Category Archives: Blockchain

What Is Digital Asset? | Distributed Ledgers for Financial Institutions

What Is Digital Asset? | Distributed Ledgers for Financial Institutions

 

Blockchain technology is often called the “Internet of value.” If so, it makes sense that the financial industry should be among the biggest to benefit from distributed ledgers. Digital Asset is a company providing a flexible infrastructure for regulated financial institutions to share processes and data securely. And it’s one of the first big movers to start developing products that will integrate blockchain into the heavily regulated global financial markets.

Its current project portfolio, partnerships, and overall vision are set to bring a steep change to the way that financial and other multi-party transactions are carried out. This is much needed for an industry that still feels the regulatory repercussions of the 2008 global crisis.

Current Landscape in the Financial Industry

The financial industry processes transactions worth trillions of dollars on a daily basis. The infrastructure that processes this transaction volume has evolved–laws, market regulations, computer systems, and databases.

There’s a vast amount of data duplicated across different databases that serve to create trust and resilience in the transactions that are taking place. Each party to a transaction must reconcile each entry, a necessary exercise to ensure the integrity of recorded data. Think double-entry bookkeeping on a global scale.

Because the current infrastructure has evolved to deal with a heavy transaction volume over time, it comes with problems. If there is a regulatory change, like those prompted by the global financial crisis, systems need to be updated to accommodate the changes.

Similarly, hackers force developments and upgrades in security protocols, which in turn require software upgrades that can be expensive and cumbersome for financial firms to apply across legacy systems.

Enter Digital Asset

Digital Asset recognizes the potential that distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) can bring to the financial sector. DLTs provide a permanent record of truth held between multiple parties, making the duplication of data across various systems controlled by different parties redundant.

DLTs update in real time, unlike many current systems. The automation capabilities of smart contracts also provide enormous value within the financial sector, creating an automated workflow for the exchange of value, with an immutable fulfillment of agreed conditions. Smart contracts, therefore, can help to standardize and automate the many complex legal agreements that are commonplace across the financial industry today.

Digital Asset also understands that existing blockchains are generally not fit for the purpose of the financial industry. This is due to the many legal and market constraints applied to financial services firms. Legal requirements also govern what kind of information must be public and what must be confidential. Bitcoin and Ethereum are not set up to meet those requirements.

Current transaction speeds are another constraint. No existing public blockchain operates fast enough to handle the transaction volumes needed.

Finally, any smart contracts developed for use within the financial sector must be testable and predictable enough to provide a cast iron guarantee that they won’t be subject to the kind of unintended consequences that the DAO experienced.

Digital Asset Platform

Digital Asset has developed their own distributed ledger platform. It aims to navigate the issues described above to bring the benefits of distributed ledger technology to the financial sector. The platform offers a flexible infrastructure that assures data integrity and confidentiality. With this flexibility, financial institutions can access customized tools and processes that will mean they can work together transparently.

The following core innovations are at the heart of the system:

Permissioned and Segregated Ledgers

Ledgers that are viewable and editable only by those with permission. Additionally, the segregation element means that the ledger data is separated into parts. Only permissioned participants can view the particular section for which they have access.

All segregated parts of the ledger share a global set of cryptographic hashes, like fingerprints. These hashes align to ensure that the entire ledger data is accurate. It remains consistent for all participants regardless of what they can view or edit.

The ledger contains two components:

  1. The Private Contract Store: This contains the details of all contracts and transactions for that particular participant or organization.
  2. The Global Synchronization log: This ensures that each segregated component of the ledger is updated and consistent for all participants, regardless of their viewing rights. It serves to ensure that the same transaction is never logged twice. It also notifies changes to those who have the relevant permissions to know about them.

Business Logic Layer

The Business Logic Layer runs on top of the ledger. This layer is developed in a custom programming language called Digital Asset Modeling Language (DAML). This is a domain-specific language. It differs from a general-purpose programming language, like those used in the development of DApps for Ethereum. General purpose languages let you program any eventuality, but also let you experience any eventuality. DAML, by contrast, enables you to program predictable behaviors and analyze all possible outcomes of a particular scenario.

Using DAML provides regulated financial institutions with security. It ensures that smart contracts set up on the Digital Asset Platform will adequately reflect real-life terms. This includes legal and regulatory compliance.

Digital Asset – The Story So Far

Digital Asset is no blockchain startup in the usual sense of the word. It didn’t conduct any ICO. According to its website, the company raised over $110m in venture capital funding from major investors including Citi, JP Morgan Chase, and ABN Amro.

The CEO of Digital Asset is Blythe Masters, a former executive at JP Morgan. In addition to her CEO role, Masters is also Chair of the Governing Board of the Hyperledger Project.

