South Korea to Launch K-Voting: Elections by Blockchain 4 2824

South Korean officials are developing a blockchain based voting system, scheduled for completion by the end of the year. Naturally, it’s called K-Voting.

An election watchdog called the National Election Commission, along with the Ministry of Science and ICT, started developing the system in June in pursuit of a more reliable and secure online voting system. The ministry hopes the transparency of the blockchain will prevent any tampering with election results, because anyone, including the candidates, can see the data and vet the results themselves.

The launch will begin by testing the system with lower-stakes trial runs, like surveys. After assessing the results of the trial runs, the ministry and the NEC will launch the full version of K-voting, which will use the blockchain throughout the entire voting process, from voter authentication all the way through tallying election results.

“We expect the blockchain-based voting system to enhance reliability of voting,” said ministry official Kim Jeong-won. “The ministry will continue to support the application of blockchain technology to actively utilize it in areas that require reliability.”

It’s Not Korea’s First Dance With Blockchain Voting

This isn’t the first time South Korea has used blockchain for voting. Last March, citizens used a voting platform developed by Blocko to decide how to prioritize community projects in the local budget. The blockchain election took place in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea’s most populous province, which surrounds Seoul and is home to many federally administrative buildings including the Ministry of Science and ICT headquarters. With 9,000 participants, the vote was smaller in scale than what the ministry hopes to implement now. But the success of the project boosted confidence in the potential of the distributed ledger for regulating and securing online elections.

“Blockchains will change the world within a few years just as smart-phones did,” Gyeonggi-do Governor Nam Kyung-Pil said at the time. “We can complement the limits of representative democracy with some direct democracy systems by using blockchains, the technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

“Numerous institutions have contacted us to adopt a blockchain-based voting system after the voting in Gyeonggi-do,” said Blocko CEO Won-Beom Kim following the success of the project. “By using a blockchain technology in online voting, we can save expenses required to maintain a central management agency and time to collect vote results.”

Blockchain Voting in West Virginia

For this year’s midterm elections in the US, West Virginia introduced a blockchain-based app to replace absentee ballots. The app was specifically geared towards West Virginia residents serving overseas in the military.

Around 144 West Virginians in 30 different countries apped in their votes on the platform, which was developed by Boston-based startup Voatz. West Virginia reported the experiment as a success. “This is a first-in-the-nation project that allowed uniformed services members and overseas citizens to use a mobile application to cast a ballot secured by blockchain technology,” West Virginia Secretary of State Andrew “Mac” Warner said following the midterms.

Despite the professed success, Warner’s Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Queen told the Washington Post they have no plans to expand the project, and “will never advocate that this is a solution for mainstream voting.”

The Precedents Are Set for ‘Direct Democracy’

But West Virginia has set a precedent, and now blockchain voting has a foot in the door Stateside. A bolder election-by-blockchain enterprise like South Korea’s K-Voting could inspire change in the States where election reform is desperately needed. If K-Voting takes hold, it could change the face of democracy worldwide.

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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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This New Blockchain Phone Has a Built In Cold Wallet 3 2836

The blockchain phone you didn’t know you needed has arrived. As phones have transformed into mobile devices they’ve absorbed tasks previously delegated to desktop computers, cameras, globes, flashlights, alarm clocks, and your Sony Walkman. Now you can add crypto wallets to the mix.

Digital Trends gave us the scoop on the Finney, the new phone by London-based mobile security specialists Sirin Labs. It includes a cold storage (fancy term for ‘offline’) wallet, a built-in token conversion service for smooth transactions, and a DApp center. They designed the phone to be the premier mobile “for crypto experts and novices alike,” according to their website.

It’s timely, as crypto is still trying to break through the membrane into mainstream adoption, and mobile could be the vehicle to make it happen. The Finney itself, though, may not make the crossover.

First, Some Tech Specs

Finney’s standout feature is a second screen hidden behind the top edge of the phone. The screen is actually a separate set of hardware altogether—the cold wallet itself. When it’s tucked into place, it’s disconnected and unhackable. Only when you slide the screen open does it go live so you can execute a transaction.

The phone’s software, SirinOS, is Android 8.1 modified for security and certified by Google. It runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, with 128 gigs of storage and 6 gigs of RAM. It has a body of metal and Gorilla Glass, a 12 megapixel camera on the back, along with a fingerprint sensor. The Finney also features an Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) for an added layer of security.

Having the wallet placed at the top means the camera and fingerprint scanner are lower on the phone’s body than on previous models. See for example Sirin’s first phone, the Solarin, a security-obsessed $14,000 non-blockchain luxury mobile, which came complete with Italian leather backing and had a camera and fingerprint scanner where you’d expect them. On the Finney, the fingerprint scanner is too far down for effortless use. It invites slip ups where you press the camera lens instead.

The Finney is Nice, But It Will Take More to Mainstreamize Crypto

“It makes sending, receiving and converting cryptocurrencies securely on a smartphone surprisingly easy,” says one Digital Trends review of the Finney. But they qualify that ‘easy’ is relative, and the Finney is actually more of “a niche device for those who really are invested in cryptocurrency.”

Senior Writer Andy Boxall was less impressed. “The problem is its main feature,” that is, the cold wallet, “is only compelling to those who use, understand, and believe in cryptocurrency and the Blockchain.” For those who don’t already understand the ins and outs of crypto, it won’t be much of an advantage.

