SmartLaw.io: Smart Contract Based Trusts Land on the Ethereum Blockchain

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Recently a new startup, called SmartLaw has surfaced. The intention of this startup is to provide smart contract based trusts. In this case, the trust is between the current landowner and SmartLaw. In exchange for the title deed of the land, the (now ex) landowner gains certain benefits, such as a line of credit, backed by the signed over land. Prospective landowners can purchase land over time, by allowing SmartLaw to purchase the land in their place and then paying the cost of the land back over time. Though this does require that the land was already in SmartLaw’s system.

Why is SmartLaw interesting?

Like CryptoKitties, SmartLaw uses smart contracts,  specifically smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain, which forces openness about dealings. And it means users can watch always be safe in the notion that (so long as they trust SmartLaw), the land cannot be stolen by SmartLaw.

What could go wrong?

SmartLaw is a new startup, whose software has not withstood mainstream usage, this means that bugs or exploits may exist. Which could cause loss of property, or loss of currency. They do not seem to state who its developers are or who owns the company itself. While this is not intrinsically a bad or unheard of thing, especially in the world of cryptocurrency, it could be an indication of a scam. Especially given that there is very little information on their site otherwise, aside from a link to chat.  There also seems to be some skepticism around SmartLaw in the Ethereum community

 

There are a large number of questions that need answering around SmartLaw. And a bit of time in the mainstream should let any exploits that may exist be discovered.

Catena by Bitaccess: Putting Publications on a Blockchain

Bitaccess has unveiled a new tool called Catena, for use by public or private organizations to publish information in a way that is irreversible.  Catena uses a blockchain to store publications. And the use of a blockchain means that publications cannot be changed or reordered. As doing so changes all the blocks after the one changed. Bitaccess is offering this publishing method for a minimum of $20,000 CAD a month, with no maximum cited.

What could Catena do for consumers?

Companies using Catana cannot hide what they have said previously, nor can they reorder any statements made. And therefore cannot cheat their customers. An Internet Service Provider, for example, could not silently change its terms of service (so long as it is published via the blockchain) to allow it to go back on Net Neutrality promises. Or, still going with the ISP example, an ISP could not change rates and start billing customers at a higher rate while silently changing their pricing page to reflect the new rates.

What could Catena do for companies and governments?

Catena forces the existence of a paper trail for anything published on it. This means that a company can prove the existence of a statement, or disprove the existence of another. Though its customers may find that proving their publications cannot be forged an issue. As the protection against forgery relies on the blockchain being decentralized in nature. It is trivial to edit a block on a blockchain where there is only a single copy of that blockchain.

SEC Throws Cold Water on Bitcoin ETF Plans

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has thrown cold water on exchange-traded fund (ETF) providers jockeying to list the first bitcoin ETF.

Thought to be a game-changer for cryptocurrency adoption, bitcoin ETFs would provide investors with the ability to obtain exposure to the flagship cryptocurrency through a conventionally-wrapped investment product.

Fund providers have sought SEC approval for cryptocurrency-derived ETFs for years, but the SEC has been reluctant to lend its approval to these products, which would likely be popular among retail investors.

The rush to list a bitcoin ETF intensified following the launch of the first bitcoin futures contracts, as the general consensus among analysts was that the SEC would quickly approve a fund that invested exclusively in futures contracts, which currently trade on two regulated US exchanges.

However, several recent developments indicate that this may not be the case.

Most recently, the SEC sent two investment industry trade groups a lengthy letter outlining a number of “significant investor protection issues” that fund sponsors must answer before the agency will consider approving a bitcoin ETF.

“We believe…that there are a number of significant investor protection issues that need to be examined before sponsors begin offering these funds to retail investors,” Dalia Blass, director of investment management at the SEC, wrote in the letter, which was dated Jan. 18.

Blass said that the SEC was chiefly concerned about the liquidity of the futures markets, as well as how to assign a fair market value to what would be intensely-volatile products. However, she also touched on a variety of other topics, including market manipulation, custodial issues, and arbitrage.

“[T]he innovative nature of cryptocurrencies and related products, as well as their expected use and utility in our financial markets, means that they are, in many ways, unlike the types of investments that registered funds currently hold in substantial amounts. In light of these considerations, we have, at this time, significant outstanding questions concerning how funds holding substantial amounts of cryptocurrencies and related products would satisfy” federal securities laws, Blass said.

