blockchain artwork

The world’s first blockchain auction took place last year.

A 31.5% stake in Andy Warhol’s painting 14 Small Electric Chairs was tokenized and sold to bidders who could pay with bitcoin, ethereum, or a native cryptocurrency ART. Each token share was determined by a smart contract on Ethereum. 

Is this fractional ownership system the future of artwork auctions?

The gallery behind the initiative, Dadiani, thinks so: “For the first time ever high-value, blue-chip art works will be available for everybody to own utilizing the unique [blockchain] platform.”

75% of Auction Houses Are Looking Into Blockchain

According to one of The European Fine Art Fair Reports from 2017, called TEFAF Art Market Online Focus, 75% of auction houses are looking into offering some sort of blockchain technology within the next five years.

The tokenization of assets is a huge theme across the blockchain industry. And, alongside real estate, the art world is among the first to embrace the revolution.

artwork blockchain stats

But Why Blockchain and Artwork? 

Let’s dig into some stats and think about it. 

Issue #1.  Even though art is considered a great investment, there’s no consistent data on value

The Mona Lisa was evaluated at $100 million back in 1962. More than 50 years later, in 2017, ERGO insurance specialists now estimate that figure at $750 million – $1 billion considering inflation and other factors. 

But there are only a handful of masterpieces in the world. So, the overall return on investment is quite unpredictable. Even the data points from different market players are entirely inconsistent.

For example, a well-known art expert, Melanie Gerlis, who combined “all the research on the broad market points to an average compound return on investment-grade art” came up with 4% annual return.  

Warhol blockchain artwork

When the researchers from Stanford Business School tried to do the math and analyze data from 1972 to 2010, they found out that the return was closer to 6.5%. And The Blouin Art Sales Index, popular amongst art dealers database, estimates a 10% annual return. For reference, the average yearly return from the S&P 500 was about 11.46% from 1988 to 2018. 

Even experts not sure about the changing value in fine art. How are average folks suppose to deal with all that?

By recording auction and gallery sale prices on an immutable, transparent blockchain, we could theoretically bring some clarity to art values over time.

Issue #2. Investing in art is not easily available to the general public. Selling art is easier for dead geniuses. 

Works by 52,105 artists appeared at fine art auctions in 2017 according to the Art Basel and UBS’s The Art Market | 2018 report. But only 1% of those names accounted for 64% of the sales (works priced and sold higher than $1 million per pop). 

According to the same report, nearly all artworks up to $1 million declined in value. On the contrary, the market for works priced over $1 million increased. The number of items sold in that segment grew by 76% along with the 50% value increase.

Successfully investing in art is therefore limited to those who can afford million-dollar auction prices.

Artwork on the blockchain

Apart from the price, think of the transaction fees. There’s no “fair” price for art. It’s just a matter of what are you agreeing to pay as a buyer plus fees (those are sometimes negotiable), that can reach up to 25% depending on the price of the piece. And don’t forget about the ongoing costs of purchasing such a valuable lot – insurance, video surveillance, top-notch security system, etc. 

All that means that you’ve got to have a couple of millions of dollars to spare if you are really into purchasing some fine art. And it’s not clear when you’ll be able to sell your acquisition in case you urgently need your money back. Those investments are amongst the most illiquid. 

Blockchain auctions, like Andy Warhol’s 14 Small Electric Chairs, could change this. By tokenizing a fractional share of expensive paintings, anyone can get into art investing, even with a small amount.

Issue #3. Fraud and lack of transparency 

The art market is not as regulated as more traditional investments classes. There is more temptation to do things wrong. And even when you deal with the most authoritative galleries and auctioning houses and paying the highest fees, there’s still a risk of fraud.

Let’s remember Christie’s case. Christie’s has reportedly sold forgeries from La Horde by Ernst Max to Heinrich Campendonk’s Girl with a Swank. More than that, The Independent claims that at least 20% of the paintings held by world-class museums are fake. 

But imagine, what if there was a database with the history of ownership and proof of the authenticity for all the pieces of art ever existed? Doesn’t it ring “blockchain” to you? 

