eToro Signs Advertising Deal with 7 Premier League Football Clubs

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UK-based trading platform eToro has signed an advertising deal with seven Premier League football clubs paid in Bitcoin for the first time, the parties revealed Tuesday, August 21.

According to various sources, UK clubs Tottenham Hotspur, Brighton & Hove Albion, Crystal Palace, Cardiff City, Leicester City Football Club, Newcastle United and Southampton announced they had signed up to host eToro advertisements.

Blockchain and cryptocurrency integration in football stadiums and the industry will also form a focus for the partnerships, eToro so far not giving details as to the nature of the “exploration.”

The move marks a fresh milestone for cryptocurrency integration in mainstream football. Sporadic experiments have already come from clubs elsewhere, including Turkey, where Harunustaspor hired a professional player for Bitcoin in January.

“This is very much the first step on a long road to football fully embracing bitcoin and the underlying blockchain technology,” eToro’s UK managing director Iqbal V. Gandham meanwhile said quoted by The Drum.

Last week, the Union of European Football Associations, more commonly known as UEFA, confirmed it had deployed a Blockchain-based ticketing system as part of a phased rollout.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has announced that he plans to get “involved” in a blockchain project in what is a “first” for him. The statement was made at the ChainXchange blockchain conference and reported by NullTX news site August 19.

At the ChainXchange conference, held in Las Vegas, U.S. August 13-15, Steve Wozniak revealed in an interview that he plans to participate in a blockchain startup, praising the benefits of the technology. He said:

“I’m involved with, very soon, my first time being involved in a blockchain company. <…> Our approach is not like a new currency, or something phony where an event will make it go up in value. It’s a share of stock, in a company. This company is doing investment by investors with huge track records in good investments in things like apartment buildings in Dubai.”

Apple co-founder further explained his fascination with the blockchain technology:

“It’s so independent! It’s kind of like the internet when it was brand new… I was amazed at the technology behind it. <…> I’ve encountered people working in real estate avenues, types of Uber systems, everything we’ve got in our life, especially involving transactions <…> Every single one you hear about, to me, has value…. A few people can see the value, which reminds me very much of the early internet days.”

Wozniak also compared the Ethereum (ETH) platform with the Apple’s App Store, as both allow thousands of companies and individuals to develop and run their own applications: “Ethereum provides the tools for a blockchain application of your own… I see more people using Ethereum that way.”

Earlier this spring, Wozniak had called blockchain tech a “bubble”, even though it is “decentralized and totally trustworthy,” Despite his ambiguous stance on blockchain, Steve Wozniak admires Bitcoin, having said that it is “the only digital gold”.

The founders of cryptocurrency exchange Cobinhood are commissioning the development of a new blockchain capable of processing 1 million transactions per second, a massive undertaking given that Bitcoin transaction can take hours to complete and Ethereum transactions range from 1-5 minutes, with even Visa’s ~2000 tx/s being dwarfed in comparison.

The company behind the project is DEXON, which is focused on blockchain mass adoption within the banking industry and real-world application requirements.

DEXON reports that the new blockchain technology uses a blocklattice structure that meshes multiple chains together to form what the company claims to be an infinitely scalable, low-latency decentralized transaction processing engine.

The company was launched by the executive team of the zero-fee crypto exchange Cobinhood, and the $20 million funding round that just closed was led by IDG Capital, a venture capital firm which manages over $20 billion in assets. The funding round also drew investments from various angel investors.

While it sounds far-fetched, the company claim to have already recorded test transaction speeds at 50 blocks per second or approximately 1 million transactions throughout 25 nodes, with each block being 2MB and each transaction being 100 bytes on average.

DEXON aims to use a so-called “blocklattice” structure to increase transaction capacity.

“Clearly, investors believe in DEXON’s ‘blocklattice’ protocol, which is underpinned by consensus algorithms that allow for transaction speeds competitive with major credit card companies,” said Popo Chen, founder of Cobinhood and co-founder of the non-profit DEXON Foundation. “In fact, we hope to partner with these institutions, as we’re now able to offer the same processing power without a need for centralization. Other than DEXON, current blockchain protocols can only process a few secure transactions per second, leaving them unable to keep pace with traditional solutions.”

