Amazon and Microsoft’s Move to Blockchain: Centralized Companies Into Decentralized Ecosystem

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Traditional centralized powerhouses like Microsoft and Amazon are almost being forced to take their domination to the decentralised world.
Bitcoin, and the idea of digital cash, has taken hold of the banking sector as banks and financial institutions start to experiment internally with blockchains and cryptocurrencies in order to be at the forefront of these technologies.

This, coupled with the fact that government organisations and even global leadership bodies such as the G20 are looking to regulate cryptocurrencies, again give more legitimacy and longevity to the industry.

The latest wave of adoption is now coming from corporations who, traditionally have come to be successful thanks to their centralized domination over different aspects of the market. Microsoft, in the world of computing, are legendary in driving the world to be digital; then there is Amazon, the pioneers of e-commerce.

These companies are in some manner getting forced towards blockchain technology as it has become apparent that this is the future, and even though it goes against their centralized values, they simply cannot miss out.

Microsoft’s entry

Microsoft has always been one of the biggest companies to give Bitcoin its dues. Back in Dec. 2014, content on the Windows and Xbox stores could be bought in Bitcoin, and this was at a time where Bitcoin’s mainstream adoption and appeal was minimal.

This of course was merely a nod towards alternative payment methods, and Microsoft being flexible to its customers wants and needs. However since then, and since blockchain has grown, Microsoft has been pushing to be in front of the innovative queue.

Microsoft has obviously identified the power of blockchain and its far reaching potential for disruptive applications in the world of enterprise business. The company is now developing blockchain applications — which are not that flashy as some of the solutions put forward by startups, but equally practical.

Microsoft is also looking to build platforms on which businesses can grow their blockchain applications upon, such as the Confidential Consortium (Coco) Framework, an Ethereum-based protocol, which falls under Microsoft Azure, the company’s cloud computing arm.

They have also announced that they are looking into plans to integrate blockchain-based decentralized IDs (DIDs) into its Microsoft Authenticator app.

The latest from the computing giant is that Azure has released its blockchain app creation service, Azure Blockchain Workbench, on May 7. Workbench aims to allow businesses looking to create bespoke blockchain apps to speed up the development process by automating infrastructure setup.

Amazon’s own efforts

Both Microsoft and Amazon have similar origins with their founders — Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos — being driven men with revolutionary ideas. Therefore it is unsurprising to see these two companies pushing to be on the forefront of a new technological wave.

Gates may be spouting some pretty negative things about Bitcoin, and Bezos may be under siege to accept the digital currency on Amazon, but despite what the two founders think of the cryptocurrency space, it is becoming clear that the future is conquering the companies.

Amazon revolutionized the e-commerce space, and is looking to at least be near to top of the pecking order when blockchain technology truly takes a hold. Just like in banking, there is a rush to get blockchain figured out and usable before the rest of the competition gets to market.

Amazon are already in a battle with IBM and Oracle with its own “blockchain-as-a-service” offering. The blockchain framework for Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric, which is allowing users to build and manage their own Blockchain-powered decentralized applications, is being developed in different forms by all three.

Essentially, users would be able to create their own blockchain applications via the Amazon Web Services (AWS) CloudFormation Templates tool to avoid time-consuming manual setups of their blockchain network.

Oracle and others also entering the space

Oracle, the world’s second-largest software company, also recently unveiled blockchain products, and will be releasing them over the next two months. Again, it was a similar cloud service built on the open-source Hyperledger Fabric project like Microsoft, and equally similar to IBM’s blockchain service, announced a year ago.

Major companies are also jumping on the blockchain bandwagon in different easy, shapes and forms. Huawei is loading its phones with a built-in Bitcoin wallet; Samsung revealed that it will use blockchain for managing its global supply chain; Spanish banking group BBVA became the first global bank to issue a loan on a blockchain, and use-cases continue to grow around the world.

Why the blockchain drive?

It was not long ago that people were calling Bitcoin a fad, a scam, and something that will not last for long. Those voices have been silenced somewhat as even banks, one of the biggest detractors of cryptocurrencies, are realising that they need to be on the forefront of this emerging technology.

