Major U.S. Science Museum Now Accepting Payments in Bitcoin

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Bitcoin has made yet another step in the right direction towards mass adoption thanks to a museum located in Cleveland, Ohio that will be taking payments in crypto as from November 13. Great Lakes Science Center, the museum in question plans to use BitPay to process the BTC payments that it will be receiving from the visitors who will want to pay in BTC.

According to the Kirsten Ellenbogen, the museums chief executive, by accepting payments in BTC this early on, the institution hopes to facilitate the growth of the blockchain ecosystem. Moreover, there is much more optimism with regards to blockchain technology thanks to a number of promising developments. For instance, a Swiss luxury watchmaker known as Hublot successfully integrated the bitcoin and the blockchain to sell 210 pieces of its limited edition BTC-themed sports watch – the company made a whopping $5.25 million in revenue from the sales that were conducted solely through BTC with each piece fetching no less than $25,000.

The adoption of the digital currency as a means of payment comes ahead of the museum and education center’s inaugural Blockland Solutions Conference which is a four-day event scheduled for December 2018. One of the core agenda of the conference will be to explore and educate the attendees about the future of blockchain technology.

“There is a lot of excitement around the conference. Accepting bitcoin is just a small part of the momentum to grow a blockchain ecosystem in Cleveland,” Ellenbogen said.

Tried and Tested

Fortunately, the Great Lakes Science Center will not be venturing into unknown grounds since two other casinos in the United States – Museum of the Coastal Bend in Texas and St. Petersburg Museum of History in Florida – have succeeded in integrating bitcoin as a payment system. When it kicked off the initiative in 2013, the Museum of the Coastal Bend’s officials were quite skeptical about anyone visiting and using BTC but they went ahead with it because there really wasn’t as much risk.

Five years down the line and bitcoin has become quite a big deal and is worth upwards of $110 billion. The digital currency is also considered to be a proper asset by mainstream institutions such as Nasdaq, Fidelity, ICE and even the New York Stock Exchange. The Great Lakes Science Center hopes to also tap into the ecosystem with its own set of unique offerings that will include the ability to purchase admission tickets to visit NASA’s Glenn Visitor Center.

All this will be possible through an app that the museum launched a year ago. The app utilizes augmented reality and virtual reality to allow visitors to experiment with various elements of space phenomena such as flames and space-craft designs when they visit the Glenn Visitor Center.

Such developments are clear proof that the integration of trusted or major digital currencies like bitcoin is the new trend in the global market.

Revolutionary BTC Sidechain, The Liquid Network, Goes Live

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For a while now there has been a lot of buzz regarding such developments as the Lightning Network, which scales up the bitcoin network so that it can keep up with digital currencies like Ripple and Tron. The Lightning Network, for instance, has shown a lot of promise and is expected to take off on a large scale pretty soon. In the meantime, Blockstream, a company that majors in blockchain development projects, is hell-bent on completely revolutionizing how the world’s oldest and most popular digital currency works.

On October 10, the company officially announced the launch of the Liquid Network, a project they are touting as an inter-exchange settlement network that connects digital currency exchanges, financial institutions, market makers and brokers from all around the globe. This comes in a little less than a year after Blockstream introduced the concept of the Lightning Network during the Blockchain Association of Canada’s Government Forum that was held in Ottawa.

What It Does and How It Does It

Well, unlike the famous Lightning Network which has also been all the buzz lately, the Liquid Network is a secondary layer that was built as a sidechain of bitcoin – the sidechain essentially qualifies to be referred to as an extension of the bitcoin blockchain. However, it is not exclusive to the bitcoin blockchain. This sidechain allows its users to swap coins from the main blockchain to its sidechain in a 1-to-1 parity, something that is usually aimed at tapping in certain features that the main network may be lacking.

In the case of the Liquid Network, the feature that is tapped in is incredibly fast transactions with the main focus being on enhancing the exchange of large sums between the crypto exchanges, market makers and the financers. As it turns out, the members of the Liquid Network will be the ones providing the liquidity because they will be the people responsible for keeping a balance of L-BTC which they would then allow their users to trade.

“The members of Liquid secure the network by running functionary servers that run the Liquid blockchain as well as maintaining the two-way peg to the Bitcoin blockchain,” Blockstream’s CSO Samson Mow said in a recent interview. “When someone wants to move BTC to the Liquid sidechain, they send it to a unique peg-in address. When someone is ready to move their money back to the Bitcoin blockchain, they can make a peg-out transaction that will tell the [Liquid members] to send Bitcoin to the desired address.”

What Next?

