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Japan’s formal embrace of Bitcoin points to growing role of cryptocurrency in commerce

Japan's formal embrace of Bitcoin
points to growing role of
cryptocurrency in commerce

 

Japan recently passed a law recognizing the cryptocurrency Bitcoin

as an official form of payment. The move opens up new opportunities for the Bitcoin ecosystem. The Japanese government recently recognized the cryptocurrency Bitcoin as a legal form of payment, leading to a jump in the price of Bitcoin and opening up conversations about the future of the currency in international trade. In October 2016, Japan decided to drop an 8% consumption tax that it had been levying on purchases of Bitcoin made in virtual currency exchanges. Now, with the legal status of Bitcoin firmly established in the country, adoption of the currency is expected to explode.

As reported by Nikkei Asian Review, two major Japanese retailers have announced partnerships with Bitcoin exchanges that could bring the currency to some 260,000 stores by as early as this summer. One of the retailers, Bic Camera, will let customers make purchases of up to 100,000 yen (roughly $904 USD) with Bitcoin, and will offer the same reward points as they would for traditional forms of payment.

As noted, the announcement led to increased Bitcoin prices, but there is still a lot of work to be done before Bitcoin becomes widely adopted. An official memo from Japan's Financial Services Agency stated that specific requirements will be put on Bitcoin exchanges, and employees will need to be specially trained to handle the transactions. Other countries have also taken steps to investigate Bitcoin. In December 2016, the Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB) published a paper calling for new standards for digital currencies like Bitcoin, and sought to define whether or not it was to be considered a tangible asset.

In January 2017, the central bank of China formally encouraged individuals to invest in Bitcoin. However, it also stressed that wasn't an official currency and couldn't be circulated. According to Nikkei Asian Review, more than 20 million people use Bitcoin around the world, with the majority of them residing in North America and Europe. However, the recent moves in Japan and China, along with the explorations happening in countries like Australia, could bolster the potential for Bitcoin to be used more regularly in international commerce.

It is important to note, though, that Bitcoin is still a very new technology, and one that not everyone is willing to trust. The bankruptcy of the Mt. Gox exchange in Tokyo damaged a lot of the trust in the currency itself, and highlighted some of the risks inherent to its deregulated nature, as noted by Investopedia.

Additionally, Bitcoin still isn't supported in many countries. Russia and Bangladesh, for example, don't view the cryptocurrency as legal, and other countries allow Bitcoin to be held but not exchanged. Bitcoin's potential for disrupting the financial market is huge. But, the biggest value of Bitcoin and its underlying blockchain ledger technology is the fact that they are decentralized in nature. And as big vendors seek to turn these products into sellable services, they could end up taking away their core value by making the centralized and heavily regulated.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Japan recently moved to make Bitcoin a legally accepted form of payment, after dropping an 8% tax on Bitcoin exchanges last year.
  2. Other countries including China and Australia have made moves to investigate or leverage Bitcoin, which could set the stage for the cryptocurrency to be used in international commerce.
  3. As big organizations get involved with Bitcoin and blockchain, they threaten to undermine the technologies' core value of being decentralized and unregulated.
Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Top Scamcoins Giving Cryptocurrency a Bad Name

Top Scamcoins Giving Cryptocurrency
a Bad Name

The cryptocurrency world

has seen its fair share of scams, Ponzi Schemes, and other programs where people lost a lot of money. Some of those projects will always stand out, mostly due to their sheer size. Interestingly enough, some scam coins have made an impact on the ecosystem as well. Only one of the currencies listed below is still in operation today, and they are being scrutinized by law enforcement agencies as we speak.

The Billion Coin

                                                      

With a name such as The Billion Coin, it is not hard to see why this cryptocurrency has been labeled as a scam. This Ponzi Scheme advertised itself earlier in 2016 as the biggest cryptocurrency, even dethroning bitcoin. As one would come to expect from this malicious schemes, The Billion Coin claims its value will always go up. TBC mainly targets users in Indonesia, and a lot of innocent people fall victim to this scheme.

However, with no source code – hence no currency to speak of – and no whitepaper – it becomes evident this project is selling nothing but hot air. There is no development roadmap either, indicating there is no one developing this project. Even the block explorer seems suspicious, which is not surprising considering there is no technology powering this scam. Moreover, it is not possible to exchange The Billion Coin anywhere, as no exchange wants to list it.

 

PayCoin

                                                 

Everyone in the cryptocurrency world has heard of PayCoin, an infamous cryptocurrency scheme operated by Homero Joshua Garza. PayCoin portrayed itself as a global currency that could compete with bitcoin, yet never lived up to that expectation. Mining Paycoin could only occur through the company’s proprietary cloud mining platform, called Zenminer.

GAW Miners, the company operating Zenminer and PayCoin, once claimed a US$8m investment was made in the platform, but that information was completely bogus. Things unraveled for Paycoin once Zenminer started attracting a lot of money, eventually leading to all withdrawals being suspended indefinitely. All platforms who listed PayCoin for trading purposes promptly removed XPY shortly afterward. It remains unclear how much money has been lost due to the PayCoin scam to this very day.

OneCoin

                                  

When talking about cryptocurrency scams, one should look no further than OneCoin. Similarly to The Billion Coin, OneCoin has no technological infrastructure, no development, and no white paper. This entire ecosystem is created out of thin air, yet it continues to attract investments from unknowing consumers all over the world.

