Cryptocurrency

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 12th July 2018

Cryptocurrencies are traditionally perceived as investment avenues for quick and high returns, and mostly been limited to trading purposes. However, as they continue to gain considerable ground in Asia-Pacific (APAC), several companies are now looking to leverage the high user base and explore the other possible use-cases, says leading data and analytics company GlobalData.

Reportedly, Japan and South Korea are among the top three markets globally, along with the US, for cryptocurrency trades. As of January 2018, nearly one third of global bitcoin transactions were made with Japanese Yen and South Korea accounted for around 35% of global Ethereum trading.

Sowmya Kulkarni, Payments Analyst at GlobalData, says: “The gradual rise in cryptocurrency acceptance at merchant locations can be seen as an upcoming trend in the region, with merchants increasingly opting for this method of payment due to benefits such as lower transaction fees, no chargebacks, and cheaper payment acceptance from foreign tourists.”

Large merchants such as Bic Camera and Yamada Denki in Japan and Goto Mall in South Korea are now accepting payments with cryptocurrencies, which is likely to push many more peers to look at accepting cryptocurrency payments.

Most recently in March 2018, Bithumb – a cryptocurrency exchange in South Korea – partnered with Korea Pay Services to enable 6,000 retail outlets across South Korea to accept cryptocurrency payments. Earlier in April 2017, Coincheck – a cryptocurrency exchange in Japan – partnered with Recruit Lifestyle to roll out its bitcoin-enabled POS app AirREGI across 260,000 merchant stores in Japan.

The continued development of the cryptocurrency market has attracted considerable interest from regulators in Japan, Australia and South Korea. The new regulatory initiatives are expected to provide a much-needed push to widen the use-case of cryptocurrencies.

“Cryptocurrency has traditionally been a topic of discussion for its volatility and authenticity, with several industry experts not reckoning it as an alternative to traditional payment tools. This perception is changing with a large number of merchants and consumers in the region now gradually embracing it as a payment tool. Lower transaction charges compared to traditional card-based payments could make cryptocurrencies a preferred choice among merchants.

“In addition, merchants can also avoid costly chargebacks as purchases through cryptocurrencies are one-way and irreversible in nature. Customers also stand to benefit from cryptocurrency transactions in the form of potential pricing benefits from merchants, higher security, and easy borderless payments. This form of payments is now becoming increasingly popular among tourists, as they don’t attract foreign exchange charges,” concludes Sowmya.

ENDS

For more information:

Analysts available for comment. Please contact the GlobalData Press Office:

Asia-Pacific: +91 40 6616 6809

EMEA & Americas: +44 (0)207 832 4399

Email: [email protected]

About GlobalData

4,000 of the world’s largest companies, including over 70% of FTSE 100 and 60% of Fortune 100 companies, make more timely and better business decisions thanks to GlobalData’s unique data, expert analysis and innovative solutions, all in one platform. GlobalData’s mission is to help our clients decode the future to be more successful and innovative across a range of industries, including the healthcare, consumer, retail, financial, technology and professional services sectors.

If you would rather not receive future communications from GlobalData, let us know by clicking here.
GlobalData, John Carpenter House 7 Carmelite Street, London, N/A EC4Y 0BS United Kingdom

hand-coin

by Petros Koutoupis
Originally published in Linux Journal, republished with permission


How to set up a private ethereum blockchain using open-source tools and a
look at some markets and industries where blockchain technologies can add value.

In Part I, I spent quite a bit of time exploring cryptocurrency
and the mechanism that makes it possible: the blockchain. I covered details
on how the blockchain works and why it is so secure and
powerful. In this second part, I describe how to set up and configure your very own
private ethereum blockchain using open-source tools. I also look
at where this technology can bring some value or help redefine how people
transact across a more open web.

Setting Up Your Very Own Private Blockchain Network

In this section, I explore the mechanics of an ethereum-based
blockchain network—specifically, how to create a private ethereum
blockchain, a private network to host and share this blockchain,
an account, and then how to do some interesting things with the
blockchain.

What is ethereum, again? Ethereum is an open-source and public blockchain
platform featuring smart contract (that is, scripting) functionality. It
is similar to bitcoin but differs in that it extends beyond monetary
transactions.