Earlier this month, the SEC reportedly asked fund providers to voluntarily withdraw their bitcoin ETF applications, citing some of the concerns outlined in the letter above.

Notably, the agency also pressured the first blockchain-focused funds to remove the word “blockchain” from their names, although these ETFs — which primarily invest in companies experimenting with blockchain technology — were allowed to begin trading this week after complying with this request.

Featured Image from SEC/Flickr

Japan’s Largest Bank to Launch Cryptocurrency Exchange for Its Yen-Pegged Token

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Japan’s largest bank, MUFG, plans to launch its own digital currency and add a cryptocurrency exchange to its growing list of blockchain-related services.

MUFG to Launch Cryptocurrency Exchange

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), which also ranks as one of the five largest banks in the world, intends to become the first Japanese bank to open a licensed cryptocurrency exchange, according to a report from The Mainichi, a media outlet based in Tokyo.

Following its launch later this year, MUFG plans to use the exchange as a platform to issue MUFG Coin, a yen-pegged token that will operate on a private blockchain controlled by the bank.

Strictly speaking, MUFG Coin’s value will not be directly fixed to the yen, because Japanese financial services regulations require that transfers of more than one million yen (~$9,000) be conducted through a bank.

Consequently, a crypto-token that was truly pegged to the yen could not operate as a fully-functional currency.

Instead, the bank will “suppress” the price of MUFG Coin on its exchange to ensure that each token is always worth approximately one yen while also retaining the currency’s utility as a payment mechanism.

The report said that MUFG has already informed Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) of its plans to open the exchange and use it to issue MUFG Coin, although the bank has not officially submitted an application for licensure.

MUFG has not revealed what other cryptoassets, if any, will trade on its exchange alongside MUFG Coin.

However, the bank has announced the creation of a custodial service for bitcoin traders. Customers who opt-in to the service will have their holdings placed in segregated accounts that are separate from the exchange’s assets, and these assets will be guaranteed by the trust bank in the event that they are compromised.

Although this service will be available to traders at all participating bitcoin exchanges, it would seem likely that MUFG would seek to integrate it into its own service as well.

Japanese Banks Race to Issue Digital Currencies

Notably, MUFG is not the only bank in cryptocurrency-friendly Japan that intends to issue its own digital currency.

A consortium led by Mizuho Financial Group has announced that they will issue the yen-pegged J-Coin later this year.

Mizuho has said that one of its chief priorities is integrating J-Coin with Alibaba’s Alipay mobile payment platform.

Featured Image from Wikimedia Commons/Rebirth10

Mota Drone Company Explores Blockchain Integration

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California-based Mota drone company wants to use blockchain technology to efficiently manage real-time drone flight data, and to make this information publicly accessible.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for regulating drone use in the U.S. and is in the process of developing a system for keeping track of drones in flight. The proposed FAA drone tracking system would require drone pilots to publish their flight data to an online database. While in the air, each drone would be identified and tracked with a unique numeric identifier.

Mota’s Vision

Mota Chief Executive Michael Faro believes all drone flight data should be decentralized, secure and available to the public.

“Think of when we have hundreds of thousands of drones flying in one area at a time. That’s hundreds of thousands of eyes in the sky. No centralized place should have a monopoly over such data,” Faro says. He also thinks any crash data should be auditable. The Mota site states that a decentralized, tamper-proof database and expanding map of drone flights can increase drone safety. Faro explains that the system Mota wants to develop would be “much larger” than the FAA’s; it would be global, multinational and offer “freely accessible” data.

Mota was founded in 2003 and sells recreational drones along with professional models for commercial, agricultural, disaster response, energy-related, industrial and military use. Mota Group filed for an initial public offering (IPO) in October 2016.

In Other Drone News…

Walmart has also been working on using blockchain technology to track drones. It filed a patent in May 2017 for a computing system that would use blockchain to manage unmanned drone delivery data, called, “Unmanned Aerial Delivery to Secure Location.”

While drone regulations are still evolving, in November 2017, the FAA and Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the creation of the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Integration Pilot Program, which invites local, state and tribal governments to participate in developing new nationwide drone regulations.