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Tech News

The first ‘blockchain baby’ is here

July 27, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

When you read the news that they put a baby on the blockchain, your reaction makes you one of two types of people. Either you think, Mon dieu, is there anything the magical fairy dust known as blockchain can’t solve? Or you think: Surely this is child abuse.

For the past few years, techies have frothed and proselytized over the potential salvation of blockchain, the tech behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. So it’s hard to even know what babies and blockchain could even have to do with each other. Typically, outside of grifter circles, blockchain is associated with vaporware, shady fraudulent ICO’s, or solving things that aren’t suited at all for blockchain’s “distributed ledger” system. Oh, and largely solving things that aren’t even problems.

Rather than try and part the foolish with their actual money, for once the crypto craze might be doing some useful good — which is how a baby ended up on the blockchain. In this instance, the international organization AID:Tech is using the technology as a way to get charitable donations to their destinations: as in, getting soon-to-be moms in need funds for things like vitamins and medical care.

Of course, we think, why not just give it to already-established care orgs — why make a whole blockchain mess out of it? This is an extremely reasonable question, seldom asked in the presence of crypto-critters. AID:Tech is a medical aid project positioned to combat the huge problem of fraud in the world of charitable donations, and to help at-risk women with their medical information. And on July 13th, a baby was added to a blockchain ledger (a first). This was followed by two more births on the 19th.

The idea of grafting blockchain to charity was to prevent fraud — which seems ironic given cryptocurrency’s reputation. Founder Joseph Thompson told CIO in a March interview:

In 2009, I ran 151 miles in the Sahra Desert as part of the tough world marathon, the 6-day Marathon des Sables. For the race, I raised over $120k for a charity I trusted. But the funds did not go where they were intended to.

With this experience, I became a cynic and decided never to donate again. But I always wanted to solve this problem. In 2010, I then saw the potential of Blockchain for traceability, and then the United Nations included this goal as part of the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals].

And so, in December 2015, hundreds of Syrian refugees at a camp in Lebanon took part in AID:Tech’s pilot program. The org partnered with the Irish Red Cross to give 500 digital credit cards to the refugees for use in a supermarket, each pre-loaded with $20 — in total, $10K was distributed to 100 Syrian refugee families.

“A traditional paper voucher system was simultaneously in place. These are problematic because fraudulent copies inevitably emerge,” wrote Irish Times. “Within a matter of hours, the same thing was

Tech News

Blockchain company Tron buys BitTorrent

July 25, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Bill Hinton via Getty Images

A blockchain startup called Tron has closed its deal to buy the file-sharing service BitTorrent. Neither side disclosed how much Tron paid, but TechCrunch reports the price was around $126 million in cash. BitTorrent’s staff will work out of Tron’s San Francisco office.

Tron founder Justin Sun says the deal makes his firm the “largest decentralized Internet ecosystem in the world.” BitTorrent said in a statement last month it ” has no plans to change what we do or charge for the services we provide. We have no plans to enable mining of cryptocurrency now or in the future.” But it’s not clear if Tron has different plans, such as prompting its new userbase to start mining its TRX cryptocurrency.

One thing’s for sure: the BitTorrent and uTorrent clients are not going away, nor should its more than 100 million active users have to start paying for the base service any time soon. It appears other apps and services BitTorrent has launched over the last few years, such as the ad-supported music and video app BitTorrent Now, could remain too. However, it’s unclear whether we’ll see future BitTorrent products, or if Tron will focus more on maintaining the current services and bolstering Tron’s own offerings.

The acquisition closes a chapter in BitTorrent’s turbulent history. While it was committed to the notion of a decentralized internet, it still had to function as a business, and attempts to find an app or service that helped BitTorrent turn the corner didn’t really work out. The situation was in such a mess a couple of years ago that the company fired its dual CEOs, while BitTorrent hadn’t raised any money since 2008.

It’s official. BitTorrent is now part of #TRON. We pioneered the world’s largest decentralized p2p protocol, now we’re joining forces with TRON to build the future of the decentralized internet. Read more at https://t.co/ZoCPl5c5wS. @Tronfoundation @justinsuntron pic.twitter.com/EI3xP8Gdz2

— BitTorrent Inc. (@BitTorrent) July 24, 2018

Tech News

Major League Baseball is going crypto

July 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Lucid Sight

By Daniel Roberts

Later this summer, Major League Baseball digital collectibles are coming to the Ethereum blockchain. Lucid Sight, a blockchain gaming company, is launching MLB Crypto Baseball, through a licensing deal with MLB.

Baseball fans might ask: Huh?