Thankfully, OneCoin is meeting a lot of resistance from various governments all over the world. The London Police is actively investigating this pyramid scheme. Plus, Italy has banned OneCoin activity due to an ongoing fraud investigation. Bringing down this scheme once and for all could be challenging, but things are heading in the right direction.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Florida Man Goes From Multilevel Marketing To Cryptocurrency- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Florida Man Goes From
Multilevel Marketing To Cryptocurrency  What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

  

Brand New CryptoCurrency and Multi-Level Marketing

Combine Florida man, a penny stock, a brand new cryptocurrency and multi-level marketing.  What could possibly go wrong?  That was my thinking when Ernie Land told me about Sunshine Capital Inc and Dibcoin.  Sunshine Capital which plans on acquiring businesses has Rx Smart Coffee as one of its targets, so they are taking advantage of Ernie's expertise in multi-level marketing.  I became acquainted with Ernie Land when I was covering young earth creationist Kent Hovind, who having finished his sentence is still working on getting his original conviction reversed.  I think there are some tax issues that the Sunshine Capital people may be making light of, but we'll save them for the end while I give you some background.

About Cryptocurrencies

The best known and most used cryptocurrency is bitcoin.  A website that tracks the cryptocurrency market indicates that the value of the over 700 currencies that it tracks is just shy of $27 billion. Of that over $18 billion is represented by the over 16 million circulating bitcoins which are worth, as I write this $1,130.72 each.  Two other currencies, Etherium and Ripple, have more than a billion dollars in market capitalization.  There are six others with capitalization over $100 million.

To compare all this to another form of currency that allows confidential transactions and holds value pretty well there are over one trillion dollars worth of hundred dollar bills in circulation. So Benjamin Franklin is holding his own for now. Bitcoin has already topped pictures of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson combined.  It tops the $14 billion worth of pictures of Abraham Lincoln and is close to old Alexander.  Maybe there will be a Broadway musical called Bicoin in a couple of centuries. Of course the actual dollar money supply is more complicated than all that green paper floating around, but I will leave it to an economist as to whether the proper comparison to cyrtocurrencies is M0 or M1 or M2, etc.

The two most important concepts to understand if you want to understand bitcoin are the blockchain and mining.  I want you to make a study of them and then explain them to me.  As tax preparers go, I'm pretty good at math.  As it happens, though, you learn all the math you need to do tax work by the fourth grade.  Here is the important part for you and me to know in order to evaluate dibcoin. Bitcoin "mining" which somehow insures the integrity of the blockchain (thereby making sure that each bitcoin is only owned by one "wallet") requires the expenditure of significant computer resources.  It is hard and scheduled to keep getting harder which is what insures the scarcity of bitcoins.  That and people losing the keys to their wallets which is kind of like all those Spanish ships full of doubloons that have sunk reducing the hard money supply.

What Is Special About Dibcoins?

I spoke with Honson Luma, VP of Sunshine Capital, Inc and DIB Funding, Inc who is the creator of  Dibcoin.  He did his best to explain to me the concept of "Omni Layer".  It was a little like me trying to explain the 704(b) regulations and the concept of "partners interest in the partnership"  to my son's dog.  At any rate according to its website Omni Layer is an "open-source, fully decentralized asset platform on the Bitcoin Blockchain".  It goes on to further elucidate:

Omni is a platform for creating and trading custom digital assets and currencies. It is a software layer built on top of the most popular, most audited, most secure blockchain — Bitcoin. Omni transactions are Bitcoin transactions that enable next-generation features on the Bitcoin Blockchain. Our reference implementation, Omni Core is an enhanced Bitcoin Core that provides all the features of Bitcoin as well as advanced Omni Layer features.

Got that? Good. .  At any rate, the important point is that the Omni Layer allows anybody who wants to to set up a new crytpocurrency without investing a lot in infrastructure. Dibcoin is number 89 on the Omni platform. There is no mining of Dibcoins.  They are pre-mined. All 5 billion of them started out being owned by Dib Funding Inc.  Here is the genius part.

DIBCOIN will be the first cryptocurrency to be used by a public company to acquire existing profitable private companies. Sunshine Capital will use DIBCOIN as a monetary instrument, to acquire companies and assets, building its portfolio with no debt.

About Sunshine Capital?

Dib Funding owned most of Sunshine Capital Inc, but if you want a piece, you can buy some on the OTC.  As I write this Sunshine is priced at $4 per share.  Not that I was going to buy it, but when I asked my investment adviser who works for one of those big outfits, he told me that I probably couldn't buy it through his firm.  They consider anything under ten bucks a share to be a "penny stock" and way too volatile.

Sunshine Capital, Inc's unaudited financial statements do not appear all that impressive with just over $20,000 in gross income in 2016 for a net loss a bit over $30,000.  Assets consist of about $2,500 in cash.  Among the liabilities are notes payable of $5,500 to James Scheltema, a recent president of Sunshine who pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns and tax evasion in January.  Here is where the genius comes back in.

In February, most of Sunshine's stock was cancelled leaving 16,977,000 shares.  President Adam Petty commented:

"The controlling shareholder has canceled their shares to guarantee the success of this Company and to increase the book value of all remaining shares outstanding," Stated, Adam Petty, President and CEO of Sunshine Capital, Inc. "With the cancellation of these shares, every penny ($.01) DIBCOIN trades at, once trading commences in the near future, will instantly provide Sunshine Capital, Inc. access to nearly $40,000,000 in capital and results in a net asset value, of Sunshine Capital, Inc., stock by approximately two dollars and thirty-five cents ($2.35) per share."