Smart contracts are written in programming languages, such as Solidity
(similar to C and JavaScript), Serpent (similar to Python), LLL (a
Lisp-like language) and Mutan (Go-based). Smart contracts are compiled
into EVM (see below) bytecode and deployed across the ethereum blockchain
for execution. Smart contracts help in the exchange of money, property,
shares or anything of value, and it does so in a transparent and conflict-free
way avoiding the traditional middleman.

If you recall from Part I, a typical layout for any
blockchain is one where all nodes are connected to every other node,
creating a mesh. In the world of ethereum, these nodes are referred
to as Ethereum Virtual Machines (EVMs), and each EVM will host a copy
of the entire blockchain. Each EVM also will compete to mine the next
block or validate a transaction. Once the new block is appended to the
blockchain, the updates are propagated to the entire network, so that
each node is synchronized.

In order to become an EVM node on an ethereum network, you’ll need to
download and install the proper software. To accomplish this, you’ll
be using Geth (Go Ethereum). Geth is the official Go implementation
of the ethereum protocol. It is one of three such implementations;
the other two are written in C++ and Python. These open-source software
packages are licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL)
version 3. The standalone Geth client packages for all
supported operating systems and architectures, including Linux, are available
here. The source code for
the package is hosted on GitHub.

Geth is a command-line interface (CLI) tool that’s used to communicate
with the ethereum network. It’s designed to act as a link between your
computer and all other nodes across the ethereum network. When a block
is being mined by another node on the network, your Geth installation
will be notified of the update and then pass the information along to
update your local copy of the blockchain. With the Geth utility, you’ll
be able to mine ether (similar to bitcoin but the cryptocurrency
of the ethereum network), transfer funds between two addresses, create
smart contracts and more.

Download and Installation

In my examples here, I’m configuring this ethereum blockchain on the
latest LTS release of Ubuntu. Note that the tools themselves are
not restricted to this distribution or release.


Downloading and Installing the Binary from the Project Website

Download the latest stable release, extract it and copy it to a proper
directory:


$ wget https://gethstore.blob.core.windows.net/builds/
↪geth-linux-amd64-1.7.3-4bb3c89d.tar.gz
$ tar xzf geth-linux-amd64-1.7.3-4bb3c89d.tar.gz
$ cd geth-linux-amd64-1.7.3-4bb3c89d/
$ sudo cp geth /usr/bin/

Building from Source Code

If you are building from source code, you need to install both
Go and C compilers:


$ sudo apt-get install -y build-essential golang

Change into the directory and do:


$ make geth


Installing from a Public Repository

If you are running on Ubuntu and decide to install the package from a
public repository, run the following commands:


$ sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
$ sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:ethereum/ethereum
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install ethereum

Getting Started

Here is the thing, you don’t have any ether to start with. With that in
mind, let’s limit this deployment to a “private” blockchain network
that will sort of run as a development or staging version of the main
ethereum network. From a functionality standpoint, this private network
will be identical to the main blockchain, with the exception that all
transactions and smart contracts deployed on this network will be
accessible only to the nodes connected in this private network. Geth will
aid in this private or “testnet” setup. Using the tool, you’ll
be able to do everything the ethereum platform advertises, without
needing real ether.

Remember, the blockchain is nothing more than a digital and public
ledger preserving transactions in their chronological order. When
new transactions are verified and configured into a block, the block
is then appended to the chain, which is then distributed across the
network. Every node on that network will update its local copy of
the chain to the latest copy. But you need to start from some point—a
beginning or a genesis. Every blockchain starts with a genesis block,
that is, a block “zero” or the very first block of the chain. It
will be the only block without a predecessor. To create
your private blockchain, you need to create this genesis block. To
do this, you need to create a custom genesis file and then tell Geth
to use that file to create your own genesis block.

Create a directory path to host all of your ethereum-related data and
configurations and change into the config subdirectory:


$ mkdir ~/eth-evm
$ cd ~/eth-evm
$ mkdir config data
$ cd  config

Open your preferred text editor and save the following contents to a
file named Genesis.json in that same directory:


{
    "config": {
        "chainId": 999,
        "homesteadBlock": 0,
        "eip155Block": 0,
        "eip158Block": 0
    },
    "difficulty": "0x400",
    "gasLimit": "0x8000000",
    "alloc": {}
}

This is what your genesis file will look like. This simple JSON-formatted
string describes the following:

  • config — this block defines the settings for your custom chain.
  • chainId — this identifies your Blockchain, and because the
    main ethereum network has its own, you need to configure your own unique
    value for your private chain.
  • homesteadBlock — defines the version and protocol of the
    ethereum platform.
  • eip155Block / eip158Block — these fields add support for
    non-backward-compatible protocol changes to the Homestead version used. For
    the purposes of this example, you won’t be leveraging these, so they are set
    to “0”.
  • difficulty — this value controls block generation time of
    the blockchain. The higher the value, the more calculations a miner must
    perform to discover a valid block. Because this example is simply deploying a
    test network, let’s keep this value low to reduce wait times.
  • gasLimit — gas is ethereum’s fuel spent during
    transactions. As you do not want to be limited in your tests, keep this value
    high.
  • alloc — this section prefunds accounts, but because you’ll
    be mining your ether locally, you don’t need this option.

Now it’s time to instantiate the data directory. Open a terminal
window, and assuming you have the Geth binary installed and that it’s
accessible via your working path, type the following:


$ geth --datadir /home/petros/eth-evm/data/PrivateBlockchain
 ↪init /home/petros/eth-evm/config/Genesis.json
WARN [02-10|15:11:41] No etherbase set and no accounts found
 ↪as default
INFO [02-10|15:11:41] Allocated cache and file handles
    ↪database=/home/petros/eth-evm/data/PrivateBlockchain/
↪geth/chaindata cache=16 handles=16
INFO [02-10|15:11:41] Writing custom genesis block
INFO [02-10|15:11:41] Successfully wrote genesis state
    ↪database=chaindata
hash=d1a12d...4c8725
INFO [02-10|15:11:41] Allocated cache and file handles
    ↪database=/home/petros/eth-evm/data/PrivateBlockchain/
↪geth/lightchaindata cache=16 handles=16
INFO [02-10|15:11:41] Writing custom genesis block
INFO [02-10|15:11:41] Successfully wrote genesis state
    ↪database=lightchaindata

The command will need to reference a working data directory
to store your private chain data. Here, I have specified
eth-evm/data/PrivateBlockchain subdirectories in my home
directory. You’ll also need to tell the utility to initialize using
your genesis file.

This command populates your data directory with a tree of
subdirectories and files:


$ ls -R /home/petros/eth-evm/
.:
config  data

./config:
Genesis.json

./data:
PrivateBlockchain

./data/PrivateBlockchain:
geth  keystore

./data/PrivateBlockchain/geth:
chaindata  lightchaindata  LOCK  nodekey  nodes  transactions.rlp

./data/PrivateBlockchain/geth/chaindata:
000002.ldb  000003.log  CURRENT  LOCK  LOG  MANIFEST-000004

./data/PrivateBlockchain/geth/lightchaindata:
000001.log  CURRENT  LOCK  LOG  MANIFEST-000000

./data/PrivateBlockchain/geth/nodes:
000001.log  CURRENT  LOCK  LOG  MANIFEST-000000

./data/PrivateBlockchain/keystore:

Your private blockchain is now created. The next step involves starting
the private network that will allow you to mine new blocks and have them
added to your blockchain. To do this, type:


[email protected]:~/eth-evm$ geth --datadir
 ↪/home/petros/eth-evm/data/PrivateBlockchain --networkid 9999
WARN [02-10|15:11:59] No etherbase set and no accounts found
 ↪as default
INFO [02-10|15:11:59] Starting peer-to-peer node
    ↪instance=Geth/v1.7.3-stable-4bb3c89d/linux-amd64/go1.9.2
INFO [02-10|15:11:59] Allocated cache and file handles
    ↪database=/home/petros/eth-evm/data/PrivateBlockchain/
↪geth/chaindata cache=128 handles=1024
WARN [02-10|15:11:59] Upgrading database to use lookup entries
INFO [02-10|15:11:59] Initialised chain configuration
    ↪config="{ChainID: 999 Homestead: 0 DAO: <nil> DAOSupport:
 ↪false EIP150: <nil> EIP155: 0 EIP158: 0 Byzantium: <nil>
 ↪Engine: unknown}"
INFO [02-10|15:11:59] Disk storage enabled for ethash caches
    ↪dir=/home/petros/eth-evm/data/PrivateBlockchain/
↪geth/ethash count=3
INFO [02-10|15:11:59] Disk storage enabled for ethash DAGs
 ↪dir=/home/petros/.ethash count=2
INFO [02-10|15:11:59] Initialising Ethereum protocol
    ↪versions="[63 62]" network=9999
INFO [02-10|15:11:59] Database deduplication successful
    ↪deduped=0
INFO [02-10|15:11:59] Loaded most recent local header
    ↪number=0 hash=d1a12d...4c8725 td=1024
INFO [02-10|15:11:59] Loaded most recent local full block
    ↪number=0 hash=d1a12d...4c8725 td=1024
INFO [02-10|15:11:59] Loaded most recent local fast block
    ↪number=0 hash=d1a12d...4c8725 td=1024
INFO [02-10|15:11:59] Regenerated local transaction journal
    ↪transactions=0 accounts=0
INFO [02-10|15:11:59] Starting P2P networking
INFO [02-10|15:12:01] UDP listener up
    ↪self=enode://f51957cd4441f19d187f9601541d66dcbaf560
↪770d3da1db4e71ce5ba3ebc66e60ffe73c2ff01ae683be0527b77c0f96
↪[email protected][::]:30303
INFO [02-10|15:12:01] IPC endpoint opened: /home/petros/eth-evm/
↪data/PrivateBlockchain/geth.ipc
INFO [02-10|15:12:01] RLPx listener up
    ↪self=enode://f51957cd4441f19d187f9601541d66dcbaf560
↪770d3da1db4e71ce5ba3ebc66e60ffe73c2ff01ae683be0527b77c0f96
↪[email protected][::]:30303

Notice the use of the new parameter, networkid. This
networkid helps
ensure the privacy of your network. Any number can be used here. I
have decided to use 9999. Note that other peers joining your network
will need to use the same ID.

Your private network is now live! Remember, every time you need to access
your private blockchain, you will need to use these last two
commands with the exact same parameters (the Geth tool will not remember
it for you):


$ geth --datadir /home/petros/eth-evm/data/PrivateBlockchain
 ↪init /home/petros/eth-evm/config/Genesis.json
$ geth --datadir /home/petros/eth-evm/data/PrivateBlockchain
 ↪--networkid 9999

Configuring a User Account

So, now that your private blockchain network is up and running, you can
start interacting with it. But in order to do so, you need to attach
to the running Geth process. Open a second terminal window. The
following command will attach to the instance running in the first
terminal window and bring you to a JavaScript console:


$ geth attach /home/petros/eth-evm/data/PrivateBlockchain/geth.ipc
Welcome to the Geth JavaScript console!

instance: Geth/v1.7.3-stable-4bb3c89d/linux-amd64/go1.9.2
 modules: admin:1.0 debug:1.0 eth:1.0 miner:1.0 net:1.0
 ↪personal:1.0 rpc:1.0 txpool:1.0 web3:1.0

>

Time to create a new account that will manipulate the Blockchain network:


> personal.newAccount()
Passphrase:
Repeat passphrase:
"0x92619f0bf91c9a786b8e7570cc538995b163652d"

Remember this string. You’ll need it shortly. If
you forget this hexadecimal string, you can reprint it to the console
by typing:


> eth.coinbase
"0x92619f0bf91c9a786b8e7570cc538995b163652d"

Check your ether balance by typing the following script:


> eth.getBalance("0x92619f0bf91c9a786b8e7570cc538995b163652d")
0

Here’s another way to check your balance without needing to type
the entire hexadecimal string:


> eth.getBalance(eth.coinbase)
0

Mining

Doing real mining in the main ethereum blockchain requires some very
specialized hardware, such as dedicated Graphics Processing Units (GPU),
like the ones found on the high-end graphics cards mentioned in Part I.
However, since you’re mining for blocks on a private chain
with a low difficulty level, you can do without that requirement. To
begin mining, run the following script on the JavaScript console:


> miner.start()
null

Updates in the First Terminal Window

You’ll observe mining activity in the output logs displayed in the
first terminal window:


INFO [02-10|15:14:47] Updated mining threads
    ↪threads=0
INFO [02-10|15:14:47] Transaction pool price threshold
 ↪updated price=18000000000
INFO [02-10|15:14:47] Starting mining operation
INFO [02-10|15:14:47] Commit new mining work
    ↪number=1 txs=0 uncles=0 elapsed=186.855us
INFO [02-10|15:14:57] Generating DAG in progress
    ↪epoch=1 percentage=0 elapsed=7.083s
INFO [02-10|15:14:59] Successfully sealed new block
    ↪number=1 hash=c81539...dc9691
INFO [02-10|15:14:59] mined potential block
    ↪number=1 hash=c81539...dc9691
INFO [02-10|15:14:59] Commit new mining work
    ↪number=2 txs=0 uncles=0 elapsed=211.208us
INFO [02-10|15:15:04] Generating DAG in progress
    ↪epoch=1 percentage=1 elapsed=13.690s
INFO [02-10|15:15:06] Successfully sealed new block
    ↪number=2 hash=d26dda...e3b26c
INFO [02-10|15:15:06] mined potential block
    ↪number=2 hash=d26dda...e3b26c
INFO [02-10|15:15:06] Commit new mining work
    ↪number=3 txs=0 uncles=0 elapsed=510.357us

[ ... ]

INFO [02-10|15:15:52] Generating DAG in progress
    ↪epoch=1 percentage=8 elapsed=1m2.166s
INFO [02-10|15:15:55] Successfully sealed new block
    ↪number=15 hash=d7979f...e89610
INFO [02-10|15:15:55] block reached canonical chain
    ↪number=10 hash=aedd46...913b66
INFO [02-10|15:15:55] mined potential block
    ↪number=15 hash=d7979f...e89610
INFO [02-10|15:15:55] Commit new mining work
    ↪number=16 txs=0 uncles=0 elapsed=105.111us
INFO [02-10|15:15:57] Successfully sealed new block
    ↪number=16 hash=61cf68...b16bf2
INFO [02-10|15:15:57] block reached canonical chain
    ↪number=11 hash=6b89ff...de8f88
INFO [02-10|15:15:57] mined potential block
    ↪number=16 hash=61cf68...b16bf2
INFO [02-10|15:15:57] Commit new mining work
    ↪number=17 txs=0 uncles=0 elapsed=147.31us

Back to the Second Terminal Window

Wait 10–20 seconds, and on the JavaScript console, start checking your balance:


> eth.getBalance(eth.coinbase)
10000000000000000000

Wait some more, and list it again:


> eth.getBalance(eth.coinbase)
75000000000000000000

Remember, this is fake ether, so don’t open that bottle of champagne,
yet. You are unable to use this ether in the main ethereum network.

To stop the miner, invoke the following script:


> miner.stop()
true

Well, you did it. You created your own private blockchain and mined some ether.

Who Will Benefit from This Technology Today and in the Future?

Although the blockchain originally was developed around cryptocurrency
(more specifically, bitcoin), its uses don’t end there. Today,
it may seem like that’s the case, but there are untapped industries and
markets where blockchain technologies can redefine how transactions
are processed. The following are some examples that come to mind.


Improving Smart Contracts

Ethereum, the same open-source blockchain project deployed
earlier, already is doing the whole smart-contract thing, but the
idea is still in its infancy, and as it matures, it will evolve to meet
consumer demands. There’s plenty of room for growth in this
area. It probably and eventually will creep into governance of companies
(such as verifying digital assets, equity and so on), trading stocks,
handling intellectual property and managing property
ownership, such as land title registration.


Enabling Market Places and Shared Economies

Think of eBay but refocused to be peer-to-peer. This would mean no
more transaction fees, but it also will emphasize the importance of your
personal reputation, since there will be no single body governing the
market in which goods or services are being traded or exchanged.


Crowdfunding

Following in the same direction as my previous remarks about a decentralized
marketplace, there also are opportunities for individuals or
companies to raise the capital necessary to help “kickstart” their
initiatives. Think of a more open and global Kickstarter or GoFundMe.


Multimedia Sharing or Hosting

A peer-to-peer network for aspiring or established musicians
definitely could go a long way here—one where the content will reach
its intended audiences directly and also avoid those hefty royalty costs paid
out to the studios, record labels and content distributors. The same
applies to video and image content.


File Storage and Data Management

By enabling a global peer-to-peer network, blockchain technology
takes cloud computing to a whole new level. As the technology continues
to push itself into existing cloud service markets, it will challenge
traditional vendors, including Amazon AWS and even Dropbox and
others—and it will do so at a fraction of the price. For example, cold
storage data offerings are a multi-hundred billion dollar market today. By
distributing your encrypted archives across a global and decentralized
network, the need to maintain local data-center equipment by a single
entity is reduced significantly.

Social media and how your posted content is managed would change under
this model as well. Under the blockchain, Facebook or Twitter or anyone
else cannot lay claim to what you choose to share.