Who’s Leading the Artwork Blockchain Evolution?

The revolution is already happening. At the moment there are two main types of players in the field: 

  • Those solving infrastructural problems – e.g. recording and verifying artwork authenticity on a blockchain, creating a service solution those tokenizing artwork. 
  • Those democratizing fine art as an investment – e.g. companies selling fractional ownership of artwork via token sales or auction.

Here are some of the biggest players:

Blockchain App Factory

Blockchain App Factory is somewhat equivocal and mysterious. They provide an extraordinary number of services (due diligence, creating of a token, auditing, and legal services for assigning a value for the token).

ArtWallet

ArtWallet is a “blockchain-based ecosystem” which aims to verify the authenticity of artwork by tracking its ownership, history, and provenance on a blockchain. Their whitelist is opening soon.

Monegraph

The much more open and clear Monegraph allows artists to register their works on the publicly verifiable Bitcoin blockchain. It provides users with a certification of authenticity for the tokens, representing pieces of art.

Blockchain Art Collective

Blockchain Art Collective also aims to track and prove artwork authenticity. It tags artwork with a tamper-evident, NFC-enabled Certificate of Authenticity, complete with timestamps, to a blockchain. (Blockchain Art Starter Kit starting at $20).

blockchain art collective

Verisart

Verisart was founded by Robert Norton, the former CEO of Saatchi Art & Sedition Art. It strives to build evidentiary infrastructure for artworks and collectibles that are verifiable by anyone based on a public blockchain. 

Artory

My personal favorite from this list is Artory. Founded in 2016 by Nanne Dekking, the former chairman of Sotheby’s, the company tracks provenance of fine artwork and collectibles. Due to his background, Dekking has some aces up his sleeves, so in November Artory partnered with Christie’s New York to sell $318 million Barney A. Ebsworth collection and keep the transactions data recorded on its blockchain. 

Maecenas

Maecenas is the company that powered the sale of 31.5% ownership of Andy Warhol’s piece last summer. Maecenas is currently working to organize a second auction, this time featuring Picasso. The auction is preliminarily scheduled to be held during the 1st quarter of 2019. 

Masterworks

Masterworks was founded by Scott Lynn, who has been a passionate art collector for more than 15 years and accumulated a pretty impressive selection of Abstract Expressionism including Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Barnett Newman. And now Masterworks offers a clear framework for its users along with well-researched analytical data about the investment in fine arts.  The team has acquired Warhol’s “1 Colored Marilyn (Reversal Series),” and at the moment of writing 97% of it has been reserved by retail investors. A minimum investment of $1,000 will give anyone 50 shares of an artwork. Payment can be made via bank transfer (for the citizens of the US and Canada) or via credit card (5% fees applied). The next on the Masterwork’s selling list is Claude Monet. 

Masterworks blockchain artwork

TheArtToken (TAT) 

TAT was issued by Swarm, a non-profit provider of open infrastructure for digital securities. The project’s team already owns a pre-funded art collection of $4.1 million value and currently is in the process of its own token sale that is due to end at the middle of January 2019. Each token sold represents partial ownership of a Post War & Contemporary Art collection. It is stored in a Swiss bonded warehouse and managed by FineArtDigital AG.

R.A.R.E Digital Art Network

R.A.R.E is a company selling digital artwork. Using blockchain technology, each piece of digital artwork can be given a unique identity or a limited run. It brings scarcity and value to digital artwork that was never possible without blockchain.

Snark

Snark is selling “atoms,” which represent fractional ownership of Eve Sussman’s acclaimed video 89 seconds at Alcazár. 

Conclusion

As mentioned before at BlockExplorer, tokenization of real assets is something I am very excited about. For now, the only thing that’s left to do is to relax and observe how all of those startups will bring the technologies of the distributed ledger to a new level of adoption at least in the art space. 

Baby steps. 

How long will it take to allow anyone in the world to purchase a share of an authentic Rembrandt or Van Gogh in a matter of a couple of clicks from a mobile device? Go ahead and share your predictions in the comment section below.

