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Op-Ed

Ethereum Wannabes Face Big Challenge

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Price volatility in cryptocurrencies has been center stage in the drama of this crazy new technology.  Recently we tried to ease any jangled nerves by suggesting not to get distracted by the melodrama created by the media. Don’t blame them, it is just their job. Just ignore them, that’s our job.

To fill the void, let’s look at one of many fundamental reasons to be excited about the future of Ethereum. Several analysts and crypto observers believe 2018 will be a breakout year for the world’s second largest currency because of its decentralized blockchain platform and especially the secret sauce: smart contracts. After doing the homework, we agree.

In the final analysis, a blockchain is a blockchain but having the ability to create smart contracts that can be applied to virtually any situation is what makes Ethereum different.

Of course that is one other qualitative difference between between Ethereum and bitcoin and other alt currencies. Whether real or perceived, Ethereum doesn’t threaten the monetary sovereignty of any nation. Ethereum has been tested and shown to save billions on Wall Street trading desks and in other business applications.

Any technology that can save billions will have an instant audience with every corporate CEO and CFO on the planet. The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance was founded last February to connect Fortune 500 companies to Ethereum experts. In just under one year in operation, the EEA has over 300 members and is attracting top talent to its Board of Directors.  

A Bullseye On Its Back

What is the power behind smart contracts? Well for starters, someday smart contracts will dramatically alter the demand for $500+ per hour lawyers while at the same time bringing greater legal protection to the masses.

By now, it is pretty well known the founder of Ethereum is a graduate of bitcoin. What is somewhat less well known is the Bitcoin is not Turing-complete. What this means is that it cannot communicate with some of the most common languages like C++.  Making nitcoin suitable for Ethereum like smart contracts is a complex challenge.

RSK To The Rescue  

Earlier this month, RSK (formerly Rootstock) placed into beta its proposed solution for creating Ethereum style smart contracts using the Blockchain platform. I was a C student in math so I will not attempt to get too deep in the weeds here. A look at their whitepaper does a much better job than I ever could. Let’s take a look.

RSK intends to utilize the Bitcoin ecosystem by implementing sidechain technology. Importantly, RSK is to be a Turing-complete that is to be backward compatible with Ethereum virtual machine by including Ethereum VP opcodes. If the technology runs smoothly this means that Ethereum contracts can run on the RSK virtual machine as well.

While it is not entirely clear, this feature would appear to have significant collateral benefits for Ethereum. Here is how this might happen.

Developers of RSK are aiming for 20 second block times and 300 transactions per second at the time of launch with scalability to 1000.  Current Ethereum transaction speeds are nearly twice Bitcoin but still around 15. If RSK hits their targets, it could mean transaction speeds near that of PayPal.

Scaling to 1,000 per second is chump change compared with The New York Stock Exchange that can process in fractions of nanoseconds, but still a big step forward.

Now For The Hurdles

RSK promises security on a level comparable with bitcoin. But to do this they must convince miners to “merge mine” with bitcoin.  The whitepaper claims this can help miners become more profitable. The paper does not explain how this can work without somehow competing with bitcoin. I know that things work differently in the crypto world but this concept has me wondering.

Sidechain Challenges

The centerpiece of RSK is the existence as a Bitcoin sidechain. What this means is that RSK will be able to transfer assets back and forth to Bitcoin while still being separate.

In practice, RSK will not issue a new currency.  In order to pay for transactions they propose creating a complicated two way pet between something called RTC and bitcoin.  

Here is where the complication begins. When attempting to transfer bitcoin to RTC, Bitcoin does not know about transactions outside its own blockchain.  The solution proposed is a  workaround involving a so called federation of the largest bitcoin companies that will secure the transfer the transfer of funds between bitcoin and RTC. Success of this strategy appears contingent in large measure on paying large enough fees to members of the federation to make it worth their cooperation.