Another added benefit to leveraging blockchain here is making use of
the cryptography securing your valuable data from getting hacked or lost.

Internet of Things

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)? It is a broad term describing the
networked management of very specific electronic devices, which include
heating and cooling thermostats, lights, garage doors and more. Using
a combination of software, sensors and networking facilities, people can
easily enable an environment where they can automate and monitor home
and/or business equipment.


Supply Chain Audits

With a distributed public ledger made available to consumers,
retailers can’t falsify claims made against their products.
Consumers will have the ability to verify their sources, be it food,
jewelry or anything else.

Identity Management

There isn’t much to explain here. The threat is very real. Identity
theft never takes a day off. The dated user name/password systems of today
have run their course, and it’s about time that existing authentication
frameworks leverage the cryptographic capabilities offered by the
blockchain.

Summary

This revolutionary technology has enabled organizations in ways that
weren’t possible a decade ago. Its possibilities are enormous, and it
seems that any industry dealing with some sort of transaction-based
model will be disrupted by the technology. It’s only a matter of time
until it happens.

Now, what will the future for blockchain look like? At this stage, it’s
difficult to say. One thing is for certain though;
large companies, such as IBM, are investing big into the technology
and building their own blockchain infrastructure that can be sold to
and used by corporate enterprises and financial institutions. This
may create some issues, however. As these large companies build their
blockchain infrastructures, they will file for patents to protect their
technologies. And with those patents in their arsenal, there exists the
possibility that they may move aggressively against the competition in
an attempt to discredit them and their value.

Anyway, if you will excuse me, I need to go make some crypto-coin.

About the Author
Petros Koutoupis, Linux Journal Editor at Large, is a senior platform architect at IBM for its Cloud Object Storage division (formerly Cleversafe). He is also the creator and maintainer of the RapidDisk Project. Petros has worked in the data storage industry for well over a decade and has helped pioneer the many technologies unleashed in the wild today.

decentralizedblockchain projects

Could the world’s idle computers make the $200 billion cloud computing industry obsolete?

In the final years of the Obama administration, it seemed that the world was witnessing the emergence of an odd alliance between the largest establishment tech companies and the traditionally anti-establishment community of independent techies. The highest-profile case involved Apple and other major corporations siding with civil rights organizations to advocate against weakening device encryption on behalf of law enforcement, and it led to a hope that these companies were finally seeing the profit potential in having secure, satisfied customers. That hope has now evaporated in the face of continuous betrayals of user trust, and rather than take it lying down, tech users are looking into alternative solutions that put them in control.

The recently passed federal Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act, or the CLOUD Act, makes it perfectly clear why this shift away from self-interested stakeholders is so necessary. The new law was motivated by a legal demand for Microsoft to hand user data to US law enforcement, even though that data was stored outside US borders and, thus, in a different legal jurisdiction. At first, it seemed that Microsoft was planning to stand up for privacy and national sovereignty by opposing the demand in court—but, predictably, the corporation rolled over just as soon as it deemed that its own interests were protected.

The goal of the CLOUD Act is for the US to be able to compel any company that does business in the country to provide information to US law enforcement, even if that information is not actually stored within the US. If it’s successful, a company’s willingness to fight will become essentially irrelevant. It makes all cloud computing and cloud storage companies suspect, simply by virtue of being cloud computing companies.

Groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union believe it also could allow US law enforcement to seize information in foreign jurisdictions because those regions have more lenient privacy laws than the US itself. The reverse, in which foreign law enforcement agencies operating under more stringent rules than the US, could gain access to protected information stored in the country, is also a major concern.

These fears are compounded by a basic lack of trust in American-based tech companies that theoretically act as advocates on behalf of their customers—many of which have abysmal records of actually following through. The concern isn’t just that cloud usage data could be given up involuntarily to an outside party, but that such data could be intentionally and proactively packaged and sold to an outside party. Even professed mistakes can have shocking implications for personal boundaries and the expectation that modern life comes with any privacy at all.

With traditional network technology, there was no way to cut these large service companies out while still remaining as agile and profitable as the competition, or while maintaining the features that modern users demand. Today, however, advanced and emerging ideas, like the blockchain technology behind Bitcoin, are chipping away at the built-in advantage held by moneyed corporations. They’re empowering startups and even individuals to automate the bottlenecks that previously made large third parties a necessity for all cloud services. Modern blockchain-focused startups are developing services that make it possible for individuals to administer the crucial aspects of cloud computing securely, without involving a third-party service provider that weakens security and charges an extra fee.