The excitement is spreading, and it is creating an arms race even outside banks and the finance sector. Blockchain technology, while intrinsically attached to cryptocurrencies, also has many applications for other sectors. These applications are being explored, and evaluated.

Companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung, Huawei and others, all realize that with all these possibilities, it would be blind to not dive in, and quick.

AWS vice president Jeff Barr explained in a post:

“Some of the people that I talk to see blockchains as the foundation of a new monetary system and a way to facilitate international payments. Others see blockchains as a distributed ledger and immutable data source that can be applied to logistics, supply chain, land registration, crowdfunding and other use cases,. Either way, it’s clear that there are a lot of intriguing possibilities and we are working to help our customers use this technology more effectively.”

Neil Patel, advisor to Kind Ads, a decentralized ad-network that consults companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, reiterates that these major corporations almost have no choice but to embrace blockchain technology as it is being regarded quite openly as the future of technology. Patel told Cointelegraph:

“Microsoft and Amazon have no choice but to focus on blockchain because it is the future. If they don’t, they know that it will hurt their growth in the cloud computing space. Just look at Facebook, they see the value in blockchain so much that they moved around their executive team to put the ex president of PayPal on blockchain projects.”

Patel’s example above makes mention of how David Marcus, the former president of PayPal and the Facebook executive who has been running the company’s Messenger app, is now assembling a team to explore blockchain technology for the social media platform.

Contradicting ideas

Bitcoin, blockchain and cryptocurrencies in general all continue to split opinions. However, the voices in the detracting camps are becoming quieter, especially if they are just single voices.

Jamie Dimon, the head of JP Morgan, called Bitcoin a fraud and spouted much vitriol about cryptocurrencies — and yet, JP Morgan is building its own blockchain, Quorum. The Head of Microsoft is in a similar situation as he says he would bet on Bitcoin collapsing while his company pushes to be a blockchain leader.

So Facebook, Google, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM and Amazon are all evaluating or offering blockchain related products. I don’t think blockchain tech is going to solve world hunger or cure cancer, but if you don’t think it’s here to stay?
— Crypto Bobby (@crypto_bobby) May 8, 2018
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Many of these older viewpoints about how things were done, the centralized control of a sector and the move to monopolize a service, still reside in the likes of Gates and Dimon, but on the company floor, it is a different story.

Blockchain technology is being touted as the future, and it is not just empty words. The amount of money, time and effort being put into blockchain-based research and development by banks and corporations prove there is something more to it than a passing fad.

Source: Cointelegraph

The State Of Digital Business Transformation, 2018

These and many fascinating insights are from the IDG’s 2018 State of Digital Business Transformation (12 pp., PDF, no opt-in). The study’s goals are to gain a better understanding of how organizations are evolving to a digital business model in regards to how they are revising technology strategies, changing organizational structures and processes, and innovating to provide a unique customer experience. Respondents were selected from CIO, Computerworld, CSO, InfoWorld, ITworld and Network World tech buyer audiences. The majority of respondents are IT executives and professionals. Please see page 10 of the study for additional details regarding the methodology. “Technology has been a driving force in business transformation for years, but the pace at which new technologies are launching has reached its fastest speed. Now is the time to create efficiencies and differentiate through the customer experience,” said Brian Glynn, chief revenue officer, IDG Communications, Inc.

Key takeaways from the study include the following:

  • 89% of enterprises have plans to adopt or have already adopted a digital-first business strategy with Services (95%), Financial Services (93%) and Healthcare (92%) leading all industries. Education, high-tech, manufacturing, retail, and government are also quickly adopting digital-first strategies to improve process efficiencies and meet and exceed customer expectations.

Digital-First-By-Industry

  • Big Data/Analytics (58%), mobile technologies (59%), private cloud (53%), public cloud (45%) and APIs and embeddable technologies (40%) are the top five technologies already implemented. Additional technologies currently in production include Application Performance Monitoring (APM) (18%), microservices and containers (15%), Software-defined storage (SDS) (14%) and Software-defined networking (SDN) (14%). Artificial Intelligence (39%), machine learning (34%), and the Internet of Things (31%) are the top three technologies enterprises are researching today.

