Blockchain Start-Up Orbs Raises $15 Million With Kakao’s Help

South Korean app provider, Kakao, has helped to raise over $15 million in cryptocurrency for Orbs, a hybrid blockchain platform.

Orbs Blockchain Raises $15 Million

Kakao joined the fundraising venture through its investment arm because it “always seeks to invest and support innovative startups and Orbs is a good example.

It also builds on the pair’s existing partnership; Orb already partners with Kakao’s blockchain subsidiary, Ground X. The two companies develop blockchain applications, along with researching and developing projects.

The latest investment will “focus on helping Orbs further the protocol’s development and growth.”

On the investment, Daniel Peled, Orbs CEO and Co-Founder said:

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“With Kakao’s consumer applications counting more than 50 million active users worldwide, the investment in Orbs represents a significant endorsement of the long-term potential of our technology.”

About Orbs Blockchain

But what exactly is Orbs doing? How is it innovative?

According to its website Orbs is “a public blockchain to complement base-layer protocols.”

Describing itself as a “universal and scalable second layer for decentralized applications with the liquidity of a base layer,” Orbs is a hybrid public blockchain that proves performance without compromising security.

Raising Funds

The startup raised approximately 139,000 Ether and 892 Bitcoin. This amounts to around $15.4 million USD at the time of writing.

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Orbs is planning on putting the cash into further research and development of its core technology.

Peled explained further:

“A lot of the funds have been used for R&D and research, and one of the other verticals that are very important is obviously to enable the growth of the ecosystem around the infrastructure […] The test product is already live, and people can use the APIs and we’ve released a testnet version.”

The fundraiser has been running throughout 2018, and the company has been clever with its raised cryptocurrency. To avoid market decline (and 2018 has been one big decline!) Orbs has been converting some of its cryptos along the way into fiat currencies.

Orbs’ mainnet is scheduled to go live in April 2019.

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The HTC Exodus 1 ‘Blockchain Phone’ is Here and It’s Underwhelming

This week saw the first reviews of the HTC Exodus 1 blockchain phone, as ‘Genesis Block’ pre-orders started to ship. However, threatening to steal HTC’s thunder came crypto-related trademark applications from Samsung, amid speculation features may arrive early next year.


HTC Exodus Arrival

So it’s finally here; 7 months on from its announcement in May, the first units of the HTC Exodus 1 have shipped. Throughout those 7 months, hyperbole has flowed, but actual detail has been scant; so what do we know now it has arrived?

Not an awful lot, as it turns out. A YouTube review by BitsBeTrippin, left more questions than answers, partly through a failure to connect the phone to a network.

Running Android O, the phone still looks pretty cool though, with a translucent rear case exposing its innards. And the default web browser on the phone is Brave, which pays users in the form of a native BAT token 00 for watching adverts.

Dead On Arrival?

The reviewer was unsure as to the phone’s claimed status as a node. Does the phone function as a ‘lite’ node on the Bitcoin, Ethereum, and (recently added) Litecoin networks?

Apparently not, according to a LifeHacker preview, which claims each phone is a node in HTC’s own blockchain network.

This likely allows users on the network to trade cryptocurrency with each little to no cost. The tradeoff, one would assume, is that the benefits of using the most secure blockchain in the world (Bitcoin) with its censorship-resistance, pseudonymity etc. are lost since transactions go through HTC’s own network. Though details about HTC’s blockchain are sparse – and frankly, I rather not have to trust HTC (or any other company for that matter) with my money.

Moreover, rather than a cold-storage solution, which would store private keys offline, the Exodus uses a Social Key Recovery system. You select up to five friends who each have a ‘shard’ of your key to unlock the private enclave. However if one of them loses access to their device, you are royally shafted.

In other words, you would probably be better off to just keep using your Bitcoin wallet app and/or store your funds off-line in a hardware wallet like a Ledger or Trezor.

Samsung Crypto-Ship Ahoy!