With the commencement of trading of Dibcoin on Livecoin, Honson Luma exclaimed:

"In months, we have done something that takes other companies years to achieve!" exclaimed Honson Luma, Vice President of Sunshine Capital, Inc. "What the investment world needs to understand is that for every penny DIBCOIN trades at, it gives our Company approximately $40 Million Dollars in liquid assets. So, a single penny should increase Sunshine Capital, Inc.'s book value approximately $2.35 a share."

According to Livecoin, the last Dibcoin transaction was at 0.00087 BTC, which works out to about a dollar.  Dibcoin at a buck, seems to be what they were shooting for when they retired all corporate debt with Dibcoins at a dollar.  According to the financial statements Sunshine had less than $12,000 in liabilities at 12/31/16, so maybe that is not so dramatic. Nonetheless, Dibcoins at a buck means Sunshine is worth $235 per share.  And you can get it for $4 if you have a broker without a picky compliance department.

That's the compelling story I get from Ernie Land and Honson Luma.  I really like Ernie, but he can sometimes get carried away.  When I gave him a hard time about how his fellow Hovindicator was bad mouthing Jesuits, I told him that I had eight years of Jesuit education (Xavier High School 1970, College of the Holy Cross 1974).  Somehow, that got translated into me having been a Jesuit for eight years, which would be equivalent to my four years as a JROTC cadet in the late sixties making me a Vietnam veteran. Ernie believes that the world is about six thousand years old and dinosaurs existed contemporaneously with humans. Honson Luma emphasized to me that Rx Smart Coffee is just one of Sunshine's potential acquisitions and they are not staking their credibility on Ernie's endorsement.  Ernie, himself, has not claimed a big role in Sunshine.  He does see this as his chance to make up for missing out on the bitcoin run-up.

The Tax Problem

In my discussion with Honson Luma he seemed to be of the opinion that virtual currency only generates taxable income when it is exchanged for US dollars.  The guidance issued by IRS in Notice 2o14-21 indicates that virtual currency is property.  Generally when property is exchanged for other property gain or loss is recognized.  If we assume that Sunshine has zero basis in its Dibcoins, that means it will recognize gain on each acquisition.  That might mean that it only has $3 billion to work with after tax, give or take.  But it could be worse. Consider this from Notice 2012-21

Q-8: Does a taxpayer who “mines” virtual currency (for example, uses computer resources to validate Bitcoin transactions and maintain the public Bitcoin transaction ledger) realize gross income upon receipt of the virtual currency resulting from those activities?
A-8: Yes, when a taxpayer successfully “mines” virtual currency, the fair market value of the virtual currency as of the date of receipt is includible in gross income. See Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income, for more information on taxable income.

Was the listing on Livecoin a taxable event equivalent to a bitcoin miners success?  I actually don't think so, but it would cause me to lose a bit a sleep. The demand for dollars to pay taxes from the gains recognized on the acquisition do, in my mind, pose a threat to the structure, as the need to convert dibcoins to dollars could drive their value down. You will likely to be able to buy some of the Rx Smart Coffee Gentlemen's Blend for dibcoins before long, in the event you are having issues with your male vigor.  I expect you will have to use dollars to pay your taxes for the foreseeable future, though. We'll see if the whole enterprise lasts long enough for taxes to be a problem.  I do have my doubts.

Other Opinions

I got some thoughts on the future course of Sunshine Capital Inc from Alma Angotti, Managing Director, Global Investigations & Compliance, Navigant Consulting.  She wrote me:

Securities regulators will likely have concerns about the accuracy of the company’s disclosures, particularly if and when they start to invest in other companies. This reminds me of a blind pool or blank check offering in which the company offering securities does not identify a specific acquisition target or line of business. Those kinds of investments can be risky. The stock price of Sunshine Capital has been very volatile.

As for the Dibcoin, regulators and law enforcement will focus on the anonymity, cross border / cross currency capability and lack of regulatory oversight. Because of these attributes, the product could be used to commit tax evasion, money laundering and fraud. Although they say that Dibcoin is built on top of the bitcoin blockchain, that does not necessarily mean that it is tied to the price of bitcoin. Since there is no mining of Dibcoin, and there is already a certain amount in circulation (5 billion), the price of Dibcoin is set by the issuer. Regulators will likely closely scrutinize the transactions executed through the exchange of Dibcoin.

Most of the "coverage" of dibcoin has been press releases from Sunshine Capital, Inc or Dib Funding, Inc.  A post on beyondbitcoin expressed extreme skepticism.

Wouldn't It Be Great If This Could Work?

More than anything else Dibcoin reminds me of a short story by Poul Anderson titled Fairy Gold which is nicely summarized here. A young man is rewarded for helping an elf with fairy gold.  Fairy gold is just like real gold at night but turns into trash when the sun rises.  A series of transactions occur.  The last one is by the hero's former girl friend who sells her grandmother's business, before the coin goes poof, but it is fine because now she can live happily ever after with the hero.  I'm sure a feminist critique of the story would find it problematical, but that's not going to bother Poul Anderson who died in 2001.