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  • Big Data/Analytics, mobile technologies, and private cloud contribute most to an organization’s revenue growth. IDG analyzed which technologies are contributing most and least or revenue growth. With 49% of enterprises saying excelling at managing business performance through data availability and visibility is what defines their digital business, it’s understandable why Big Data/Analytics is perceived by 70% of IT executives as contributing to revenue growth.

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  • 61% of enterprises say IoT plays a role in their digital business strategies with manufacturing and high-tech leading all other industries. Just 39% of small & medium businesses (SMBs) say IoT plays a role in their digital business strategies today. Finance and government industries are the least likely to adopt IoT as part of their digital business strategies due to legacy systems being very difficult to change or integrate with and security concerns.

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  • 73% of manufacturing executives or IT decision makers (ITDM) says IoT plays a role in their digital business strategy, with 69% saying IoT is used to monitor equipment and machinery today. 24% of manufacturing IT executives interviewed say IoT is in production in a business unit or division. Creating a business case in manufacturing for IoT begins by looking at how quality, time-to-market and production performance can be improved. The manufacturing metric Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is one of the primary catalysts driving real-time monitoring including IoT adoption across manufacturing today.

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  • Start-ups can increase revenue by 34% relying on digital-first strategies, with all enterprises increasing revenue by 23% with new product and service offerings being the largest contributor to revenue growth across all companies. 30% of all enterprises interviewed by IDG say that new product and service offerings are the primary sources of revenue growth for their companies, followed by adding new capabilities inside the company and improving sales capacity to cross-sell and upsell. 22% say that their improved ability to integrate and analyze company, customer and external data is contributing to increased revenue. 22% also credit digital business strategies with the ability to increase product and service delivery speeds. New partnerships, global or regional expansion and M&A (merger & acquisition) activity are the remaining factors driving revenue growth. Multiple responses were allowed to the original survey.

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  • Enterprises’ definition of a digital business varies from enabling worker productivity to meeting customer experiences. 52% of enterprises say enabling worker productivity through tools such as mobile, data access, and AI-assisted processes are the essence of their digital business strategy. 49% say better managing business performance through data availability, and visibility is what defines their digital business, and 46% say meeting customer experience expectations using digital technologies is the center of their digital business.

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  • 62% say delivering an excellent customer experience as measured by customer satisfaction scores defines success as a digital-first business. The intensity to gain high customer satisfaction scores in retail is high, with 79% saying this is by far their most important benchmark of a successful digital-first business. 70% of manufacturers define the digital-first business strategies as successful when they improve process efficiency through automation. 53% of services companies and 51% of finance companies define digital-first business success by their ability to accelerate time-to-market.

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Contributor: Louis Columbus – Source

GibFin Forum 2018: Blockchain contribution to Rock’s GDP expected to reach double figures

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The Gibraltar International Fintech Forum 2018 got underway this morning at the Sunborn Hotel attracting 180 delegates and speakers from around the globe.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo kicked off the event with a simple and clear message to all those in attendance:

”Gibraltar is open for business.”

Gibraltar Ahead in the Regulatory Space

With jurisdictions around the world trying to figure out how to regulate the blockchain industry, Gibraltar has already put in place a DLT regulatory framework based on best principles and is currently looking to release new accompanying regulations that focus on token sales within the jurisdiction. A bill is expected through the Gibraltar parliament in Q2 this year showing Gibraltar to be world-leading in this space.

The Minister for Commerce, the Hon. Albert Isola, whose Ministry has been driving the fintech and blockchain agenda in Gibraltar also addressed the full conference hall onboard. When talking about the jurisdiction’s continued development, the Minister made it clear that as a government, “we are not scared of innovation.”

He added that the government is looking to continue to operate with consumer protection at the heart of what they do.

With a wide variety of speakers in attendance, the focus was well and truly on regulations for blockchain and ICO, a sector that is booming and hit an astounding $3.7bn during the course of 2017.

