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.”

 

5 Things To Consider About Fintech

Technology is more integrated in business practices now, but Fintech is a concept that is just taking hold and revolutionising financial processes. It often seems to me that there is some confusion about what it is and what it really does and for business owners there are questions about whether Fintech platforms are right for their business.

Some of the information published about Fintech, so in an attempt to clarify what it is and what it can do, let’s look at some things to consider before you adopt it.

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What is fintech?

It’s just another type of technology. There is nothing mysterious about it. Some people seem to think that it is just about Bitcoin, but that is not quite true, it is also technology that enables mobile payments for example. So, it has a lot of applications.

Will it work with your existing technology?

When you are adopting new technology, such as a payments method, you need to be aware they won’t magically fix existing problems with your older systems. Before committing to a particular software platform or tool, make sure to investigate how the new tools will work with your existing IT infrastructure.

Increase your IT security

When you decide to use a Fintech tool, be aware that you are making more of your business information available digitally. This makes it easier to access client data and respond in real time, which will improve your business. On the other hand, because more information will be available online, you should boost you IT security to deal with this.

Make sure the Fintech is supported

When you choose a Fintech platform, make sure it comes from a stable company that isn’t going to disappear and leave you without support. Otherwise you might find that you have spent time and money on a product, only to find it has become obsolete quickly, or there is nobody to provide answers when there are problems.

Don’t get hung up on Bitcoin

Because so many people are convinced that Fintech is only about Bitcoin they haven’t explored the full potential of this new technology. The focus on Bitcoin, which is just one way of using a decentralised blockchain, has steered some businesses away from Fintech because it makes them nervous.

Keep an open mind about this new field, because it is going to be one of the most talked about topics in the coming years, and it is predicted that just about every business will eventually be using Fintech in some form.

 

 

FinTech is Growing Up

Wharton, one of the world’s most respected business schools, has recently published an article following a recent conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia on the topic of “Fintech: The Impact on Consumers, Banking, and Regulatory Policy” and it presents some very interesting views on where Fintech is at right now. It’s no longer seen as a fledgling disruptor that is working against the interests of the banking community; now bankers are seeing it as a potential partner when it comes to fintech startups.

Robert Nicholls, president of the American Banking Association said: “We are actively seeking startups to partner with,” and they are busy inviting fintech firms to present to the annual ABA convention. Collaboration is the word on these bankers’ lips and they have even developed a ‘fintech playbook’ for smaller banks. The way they see it is this: banks have trusted relationships, but fintech can enhance the customer experience.

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Banks embrace Fintech startups

As a result of this willingness to embrace fintech, banks of all sizes are looking at ways to create innovations with these new partners. For example, Capital One has integrated its services with Amazon’s Alexa. Consumers can ask Alexa for their account balance, request that it track their spending or even make a payment. Bank of America is set to debut its chatbot Erica on the bank’s mobile app to help customers with personal finance decisions.

And, most importantly, numerous U.S. banks are using a fintech platform that allows customers to transfer money in minutes, rather than days. Zelle and Ripple are key players in this sector for the moment.

Another development to come out of a bank in North Carolina is cloud-based technology that streamlines the commercial lending process. And, Eastern Bank in Boston, has adopted Numerated, a startup that enables clients to apply for a small business loan in minutes and get funding within two days. The bank hired fintech entrepreneurs to work with traditional bankers and build an innovation lab that led to the launch of Numerated.

Governments look for cryptocurrency solutions

However, the banks are still quite nervous when you start talking about cryptocurrencies. It is a sector that is risk averse and the volatility in the digital coin market still makes them uneasy. Having said that, bankers at the conference believed that cryptocurrencies will become strong in economies where “people do not have confidence in their own currency or they are avoiding controls on their money,” as William Nelson at The Clearing House told the meeting. He thinks that developed economies with strong currencies will have less use for it, yet Singapore and England are looking at developing their own digital currencies, which means that world economic leaders have not written off Bitcoin and its peers; instead they are looking for solutions and want to be ready.