It also reminds me a bit of the real story of Alfves dos Reis, chronicled in The Man Who Stole Portugal.  Reis convinced the British bank note company working for the Bank of Portugal to print 200,000 500 escudo notes for him and his crew.  His plan, which almost succeeded was to use some of the money to buy control of the Bank of Portugal, which would have retroactively made his notes valid.

Of course everything that Adam Petty and Honson Luma and Ernie Land are doing is in the open.  The only thing I find a bit disingenuous is the notion that somehow having a public company hold all the dibcoins makes them more valuable.  Particularly a public company that based on its own financial statements does not otherwise appear to be worth the powder to blow it away.  I might also add that even after all this time, I'm still not a believer in bitcoins, more or less the gold standard of cryptocurrencies, as a long run store of value. In the MIT Technology Review Jamie Condiffe wrote"Why Bitcoin's $1,000 Value Doesn't Matter".  Quoting the Financial Times we get:

For context, the Central Intelligence Agency put the planet’s stock of broad money—notes, coins, and various forms of bank account—at $82tn as of the end of 2014. On the CIA figures, the value of bitcoins hashed into existence is similar to the broad money total for Uzbekistani soms. With apologies to Tashkent, the value of soms and bitcoins, and the number of people for whom they are relevant pieces of information in the world of modern finance, both round to zero.

So maybe the Dibcoin believers will be able to mock me in a couple of years.  I can take it.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

P2P Cryptocurrency Exchanges, Explained

P2P Cryptocurrency Exchanges, Explained

P2P Cryptocurrency Exchanges, Explained

How did P2P exchanges evolve?

Peer-to-peer exchanges were a natural development of the concept, aimed at eliminating some of regular Bitcoin exchanges’ limitations. For the most part of Bitcoin’s existence, online exchanges served as the primary gateways into the cryptocurrency world. Seeing how a very small number of shops, both online and physical, accept cryptocurrencies as payment, there is a natural need for users to have some sort of interface between the economies of the real world and the Bitcoin.

Online exchanges such as Bitstamp, BTC China, Kraken, and others, have been fulfilling that need as the most popular place for trading Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for fiat money and vice versa. The downside is that, unlike Bitcoin itself, these exchanges are run by companies. This means that they have staff, they oversee and manage all the interactions between their users, they serve as arbitrators in cases of disputes, and they collect fees for doing all that.

Seeing how that produces a whole number of disadvantages, some members of the Bitcoin community have set out to disrupt the market by producing a new solution – decentralized peer-to-peer exchanges, that are run not by people, but by software.

How are trades performed on P2P exchanges?

The exchange software is used to automatically connect buyers and sellers with each other, based on the terms they prefer. First, let’s sum up how a ‘regular’ cryptocurrency exchange works. People looking to sell Bitcoins specify the amount and the price they’d like to sell them at. All those requests, known as ‘orders’, are placed in a common ledger, called the ‘order book.’ When another person wants to buy Bitcoins, they either look for a satisfactory offer in the order book or, if none can be found, create their own ‘buy order’, specifying the terms of the deal as they like. Whenever possible, the exchange matches buy and sell orders by price and processes the trades.

Now, Bitcoin transactions can take a long time – from five to 10 minutes at the least, and up to several hours. Fiat money transfers usually take even longer; in some cases, international payments may take several days to complete. In order to speed up the process of trading, the exchange serves as a trusted intermediary: it settles all trades immediately, even though the actual transactions might have not yet been finished.

In order to remove the need for a third party, P2P exchanges operate in a different way. Instead of matching orders in the order book, they match the people behind those orders. That is, whenever a matching buy and sell orders are found, the exchange software does not immediately process the trade, but instead, it connects the buyer with the seller, allowing them to conduct the deal without any intermediaries. Still, third parties may be involved as arbitrators in case of possible disputes, but no human involvement from the exchange is required by default. Here, just like with Bitcoin itself, the software alone is perfectly capable of matching traders with each other in a decentralized manner.

What are the advantages of P2P exchanges?

P2P exchanges offer high resistance to transaction censorship, are cheap to use, private and secure; at least when realized properly. All advantages of decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges arise from not having a single company in charge of things. A single point of authority offers some advantages – primarily, the faster trades. However, it also works as the single point of failure, meaning that every bit of damage to it affects the entire system. So here are the advantages of the P2P exchanges, achieved by removing that single point of failure.

Transaction censorship resistance.
Regular cryptocurrency exchanges are run by people – they are vulnerable, and may be exploited by governments by imposing regulatory restrictions. Case in point: the recent intervention by the People’s Bank of China, which lead to two of the largest exchanges in China freezing all Bitcoin withdrawals for a month. As a user, you wouldn’t want that to happen to your funds.

On the other hand, P2P exchanges are practically invulnerable to government interference, because they don’t have any central point of authority which could be coerced. Even if some parts are forced to cease their operations, the rest of the system remains unaffected. This advantage is exactly what has caused a sharp increase in the user base of LocalBitcoins, one of the top P2P exchanges, following the aforementioned PBoC’s actions.

Cheap operations. Again, regular exchanges are operated by people, who have to be paid for their work. P2P exchanges are run by software, so there’s little to no corporate overhead, and, by extension, very small fees for the users, if any. Privacy. Over the recent years, governments around the globe have been successfully enforcing AML and KYC regulations on cryptocurrency exchanges. This oversight forces the companies running those exchanges to collect as much info on their users as possible: names, places of residence, ID numbers and more.

