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What is the blockchain and why should people use it, WIRED UK

Stir over Bitcoin, the blockchain is only just getting began

Bitcoin isn’t just reinventing money, it’s the underlying platform being used to build a giant and versatile trust network

  • 07 Nov 2016
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It’s effortless to think we’ve reached peak Bitcoin, but the blockchain at the heart of cryptocurrencies contains the seeds of something revolutionary.

Investors have now realised the blockchain is fatter than Bitcoin. In the very first quarter of 2016, venture-capital investment in blockchain startups overtook that in pure-play Bitcoin companies for the very first time, according to industry researcher CoinDesk, which has tallied $1.1 billion (£840m) in deals to date.

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BMW's 'converting' concept MINI switches colour and spec as its driver approaches

Even governments have taken an interest. Master Mark Walport, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, published a report on the blockchain in January this year, outlining how the massively distributed collective ledger is “a database that tracks who possesses a financial, physical or electronic asset”. But it could also, say, monitor driverless cars.

“Autonomous vehicles are becoming a reality – cars are increasingly part of the internet of things,” Walport explains. “You don’t want your connected vehicle to be tampered with. So blockchain’s distributed ledger has the potential to monitor car operating systems, sensors, doors. You can baseline the known state of the device’s configuration and then check for tampering.”

A ordinary guide to the blockchain and bitcoin

  • Startups
  • 29 Aug 2015
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How BMW is navigating the future and putting tech at the heart of everything it does

Many firms are already using the blockchain to trace and record ownership, and to cut out middlemen. In the very first group, there’s London-based Everledger, which uses the distributed ledger to track individual diamonds from the mine to the consumer, helping identify conflict diamonds and combat insurance fraud. More than 980,000 diamonds have been registered since Everledger’s two thousand fifteen launch. The company plans to expand into the fine wine and fine art market, having invested in Berlin-based Ascribe and UK-based Vastari, permitting Everledger to materialise their platform into fresh and emerging asset classes beyond diamonds.

Stampery, meantime, offers creatives and startups an IP protection service – as well as suggesting a document-stamping service to the legal world, permitting lawyers to certify documents without expensive court fees. Stampery’s next step is system and critical infrastructure security, working with Microsoft to permit developers to embed the blockchain in their systems and thus record the history of every file.

“The blockchain can confirm if a product is indeed authentic” Jessi Baker, Provenance founder and CEO

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How cybathletes are racing past the peak of human spectacle

This may sound like an insurance nightmare, but the blockchain – inevitably – could be the ideal solution. Based in Canada, Plex.ai is a car-insurance startup using an automotive telematics platform combining blockchain variant Ethereum, machine learning and artificial intelligence to give insurance companies real-time, remote diagnostics on a car and its driver.

The blockchain’s potential for removing the middleman has found enthusiastic supporters in the music industry. Singer-songwriter Imogen Heap released her latest single, “Little Human”, on Ujo Music, which has its own currency and digital-rights registration, as well as song tracking and feeding back data to artists. Bittunes, meantime, uses Bitcoin to buy and share music, suggesting artists enhanced earnings and buyers a form of cashback as songs become more popular.

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The wealth-creating aspect of Bittunes excites MIT Media Lab director of digital currency Brian Forde, who is investigating the blockchain’s social influence on developing-world economies.

“Capitalism took off in countries such as the US with small-business-owners borrowing against property equity,” he says. “Where people don’t have a formal property title, as in Egypt, all this capital is tied up. But if you create a property title on the blockchain, even if there is a switch of government, it’s proof: the government can’t say you don’t own the property. In Egypt alone, that unlocks $400 million (£304m) in capital overnight.”

The idea that the blockchain could possibly add billions of dollars to the global economy is just the begin, says Amos Meiri – co-founder of Tel Aviv’s Colu, which offers blockchain-supported local currencies. “The blockchain brings safety to everything from online purchases to opening the front door of your holiday home,” he explains. “It’s not just a fresh way of thinking about money – it’s a fresh way of thinking about trust.”

There are problems, of course – the technology may not scale up to treat an enormous number of frequent trades or updates. There’s also a very uneven response from regulators. And albeit to date hackers have struggled to break into the widely distributed network itself, latest high-profile attacks on dependent websites and services indicate that the more value stored on the blockchain, the greater their incentive to access it.