Gibraltar Financial Services Commission on ICO Regulations

Sian Jones and William Garcia from the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (GFSC) also gave a talk and answered questions from the crowd. The same event last year saw the GFSC present their DLT regulatory framework to attendees and the wider world, this year it was their proposed ICO regulations.

Sian Jones emphasised that the regulator would not be regulating individual ICOs but those that brought the token sales to market, adding that “it’s not the role of the regulator to approve any individual token offerings,” rather highlighting how regulations are implemented is as important as the rules themselves.

Sian added: “We as a regulator will not be setting a single code of practice that should be set by the market.”

A lot like the Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange (GBX) with its network of Sponsor Firms, the GFSC sees this emerging market needing the creation of “authority sponsors that are accountable to us [GFSC].” This format would encompass GBX, which already comes under the scope of the DLT regulations, effectively making it an ‘Authorised Sponsor’ which could open up many pathways of opportunity for the exchange.

During the presentations Q&A, the GFSC spoke of their core desire to embed consumer protection at the heart of their work, whilst being supportive of helping grow and develop this innovative industry: “Tokens as a new asset class are isolated from financial advice, but it is right that it should be regulated for consumer protection.”

The DLT Licence Experience

In the morning of the first day, GBX CEO Nick Cowan moderated the panel “The DLT Licence Experience to Date.” Joining Nick was Joey Garcia from Isolas, Anthony Provasoli from Hassan’s and Jay Gomez from Triay & Triay.

Nick prophesied 2018 to be “the year of the regulator,” pointing out that Gibraltar has the unique first mover advantage of having a regulator that truly understands this space, and is so accessible and open to dialogue. Nick began the panel by categorising the ‘DLT licence experience’ into three distinct areas, Government & Regulators, DLT advisors such as Gibraltar’s law firms and the users of DLT licences such as GBX, each with their own distinct experience.

Joey Garcia, who was a part of the working committee regarding the original DLT framework explained the reasons for a best principles approach by stating: “Let’s build a ground-up framework that is evolutional.” Nick complimented Joey’s sentiments by highlighting the collaborative nature of the DLT framework: “There is a trinity of bodies here, government, industry and users, coming together to find a solution”

The panel concluded that although Gibraltar has been successful in locating and nurturing emerging markets, such as e-gaming, it has seen an explosive reaction to its leading role with the DLT regulation.

Anthony Provasoli pointed out “3 years ago nobody knew where Gibraltar was, but that is very different today, especially in the last 12 months.” He also highlighted his experience on the perception of Gibraltar saying: “Clients love the fact they can come and sit down with the regulators and have an open discussion.” The panel’s experience echoed the Chief Ministers opening comment that Gibraltar is open for business.

The panel also touched on the subject of Brexit in relation to Gibraltar, which despite the outcome is making strides in placing itself strategically between Britain and the rest of Europe. Joey Garcia believes that due to the global connection of blockchain and the cryptocurrency market that Brexit would not have a negative impact, by saying: “High level, I don’t think it [Brexit] will affect this space.” It is a testament to that strategic approach of Gibraltar to pioneer itself in this emerging technology and become a forerunner ahead of the Brexit transition.

Challenges in the Current Crypto Exchange Landscape

Nick later participated in a panel entitled “The Crypto Exchange Landscape for 2018” moderated by Joey Garcia with Vitaliy Kedyk of CEX, David Honeyman from Lendo, and David Gyori of Banking Reports alongside Nick. The panel discussed the challenges of AML/KYC with current cryptocurrency exchanges, with Nick detailing how the GBX intends to create a new industry standard of governance and due diligence for token sales within a rules-based system that would gain access to a large pool of KYC cleared participants.

The question of centralised vs decentralised exchanges was debated, with a consensus forming that if blockchain technology is still in its early developments, then decentralised exchanges are far off in that timescale development. With the current challenges that existing exchanges face around AML/KYC, accountability and consumer protection, decentralised exchanges would not contain a solution. Vitaliy emphasised this by saying: “Decentralised exchanges can’t deliver the real user experience” which the panel agreed that if this space is to be adopted by mainstream consumers, the user experience would be of paramount importance.