Crypto Curious? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter to get exclusive crypto insights before they appear on the site.

Ethereum scaling roadmap casper, plasma, sharding

A version of this article appeared in our exclusive newsletter. If you’d like Block Explorer’s cutting-edge analysis in your inbox every Tuesday, sign up now.

While the Ethereum roadmap isn’t definitively laid out, there are many important updates planned to take place in 2019. We can also expect to see more of the research that has taken place over the past two to three years begin to enter preliminary testing phases and eventual implementation on mainnet. Without further ado, here’s what you should know about Ethereum’s development efforts in 2019 and beyond.

How Will Ethereum Scale?

Ethereum has already accomplished a lot as a blockchain protocol since its initial project development began in 2014. With thousands of decentralized applications (dApps) built on top of Ethereum, it’s the clear leader of ecosystem creation amongst blockchain projects. However, a number of newer blockchain projects are beginning to challenge this. EOS, POA, and Steem are all excellent examples of blockchains that also have a number of native applications.

In early 2019, there are a number of challenges that remain unresolved for Ethereum. The primary focal point of Ethereum in the immediate future is clearly on improving Ethereum’s scalability. 

Ethereum transactions scaling
When Ethereum transactions increase, the network slows down and fees increase. A scaling solution is needed.

Making an exact timeline for when we should expect to see these solutions implemented can be difficult. Nonetheless, it’s good to use estimated time frames based on various sources to show how close (or distant) Ethereum’s upgrades are.

The Ethereum Roadmap at a Glance

UpgradeDateDetails
Raiden Red EyesDecember 2018Off-chain solution for faster and cheaper transactions.
Constantinople hard forkJanuary 16th, 2019Lays the technical groundwork for significant scaling projects in the future.
PlasmaTBDThe introduction of “child” chains off the main Ethereum blockchain for faster and cheaper transactions. Similar to how the Lightning Network works on Bitcoin.
Caspermid-2019Ethereum’s main scaling goal. Casper is the shift from Proof-of-Work to the more efficient Proof-of-Stake.
Sharding2020-2021Partition the existing blockchain into smaller pieces known as shards.
Serenity (aka Ethereum 2.0)2019-2021The culmination of Casper and Sharding will create “Ethereum 2.0.”
Ethereum 3.02022-2025Implementation of a ‘super quadratic sharding’ solution which could facilitate one billion transactions per day.

Before we look at the roadmap in more detail, let’s also give some context to where the project is today.

Ethereum 1.0 (July 30, 2015 to Present)

Classifying the various Ethereum versions can be tricky. This is because the project isn’t the same as it was during its mainnet launch in July 2015. Plus, there are two commonly-accepted classifications. 

First, you’ll find that the Ethereum blockchain in early 2019 is still referred to as ‘Ethereum 1.0’. Ethereum 2.0 is referred to as Serenity. The official Ethereum Wiki page shows that Serenity is technically classified as Ethereum v4, and its release date is to be determined. 

Some major development milestones of Ethereum 1.0 include:

Olympic (v0, released in May 2015)

Frontier (v1, released in July 2015)

Homestead (v2, released in March 2016)

Metropolis (v3 aka vByzantium released in October 2017). 

Metropolis (v3.5 aka vConstantinople) will be released in January 2019. 

Raiden’s Red Eyes Launched on Ethereum Mainnet (December 21, 2018)

Although this technically happened in 2018, it’s still an important and recent achievement on the roadmap to reaching greater scalability for Ethereum. In sum, the Red Eyes protocol allows for quicker transaction completion times through payment channel technology, which takes place off-chain. 

Some innovative features of Red Eyes include single and multi-hop transfers, REST API with endpoints for all functionalities, rewritten and more gas-efficient smart contracts (e.g. only one contract per token network), recoverability in case of an irregular shutdown of the Raiden node, and the integration of the Matrix transport protocol for messaging. 

raiden network
The Raiden network

Still, the current version of Red Eyes has a few known issues to be aware of. For example, third parties are currently unable to monitor channels on behalf of nodes or to pathfinding services. It also isn’t possible to do atomic swaps or upgrade smart contracts with Red Eyes. 

