Amazon Introduces a Service for Building Your Own Blockchain Networks 149 2255

Ah, what a year. Bitcoin, which dipped below the $4,000 mark this week, has lost more than three quarters of its value over the course of 2018. Crypto has had a rough go this lap around the sun. But as the end of the year approaches, the ‘blockchain not bitcoin’ bandwagon is still going strong.

Despite some negative headlines criticizing blockchain’s inability to keep up with or deliver on the hype, blockchain as a service (BaaS) continues to find courtship with leading tech giants.

Amazon Web Services, or AWS, has just announced their own fully managed blockchain service, Amazon Managed Blockchain. They say it “makes it easy to create and manage scalable blockchain networks.” And it could be the push that brings the powerful potential of distributed ledgers to the layperson “with just a few clicks.”

Setting up a blockchain network independently requires a lot of costs, labor, equipment, and expertise. BaaS platforms like Amazon Managed Blockchain cover all those bases for their subscribers, and simply give you the tools to build a distributed ledger for your business.

Amazon’s Not Resting on its Laurels

Despite being a nightmare for working people with hair-raising reports of foul and dangerous working conditions to salt the wounds opened by their low wages, and despite pushing for widespread gentrification in the Bronx with the opening of its “extremely concerning” HQ2, to the outrage of local communities, Amazon is coming off of a killer year. They followed their 2017 possession of Whole Foods with Jeff Bezos’ coronation as the wealthiest anything anywhere ever. And AWS CEO Andy Jassy seems confident that the momentum will keep up.

“We don’t build things for optics,” he said at the re:Invent conference, which AWS hosted in Las Vegas. He says that AWS, which represents 9.8 percent of Amazon’s total revenues, is a $27 billion business growing 46 percent year-on-year. But despite the size of the company, he said “it’s still relatively early days.”

Early because blockchain still hasn’t taken a form that the public can use as freely and easily as, say, the internet. A Cowen report projected widespread blockchain implementation is still 5.9 years away, based on a survey of industry leaders. “We’re still in the early stages of the meat of enterprise and public sector adoption in the US,” Jassy said, adding that he considers other countries to be 12 to 36 months behind.

AWS Joins Microsoft, IBM With BaaS

Amazon Managed Blockchain is built on Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric. It’s not the first of its kind. IBM also uses Hyperledger Fabric for its BaaS, and Microsoft offers Ethereum-based BaaS on Azure, its cloud service. What is Amazon bringing that these companies aren’t? We don’t really know yet.

But in addition to Amazon Managed Blockchain, AWS introduced the Amazon Quantum Ledger Database, a “fully managed ledger database” that “allows you to easily analyze the network activity outside the network and gain insights into trends.”

The ledger database works in tandem with Amazon Managed Blockchain to document businesses’ blockchain activity. Together, these tools could be the thing to finally kick blockchain into the mainstream.

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I grew up in the Silicon valley under the technological mentorship of Steve Wozniak. I'm a proud member of the Choctaw Nation, I've lived, worked and traveled all over the world, and I now write in the Pacific Northwest.

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Real Estate Doesn’t Need to Be So Complicated 1 409

Because blockchain is basically data management, one industry it stands to improve a great deal is real estate. The process of buying and selling real estate is first and foremost a data transfer. There were $463.9 billion in large cap commercial real estate investments nationwide in 2017. All that money moves paper. Since land cannot actually be owned, the idea of land ownership must be exhaustively documented, organized, purchased and sold. The myriad processes that make up one transaction, namely title transfers, putting funds through escrow, and navigating an outdated MLS system, all stand to benefit from a technology upgrade.

Blockchain could quicken and simplify these processes by virtue of its transparent, untamperable and near instantaneous handling of data. “What if you could irrefutably determine who previously owned a property, record with absolute certainty who the new owner is after it sells and reference the blockchain at any time to verify all previous owners?” asks Mark Rutzen, Co-founder and CEO of Eondo Inc.  “Even the combination or splitting of parcels would be easy to record with blockchain technology,” he adds.

Moving into the future of real estate, particularly commercial real estate and investment, will soon mean embracing the block. Here are some of the ways blockchain is changing real estate.

Financing Developers and Investors

For anyone in real estate investment or development, the most glaring obstacle is getting the upfront capital when you find a good opportunity.

“Real estate investors and developers are turning to new technologies like blockchain smart contracts to find more liquidity at lower costs,” says Joseph Snyder, CEO at Lannister Holdings, an Arizona-based technology company working to create more blockchain lending and crowdfunding tools through their Lannister Development subsidiary.

Lannister is publicly traded and regulated by the SEC, which is uncommon for a blockchain company. But Snyder sees it as an inevitability in the long term. He anticipates a future where blockchain real estate regulation is the norm, and blockchain development like Lannister’s is part of mainstream business development and commerce.

“We wanted to be heavily regulated up front,” he says. “We believe regulation and financial compliance are coming down the pipe.” And, according to their website, they “see a future of security, transparency, and growth beyond the stale oligarchy of traditionalists.”

