TruBlo Project Update
This week was kick-off week. The TruBlo consortium met representatives of all ten projects selected for funding in Open Call #1. All teams will receive funding, as well as technical and business support, in the next six months.
* Alastria offers a scalable infrastructure to initiate, test, launch and scale blockchain projects.
* ATC, ICCS/NTUA (and partially Deutsche Welle) will provide business model support.
Links to all 10 open call #1 projects:
- BlockTrust – Reputation management for science.
- FogBlock4Trust – A fog assisted, blockchain based credential management solution.
- FAKE – To evaluate news items producers as well as content generated by users.
- CONTOUR – Trusted content for tourism market purposes.
- LedgeAIR – Reliable data from aircraft, combined with blockchain storage for trust.
- ShoppEX – A better, trustable shopping experience – by enabling more information about products and production background
- TRUSTMEDICOS – Creating trust in healthcare info in social networks.
- TSC – Truth Seekers Chain
- Trust and Reputation – Focus is on the circular economy and reliable info about recycled items.
- NPRO – NPRO aims to improve the quality of reputational information in high-trust service markets.
Updates this week
Worldcoin wants to distribute digital money to everyone, based on biometric scanning
Worldcoin is a new US startup, with financial backing from VC firm A16z and Coinbase. Among the founders is Sam Altman, the former head of YCombinator, a very successful incubation platform – which is why the project gets considerable attention. The idea of Worldcoin is to work towards global financial inclusion, to provide digital financial services to everyone. For identification, the company has developed its own hardware, a camera-like device to scan the iris of a user.
German identity service ID Now buys French competitor
For onboarding, many services and subscriptions demand a digital verification process. As a result, platforms offering digital identification services are in demand. This now leads to consolidation in the market. Example: German startup [IDnow](https://www.idnow.io) will acquire the French platform [ARIADNEXT](https://www.ariadnext.com) for €50m ($59m). The motivation is to be present in more markets with an extended number of services, eventually in one combined platform.
How blockchain could help to bring trust to used car sales
Buying a used car today is riddled with uncertainties: Paper records do not reliable tell about repairs, hidden accidents or even total mileage. In Germany, it is a known problem that it is relatively easy to reduce the mileage of a luxury car by 20K or even 30k kilometres, then asking a higher price. Storing vehicle information on a blockchain could solve this problem.
Neeva, a new search engine, promises ad-free search but will need a subscription
How would a search results page look without any advertising? This is the question Neeva will explore as a business. The venture was founded by two ex-Google executives with deep knowledge about the search engine market. The company is readying for a July launch, but won’t be available in all world regions, at least at the start. It is currently possible to line up for early access. Neeva will allow a free try-out period of three months and plans to then charge $4.95 per month. The new search offering has secured $77.5 million in funding.
Global spending for mobile apps reached a new record of $65 billion, in the first six months of 2021
Across all smartphone platforms, this represents an increase of 24%, compared to last year, says a release of preliminary data from Sensor Tower.
- Spending on the **App Store by Apple** is projected to reach $41.5 billion for the first half-year of 2021. This number includes in-app purchases, subscriptions, premium apps and games.
- In relation, this is about 1.8 times the amount spent on the rival **Google Play** platform, which is estimated to reach $23.4 billion.
Social token platform Coinvise receives $2.5 million VC money
The platform enables users to “create, earn and collect” social tokens. Social tokens are a recurring topic, there is a hope for better interactions plus the idea to monetize fan groups for music, movies or other creative areas. No clear winner yet, but interesting. Note that besides Coinvise there are a number of competitors in this field – check them out by opening the links below.
It is an interesting field. For example, music bands can create communities with their fans. Or, in a wider context, positive actions and the support of others could be rewarded.
Combining green smart contracts and ‘oracles’ could help to reach climate goals.
The energy consumption of blockchain has been discussed extensively this year. Tesla first said they would accept Bitcoin as payment, then retracted that offer weeks later because of concerns about the environmental issues, specifically of energy-intensive Bitcoin mining.