An Ethereum Purest

The founders of RSK, originally known as Rootstock, have come up with an interesting concept that could benefit bitcoin without doing harm to Ethereum. The far higher transaction speeds promised using a sidechain approach is not new but could prove helpful for Ethereum admittedly lethargic transaction processing.  So let’s keep an eye on the RSK beta because the beauty of technology is how the most insurmountable issues get solved. Just apply the right mathematical formula.

As a C student in math, my only way into MIT will be as a visitor. In the meantime, Ethereum’s secret sauce, the smart contract is building a growing fan base.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.4 stars on average, based on 97 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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Decentralization

Cache Me If You Can: Crypto Trading, Decentralized

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Spot exchanges, over-the-counter/OTC trading desks, and futures contracts would likely rank amongst the most popular methods for trading cryptocurrencies between two or more parties.

Despite their popularity though, most of these trading venues utilise centralised infrastructure in at least one area of their operations.

When combined with the endemic security threats which crypto trading services regularly face: centralized fundamental functions are a considerable threat to users who value the privacy of their transactions.

“A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”

Cryptocurrency is still a burgeoning industry, with the number of ICOs and market investment having increased by several multiples even just over the past eight months when compared to the whole of 2017.

Despite this: concerning conventions have already established themselves that challenge the original vision prescribed by Satoshi Nakamoto for Bitcoin.

The enigmatic Satoshi Nakamoto became a legend upon publication of his seminal cryptocurrency white-paper entitled ‘Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’ (and if you haven’t read it, you really should!).

Since then, the document has served as an conceptual blueprint which has been referenced by a great number of subsequent altcoins: evident by the widespread implementation of Bitcoin’s core mechanics. An example of this is has come to be known as cryptocurrency mining, or the ‘Proof of Work’ consensus algorithm.

P2P vs  P2intermediary2P?

Peer-to-peer (P2P) denotes transactions that are made between two parties without the need for an intermediary to facilitate or authorise the trade.

Mike Orcutt, associate editor at the MIT Technology Review wrote in April 2018 that:

“The whole point of using a blockchain is to let people—in particular, people who don’t trust one another—share valuable data in a secure, tamperproof way…

“One supposed security guarantee of a blockchain system is ‘decentralization.’ If copies of the blockchain are kept on a large and widely distributed network of nodes, there’s no one weak point to attack, and it’s hard for anyone to build up enough computing power to subvert the network”

Whilst this is true for many blockchains and their associated blocks for decentralized cryptocurrencies: most middle-man’ who process trades and transaction utilise a centralised system known as an ‘order book’ upon which future transaction and trade values are calculated.

In June 2009, mere months after Nakamoto’s Bitcoin paper was released to the world, a cross-departmental team from Stanford University published a related and highly recommended investigation into the contemporary status of the order-book.

The authors state that:

“most markets are order-driven, where any market participant is free to provide liquidity by submitting a buy or sell order. Submitted orders are amalgamated by price to create a limit order book. The[re is a] rule driven execution of orders in these limit order books and [also] extensive data that is available for order driven markets.”

With  a centralised order-boook; all the data pertaining to transactions: such as receiver and sender addresses, value of tokens, and dates could be all-but-publicly accessible in the case of a hack or successful unwanted intrusion.

Peer-to-Peer Trading: What Can Be Done?

One solution which we have seen numerous examples of are organisations which claim to be ‘decentralized exchanges’.

On the 9th of August 2018, for example, well-known yet controversial ex-China based cryptocurrency exchange Binance launched a pre-alpha build of their highly anticipated decentralized exchange which they call ‘DEX’.

Conversely, Binance has been subject to more than their fair share of negative press and public feedback as of late and earning trust for their future projects will be no easy feat. They have to contend with hackers, pundits, and a 5.9/10 ranking on Trustpilot.

Another notable release comes from blockchain development platform Stratis, a competitor to Ethereum’s ‘platform for platforms’ and ranked in 50th place on CoinMarketCap as of writing.

