From Cattle to Coffee to Cannabis: Enterprises Continue to Test Blockchain Supply Chain Solutions

Late last week, the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) revealed a blockchain proof-of-concept with consulting company Version 1 that helps Irish farmers more efficiently and sustainably breed cattle. The ICBF already manages one of the world’s largest integrated animal databases, and it plans to bring in other stakeholders along the supply chain – such as supermarkets, retailers and consumers – to gather even more data. By combining the results of consumer feedback upon scanning a steak’s QR code all the way back to genetic data about the animal, the ICBF aims to unlock valuable information about beef. In another supply chain endeavor, tech startup Farmer Connect and heavy hitters in the coffee industry are leveraging a major technology firm’s Food Trust Platform to build an app that provides caffeinators with detailed data about coffee beans. In addition, this week one of South America’s leading cannabis production companies, Uruguay Can, teamed up with æternity, the entity behind the open source æternity blockchain, to create a supply chain management platform for the cannabis trade.

According to reports, blockchain startup Everledger, known for its early work using blockchain technology to track diamonds, closed a $20 million Series A round. A Chinese multinational investment holding conglomerate led the round, with a multinational financial services corporation and Japanese e-commerce company also participating.

Blockchain … and nanotechnology? A leading U.S. nonmaterial and cadmium-free quantum dot producer recently announced it will deploy these two technologies in an anti-counterfeiting initiative. Quantum dots, which are lab-designed atomic crystals that can be tuned to emit unique color signatures, can be incorporated into physical products in a tamper-resistant way and scanned with a device. The scanned information can then be stored on the QDX™ Ledger blockchain to log, track and verify the authenticity of physical goods.

Blockchain is also being used to prove authenticity in the academic sphere. Late last week, the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland launched a blockchain pilot that aims to provide employers with a better way to verify whether diplomas are authentic. According to reports, there are 200,000 fake diplomas in the U.S. alone.

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Enterprise Report Published, New Pilots Announced for Copyright, Genomics and IoT

Last week, one of South Korea’s largest firms announced plans to develop a blockchain-based music copyright management system. The digital copyright system reportedly employs a major technology firm’s Managed Blockchain Service to maintain a history of the broadcasting of copyrighted songs. The system also aims to improve fairness and transparency in the copyright industry by offering the owners and users of the intellectual property to share the resulting ledger and develop an equitable payment scheme for the use of such property.

Also last week, Nebula Genomics, a privacy-focused personal genomics company, reportedly became the first personal genomics company to offer anonymous purchasing for genetic testing services. According to reports, users can purchase whole-genome sequencing and submit samples without revealing their name, address or credit card number through pseudo-anonymous payments enabled by cryptocurrencies. Nebula Genomics reportedly also offers anonymous sample collection by delivering saliva collection kits to USPS P.O. boxes and a blockchain-based product that facilitates transparent and controllable genomic data sharing with researchers.

According to recent reports, Helium, an Austin-based IoT startup, is now shipping its crypto-mining modems to 263 cities in the United States. Helium is a network that aims to aid IoT devices (e.g., e-scooters, simple sensors and pet trackers) in the transmission of low-volume data to the Internet quickly and at low costs. Helium hotspots that perform tasks useful to the network, such as verifying the location of nodes, the sequence of data and the location of devices sending data over the network, are rewarded with Helium tokens, while companies that want to transmit data using Helium hotspots must pay with a second token, data credits. Through this system, the reward for setting up hotspots and connecting them to the network also functions as an incentive to deploy the network on Helium’s behalf.

Also in recent news, the University of Cambridge released its 2nd Global Enterprise Blockchain Benchmarking Study that focuses on the state of network deployment and evaluates the development of ongoing enterprise blockchain-based projects. The study summarizes survey data from more than 160 startups, established companies, central banks and other public sector institutions from 49 different countries around the world and 67 live enterprise blockchain networks. Some highlights from the study: 1) banking, financial markets and insurance industries are responsible for the largest share of live networks; 2) Hyperledger Fabric appears to be the platform of choice across all industries; 3) 81% of covered networks have a leader entity dominating the governance process; and 4) the median enterprise blockchain project takes 25 months from first proof-of-concept to launch, with some large-scale networks taking more than four and a half years for the full launch.

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Financial Institutions Continue Blockchain Pilots, Physical Bitcoin Futures Launch

A U.K.-based credit score and reporting company has partnered with Ocyan to launch RomanAgora, a blockchain-based marketplace used for verifying credit applications. By leveraging blockchain to verify identity, RomanAgora seeks to reduce the time, expense and possibility of fraud involved in the online credit application process. It may also help financial institutions comply with regulations such as Know-Your-Customer rules.

More banks are integrating blockchain into their payment systems. The Interbank Information Network (IIN), a blockchain service spearheaded by a major U.S. bank and used by 112 banks, has welcomed the first Singaporean bank to join its ranks. IIN uses Quorum, an Ethereum-based permissioned blockchain that verifies identity for cross-border payments. Another major U.S. bank announced on Sept. 19 that it is joining the Marco Polo Network, R3’s Corda blockchain platform. The Marco Polo Network addresses issues in the trade finance business such as receivables discounting, payment commitment and payables finance programs. An application of Marco Polo is currently being tested by a German automaker. In this example, an order for equipment and prearranged payment was arranged through Marco Polo. Delivery of the equipment triggered payment on the other end. This reportedly reduced the time spent verifying delivery and receiving payment from days to a matter of minutes.

On Monday, the first physically settled bitcoin futures contracts began trading on Bakkt, a bitcoin futures exchange. In other cryptocurrency news, the International Monetary Fund has published an article presenting issues posed by stablecoins and offering potential solutions for policymakers. According to the article, stablecoins may lead some countries to consider new monetary policies to keep out foreign stablecoins that compete with their weaker currencies.

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SEC Brings Charges for ICO Fraud, DOJ Indicts Hackers, Regulatory Reports Published

On Monday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued a press release announcing charges against Jonathan C. Lucas for fraudulently raising approximately $63,000 from more than 100 investors during an initial coin offering (ICO) for Fantasy Market, an online adult entertainment marketplace that Lucas founded and controlled. According to the announcement, Lucas has returned the investors’ money and consented to a final judgment that orders him to pay a civil penalty of $15,000 and prohibits him from participating in certain securities offerings.

In California, the United States attorney’s office indicted Elliot Gunton and Anthony Tyler Nashatka for hacking EtherDelta, a cryptocurrency exchange, in December 2017. According to the indictment, which was filed in August, the defendants changed the settings of EtherDelta’s domain name system, misleading users in order to access their cryptocurrency addresses and private keys, allowing them to steal users’ funds. The federal government is increasingly focused on these types of crimes. In the September 2019 edition of the United States Department of Justice’s Journal of Federal Law and Practice, an entire section is devoted to addressing the challenges inherent in tracing, forfeiting and seizing cryptocurrencies.

The Korea Times recently reported that the International Financial Reporting Interpretations Committee (IFRIC) considers cryptocurrency to be an “intangible asset,” as opposed to cash or another financial asset. The IFRIC’s conclusion is unofficial, and no actual rule has been issued, but its assessment (which was reportedly reached in a meeting in London last June) can be significant, as the IFRIC’s determinations are the bases for many nations’ accounting rules and standards. And Global Legal Insights recently issued a report summarizing the blockchain and cryptocurrency regulatory landscape in Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guernsey and Jersey. Topics include government receptivity to cryptocurrency-related businesses, and regulatory issues related to licensing, mining and ICOs.

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