Subutai, a blockchain-based cloud computing service, allows users to buy and sell computing time to create the exact amount of computing power they need for a given job, without having to invest in all that power as hardware. Users can sell their idle computing time over the service in exchange for blockchain-validated digital tokens, which can be redeemed to purchase time on other idle computers hooked up to the service. Beyond creating ad-hoc cloud computing networks without the need for a corporate overseer, this model also essentially makes computing downtime useful by allowing it to subsidize the extra power needed for later, tougher projects.

Another blockchain-based startup, called AXEL, is similarly trying to wrest a portion of the cloud from large stakeholders—this time, cloud storage. By letting users set up their own remote storage devices, rather than paying an exorbitant monthly fee for access to a terabyte of storage space, AXEL users simply can buy a cheap terabyte drive, plug it in to their desktop at home and link it to their AXEL account—at that point, they have an entirely private connection to that HDD that allows full cloud access without even the possibility of outside interference or surveillance by the service provider. And if you want another five terabytes of cloud storage? It’s as easy as buying five more terabytes of storage and hooking them up to the network. Since you own the drives, moving a file onto a linked drive takes zero upload time—it’s in your cloud-linked folders, after all, and thus has nowhere else it needs to go.

That sort of versatility, where freezing out large corporations doesn’t just preserve features but actually expands them, is why the blockchain has such potential to upend the cloud space. Large cloud services corporations, from Amazon to Google to Microsoft, have reached their current level of dominance not by satisfying their customers but by correctly pointing out that they were the only game in town—but now, the users can start to provide an alternate solution all their own.

It remains to be seen whether these companies will notice the impending danger to their business model in time to act—or, more to the point, whether there is any action they could take that would make them desirable in the face of growing privacy issues and ever-more-user friendly competition.

Corporate cloud service providers are facing an existential crisis and given their increasingly aggressive practices and pricing, it seems as though they don’t even know it. New challengers in tech are proving more than happy to show them.

Initial coin offerings (ICOs) are proving to be the investment of the day, with over $9 billion so far raised in the first six months of 2018.

Despite a drop in cryptocurrency prices, interest in ICOs doesn’t appear to be waning. Figures from CoinSchedule indicates that within the first half of the year, more than $9.6 billion has been invested into this form of fundraising. March saw the highest amount raised, coming in at $3.8 billion from 59 ICOs.

When it comes to the top-ranked ICOs, in terms of return on investment (ROI) against the U.S. dollar, which ones make it in the top 10.

The following is in no way an endorsement of ICOs, and potential investors should always conduct their own research before investing their money.

This handy infographic by ico_analysis details what those top 10 ICOs of 2018 are.

Credits

Back in February Credits launched its public crowdsale, hitting its hard cap of $22 million within 17 hours. As an open blockchain platform with smart contracts and an internal cryptocurrency, Credits is reported to have fast transactions up to one million per second and unlimited scalability of the network.

Matrix Chain

The Matrix Chain is also a blockchain platform that supports smart contracts as well as machine learning services. Its public sale launched in mid-January, with a fundraising goal of $12 million. Rated as the next generation blockchain that leverages AI with the blockchain, Owen Tao, CEO of MATRIX, claims it’s a ‘game changer in blockchain technology.’

Switcheo

Built on the NEO blockchain, Switcheo is a decentralized exchange (DEX) that allows for trustless exchange of NEP-5 tokens. It launched its public crowdsale in March with a hard cap of $8 million. It aims to be the first multi-chain DEX for cross-chain token exchange.

Nucleus Vision

Nucleus is an end-to-end technology solution that captures and provides previously inaccessible data to retailers and other ‘brick-and-mortar’ businesses. It achieves this through its proprietary blockchain and real-time sensor technology. In January it reached its hard cap target of $40 million from the backing of prominent blockchain-focused investment companies. It also canceled its public ICO due to rising ethereum prices, deciding instead to list its token directly on exchanges.

Bluzelle

This data service brings together a sharing and token economy. The platform enables people to rent out their unused computer storage space while developers pay to use it with a token. Bluzelle’s token sale ended in January with a target of $19 million.

Zebi

Zebi is a blockchain service that is aiming to become the blockchain network of India. In February, it reached its ICO goal for 30 percent of the token total. It aims to provide individuals, businesses, data requestors, and data providers with a platform to exchange information.