The only way to upgrade the network is to close all channels and redeploy a new smart contract and reopen the channels. Additionally, Raiden’s blog post mentions numerous security notes. Some known issues include a compromised user system, a full disk, blockchain congestion, and chain reorganizations. 

Once fully deployed, Raiden is designed to enable the Ethereum blockchain to process one million transactions per second and make transactions significantly cheaper to complete than before. 

Three 1,000 ETH Grants (December 2018)

In December 2018, Vitalik Buterin sent 1,000 ETH grants to three different blockchain companies: Prysmatic Labs, Sigma Prime, and ChainSafe Systems. Even though this was positive news, it actually led to mixed reactions from members of the blockchain community. 

For example, one VC investor stated that Ethereum is “missing ship dates [and] are lacking basic operational leadership.” A CEO of a crypto project said, “Ethereum has taken its lead for granted for too long (2 years). Needs increased focus and urgency on scalability to reclaim its narrative. Move fast or die slow.”

Whether or not you agree with these criticisms, it’s safe to say that most of Ethereum’s innovations are still listed on the future roadmap, and a lot of work is needed to sustain its position as a leader in blockchain and crypto. With that being said, here are some future events to look forward to.

Metropolis, vConstantinople (January 16, 2019)

Constantinople is the first major Ethereum update of 2019 and quite possibly the most important since the October 2017 update. Constantinople marks a hard fork of the Ethereum blockchain. After this update is released, members of the community will have to decide whether to run the old network or switch to the new one. 

Lane Rettig, an independent developer, has called Constantinople a “maintenance and optimization upgrade.” While these changes aren’t all that big from an end user’s perspective, they do present new opportunities as well as challenges overall in several key areas. For example, upgrades implemented with Constantinople should make it easier for the Ethereum team and projects building on top of Ethereum to continue on tackling scalability issues in the future.

Constantinople will include the following five EIPs (Ethereum improvement proposals): 

EIP 145 introduces a more efficient method of information processing known as Bitwise shifting. According to the EIP145 proposal notes, it costs around 35 gas to do a shift using arithmetic. However, this solution introduces an Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) native operation that only costs 3 gas. This results in a 91.4% savings in gas costs. 

EIP 1052 provides a solution for optimizing large-scale code execution on Ethereum. More specifically, this functionality returns the keccak256 hash of a contract’s bytecode. It improves upon the design of the EXTCODECOPY opcode. As a result, large contracts that only require the hash will be cheaper to process.

EIP 1283 is based on EIP 1087. This proposal aims to help smart contract developers by reducing gas costs related to changes made to data storage.

EIP 1014 is utilized in state-channel use cases that involve counterfactual interactions with contracts. It allows interactions to (actually or counterfactually in channels) be made with addresses that do not exist yet on-chain.

EIP 1234 is the somewhat controversial proposal that reduces the block mining reward issuance from 3 ETH down to 2 ETH. This will change Ethereum’s underlying economic policy.  It also delays the introduction of the “difficulty bomb” for 12 additional months. The difficulty bomb is a piece of code which will eventually increase the difficulty level of puzzles in the mining algorithm used to reward miners with ETH.

Plasma and Plasma Cash (TBD)

Even though it’s up for debate, most consider Plasma to be an on-chain scaling solution. This is due to the fact that Plasma relies upon the inherent security of the Ethereum blockchain. 

Plasma chains have the ability to be better than ordinary sidechains due to increased security and easier accessibility. For example, if a Plasma sidechain breaks, funds are still secure thanks to the main chain. Meanwhile, users can also withdraw funds from a Plasma sidechain to the main chain at any time with balances from the last valid block. 

Ethereum plasma diagram

Back in September 2018, OmiseGo Director of Engineering Kasima Tharnpipitchai outlined updates about providing a Plasma solution for Ethereum at a meetup event in Warsaw. On October 8, 2018, the OmiseGo team released the fifth Plasma update. Although Plasma hasn’t been added on top of the Ethereum mainnet, there has been a lot of progress towards this goal. For example, the Plasma team arrived at Devcon4 with an internal testnet, a Plasma MVP, and the first dapp built on OmiseGO. 