At launch, the Liquid Network project had a total of 23 partners who are now the so-called Liquid members. Blockstream hopes to expand Liquid’s membership moving forward and at the same time build out its services to include such things as Issued Assets (IA) which would include tokenized commodities, tokens, and even Ethereum.

In the meantime, the company will be focusing on extending the features of the Lightning Network to specifically ease its introduction and adoption in the global cryptocurrency community.

Japanese Regulators Ramp Up Scrutiny of Crypto Exchanges

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For quite some time now, Japan has been at the forefront of the cryptocurrency industry thanks to the innovators and forward-thinking stakeholders residing in the country who have quickly adopted the technology. Even though most Japanese citizens are all for the crypto revolution, the regulatory bodies in the country are taking a more cautious stance in a bid to protect the citizens from scams or hacks.

On that note, the country’s top financial regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), has reportedly introduced new screening requirement for cryptocurrency exchanges that are seeking approval to operate within Japanese borders. As reported by the Japan Times, the agency has “tightened its registration screening for cryptocurrency exchanges to see whether they are properly conducting risk management.”

As such, FSA’s focus extends beyond the registrant’s financial health and system safety measures to more explicit criteria such as the crypto exchanges’ links to antisocial groups and their decision-making process. The Japan Times further revealed that the agency will now have about 400 screening questions which is about four times the number they would ask in the past.

“It [FSA] now obligates applicants to submit minutes of board meetings so it can check whether enough discussions have been held about measures to sustain the company’s financial health and ensure the security of its computer system,” the sources told the Japan Times. “The upgraded screening process also regularly reviews the composition of an applicant company’s shareholders, while examining if an internal system is in place to check for links to antisocial groups.”

The FSA’s decree that the exchanges submit board meeting minutes is not only meant to ensure security but also confirm that the executive members of the company are proactively and legitimately involved in the various exchanges’ decision-making processes. In addition to this, the screening process will involve a regular review of the primary shareholders so as to “examine if an internal system is in place to check for links to antisocial groups.”

A Drawback?

Even though this will go a long way in filtering out scams and shady business, analysts are worried that the new regulatory move might end up hampering the development of the cryptocurrency exchanges in the country. However, there are close to zero other ways of handling the situation at the moment.

One of the factors that incentivized the FSA’s move was an inspection of Coincheck, a crypto exchange that was hacked in January, and 23 others. A report that was recently revealed by the agency cited “sloppy internal controls” and “lack of board meetings.” These findings were not very reassuring especially considering the fact that about 160  cryptocurrency exchanges are now interested in entering the Japanese market.

South African Tax Authority Drafting Tax Laws for Crypto

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Africa’s blooming cryptocurrency industry has been operating in a legal gray area, a situation that has left the traders, developers, enthusiasts, and investors to their own devices. However, recent developments in South Africa are beginning to build optimism on a future where crypto is regulated – a number of stakeholders in the crypto industry have expressed their belief that regulation is the key to the industry’s prosperity.

Earlier this year, the South African Revenue Services (SARS) announced that they would begin taxing income from crypto and it has made good on this promise and is now drafting a crypto tax law which will outline the virtual assets law thus effectively creating a framework for crypto revenue systems. Taxpayers in the country were told they are expected to include gains and losses from trading cryptocurrencies in the taxable income reported in the tax returns.

“In South Africa, the word ‘currency; is not defined in the Income Tax Act (the Act). Cryptocurrencies are either official South African tender nor widely used and accepted in South Africa as a medium of payment or exchange. As such, cryptocurrencies are not regarded by SARS as a currency for income tax purposes or Capital Gains Tax (CGT). Instead, cryptocurrencies are regarded by SARS as assets of an intangible nature,” reads an April statement issued by SARS.

“The onus is on taxpayers to declare all cryptocurrency-related taxable income in the tax year in which it is received or accrued. Failure to do so could result in interest and penalties.”

The draft of the crypto regulations on tax has exempted crypto from value-added tax (VAT), a move that has shown an element of leniency towards the budding industry. As quoted above, SARS believe that crypto transactions are separate from financial service transfers and this is what influenced the exemption of crypto from VAT.

Tracking Crypto Traders

SARS is reportedly working on ways of improving the tracking of cryptocurrency traders and their transactions in a bid to verify whether or not they are paying taxes. According to the authority’s commissioner, Mark Kingon, identification of the cryptocurrency traders is the main issue and therefore the most critical aspect of taxation when it comes to the crypto industry.

“The key thing is identifying people who are trading because it’s easy to say cryptocurrency gains must be deductible, but there are also those who lose. That’s why it’s important to identify the trader,” he said.

