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Layer 4 is a Policeman!

Ethereum is now a government information system

In October 2022, two separate news items flashed across the crypto ticker: one, that the CFTC was studying the feasibility of real-time monitoring all Ethereum transactions, and two, that the EU Commission was tendering a feasibility study for the very same. No further details were given. When a government announces a “study,” it means they are dead set on getting it done. 

The road towards this momentous decision — and we shall soon see why the word ‘momentous’ is not hyperbole — started with the outbreak of the War in Ukraine. Perhaps earlier still, with the Bored Ape Yacht Club craze in January 2022, but we have no proof of that. What we have proof of is that millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin, Ethereum, but mostly stablecoins like USDT/C, some DAI, were transferred from donors in the West to the Ministry of Defense in Ukraine to the East, ostensibly in “support of the war effort” — yes that term is back — in reality, very clearly, to allow Ukraine to buy weapons to defend itself against Putin’s Russia’s aggression. We shall fight on the beaches, and she pay for it in Bitcoin. 

And there you have it: for the first time in an open and understandably defensible manner, digital assets sent over unmonitored public blockchains, allowed a national state to arm itself against a vile aggressor. If financial history remembers one thing about the Russian occupation, it is that Howitzers were paid for in ETH. 

That, in itself, innocuous, even defensible, even welcome, for it took many more months before the governments of Europe and America could reach a consensus to send money and weapons to the beleaguered NATO and EU candidate under attack by a maniacal dictator. Blockchain technology allowed for immediate help, tokens for tanks! And no one was there to stop the transactions or even monitor them. It was good old-fashioned crypto sleuthing that uncovered those payments; on-chain data followed the trail of weapons shipments from South Africa across Israel. A “war bond” was issued on MakerDAO, and one on AAVE, although proof remains elusive. They could have been buying grain with it. They did not. 

The secret services and militaries of the western world shook their collective heads in disbelief. Buying weapons should not be that easy. What if ISIS was next, or another terrorist organization; a rogue state perhaps, Iran, or North Korea, or anyone not to our liberal liking? What if nuclear warheads detonated, smuggled and paid for in Dogecoin?

The Bundesnachrichtendienst, Germany’s CIA, allegedly recruited close to 200 staff (ex-hackers, white hats, cybersecurity and blockchain experts) to look closer into the nuisance known as “cryptocurrencies.” And what did they find? Criminal activity everywhere. A staking pool on Cardano allegedly, ostensibly used to stake for Ukraine’s reconstruction, but who knows? Monies wired across the globe, beyond the control of governments. NFTs used to launder ill-gotten gains, even for the purpose of human trafficking. The powers that be were aghast. A conference took place, in secrecy (and in Stockholm), between the major law enforcement agencies, to discuss the burning question: how the fuck did we not know this, and what the Dickens can we do to stop it?

There followed months of intensive consultation, of coordinating and collaborating, of calculating and criticizing, of tabulating and testing, vetting and verifying, and at the end of this process, a picture emerged (with the collapse of LUNA half-way exacerbating the pressure) that something had to be done to a) prevent criminals to use that mysterious “blockchain phenomenon” for nefarious gains and b) protect consumers from the irresponsible, irreverent, and seemingly irrational activities of thenceforth dubbed “crypto criminals.”

With experts aboard the inspection train, it become obvious that the problem was far bigger than initially thought, that fraud and deception had gone on for a long time, that crypto was indeed full of crooks, and that action was called for in the name of law and order. Not, as the fans of this “cryptographic currencies” subsumed, because governments craved power and domination, but indeed, (benefit of the doubt) to protect the world form worse to come, as it, undoubtedly would, if one were to let this go on. One could not. One had to act. Something had to be done. 

And just like banks have to comply with laws and legislation, from AML to KYC, from “transporting rules” to “transaction monitoring” a plethora of terms long known to any compliance officer would need to be applied to that mysterious world of De-Fi. The name alone! Defy! How dare they! Defy (DeFi) our long-established checks and balances, our rules and regulations! Empower the people and the perpetrators alike. 

Several proposals were floated, from self-reporting requirements to arbitrary restrictions in size to outright banning; from limiting transactions on anonymous addresses to forbidding the use of blockchain altogether. It became clear that none of these would work, in a world where it took but one electronic calculation machine to plug oneself into a global network of blockchain transferability, were exorbitant sums could be sent in a matter of seconds from one corner of the Earth to the next, without asking for permission, without giving a reasons, without anyone to check and no one to stop such impertinent activity. 

