Blockchain Energizer Vol. 13

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Blockchain History? IBM Ventures Is Close to Making Its First Industry Investment

The venture arm of one of the most recognizable names in the tech industry hasn’t yet put its money where its mouth is on blockchain – but that may be about to change.

While global tech giant IBM has so far focused mostly on investing employee time and energy into the emerging technology, it’s only just now gearing up to take an equity stake in an industry startup. In what will no doubt be taken as a sign of the blockchain industry’s maturity, for IBM Ventures, investing cash is finally becoming more attractive.

And with several hurdles removed from the investment firm’s strategy – including, most notably, the need for the rounds to be Series B or higher – IBM Ventures has got its eyes on candidates.

Christoph Auer-Welsbach, a partner at the firm, told CoinDesk:

“From a time perspective, the time already is right.”

Auer-Welsbach went on to shine a light on who the companies may be, hinting that the blockchain startups he’s been watching are in the supply chain management and compliance verticals.

Investing in blockchain

In short, a cash investment in a blockchain company is square in IBM Venture’s sights, but there are several conditions that now need to be met. For starters, IBM’s investments are expected to occur within 18 months to five years of the company’s maturity – the widespread adoption of its product – and further, investments are limited to purveyors of business-to-business products.

This last criteria is one of the reasons IBM has eschewed cryptocurrency applications, said Auer-Welsbach.

He told CoinDesk:

“Most companies in the space are in the cryptocurrency field, which we don’t see from a B2B perspective as the ultimate angle for us to add value.”

Plus, IBM’s main priority continues to be to creating critical mass around its blockchain platforms (IBM Blockchain Platform and Hyperledger Fabric), and this trumps generating revenue on any investments.

In order for a company to attract Auer-Welsbach’s attention, then, it has to have a proven, repeatably successful business model, with multiple clients, making it better suited for the kinds of interaction that create a strong sense of community around a platform.

For example, IBM Ventures recently opened up its coffers as the lead investor of a $15 million round in Lightbend, an open-source platform for users of the Scala machine-learning language that already has multiple corporate customers.

Building the fabric

But because there aren’t many blockchain companies at that level, Hyperledger Fabric remains IBM’s pride and joy for cultivating its work with the blockchain industry.

Within Hyperledger Fabric, groups of like-minded firms often develop into more formalized consortia – such as the global trade digitization effort led by shipping giant Maersk and a food safety effort spearheaded by Walmart.

In interview with CoinDesk, the general manager of IBM’s blockchain unit, Marie Wieck, elaborated on Auer-Welsbach’s notion that the company wants to develop more such communities.

Specifically, Wieck said that IBM’s internal investment in cloud computing could be seen as the “plumbing layer” of blockchain ecosystems, while outside IBM, getting institutional investors like Boldstart VC to back companies building enterprise solutions on Hyperledger Fabric is key to its mission.

In his work with Fabric, Auer-Welsbach is on the lookout for services that can be implemented with only minimal consulting, and platforms that can be adjusted for new industries with just a few “little tweaks here and there.”

He concluded:

“That’s the time when I would say this is really interesting to us to invest in.”

Natural history museum image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Interested in offering your expertise or insights to our reporting? Contact us at [email protected].

Disclaimer: This article should not be taken as, and is not intended to provide, investment advice. Please conduct your own thorough research before investing in any cryptocurrency.

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Swiss Telecom Giant Launches New Blockchain Business

A major state-owned telecommunications provider in Switzerland has created a new business entity centered around blockchain

Swisscom, according to new reports, has established “Swisscom Blockchain AG” to focus on a range of services around the tech. These include enterprise-facing solutions as well as support for companies looking to launch initial coin offerings (ICOs).

The move comes months after the telecom joined the Hyperledger blockchain project. Swisscom is also a member of a Switzerland-based blockchain consortium that also includes exchange operator SIX and Zürcher Kantonalbank, the country’s fourth-largest bank. In January, that group unveiled an ethereum-based trading tool for over-the-counter exchanges.

It’s a notable development from an established firm that, from the outset of its formal entry into Hyperledger, has struck an optimistic tone on the tech.

“We want to provide support as a catalyst with expertise, experience and implementation skills,” Swisscom’s Johannes Höhener said in December.