The ‘Breeze Wallet with Breeze Privacy Protocol’ launched on the 1st August 2018, and it is a means of facilitating pure peer-to-peer, user-to-user, fully decentralized transactions. As a result, Breeze hopes to introduce centralized intermediaries to the realm of obsolescence, by way of a token-tumbling protocol called ‘TumbleBit’.

If you know of any more projects which have been making recent progress – please let us know in the comments section!

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Op-Ed

Disrupting the Cloud: ANKR Network

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Since the creation of bitcoin and the introduction of the “Proof of Work” (POW) algorithm, many have been concerned about the vast use of computing power and energy and their negative side effects. Currently, cloud computing is projected to be a trillion dollar market, yet it is monopolized by some of the largest tech conglomerates in the world. Only giants in the likes of Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud can afford the high human capital cost and upfront server costs to run a successful cloud operation that spans the globe. However, the aforementioned companies tend to charge the customer with a higher margin of cost.

New developments in blockchain technology aim to resolve these issues by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of cloud computing. Being an innovative solution to this computing and consumer problem, Ankr Network brings the benefits of decentralization to cloud computing and balances value between buyers and sellers via crypto economics, Oracle service and distributed computing.

Ankr Network

Ankr Network is an innovative platform, which aims to create a resource-efficient blockchain architecture for a distributed cloud computing system and an easy-to-use infrastructure for the building of business applications. Ankr is the first cloud computing solution to leverage both blockchain and trusted hardware of Intel SGXs. The SGX hardware will allow developers of applications to protect data from unauthorized access and modification and preserve the confidentiality and integrity of information.

Technical solutions include:

  • Consensus Algorithm Proof of Useful Work (PoUW)
  • Platform for distributed cloud computing (DCC)
  • Oracle integrated service
  • Structural support for sidechains

The consensus looks like this:

Anrk upgrades mining with its consensus “Proof of Useful Work” (PoUW), which provides a sustainable block structure. Specifically, PoUW directs power and computing capacity which was used on hashes in POW algorithms such as bitcoin for processing tasks provided by businesses and consumers on the blockchain. Therefore, one can say Ankr upgrades mining to a higher level, allowing equipment holders to receive a financial incentive for block creation and real-world tasks processing.

To explain this better, consider the following: the golden standard algorithm is one where the nodes on the blockchain require:

1) That tasks performed to solve problems is actually quantifiable work;

2) That the processing of these tasks provides some form of value to any party on the network

The Ankr Network appears capable of achieving this gold standard. Alternatively, existing POW in networks such as bitcoin and Ethereum only achieve the first point – nodes use computing power and energy to prove that work was done (but such amount of work is wasted without any utility).

Ankr solves this key technical limitation in bitcoin and Ethereum by including a second point in its consensus algorithm, thus making all the work done by nodes directed on the processing of tasks that could bring added value utility to the network participants.

Ethereum processes all smart contracts on one chain in a serial sequence, which bottlenecks throughput and dramatically reduces the usability, especially when there are large contracts with complicated data on the chain. Plasma is a protocol to solve the scalability issue by building a tree structure of blockchains, where various application chains (Child or Plasma Chains) are connected to a single root chain (Main Chain). Plasma chains can allow applications to handle their specific smart contracts transactions on side chains, thus balancing potential overload of the network.

The efficiency of the main chain can be significantly improved by offloading a number of transactions from the main chain to Plasma chains, especially if proper incentives are given to Plasma operators. Currently, Oracle solutions exist separately from the blockchain framework and are limited in compatibility. Ankr proposes a user-friendly universal AP (application programming interface) I for each child chain to connect to off-chain entities. Existing business can build decentralized autonomous applications on the child chain with powerful computing power and native data feed service provided by the main chain.

 

The Native Oracle (NOS) service provides an authenticated data feed by using both cryptographic primitives and a trusted execution environment (TEE). Thanks to a standardized API for transferring data from existing data sources like websites, NOS allows customers to simplify business in the real world. Basically, this means that blockchain can allow integrating smart contract execution with data sources through a protected gateway.