Plasma Cash is another solution that’s supposed to be even more efficient than Plasma. However, this is still in the research phase as of the beginning of 2019. The OMG team has been working with other researchers to simplify an atomic swap protocol which utilizes Vitalik Buterin’s atomic swaps and defragmentation work. 

Loom Network is another blockchain project that has been working on developing similar Plasma solutions to improve the scalability of the Ethereum blockchain.

Casper (mid-2019)

Casper is Ethereum’s pure Proof of Stake consensus algorithm. Why the change to Casper? Simply put, Proof of Stake blockchains are typically more scalable than Proof of Work blockchains. Additionally, there are growing concerns over the environmental impact of cryptocurrency mining operations. 

As of the beginning of 2019, transactions on the Ethereum blockchain are still reliant upon Proof of Work. This means that cryptocurrency miners play a big role in verifying the accuracy of transactions. When Ethereum switches to Casper, transactions will be validated with staking. 

Originally, the core development team decided to come up with two phases of Casper (FFG and CBC). FFG was supposed to be a hybrid PoW/PoS solution. Meanwhile, Casper CBC was designed to be a pure PoS. In 2018, however, the Ethereum team scrapped this two-phase Casper approach and decided to focus solely on Casper CBC. Here is an excellent article (with diagrams) that demonstrates how Casper CBC should work.

proof of stake vs proof of work
Source: Block Geeks

Sharding Updates (2020 and 2021)

In basic terms, sharding aims to securely partition the existing blockchain into smaller pieces known as shards. This solution, like most others on this list, is something that many non-Ethereum blockchain developers and researchers are also working on. 

When it comes to implementing sharding on a mainnet, Ethereum won’t be the first. This title will likely go to Zilliqa upon the release of its mainnet on January 31, 2019. However, Ethereum’s sharding implementation isn’t too far down the road. According to various estimations from developers, we should expect the Ethereum blockchain to implement phase one of sharding sometime in 2020 and phase two sometime in 2021. 

Serenity a.k.a. Ethereum 2.0 (2019/2020)

Earlier, we mentioned that Ethereum is still in version 1.0 as of the beginning of 2019. So when will Ethereum 2.0 be released? This is still difficult to say exactly. That’s because Ethereum 2.0 is generally considered to be a combination of Casper CBC (full PoS) and sharding. As stated above, Casper will likely be ready mid-2019. 

Meanwhile, sharding for Ethereum won’t be initially implemented until 2020. In that sense, it’s easier to think of the move to Ethereum 2.0 as the culmination of two separate upgrades and not something that will have a single release date.

Ethereum 3.0 (2022 to 2025)

While Serenity (Ethereum 2.0) is still on the horizon, the core Ethereum team is already working towards Ethereum 3.0. This mostly involves research, rather than implementation. As to be expected, objectives that are further along in the roadmap have broader time frame ranges. 

This is because delays or even circumstances that speed up the current projects or the future development of Ethereum 3.0 could take place.

Super quadratic sharding is a major part of Ethereum 3.0. As this site explains it, “So say, Ethereum currently has 16,000 nodes and all of them are currently processing the same transactions. You split that into 160 node groups of 1,000 nodes each. Ethereum’s current capacity is around one million transactions, so in this sharded chain its capacity would be one million x 160.”

Once everyone is confident in the capabilities of the sharded chain, it’s possible that, sometime between 2022 to 2025, Ethereum can split those 1,000 nodes each into 10 groups of 100 nodes each. This would make it possible to process one billion transactions per day with Ethereum. 

Conclusion

Ethereum continues to make progress on its roadmap goals for 2019 and beyond. Much like any project, there will likely be a few speed bumps along the way. However, a large group of core developers and an ecosystem of independent developers and projects building infrastructure for Ethereum is what continues to accelerate innovation.

