Status of the Bitcoin network as of Thursday, October 22, 2015 at 00:00:05 EST: Total bitcoins: 14,749,639.8023 Height: 379,988 Difficulty: 60,883,825,480.1 Statistics for the past 24 hours: Number of blocks mined: 163 Total bitcoins output (amount sent): 1,394,200.9511 Total fees: 27.660874 Average time until block found: 8 minutes, 50 seconds Estimated hashrate:...
Eleven companies showcased their innovative fintech propositions at the Barclays Accelerator demo day in New York. Eight of these companies have already signed contracts with the bank. The demo day followed 13 weeks of intensive networking, mentoring and development.
The Barclays Accelerator program, offered in partnership with the Techstars global networks, includes mentorship and opportunities for financial technology startups to access industry experts, influencers and potential clients. The program covers all areas of fintech, from cybersecurity and artificial intelligence to wealth management, investment banking, big data and cryptocurrencies.
The Accelerator program just concluded was the first to take place in New York. The next 13-week program will take place in London in January 2016. Barclays announced two further Barclays Accelerator programs that will run in Tel Aviv and in Cape Town in March 2016.
In June, Bitcoin Magazine reported that of the 10 firms taking in Barclays' 13-week Accelerator program in London seven were "exploring opportunities" with the bank. Barclays signed a deal with Safello, a Swedish company that participated in the fintech accelerator program in London, to explore how the blockchain could be used in traditional finance.
“At Barclays, we’re embracing the digital revolution, exploring innovations early on so that we can help to shape their development and co-create the future of financial services with these startups," said Barclays’ chief design and digital officer Derek White. “We're leading the industry with new pioneering technologies, which will be paramount to helping us achieve our ambition of becoming the 'Go-To' bank."
In March, speaking at the Morgan Stanley European Financials Conference in London, Barclays’ CEO Antony Jenkins warned that the “banking sector has not yet felt the ‘full disruptive force’ of technology – but it will.” He elaborated on the growing concern among financial institutions that faster, cheaper payment systems will start to seduce their consumer and business customers in the coming years.
“It’s amazing to be part of the burgeoning fintech ecosystem in New York City and play an active part in the transformation of the industry,” said Jenny Fielding, managing director of Techstars. “The eleven startups in this class are each tackling a different part of financial services, providing further evidence that the category is a massive market opportunity. Working in unison with Barclays has proven to be a strong partnership for these high-growth startups and we're excited to roll out additional fintech programs worldwide.”
Two of the fintech companies selected by Barclays have a special focus on blockchain technology.
Barclays’ financial crime and transaction monitoring teams will be using Chainalysis’ tools for in-depth real-time blockchain transaction analysis to obtain information from the blockchain about their customer’s financial transactions. Chainalysis, based in Switzerland, offers a service that provides financial institutions with the means to obtain regulatory compliance through real-time analysis of the blockchain.
It is evident that Bitcoin is moving toward mainstreaming and regulations, and therefore services such Chainalysis are here to stay, but such services likely will continue to meet opposition from an important part of the Bitcoin community. In April Bitcoin Magazine reported that a leaked Chainalysis roadmap, now trending on Reddit, has been received with anger and hostile comments.
In August, Bitcoin Magazine reported that Barclays will be the first major bank to help selected customers – UK charities – to receive bitcoin payments directly in their bank accounts, establishing an important precedent. It can be expected that, after this first initiative focused on charities, Barclays could consider gradually allowing ordinary business and residential customers to receive bitcoin payments. In this context, Chainalysis’ system could allow Barclays to discriminate good customers from bad customers in full compliance with applicable over-regulations.
Wave, a company that developed a peer-to-peer and completely decentralized network that connects all carriers, banks, forwarders, traders and other parties of the international trading supply chain, will experiment with blockchain-based tools to help business clients reduce costs associated with supply chain management in collaboration with Barclays’ Corporate Bank.
Speaking to Bitcoin Magazine, CEO Stephen Pair reaffirmed that BitPay will adopt code to increase Bitcoin's block-size limit by December of this year, but said this no longer needs to be the proposal as implemented in alternative Bitcoin implementation Bitcoin XT.
BIP 101 is programmed to increase the block-size limit to 8 megabytes, then doubling every other year for the next 20 years. This proposal was publicly endorsed through an open letter from some of the leading Bitcoin companies in the space last summer.
BitPay, Blockchain(.info), Circle, KnCMiner, Bitnet, Xapo, BitGo and itBit vowed to adopt BIP 101 and ready their code for bigger blocks by December. Additionally, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong made a similar statement on Twitter earlier this week.
But when asked by Bitcoin Magazine, Pair indicated that BIP 101 is no longer the only option for the leading payment processor in the Bitcoin space. The BitPay CEO explained that alternative proposals will be considered as well.
“In December we will adopt the leading candidate solution, which right now is BIP 101, but that could change. This will hopefully help drive consensus,” Pair said.
As one possible alternative, Pair referred to a temporary solution that would increase the maximum blocks size to 8 MB over a four-year period:
“[Blockstream president] Adam Back made a proposal that is essentially the same as BIP 101, but has a less steep curve that doesn't stretch as far into the future. I prefer that proposal over BIP 101, but I'm not sure it will be ready by December.”