Tomocoin

This is a blockchain infrastructure for the Internet of Value, where people can trade assets, such as stocks, votes, and securities, securely. It will connect to Tomocoin and Ethereum to support cross-chain protocols. Its ICO ended in March with a target of $8 million for 40 percent of token total reached.

Holochain

Holochain is a cloud storage solution provider that is aiming to deliver a decentralized hosting ecosystem. Its token sale ended in April where it had a target of $20 million.

Zilliqa

This is a new blockchain platform that is designed to scale in an open, permissionless distributed network securely. A core feature of it is sharding, which enables it to scale and is a problem it is attempting to solve in the industry. Its public sale was at the beginning of the year with a hard cap of $22 million to raise.

Ontology

Built on the NEO blockchain, Ontology is a network that connects ‘distributed identity verification, data exchange, data collaboration, procedure protocols, communities, attestation, and various industry-specific modules.’ Unlike conventional ICO sales, Ontology didn’t have one, but instead only airdropped to subscribers in March. Distributed by the NEO Council, 20 million ONT tokens were sent to the community.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

EOS

What is EOS?

EOS is a blockchain that is designed specifically for facilitating “decentralized applications”, or DApps. This is different from Ethereum which has made its mark by focusing on “smart contracts”. A smart contract is a way to make a record of an agreement that is settled in one transaction. A DApp may continue to run indefinitely over many transactions, where each transaction is one step of an overall computation. EOS can, therefore, be thought of as a distributed computing resource, taking advantage of otherwise idle computing power and applying it to complex problems that require more power to solve than any one user may have in their possession.

Overview

There are two significant problems that must be overcome in order to make DApps worthwhile. One is that transactions must be inexpensive, because if a DApp becomes more expensive as the number of operations increase, then the cost of running the program might outweigh the benefits of its results.

The other problem is the speed of transactions per second. While every blockchain aspires to clear as many transactions as it can with every block, the ultimate goal of facilitating human beings making individual transactions, such as purchases, puts a rough upper boundary on how many transactions would be expected. For example, Bitcoin is often compared to whether or not it could handle a throughput of transactions similar to Visa, at 1600 transactions a second. However, any DApp could create an algorithm that expands to create nearly unlimited operations, limited only by what any programmer hopes to achieve.

EOS claims to solve both these problems. Its distributed proof-of-stake, or DPOS, a method of validating the blockchain requires no transaction fees from users, giving DApp developers access to all of the computing power of EOS at no cost. The same DPOS mechanism also shares computing power in such a way that EOS developers claim can process millions of transactions a second.

Purpose

A DApp is a program that is run on a blockchain so that the work required to make it run is spread out over all the computing power supporting that blockchain. Examples of DApps running on EOS are Everipedia, a recreation of Wikipedia, Ono, a decentralized social network, and Oraclechain, an Oracle service provider.

One may note that all these DApps are versions of applications that exist in other forms elsewhere, so there does not yet seem to be a service that could not exist without the support of EOS. The current offering of DApps establish EOS as a viable way to run a program, but the killer app has yet to be found.

Technical

EOS uses a distributed proof of stake algorithm. Instead of blocks being more likely to be mined by people who have more computing power, blocks are verified by people designated as “witnesses” who are selected by an ongoing process of voting. In this way, bad actors can’t overtake the system as unwelcome actions will cause them to be voted out of their position. Also, it increases speed because blocks are not verified through a competition of computing power. A proof-of-work system puts all participants in competition with everyone else, driving an incentive for more and more computing power. In a proof-of-stake system, the designated witnesses are limited to a small pool, so there is reduced incentive to commit vast resources to compete with others. The savings in computing power by not competing can be put toward improving the throughput of calculations. According to EOS developers, they can handle millions of transactions a second, as compared to Ethereum’s 15 transactions per second.

Market

Currently, EOS is 5th overall in market capitalization, with a little over 12.5 billion dollars invested. However, by having a clearly defined niche in distributed computing power, its success is not necessarily relevant to other top cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum, as they are going after different use cases. While a large market capitalization is an indicator of market confidence so far, EOS still has a ways to go to establish itself, in particular by demonstrating itself with a particularly popular DApp, which has yet to emerge. Until that time, competitors such as Golem, who are going after the same use case, could have a chance to catch up.