Through the use of a blocklattice structure along with a total-ordering consensus algorithm, DEXON claims to be able to make decentralized transactions scalable. Unlike traditional blockchain systems that build encrypted blocks linearly, DEXON’ s blocklattice features multiple blockchains that work together in parallel, which DEXON execs say makes it easier to scale automatically and energy-efficiently.

“With its fundamentally new architecture, the DEXON network is poised to become the world’s first mainstream blockchain,” said Wei-Ning Huang, co-founder of DEXON. “Investors are recognizing that there is a problem with current blockchain technology, and that the protocol most focused on throughput and scalability will form the basis of Blockchain 4.0. These tests prove that the blocklattice works, and this funding is proof that investors trust DEXON’ s strategy over the long term.”

Launched earlier, the DEXON blockchain will be the fastest in the world by a long shot — if it works. The difficulties in scaling blockchains are well-documented at this stage, and with an enormous undertaking like DEXON it remains to be seen whether the block lattice structure can scale as advertised. However, if the design is as advertised, the blocklattice system may be about to make a major impact on the cryptocurrency and blockchain landscape.

Two new patents from Microsoft reveal that the tech giant is looking to bolster its blockchain solutions with the use of trusted execution environments (TEEs), according to two filings published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) August 9.

Both applications outline how the use of TEEs could further improve security within a consortium blockchain network, which requires that specific nodes are endorsed to act as validator nodes (VNs) on the blockchain.

As Microsoft’s first patent filing indicates, TEEs can help to improve the security of such networks in the following way:

“In one example of the technology, a first node is endorsed. During endorsement of a first node, a pre-determined type of blockchain or other security protocol code to be authorized and a pre-determined membership list may be stored in a trusted execution environment (TEE) of the first node.”

According to the patent, not only a specified protocol or membership list, but potentially a series of further agreed-upon aspects could be stored within a TEE. The patent then outlines how using a system of TEE attestations would be able to securely verify all new participants of the system who are found to possess matching information to that which is stored within the first node’s TEE.

Microsoft’s second patent filing from August 9 outlines how a TEE may also facilitate the verification of blockchain transactions within a consortium network. The same TEE attestation system would generate a sufficiently trustless environment in which other VNS on the network would “not need to do re-computation for verification,” allowing a given pre-authorized entity to “directly” broadcast the “updated official state” of a given processed transaction:

“In some examples, the entire network accepts the transactions, including chaincode transactions, and blockchain states are directly updated. In some examples, there is no need for a copy of the transaction in order to confirm a block.”

Just last week, news that Microsoft’s Ethereum-based cloud computing platform Azure had replaced its existing proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanism with a new proof-of-authority (PoA) algorithm. Microsoft has proposed that the new algorithm will improve the efficiency of building decentralized applications (DApps) for private or consortium blockchain networks.

Cayman Islands-based blockchain startup Everipedia formally launched its peer-to-peer (P2P) encyclopedia August 9, a press release confirmed.

Designed to be an “autonomous encyclopedia without the need for advertisements or donations,” the project uses the EOS network to function and will reward curators with its own token, dubbed “IQ.”

Co-founder of Wikipedia turned Everipedia CIO Larry Sanger commented in the release that they are “elated to release [their] minimum viable network which allows users to vote on and create articles in a decentralized manner for the first time.”

Talk of a blockchain-based “alternative” Wikipedia has long floated around cryptocurrency circles, with fellow co-founder Jimmy Wales’ well-known skepticism of Bitcoin (BTC) and hands-off approach to blockchain technology serving to add to the community’s motivation.

Wales stated during an interview in June that he is “not planning to do anything directly in the blockchain space,” but added

“I am very intrigued by the idea. A lot of people have pitched me on their ideas in the journalism space, I just don’t see it makes a lot of sense. I’ll continue to reflect and think.”

Speaking to Bloomberg this week, Everipedia co-founder and president Sam Kazemian highlighted IQ as one of the biggest challenges currently facing the project.

“Designing token economics that actually work and make sense is the most challenging aspect,” he told the publication,

“It’s easy to create a token and have it do nothing except act as a unit of account inside of some service. But that’s not what the IQ token does.”