Learned something new? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter to get exclusive crypto insights before they appear on the site.

Ledger nano x bitcoin hardware wallet

Ledger, the world’s most popular crypto hardware wallet provider, has unveiled its next-generation product: Nano X.

The Nano X is an upgrade from the Nano S which sold over a million devices and featured in our best cryptocurrency wallets of 2018 roundup. The Nano X offers a host of new, improved features for safe bitcoin storage.

Here’s everything we know so far.

Ledger Nano X: Bluetooth Enabled

Ledger’s new hardware wallet will feature Bluetooth connectivity, allowing users to connect to a mobile device. The previous Nano S only connected to a laptop or desktop via USB.

It improves usability in a mobile-first world and it means the Nano X can be used on the go.

Ledger Live Mobile: A New Mobile App

Ledger will launch a mobile app to integrate with the device, Ledger Mobile Live. The app will enable users to make transactions and check their balance quickly.

In the past, Ledger users could only conduct transactions on the desktop software.

The app will be available on Google Play and Apple App Store on January 28th.

Bigger Screen

The Ledger Nano X features a larger screen than its predecessor. That’s a crucial upgrade as most of Ledger’s security features operate right there on the screen (PIN code access and transaction confirmations, for example).

The larger screen makes this process easier and more user-friendly. The buttons have also been moved from the top of the device to the front for a more intuitive experience.

1,100+ Coin Support

Like the previous device, Ledger’s Nano X will support more than 1,100 crypto assets.

However, the big problem with the Nano S is the inability to hold more than about ten cryptocurrencies at once on the device.

The Nano X aims to address that by increasing the memory.

Ledger nano x cryptocurrencies

Increased Memory: 100 Coins At One Time

By increasing the memory on the Ledger Nano X, users can hold significantly more cryptocurrencies at once.

That’s because Ledger stores each different crypto asset on its own wallet, using a separate app. It’s a security feature. If you want to hold bitcoin on a Ledger device, you’re not just storing bitcoin, you’re using memory to store a bitcoin wallet. If you then add ethereum, you also store an ethereum wallet or app.

The Nano X drastically increases the memory, meaning you can hold up to 100 different crypto assets at once.

Security

The introduction of Bluetooth might send alarm bells ringing for some. A wireless connection does increase the risk of an attacker hijacking the connection.

However, Ledger claims it is still highly secure due to Bluetooth’s short range and the device’s built-in security features. Speaking to Bitcoin Magazine, CEO Eric Larchevêque said: 

“The Bluetooth connection is only used to send public data, such as your public key. The transaction itself is encrypted end-to-end while using the highest level of encryption and security on the Bluetooth protocol … no private keys are on the Bluetooth connection. It’s the same as the USB cable. Security-wise, the architecture is the same.”

The private keys are stored in a microchip that remains in the device at all times. Additionally, all the most important security checks (like PIN access) take place on the device or in the app. The device itself will only respond to the corresponding user app which should limit attacker access.

Price?

The Nano X will launch at $119 including shipping. Its predecessor, the Nano S, will get a price cut. 

The Ledger Nano X is available to pre-order now and will ship in March. The app will launch on January 28th. 

Technical Specifications

Size: 72mm x 18.6mm x 11.75mm

Weight: 34g

Compatibility: 64-bit desktop computer (Windows 8+, macOS 10.8+, Linux) or smartphone (iOS 9+ or Android 5+)

Chips: ST33J2M0 (secure) + STM32F042

Battery: 100mAh

Further reading: 12 Best Crypto Wallets (For Safe and Secure Bitcoin Storage)

For $21,000, you can now buy a fraction of a student residence building, The Hub, in South Carolina. In exchange for your investment, you’ll receive a digital token that represents your share of the building’s ownership fund.

It’s part of a joint effort from Convexity Properties, a Chicago-based real estate investment firm and Harbor, the all-in-one tokenization platform.

This tokenization of real estate opens up the market to investors that might not be able to afford a full property or even the high minimums of traditional real estate investment trusts (REITs).

