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.

Mota Drone Company Explores Blockchain Integration

drone blockchain

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.

Zk-starks White Paper Aims for Zcash-level Privacy Without the Trusted Setup

zk-starks

A team of researchers has released a white paper for zk-starks, a much-anticipated blockchain privacy technology that has been lauded as a way to achieve zcash-level privacy without the risk of using a trusted setup.

One of the chief criticisms of using public blockchains like bitcoin to store monetary value is that they are the equivalent of making everyone’s bank account records publicly-accessible. Though the data is technically pseudonymous, it is often quite simple for governments and other powerful actors to associate addresses with their owners.

The zk-starks white paper, published on Jan. 12 by a team of researchers led by Eli Ben-Sasson of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, represents the latest attempt to use zero-knowledge (ZK) proofs to rectify the need for a public ledger to validate the integrity of the blockchain with the importance of protecting user privacy.

The white paper states:

“Human dignity demands that personal information, like medical and forensic data, be hidden from the public. But veils of secrecy designed to preserve privacy may also be abused to cover up lies and deceit by parties entrusted with Data, unjustly harming citizens and eroding trust in central institutions.”

The gripe with current ZK implementations — the most notable of which is the zk-snark technology currently used by the zcash cryptocurrency — is that they require the creation of a “master key.” The team behind zcash went to elaborate lengths to ensure that this key was not compromised during the launch of the network and was destroyed after its deployment.

However, the problem with such a trusted setup is that there is no way to conclusively verify that the key was destroyed without being compromised by a potentially hostile actor, who could use it to print new units of currency at will. The stakes of this trusted setup only increase along with zcash’s market cap, creating what some would term untenable systemic risk if zcash ever approached mass adoption.

“Public trust demands transparency from ZK systems, meaning they be set up with no reliance on any trusted party, and have no trapdoors that could be exploited by powerful parties to bear false witness,” Ben-Sasson and his co-authors continue, adding that unfortunately “no ZK system realized thus far in code (including that used by crypto-currencies like Zcash™) has achieved both transparency and exponential verification speedup, simultaneously, for general computations.”

Zk-starks (short for a zero-knowledge system that is a scalable and transparent argument of knowledge), if realized, could introduce transparency into the equation while also retaining the blockchain’s scalability.

The white paper includes a proof-of-concept in which police investigators prove that an allegedly-corrupt presidential candidate’s DNA does not appear in the department’s forensic DNA database, without compromising the integrity or confidentiality of either the candidate’s DNA or the database.

However, as the paper notes, zk-snarks are “roughly 1000x shorter” than zk-stark proofs, so more research will be needed to mitigate this problem through shorter proofs or another solution.

Notably, researchers are also exploring ways to implement ZK proofs into Bitcoin. Stanford University’s Applied Cryptography Group, for instance, recently released a white paper for Bulletproofs, a ZK protocol that could be used to increase the privacy of bitcoin transactions without a trusted setup.

Featured Image from Pexels

World’s Second-Largest Money Transfer Service, MoneyGram, to Adopt Ripple’s XRP Token

moneygram

MoneyGram, the world’s second-largest money transfer service, has announced that it will adopt Ripple’s XRP token in an open-ended pilot program designed to increase the efficiency of international payments.

The Dallas-based firm, second in size only to Western Union, announced on Thursday that it will pilot the use of XRP in its internal payment flows.

The partnership will see MoneyGram adopt xRapid, Ripple’s on-demand liquidity product, which uses XRP to settle cross-border payments in real time at a much lower cost than using legacy payment systems.

“The payments problem doesn’t just affect banks, it also affects companies like MoneyGram, which help people get money to the ones they care about,” said Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple. “By using a digital asset like XRP that settles in three seconds or less, our clients can move money as quickly as information.”

“Ripple is at the forefront of blockchain technology and we look forward to piloting xRapid,” said Alex Holmes, chief executive officer of MoneyGram, in a press release. “We’re hopeful it will increase efficiency and improve services to MoneyGram’s customers.”

Although a number of banks and financial institutions — including household names like American Express — have conducted blockchain trials using RippleNet, the company’s enterprise blockchain, they have shied away from integrating XRP.

Consequently, many critics had stated that the ripple price’s recent rally — which saw the value of XRP soar nearly 30,000 percent in 2017 — was unwarranted relative to actual XRP adoption.

Though perhaps not complete vindication of XRP, MoneyGram’s announcement should make at least a minor dent in that narrative, a dent that could deepen if Ripple’s recent claim that at least three major money transfer firms will adopt XRP in 2018 is borne out.

“And to be clear,” Garlinghouse added today in a tweet, the “MoneyGram announcement is one step in a marathon ahead to truly make XRP the global liquidity solution for payment providers and banks.”

Though Ripple has not confirmed it publicly, this announcement could be the first fruit from the $300 million RippleNet Accelerator Program, which the company launched last quarter to spur XRP adoption among financial institutions. Through the program, institutions can receive rebates and incentives to integrate XRP into their payment systems, making pilot program’s such as MoneyGram’s much more attractive.

The ripple price traded up on the news, briefly rising as high as $2.25 before pulling back to a present level of $2.08

Featured Image from Flickr/Mike Mozart

Overstock Invests Millions in Blockchain Voting

blockchain voting

Internet retail giant Overstock.com has invested heavily in a mobile blockchain-based voting platform called Voatz. The funding was committed through a subsidiary of Overstock called Medici Ventures, which focuses solely on the use of blockchain technology to “solve real-world problems,” a Voatz press release explains. Voatz raised more than $2.2 million in seed round funding, led by Medici Ventures and including investments from Oakhouse Partners, Urban Innovation Fund, Walt Winshall, Joe Caruso, Michael Dornbrook, members of the Walnut Ventures angels group, and others.

Voatz Offers a Blockchain Voting System

The Voatz platform enables voting on secure tablets or smartphones. The company states that it feels it has solved many of the challenges that have beleaguered internet-based voting systems in the past, including security, anonymity and auditability. It bases this claim on its use of biometric security measures and its blockchain-based ID-authentication, record-keeping and auditing capabilities.

“Democracy will benefit greatly from critical improvements blockchain technology can bring to voting systems. For example, providing secure, immutable record keeping will bring greater confidence in accurate results, and ease of use will lower the barrier to entry for citizens to participate in elections,” Medici Ventures President Jonathan Johnson says. Similarly, Julie Lein, Managing Partner of the Urban Innovation Fund, says Voatz’ mobile-first strategy can improve voter participation rates and “democratiz[e] voting.”

Voatz has already been implemented by state political parties, universities, labor unions, nonprofits and religious institutions. More than 70,000 voters have used it so far. It is based in Boston and is now working on deploying its system for Massachusetts town meeting votes.

Overstock Is Pro-Blockchain and Cryptocurrency

Overstock continues to be at the forefront of online retailers embracing cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology – in 2014 it became the first major retailer to accept bitcoin, and in 2017, it adopted the use of the major alt-coins Ethereum, Litecoin, Monero, Dash and Bitcoin Cash. Medici Ventures has made multiple investments in blockchain tech and in 2016, its majority-owned fintech company t0.com executed the first blockchain-based stock offering.