We are at the end of another busy autumn conference season, and I have had the opportunity to speak at half a dozen events to focus on the intersection of capital markets and distributed ledger technology.

As we wind down for the holidays and plan for 2019, I wanted to reflect on the key themes and current trends in structured credit based on my interactions with leaders and innovators in the market.

This year, ABS East saw an encouraging level of DLT specialists from larger industry participants attend for the first time. The underlying technology is now a few years old, and senior leaders in the securitization industry have become increasingly familiar with the end-value state of cheaper and faster transactions with greater asset integrity.

There is now a growing consensus that the decentralized nature of DLT supports our sector’s broader digital transformation goals, and that it can help us move away from a siloed ecosystem that has not been able to realize the same common protocol benefits seen in other asset classes.

The ABS opportunity

Harmonized data standards, shared infrastructure and immutable records have the ability to transform how asset-backed securities participants interact in the ecosystem.

Everybody, myself included, is on a journey of discovery here. That journey started over three years ago with a recognition of immutable, better record-keeping. This was followed by understanding of the value of a shared system of record to ensure that all permissioned parties in a transaction to have access the same underlying loan information.

These autumn conferences focused on the next phase of on-chain digital assets. In discussing these digital assets I’ve often been asked, “Don’t we already have digital loans?”

Even within the minority of the asset-backed securities market, where the application and origination process has been digitized, a PDF of a loan document is very different from a digital asset in the efficiency and sophistication with which it can be transacted in the credit markets.

A loan as a digital asset on-chain can be transacted with the ease, speed and certainty of other digital assets like cryptocurrencies (AML/KYC permitting), while the PDF document is still dependent on the legacy model taking weeks and significant cost to execute transactions, with limited contextual asset information attached or ability to run smart contracts.

We are seeing the emergence of two paths here: asset-backed tokens (or loan-backed) and loans native to the blockchain. In the token model, the original authoritative copy of the loan document is securely locked down with an associated token representing ownership interest and core asset characteristics.

This facilitates more efficient transactions and introduces a chain of title and verification not seen before in the market. In the native model, the loan lives solely on the blockchain, cannot be copied, printed, double spent or misrepresented.

Given the majority of lending is still paper-based, we expect to see a domination of asset-backed tokens for a while. The transaction and management of both asset types in the capital markets we call Digital Structured Credit.

Current stage of adoption

It is fair to say that capital markets is over the “hype” phase of Gartner’s adoption model with DLT.

As with any new technology, many overestimate the speed of adoption, but the market underestimates equally the long-term impact. The credit market is slightly behind most electronically traded asset classes that saw low risk in applying DLT to settlement & clearing inefficiencies.

We are hearing less about new proof-of-concept projects as the marketing value of DLT subsides and the business cases demonstrate clear benefits. Building the right social constructs, standards and incentives for value to be realized across the asset-backed securities ecosystem is arguably more important than building the underlying technology.

One of the core pillars for all digital asset classes has been custody. This had been a gap for institutional players to participate, particularly with cryptocurrencies, but still applicable to all digital assets.

In 2018, we have seen significant progress with established players like Fidelity introducing market offerings that will help drive adoption. In asset-backed securities, I continue to see commercial demand for private keys to digital structured credit being held by an established, independent custodian to deliver seamless integration to the existing securities custody and value-added services that investors demand.

Most professionals are now comfortable with the scalability, security and permissioned vs public implementation options for DLT. While asset-backed securities have relatively low volumes of data and transactions in comparison to other electronically traded asset classes, we foresee the benefits of these efforts to allow greater capabilities and on-chain development for the market.

The leading capital markets projects represented at these conferences were utilizing permissioned blockchains, with the expected controls and security, and not looking to change the industry access paradigm.

Some of the most common discussions among panelists this autumn included looking back at the credit crisis and a look forward at whom will benefit from the efficiency gains.

Could DLT have prevented the credit crisis? As with any technology, it is only as good as how humans have chosen to deploy it! (Ignoring the AI debate). There were obviously many well documented factors here, but few would argue that the immutability, enhanced data integrity and, shared system of record in keeping track of assets, diligence and all economic interests would have helped reduce impact.

Who will realize the efficiency gains created by DLT in the asset-backed securities market?

The parties who control blockchain nodes, the management of assets and the ability to author smart contracts will have significant influence on how future value is distributed.

Time will tell which constituents will drive this transition.

This post credited to coindesk Image source: Shutterstock

The automotive industry has always embraced innovation and efficiency, and key players in the field have begun taking steps to use distributed ledgers in a variety of applications. These moves will place blockchain technology at the forefront of one of the world’s most significant business sectors, and revolutionize how people, and goods, are moved. They also reflect the fact that cryptocurrency, and transfer of value, is but one small element of the blockchain revolution.