“Do not expect the Finney phone to make this baffling world [of crypto] much less confusing and problematic,” says Boxall. He describes the setup process as requiring trust in a bunch of companies you’ve never heard of, as well as the navigation of unfamiliar technologies and products. And for all the effort, he says, there’s little benefit for the crypto newcomer or ordinary mobile user.

“I carried on with the process because it’s my job,” says Boxall, “but if it wasn’t, I may have given up a lot sooner.” While the Finney hits many of the marks it aims for as far as design and functionality, simplifying the crypto process for novices doesn’t seem to be coming together with this phone.

“Living with the Finney has made it very clear that cryptocurrency is not ready for mainstream use yet,” says Boxall.

Get Your Finney If You Can

Sirin first released the Finney for sale only in exchange for their native SRN token. It went on the mainstream market in January so you can now purchase it with Paypal or, if you’re Gordon Gekko, a credit card. One final and important caveat: the company ships from their UK headquarters to 143 countries, but alas, the US isn’t one of them.

If you’re looking for a way to store your crypto securely and portably, make smooth crypto transactions on the go, or inspire jealousy in your American blockchain friends, the Finney may well be worth its $1,000 price tag. If you’re a newbie who’s interested in learning the ins and outs of crypto, there are better places to start.

Happy 10th Birthday, Bitcoin!! 7 2914

On January 3rd, 2009, block number zero produced the first 50 bitcoins. They were mined by none other than the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. Thus was born the phenomenon of the decade. And on January 8th, ten years ago today, bitcoin became a public network when Nakamoto released bitcoin version 0.1.

Nakamoto announced the release via the Metzdowd cryptography mailing list, calling bitcoin “a new electronic cash system that uses a peer-to-peer network to prevent double-spending.”

Nakamoto’s description of the software that would revolutionize technology is sparing and to the point. “It’s completely decentralized with no server or central authority,” the succinct announcement goes on. “Windows only for now.  Open source C++ code is included.” It describes the proof of work as “ridiculously easy”.

It follows with a brief description of how transactions work, how many coins will be released and how they can expect to split every 4 years, along with the caveats that the software was still “alpha and experimental,” offering “no guarantees”. It’s signed with no letter closing, simply:

“Satoshi Nakamoto”

Bitcoin, This Is Your Life

My what a ten years it has been. Just to recap:

On January 12th, 2009, programmer Hal Finney, who had downloaded the new bitcoin software immediately, received ten bitcoins from Nakamoto. This was the first ever bitcoin transaction. Over a year later in May 2010, programmer Laszlo Hanyecz received 10,000 bitcoins in exchange for two Papa John’s pizzas, initiating the first real-world bitcoin purchase and thereby creating the pizza index.

Bitcoin simmered until 2017, when it’s value jolted from $900 to over $19,000, and bitcoin became a household name. Over the past year, the original crypto has settled to a more modest $4,000 valuation, and stirred up a lot of public din in its wake.

Where Were You on January 9th, 2009?

So where were you on the day of Nakamoto’s announcement? Probably on your couch watching DVDs of Pineapple Express and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia seasons 1 through 3, or laughing at Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog on your iPhone 2.

It was a simpler time. Wired was calling Google Earth the number one app on the fancy new iPhone app store. Competition was fierce with Windows 7 in beta. Facebook had recently dropped the “is” from status updates, and a fun app called Twitter (formerly “Twttr”) had just introduced a feature called Trending Topics.

Trending Topics

David Bowie was celebrating one of his eight final birthdays, while Michael Jackson and Patrick Swayze were enjoying their last few months among us mortals. Only days later, pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles made aviation history by skillfully crash landing US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, saving everyone on board.

A burgeoning class of ennui soaked fashionistas, deemed “hipsters,” were described in Time Magazine as “smug, full of contradictions and, ultimately, the dead end of Western civilization,” a vermin who “manage to attract a loathing unique in its intensity.” They went on with this colorful character sketch:

“Hipsters are the friends who sneer when you cop to liking Coldplay. They’re the people who wear t-shirts silk-screened with quotes from movies you’ve never heard of and the only ones in America who still think Pabst Blue Ribbon is a good beer. They sport cowboy hats and berets and think Kanye West stole their sunglasses. Everything about them is exactingly constructed to give off the vibe that they just don’t care.”

Time Magazine, 2009

Is it time for any of that to come back into style yet? Maybe give it a few more years. We need a break.

Williamsburg was gentrifying and Portland was still America’s best kept secret. The streets were flooded with fixed gear bikes and the sounds of Grizzly Bear, Real Estate, Kings of Convenience, and TV on the Radio.

Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion was just a few days old, and Fever Ray’s self titled was about to drop. The world was listening to Lady Gaga, whose single “Just Dance” hit number one on Billboard’s top 100, and Taylor Swift’s Fearless, which was the top selling album.

That same month, box offices favored the cuddly Marley & Me, while The Dark Knight swept the people’s choice awards. Audiences were still getting wowed by Avatar, paying a lot to be disappointed by Mall Cop, and getting hyped about the upcoming Watchmen movie.

Meanwhile in Washington DC, a president with a multisyllabic vocabulary was about to be inaugurated (a rarity in the 21st century, we would find out), and his kids were playing with a Wii they got for Christmas.

Here’s To Another Decade Ahead

What a time it was, the dawn of 2009. And most of us, at least for a few more years, had never heard about blockchain, cryptocurrencies, or bitcoin.

And now here we are.

So, dear reader, here’s to ten more years of crashes, booms, bubble scares, hype, derision, libertarian fanboys, pizza and moon lambos. Happy tenth birthday, bitcoin!!1

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