Ethereum, launched in 2015, is a decentralized platform for “smart contracts,” which are automated agreements for an exchange of value. It runs on a blockchain, the same peer-to-peer, immutable, public ledger technology that bitcoin runs on. The cryptocurrency of Ethereum is ether. (So ether is to Ethereum as bitcoin is to the bitcoin blockchain.)

Because of Ethereum’s usefulness for smart contracts, it has become a proving ground for blockchain-based games, where users collect and trade one-of-a-kind items that no one can duplicate or steal. On a blockchain, each digital item (or contract) is verified and tamper-proof.

The most popular blockchain game has been CryptoKitties, in which users buy and trade unique digital kittens, and pay for them in ether. The game launched in November and has been extremely popular among crypto fanatics; users have spent $25 million worth of ether on CryptoKitties to date.

And now MLB is following suit. In MLB Crypto Baseball, users will pay in ether to buy digital avatars tied to specific moments in recent games. They can then sell the items, or in some cases, earn rewards and stickers. The game is a decentralized app, or “dApp.”

‘We talked a long time ago about bitcoin’

Kenny Gersh, MLB’s executive VP of gaming and new business ventures, says that MLB has been eyeing cryptocurrency for a long time, and rejected other ideas before settling on doing a game with Lucid Sight.

“We talked a long time ago about bitcoin and whether we should accept it as payment for MLB.tv and some of our other products, and we opted not to,” Gersh says. “At the end of the day we decided that isn’t our business, we’re not in the speculation business. We’re in the business of delivering baseball to fans. So this game is a more interesting intersection of blockchain technology and what we do.”

CryptoKitties had a direct influence on the new MLB game. “We were already talking to Lucid Sight around the time that CryptoKitties first came out,” Gersh says, “and then CryptoKitties sort of validated it a little bit more.”

Pro sports jumping on the crypto trend

Just last month, the NBA’s Sacramento Kings announced they will begin mining ether and donating the proceeds to a local charity. MLB is the second pro sport to hop on the crypto trend, but it is doing something very different from the Kings, and doing it league-wide.

In-person attendance at MLB ballparks this season has fallen to an alarming low, and MLB is hopeful that the crypto game, among many efforts, could lure young people back to baseball fandom.

“That is 100% one of the strategic goals of this

Tech News

HTC's blockchain 'Exodus' phone launches this fall

July 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

In May HTC announced plans for a blockchain-focused mobile device and now development is far enough along to say that its Exodus will arrive in Q3 of this year. A website is active and taking signups for more information, promising “the first cold wallet phone with key recovery.” We still don’t have a ton of details (although we’re expecting to hear more today at the company’s Rise event in Hong Kong) but it’s all about decentralized internet, apps and the ability to hold your data on the device instead of in the cloud.

HTC also announced it’s partnering with CryptoKitties, the “world’s biggest game to be built on blockchain technology.” Instead of cryptocurrency, it uses the technology to create unique digital creatures that players can trade or breed, with billions of possible combinations. You won’t have to wait for the Exodus to get in on the action either, since the app is coming to other HTC handsets starting with its U12+ flagship. These are the first Android devices with the app, and represent the companies first push into creating a decentralized app store.

Tech News

Adblock Plus creator hopes blockchain will help spot fake news

June 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

nito100 via Getty Images

The creators of Adblock Plus, eyeo, have an uncommon solution to the fake news scourge: rely on one of the tech industry’s biggest buzzwords. They’ve introduced a beta Chrome extension, Trusted News, that will use blockchain to help you verify whether a site is trustworthy. It’s initially using four established fact sites (PolitiFact, Snopes, Wikipedia and Zimdars’ List), but the eventual plan is to decentralize the database with the Ethereum blockchain and use game-like token mechanics to reward everyday users for submitting feedback while protecting against trolls. If enough people think a site is getting a bad rap, eyeo could change the product to provide a better perspective.

Right now, the add-on can flag both sketchy and legitimate sites in a number of categories. A bogus site might be labeled as biased, clickbait or flat-out untrustworthy. It can also indicate sites that rely on user-made content or are purely satirical, so you won’t inadvertently share an Onion gag as if it were real. Eventually, the hope is to add more nuanced details like a political leaning.

The extension should remain free, and won’t include an Adblock-style white list that renders sites immune to criticism.

In theory, this creates an anti-fake news solution that applies to the broader web, not just an individual company like Facebook or Google. The question is whether or not it will find its way into the right hands. Many of the people who would install Trusted News are the sort who are already concerned enough about bogus stories to have strong critical reading skills. The people who most need it are the ones who already trust deceptive news outlets, and they may even bristle at the thought of installing something that challenges their ideology. Eyeo would need to find a way to make Trusted News very commonplace before it can change minds.