The firm is being led by Daniel Haudenschild who, according to LinkedIn was previously a partner at advisory firm EY Switzerland. A report from local publication Inside Channels indicates that other staffers from EY have joined the venture, and that Swisscom Blockchain is eyeing a team as a big as 20 people by the end of 2017.

Image Credit: Arsenie Krasnevsky / Shutterstock.com

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at [email protected].

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Wipro Joins Hyperledger As Blockchain Technology Uptake Increases

Wipro Limited has disclosed that it is joining Hyperledger with a view to designing and developing blockchain solutions that are open source. Hyperledger is an open-source effort which has been developed in order to advance blockchain technologies across industries and sectors that include information technology, manufacturing, supply chain, Internet of Things, banking and finance.

“We are excited about joining Hyperledger and look forward to working closely with the Hyperledger community to catalyze blockchain adoption for global enterprises. Our customers are increasingly looking at Hyperledger to build enterprise-grade blockchain solutions for specific industry use-cases,” said Wipro Limited’s service transformation vice president, Krishnakumar N Menon.

Hyperledger community

According to Hyperledger’s executive director, Brian Behlendorf, the Hyperledger community would benefit from the blockchain-related consulting and advisory capabilities that Wipro would bring with it. Additionally, the Hyperledger community would gain from Wipro’s solid partner ecosystem and specific use cases.

Across the world customers are turning to Hyperledger seeking to develop blockchain solutions that are enterprise-grade for particular industry use cases. One of the popular blockchain framework implementations is Hyperledger Fabric which serves as a foundation upon which solutions or applications possessing a modular architecture can be developed. The Blockchain Innovation Lab of Wipro has been developing various industry solutions using this framework. These solutions include Loyalty Rewards Management, Trade Finance, Airworthiness Certificate tracking and Tri-party collateral management.

Blockchain solutions

To drive transformation and digital innovations across the enterprise, blockchain has been identified by Wipro as a strategic client theme. The thought-to-finish blockchain solutions that Wipro offers cover consulting and advisory, construction of blockchain networks, blockchain application development and Blockchain Innovation Lab. In this regard Wipro develops an IP portfolio, blockchain frameworks and assets and industry solutions. Additionally Wipro assists clients in incrementally expanding releases and also in experimenting and deploying blockchain technologies’ proof of concepts. Since it was launched two years ago over 100 organizations, startups and companies have joined Hyperledger.

Wipro’s joining of Hyperledger coincides with the Indian IT services provider bagging a seven-year deal with Innogy SE, an energy firm which is based in Europe. Under the contract Wipro will assist the European firm in rationalizing, virtualizing and consolidating its information technology infrastructure. This will see Wipro invest and maintain two data centers that will be located in Germany. In Europe Wipro boasts of 11 delivery centers some of which are located in Zurich, Switzerland; Vienna, Austria and Munich, Franfurt and Hamburg in Germany.

4 Stocks in Focus as Blockchain Technology Gathers Steam

Blockchain is touted as the next game-changer in the tech sector. The underlying technology behind bitcoin mining and trading has rapidly gained traction over the last few years, driven by accelerated multi-industrial adoption.

The technology is primarily used for tracking transactions related to digital assets or documents, particularly in industries like banking, financial services and insurance.

The commercial versions of blockchain currently in use are mostly based on either Ethereum or Hyperledger technology. While Hyperledger is an open source global collaboration hosted by the Linux Foundation, Ethereum has been developed by a Swiss non-profit called Ethereum Foundation.

In April, the Hyperledger Technical Steering Committee (TSC) approved a proposal to incubate Burrow, a permissionable smart contract machine. Burrow is the first Ethereum-derived project to get this kind of approval. We expect the integration between the different approaches of the two communities to improve in the near future. This will accelerate the mainstream adoption of blockchain.

Enhanced Security Drives Blockchain’s Growth

Adoption of the technology has increased due to the fact that the distributed ledger technology (DLT) that blockchain is based on ensures secured data storage and transmission. As every member involved in the consortium using the data can see the changes made, a breach is unlikely. This makes the process even more trustworthy.

Moreover, the decentralized database puts a check on hacking and double counting, thereby decreasing the possibilities of monetary losses via cyber crime.