Nick was invited to close the 1st-day proceedings of the conference. He championed Gibraltar for its bold stance on the global stage as a home for those businesses that are utilising DLT technology. Mirroring the success story of GBX and its successful completion of raising $27M in the RKT token sale, with the way Gibraltar fostered the exponential growth of the e-gaming industry a parallel to what we are witnessing in the blockchain space. Nick finished by telling the packed out audience that Gibraltar is open for business and made a call out to those looking to Gibraltar as a home for the business to “give us a chance”.

Blockchain Innovation in Gibraltar and Beyond

A key moment during the 2nd day of the conference came from Philip Young, the Marketing Director of GBX. Phil gave a presentation on the Blockchain Innovation Centre (BIC) an initiative set up by the Gibraltar Stock Exchange (GSX) to help create a hub of blockchain innovation in both Gibraltar and further afield. Phil gave the three bedrock tenants that would “Educate, Inspire, Connect.” Phil spoke of the BIC’s offer of a network of experts that would help select, fund, advise and guide blockchain-based startups in Gibraltar. Additionally, Phil proposed the idea of the BIC helping to establish educational programs seeking out universities both abroad and in Gibraltar to encourage collaborations.

Despite the heavy wind and rain hammering the Rock of Gibraltar, attendance was still high over the two-day event, with great networking opportunities between the panels and presentations. It was encouraging to see that more than 180 of the 300 attendees had travelled to Gibraltar for the event demonstrating that Gibraltar is quickly establishing itself as a global hub for all things crypto & blockchain.

The Gibraltar International Fintech Forum 2018 at the Sunborn Hotel attracts180 delegates and speakers from around the globe.

 

The latest Ethereum roadmap

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I’ve been heavily invested in Ethereum since it appeared, so I was very interested in Vitalik Buterin’s recent talk at Devcon (he’s the creator of Ethereum), which he called “a modest proposal.” He told his audience that he has been “quietly working on a new long-term plan for the future of the blockchain network.” It is a essentially a three to four year roadmap outlining his vision of the potential technical developments that Ethereum can achieve, and as anyone who owns ETH will have noted, the value of the coins showed some upwards movement after his speech.

Enter ‘sharding’

What does his vision include? At the heart of it is something called ‘sharding’.  Without getting too technical, this is defined as: “A database shard is a horizontal partition of data in a database or search engine. Each individual partition is referred to as a shard or database shard. Each shard is held on a separate database server instance, to spread load.” This was something that Ethereum watchers had expected to happen, but Bueterin finally solidified his strategy for using the shard technique.

Expanding Ethereum’s scalability

His roadmap points to problems with the platform and solutions for fixing them. His focus in the talk was on scalability, as Ethereum nodes need to store everything that ever happened on the network. Buterin emphasised the need for solutions that mitigate expensive storage costs that could escalate exponentially as the system expands.

It was clear from his presentation that he wanted to encourage Ethereum developers to think about this aspect when he said: “The amount of activity on the blockchain is orders of magnitude larger than it was just a couple of years ago,” and pointed to daily transaction rates and the 20,000 nodes plus that are now part of the network.

Buterin’s view of sharding

Buterin seems to see ‘sharding’ as the most probable solution to the problem. This way of partitioning data into subsets means that each node would only have to store a small amount of data from the entire network. But, Buterin wants a system where “the underlying math would hold the system accountable, and if they need it, nodes could rely on other nodes for data.” How to execute this in practice and ensure security, i.e. no nodes sending other nodes false information, is something that researchers have been looking into.

From the talk we now know that Buterin has a less conventional approach to using sharding. He is proposing to split Ethereum into different types of shards- there will be a main shard comprising the current Ethereum network, and there would be other shards, which Buterin calls other “universes.”

Most importantly, Buterin believes the partitioning would allow for more aggressive changes on the smaller shards, and more cautious changes on the main blockchain. This will ensure Ethereum’s platform maintains stability while developers can test new changes.

Other announcements included upgrading the smart contract technology and progress on eWASM, his project for running Ethereum on a web browser. He also hinted that a lot of the work in progress is much more advanced than anyone guessed when he finished hi stalk by saying, “Basically we’re just inches away from a proof of concept in python.”