Most major automakers are exploring blockchains for a variety of uses, and some have already placed integration of the technology on their development roadmaps. Use cases include securing maintenance and ownership records as well as more advanced applications such as using blockchain to better enable self-driving features. Many are also exploring its use in the manufacturing process.

Volkswagen is perhaps the most ambitious automaker in the blockchain space. The German car giant’s partnership with the Iota Foundation is well-known, and it has made no secret of its plan to integrate Iota into future vehicles. The first step will be the Connected Car System, scheduled for implementation in 2019, which will use Iota to securely push software updates. Many more features will later be added such as the ability for Volkswagen electric cars to charge themselves automatically, and pay via cryptocurrency.

Volkswagen has also partnered with CarVertical, a startup that has developed an Ethereum token designed to store vehicle information, such as mileage, via blockchain. This step will ensure that such data cannot be altered or lost. A number of other blockchain-based projects are under development at Volkswagen’s Future Mobility Incubator, a research program that helps innovators from around the world develop tech ideas for transportation.

Porsche is also aggressively pursuing blockchain innovation. It is presently cooperating with XAIN, a research group from London’s University of Oxford and Imperial College to explore a variety of distributed ledger uses for its vehicles. These include convenience features, such as enabling unlocking from a distance, or opening trunks for package delivery, as well as more substantial applications such as securely recording real-time traffic data.

One of the most advanced use cases for blockchain in automobiles is using the technology to better enable autonomous driving. Many automakers are exploring this possibility. For example, the Toyota Research Institute is working with a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to use distributed ledgers for self-driving applications as well as ride sharing, and even shared ownership. Other carmakers pursuing similar projects include BMW, Ford, General Motors, and Renault Group.

To help create standards across the automotive space and cooperate on blockchain initiatives, several automakers, tech companies and related manufacturers have created the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI). MOBI members represent more than eighty percent of all global  automotive manufacturing, making MOBI one of the largest industrial consortiums ever assembled. It is developing a range of use cases for blockchain in the transportation industry and is forging relationships with governments, universities, and other players that have a stake in bringing blockchain into transportation.

There is little doubt that blockchain promises to bring tremendous benefits to the automotive industry. This fact is a reflection of how mainstream adoption will be far more significant than the widespread use of cryptocurrency. Although implementation has barely begun, it will soon underpin virtually every aspect of modern life.

 

This post credited to cryptonews   Featured Image via Pexels.

The episode appeared to confirm the mainstream view that BTC, and crypto more generally, is more the preserve of the hard right than it is of anyone on the left or the centre ground, not least because everyone from Richard B. Spencer to the Daily Stormer website has received donations in cryptocurrency.

However, as the following interviews and reporting will show, the reality is that cryptocurrencies appeal to a broad political constituency. They have the potential to reshape society in a way that makes it more open, less hierarchic, and more democratic, and to this extent they find support across the full political spectrum.

Libertarianism

“Just looking from the outside in, almost everyone would say that a lot of the bitcoin community is libertarian,” Bitcoin core developer Bryan Bishop tells Cryptonews.com. “This is partly because the libertarian community was somewhat early to adopt bitcoin and get interested. In addition, when Bitcoin whitepaper was originally published by Satoshi Nakamoto, he posted political messages against banking and in favor of privacy, anonymity, and cryptography.”

Jason Rosenstein, the CEO of blockchain-based art platform Portion, agrees that crypto appeals to libertarian believers in minimal state intervention. He tells Cryptonews.com, “Cryptocurrency enthusiasts seem to have a libertarian political view and mindset.”

However, Rosenstein’s comments point to the complication that, even within libertarianism alone, people stand along a spectrum, and may not necessarily be right-wing in any simplistic, uniform sense. “Generally speaking, crypto traders may be financially conservative but socially liberal.”

Indeed, this complex view of Bitcoin’s political makeup is furthered by other commentators, who note that crypto is malleable enough to serve a variety of political convictions.

“Users of cryptocurrencies tend to reflect the attitudes of the culture in which they reside,” says Will Roman, co-founder and CEO of the LXDX crypto-exchange. “Countries which are more technology forward, have a high gaming culture, and have been using virtual currencies for decades are predisposed for cryptocurrency adoption by even the most conservative members.”

Conversely, Roman explains that, even in areas and countries that lack advanced technological infrastructures and that may be more left-leaning, Bitcoin still holds plenty of attraction. “The adopters of cryptocurrencies from locales that hold a skeptical view and have no mass familiarity with the exchange of digital assets tend to hold more contrarian outlooks.”

Left and Centre

While “contrarian” is vague enough to potentially cover a wide range of ideologies, there’s evidence to show that more leftist (and centrist) groups are also taking to crypto.