So with the Exodus 1 prompting a rush for the emergency exit, it was left to Samsung to fulfill our wallet/phone hybrid desires. Samsung has filed three trademark applications in the EU, for Blockchain KeyStore, Blockchain Key Box, and Blockchain Core. Wonder what those could pertain to?

More digging by SamMobile revealed plans for a two-part crypto solution, comprising a cold wallet for storage and a hot wallet for transfers. Rumors suggest that these could even surface in the Galaxy S10, expected to launch sometime early next year.

Whether this materializes, and how successfully Samsung implements it, remains to be seen. We should also remember that the Exodus 1 is still very much a work in progress, and continued development should see improvements over time.

Would you get a wallet/smartphone hybrid device? Share your opinion below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, HTC.com

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Ripple And Finablr’s UAE Exchange To Debut Blockchain Payments By Early 2019

Soon by the first quarter of the 2019, Asia may experience the cross-border payment settlement system. According to the local press, UAE Exchange is joining hands with U.S startup Ripple to offer cross-border remittances to Asia based on the blockchain. Promoth Manghat, executive director and chief executive at Finablr states;

“We expect to go live with Ripple by Q1, 2019 with one or two Asian banks. This is for remittances to start with, from across the globe into Asia.”

UAE Exchange Debuts RippleNet to Capture Asia’s market

Finablr is the key player in foreign exchange services where UAE exchange contributes as the networking company. However, the plan to offer cross-border payment solutions is not new, earlier in February 2018, UAE exchange has tied up with Ripple, focusing on future plan of getting into the core of blockchain. Moreover, the partnership intends to brand ‘UAE exchange’ as the sole and largest firm employing Ripple technology for international remittance.

Among the various products of Ripple, UAE exchange steps ahead with RippleNet. By employing RippleNet, it entered the row of 100+ Fintechs and banks to offer instant payment and transactions settlement.

UAE Exchange has been in a service of foreign exchange since 1980. Founded by B.R. Shetty, the firm is primarily headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE and observed how billions of funds transferred to Asia. Nevethless, an article notes that the roughly $613 billion sent in remittance in 2017 through various FX branches. Both, UAE Exchange and Ripple plan to grip up Asia’s market for remittance service by using blockchain technology.

UAE Exchange Plans to Progress Ahead of Blockchain Getting Into Mainstream

Though market appears with a lower volume since the later 2017, Finablr sees a huge potential and value in utilizing blockchain. Promoth Manghat, executive director and chief executive at Finablr aims to involve before it reaches mainstream; He said that;

“Blockchain holds tremendous promise for the industry but there is progress to be made before we see it go fully mainstream,”

He further aims to view how ripple works to boost ‘B2B solutions at Finablr’. Already in the year 2016, Finablr sets a target of investing $250million-$300million towards the expansion globally and a large amount of such target is already consumed. Manghat asserted that the firm has ‘ a strong pipeline’ now.

“Blockchain is one aspect we are looking at. We want to become the partner of choice for banks and technology companies and are looking at potential bolt-ons,” .

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Delphi Blockchain Analysis Shows Four Out Of Five Bitcoin Wallet Addresses Hodl Under $100 USD

80% of Bitcoin Wallets Contain Less Than $100

There are 23 million bitcoin wallets in the world today. The vast majority of those bitcoin wallets, however, are virtually empty, according to a new report.

An analysis released by digital asset research firm Delphi uncovered 22.9 million bitcoin addresses that were holding at least some amount of bitcoin (an amount greater than zero). Of those 22.9 million addresses, however, most contain less than $100.

The information was published in a report called, “The State of Bitcoin”. The 59-page report explores the long-term value potential of bitcoin, including an analysis of where bitcoin could be going in the future.

Delphi cautioned that many of the 22.9 million bitcoin addresses will belong to a single user. One user might split his bitcoin into 10 addresses or 100 addresses, for example. The fact that there are 22.9 million accounts holding bitcoin does not mean that there are 22.9 million bitcoin hodlers out there.

