Making the Swytch to Sustainability 4 15747

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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T.J. Mulqueen (PMP, MBA, CCP) is a mechanical engineer by trade, working as a commissioning professional for the built environment. With a focus on optimizing building function and performance, and an interest in green energy initiatives, T.J. is also a science and technology communicator. His writing has been featured in Huffington Post and Thrive Global.

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Why Is Everyone Talking About NFTs? Comments Off on Why Is Everyone Talking About NFTs? 51910

In this writer’s opinion the NFT hype is warranted — but not for the reason most people are investing. 

For those who’ve been in the space since Bitcoin’s early surge, you’ll remember the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) boom of 2017. The crowdfunding vehicle, which mirrored an IPO on the public market, brought with it massive amounts of investment into the blockchain space that seemed to mirror Bitcoin’s rapidly increasing value. 

In retrospect, none of it made sense. 

With all the hype, the investment in the space didn’t match due diligence. As of August 2018, investors had lost nearly $100M in ICO exit scams, a major reason we no longer hear about ICOs. 

From there, crowdfunding through token sales was rebranded alongside SEC regulation as Security Token Offerings (STOs). Additional fundraising iterations to enter the scene are Initial DEX Offerings (IDOs) and Initial Exchange Offerings (IEOs).

NFTs are having a similar moment to the immature and potentially reckless ICO market of 2017. The danger can be credited to a mix of hype and a widely unregulated environment with various points of entry and gatekeepers that are not incentivized to shore up fraud. 

As a result, many purchasers of NFTs are falling victim to a spectrum that spans undeserving projects on the mild end and outright scams at the extreme. Meanwhile, hackers are exploiting the unregulated environment. 

Just yesterday, $3 million in NFTs were stolen via an Instagram phishing scam. 

This writer, however, is still bullish on NFTs — just not the ones that are getting all the attention.

NFTs represent a concrete entry-point into the blockchain with a tangible utility and infinite disruptive implications. 

Here are a few.

Digital Assets as Social Proof 

As a Millennial, I personally have a hard time understanding the notion of owning and assigning value to a digital asset, but my kids don’t. 

I’ve written about how Gen Z has already adopted the concept of social proof in digital environments by assigning socially relevant value to digital assets like video game skins. 

As Gen Z ages and becomes an increasingly powerful consumer population, this experience will matter. Whether or not their purchase behavior translates to adulthood remains to be seen, but our kids are already leveraging digital assets in the metaverse to exhibit their position in the social hierarchy in the same way that my generation assigned value to Jansport-brand backpacks. 

Their concept of digital assets will be fundamentally different from ours, and NFTs are likely to benefit. 

But Why Are NFTs Relevant to Me Now?

Social proof is far from the most interesting use case for NFTs. 

In the near-term, NFTs can be utilized to store sale information of physical goods on the blockchain in order to eliminate nefarious actors in fraud-riddled industries like fine wine and art. 

Moreover, NFTs can disrupt any industry with a substantial secondary market. By coding royalties into the smart contract of NFTs, original sellers of wine, art and other trade-susceptible brands and industries can ensure they’ll capture a fee anytime an item is transferred. 

This solves a major problem for creators like photographers, artists and musicians that are notoriously underpaid in comparison to the value they create for brokers. It also has the potential to cut out middlemen like auction houses, record labels, and galleries to democratize the creator economy. 

Other Innovators Have Introduced Creative Use Cases for NFTs

Gary Vaynerchuk utilizes NFTs as tickets for events and other value-adds to his community. Forbes introduced a series of NFT Billionaires that will update alongside the real-time NYSE to gamify their user’s NFT experience in a way that’s brand-relevant. Foxies.art is using a gamified version of NFTs to fundraise blockchain education for women. 

The utility of NFTs is confined only by the imagination of our innovators. Whether or not NFT headlines today will remain relevant is yet to be seen, but one thing is certain: the disruption is only beginning. 

Fidelity to Offer Bitcoin in 401(k) Retirement Plans Comments Off on Fidelity to Offer Bitcoin in 401(k) Retirement Plans 48900

The move is the first for a major retirement plan provider and may signal more widespread adoption of the cryptocurrency. 

On April 26, Fidelity announced its intention to add a Bitcoin investment option to its 401(k) retirement plans. Employees of businesses that pursue the option will be able to allocate as much as 20% of their contributions to Bitcoin, all from the company’s main investment dashboard. According to reporting by the Washington Post, Fidelity said that at least one employer has already signed up for the option which will launch later this year.

“Fidelity’s leadership, especially CEO Abby Johnson, has been at the forefront of institutional Bitcoin and crypto integration for years and is no stranger to the space, with Fidelity’s private equity and venture capital arm being a major source of capital for crypto miners, crypto SPACs, crypto hedge funds and more,” says Eric Lamison-White, Director at STS Capital Group LLC, a cross-border advisory and investment firm. “It is completely in character for Fidelity to steadily and cautiously extend access to their working class customers as the regulatory climate becomes more productive.”

Critics suggest that the volatility of Bitcoin poses an unnecessary risk to a retirement portfolio. It’s a reasonable argument. At the time of this writing, the cryptocurrency’s price has fallen by more than 6% just today. Meanwhile, at $37,978 it’s a far cry from Bitcoin’s high of $68,000, representing more than a 40% drop since November 10th of last year. 

However, advocates of cryptocurrency’s long-term utility disagree.

“Cryptocurrency is a reliable, long-term store of value because it cannot be corrupted by central authorities,” says Lisa Carmen Wang, founder of The Bad Bitch Empire, a platform for female investors in web3. “We’ve already seen hyperinflation, bank failures, and other egregious disasters happen in the last few years, so trust in governments is at an all-time low. Crypto is inevitably volatile now because it is an early stage high-risk/high-reward investment, but for those who believe in the values of a decentralized economy, crypto is an attractive long-term investment that people should consider having in their portfolio.”

Regardless of your appetite for risk, the notion that savers will be able to easily manage contributions to Bitcoin in a respected retirement plan is meaningful.

As of last year, 63% of US adults that did not hold crypto were curious about it. Many people in the crypto-curious category don’t invest because they simply don’t know how. There’s a technological barrier to entry that can feel daunting. 

When you have major retirement plan managers like Fidelity making it easy to add Bitcoin to a portfolio through a dashboard users are already familiar with, we may see this group start investing in the asset class, moving digital currencies further along toward mainstream adoption.

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