He also noted that despite the fact that they have procedures in place to identify traders, the issue was not entirely straightforward especially because a significantly large number of the South African crypto traders use foreign bank accounts while some conduct these transactions in other jurisdictions.

Bitcoin Crosses $8,000 Mark, Up 20 Percent in One Week

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Bitcoin’s price yesterday crossed the $8,000 mark for the very first time in over a month. This has already begun to spark speculations that this could be the return of the bull run that last year propelled bitcoin to its all-time high of almost $20,000. But, is it?

This recent rise in bitcoin’s price comes just after a week that saw it increase in value by about 20 percent following news that established financial institutions were eyeing the possibilities of venturing into bitcoin and cryptocurrency as a well as a ton of positive regulatory new from all around the world.

On the same note, bitcoins surge in value has been affecting many other aspects of the crypto industry including the so-called bitcoin dominance which rose to 47 percent this week, which is the highest it has ever been since December 2017 – bitcoin dominance is a measure of how much the total digital currency market is controlled by bitcoin.

What Is the Cause?

Many experts and crypto enthusiasts believe that bullishness around bitcoin can be attributed to the expected approval of a bitcoin exchange trade fund (ETF) that is currently being mulled over by the United States Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). The ETF was filed by New York-based VanEck and a blockchain platform known as SolidX through the Chicago Board of Exchange (CBOE).

If this bitcoin ETF is approved, people will be able to buy bitcoin without having to deal with existing clunky exchanges that usually struggle with cumbersome regulation and lack of trust from the public. According to a report filed but the ICO Journal a week ago, given the rise in bitcoin’s price, it appears that the bitcoin ETF is likely to get approved.

“I would call [the likelihood of approval] 90% at this point. The crypto markets have moderated and regulators have watched the lack of drama surrounding bitcoin futures across several global exchanges,” one of the ICO Journal’s unnamed sources reportedly commented. “The price moderation and adoption of a peer product is what the conversations have centered around. In January we were justifiably concerned about a bubble and the harm a quickly approved product could attract speculators and create losses that led to significant lawsuits. Now, those factors seem to be mitigated significantly.”

Global Regulatory Developments

Investors have also been quite keen on global regulatory news and this might also have something to do with the surge in bitcoin’s value. For instance, South Korea last week set up a government department that is tasked with creating policy initiatives around cryptocurrencies and financial technology.

“Regulation is moving in apace with positive murmurings from governments as they understand the opportunities and risks, and how to tailor their approaches — South Korea being the latest to give another tacit nod,” Charles Hayter, chief executive of digital coin comparison site CryptoCompare, said in an email on addressed to CNBC.

More Universities Providing Courses on Crypto

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It has been a little less than a year since crypto exploded into mainstream awareness but it is already becoming the focus of a growing number of university courses and educational programs. A few of these courses are based on the actual coding, computer science, and cryptography that lie behind cryptocurrencies. However, more and more courses are being tailored with the idea of providing a detailed introduction to crypto in mind – the intention is to allow the more business-focused audiences to have a basis for deciding whether or not to adopt crypto and to what extent they should do this.

While this may seem like a profit-oriented venture by universities that have found ways to capitalize on the cryptocurrency frenzy, the students themselves have reported considerable satisfaction with the teaching that they have received so. Even though the courses simply focus on teaching how to conceptualize blockchain instead of how the technology is coded and created, the knowledge that is imparted is still vital enough to be a major driving force for crypto if it is to be adopted on a global scale.

In the United States, crypto is mostly taught in the context of business-related programs, with very few universities offering specific degrees in crypto or blockchain technology. As it stands, a decent number of high – profile MBA programs in the country have already included or are including crypto-based courses that enable the students to have a grasp on crypto.

Russian Universities Join the Bandwagon

Just like the United States and a few other parts of the world, more academic institutions in Russia are beginning to offer educational courses as well as postgraduate programs focused on crypto and blockchain.

The most recent entrants are three Russian universities who have recently announced new courses and majors all related to cryptocurrencies and associated crypto technologies. These programs will be offered immediately the next academic year kicks off this fall and they will cover a wide array of subjects that include digital economy, cryptography, blockchain, distributed ledger technologies and alternative payment systems among others.

The Voronezh State University (VSU), one of the three universities, has already formulated a bachelor’s degree program that is all about studying digital economy and blockchain technology. Referred to as the “Models and methods for analyzing the digital economy”, the new major will be offered by the university’s Department of Information Technologies and Mathematical Methods in Economics.

The Don State Technical University (DTSU), on the other hand, will be offering two master’s programs in blockchain technologies – these will be “Intellectual systems based on blockchain technologies” and “Digital accounting and management.”