“I believe that cryptocurrency holders and traders could be not channelled in the traditional scheme or right and left,” says Francesco De Santis, the CMO of crowdfunding platform Bloomio. “However, I believe there is a strong correlation with new political movements fostering ‘the change’ vs. the traditional system.”

As an example, De Santis highlights the championing of blockchain by Italy’s 5-Star Movement, while another example comes from England, where the Labour-led Hull City Council funded the launch of the HullCoin cryptocurrency in 2014 (for use with/by charities).

But more generally, most observers affirm that crypto has been broadening its political outlook recently, since we’re realising that it has implications for us all.

“You’re just as likely to see a headline about how the Chinese government intends to use blockchain technology as you are about the Libertarian angle,” says Mich Hagen, the CEO of dapp platform Mainframe. “Anybody interested in the use of broad power, or resistance to it, will have an interest at this point.”

A Better World?

On the one hand, the idea that crypto is ‘right-wing’ is undermined by how it’s currently “experiencing a slight shift towards the centre of the overall political spectrum,” as explained by Lisk’s (a blockchain application platform) Thomas Schouten. On the other, it’s also undermined by how, if cryptocurrencies and blockchains were to gain universal adoption, the resulting world wouldn’t necessarily fit with the aspirations of the (extreme) right.

“Used as intended, cryptocurrencies will unquestionably foster a more egalitarian world,” says Hagen. “Cryptocurrencies have the potential to bring economic participation to the unbanked and the underrepresented across the globe. This is also apparent in regions such as Catalan, where protestors are actually utilizing Mainframe’s decentralized technology to circumvent government censorship.”

“A primary benefit of blockchain technology for various use cases is to disintermediate the middlemen in the value chains and to promote peer-to-peer behaviours,” says Michael Smolenski, the CEO and founder of Lightstreams, a blockchain for dapps. “We could then see the unbundling of many centres of power, especially with the dot-com entities that dominate today. One could see this as a more liberal world.”

Others, however, are somewhat less optimistic, and even if they certainly don’t think crypto will make the world veer strongly to the right, they think it will most likely reinforce existing power structures and inequalities.

“In the end, I doubt that there will be much change,” predicts Angel Versetti, the CEO and co-founder of decentralised IoT platform Ambrosus. “Even if the technology is objective and trustless, the people behind it are not.”

Somewhat depressingly, Versetti argues that the majority of new crypto startups are established by people from big finance and business, implying that the values of the latter will be increasingly transplanted to crypto.

“Would those people want change in the world? No. They only want to make money from it, and they will, and this will create the same [political] barriers.”

 

This post credited to cryptonews Image source: iStock

Although we’re all looking forward to the day when mass adoption finally takes place, that is not likely to happen too quickly. Meanwhile, there are small instances of the cryptocurrency industry spreading past its tightly-woven community and into the world. At least, it might inspire outsiders to google the terms and find out more about it.

From a market in Kiev, Ukraine to the world-renowned Burning Man Festival in Nevada, Bitcoin and altcoins have come a long way from their inception less than a decade ago. Although the current lack of regulation might scare most people away from using crypto, there are those whose business is booming because they do.

Let’s take a look at these new examples.

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This first example takes us way back: according to this Redditor, they paid for their meal with Bitcoin – back in 2013. Some restaurants were hopping onto the bandwagon even back then!

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Rolls-Royce, Bugatti and Bentley dealership in Texas, USA, is now accepting Bitcoin. If only they started sooner, maybe we could have been able to afford it…

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An ATM in Tbilisi, Georgia: another case of modernization in the country, following BitFury’s effort to work with the Bank of Georgia.

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Redditor u/raxomukus paid using BTC at Manialcielo in Bitcoin Valley (Rovereto, Northern Italy) with a 20% discount! In the Bitcoin Valley, you can pay using Bitcoin in almost all the shops and restaurants.

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Reddit user u/asburyw says they received their first ever payment of BAT Tokens from Brave as a Publisher. “It’s miniscule, but amazing to see the ecosystem ACTUALLY functions!”

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Somewhere in the UK, a house is being sold – and the seller only accepts Bitcoin.

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Continuing on our previous adoption piece, here is another example from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

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Found in Krakow, Poland, here’s proof that Central Europe is not lagging behind other countries.

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If you ever find yourself in Iceland, this hostel boasts a Bitcoin ATM, so you have no reason not to buy the dip.

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No matter where you are, if Amazon delivers to your country, you have the chance to drink “liquid assets” in the shape of a Bitcoin energy drink! Don’t overdo it – it’s bad for your heart. Like trading.

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Eleven wine shops in Riga, the capital of Latvia, now accept Bitcoin!