It goes without saying that government cannot impose those regulations on P2P exchanges, which means that trades can be conducted in a much more private manner there. Security. P2P exchanges do not hold Bitcoins for their users – instead, they connect traders, allowing them to conduct deals directly. Not having to entrust your coins to a third party makes the process much safer. If nobody holds your funds but you, then nobody can steal or lose them – intentionally, or accidentally.

What are their downsides?

P2P exchanges aren’t better than the regular ones in every regard – longer trade times, less intuitive use cases and lower liquidity are some of their comparative disadvantages. Most flaws of decentralized exchanges are caused simply by the fact that they are a relatively new kind of service. For example, Bitsquare, arguably one of the oldest of such exchanges, has been around for just three years and most of that was the development period.

As such, these exchanges have to deal with a number of problems. For example, most of them are currently aimed at small, specific audiences of crypto enthusiasts and haven’t had the need to cater to newcomers – because of that, they tend to be less intuitive to use. For the same reasons – small audience and early stage of existence, decentralized exchanges usually have much lower trading volumes than the regular ones.

Longer trade times, on the other hand, are likely a disadvantage that will take a while to fix, if ever. They are caused by the manner in which the trades are conducted – with traders having to wait for actual Bitcoin and fiat transactions to complete before a trade is concluded. This last issue, coupled with the lower liquidity, means that P2P exchanges are not at all in demand with, for example, professional traders, who need fast transactions to make timely deals. In their current state, these exchanges can only be useful to people interested in the specific advantages they offer – the increased resilience, privacy, security, and freedom of payments.

If there is no authority in charge, how is fraud prevented?

In order to prevent potential fraudulent activities, different P2P exchanges use different solutions. Typically, they are a reputation-based system of community arbitrators, obligatory deposits for the duration of a trade or face-to-face meetings between traders.

The way trades are conducted on P2P exchanges leaves the users vulnerable to fraud. Bitcoin payments are final and cannot be refunded, and, conversely, fiat money transfers are often refundable. Because of that, a buyer may send their fiat payment, receive the Bitcoins, and then request a refund from their bank, or whatever other financial organization they are using, and leave the seller with nothing. In order to prevent such instances, P2P exchanges introduce all kinds of security features. For example, Coinffeine has a system of obligatory deposits: before a trade begins, both counterparties have to deposit a certain amount of Bitcoins. If all goes well and the trade completes uncontested, those deposits return back to the users.

If a dispute does take place, an arbitrator appointed by the community hears both sides and resolves it. The deposits are then used to compensate the victim of the fraud and the arbitrator’s services. A reputation system for arbitrators is also in place to ensure that they do not abuse their powers. LocalBitcoins has chosen another approach: it allows the users to meet in person to conduct their trades. This way they can ensure the deal is fully completed before parting ways. Obviously, this limits trade opportunities to the specific location a trader resides in. Hence, the name of the service, LocalBitcoins, but for some, it is a justified tradeoff for increased security.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Litecoin Is Far More Popular Among CNY Traders Than Ethereum

Litecoin Is Far More Popular Among CNY Traders Than Ethereum

Bitcoin is the top cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency trading is booming in China, and the rest of the world is following suit. Bitcoin is the top cryptocurrency in just about every country. But the competition between Litecoin and Ethereum is still in full effect for CNY traders,  whereas things look very different in the USD market.

CNY Traders Prefer Litecoin

                                                     

TheMerkle_Litecoin CNY Ether

It comes as quite a surprise to find out exchanges dealing with CNY are seeing more trading volume in Litecoin than Ethereum as of late. Given the global appeal Ethereum seems to have, and the growing interest from all over the world, the trading volume in CNY markets does not seem to reflect that by any means.

Looking at the previous 24-hour volume, for example, shows that nearly three billion CNY has been changing hands to buy and sell Litecoin. Ethereum, on the other hand, has only seen 1.8 million CNY change hands, which is only a blip on the radar in comparison. In fact, only 20,804 Ether has been traded across exchanges supporting the yuan, which is quite a surprise.

Comparing this to the USD markets, Bitcoin and Ethereum are the clear leaders, with Litecoin still in the third spot. But Ethereum seems to be losing a lot of momentum in this market as well, with slightly over US$1m traded in volume over the past 24 hours. This is a lot less than most people would expect, albeit the majority of Ethereum volume is coming from the BTC market.

It is quite interesting to see Litecoin holding on to the second spot as far as CNY trading is concerned, though. Given the fact LTC was the second “major” cryptocurrency for a long time, that only seems normal. But at the same time, the cryptocurrency has seen no real innovation or adoption spike over the past few years.

The big question is what CNY traders are doing with Litecoin, other than speculating about the price. So far, it does not appear as if investors are using LTC to buy goods or services, but only as a way to speculate on the value of the cryptocurrency. Either way, it is rather interesting to note, and a sign that Litecoin is far from dead.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Investors Who Missed Bitcoin Rally Go for Ether, Monero, Litecoin

Investors Who Missed Bitcoin Rally Go for Ether, Monero, Litecoin

  

Investors Who Missed Bitcoin Rally Go for Ether, Monero, Litecoin

There seems to be a trend in cryptocurrency investment. Traders of Bitcoin often leap from one digital currency to another, spreading their investments across popular currencies such as Ethereum’s Ether (ETH), anonymous currency Monero (XRP) and Litecoin (LTC). With the exception of some timeframes, Bitcoin price is usually stable and significantly less volatile in comparison to other digital currencies. At a market cap close to $20 bln, the volatility rate of Bitcoin has substantially decreased over the past few years.