In the chart published by Delphi, we can see that 50% of bitcoin addresses have less than 0.001 BTC (around $3.70). Additionally, only 20% of addresses store more than $100 USD. In other words, 80% of bitcoin wallets contain less than $100.

Meanwhile, fewer than 700,000 bitcoin addresses own more than 1 BTC (worth approximately $3,400). Of those accounts, 588 addresses are richer than $10 million.

Delphi Digital is a New York-based research and consulting company focused on exploring the digital asset space.

The report identifies a number of other crucial points about the future of bitcoin. It explores the risks to bitcoin, for example, and the problems that could affect bitcoin moving forward. Some of the risks include PoW energy consumption, competition, failed infrastructure development, and continued volatility or hard forks. All of these things could reduce the value of bitcoin – or even destroy bitcoin – moving forward.

The report also highlights the power of bitcoin in emerging markets. Venezuela and Argentina are both mentioned. The two South American countries are home to some of the highest bitcoin-using rates per capita. Delphi’s analysis finds that people in developed economies may not have great motivation to use bitcoin at this time, but those in emerging markets have motivation to use bitcoin today. In Argentina and Venezuela, for example, fiat currency prices can be volatile, and bitcoin is seen as an alternative type of currency insulated from local economic troubles.

Delphi also analyzes where the price of bitcoin could go:

“The upside potential for bitcoin is immense assuming it captures even a modest portion of the total assets held in offshore bank accounts, the investible gold market, and central bank gold reserves,” explains the report.

The report explains that if bitcoin is able to capture 10% of this market, then the price of bitcoin has a 75% chance of being $54,816 within 10 years. If bitcoin can capture 75% of the market, then it will be worth as much as $411,117.

“While we remain very constructive on the long-term outlook for bitcoin, there are many hurdles it most overcome before it can become an alternative means of storing value,” explains Delphi. “Price volatility, secure custody solutions, and global regulatory uncertainty are just a few of the challenges currently suppressing demand for bitcoin.”

Nevertheless, Delphi believes that bitcoin has a good chance of surpassing these problems:

“Barring any major disruptions to its network, however, over the long run we foresee bitcoin serving as a staple allocation in traditional investment portfolios, central bank reserves, and as a suitable alternative for a portion of assets held in offshore accounts.”

If bitcoin can capture even a small slice of this market, then it could surge in value over the next 10 years.

UNICEF Adds Six Blockchain Startups From Developing Nations to its Innovation Fund

International children’s charity UNICEF has announced that it will formally support a total of six new blockchain startups through the UNICEF Innovation Fund. As part of the programme, the firms will each receive a share of $100,000 in funding.

Most of the blockchain startups selected for membership in the fund are from a different developing nation. The ideas incubated in them will hopefully go on to increase efficiency and transparency in a variety of industries across the globe in those countries that need it most.

UNICEF Innovation Fund to Help Bring Benefits of Blockchain Tech to Developing Nations

The children’s charity division of the United Nations, UNICEF, clearly sees great promise for blockchain technology to overhaul whole industries, particularly those traditionally rife with fraud and corruption. Its Innovation Fund has already targeted firms specialising in other emerging technological sectors such as data scince, machine learning, virtual reality, and drone technology. The six startups from the blockchain industry will join another 20 fledgling companies from these disparate fields in receipt of funding.

The six companies named in a report by RTT News are: Argentinian enterprise-grade funding platform Atix Labs; Mexico’s Onesmart, which hopes to reduce corruption in emerging markets; medical records management platform Prescrypto (also based in Mexico); the Indian vaccination supply chain system provider Statwig; Utopixar from Tunisia, which is exploring blockchain’s application in community governance; and the W3 Engineers in Bangladesh. This final startup seeks to provide connectivity between economic migrants and refugees without the use of either internet and cellular phone technology.

Along with funding, the startups in the UNICEF Innovation Fund will also receive assistance with developing the projects themselves, along with guidance on growing the businesses.