With increasing instances of cybercrime, which per a recent report by Juniper Research is expected to cost global businesses over $8 trillion in the next five years, the secured ledger-based technology is bound to gain further importance.

Moreover, blockchain technology is projected to reach $2.3 billion by 2021 from $210.2 million in 2016 at a CAGR of 61.5%, per data from MarketsandMarkets.

4 Stocks to Gain from the Blockchain Boom

Swiss Bank UBS Group AG (UBSFree Report) is playing an instrumental role in bringing blockchain mainstream. The company is a co-founder of the Utility Settlement Coin (USC) system that helps banks and other financial institutions to process faster security transactions among themselves.

Deutsche Bank, Santander and BNY Mellon were already a part of the initiative, which was announced last August. Most recently, six other financial institutions – Barclays, HSBC, State Street, Credit Suisse, MUFG and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce – joined the consortium.

UBS currently has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

UBS AG Revenue (TTM)

UBS AG Revenue (TTM) | UBS AG Quote

IBM Corporation (IBMFree Report) is currently the dominant player in the blockchain market. Recently, CNBC quoted Juniper Research, which placed IBM above Microsoft in blockchain related advancements.

IBM uses hyperledger technology for its blockchain applications and is also a key member of the Hyperledger committee. This enables it to gain access to prior notification of any changes in the underlying infrastructure.

IBM has been winning significant deals in recent times. The company has struck bank guarantee deals with ANZ and Westpac and a multi-line insurance contract with American International Group and Standard Chartered PLC.

IBM has also inked a deal with global food suppliers and another one with automobile manufacturer, ZF Friedrichshafen to enhance its Car e-Wallet technology.

IBM has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Microsoft Corporation (MSFTFree Report) is another prominent provider of blockchain technology. The company’s solutions are built on Ethereum. However, it is not a member of the concerned foundation, which is hurting its ability to win customers compared with IBM.

Nevertheless, Microsoft has been aggressively trying to expand its footprint in the technology domain. The collaboration with Accenture and the unveiling of the Coco framework for faster and secure blockchain-based transactions are some of its key initiatives. Moreover, the company recently announced a contract with Israeli Bank Hapoalim that will boost its penetration in the blockchain market.

Microsoft also carries a Zacks Rank #3.

Despite being huge a critic of bitcoins, U.S.-banking giant JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPMFree Report) has left no stone unturned to develop solutions using the underlying technology.

JPMorgan is currently involved in the development of an enterprise focused version of blockchain called Quorum, which is based on Ethereum technology.

This initiative was taken up by the company after it reportedly exited a behemoth blockchain collaboration in April 2017 that was backed by around 80 financial institutions led by New York based start-up, RS CEV. The consortium aims at developing finance sector related blockchain technology.

JPMorgan currently has a Zacks Rank #3.

To Conclude

The increasing adoption of blockchain technology is expected to cut down on expenses as it will limit data theft related losses. This in turn will have a positive impact on consumer margins and the bottom line. We believe that the above mentioned stocks are solid picks for investors looking to benefit from blockchain’s increasing adoption.

4 Promising Stock Picks to Keep an Eye On

With news stories about computer hacking and identity theft becoming increasingly commonplace, the cybersecurity industry looks like a promising investment opportunity. But which stocks should you buy? Zacks just released Cybersecurity: An Investor’s Guide to Locking Down Profits to help answer this question.

This new Special Report gives you the information you need to make well-informed investment choices in this space. More importantly, it also highlights 4 cybersecurity picks with strong profit potential.

Get the new Investing Guide now>>

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ClearPoll exploits blockchain to open up polling

ClearPoll on a smartphone
ClearPoll on a smartphone

Nextech, a Perth (Australia) company, has created a project called ClearPoll. This allows users around the world to:

  • browse for opinion polls on topics they care about most
  • vote on the polls
  • view detailed results.

By deploying blockchain technology Nextech securely stores both votes and results. Better still, no individual or corporation can tamper with or censor them.

Where’s the need for ClearPoll?

It is becoming more and more difficult to know what people really think (in contrast to being told what they think by the media). One solution is to decentralise public opinion poll data. Then you make it 100%, and publicly, viewable.