“We offer graduate students [the opportunity] to study in depth the distributed ledger technology. Blockchain is a promising technology that is rapidly introduced in many areas of life. Demand for specialists in this field is growing every day,” said DSTU’s Vice-Rector Alexey Belskopilniy.

Bitcoin to Replace Traditional Currencies Within a Decade

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Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have long been touted as the logical “next steps” for money as they grow closer to being adopted as mainstream forms of payment. According to a recent study by researchers from Imperial College London in conjunction with trading platform eToro that assessed the fundamental roles of traditional currencies, digital currencies have three criteria to fill if they are to go mainstream. Among these criteria is the ability to act as a store of value which most of the cryptocurrencies have already managed to successfully fulfill.

The remaining criteria to be fulfilled are the abilities to act as a medium of exchange and as units of account. To fulfill these two, cryptocurrencies will first have to deal with certain setbacks that include regulation and scalability.

Since it came to light in 2009, bitcoin has been the subject of heated debates regarding whether digital assets have what it takes to replace fiat. Bitcoin remains at the center of many of these discussions despite the fact that over 1,600 digital currencies have emerged within past decade – the Imperial College London believe that the attention that bitcoin is receiving is not in vain since it is well on its way towards mainstream adoption and use within the next decade.

“The world of cryptocurrency is evolving as rapidly as the considerable collection of confusing terminology that accompanies it. In this context, we wanted to get back to basics: clarifying the nature of cryptocurrencies as a new kind of asset class, contrasting them with traditional forms of wealth, and classifying the main challenges that need to be overcome in order to drive their success forward. There’s a lot of skepticism over cryptocurrencies and how they could ever become a day-to-day payment system used by the man on the street. In this research, we show that cryptocurrencies have already made significant headway towards fulfilling the criteria for becoming a widely accepted method of payment,” William Knottenbelt, a professor from the Imperial College said.

The research paper that is titled “Cryptocurrencies: Overcoming Barriers to Trust and Adoption” argues that the evolution of traditional money is what will pave the way for the mainstream adoptions of digital currencies. This sentiment is shared by the UK managing director of eToro, Iqbal Gandham, who said that:

“The history of money is a history of evolution, of new technology replacing old to improve the transfer of value from one person to another. Cryptocurrencies represent the next step on this journey.”

Case in point, there has been a significant increase in the distribution and use of contactless and mobile payments – this is, in essence, the backbone of the technology behind cryptocurrency.

“Given the speed of adoption, we believe that we could see Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on the high street within the decade,” Mr. Gandham added.

John McAfee Fires Shots at the RBI over Cryptocurrency Ban

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Renowned cybersecurity pioneer John McAfee has recently called for a boycott of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the financial institutions dealing with it over a recent decision by the central bank that forces banks to cease and desist from dealing with cryptocurrency traders.

The move by the RBI has created a lot of chaos and panic especially because of India’s technology ecosystem that has been riding the cryptocurrency wave for quite some time now. Most of the reactions have cited concerns pertaining to how the country’s rapid movement towards development will be hindered from here on out.

It is important to note that the ban is not an all-inclusive decree that Indian cryptocurrency investors will be in violation of the law for dealing in crypto. In fact, there are many other options that digital currency traders can users and they include crypto-to-crypto, peer-to-peer, offshore exchanges as well as international bank accounts. As such, while the decree that financial institutions should stop offering services to crypto investors is indeed a setback, it does not mean that it will be the end of all cryptocurrency trading in India.

The Indian media is culpable for the panic, fear, uncertainty, and doubt that is now rife in the country – as expected, they erroneously reported that the RBI had imposed a country-wide ban on cryptocurrency trading among investors.

McAfee Is Not Amused

On July 6, John McAfee posted an intriguing tweet that fired off at the Reserve Bank of India and urged all financial institutions to dissociate themselves with the central bank. He further warned that he would call for a boycott against the financial institutions that steal deal with the RBI.

“The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) initiated this atrocity out of fear and won through the existing centralized power structure. I’m calling for a boycott of any financial institution that does business with RBI. We must stand together and act,” read McAfee’s tweet.

In his tweet which comes in the wake of the recent verdict by the Indian Supreme Court to uphold the RBI crypto ban, McAfee spoke out against these developments. Knowing McAfee, he will remain at the forefront of these protests, at least until the ban is either lifted or a reasonable consensus is reached.

From the looks of things, there are many ways this could play out but it will all depend on how both sides of the divide will play their cards. Recent reports revealed that prior to the ban, the RBI did not carefully and explicitly review the pro and cons of cryptocurrencies in the country. Already, the central bank’s officials have begun reviewing a draft that focuses on cryptocurrencies and associated regulations that would be required to ensure its survival. The said draft was prepared by the Secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs, Subhash Chandra Garg. Maybe there is still hope for crypto in India after all.

