Stores Accept Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrency exchange Cryptomkt announced this week that over 5,000 stores now accept three cryptocurrencies.

Flow and Cryptomkt Enable Crypto Payments at 5000+ Stores

Flow and Cryptomkt Enable Crypto Payments at 5000+ Stores

Chilean payment platform Flow has integrated the exchange’s payment solution, Cryptocompra, into its system. Customers shopping at merchants using Flow can now choose to pay with cryptocurrencies during the checkout process.

Flow claims to currently provide service to over 5,000 stores with over 180,000 monthly transactions and over 20,000 customers.

Available now for businesses in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Europe, Cryptocompra “allows merchants to accept payments in bitcoin, ethereum and stellar cryptocurrencies quickly and easily,” Cryptomkt detailed, emphasizing:

Chileans today can access various products and services in more than 5,000 stores affiliated to Flow.cl using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies through Cryptocompra.com … Client pays in cryptocurrencies, trade receives pesos, reales or euros.

Flow and Cryptomkt Enable Crypto Payments at 5000+ StoresOn its website, Flow lists a fee of 0.90% for next-business-day payment with cryptocurrencies. By comparison, paying with credit cards using Webpay Plus or Onepay costs 4.99% to receive payment the next business day.

“You do not need to have contracts with the means of payment, Flow does it for you,” the company wrote. “Each time someone pays you, we will notify you of the payment made: We will indicate the detail of the payment made and the date on which we will transfer your money.”

Battle Between Banks and Crypto Exchanges

Crypto exchanges in Chile have been battling with banks over the closure of their bank accounts. In April, Chile’s Court for the Defense of Free Competition (TDLC – Tribunal de Defensa de la Libre Competencia) ordered three banks to reopen the accounts of crypto exchanges, including Cryptomkt. In May, Banco Estado complied and reopened the account of the exchange.

Earlier this month, the Fourth Chamber of the Court of Appeals of Santiago ruled in favor of cryptocurrency exchange Orionx against Banco Estado for closing its account.

What do you think of Flow integrating crypto payment option? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Cryptomkt, and Flow.cl.

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Crypto Trading Platform Releases an Arbitrage Trading Soft for Beginners

Having launched in November 2017, Arbitao, a London-based startup, has introduced its platform for arbitrage trading — the term comes from professional trading and refers to buying and selling the same asset and making profits on differing prices. The platform is already available for experienced users, as well as for novice traders with smaller budgets.

Wide coverage

The company representatives say that the platform has been tried and tested by initial investors since late 2017. “A lot of initial coin offering (ICO) projects don’t have a working product and probably never will have. With Arbitao, it’s different. Our goal was to deliver a working and tested product before the ICO starts. And we succeeded in it,” commented Karel Mirrin, Arbitao’s CTO, in the company’s press release.

The Arbitao team is separated into two operational offices based in London and Moscow, and they also outsource to Shanghai.

According to Arbitao’s press release, currently its arbitrage system compares prices from 19 exchanges and is capable of leveraging all user investments to execute trades and generate profits. Automated trading software makes profits possible to those outside of the ‘closed loop’ of arbitrage.

One of the problems that Arbitao tries to resolve is democratizing arbitrage trading for inexperienced users, allowing them to compete against day traders. “Our audience are crypto kiddies and new arbitrage traders with no resources to scale, so we do that for them through decentralizing the users coins through the arbitrage platform,” said the company’s representatives to Cointelegraph.

Ways of making profits

“Lots of pairs are facing lack of liquidity and the volatility in the market is very high, which leads to price differences between exchanges. By monitoring different exchanges, it can be seen that price spreads of certain pairs are up to 5 percent,” reads the Arbitao white paper.

The Arbitao platform provides several ways for users to earn. A user may profit from arbitrage on a daily basis by trading on numerous cryptocurrency exchanges with daily interest rate 0.5 to 0.75 percent.

Another way is to profit from inviting friends to join Arbitao — the team promises to reward every user with 18 percent of the total of their friends’ investments. “Arbitao is all about the community,” says the website.

A user may also earn up to five percent from staking with Arbitao. “You will be rewarded as staking is important for Arbitao’s sustainable development and provides serious benefits for the Arbitao network, such as increasing decentralization and improving blockchain security,” reads the website.

The team developed its own blockchain coin ATAO — not just a token — and its own internal exchange — TAOx. This results in an opportunity to make some earnings by speculating on ATAO’s price fluctuations.

Arbitao will launch its presale on July 22, 2018, and the project’s planning to reward all early investors with special bonuses. The presale will end on August 7, and everyone who will take part in it will be able to try out the Arbitao system in action.

The main crowdsale campaign will start on August 12 and last until September 9, 2018.

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