With blockchain most commonly associated with fintech this is an ‘alternative’ application of decentralised technology. ClearPoll aims to be a hub for accurate public opinion. By providing a social aspect it gives users the chance to not only have their voice heard but also to discover what others think. The range of topics is infinite, and could include:

  • politics
  • human rights
  • entertainment
  • sport
  • and more.

Not only do users vote on polls; they also decide the next topics for polls.

The ClearPoll solution

ClearPoll aims to provide accurate public opinion data. It enables this by encouraging wide participation, by making polls easily accessible via its ClearPoll app. The app gives users the means to vote on topics. The topics with the most votes become active polls for everyone to vote on.

Users can easily search for polls by keyword or category. Furthermore, users can easily filter from (say) global polls to national or even local ones. When a user finds a poll he or she cares about, they vote. That vote is sent to, and recorded on the blockchain. In turn, this provides a secure and unalterable record – along with all other votes.

The proffered significance is that:

  • participants decide what matters most to them
  • no one person, or corporation, makes decisions on which questions are asked, or which poll results are

    made public.

As such it would appear to be a transparent and accurate way of gauging public opinion.

ClearPoll to use Hyperledger?

ClearPoll must be able to process millions of blockchain transactions in a fast and efficient manner every day. Nextech is looking to create an

independant distributed ledger which is not reliant on any existing blockchain networks.

Enter the Hyperledger Fabric. In Nextech’s words: “Whilst we are not at the stage where we can positively say this will be our platform, we can say from preliminary testing that it looks like a very good fit for our needs. Hyperledger Fabric has been designed by the Linux Foundation for enterprise level security, scalability and performance. The project’s goal, from a performance point of view, is to reach 100,000 transactions per second, this a very general goal as transaction speeds can vary depending on transaction content and network conditions. However this goal

far exceeds our requirements which gives us the confidence in Hyperledger fabric as a solution for ClearPoll.

What does this mean

Leaving aside whether the world needs a global polling mechanism, this use of blockchain technology is different to standard fintech fare. By making it available on smartphones as well as desktops and other devices, Nextech with ClearPoll can exploit a huge potential ‘customer base’. Adopting the Hyperledger Fabric, though not yet a commitment, also makes sense.

Which brings one back to the underlying rationale and a raft of questions:

  • do people want to vote?
  • does self-selection invalidate responses?
  • will those votes count for anything (if they don’t, interest will evaporate fast)
  • who will design the polls (after the embarrassments in the UK over the past elections and the referendum,this must be an issue).
  • etc.
ClearPoll exploits blockchain to open up polling was last modified: September 18th, 2017 by Charles Brett

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Blockchain in the Insurance Industry, IBM and B3i Leverage Distributed Ledger Technology

Recently, insurance consortium B3i announced its new smart contract prototype, which uses the IBM Blockchain Platform to improve processes in the insurance industry. Built on the open source Hyperledger Fabric, the IBM Blockchain Platform will be used to streamline the insurance industry and improve the system for the wide variety of individuals and companies involved.

Global Managing Director for the Insurance Industry at IBM, Sandip Patel kindly agreed to an interview with Chain-Finance to answer some questions on blockchain technology and how it can be applied to the insurance industry.

READ MORE OF THE ARTICLE AT CHAIN-FINANCE.COM

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[VIDEO] Hyperledger Interviews David Treat, Accenture

David Treat is the global lead for Accenture’s Distributed Ledger Blockchain Practice Financial Services. As a services company, Accenture is an integrator of capabilities and wants to bring the best of innovations to clients. Hyperledger is the perfect place for them to be connected with all facets of participants in the blockchain innovation space. David believes being at that heart allows Accenture to bring the best to their clients.

According to David, blockchain has huge potential to move the financial services industry away from messaged based models, slow reconciliation processes and inefficiency of fragmented data stores. With blockchain, financial services can move to a shared data construct, driving down costs, increasing efficiency and opening up entirely new business models.

Blockchain is going to change the way Accenture does business with clients as they think about the network effect and the ability to share data among participants. It changes the model and the entire dynamic for consulting – to not just think about serving a single client but multiple clients and the wider industry.

If you want to be at the heart, innovation and progress of blockchain, Hyperledger is the place to be. The best conversations are happening here. Accenture wants to take the power of this diverse community and bring something truly transformative to all industries, according to David.

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