Intel SGX

Intel SGX (Software Guard Extensions) is a new set of instructions that permits execution of an application inside a hardware enclave, which protects the application’s integrity and confidentiality against certain forms of hardware and software attacks, including hostile operating systems. This lowers entry barriers for miners and provides security and privacy.

Distributed Cloud Computing (DCC) Platform

As internet technology advances, massive amounts of data including text, audio, video, etc. have been created. However, most of this data is neither organized nor relevant to each other. Processing the data in a serial sequence (traditional blockchain) becomes less and less resource efficient and can’t be tolerated by the rapid velocity of business development.

Ankr overcomes these shortcomings through its DDC platform, which enables P2P transactions. Miners will provide their computing power to support the blockchain, as well as sending surplus power for cloud computing calculations.

A P2P network allows application owners and individual users (i.e., requesters) to rent computing power from other users (suppliers). Currently, the cloud computing resources in popular blockchain networks such as bitcoin or Ethereum are exclusively controlled by the centralized cloud service providers and are subject to rigid operation models. A decentralized cloud computing platform can incorporate a blockchain-based payment system, which can allow for direct payment among operators (requesters), sellers (suppliers) and software developers.

Now, we will cover what other projects in this field are doing in comparison to Ankr as a reference project.

Golem

Users of Golem are only incentivized for cloud computing and Golem is using third party computing containers like Docker.

SONM

This project is very similar to Golem, but with a different application field. Golem is focused on rendering, but SONM is focused on the adoption of existing architectures (currently server hosting).

IExec

This project is also similar to Golem and SONM, but its application focus is decentralized cloud computing in specific research applications.

In comparison with the projects above, users of Ankr have different incentives that come from mining, transaction (or smart contract) and cloud computing. Also, Ankr does not use third party platforms for computational power; instead, it uses the computing power of miners.

In my opinion, an additional limitation of Golem, SONM, and IExec is that they have based their development on traditional computing architectures, which are used in data centers, thus limiting their potential computing power and scope of tasks. The reason lies in the fact that data center architecture is working on one technical parameter, which is not optimal for distributed computing where the topology of each device changes frequently and will result in a costly overhead in data transfer and decrease the stability of the network. Ankr technology allows bypassing such limitations, which results in a wider applicability and scope of their network.

Overall, if the Ankr network team can create a network that uses PoUW to reach consensus by applying all the computational energy to useful use and not wasting it, then cloud computing services as Amazon Web, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure are likely to face serious competition soon.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.9 stars on average, based on 9 rated postsVladislav Semjonov has a legal and financial background. He has been involved in crypto space since early 2017 in both ICO advising positions in several ICO consultancy firms, and as an ICO analyst for VC. He began contributing for Hacked.com in April 2017.




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Op-Ed

Our Review of the MJAC CryptoCompare Summit in London, UK (13 June 2018)

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Disclaimer: This was my first attendance at such an event since beginning my career as a professional and independent cryptocurrency and /or blockchain journalist.

 I am not affiliated with the event organisers nor do I know them personally, and the same goes for all organisations in attendance as of the time of writing.

[official photographs here]

Earlier this month, I attended the ‘MJAC CryptoCompare Blockchain Summit’ and concluded that the best approach would be to cover the event in a candid matter.

There weren’t any scandals or controversies to speak of. What we mean by this is that this piece intends to cover the greatest pros and cons of the event, in hindsight (which was organised and executed by CryptoCompare in collaboration with MJAC).

First off, MJAC (AKA InvestorsHub) is an organisation that you aren’t likely to have heard of. They are the events and conferences arm of ADVFN, a prominent financial services organisation. Many of the same people responsible for the successful ‘Marijuana Annual Conference’ were also behind the conference in question, hence the acronym ‘MJAC’.

Many of you should be fully aware of CryptoCompare. They are arguably one of the most utilised data resources for up-to-date and historical data on market trends, respective per-coin values, and overall trade volume.

