How Companies Are Making Cryptocurrency More Usable 0 16

With each new day, there seems to be another discovery when it comes to cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. What we once thought of as a mere system for creating bitcoin has become the hottest topic in town. From fixing issues with the supply chain to revolutionizing the financial and medical worlds, there’s no end to the blockchain’s capabilities.

It’s kind of like the app store. Apple created a life-changing technology and then opened it up to a world of creative genius coming from different places. Now our smartphones can be used for everything from measuring our heart rate to monitoring our babies. And the same is happening with the blockchain.

With around a dozen ICOs appearing each day, we’re starting to see some incredibly creative ideas. Whether they’ll go the distance or not is another question. With 90 percent of apps deleted or unused after one month, ICOs also face some pretty tough competition–and a few stumbling blocks when it comes to taking their ideas off paper. So, let’s take a look at some ways of making cryptocurrency more usable.

Removing the Need to Convert Cryptocurrency to Fiat

Zeex (a sister company of Zeek group gift cards) has come up with an interesting idea. One of the greatest challenges with buying crypto right now comes when you want to spend it. Not every store accepts bitcoin and the cost of converting to fiat can be unattractively high. That’s why Zeex is currently launching a protocol that will provide the ability for cryptocurrency holders to purchase items and services without the need for fiat conversion.

Guy Melamed, Zeex CEO & Co-Founder, explains, “Zeex targets one of crypto’s biggest problems and enables the growing audience of crypto holders to buy at major brands without the need to convert to fiat and with no fees.”

Gift cards is already big business. In fact, the global gift cards market reached $679,743 million in 2016, and is set to value some $3,003,320 million by 2023. Zeek is already an established VC backed startup with more than 300K customers, who use the company’s app and marketplace as a way to trade store credit they don’t want or need. That includes credit notes, gift vouchers, gift cards and e-vouchers.

Working with All Major Retailers

Powered by Zeek’s gift card platform that works with 350+ merchants, including Amazon, Foot Locker, and Starbucks, Zeex users will be able to make purchases using cryptocurrency. They can shop on Amazon using digital cash without the need for a traditional-crypto money conversion. There are no additional fees and it’s a simple, private, and secure procedure.

Through their platform, Zeex aims to connect the booming gift card market with the massive need for liquidity options in the crypto market. Pretty creative idea. How did they come up with something like that?

Melamed says, “We needed to find a creative payment method that would:

  1. Leave the traditional thinking and skip conversion to fiat altogether.
  2.  Avoid centralization and make sure no middleman can manipulate or stop the platform

By using the rails of virtual gift cards and placing a complete off-chain product on the blockchain, we managed to do just that and create a simple way for crypto holders to buy at the biggest brands, even if they don’t accept crypto.”

Combatting Crypto’s Infamous Volatility

Beyond converting crypto to fiat, another problem with cryptocurrency is that it’s incredibly sensitive to price fluctuation. How do you pay for goods that value $10 one day, $150 the next, and $1.50 a week later?

We’re starting to see the emergence of companies providing a solution to this problem. UbiquiCoin has emerged as one of the first decentralized currencies to take a two-coin approach to allow for crypto to be widely used. On the one side, they have a transaction coin at a stable rate that merchants everywhere could rely on. On the other, an investment coin that functions as their investment vehicle.

Unlike Bitcoin and other popular coins, UbiquiCoin is designed to be used for making daily purchases. From coffee and groceries to paying utility bills, it’s exempt from price volatility.

We’re yet to discover just how extraordinary cryptocurrency and the blockchain will be in our lives. The technology is still in its infancy and experiencing some teething trouble. With companies like Zeex and UbiquiCoin smoothing out the problems, we could soon be able to use cryptocurrency more widely.

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Christina is a technology and business communicator who has worked with high profile ICOs and blockchain influencers to break industry news.

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Can the Blockchain Empower Indigenous Communities? 0 1543

In Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown describes how US agents in the 1800s freely offered provisions, such as dry goods, to native communities, only to turn around and call it a debt after the fact.  In this way, the US used the dollar, a foreign and meaningless concept, to create poverty and dependence. It was a calculated and critical tactic in colonial subjugation of the sovereign nations flourishing on this continent.

In the Jacksonian era of the American genocide, the US paid off its own debt through dispossession, essentially selling stolen land to reduce federal deficit. This lead to the forcible removal of native nations to lands less suitable for self-sustenance, driving them deeper into impoverished dependence on the US.

Native communities are still living in this subjugation, largely excluded from the US economy. Many nations rely on tribal casinos, which cumulatively pull in upwards of $28 million annually, to generate revenues. But that system still relies on importing US dollars instead of creating wealth from within. Without mineral, water or oil rights, the nations have little to export. And now their status as sovereign nations is under threat altogether by the current administration.

Enter the blockchain.

A New Indian Head Dollar

What would happen if a native nation or coalition of nations adopted blockchain technology to create wealth from within?

A system of government cryptocurrency isn’t a new idea. But it still hasn’t been done. Governments in North America, East Asia, Europe and South America are already exploring the potential of federal digital currencies. And some experts, including Bitt founder Gabriel Abed, envision a future in which “all currencies will be digitized”.

Not all global powers are in favor of this. Fearing the collapse of crypto—or perhaps fearing its success—India has followed in China’s footsteps and announced a moratorium on financial institutions dealing with those who use crypto. Some investors are calling this a “huge mistake” that will only stifle innovation and lead to brain drain.