Blythe Masters – CEO of Digital Asset

Blythe Masters – CEO of Digital Asset

The company is currently working on some high-profile projects, surrounding how stock exchanges conduct and record financial transactions. The Australian Securities Exchange announced that it will go live with distributed ledger-based trading in 2020, based on the Digital Asset Platform.

Swiss SIX Exchange has also announced it will use the Digital Asset Platform for a solution covering the entire bond life-cycle from issuances to settlement.

You can watch Blythe Masters discuss the collaboration between Digital Asset and Hyperledger in the video below.

High Expectations for 2018

Digital Asset is featured on the WSJ list of 25 Top Tech Companies to Watch in 2018. The list comprises firms that the WSJ believes will emerge in their respective fields as leaders, based on factors such as investment, founders’ experience, and growth. If the financial world is undergoing a sea change with the advent of blockchain and crypto, then Digital Asset appears to be at the helm of the ship.

Please note that all information in this article is based on current research including the Digital Asset corporate website. It is correct as of June 2018. 

This article is originally published at Coincentral.com


Why Blockchain Asset Tracking Is Not Just for the Super-Rich

Category : Blockchain

By Sarah Rothrie  This article is originally published at Coincentral.com

diamonds

An Aboriginal community in rural Australia.

A diamond dealer in Antwerp, Belgium.

A used car salesman in the UK.

A pharmaceutical company headquartered in Switzerland.

What could they possibly all have in common?

The answer is the far-reaching benefits of blockchain asset tracking.

One of the most fundamental features of blockchain is its ability to store value – essentially, to create a digital asset. What started off with Bitcoin has now grown into an ever-expanding list of use cases. Some are more tenuous than others.

Those blockchain use cases likely to weather the test of time are the ones that best exploit the most basic functions of the blockchain. Asset tracking, using the ability of blockchain to create stored value and create an immutable record of ownership for that value, is one of those use cases. This article will look more closely at the application of blockchain asset tracking in some different scenarios.

Cases for Blockchain Asset Tracking

Land Registries

There are plenty of opportunities for blockchain within real estate management, mostly based around reducing or eliminating the role of the numerous middlemen. Reduced friction and quicker sales of real estate are clear benefits for day-to-day property trading. Additionally, blockchain-based land registries can create efficiencies within local governments, reducing the spend of tax dollars.

However, the benefits of tracking real estate assets on the blockchain could also have significant benefits for indigenous groups. It would create a legal means by which anyone can prove their land ownership. Land rights are an ongoing struggle for aboriginal people across the world, including developed countries such as Canada.

Indigen is a blockchain platform aimed at protecting rights and property of indigenous groups around the world. The platform token will serve as a donation currency. The company will direct a portion of mined coins to help poor indigenous populations across the globe. Blockchain asset tracking of land occupied by indigenous people is one of the aims of the project.

Indigen

The Indigen homepage

Supply Chains

Supply Chains

Walmart is one example of a big company which has already recognized the potential for blockchain in its supply chain. Supply chains are traditionally highly fragmented. Many companies cannot identify precisely how much product they have in any given place at any one moment in time. This results in inefficiencies, and wasted product due to spoilage or theft.

Some industries have worse problems than losing product. The pharmaceutical industry, for example, is one that suffers from counterfeit products entering the supply chain, usually between manufacturer and consumer.

Governments across the developing world are now clamping down on this. However, it is the developing world that bears the brunt. In Africa, some reports say that up to 70% of drugs sold are counterfeit.

Pharmaceuticals

Problem is, they all look the same…

Blockchain asset tracking can combat counterfeits entering the market. Digital tags can track and trace products throughout the entire supply chain until they reach the consumer’s hands. The tag can contain all necessary attributes. In the case of drugs, it could include the ingredients, date /place of manufacturer and quality control checks. It can update in real time with the route the product has taken through the supply chain.

Vehicle Trading

Car crime has been around as long as the car. From stolen vehicles and parts to getaway cars used in heists to “cut-and-shuts” where two halves of different vehicles (that have usually been written off due to accidents) are dangerously welded together and passed off as one car.

Car accident

The front may be ruined, but the back half is still fine, right?

This goes alongside some of the unethical or illegal practices adopted by used car dealerships like “bait-and-switch” and manipulation of the odometer to reduce the mileage shown on the clock. Buying a car, particularly a used one can be fraught with issues. The buyer has no choice but to trust that the papers presented with the vehicle are genuine.

However, blockchain asset tracking could make the process of buying a used car far more secure. With a blockchain-based record of each vehicle including its parts, maintenance, accident and ownership history, buyers could place far greater trust in the process. They would know that their new car is a genuine model with a clean maintenance history.

Further, AI technology could determine a fair and consistent value for each vehicle, reducing the incidence of used car traders overpricing vehicles.