However, Bitcoin price fluctuates upon the emergence of major market and industry-affecting events. For instance, when the discussion of hard fork contingency intensified and the market began to panic, Bitcoin price plunged, stabilizing in the late $900s. Traders usually attempt to pinpoint certain timeframes that Bitcoin price could either go up or down. Most recently, the acceptance of Bitcoin by major Japanese electronics retailer company Bic Camera and the legalization of the digital currency in Japan led to a surge in Bitcoin price, moving it from around $980 to $1180.

Investors who miss these short and mid-term rallies of Bitcoin tend to bet on the performance of alternative cryptocurrencies such as Ether, Monero and Litecoin that have demonstrated a significantly higher level of stability in comparison to the rest of the digital currencies on the market over longer periods of time. More importantly, crypto assets like Ether have drastically increased in price because of the rising interests of corporate investors and financial institutions. Specifically, the formation of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance increased the market cap of Ethereum by around 4x, as it jumped from $1 bln to over $4 bln within a span of two months.

The back and forth movement of Bitcoin investors and their diverse portfolio of cryptocurrencies explain the ratio of trading pairs in major assets like Ethereum. More than 50 percent of trading in the Ethereum exchange market is processed with the ETH/BTC pair. Therefore, there exist more domestic traders within the cryptocurrency community purchasing alternative crypto assets such as ETH than conventional investors trading altcoins.

Rising interest in altcoins

Bitcoin dominance index is currently at one of its lowest points. But, the 69.2 percent dominance index of Bitcoin does not represent a declining interest in the digital currency. Rather, users are simply gaining more interest in altcoins that supplement or make up for the missing links of Bitcoin. Specifically, Ethereum represents a Blockchain platform designed for developers and decentralized applications. Many developers have expressed their concerns over Bitcoin’s limited development framework. What Bitcoin lacks in flexibility is supplemented by its high-security measures and robust infrastructure.

Monero, Dash and Zcash provide anonymity to cryptocurrency users, which Bitcoin does not. Litecoin is a unique currency in the sense that it represents nearly identical philosophies, structure and monetary policy of Bitcoin. Traders or investors who feel like they missed out on Bitcoin or the recent rally of Bitcoin price still have accessible altcoins like Monero, Litecoin, Zcash, Dash and Ether to profit from.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

How Deloitte’s Bitcoin Bistro Was Built

How Deloitte's Bitcoin Bistro Was Built

 

Deloitte's Bitcoin Bistro

While Deloitte has long been an advisor on blockchain and cryptocurrencies, it took a step toward to practicing what it preaches earlier this month. After installing a bitcoin ATM in its Toronto office last fall, the consulting giant is now accepting bitcoin payments at a restaurant in its office complex – providing a hands-on opportunity for patrons to experience bitcoin.

Iliana Oris Valiente, strategy leader at Rubix by Deloitte, explained that such first-hand experiences are instrumental toward educating people about the greater potential underlying blockchain technology. Despite her firm's focus on distributed ledger applications, she said that understanding the technology in any of its many variations often starts with a walk through its historical origins.

She told CoinDesk:

"What we've consistently realized is that when we’re starting to educate our clients, that journey typically starts with understanding bitcoin."

"It's very difficult to skip over that part of the historic line and say, 'Oh by the way, now we’re going to talk to you about this really complicated distributed ledger technology'," she continued. With the bitcoin ATM becoming more popular with clients and employees, Oris Valiente said it was logical for her firm to look for other ways to expand on its support for the digital currency. "But the question we often received was, 'So, where do I use the bitcoins that I've acquired?'" she said, adding:

"The answer is usually online merchants, but there aren't as many brick-and-mortar venues. That's when the idea came up: 'What about our bistro downstairs?'"

Expanding appeal

With this lightbulb lit, Deloitte teamed up with Benchmark Hospitality (which operates Bistro 1858 inside Deloitte’s Toronto complex) and bitcoin processor BitPay to kick off the concept. The idea was that users could download a wallet, purchase bitcoin from the ATM and then buy a meal from the bistro – with the end result being that they could see the changes to their balance reflected immediately.

Benchmark initially viewed the opportunity as a chance to cut costs and test out a new technology, but the appeal has expanded much more widely. "We've had a positive reaction from the bistro staff," said Oris Valiente. "They've just said: 'This is flat out cool.'" For Deloitte, the initiative has served as a means to inform even more people about bitcoin and blockchain, while generating more organic interest in the subject internally.

"We have a lot of our internal employees who are excited to get their first bitcoin wallet, buy their first fraction of a bitcoin and perhaps invite their clients in and have a conversation about what this technology means," she said.

Organic interest

But Deloitte is quick to concede that rolling out such an endeavor – as straightforward as it may seem – is far from an easy task. There were a plethora of financial and technological hurdles to overcome. These included determining how Bistro 1858 would handle end-of-shift reconciliations, calculating the implementation costs and deciding which payment provider would be the best fit.

