How Companies Are Making Cryptocurrency More Usable 0 166

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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Oxford Faculty are Building the World’s First Blockchain-Based University 2 437

The academic hive is abuzz with blockchain activity. Students looking to formally study blockchain technology can now do so at a number of prestigious universities, including Stanford, UC Berkeley, Duke, Georgetown and MIT. The blockchain bug has even made its way into the ivy league at Cornell and Princeton Universities.

“The courses are often jam-packed, and most have waiting lists,” CNBC says of blockchain classes at Berkeley, which also has a student club devoted to the block. The club is so popular it turns away 96 percent of applicants, according to CNBC. Most students, they say, are more motivated to improve the world than they are to make tons of money.

Across the pond, faculty from Oxford are going beyond just offering classes and developing what they hope will be the world’s first decentralized, borderless, blockchain-based university, called Woolf University.

The Borderless Blockchain University

Woolf University’s vision is a school where students can ‘show up’ to a class by checking in on the app. The app executes smart contracts that track the student’s academic history and financial aid, automatically pay the professor, and bypass innumerable bureaucratic hurdles usually relegated to lengthy paperwork processes.

For about half the cost of regular tuition, a student in Brooklyn could take a class in Yoruba from a professor in Nigeria and earn an EU degree.

‘The World’s First University ICO’

Woolf University’s founder Joshua Broggi, who also serves on Oxford’s Faculty of Philosophy, has just announced what he’s calling “the world’s first ‘university ICO’.”

“Woolf will use a blockchain to enforce regulatory compliance, eliminate bureaucratic processes, and manage the custodianship of sensitive financial and personal data,” the announcement says.

“Our ultimate aim is for this to be a driver of job opportunities and security for academics, as well as a low-cost alternative for students,” Broggi told Forbes.

Private sale of tokens is open now, and crowd sale will be August 30th through October 10th. Token sales are not available to citizens of China, the United States, or Iran.

Stanford is Taking Blockchain in a Different Direction

Oxford isn’t the only place expanding their blockchain vision beyond 202 classes.

Last month, Stanford announced their Center for Blockchain Research (CBR), which endeavors to develop new blockchain based technologies at one of the world’s top research institutions.

Led by professors Dan Boneh and David Mazières, the center’s first five years of research are backed through partnerships with some of crypto’s big names: the Ethereum Foundation, Protocol Labs, the Interchain Foundation, OmiseGO, DFINITY Stiftung, and PolyChain Capital.

The focus of the CBR will be blockchain as it relates to computer engineering, and its potential impacts on global business. “This is a fascinating area of research with deep scientific questions,” said Boneh. “Once you get into the details you quickly realize that this area will generate many PhD theses across all of computer science and beyond.”

A Global Watershed

Last fall the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts announced that they now accept tuition payments in Bitcoin. In April, the world’s first masters degree in cryptofinance was launched in Brazil. Universities in Moscow, Copenhagen, Cambridge and Cumbria are also researching blockchain’s now and future uses.

These developments, when taken together, could indicate a global watershed moment in the marriage of academia and blockchain tech.

Blockchain and Academia are Transforming Each Other

With the global academic world switching on to blockchain’s potential, and with projects like the CBR and Woolf University taking shape, the world of academia could be at a transformative threshold. Woolf students could conceivably find themselves learning about the blockchain through a blockchain supported infrastructure, while Stanford grads could be taking what they learn in blockchain courses and applying it to doctoral research in the CDR.

We can expect this to transform academia. It’ll transform the blockchain, too.

MOVA Wants the Supply Chain to be Faster, Cheaper and Greener 0 2126

“How is this possible? It was supposed to be here last week!” Your books didn’t come in time for the author signing. Banners didn’t show up for the launch. A late replacement part for the printer means you missed your campaign window. Or you find operations suddenly hamstrung by a natural disaster, as was the case for some 50 thousand manufacturing, utilities, mining, and agricultural operations in Texas last year.

These kinds of glitches happen all the time in business. Sometimes it’s from poor planning, but sometimes ‘life happens’ and there’s nothing you could’ve done. Now you have upset customers, clients, or vendors, lost opportunities and revenues, and there’s your reputation to consider as well. Rebounding from a supply chain disruption is no easy task.

A study by Airmic Technical says of over 150 surveyed supply chain executives, 73 percent had to deal with disruptions in the past five years. That makes it pretty likely that your business will be dealing with them at some point, too. The same study shows that 60 to 70 percent of your business’s cost structure is likely embedded in your supply chain. So the stakes are pretty high when it comes to getting your deliveries fulfilled.

A smooth supply chain keeps your business fluid and responsive, but life’s little glitches, if unchecked, can threaten to sink you. Does the blockchain have a solution to this?

Blockchain, Meet Supply Chain

Recognizing that even up to date operations are still largely reliant on outdated logistical technology, a new app called MOVA executes Ethereum smart contracts to alleviate supply chain surprises. It incentivizes streamlined delivery systems on both the receiving and production ends. By removing communication barriers between producers, suppliers, vendors, transporters and retailers, it boosts efficiency in the supply chain process and hedges against potential losses.

For example, through the app you can set a sliding scale of payment for your delivery. An early delivery may earn a bonus and a late delivery incurs a penalty. Your supply company sees the terms, and the quicker your delivery arrives, the happier everybody is. Real time GPS tracking keeps everyone in the loop and means there are no dark spots in the process. Because it’s ledger-based, the whole system is transparent and everyone’s accountable along the way. You get your goods when you need them. Your supplier gets instant payment. Everyone knows immediately if any problems arise on the road or at sea.

Efficient is Green

Making shipping and trucking more efficient doesn’t just mean more timely deliveries, it means a lower carbon footprint. Consider that a normal diesel freight truck drives around empty for 14,000 miles a year. This converts over 2,400 gallons of wasted fuel into 26.4 tons of unnecessary emissions. If empty trucks were tasked for the trip back, or two half-full trucks were combined, we’d save on fuel and emissions. Tightening up freight efficiency will considerably reduce environmental impacts of business operations.

Making Blockchain Work in the Real World

MOVA co-founder and CEO Lachlan McDonald comes from a background of supply management for multibillion dollar manufacturers like Hastings Deering.

“I heard a lot about blockchain,” he says, “but I hadn’t seen any practical, real-world technology that’s working at the moment. The big guys that are using it are all optimizing for themselves. There’s Maersk, but they’re optimizing it for Maersk, not for global supply chains in general.”

He says that bring blockchain down to a practical, blue collar level is part of what motivated him to tackle the supply chain process himself.

“Having been on the business end of trying to make technical change happen for companies worth 30 or 40 billion dollars, I know it’s really hard. When you have to rely on people and behavioral change, that’s where stuff breaks down. The tech can be cool, but unless it works in a real-world environment, it’s pretty challenging.”

Because everything is connected in business ecosystems, a small problem here makes major waves there. By the same token, an app like MOVA could solve problems not just for your business, but for everyone along the supply chain. That will open up doors to a greener and more cost effective flow of goods worldwide.

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