What is the blockchain and why should people use it, WIRED UK

Budge over Bitcoin, the blockchain is only just getting began

Bitcoin isn’t just reinventing money, it’s the underlying platform being used to build a yam-sized and versatile trust network

  • 07 Nov 2016
ADVERTISEMENT

It’s effortless to think we’ve reached peak Bitcoin, but the blockchain at the heart of cryptocurrencies contains the seeds of something revolutionary.

Investors have now realised the blockchain is fatter than Bitcoin. In the very first quarter of 2016, venture-capital investment in blockchain startups overtook that in pure-play Bitcoin companies for the very first time, according to industry researcher CoinDesk, which has tallied $1.1 billion (£840m) in deals to date.

READ NEXT

BMW's 'converting' concept MINI switches colour and spec as its driver approaches

Even governments have taken an interest. Tormentor Mark Walport, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, published a report on the blockchain in January this year, outlining how the massively distributed collective ledger is “a database that tracks who possesses a financial, physical or electronic asset”. But it could also, say, monitor driverless cars.

“Autonomous vehicles are becoming a reality – cars are increasingly part of the internet of things,” Walport explains. “You don’t want your connected vehicle to be tampered with. So blockchain’s distributed ledger has the potential to monitor car operating systems, sensors, doors. You can baseline the known state of the device’s configuration and then check for tampering.”

A elementary guide to the blockchain and bitcoin

  • Startups
  • 29 Aug 2015
ADVERTISEMENT

READ NEXT

How BMW is navigating the future and putting tech at the heart of everything it does

Many firms are already using the blockchain to trace and record ownership, and to cut out middlemen. In the very first group, there’s London-based Everledger, which uses the distributed ledger to track individual diamonds from the mine to the consumer, helping identify conflict diamonds and combat insurance fraud. More than 980,000 diamonds have been registered since Everledger’s two thousand fifteen launch. The company plans to expand into the fine wine and fine art market, having invested in Berlin-based Ascribe and UK-based Vastari, permitting Everledger to materialise their platform into fresh and emerging asset classes beyond diamonds.

Stampery, meantime, offers creatives and startups an IP protection service – as well as suggesting a document-stamping service to the legal world, permitting lawyers to certify documents without expensive court fees. Stampery’s next step is system and critical infrastructure security, working with Microsoft to permit developers to embed the blockchain in their systems and thus record the history of every file.

“The blockchain can confirm if a product is indeed authentic” Jessi Baker, Provenance founder and CEO

ADVERTISEMENT

READ NEXT

How cybathletes are racing past the peak of human spectacle

This may sound like an insurance nightmare, but the blockchain – inevitably – could be the ideal solution. Based in Canada, Plex.ai is a car-insurance startup using an automotive telematics platform combining blockchain variant Ethereum, machine learning and artificial intelligence to give insurance companies real-time, remote diagnostics on a car and its driver.

The blockchain’s potential for removing the middleman has found enthusiastic supporters in the music industry. Singer-songwriter Imogen Heap released her latest single, “Little Human”, on Ujo Music, which has its own currency and digital-rights registration, as well as song tracking and feeding back data to artists. Bittunes, meantime, uses Bitcoin to buy and share music, suggesting artists enhanced earnings and buyers a form of cashback as songs become more popular.

ADVERTISEMENT

The wealth-creating aspect of Bittunes excites MIT Media Lab director of digital currency Brian Forde, who is investigating the blockchain’s social influence on developing-world economies.

“Capitalism took off in countries such as the US with small-business-owners borrowing against property equity,” he says. “Where people don’t have a formal property title, as in Egypt, all this capital is tied up. But if you create a property title on the blockchain, even if there is a switch of government, it’s proof: the government can’t say you don’t own the property. In Egypt alone, that unlocks $400 million (£304m) in capital overnight.”

The idea that the blockchain could possibly add billions of dollars to the global economy is just the commence, says Amos Meiri – co-founder of Tel Aviv’s Colu, which offers blockchain-supported local currencies. “The blockchain brings safety to everything from online purchases to opening the front door of your holiday home,” he explains. “It’s not just a fresh way of thinking about money – it’s a fresh way of thinking about trust.”

There are problems, of course – the technology may not scale up to treat an enormous number of frequent trades or updates. There’s also a very uneven response from regulators. And albeit to date hackers have struggled to break into the widely distributed network itself, latest high-profile attacks on dependent websites and services indicate that the more value stored on the blockchain, the greater their incentive to access it.

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