At the end of the day, Oris Valiente explained that introducing the new payments system was ultimately a change management exercise. While simple in aim, it involved retraining management and front-line staff, along with communicating to all stakeholders why the exercise was being undertaken in the first place. "I think those conversations, and trying to understand what motivates all of the parties and how we address all of their needs, that was probably the most time-consuming aspect," she said.

Future visions

However, she argued that the exercise has been useful in helping to explain that blockchain solutions are similar to other types of enterprise applications: While the nuts and bolts get fundamentally reworked, the experience for the end-user oftentimes remains unchanged. "The user experience is pretty straightforward; what's changed is the complex back-end. That story is actually in parallel to what we often see when we develop enterprise applications," she said.

Oris Valiente also emphasized that the exercise has been instrumental in helping to facilitate the flow of creative juices internally. "A lot of the use cases that we’re working on today could not have been possible if it were a small group of people sitting in a board room talking to one another," she said, adding:

"For me, the more people we can expose to this technology, the more smart people you have looking at it, the more creative ideas you’ll come up with."

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

No, you can’t avoid taxes by investing in Bitcoin

No, you can’t avoid taxes by investing in Bitcoin

“Crypto-Currency” may be a good method for hiding Income?

If you think investing in bitcoin or a similar “crypto-currency” may be a good method for hiding income from the tax man, you’d better think again.While many bitcoin aficionados tout the new virtual currency as a promising alternative to so-called “fiat” currencies like the US dollar, the IRS considers investments in bitcoin as property deals — requiring that capital gains or losses in this usually volatile medium of exchange be considered like stocks or bond sales and reportable on Form 8949.

But compliance with this requirement is virtually nonexistent, at least if you go by numbers reported by the IRS. The agency began going after Coinbase, the largest bitcoin exchange operating in the States, in November 2016, requesting that the San Francisco-based company turn over data and complete transactions on every one of its more than 14 million accounts from 2013 to 2015.

But in court papers filed by the IRS this month — after Coinbase refused to honor the request, complaining that it was “overly broad” — the tax-collecting agency reported that only “802 individuals reported a transaction on Form 8949 using a description likely related to bitcoin” for 2015, the most recently concluded tax year. And this is apparently no fluke, with only 807 of the Form 8949s filed for 2013 and 893 for 2014.

This low level of reporting occurred during the same period (2013-2015) that the value of the currency (in dollars) went on a bumpy ride, skyrocketing from less than $20 to more than $1,100, presumably generating significant capital gains for many investors. “In my view, 800 reports per year of profits and losses in virtual currency transactions is ridiculously low,” says Martin Mushkin, an attorney specializing in bitcoin law.

“The given publicity to this proceeding now and the forthcoming enforcement actions would result in a substantial amount of tax collections,” he adds. “The anonymity of bitcoin should not be allowed to foster tax evasion.” Coinbase, for its part, blames the IRS itself for this underreporting, and its chief executive has called for a creation of a Form 1099-B to be issued to each of its clients participating in a potentially taxable transaction — a proposal that the IRS has called low priority because of cuts to its budget.

“We’re very serious about complying with the laws and we actually support the idea that people who ought to pay their taxes do so,” says Michael Lempres, Coinbase chief legal and risk officer. “But the demand for three years’ worth of transactions conflicts with privacy interests.” Mushkin and others familiar with the case say they expect Coinbase to cut a deal with the IRS. “I suspect that, as we speak, Coinbase is preparing an answer to the anticipated Order to Show Cause and negotiating the terms of the summons,” he says. “The papers show the parties have been talking, and Coinbase will try to cut this down.”

Coinbase is already registered with FinCEN, the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Center, obliging the exchange to report transactions in excess of $10,000 per day and suspected transactions to be structured to avoid the $10,000 reporting threshold (such as multiple $9,750 transactions). The Coinbase response, Mushkin predicts, “will be to initially limit the subpoena to FinCEN reporting accounts and smaller accounts with large turnover volumes.”

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

From groceries to fine art, blockchain finds widening appeal

From groceries to fine art,
blockchain finds widening appeal

  

 

Chronicled CEO Ryan Orr attends a daily briefing with employees at their office in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday, April 6, 2017. Chronicled has developed blockchain authentication and chain-of-custody technology using small chips embedded into products, pharmaceuticals, and artwork.

Walmart is on a mission to forever change what people know about their groceries. The retail giant began in October to collaborate with IBM and Tsinghua University in Beijing to trace an array of food products moving through its vast global supply chain with an emerging technology known as blockchain.

The experiment, which will wrap up next month, will help Walmart understand how to make use of blockchain — a secure system of recording data that, many believe, could have a transformative effect on the world’s economy. The technology is already creeping into everything from supply chain management to banking to health care. “I’ve yet to come across an industry where it won’t have an impact,” said David Treat, a managing director at Accenture who leads the consulting firm’s financial services and blockchain practice group.

At its core, blockchain refers to an accounting system known as a distributed ledger. That ledger lives on a network of synchronized computers that communally capture and verify when a transaction takes place. Any time something of value gets exchanged, the data surrounding that exchange are recorded, encrypted and placed into a “block” visible by anyone granted access to the network.

Those blocks are then “chained” together chronologically, creating a timeline that can be traced to an initial transaction. That chronology is key to blockchain’s security since no individual block of data could be successfully altered without affecting all the other blocks in the chain. The technology would replace methods of accounting and tracking transactions.