So while we have some examples of what will happen when states reject the blockchain, we have yet to see one fully adopt it, let alone to grow organically from it.

Fresh Soil for Self Governance

DAOstack, one of the year’s most successful ICOs to date, is using blockchain to build scalable, collaborative systems that empower collectives, tribes, markets and other groups. As DAOstack communications director Josh Zemel explains, “it’s a platform for decentralized governance that enables collectives to self-organize around shared goals or values, easily and efficiently.”

Zemel quotes founder Matan Field, saying “The first principle of designing the DAO stack was not to build a specific protocol or a specific application, but rather to build the soil, the ground from which a whole ecosystem can grow and thrive.” Properly employed, this soil could be the ground from which groups like native nations could reclaim self-governance and sovereignty.

Crypto-Utopias

The idea of a crypto-sustained community has lead a group of wealthy investors to Puerto Rico. Their goal? To establish a free and self reliant city—or at least a community—using blockchain technology. They renamed their project Sol when they found out that ‘Puertopia’ means ‘eternal boy playground.’ Despite its murky past and neocolonial implications, the outcome of Sol may provide valuable insights for other groups looking to establish self reliance and wealth generation.

Making the Switch

Because gold- or oil-backed currency is no longer the only alternative to fiat currency, a stockpile of natural resources is no longer prerequisite to creating wealth. Blockchain could be the solution to empower subjugated bodies of people, like indigenous communities in the Americas, to reclaim their power to self-govern.

Can a native nation make the switch to a decentralized blockchain infrastructure? That largely depends on whether crypto has staying power in the big picture, or whether its volatility makes it a bubble doomed to burst. But a forward thinking group could capitalize on moving first. If the chiefs are paying attention, this could be a solution centuries in the making.

Making the Swytch to Sustainability 0 7856

You might think a US President installing solar panels on the White House would signal a sea of change in renewable energy, but with Jimmy Carter’s loss in the 1980 election, the panels came down and haven’t been up since. It’s puzzling that an industry that has the potential to save the planet isn’t thriving, even after decades of development. Especially when one considers how much the technology has improved, with renewables set to be cheaper than fossil fuels in a few scant years.

The reasons behind this are numerous. Many governments remain suspicious of the technology, no doubt thanks to strident lobbying by the fossil fuel industry. When governments have taken action, as with the US under President Obama, the results fell short of admittedly lofty expectations. And the country’s CO2 emissions are set to increase 1 percent in 2018 after a brief period of decline.

However, even the most effective government in the world would find it hard to push the planet into a greener tomorrow. Governments only hold sway over the land within their borders, and even if a major player like China enacted sweeping reforms, it would do little to change matters in the rest of the world. Blockchain technology is uniquely poised to organize global governmental efforts, thanks to its inherent data security and decentralization.

“The main purpose of blockchain in governance, at least in its current guise, is data integrity,” says Jon Martindale in Digital Trends’ “Blockchain Beyond Bitcoin” series released this week. “If more government entities can rely on the integrity of data from partner agencies, then sharing information should make many facets of government more efficient, while also improving security,” Martindale continues.

If we’re going to see a fundamental shift in world energy production, a system that transcends local governments by democratizing data and adding efficiencies offers a significant step forward.

“It turns out that much of the world agrees that we need a reduction of carbon – that’s what cities, countries, and corporations like Microsoft want to achieve. But it’s a very tough objective function for the world to solve for, because if you think of the incentive structure – it’s local – it can’t be traded across geography, so it’s inefficient and temporal,” says Evan Caron, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Swytch, a blockchain platform that verifies and rewards the production of sustainable and renewable energy.

How Green is Our Valley?

Swytch solves one of the most significant factors in lagging renewable energy adoption – the lack of a global and easily tradable incentive mechanism.

The solution is four-fold. First, Swytch collects data from renewable energy producers using existing smart meter technology. This data is ‘stamped’ onto Swytch’s blockchain, then verified and evaluated by a collection of open-source algorithms. Once the algorithms determine the amount of clean energy produced (and by extension the amount of carbon displaced) a corresponding amount of crypto-tokens are minted and delivered to the energy producer.

The tokens are ERC20 compliant and can be converted into fiat currency, other cryptocurrencies, or invested into other renewable projects. In a way, Swytch is the opposite of Bitcoin. Instead of using proof of work, which generates an obscene amount of CO2, Swytch uses proof of production, rewarding reductions in carbon emissions.

The incentive model is scalable, too – everyone from homeowners with solar panels on their roofs to heavy industry leaders able to take part. Entire cities are on board, including six in South Korea, as well as parts of Austria and Germany.

Data is Power

Another issue plaguing renewables is the lack of comprehensive, trustworthy data. It’s currently difficult to gauge where the most energy is being produced and what types of energy is most efficient.

Swytch is seeking to change that through its data collection feature. Every bit of information gathered from energy producers will be made publicly available in order to provide a shared, objective system that anyone can learn from.

As Evan notes, “Anyone in the power business realizes that the more good data there is, the better the whole system is. The data that’s out there is not that great – it comes in slow increments. What we’re betting on is that people want to share the data and if they’re getting compensated for it, they want to do it even more.”

While Swytch’s data aggregation techniques have the potential to revolutionize how information is gathered and shared in the renewable energy market, it’s the platform’s ground-up incentivizing structure that has the most disruptive potential. Through tokenization and the blockchain, Swytch can do what others have not – transcend borders, local politics, and the lingering power of oil and gas conglomerates to bring the world closer to 100 percent sustainable energy.

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