Location and Venue

The days proceedings took place at a venue called ‘Old Billingsgate’.

It’s a listed building which features a combination of historical architecture with modern internal fittings and is located close to Monument tube station. Its name derives from the nearby historic Old Billingsgate Market area.

The choice of venue couldn’t have been much better thanks in part to the location’s iconic and unobstructed view across the Thames River: including the Tower of London in clear sight, plus The Shard being mostly-visible nearby.

Old Billingsgate benefits from being highly accessible to attendees and participants due to its central location, however this is where the positive words I have for the venue start to run dry.

The aesthetic was great, and photographs show a busy yet not overpopulated show floor. The show started with a similar number as represented for most of the day, but later in the day the floor became packed and somewhat claustrophobic.

This atmosphere wasn’t helped by the fact that the space here felt both condensed and underutilised at the same time, with all the stalls leaving small hallways to brush past other visitors.

Conversely, over half of the two stories of open areas in the venue were dedicated to two theatre spaces, one large and one small. These rooms were well arranged and hosted all the one-day summit’s speakers and panelists.

Speeches and Panels

Speakers and individual panel attendees of course were responsible for many of the day’s highlights, as well as the presence of a combination of established and up-and-coming companies/ICOs.

Vitaly Kedyk (Executive Director of CEX.IO) and Claire Wells (Director of Legal & Business Affairs for EMEA at Circle) were two of the events strongest performers, whilst other notable speakers & panellists included representatives from CoinFloor, Ripple, BlockEx, and Coinbase – to name a few.

Unfortunately, not all panellists seemed to be ideal matches for such discussions. A couple that I attended, for example, featured a combination of experts whose interactions were often close to non-existent with each other. What’s more, top participants were easily distinguished by their contribution of valuable insights and answers than their peers in some circumstances.

Organisation and execution of the event overall is something to be lauded. Every speech and panel I saw started and finished with perfect timing, suggesting a great approach to planning. There was also a great atmosphere amongst participants and all I spoke to.

Success or Failure?

The qualification and quantification of any event’s success or failure should arguably be defined in several ways. Cryptocurrency is still growing as an industry (despite what the market tracking values may indicate), which gives us less of a general standard against which to measure them.

One way we can still utilise though, is to measure its performance in hindsight and considering the organisers’ own stated ambitions / agenda.

“The pace of development in the crypto space has rapidly picked up in the past year and it Is now more important than ever to gather the top thought leaders to showcase progress and discuss challenges. MJAC will give customers, investors, and regulators a chance to glimpse into the future direction of this exciting new industry.”Charles Hayter, CryptoCompare.

This quote was taken from the first page of a complimentary guide that was available to all attendees.

It came along with a free book (‘CryptoAssets’ by Chris Burniske and Jack Tatar), which is honestly not bad as a beginners and intermediate level guide aimed primarily at non-technical crypto enthusiasts.

For all intents and purposes, the organisation achieved their stated goal to a degree, however the sequel had better be much more impressive to excuse the lack of experience on British soil (one of the largest crypto economies in Europe, and arguably one of if not the financial capital).

A Relative Conclusion

The second and final way (that we will discuss here) you can measure such an event is through comparison to other events, which are popping up around the world as well as within London alone despite market indicators.

One of these is the similarly titled ‘Blockchain Summit London 2018’. It is set to be a much larger event: boasting approximately 2,500 attendees and over 150 speakers.

It also costs approximately £400 for the two-day event and is set in the well-known Olympia venue in Kensington, West London. Taking place just a couple of weeks after the MJAC CryptoCompare conference.

MJAC CryptoCompare Blockchain Summit was the first event held by these event organisers about cryptocurrency in London. On that end: it is not entirely fair to consider it an equal comparison with this rival, especially when tickets were the relatively low price of £100.

Despite this I can’t help but admit that I was perhaps expecting more from this ‘summit’, if not a little too much.

7/10

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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