“Whether you’re talking about a commodity or anything else, it’s a secure road map of where it’s been and who’s held it,” said Grant Fondo, an attorney, and co-chairman of the digital currency and blockchain practice at the law firm Goodwin Procter in San Francisco.

Blockchain technology emerged in the shadow of bitcoin. From the outset, a big appeal of the trendy digital currency was its ability to let users transfer funds without the need for a designated third party — like a bank, credit card company or other payment network operator — to verify the details of the transaction. But in recent years, even as the hype surrounding bitcoin has fizzled, blockchain’s secure ledger system is expected to endure by virtue of its versatility.

Chronicled, a San Francisco startup (unrelated to The Chronicle), is using blockchain technology to tackle counterfeiting. By placing microchips onto or inside of virtually any physical object, Chronicled can register critical identifying data about that object onto the blockchain, authenticating it as the original and tracking each step in its purchasing history.

“We don’t realize how bad the problem of copies and counterfeiting and clones really is,” said Chronicled CEO Ryan Orr. “But fake license plates, fake bottles of Champagne and spirits, fake Louis Vuitton handbags — we’re talking about a $2 trillion counterfeit market today.”

Chronicled’s anticounterfeiting technology has a particular appeal with the art world. In January, Chronicled teamed up with 111 Minna Gallery, a San Francisco art gallery and event space, for an event that was equal to parts art exhibition and tech expo. Each piece of art was assigned a chip that registered it on a blockchain. Equipped with a special app on their phones, gallery-goers could access a wealth of information about the works, and even purchase them, if they chose to do so.

“This is a secure system of identification and identity verification that’s never existed before,” Orr said. “So we can potentially solve this problem, and we can do a lot more on top of that once we can synchronize the physical and digital world identities, which was never possible before.” Walmart’s blockchain pilot program is limited to China, but Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety, said that the company is considering expanding it.

So far, Walmart is offering scant details about precisely what types of foods are being tracked on its blockchain system, but Yiannas said the goal is to bring transparency into the food supply chain and to get the myriad players in that chain to harmonize the ways they keep track of products moving through it. The tracking device can be on a small sticker.

“Imagine if you could capture data at the farm level on a digital system, how something was produced, where it came from — any relevant information to a consumer,” he said. “What that allows for is a new insight that could provide a new era of transparency and insight we just don’t have today.”

Yiannas said the level of detail he hopes to capture with blockchain gets down to “an individual apple. You pick up an apple and you know where that apple came from,” he said. “Imagine the consumer, who is mostly removed from food production, being able to scan a food product and know the things they want to know about it,” he added.

Capturing data on a blockchain about a particular product as it moves “from farm to fork,” Yiannas said, will also allow Walmart to better respond to food safety recalls. Currently, it can take weeks to trace a tainted product back to its source — a process that, with a blockchain, could take seconds, since growers, packing houses and distributors would all be placing their data in the same place, where all parties can see it. Beyond supply chains, blockchain technology has also made significant inroads in the banking industry, one that has a constant need to quickly authenticate and record transactions.

Ripple, a blockchain developer in San Francisco, specializes in systems that allow banks to send payments to one another. Banks can save money by transacting directly with one another, rather than relying on a clearinghouse or other third party to verify and process payments. This month, a consortium of 47 banks in Japan announced they would be implementing Ripple’s technology after a successful pilot program.

Blockchains are also beginning to reach into health care. In January, IBM, a major vendor of blockchain software, announced that it is working with the Food and Drug Administration to research how blockchains could be used to securely and efficiently transfer large amounts of patient data pulled from electronic medical records, clinical trials, and even wearable devices.

And officials in Cook County, Illinois, said last year that they intended to start a blockchain experiment for tracking the transfer of land titles. “Distributed ledgers are a paradigm shift in how we process transactions,” said Jesse Lund, the head of IBM’s blockchain market development. “It saves businesses money and it empowers consumers. I definitely think that it’s a shift with global implications, from a human perspective.”

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

IBM Spells Out Its Views On Blockchain In Three ‘Key Elements’

IBM Spells Out Its Views On Blockchain In Three ‘Key Elements’

 
IBM Spells Out Its Views On Blockchain In Three ‘Key Elements’

IBM has outlined three “key elements” of Blockchain technology which senior executives should “evaluate” when considering exploring its benefits. In a post from its Newsroom this week, the computing giant specifically highlighted “potential to transform trade, transactions, and business processes,” “value in the ecosystem as the Blockchain network grows” and Blockchain’s ability to “significantly improve visibility and trust across businesses.”

The praise is the latest in a series of pro-Blockchain moves from IBM, which is actively partnering with global corporations to explore how the technology can improve processes such as trade deals. “Speed, cost efficiency, and transparency are among Blockchain’s most significant benefits in the enterprise and within ecosystems of companies conducting trade,” the company reports. Marie Wieck, the general manager of IBM Blockchain, the bespoke product through which IBM aims to deliver its own Blockchain services built on Hyperledger, added:

“The visionaries adopting Blockchain today are using the technology to reinvent many fundamental business practices. Working with clients to develop open source and permissioned Blockchain solutions for the enterprise, we are seeing firsthand how the technology is revolutionizing the way organizations recognize values and do business with one another.”

Most recently, IBM took its Blockchain ideas to China, partnering with Energy-Blockchain Labs to develop a proof-of-concept for cleaning up the country’s air. Carbon asset development and management could both significantly improve with the help of the new tools, it said.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member