Drawing from his experience in the telecom industry, Pair sees a lot of opportunity to improve Bitcoin's efficiency and scalability by reducing resource usage. This would, in turn, decrease the risk of bigger blocks, which is why Pair believes an increase of the block-size limit is the best way forward.
“Either extreme on block size puts Bitcoin at risk. But I don't believe that a moderately larger block size will result in centralization because people can no longer afford to run full nodes,” Pair said.
“At the same time, a block size that is too small would result in fewer people being able to afford transactions. If only a few people use bitcoin for transactions, those people will eventually realize that they could conduct those transactions much more cheaply by compromising on decentralization.”
The Bitcoin community has been arguing if, when, and how to increase the maximum block size in order to allow for more transactions on the network for several years. The debate reached a climax in August of this year, when former Bitcoin Core lead developer Gavin Andresen and Bitcoinj developer Mike Hearn implemented BIP 101 in alternative Bitcoin implementation Bitcoin XT. Bitcoin XT has so far not garnered the required 75 percent hash-rate support among miners in order to activate, however.
While this makes an ecosystemwide adoption of Bitcoin XT seem unlikely, Pair did make it very clear that the maximum block size should be increased by December somehow.
“From our vantage point, we are quickly running out of time,” Pair said. “Bitcoin is at all-time highs regarding transaction volume, and BitPay has been setting new monthly transaction volume records every month for the last six months. We are starting to see Bitcoin used to solve very boring problems by people who could care less whether it's bitcoin or not. This to me is an early indicator that a tipping point is near. Hopefully, we find a consensus that doesn't put Bitcoin's lead as the most secure and liquid payment medium in jeopardy.”
Another proposal that has been gaining in popularity, and that was drafted by Bitcoin Core developer and BitPay employee Jeff Garzik, is BIP 100. BIP 100 would allow miners to collectively vote on the block-size limit, and is currently publicly endorsed by 60 percent of all hashing power on the Bitcoin network.
Although the proposal was drafted by one of his employees (but not on behalf of his company), Pair is not convinced BIP 100 is the best way forward.
“I like the idea of a formalized consensus regarding the block-size limit built into the protocol, much like consensus regarding difficulty,” he said. “But I would have done it a bit differently than BIP 100. I also favor simplicity over complexity. Complex rules and processes bring additional risk. While there might be a debate about BIP 101's growth curve, it is a much simpler solution than BIP 100. In my opinion BIP 100 is too risky, and support or lack thereof from the mining community won't change that view."
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The Water Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization providing sustainable water projects to sub-Saharan African communities, has launched a new bold initiative, with the help of bitcoin.
The organization has introduced a new program named “The Water Promise,” which combines high-tech remote monitoring with local repair teams to ensure that water is reliable and self-sustainable in the long term.
Each bitcoin donation will be allocated to one of 42 new sensor-enabled water projects in Kenya managed by the organization.
The Water Project team is looking for donations as little as 0.196 BTC to provide clean and safe water for one individual all the way to 98.5748 BTC, to provide a well and self-sustainable sanitation system for a school.
In total, the organization will be leading four sub-projects:
Providing a Water Well and Sanitation for a School: 98.5748 BTC
Small Community Water Project: 9.2874 BTC
Clean and Safe Water for a Family: 0.69 BTC
Clean and Safe Water for one Individual: 0.196 BTC
Through partnerships with local communities and organizations, the Water Project team has been able to fund several types of water projects, including a drilled well, sand dam, rainwater catchment, hygiene and sanitation and spring protection, providing essential necessities for families in countries like Ghana.
Despite their hard work, the organization had to rely on traditional financial platforms like Paypal and bank wiring as the main method of payment over the past few years, to accept donations for their projects.
However, these methods of payment could be extremely inefficient at times, especially for organizations such as Water Project that are in urgent need of cash and capital to maintain a variety of programs.
The Water Project team has come to a consensus to use bitcoin as one of the main methods of payment and donation to help fund its projects in the long run.
Since early 2015, nonprofit organizations have turned to bitcoin for donations and financing due to the lack of remittance networks, outlets and banking partners across the continent.
This month, the Syrian refugee crisis has caused more than 4 million refugees to either cross borders and enter neighboring countries or to permanently relocate to the opposite side of the country to avoid a series of civil wars.
According to a report published by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), millions of refugees have escaped to Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Europe, creating a serious international issue which local governments failed to take over.
In response, nonprofit organizations decided to use bitcoin to accept donations, in an attempt to create a Humanitarian Aid program to provide emergency services to refugees who are in desperate need of housing, clothing and food.
“Bitnation Refugee Emergency Response (BRER) is a Humanitarian Aid Project of Bitnation to facilitate and provide Emergency Services and Humanitarian Aid to refugees during the European Refugee Crisis of September 2015,” explained the Bitnation team.
Bitcoin has proved to be the most efficient and secure medium of payment for donations and financing, due to its transparency and decentralized nature. Using blockchain analysis tools and technologies, investors can easily trail the allocation of funds and confirm whether the donations are actually used to help the people in need.
Photo Connie Gallippi / BitGive
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