U.S. software company Intuit has been awarded a patent for processing Bitcoin (BTC) payments via text message (SMS), according to a filing published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) August 7.

The patent, which outlines a system through which users can transfer BTC funds via sending an SMS on their cellphones, was originally filed in 2014, the same year that Intuit’s DIY tax solution QuickBooks partnered with BitPay to create a PayByCoin service for business clients to pay their invoices in BTC.

As the patent outlines:

“The invention […] includes receiving, by a payment service from a payer mobile device of a payer, a payment text message comprising a payment amount and an identifier of a payee mobile device of a payee, validating the payment text message based at least on a payer balance of a virtual payer account maintained by the payment service for the payer.”

Intuit’s patent goes on to describe the interaction between virtual accounts created for the purposes of running the system, as well as different possible approaches to validating transactions. One of these would be “receiving an unanswered voice call within a pre-determined time period” after receiving a text message, which would be matched to to the identifier of the mobile device that is extracted from that message.

Another approach would be a password system that would be managed via SMS and the virtual accounts associated with each mobile device identifier.

Using cellphones directly to facilitate crypto adoption has been explored for several years, often considered to be the key to bringing financial inclusion through crypto to unbanked populations in countries where access to the internet or expensive computer hardware might limit people’s ability to transact in crypto.

Electronics giant HTC has meanwhile recently announced it would introduce a smartphone with a native crypto wallet and support for CryptoKitties, the Ethereum-based decentralized application (DApp) game.The firm is even reportedly planning to to issue a white paper on a project to incorporate crypto mining on cell phones later this year.

SportsCastr, a live-streaming platform that allows anyone to become a color commentator, announced recently that the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), via its athlete-driven accelerator the OneTeam Collective, has acquired a minority stake in the company to power live, interactive video content for fans. Through this partnership, active and former NFL players will use SportsCastr to provide live commentary across a wide range of professional and collegiate sports, share personal insights, and more.

‘Premium Player Content’

In June, SportsCastr announced FanChain, a cryptocurrency developed for the multi-billion-dollar global sports market. FanChain allows SportsCastr users to earn tokens for participating on the platform, and those tokens can then be used to unlock premium NFL player content (such as back-stage access), purchase sports tickets or merchandise, and send virtual gifts to NFL players.

As part of this agreement, SportsCastr becomes an official licensee of the NFLPA in the categories of mobile apps and web-based platforms that allow users to discuss a variety of sports topics, including through video streams and chats. SportsCastr is the eighth active NFLPA partner secured through the OneTeam Collective, which is designed to give innovative early stage companies the opportunity to leverage the NFLPA’s exclusive group player rights, in exchange for equity.

English Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers signed a sleeve sponsorpship deal with crypto exchange platform CoinDeal, in what is becoming a recurrent story of collaboration between sporting organisations and cryptocurrency businesses.

Giving his thoughts on the partnership, Ricky Medina, Senior Manager of Business Development for NFL Players Inc., the licensing and marketing arm of the NFLPA said:

“Athletes constantly explore ways to build their personal brands and creatively connect with their fans, and SportsCastr’s live-stream capabilities align perfectly with these goals. We look forward to working with the team at SportsCastr to deliver an exciting new way for fans to engage with their favorite athletes while watching the sports they love.”

Interview with NFLPA VP and SportsCastr CEO

Ahead of the launch, CCN sat down with Casey Schwab, Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs, NFLPA and SportsCastr CEO Kevin April to get some insights into FanChain and the larger emerging pattern of cooperation between professional sports and cryptocurrency companies:

What does it do for a player to have this platform that grants his fans this kind of access to him? Why is SportsCastr important for an NFL player?

Casey Schwab: SportsCastr will allow NFL players to broadcast live events while earning tokens directly from fans. It is all about engagement; players want to engage directly with their fans. SportsCastr provides a unique platform for NFL players to do just that.

Fans can redeem the cryptocurrency they earn on the platform for real prizes like backstage access to NFL players. Is there a plan to scale up the adoption of this sort of technology across the sports industry, and if so what role will the NFLPA play in making this happen?