South Korea Advances Its Cryptocurrency Regulations Further

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South Korea has been at the forefront of the crypto industry since the investor boom and cryptocurrency frenzy of 2017 and since then, the country has seen a number of gradual and significant changes in the way cryptocurrencies are perceived within its borders. Just recently, the country’s authorities announced that it was lifting the blanket ban on initial coin offerings (ICOs). Next on South Korea’s agenda are plans to lead what could be the fourth industrial revolution that they will be backed by blockchain initiatives.

Even as the country surges on towards delivering a blockchain-powered future, the authorities still understand the importance of regulation. According to the announcement which was made by the country’s Financial Services Commission (FSC), a set of new anti-money-laundering and know-your-customer rules for cryptocurrency exchanges will take effect on July 10, 2018, and will remain in effect for a year.

A Tougher Stand

The country’s new guidelines will make the current regulations on user and transaction monitoring even stricter than they were before. These stricter regulations are being put into place so as to prevent money laundering, fraud as well as money transfers between local and foreign exchanges.  The FSC also requested the Korea Financial Intelligence Unit (KFIU), the country’s financial supervisory organization to strengthen their control over digital currency transactions and user activity so as to provide cryptocurrency exchange investors with even greater security.

The advancement of the crypto regulations in South Korea was primarily based on the FSC’s recent inspection of Nonghyup Bank, KB Kookmin Bank, and KEB Hana Bank – the inspection revealed that some of the crypto exchanges had moved assets from their investors’ depositing accounts into their own operating accounts. This is a violation of the promise that cryptocurrency exchanges make to keep investors’ assets separate from their own.

“We plan to closely keep tabs on bank accounts used by cryptocurrency exchanges for parking their expenses,” the FSC noted after the findings.

The new regulations also require the crypto exchanges to conduct Customer Due Diligence (CDD) and Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD). These are meant to ensure that foreigners are not trading digital assets through the South Korean crypto exchanges and, as mentioned earlier, to reduce the possibility of fraud, prevent money laundering and prevent personal data breaches.

While these regulations mostly seem to be restrictive in nature, the South Korean government’s initiative to control the crypto space is also a step forward towards the legitimization of the sector. In the next few months, the local authorities will be teaming up with local exchanges and banks in an effort to better structure the cryptocurrency market.

Chinese Bitcoin Miner Manufacturer Seeking to Go Public

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Bitcoin recently slumped below $6,000 reaching its lowest value in a little over eight months. This has sparked a number of reactions as investors and other members of the digital coin’s community debate over allegations of price manipulation.

Bitcoin’s woes do not stop there though. The Chinese government also recently issued a blanket ban on cryptocurrency trading followed by a restriction on bitcoin miners. Is this enough to stop bitcoin’s rise?

Well, amid all the talk of bitcoin’s price drops, the blanket ban, and theories of its ultimate downfall, Ebang Communication, one of China’s largest bitcoin mining chip makers, has opted to ignore all the buzz as it seeks to go public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX). According to a Reuters report, EBang Communications filed an application for an initial public offering (IPO) with the HKEX on June 25. However, the application is still a draft and thus the valuation of the Zheijang-based company is still definitively clear.

Even so, the application itself confirms a May report that claimed the company was working with advisors on Hong Kong float and aimed at raising as much as $1 billion to fund its growth. The filing also includes a financial statement that state that Ebang Communications earned 925 million yuan ($45 million) in revenue last year – 2017 was indeed a great year for the company as the revenue was nearly eighteen times as much as what they got in 2016.

In addition to the revenue statistics, the filing further suggested that the proportion of the bitcoin miner manufacturer’s revenue was generated solely from the sale of the bitcoin miners has also gone up significantly year-on-year. To put this into perspective, the revenue generated from the sale of bitcoin miners rose from 31 percent in 2015 to 42 percent in 2016 and then to a staggering 94.6 percent in 2017.

Founded in 2010, Ebang Communications kicked off its operations as a manufacturer of hardware products for the telecommunication industry. The company opted to enter the cryptocurrency mining in 2016 when they launched the Ebit miners, a product that was intended to compete directly with two other Chinese bitcoin mining market leaders, Cannan Creative and Bitmain.

The company’s IPO application also came with some exciting news for bitcoin miners. As it turns out, Ebang is on the verge of releasing its next generation of bitcoin miners that will be equipped with the latest 7nm semiconductor chips. These next-generation 7nm chip have been in development since 2017 and were just recently launched by GMO, a Japanese tech conglomerate.