Systems like this give access to capital to smaller investors and developers who don’t have a lot of capital to work with up front. In theory, this could level the playing field.

Real Estate Professionals Worldwide Are Developing a Blockchain Future

Others are envisioning a near future where you could buy a house with a click on a shopping cart icon. If blockchain can clean up the real estate process enough, it could do more than just disrupt the industry. It could give it a total overhaul.

The P2P nature of blockchain enables faster sales and a higher volume of deals closed with fewer legal headaches and administrative fees. It also means a trustless economy and immediate processing of property values and other technical details, like zoning regulations or utility expenses.

Organizations like the International Blockchain Real Estate Association, or IBREA, are dedicated to incubating the many possibilities produced by the intersection of real estate and blockchain. Local chapters of IBREA hold meetups in 23 cities for its 5,000 members to come together as professionals and co-educators, with the goal of moving the real estate world into the blockchain age.

According to Ragnar Lifthrasir, founder of IBREA, “real estate technology is going more peer to peer.”

“I think what people are missing with blockchain and real estate is the data problem,” he adds. “We have so much data in real estate. So to really do blockchain real estate well you also have to have a good data system, which is distributed file storage, or IPFS.”

Real Estate Without Headaches

With some real world testing to work out the bugs, blockchain real estate could take us into a future where we can buy and sell property as easily as we do a cup of coffee. With data properly arranged and the transactions secure and transparent, there will be no need for the systems currently governing the industry—nor the room for error, delays and complications they open up at every step.

For anyone with aspirations in real estate development or investment, blockchain promises to open a lot of doors.

Chinese Crypto Leader Li Xiaolai Suddenly Retires 0 158

One of China’s most prominent Bitcoin investors has announced his retirement from the crypto world. Billionaire Li Xiaolai is the founder of BitFund, a crypto venture capital firm that has fostered a slew of Bitcoin-related startups.

Li’s announcement of his decision to withdraw from cryptospace—and investing otherwise—came unexpectedly via his page on Chinese social media site Weibo.

“From this day on,” his post reads, according to TechNode’s translation, “I, Li Xiaolai, will personally not invest in any projects (whether it is blockchain or early stage). So, if you see ‘Li Xiaolai’ associated with any project (I have been associated with countless projects without my knowledge, 99% is not an exaggeration), just ignore it.”

Li is a former school teacher, and claims to be the first person in China to openly trade Bitcoins, rather than hiding behind its famous anonymity. Now, retired from both teaching and investing, he says he’s not sure where to go next. “I plan to spend several years to contemplate on my career change. As for what I’m doing next, I’m not sure just yet.”

Li closed his post by expressing that he still maintains a long term optimism about the blockchain.

Li’s Ventures Grew Crypto Capital, Controversey

Through BitFund, Li has incubated a number of blockchain related startups, including an off-chain wallet called Bitfoo, the crypto exchange YUNBI, and HashRatio, a miner manufacturing company. Li organized 2014’s Global Bitcoin Summit in Beijing, back when you could get a BTC for as little as $440, and years before China instated its full ban on cryptocurrencies.

Earlier this year, Li also acted as managing partner of Hangzhou Xiong’An Blockchain Fund, a billion dollar fund backed by the Hangzhou government. Li stepped down after fellow venture capitalist Chen Weizing introduced a series of accusations against him.

Included in the eleven accusations, which Chen broke on social media and messaging platform WeChat, were a supposed debt of 30,000 BTC that Chen says Li failed to pay on time. Li published a point-by-point response to Chen’s accusations, addressing the 30,000 BTC debt by saying “it’s not true… Chen is just muddying the water.”

Though Li called them “defamations,” and Chen did not offer supporting evidence for his allegations, Li said Chen’s antics “brought material and negative impacts on the reputation of Xiong’An Blockchain Fund” and that his resignation would “let the Hangzhou government continue its push for blockchain development.”

Li was the subject of controversy on another occasion when, in a candid conversation he did not know was being recorded, he outed several influential organizations as scams and said that the best way to succeed in blockchain, even if your project is worthless, is to get famous and build consensus.

The State of Crypto in the People’s Republic

All crypto and blockchain related websites are blocked by the Chinese government, and citizens are forbidden from engaging in crypto transactions. The People’s Bank of China released a statement on August 24th warning against ICOs, which they consider to be “illegal fundraising, pyramid schemes, and fraud.”

But the rules have been difficult to enforce, and crypto still enjoys an active user base in China. Beijing Sci-Tech Report, China’s oldest technology publication, is now the first Chinese publication to accept BTC as payment from its subscribers. Chinese crypto channel cnLedger announced in a tweet on September 25th that Ethereum Hotel, China’s first hotel to accept ETH as payment, is open for business in Sichuan Province.

A Crypto Landscape Without a Leader

The sudden exit of Li Xiaolai from the Chinese crypto scene could have caveats, or greater implications. Weibo users expressed their support and gratitude following his announcement, but some also speculated that his choice of words leaves room for Li to continue investing in crypto indirectly, perhaps through funds or corporate entities. Whether that will be the case or not, for many, his resignation marks the loss of a public blockchain leader.

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