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Found in a taxi in Tallinn, Estonia. If you’re ever in the Baltics, take the chance to spread adoption by using these!

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If Bitcoin already made it into a Barcelona game, mass adoption is just around the corner.

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Who said regular little families couldn’t use crypto too?

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Spotted in a new restaurant in Piran, Slovenia. Incidentally, Slovenia is also the birthplace of Bitstamp, one of the oldest cryptocurrency exchanges.

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At the Besarabsky Market in Kiev, Ukraine, you can make a healthy and filling lunch, paid for with crypto exclusively!

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A coffee shop in Montreal, Canada, which is heated with ETH mining rigs in the backroom!

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There’s now a song titled after the co-founder of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, and here it is for your listening pleasure.

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Spotted at the Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock desert, Nevada. Every year, thousands gather in the Nevada desert to erect a vivid temporary city devoted to art, community & 10 guiding principles including “radical self-expression” – and now, Bitcoin has found its place there as well.

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This is a photo of a recently launched Bitcoin hostel near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was designed by architect Alessandro Santos, and all of the hostel’s services, including breakfast and tours, can be paid for in cryptocurrency.

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This post credited to cryptonews  Image source: iStock 

Blockchain adoption is slow, at least relative to the amount of money and attention crypto has been attracting recently. However, there is at least one increasingly strong reason to think that blockchains can gain mainstream understanding, acceptance and adoption in the months to come.

This reason is video games, and in particular the growing number of games that are basing themselves on blockchains. By integrating some aspect of blockchain tech into their dynamics or game world, they’re familiarising the public with how distributed ledgers and crypto in general works. And in turn, this familiarity will create an increasing readiness to accept the application of blockchains to other areas beyond video games.

Games are the future

The idea that video games will stand at the vanguard of blockchain adoption was proposed by Ryan Wang. A founding partner at venture capital firm Outpost Capital, he argued in a June conference speech that, rather than any other kind of application, it will be a video game that will bring blockchain to the mainstream.

Speaking now to Cryptonews.com, Wang now explains that video games are a natural vehicle for blockchain adoption. “If we look at top games, no matter in which category,” he says, “they have one thing in common: they’ve enabled their virtual economy (and that’s how they monetize as of today). Virtual economy by definition have a great synergy with blockchain.”

This observation is confirmed by a glance at some of the most popular blockchain-based video games right now. If you look at CryptoKitties, Spells of Genesis, or Ether Quest, these games all revolve around ownership and trading of items (cats, cards and characters, respectively). This makes them perfect fits for blockchains, which help to provide gamers with a uniquely transparent proof of ownership, the kind of which isn’t offered by any previous technology or platform.

Wang says that it’s not only the increasing economisation of games that makes them a good candidate for popularising blockchains, but also the sheer attraction and popularity of them.

“Games are additive [i.e. they reward users by regularly adding new features etc.],” he says. “Any additive products are able to attract an audience, that’s why games have always been an app category that’s sitting on top of the DAU [daily active users] ranks.”

Likewise, games are played by kids, who “are the future, while blockchain is “only the future when the next generation buys into it.”

Let’s Go

In other words, games such as CryptoKitties are training a new generation in the unique benefits of distributed ledgers, something which will help blockchains in general gain more traction. And there is precedent for such a process of video game-led popularisation, with the most recent example being provided by Pokémon Go.

Initially released on July 6, 2016, Pokémon Go quickly became a worldwide sensation. Most importantly, it introduced the world to augmented reality, which as shown by Google Trends witnessed its peak interest as a search term between July 10 and July 16.

And since then, augmented reality has enjoyed increased growth, with a report from market research firm SuperData finding that augmented reality was mostly responsible for driving a 40% increase in investment in “immersive technology” in 2017.

It’s going to take some time

However, Wang warns that it’s unlikely that the adoption process will be a simple one, leading directly from the use of blockchains in video games to the use in finance, commerce, politics, etc. “I don’t think the users of a popular blockchain game would somehow start to be converted to become a user of an IOT Dapp,” he says.

Nonetheless, he still expects that blockchain-based games will endow the public with a range of transferable skills and attitudes. “In the long term, however, certain mechanisms and features, such as ownership of data or the transparency of transactions, can be learned and transferred to other types of Dapps as well.”

As for the billion-dollar question of how long this whole process of adoption will take, Wang is cautious despite his optimism, believing that mainstream adoption will require more than just blockchain-based games.

“I think it’s going to take some time,” he says, before adding, “There are certain enterprise use cases that [are] interesting, and have a natural synergy with blockchain, like supply chain, logistics, ID management, IP licensing, etc. These enterprise uses cases can also help to educate the public about what’s blockchain and what are the benefits.”

 

This post credited to cryptonews  Image source:  iStock/noLimit46