Others pointed out: The existing global banking system uses a lot of energy, too. In part, because extensive IT systems are needed to channel money from one country to another and so on. Gold mining, too, leaves a huge footprint.
This is the article linked below is worth reading: It argues that the combination of “green” smart contracts with a nascent technology called ‘oracles’ could evolve into a tool to reduce energy consumption and help to reach climate goals. The big promise here is a new level of efficiency. Reaching higher trust and transparency of production chains is a key motivation.
Banks look at blockchain to save costs with bonds
Handling long term debt in bonds results in costs. Using blockchain data storage and smart contracts could result in considerable costs savings. This is why banks are increasingly interested in this scenario. The European investment bank used Ethereum for a €100m bond in April 2021.
Coinbase receives a licence from German regulator BAFIN
Germany passed a new law in November 2019, demanding a licence for custody services in the crypto market. Now, Coinbase has received the first such licence, allowing the company to keep operating in the country.
BAFIN Press Release (in German)
Russia testing digital ruble with 12 banks
Both in China and in Russia, authorities are in step-by-step processes to test digital currencies. In Russia a current test involves 12 banks, one motivation is to check whether the banking systems can handle the move to digital.
##TruBlo Open Call starts today
Today we are starting the 2nd of three open calls. The call will be open until September 10, 2021. Find all the information [to apply on our website](https://www.trublo.eu/apply/).
If you have questions, please contact us at [firstname.lastname@example.org](mailto:email@example.com)
Updates this week:
##How did the FBI recover Bitcoins paid in a ransomware attack?
The recent Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack in the US worried many people that the supply of gas would be threatened. In such an attack, hackers gain access to the IT system of a company and block further usage. In this case, the company paid 75 Bitcoins worth around $4 million.
Surprisingly, the US justice department has now recovered most of these Bitcoins by tracing and later seizing them. It is surprising because so far many would have assumed that such coins could be very difficult to trace and to recover, once paid. It is unclear whether the authorities had information from an insider or were able to trace it by technical means.
Quote from a report in the New York Times.
> “Federal investigators tracked the ransom as it moved through a maze of at least 23 different electronic accounts belonging to DarkSide, the hacking group, before landing in one that a federal judge allowed them to break into, according to law enforcement officials and court documents.”
Another question, asked in the article linked below from VentureBeat: Why did the hackers use Bitcoin (where information can be traced, to some extent) and not another cryptocurrency where this would have been harder? And as important: How can one avoid such ransomware attacks by securing the IT system?
##Sustainability as a driver for blockchain adoption in the fashion industry
Producing fashion is a global business with complex supply chains. As a result, it is almost impossible for a consumer to check how the clothes are produced. This includes where and how materials are sourced, which shop did manufacture them and how they are shipped. The process is so far difficult to document for the fashion companies as well. But the need for transparency and the potential gains for productivity might change this. Blockchain records of supply chains are in demand because more and more consumers demand information about sustainability from fashion brands.
##Can you spot a dark pattern?
A dark pattern is a website design used to confuse users. For example, such a design aims to keep people from ending a subscription.
There are many tricks and practices. What they have in common is that specific placement of options, words and buttons is combined to make it difficult for you to do what you want. Do you think you can detect such a pattern? Test it. The Markup has a short quiz – very helpful to learn a bit more when to be careful.
##News sources reconsider theory that coronavirus spread from a lab in China: How is this done well?
Here is a difficult, but interesting question: What are the best ways to change the opinion and the reporting about a disputed theory?
Example: So far, there is a theory that the coronavirus has infected patient zero from a wild animal purchased at a Chinese market in Wuhan.
But another, controversial theory is that the virus might have escaped from a medical facility located in that city. In 2020 the majority of media outlets reporting about this topic dismissed the lab story as a potential conspiracy theory.
This year, though, the story is investigated again. While no substantial new facts are available, the view is now that the lab theory could potentially be true. US President Biden has ordered an investigation by intelligence agencies.
What is interesting and relevant here is: How do news institutions communicate such a turn of opinion? What is a good way to be transparent and open about such changes? Such as: “We reported this, and it might be wrong. Instead, this might be the truth.”