In 2018, an asset management company, Elevated Returns, sold tokenized shares in a luxury hotel in Aspen, Colorado. Investors received “Aspen coins” to denote their partial ownership in the project. The crowdfunding campaign, via Indiegogo, started on the 8th of August 2018 and ended on October the 1st, 2018, raising $18 million.

Aspen tokenized real estate
Investors received “Aspen Coins” to denote ownership in the luxury Aspen Hotel

However, only accredited U.S. investors were allowed to participate in the sale with a minimum investment of $10,000. “Accredited investors” are individuals with “earned income that exceeded $200,000 in each of the prior two years” or has a net worth of over $1 million.

These experimental projects point to a possible new future in real estate investment and blockchain technology. But how close are we to the realization of tokenized real estate? Block Explorer dives deeper into the various projects in their space, tracks their progress, and outlines the opportunities available.

Why Put Real Estate on the Blockchain?

The real estate industry experiences some massive problems.

Here are some of the biggest, according to a new report, Top Ten Issues Affecting Real Estate 2018-2019 from The Counselors of Real Estate (CRE):

1. The increasing interest rate on housing mortgages and overall political uncertainties make purchasing a house less and less attractive. 

2. The new immigration laws and consequences of urban infrastructure are most likely to contribute to the further price increase of newly-built real estate objects. 

3. The boom of e-commerce makes it unviable for many retailers to run a brick-and-mortar business, so the demand for commercial real estate objects is going down. 

Moreover, disruptive technologies are reshaping the industry altogether. As another research paper called Emerging Trends in Real Estate (for the U.S. and Canada in 2019) by PricewaterhouseCoopers points out, investing in real estate related technologies will accelerate drastically. 

It could reach $5.2 billion in 2018, which is significantly higher than $1.3 billion poured into the field in 2014. And blockchain technologies are named amongst the 13 real estate industry disruptors. 

And it’s not surprising. Distributed ledger technologies can potentially patch a lot of holes in the industry. Firstly, it could help create a fully-transparent real estate registry. Secondly, it can create buying opportunities for financially-limited investors, through fractional ownership. 

Real Estate blockchain

The Biggest Real Estate Blockchain Projects Right Now

Numerous blockchain startups have flocked to the space, promising easy access to real estate investment to anyone curious to get in. And not only to accredited investors. Among the most noticeable are:

Atlant

Atlant offers Ethereum-based peer-to-peer rentals and tokenized real estate ownership. However, even though the prototype has existed since September 2017, and the public beta of the product was launched in October 2018, there’s still a lot of work to do. The company is still struggling to acquire all the necessary licenses and there’s not much clarity on the timeframe. 

Blockimmo

Blockimmo is striving to facilitate “an accessible, streamlined real-estate market” through tokenized real estate shares. Their recent big news is the company’s business model approval by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA). It also launched a testnet with two property listings samples. 

Real properties supposedly will be available on the platform in 2019. It’s all sounds very promising. Yet, when digging more in-depth to the current company’s website, it appears to be clear that the team has a long way to go.

Some worrying discrepancies can be found in the “frequently asked question” section. It claims that “submitted real estate properties are carefully curated by our team of experts”, but the current number of employees is four, and three of them are developers. So, those are probably not a great fit when it comes to real estate evaluation. But let’s give it some time. 

Jointer.io

jointer.io is another startup in the field. With an attractive motto “using blockchain & AI to democratize commercial real estate,” they want to go one step further and offer tokenized real estate not as a form of investment in one property but as an index, combining several properties. 

Sounds great, but so far the website itself doesn’t articulate much about the progress and it hasn’t launched yet. A popup announcement saying “50 investors viewed this offer” when someone is trying to check out what the company has to offer is also quite sketchy. 

Meridio

Meridio also promises to “democratize real estate,” boasting lower investment minimums, reduced transaction costs, and increased liquidity. It invites you to “browse the properties,” but to do so you have to register on the platform. We’ve requested the access, though at the moment of writing there was no feedback from the team (see below). And the project’s progress, judging by its corporate blog, hasn’t been very obvious recently.  