The blockchain must be trusted

But while there may be some doubts about cryptocurrencies, the blockchain is much more readily accepted. Gurwinder Ahluwalia  of Digital Twin Labs told Wharton attendees that he believed the flexibility and agility of the blockchain gave it more appeal than crypto coins. He said: “You could have warranty programs. You could have provenance of parts to the aircraft industry, provenance of luxury assets. You could have the tracking of transoceanic shipments. You could have the tracking of food for its various associated benefits.” He added that the last hurdle blockchain has to overcome in order to become widely accepted by the traditional financial world is “establishing trust in a decentralized platform and establishing governance.”

This is on the way as banks, governments and other businesses test blockchain technology. Ahluwahlia believes that blockchain will prove itself, because “It provides the trust. It provides the peer-to-peer. It provides the crytography. It provides the database.” It certainly looks like Fintech will show the ‘adults’ that it is grown-up enough to play a role in the world of global finance.

 

 

Why I’m a Fintech entrepreneur

I’m a serial entrepreneur who believes in leveraging my many years at a senior level in IT into new opportunities as they arise. I have designed a VOIP system that led the vanguard in this field, developed a Global SIM solution on a travel platform and created a unique platform for online advertising using a ‘One Click Solution’. I’ve also worked on mobile/web apps based on proximity and geofencing.

With my extensive IT experience, it seemed logical to me, as well as exciting, to move into Fintech, particularly the development of new platforms based on the blockchain. This is the field that really inspires me, because I see so much potential in the whole world of the blockchain technology.

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What is Fintech?

Some people still aren’t sure what Fintech is when I talk about it. I define it as the segment of the technology startup scene that is disrupting sectors such as mobile payments, money transfers, loans, fundraising and even asset management. It’s a growing business: a recent report by Accenture found that “global investment in Fintech has skyrocketed from $930 million back in 2008 to over $12 billion by the beginning of 2015.” And, in terms of regions where Fintech has made the most gains, Europe is leading the way, according to Accenture.

As I said, my special area of interest is in the blockchain and how that can disrupt specific financial areas, such as money transfer, personal loans and fundraising for business startups.

Crowdsourcing and fundraising for startups

For example, Initial Coin Offerings, or ICOs as they are usually called, have made it possible for new businesses and some well-established entrepreneurs as well to raise the funds to take a product to market within a matter of weeks, or minutes in some cases. These ICOs use a combination of crowdsourcing (or some call them crowdsales) and the blockchain technology to raise the money. In the past it typically took months of presentations to venture capitalists and banks before funds were available to take a business forward – now an ICO cuts through all that red tape and the investors in the ICO, which can be anyone, not just accredited investors, can make a return on their investment. You could say that ICOs bring power to the people and allow everyone an opportunity to get involved in investing.

Fintech offers efficiency and lower costs

Fintech also allows businesses to work in more efficient and less costly ways. The major banks are slowly, but surely realising that blockchain products like Ethereum and Ripple can enable them to work faster and smarter and reduce costs. Ripple, for example, has been designed to replace the bank Swift system for international transfers. Instead of it taking days to send money from one country to another, it can happen in minutes.

The Ethereum platform

Ethereum is also of particular interest to a wide range of businesses because its platform includes a ‘smart contract’. Unlike a ‘physical’ contract, the smart contract is programmed in a way that removes any chance of fraud or third-party interference. Its role will become even more prominent as new startups begin to demonstrate the agility of using the Ethereum platform in a traditional market.

What’s next?

Right now I’m working on a project that taps right into a market that has been in existence every since man created money as an exchange for goods. The blockchain is undoubtedly the next step for this particular market, and as an entrepreneur with the right background to understand the technology, I simply had to get into Fintech. I’ll be writing more about this entire field over the coming weeks, so stay tuned to discover more about it and my specific project.