UNICEF Continues to Explore Blockchain’s Potential in Charity Industry

Over the last year or so, UNICEF has been keen to explore how blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies can benefit charitable causes. BitcoinLinux has previously reported on the children’s charity’s effort to inspire video gamers to use their surplus hardware to mine digital assets to donate to charity.

Game Chaingers was launched at the start of this year and is raising money for those in need in war torn Syria. The system makes it as easy as possible for gamers to turn their unused processing power into donations to the charity.

A similar tactic was repeated by the charity later this year too. This time, UNICEF Australia launched an initiative called The Hopepage. This simple website allows visitors to donate as much of their own spare processing power as they like to mining the privacy-focused cryptocurrency Monero. The decision was made to mine Monero since it can still be profitably mined using the graphics processing units found in many normal computers today.

The charity is clearly practising what it preached in October of last year when a co-founder of its offshoot UNICEF Ventures, Chris Fabian, confirmed that it would use blockchain in whatever way it could to provide the most benefit:

“If we are in a place to look at designing our own token, look at others to help design theirs in a way that we can be a part of, and potentially also have a crypto-denominated investment fund, those would all be things that would be on our roadmap for the near future.”

Related ReadingBinance Teams Up with Malta to Create the Blockchain Charity Foundation

Featured Image from Shutterstock.

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State Farm is Now Testing Blockchain Technology for Auto Insurance Claims

US automotive and life insurance group State Farm is now testing blockchain technology to potentially speed up auto claims. The company announced the new pilot for its blockchain-based subrogation platform on its website yesterday.

State Farm Testing Blockchain Technology

According to the company’s website, the company processes just over 38,000 claims per day and has 519,000 accounts in mutual funds.

“Today, subrogation is a relatively manual, time-consuming process often requiring physical checks to be mailed on a claim-by-claim basis between insurers,” said Mike Fields, innovation executive of State Farm. “You can imagine the time and resources required to complete these transactions.”

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If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you know how long the grueling process of filing claims and bringing those claims to completion can take. State Farm is trying to keep up with new technology to speed up that process and in turn, save themselves time and money.

In the cycle of the claims process, State Farm is applying blockchain to the very last part of the cycle that tends to take the longest. Subrogation is where the insurance company recovers claim costs it paid to its customer for damages from the at-fault party.

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>> Major Brands are Now Using Blockchain Tech for Customer Loyalty

“The blockchain solution we are working on has many potential benefits,” says Fields. “It helps us automate a manual process securely and creates a permanent transaction record of each payment which can easily be verified for accuracy. It also has the potential to decrease the amount of time for consumers to receive their deductible reimbursement.”

Insurance Companies on the Move

State Farm isn’t the only insurance company to attempt to make a transition to the blockchain. Last month, Japan-based Sompo partnered with BitPesa and the partnership focused of the “digitalization of global remittance services.” Back in September, the People’s Insurance Company of China (PICC) partnered with VeChain to improve fraud and Know Your Customer (KYC) practices.

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Blockchain Phone: Will Samsung Enter the Ring? Trademarks Say Yes!

The excitement of late in blockchain has centered around a particular blockchain phone. A first of its kind, this phone has crypto nerds alike beaming with joy; the idea of decentralized apps running on your phone is exciting, and that’s before we consider all the crypto possibilities.

Blockchain Phone

It started with Sirin Labs, whose pioneering phone ‘Finney,’ let people store and use digital currencies without transaction fees. Then HTC came to the party with the world’s second blockchain phone called Exodus 1. This phone boasts a “Social Key Recovery” function that lets a user use a select number of trusted contacts to regain access to their funds, should they lose their private key. Kinda cool.

But now… Samsung is about to join the battle. Yes, one of the world’s biggest phone makers is reportedly on the verge of creating its own blockchain smartphone.

But how do we know this? Well, we don’t know it for definite, but there’s something cooking in the kitchen.