Casey Schwab: The FanChain tokens will be able to be used for a variety of things. Think about it as connecting the digital world (tokens) to the physical (apparel, experiences). As for scaling, through our licensing agency, Rep Worldwide, we have partnered with multiple other professional athlete unions like the UW Women’s National Team Players Association and WNBA Players Association. We are always looking for ways to provide commercial opportunities for athletes, not just football players.

Tell us about the One Team Collective. What projects has it facilitated and what is it currently working on apart from this partnership with SportsCastr?

Casey Schwab: The OneTeam Collective is our version of a startup accelerator. It is the first ever athlete-driven accelerator. To date, we have partnered with multiple companies ranging from performance and biometric data collection to voice recognition technology. We feel that blockchain-based systems like SportsCastr have great potential, and we are excited for what SportsCastr is doing.

Let’s talk a bit about FanChain. What protocol is it built on and how does it work exactly?

Kevin April: We recognized that fans are typically fans of teams — not leagues or sports — so we had to start from the drawing board to create a token that could essentially be embedded with team-affinity. We came up with a unique token (“FANZ”) that can be “stamped” with team-metadata that is visible when used within the FanChain network, but which is also completely fungible within the broader cryptocurrency landscape. In other words, FANZ is ERC20 compliant but also has ERC721-style characteristics (in the form of “Team stamps”) when used within the ecosystem. We call this a fungible/non-fungible hybrid token.

In practical terms, if you go live on SportsCastr and call a Manchester United game, you will receive tokens that are categorized as Manchester United tokens. Call a Los Angeles Lakers game and receive tokens that associates them with the Lakers.

Of course, FanChain isn’t just a token – it’s an entirely decentralized ecosystem. At the heart of the FanChain ecosystem is a concept called a “Mint.” A Mint can be any sports publisher, league, team or sports media company — or any sports-related entity — that is issued or acquires FanChain tokens to distribute and reward fans. Mints interact with the FanChain ecosystem using a special DApp or API. They can’t create new FanChain tokens, but they are the only ones that can change the team-stamps on tokens that are in their possession. Our live-streaming app, SportsCastr, is the first Mint, but the ecosystem is set-up so that other content-rewarding platforms can join in on the action.

What do you think about the growing partnership between sports and cryptocurrencies? Is it sustainable and why is it important for the crypto industry to get this kind of publicity?

Kevin April: Sports may be the vehicle that cryptocurrency needs to usher in adoption. According to KPMG, the global sports market generates in excess of $500 billion USD a year. And because there’s nothing more global or mainstream than sports, there is  an opportunity to introduce cryptocurrency to a massive audience that crosses every border and speaks every language. This is why the convergence of sports and cryptocurrency is important — because it has the power to change things and move the status quo forward. I think we’re just at the beginning of this trend. If you look at eSports, players are already comfortable with the idea of digital currencies and global communities… and eSports and sports are very much converging themselves (with eSports leading the way.) And if you look at the Olympics — where you have countries that are at war with each other temporarily setting aside their differences to march and compete together — you see the power of sport. Not only is the coming together of sports and cryptocurrency sustainable, it may be the most important pairing that cryptocurrency has seen to date.

The Dubai court system tasked to oversee all civil and commercial disputes involving financial transactions both domestically and internationally is turning to blockchain technology to “create the world’s first disruptive court”.

The Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) Courts has announced its plan “to create the world’s first Court of the Blockchain” in a partnership with the government’s Smart Dubai initiative that it says will fundamentally reshape the judicial process in the future. The pivot to a “blockchain-powered future” will bring “greater efficiencies across the entire legal ecosystem,” the authority said in a statement.

The two bodies will form a joint-taskforce to specifically develop a network built on blockchain technology and smart contracts to explore verification of court judgments and sharing of documents in real-time for efficient cross-border law enforcement. Beyond the initial step, other ‘far-reaching benefits’ include removing document duplication and streamlining the broader judicial process the release added.

DIFC Courts chief executive and registrar Amna Al Owais stated:

By harnessing blockchain technology, Dubai will be firmly positioned at the forefront of legaltech and judicial innovation, setting the standards for countries and judiciaries to follow.

