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This Week in Blockchain – 01/23– 01/29

Top Universities Seek to Rival Visa Network, Blockchain Disrupts the Outsourcing Industry, Startup Threatens to Take On the SEC

Ecosystem

MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, and Four Other Universities are Teaming Up to Rival VisaNet
Article Link: [ComputerWorld]

Seven major universities are teaming up to tackle some of the hardest problems facing blockchain today: scalability, privacy, security, and performance. The cryptocurrency application, named Unit-e, is aimed at turning research papers into reality, bringing about a decentralized payment system to rival even the best technology out there today. The goals of the system are a transaction latency of 15 seconds for on chain transactions, 2-4 seconds for off-chain transactions, and 5000-10000 transactions per second. To put this in context, Visa’s network VisaNet only processes 1700 transactions per second, and is a global leader in payment processing. The system relies on Proof-of-Stake, which is significantly less power hungry than it’s glutinous brother, Proof-of-Work, and therefore would also help to significantly alleviate environmental concerns around blockchain technology and payments.

IBM, Aetna, PNC Explore Medical Data Blockchain for 100 Million Health Plans
Article Link: [CoinDesk]

IBM, along with several other industry leaders, is aiming to make a blockchain based healthcare processing system. The system would dramatically help processes payments and handle claims, in addition to helping foster a shared infrastructure between many healthcare providers. The system targets massive inefficiencies in the healthcare system, aiming to make the process more accessible and transparent for all. Potential savings are as high as 40 to 50 cents on the dollar, which if properly tackled could save the United States over $1 trillion, or over $5,000 per person. This cooperation is crucial in order to help solve many of the problems plaguing healthcare data today. However, as an important note, IBM is absolutely not alone in trying to tackle this issue, and faces significant competition both within the healthcare space and in subcategory of blockchain technology space.

Harvard, Levi Strauss, U.S. Think Tank in Blockchain Tie-Up on Worker Welfare
Article Link: [Reuters]

5,000 factory workers in Mexico will be the first to use a blockchain powered survey. The survey will be part of a blockchain-based system to track the health and well-being of factory workers. The system is a collaboration between Harvard, New America, ConsenSys and Levi Strauss & Co and is funded through a grant from the U.S. State Department. Essentially, the plan is to put an annual worker survey on the blockchain in what the participants called a crucial first step in transparent evaluation of working conditions in factories. The project’s first pilot will be tested in factories in Mexico in the second quarter of 2019, with another pilot slated in 2020.

Bitcoin Autonomous Employment: Workers Wanted
Article Link: [Forbes]

Today, gig-economy platforms like Fiverr and Upwork have exposed real problems with the fiat-based economy. High fees and chargebacks constrain the labor pools and frustrate customers. One organization, Gitcoin.co is disrupting the $86 billion-dollar outsourcing industry. Gitcoin was launched by ConsenSys developer Kevin Owocki and his team in 2017. With the tagline, "Open source financial freedom" Kevin set about to modernize the freelance economy. The system was incubated by funding development on internal ConsenSys projects.

Regulatory

Social Media Startup “Kik” to Challenge SEC Over Whether its Tokens Are Securities
Article Link: [SEC Challenge]

The CEO of a social media startup called “Kik” stated that the company would challenge the SEC in court if the SEC pursues an enforcement action against its 2017 ICO for selling unregistered securities. If Kik follows up with its threat, the lawsuit could have broad ramifications for the cryptocurrency industry as a federal judge could further elucidate the test for whether and what types of tokens are securities and therefore subject to federal securities laws. The SEC has previously stated its position that almost all tokens issued via an ICO are securities and must either be registered or meet an exemption from registration. If the SEC were to elect to pursue an enforcement action and successfully argue its position in court, the full weight of U.S. federal securities laws would be brought upon on the crypto industry. Research has already shown that many startups are choosing to operate outside of the United States due to the regulatory uncertainty the SEC has allowed. This has resulted in an exodus of crypto-startups from the United States to other more crypto-friendly countries. A ruling in the SEC’s favor would accelerate this trend

UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Releases Proposed Crypto Asset Guidance to Clarify Regulatory Scope
Article Link: [FCA Guidance]

Guidance Link: [FCA Consultation Paper]

Last week, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the UK’s financial markets regulator, released guidance that provides clarity on how it regulates certain crypto-assets. Specifically, the guidance proposes to categorize tokens into three categories: (1) exchange tokens, (2) security tokens, and (3) utility tokens. In general and with a few exception, tokens that are classified as exchange tokens or utility tokens are not subject the FCA oversight. However, tokens classified as security tokens must comply with the FCA’s traditional securities regulations. Although FCA guidance documents are not binding on UK courts, they do serve as “persuasive authority” in court, meaning that courts can (but do not have to) take the guidance document into consideration to inform their decision. This attempt to provide clear guidance to firms engaged in crypto-asset activities and seek public comment from them is in stark contrast to the SEC’s controversial strategy to provide no guidance and only regulate through enforcement. The FCA is seeking public comment on the guidance before it publishes a final guidance.

Research Notes:

Ecosystem - Christopher Sides, Duke University ‘19 & Justin LoTurco, Duke University ‘19

Regulatory - Carlos Manzano, Duke Law School ‘19

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