European Trademarks

Earlier in the week, Samsung submitted three European trademark requests for blockchain-based smartphone features. They are named as the following:

  • Blockchain KeyStore
  • Blockchain Key Box
  • Blockchain Core

So while it’s not necessarily definite, its pretty obvious.

>> State Farm is Now Testing Blockchain Technology for Auto Insurance Claims

So the news has enthusiasts’ brains ticking over. Is Samsung working on a form of hardware wallet that will be implemented into future devices? Do these names allude to forms of private or public key storage?

One particular clue is that the document states that the trademarks will apply to “Smartphones; Software applications for use with mobile devices; Computer software platforms; Application software.”

But that’s all we know.

Advocate

Samsung has been an advocate for storing cryptocurrency on its phones, stating “smartphones have the best security for blockchain and cryptocurrency.” However, many security experts have disputed this statement.

Further, with $761 million in cryptocurrency thefts this year alone, security is not something you want to take lightly. Perhaps it is time for Samsung to create a blockchain phone made for cryptocurrency storage and then it can truly back up its own statements.

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Major Brands Are Now Using Blockchain Tech for Customer Loyalty

Customer loyalty is one of the cornerstones for every successful business, which is why it is no surprise that many businesses offer club memberships, frequent customer rewards and many other loyalty program incentives to their customers. However, the massive multitude of clubs and programs can be frustrating for customers to navigate, as they try to maneuver between the numerous club cards in their wallets and online, often finding it difficult to keep track of their point status and where they can be redeemed.

While cryptocurrencies made a splash in recent years, making headlines and causing general public interest, it is the underlying blockchain tech that is proving to be the real game-changer. The ability to transfer and verify information on a decentralized network opens up many possibilities across multiple industries and could become the new standard in many ways – including customer loyalty.

Using blockchain tech for loyalty programs is already showing great promise as several of the world’s biggest brands have already converted some or all of their programs using the technology. The ability to manage a large customer base while maintaining perfect tracking of each client’s token count, without the need for a central governing entity, is a major step up in this industry, which sees $360 billion in points go unredeemed each year. From airlines to small restaurants, it seems that any business can harness the new technology to benefit customers as well as themselves.

Major Brands Are Making the Move to Blockchain

On top of the decentralization and easy tracking, another main advantage of blockchain is the ability to exchange and redeem tokens of values, such as frequent flyer miles or phone minutes. While this ability is widely in use on cryptocurrency platforms such as Ripple and Stellar, it is also being used in other industries.

One such example is Singapore Airlines. Considered the best airline in the world, Singapore is also a pioneer in using blockchain for its business, introducing a loyalty program built on the technology. The advantages of Singapore Airlines’ loyalty program are twofold: Using blockchain to track each customer’s account status to accurately reward them with miles, and enabling clients to redeem them with other service providers that are partnered with the airline. Launched last July, if the loyalty program takes off, it could become the yardstick by which all other airline clubs are measured.

Naturally, blockchain-based loyalty programs are not limited to airlines. Car rental giant E-Z Rent-A-Car has also created a similar program, which includes features such as payment with cryptocurrencies and even redeeming points for crypto assets within the company’s app. Japanese technology giant Rakuten, HP, and many other companies are also in the process of creating blockchain loyalty programs.

Bringing Blockchain Technology to SMBs

But what about the little guy? Many small and medium businesses (SMBs) don’t have the resources to develop their own blockchain networks, but would still benefit from the advantages it has to offer. For that reason, several companies have begun offering services which take care of the infrastructure and enable these businesses to build blockchain-based loyalty programs of their own.

The Building Blocks of Brand Loyalty

As blockchain solutions become more widespread, it is safe to assume that a growing number of brands will implement blockchain into their loyalty programs. Larger brands will most-likely build their own blockchain, or use the services of companies such as IBM, which is already offering an API for creating loyalty programs.

As a growing number of businesses are looking into blockchain tech, it seems that these solutions could prove to be the holy grail of customer loyalty.

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