Gemstone Tracking

The gemstone industry is worth $23bn annually, with diamonds responsible for the most significant proportion of that. However, conflict or “blood” diamonds are a problem that continues to plague gemstone traders. Rough diamonds are sold in conflict zones such as Angola or the Central African Republic. They are smuggled out of the country, cut and polished up and passed off as legitimate.

Many governments in the developing world have passed legislation to prevent the sale of conflict diamonds within their jurisdictions. Therefore, jewelers and traders have an interest in making sure that they are not purchasing blood diamonds.

Diamond ring

How could the happy couple tell if their diamond is legit?

De Beers, is the worlds biggest producer of diamonds, is now looking to blockchain asset tracking to stop blood diamonds from entering the market. The company reported in May that they had successfully trialed blockchain to track ten gems from the mine to cutter and polisher, and then to the jeweler for sale. De Beers plans to make the system available across the entire diamond industry, to eliminate the illegal trade of blood diamonds.

Further Considerations

Two other common elements feature across all of this. They are instant transfers and tokenization of assets.

Instant Transfers

Assets registers on the blockchain will be transferable between parties at the push of a button – and without the need for intermediaries. Smart contracts could also feature – holding funds in escrow until full payment is made. On receipt of payment, the new ownership would be effected immediately. This could cover ownership rights of a car, a piece of real estate, a gemstone, or a consignment of pharmaceuticals between the parties to the smart contract.

Tokenization of Assets

The creation of security tokens representing fractional ownership of physical assets offers exciting possibilities. Some tangible assets that could appreciate over time, such as real estate, are too costly for one individual or even family to afford to invest in an entire unit.

For example, someone wanting to invest in a gemstone has to choose a stone of a size that is within their budget. But the bigger the jewel, the higher the value per carat. What if you could invest in a fraction of a large, highly valuable gemstone? Tokenization makes that possible.

The world is only just starting to explore the art of the possible for blockchain asset tracking. This article has outlined just a few of the opportunities that are opening up. It is beginning to become believable that within the next ten or twenty years, blockchain will be the only foolproof means of proving ownership and recording value.


Identities are valuable and we suck at managing them!

Tags :

Category : Bitcoin , Blockchain

Can Blockchain Rescue our Identity from the Digital Abyss?

Identities are valuable and we suck at managing them! Our modern identity management systems are currently in crisis and it seems this is really just the status quo, but does it need to be?

It doesn’t take a lot of digging online to quickly find reasons why identity safety is such a paramount issue. Tools like Have i been pwned? show a range of concerning examples of major institutional breaches that have leaked millions of personal data files. The centralization of identity databases, both physical and digital, is creating these inevitable fail points that are eroding the systemic value of our personal data.

There’s a clear problem facing identity that will only become worse as data management systems painfully try to scale to the demand. The good news is there’s hope blockchain can be of assistance. The unfortunate part is that it is still of course very early, making the problem substantially more clear than the solution.

Identities are valuable and we suck at managing them!

Why is identity management a problem?

To understand why identity security is a problem it seems vital to first understand why our identity has value. The value of identity can be seen in a number of ways in our lives, acting as the proof of membership to our various organizations or facilitating the creation of value while we sign on the dotted line opening a new gateway of credit. Our Identity has value because it holds the power to both create wealth and prove our membership, whether for good or not.

Identities are valuable and we suck at managing them.

The problem with identity security then is that this massively powerful asset is being left vulnerable around every corner; a problem for the individual and the institutions that serve us. Individually, we need better awareness and education on the value of our identities and especially how to protect ourselves as we move deeper into the digital world. Institutionally, centralized identity management systems are just not working. There’s a demand for identity infrastructure that can withstand the inevitable scaling of members while protecting against the more classic issues around itself like fungibility and centralizing points of failure.

On the shortlist banking, health care, social welfare programs, online services, land registry, credit scoring, immigration documentation, vehicle registrations, weapons licensing, hunting registries, voting eligibility and birth certification to name a few.

Centralizing identity hurts us all, but hurts some more than others

Among the mountains of issues and challenges facing identity management, there have been a couple of themes in particular that have percolated to the top. Firstly, you would likely have to been living under a rock to not be at least aware that our data isn’t safe anymore in the custody of other organizations. Shocking headlines are being written about substantial new hacks on a recurring basis and digital companies continue to build business models circulating around the collection and curation of customer data.

The centralization of our personal information is a problem for both the physical storage systems and their digital versions alike. For those systems still dependant on paper and ink, the obvious issues face them as natural disasters increase worldwide and ideological shifts create radical movements of populations. These paper system of identity are often warehoused and instituted from brick and mortar locations with few redundancies in place creating substantial vulnerabilities.