Meridio

Brickblock

Brickblock is one of the earliest players in the tokenized real estate field and seems like they are on the right track with legal, partnerships and overall progress. It’s yet not clear if the project truly meant to expose any investor to the possibilities of owning a fraction of a real estate. While writing this piece we tried to register on the platform and there were some roadblocks on the way (despite the claims that it will only take 15 minutes to register). 

Brickblock real estate blockchain

The link to verification application didn’t arrive via text message as promised, the verification code to launch the identity confirmation chat wasn’t working (screenshot below). But overall it feels like an excellent start with an actual perspective of getting somewhere. 

Brickblock real estate blockchain

What’s Next For Tokenized Real Estate? 

Even though the true “democratization” of real estate and the ease of investing in tokenized assets might solve a lot of problems, there’s a long way to go in many regards.

Especially due to numerous regulatory issues related to tokenizing real estate, notably if we are talking about the global availability of such assets. 

For now, it will be difficult to usurp the traditional securitized real estate investment trusts (REITs).  Realty Income Corp., offers Retail Stores REIT investment and currently trades at around $62 per share with monthly dividends of about 0,3% – 0,4%. Simon Property Group also pays out quarterly dividends of 1%-1,3% and the price of approximately $164 per share at the moment of writing. 

I can purchase it with a couple of clicks using the mobile application of my bank with no legal complications and even my taxes are paid automatically from the profits received.  

There’s no doubt that tokenized assets are the future and it might be much more convenient and even possibly more profitable to the holders. However, there’s still a long way ahead for it. So let’s hope that an infinite number of passionate brainiacs invading the space will have enough energy and determination to figure it out. I keep my fingers crossed. 

And what do you think of tokenized real estate investment? How long will it take us to get there? Go ahead and share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Crypto Curious? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter to get exclusive crypto insights before they appear on the site.

bitconnect carlos matos

Over the past few weeks of ‘Meme History’ we’ve covered the basics; Sminem, the Wojaks, and Bobo the Bear. But in all the commotion, the lowest hanging fruit has yet to be plucked. What is probably the most well-known and mainstream of crypto-meme stories has yet to be told. And how poignant the story is in this, seemingly, never-ending bear market. The story of Carlos Matos or Bitconnect Carlos.

Figure 1. The Original Bitconnect conference video featuring Carlos Matos

Now defunct, Bitconnect was a cryptocurrency lending platform that operated like a pyramid or “Ponzi” scheme. Launched in December of 2016, the Bitconnect platform asked users to convert their bitcoin into Bitconnect coins and lend those coins out to other users. The lenders were rewarded with interest; the more you lent, the more interest you accrued. Bitconnect’s anonymous lending platform had people crying Ponzi from the start. It duped many bitcoin holders and in the process became crypto’s most iconic fraud. Carlos Matos was its most iconic sucker.

BitConnect-logo
Figure 2: the Bitconnect logo

During the bull market that was Q4 of 2017, coins needed little merit to see a jump in price and early Bitconnect adopters like Carlos Matos were raking in the coins. His success on the platform led to his attending of an October symposium and appreciation ceremony in Thailand.  During the event, Carlos made and ill-fatedly enthusiastic attempt at shilling Bitconnect. A coin many in the crypto-community recognized as a fraud. And ended like everyone expected.

carlos-bitconnect
Figure 3. Carlos Matos attending Bitconnect’s conference.

Screaming “Bitcooooonect!!,” and “Wassup!” like a 1990’s beer frog, Carlos’ presentation struck a chord with the crypto-community and we all lol’d together for weeks. In no time, parodies started hitting YouTube, and Bitconnect became as close to a household name as any shitcoin has ever gotten. It even got as far as PewDiePie. 

Figure 4. Pewdiepie’s Bitconnect video.

It’s probably the most ‘mainstream’ crypto meme out there. With good reason. Carlos is the embodiment of the dupe and everyone loves a dupe. Especially when you’re missing out on the bull run that was 2017. 

Crypto Curious? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter to get exclusive crypto insights before they appear on the site.