This case could be a test.
>“New information often casts out old, but it is unusual for news outlets to acknowledge so publicly that they have changed their understanding of events.”
##How to use disappearing messages on WhatsApp or Signal
On both services, there are settings to let some messages disappear after some days. Signal offers richer features. On WhatsApp, the feature is new.
When can you use this feature?
>“Disappearing messages are an ideal tool for people who are concerned their chats could be checked – especially if there is anything about themselves they want to keep private, says Scott Sammons, information and data specialist Lighthouse IG. “This could apply to a domestic abuse setting or someone, for example, hiding the fact they are LGBTQ.”
On Signal, you can select the time when a message should disappear, between one second and four weeks. The timer starts when the message is read. There is a similar feature for photos and videos.
On WhatsApp, the feature only lets you set a time span of seven days.
More advice if you follow the link.
##Politicians from South America use Bitcoin announcement for self-promotion
First: It is not yet clear whether countries in South America will adopt cryptocurrencies such as blockchain. But for politicians from the region, the idea is currently attractive and a way to boost one’s profile. This started with El Salvador issuing a law to make Bitcoin a legal tender in the country.
>“El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele set off a movement for political opportunists and crypto-enthusiasts alike.”
In Europe, Christine Lagarde, the president of the European Central bank, reaffirmed that the position of the ECB has not changed. Lagarde had warned about Bitcoin in January 2021:
> “It’s a highly speculative asset, which has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity.”
Regarding the position of the ECB towards Bitcoin after the new development in El Salvador, she is quoted to have said:
>“That certainly does not change our approach to crypto-assets and to regulations, supervision, and proper classification that they should be under to avoid misinformation and misleading representations.”
On the other side: In the Netherlands Pieter Hasecamp, the director of the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, which is part of the country’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, has voiced much stronger concerns about the dangers of Bitcoin. In an article, he recommends banning cryptocurrencies in the Netherlands:
>“Cryptocurrencies are unsuitable as a unit of account and means of payment outside the criminal circuit; its use as a store of value is based on the hope that cryptocurrencies will one day replace real money. But that’s not going to happen.”
The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision recommends very careful handling of crypto assets by banks, the goal is to avoid that institutions expose themselves to high risk. The Basel Committee sets standards for banking policies, such as how high the number of own assets must be for a bank related to the sum of credits and loans.
The Basel Committee published a paper called [“Prudential treatment of crypto-asset exposures”](https://www.bis.org/bcbs/publ/d519.htm). For cryptocurrency exposure, the Basel Committee proposes a 1250% risk weighting, which is very high.
##Amazon wants to hire DeFi expert(s)
According to a job ad in the US, Amazon is searching for staff with experience in decentralized finance (DeFi). The position is for a Blockchain Head of Product. Amazon has recently added a “Managed blockchain” offering.
##China aims to be a global leader in Blockchain by 2025
Top telecom and internet regulators in China jointly published guidelines on how the country can transform into a global leader in blockchain as early as 2025. At the same time, Chinese authorities are blocking and curbing cryptocurrency mining operations in the country.
The expectation is that blockchain will be a key building block for the digital economy and a way to modernize governance systems.
Thank You for reading.
Did we miss something you think would have been relevant? Let us know.
Do you work for or know a European company doing innovative work with blockchain? Sent us a link.
Do you have other feedback or suggestions? [Contact us](mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org)
Slides from Sebastiaan van der Lans presenting at the joing TruBlo/Ontochain workshop for NGI Forum 2021.
Use case: How media companies benefit from timestamps
The second document is a presentation of how NRC, a large Dutch media publisher, uses timestamps for SEO (search engine optimization). A key element here: It can be determined who published the content and when. While search engines are currently not considering timestamps this could change in the near future, because even Google and co. would welcome verifiable data about the content.
Timestamps and disinformation: EU research results
Yet another use case for timestamps is to fight misinformation. In principle this could work in the way of positive proof, in the future. Articles with a valid timestamp could be shown, while content without such quality marks could be filtered down.