Curiously, the joint-taskforce will – through combined expertise and resources including the backing of the Dubai government – explore means to “investigate handling disputes arising out of private and public blockchains, with regulation and contractual terms encoded within the smart contract,” the press release added.

The Smart Dubai Office (SDO) has notably pinned a sweeping transformative initiative dubbed the ‘Dubai Blockchain Strategy’ on decentralized technology for applications across multiple sectors including e-governance, a citywide payments system, Dubai’s entire land registry, passport-less travel for tourists and more.

Such is the emphasis on digitization through blockchain that SDO director-general Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr confirmed the government’s initiative “to run 100% of applicable government transactions on Blockchain by 2020.”

“An invention of this calibre and potential requires an equally disruptive set of rules and an empowered institution to uphold them,” she stated, adding:

“This is where our partnership with DIFC Courts comes in, allowing us to work together and create the world’s first disruptive court, helping to truly unlock the power of blockchain technology.”

Bitmain, the world’s largest bitcoin mining firm, is preparing to open a new data center in Texas, external job postings show.

The China-based cryptocurrency company, which reportedly recorded $1.1 billion in profit during the first quarter, is currently looking for a project manager and data center site manager to staff a new plant in Rockdale, TX, a small town nestled an hour-and-a-half south of Waco.

The news was first reported by local media outlet KXAN, who said that residents are hopeful that the new bitcoin mining operation will bring hope to a region devastated by job cuts in the coal production and manufacturing industries.

In 2014, Aluminum manufacturer Alcoa shut down production at its Rockdale smelting plant, which had opened in 1952 and processed as much as 1.67 million pounds of aluminum per day.

Earlier this year, Dallas-based utility company Luminant shut down its coal-fired power plant in Rockdale, cutting approximately 450 jobs at the plant and a nearby coal mine.

Consequently, residents say that they are optimistic that Bitmain’s new data center will bring high-paying skilled jobs to the community.

“These are technical jobs, these are well-paid jobs,” said Rebecca Vasquez, chair of the local Chamber of Commerce, adding that she hopes the business will bring new homeowners to the area and increase its tax base.

However, as one unnamed cryptocurrency investment fund manager noted in the report, cryptocurrency mining industry operations tend to be “capital-heavy and human-light,” so it’s not clear how many long-term jobs the new data center will bring to the area.

Bitmain is also hiring staff in Chandler, AZ, as well as two cities in Washington — Malaga and Wenatchee — as it strengthens its growing foothold in the North American market.

Earlier this month, Bitmain opened a 20,000 sq. foot office in the heart of Silicon Valley, a move concurrent with its desire to follow up its recent $400 million funding round with another $1 billion in financing ahead of its planned initial public offering (IPO) later this year.

The firm has also established a major data center in Quebec, which has a large surplus of electricity but has nevertheless had a complicated relationship with the cryptocurrency mining industry.

The Bank of England is completely overhauling its interbank payment system and have recently confirmed that they will open the network to fintech firms in order to process transactions across a blockchain network.

The British Central Bank published a report on Monday evaluating a recent proof of concept (PoC) with several fintech firms operating within the blockchain space. Testing is intended to examine the opportunity to connect blockchain firms to a more updated version of the banks Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) service.

RTGS currently facilitates settlements between financial institutions, which handles approximately 500 billion pounds worth of transactions (one fourth of the countries estimated gross domestic product).

Mark Carney, the Bank of England’s governor, announced that a significant feature of this ambitious rebuild is to open it up to private payment systems, for example DLT firms (distributed ledger technology). Carney states, “no longer will access to central bank money be exclusive to institutional banks”.

Last year, the Bank of England partnered with the San Francisco-based blockchain startup Ripple (XRP) in order to test their inter-ledger system designed to synchronize payments across central banks. Bank of England officials concluded that the blockchain technology was “not sufficiently mature” for DLT firms to be supported on the RTGS at that time.

Currently, UK’s upcoming departure from the European Union is motivating them to place a heightened emphasis on attracting fintech firms to the country.

The Bank of England aims to start utilizing the new RTGS system by 2020.

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