Bitcoin mining

Argo Blockchain, a business that seeks to offer cryptocurrency-mining to the masses, announced its plans to list its shares on the London Stock Exchange or LSE on June 11, 2018. This announcement coincided with the launch of Argo’s Mining as a Service, or MaaS, program, which will allow users to participate in mining through the Argo site with their home computers or smartphones. According to the announcements, Argo expects its valuation to be £40 million, or about $54 million, and to raise £20 million, or about $27 million. Argo plans to use the money raises to fund the growth if its MaaS services. Co-founder Jonathan Bixby said:

We have launched this service to take the pain and heartache out of participating in the biggest new technology breakthrough since the launch of the internet.

Argo aims to be the first crypto-mining company on the LSE. In 2015, blockchain-focused investment business Coinsilium was the first cryptocurrency-related company to hold an IPO on LSE’s submarket for smaller companies, AIM.

Argo was established in 2017. According to the company announcements, its technology invites the public at large to become crypto-miners, “without the need to have significant computing expertise or acquire complex and expensive hardware and have the frustration of setting up their own systems.”

Argo compares its mainstream mining services to the cloud computing revolution of the last decade, and Bixby told The Financial Times it wants to be “the Amazon web services of crypto.” Subscribers to Argo’s cloud-based platform sign up for a specific amount of mining capacity and can choose what to mine, which mining pool to join and where to store their coins off the site. Introductory fees to join its pools are £18 or about $25 per month. Currently, it mines the digital currencies Bitcoin Gold, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic and Zcash, but this may change in the future.

Argo is headquartered in London and has a mining facility in Quebec. It currently has 7 racks, each holding 10 servers with 8 GPUs each in Canada, and it has also started “initial operations” in China. Argo’s primary targets customers are in Europe, North America and Australia. The company plans to rely on renewable energy like solar and hydropower.

Bixby describes the company’s plan to go public in this way:

A London stock market listing will provide Argo with the profile, credibility and access to global capital to drive our growth and help us establish a leadership position in the long term.

The featured image is the Argo logo, credit: Argo.

bithumb

On June 7, 2018, South Korean Cryptocurrency Exchange Bithumb released the results of a user survey called, “Cryptographic Investment Trends.” It captured the perspective of 2,507 virtual currency investors over the age of 20. The survey included questions on investment plans and government regulations. A notable finding was that 42.8 percent of those surveyed plan to “hodl” or keep their crypto-investments over the long term. A Bithumb press release authored by “Bitsumm manager” states:

As cipher money continues to be recognized as an asset in major industrialized countries, the perception of cipher money investment is gradually matured by domestic investors.

Bithumb Survey Findings

The Bithumb survey discovered that the older the cryptocurrency buyer, the more likely they are to plan to hodl and make longstanding investments. Here are the percentages of each age range that plan to preserve their holdings:

  • Investors in their 20s: 30.8 percent
  • 30s: 40.3 percent
  • 40s: 45.3 percent
  • 50s and older: 49.1 percent

Bithumb also shares that 39.5 percent of those surveyed plan to keep their investments, even if the government requires them to pay capital gains taxes, or taxes levied on profits from the sale of assets, on cryptocurrency. This is an 11 percent increase over Bithumb survey data from a year ago. About 13.1 percent responded that they would completely stop investing in digital money if this tax is imposed. The exchange concludes, “more and more investors are looking at cryptographic money as assets and looking for stable investments.”

Bithumb was founded in 2015 and is one of one of the largest exchanges in South Korea. The survey was conducted between April 30 and May 6, 2018, through Bithumb Cafe, Bithumb’s official communication channel.

Other South Korean- and Bithumb-related News

South Korea continues its tumultuous journey to establish crypto-trading regulations, which included discussion of a total ban in January 2018.

Bithumb recently made regulatory headlines when it announced it would ban users from 11 countries in late May 2018 as part of its anti-money laundering or AML policies. Specifically, citizens of countries labelled as Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories, or NCCT, were banned as of May 28. NCCT countries are noncompliant with the standards set out by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, or FATF, an intergovernmental organization established by the G-7 in 1989. This group of countries includes North Korea, Iran, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

Bithumb stated in a related press release:

We will strictly enforce our own rules and protect our investors, and we will actively cooperate with the authorities. We will lead the standards of the Worldwide Codex Exchange with autonomous regulation ahead of schedule.

Earlier in 2018, South Korean exchanges including Bithumb banned anonymous cryptocurrency trading.

As of May 2018, Yoon Suk-heun, the new governor of the country’s Financial Supervisory Service, is reportedly considering relaxing cryptocurrency regulations.

The featured image is a collage featuring the Bithumb logo (credit: Bithumb) and a public domain survey image.

crypto hope page

In late April 2018, UNICEF Australia’s home site began to invite visitors to a page called The Hopepage, where funds are raised for UNICEF through cryptocurrency mining. By opening the website and clicking, “Start Donating,” a visitor agrees to run a miner in their web browser and use their computer’s central processing unit or CPU to solve crypto-puzzles and earn digital currency for the international charity. The digital money mined is XMR of the Monero blockchain. It is converted into fiat and used to fund UNICEF’s humanitarian work with and for children, and specifically, refugees. The site text reads:

Give hope, just by being here … The cryptocurrency is automatically donated to UNICEF Australia and is turned into real funds that reach children through life-saving supplies like safe water, therapeutic food and vaccines … Mining is perfectly safe for your computer.