In addition to the issues surrounding the storage of our identities, the explosion of data collection and digital marketing has brought on new challenges to the topic. Data collection and the business models that are built around it create a demand for our personal identity on a level that far outpaced the analog data collection space previously.

The competition in the marketplace for high-quality personal information is fierce and the current trend is a profitable one. Many tech businesses are mining for our personal identities and their motives range from creating competitive advantages within their own products to bundling and leveraging the data into income. However, no matter the motivations, as the data pool of identity information grows, the competition in the market for this valuable resource will push their mining efforts deeper into our lives to better knows us intimately.

Despite the best efforts of those most interested, the infallibility of these storage systems tasked with the safety of our personal identities has remained unreachable. There is a need for infrastructure that can be built and managed which brings us closer to the pursuit of total security surrounding our identity.

It is likely unsurprising that those who are most affected by this issue are the populations and persons who are already most vulnerable for a suite of reasons; political, economic, natural, or otherwise. Strong identity systems are in high demand as we reach the highest point of human displacement on record and central points of authority are shaken with volatility

It is seemingly fair to say that the issues surrounding identity management affect everyone directly and otherwise. However, the weaknesses of centralized data storage and the volatility of identity security for vulnerable populations are two especially poignant themes that have potential to find some relief from the healing powers of the blockchain.

Can Blockchain solve this?

Fungibility and mutability: These two concepts, fungibility, and mutability are very much linked to the core meaning and value of identity. For identity to work and provide value it needs to be invulnerable to duplication and have no potential to be altered on either the individual level of the holder or on a collective scale where the data is stored and held.

To be non-fungible means that only one of its kind can exist; think of collectible cards like Magic the Gathering or O-Pee-Chee baseball cards. And like any other scarce valuable the individuality of it is important and is corrupted by imposters or duplications. Non-fungible identities could be a huge help in many areas that they act as a gatekeeper, for example, it would make it that much harder to access underage drinking when the duplicate I.D. market drys up on campuses everywhere. More seriously, the non-fungibility of identity could also help prevent issues on a higher level of passport fraud the and abuse of social services such as healthcare or education.

Similarly, the potential immutability of blockchain can be a massive asset for data storage and management. An identity on an immutable blockchain would mean it is safeguarded from malicious changes or even destruction, both retroactively and not. An identity which is unchangeable has a host of benefits which protect both the users from the system and the system from the user.

Decentralization doesn’t solve all the problems, but it’s a great start

The idea of decentralization as a security measure is pretty simple, it has no single point of failure. Identity has rarely, if ever, been afforded this feature of true longevity protected against all of the traditional ailments that are afflicting personal data storage presently. Decentralization returns the control and value of our identity back to the individual instead of predominantly benefiting the various custodians our information is housed by.

Civic is a great example of a use case which is providing blockchain solutions to both sides of the personal data swap market. Civic has leveraged blockchain to allow users to hold and retain ownership of their identity data and removes the need for companies and organizations to centralize and compromise our identities. To really unravel how and why tech like Civic is promising, dive into our beginner’s guide to blockchain identity verification.

In addition to creative solutions for the personal data marketplace, blockchain’s decentralized format is well suited to help foster new solutions to the crisis surrounding identity management in vulnerable populations. Recently, blockchain has found utility in refugee situations, like that in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp, where biometric technology linked with blockchain identity data management is being harnessed by the World Food Program and their Building Blocks initiative.

Building Blocks by the WFP aims to use “blockchain as a means of making cash transfers more efficient, transparent and secure” and in doing so, return the ownership of a refugees financial and personal identity back to them.

Blockchain projects circling around the better storage and management of identity are in their undeniable infancy. But the early signs seem to be pointing towards a positive and useful fit for blockchain as the demand continues to proliferate. Blockchain solutions to identity are going to be slow to roll out as merging and replacing legacy infrastructure is a tremendous task that currently has a little platform to launch from. Massive areas and vulnerable populations are not well positioned to be aided by a digital technology that relies so heavily on electricity and the internet.

Wrapping Up

The value of our identity is on a rise and currently, the storage systems that safeguard it are buckling as they attempt to scale. Furthermore, trusting our identity to others is quickly eroding and there is a palpable demand for new solutions to identity management that requires massive shifts in the way we think about identity and how we evaluate it. We can look to blockchain for hope but the truth is that it is still incredibly early to say how it can best help and where.

CoinCentral’s owners, writers, and/or guest post authors may or may not have a vested interest in any of the above projects and businesses. None of the content on CoinCentral is investment advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified financial planner.

Marshall Taylor

Marshall has had a colourful background in Sociology and Marketing Design where he worked for the last half decade energetically crafting and engineering the consumer decision process. His interest and drive for DLT is motivated by how it affects people and especially those who need it most.
This article is originally published at Coincentral.com

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