Crypto Mining to Help Young Refugees

Donors can choose how much of their processing power to commit to this process while leaving the browser window open – 60 percent is the default setting and the full range is 20 to 80 percent. While there is no further cost associated with participation, this use of significant computer power and energy does constitute a real donation.

UNICEF is using a JavaScript miner for XMR developed by Coinhive. Companies sometimes include this mining option in their browsers and offer users benefits like in-game currencies or ad-free media experiences in return. In this case, the funds raised will be used to support Rohingya youth. The Rohingya is an ethnic group, which is denied citizenship in Myanmar and has experienced decades of prosecution there. After surges of violence in 2017, many have fled to Bangladesh and there are about 400,000 children among the Rohingya refugees.

UNICEF, Blockchain and Charity Mining

UNICEF also turned to crypto-mining as a fundraising tool in February 2018. It asked gamers to install the mining software Claymore in order to send Ethereum to its electronic wallet. The charity’s other blockchain-related initiatives include funding blockchain projects like South Africa-based 9Needs, which uses distributed ledger technology to create digital identities for use in early childhood education programs. It also co-ran blockchain labs with U.N. Women and it led a blockchain hackathon in Kazakhstan. Similarly, the U.N. has used blockchain to launch an ID-project for refugees around the globe.

Other mining-for-charity projects exist in the cryptosphere. A group called Bail Bloc uses mining to pay people’s bail who are awaiting trial, much like a community bail fund. Charity Mine pools and donates browser-mining earnings to its community’s current charity of choice. Cudo Donate from Cudo Ventures aims to provide user-friendly mining-donation options to multiple charities.

Feature image from Hopepage.org.

OmiseGo Donation for Refugees

In late March 2018, decentralized payment provider OmiseGO and Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin teamed up with the nonprofit GiveDirectly to send $1 million to refugee families in Uganda. More than 12,000 households will benefit from this donation, which will be exchanged from the OMG ERC20 tokens into local currency.

“OmiseGO, with an additional generous contribution from Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, is donating the equivalent of $1 million USD in OMG tokens directly to refugees living in extreme poverty, and GiveDirectly will deliver those funds,” OmiseGO founder Jun Hasegawa wrote in a blog post, adding that as successful members of the growing crypto-economy, they “see an exciting opportunity to share that wealth.”

How GiveDirectly Works

Providing unconditional cash transfers directly to people dealing with significant poverty is GiveDirectly’s central mission. They have raised over $200 million since 2013 towards this end. GiveDirectly conducts field research before enrolling individuals in its programs and provides a live feed featuring the recipients on its site. GiveDirectly also offers extensive research on its site explaining how direct cash donations both benefit those in poverty and are usually well-spent.

This group states that 88.4 percent of its donations go directly to recipients. To learn more about how charities typically spend money, the watchdog site Charity Watch from the American Institute of Philanthropy is a useful resource. Their top-rated groups “generally spend 75 percent or more of their budgets on programs,” among other factors.

Why This Collaboration Makes Sense

GiveDirectly’s work aligns with several of OmiseGO and Buterin’s goals. OmiseGO is an Ethereum-based, decentralized and disintermediated network that offers self-sovereign and peer-to-peer financial transactions. It can be of particular use to those in developing countries who do not have reliable and equitable access to banking infrastructure. It’s “financial tools do not require users to go through centralized networks, which often put up barriers and impose unnecessary costs,” Jun said.

“Refugees are a perfect population to serve through this effort … We’re excited to plug them back in, transfer funds, and let them get to work,” Jun said of the recent $1 million joint donation.  

Vitalik has often called on members of the digital money-community to find meaningful uses for blockchain and cryptocurrencies, rather than just trying to accumulate wealth. He walks the walk as well – in February 2018 he gave $2.4 million to the SENS Research Foundation, a nonprofit addressing age-related disease.

Featured photo credit: CC via UNMISS on Flickr

In February 2018, San Francisco-based blockchain startup Ripple, which focuses on providing a fast and secure global payment system, has added five new customers in the banking and remittance (money transfer) sectors. The banks are Itaú Unibanco – the largest private bank in Brazil – and IndusInd of India. The remittance providers are Zip Remit of Canada, InstaReM of Singapore and Beetech of Brazil.

Ripple Strengthens Reach to Emerging Markets

These financial institutions are joining more than 100 companies already connected to RippleNet, Ripple’s decentralized global network of banks and payment providers. These businesses will increase RippleNet’s service to emerging global markets, where almost 90 percent of people under 30 reside.

“Now, RippleNet members will be able to process a large number of payouts in Southeast Asian countries through InstaReM’s secure rails,” Prajit Nanu, co-founder and CEO of InstaReM, said.

A Feb. 21 press release states that Ripple’s use of blockchain technology can offer customers lower costs and transfer times, which can be especially helpful in developing countries “where financial flexibility is limited.”

Patrick Griffin, head of business development at Ripple, believes blockchain can deliver a payment system that works in favor of, not against, individuals in emerging markets, “Whether it’s a teacher in the U.S. sending money home to his family in Brazil or a small-business owner in India trying to move money to open up a second store in another country.”

Ripple Releases Dual Academic Papers for Review

Also on Feb. 21, Ripple announced that its research and development team published two new academic papers for peer review, one on the XRP Ledger Consensus Protocol, and one introducing Cobalt, a new asynchronous consensus algorithm. These are the first peer-reviewed academic papers released by Ripple.

Ripple’s XRP is the world’s third-largest cryptocurrency in February 2018, by its market cap of about $38 billion. XRP’s price is about $0.97 as of the 21.