So, as experts weighed in and lawyers opined, as compliance agents sighed and secret service agents cringed, in the end, it became clear that the only way to move forward was to monitor closely what was going on in that ethereal realm, that Ethereum “chain,” which after all, seemed to be the main means of malevolent messaging. And such monitoring had to happen in real time, and perhaps with an option to stop a transaction if it did not pass muster. A policeman was needed, a guard, a task force, a SWAT team, and ultimately, a gaoler. 

So here we are, at the eve of the end of privacy, the end of DeFi, the defamation of decentralization: Ethereum, it was decided, was a messaging system whose messages had to be intercepted and checked and blocked and prevented from reaching their destination. Those clever snippets of code, self-executing contracts of wanton wisdom (who the hell started calling them ‘smart’?) had to be brought to heel, flogged, tied up, tethered and shackled. 

Ethereum, for all intents and purposes, has lost its freedom. Ethereum has become, with one (two, in fact) press announcements, a person (a chain, rather) of interest, a suspect, a perpetrator of doom and an instrument of destruction, a bad actor that needed to be kept in check. There were all kinds of layers on top of it, regulators and senators were told, and although they had no idea what that meant, they insisted the layers be labelled unlawful too. 

Whereas both sides of the pond could not agree on what a digital asset even was, whether an NFT was a piece of art or a piece of property, whether stablecoins were just sophisticated money or systemic threat, the powers that be were of one mind on that: that Ethererum chain had to be monitored to save the world: from war and pestilence, from dictators and dickheads, from mistakes and malfeasance. It had to be monitored in real time, all things untoward had to be intercepted. The question was how?

Did one have the man power? The woman brain? The child imagination? The wisdom, the wherewithal, to make it happen? Did one even need humans? How could one access this tricky transactions, or even find them in the pile of addresses and the streams of code? The wizard Google was summoned, to create a monitoring system centralized by the most powerful data processing company in the world. (You can now search for ETH transactions with Google Search.) Cybersecurity companies were recruited and acquired (not just by governments, also by the issuers of stablecoins, like Circle. Only thus could crypto creepingly progress, in a straight jacket, kept in check, by taking the deign out of decentralization, by undoing the ideals of self-sovereignty, by negating the promise of ultimate freedom. Because with ultimate freedom (not your keys, not your crypto) came ultimate threats (your keys, your loss!) 

So here we are. 

We wait. 

We wait for the outcome of those studies, although we already know it. It is bound to happen. We are merely biding our time, expecting within months a verdict of presumed guilty until proven innocent. And if not by sheer momentum or brute force of enforcement, then with one more scandal (Just the one, dear), one more illegal incident involving blockchain (That was it!), and at last, Ethereum will lose its independence and lead for the gulag, and as it does, it will self-destruct. We count 8 projects that have already turned their back on Vitalik’s child (and Hoskinson’s stepson). 

The face of crypto has thus changed forever, in that fateful October month, when the men in black screamed “We need to know what’s going on!” 

The road is clear, the goal uncertain, but make no mistake! Ethereum is now an official channel, documented down to the details, the minutiae and the minutes and seconds and milliseconds and block numbers, and for every official channel there must be an official policeman, a judge, and a gaoler. 

And so, in these troubled ides of fall, those momentous (there’s that word again) moments of realization that we can’t let crypto be cryptic, the fate of digital money was decided, and nothing would ever be the same. Unless of course, you moved on, to Cosmos, to Algorand, to Constellation, to Aptos, to Sui, to Phoenix, to Gorgon, to Edgar, to the next and the next and next installment of blockchain or graph, hyper, hash, or otherwise, but there too they would catch up. The dream of anarchic autonomic has been smashed this fall. The extremists will go underground (under-chain?) And for the rest of us? Tradfi meets defi and defi meets tradfi. They will merge. Oh, The Merge. Perhaps it was code all along. We merged not a side chain or a testnet, but accountability, responsibility, with decentralized self-sovereignty. 

And he looked up into the blockchain’s eyes. And all was fine. 

The author is the Head of Research at Uphold. To sign up for the world’s safest web3 bank with full crypto services click here.

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Ethereum changed the world — It’s time to change it again

Photo credit: NASA Webb Space Telescope

There is no doubt that Ethereum was a fantastic step forward in the evolution of blockchain technology. I talked about the idea of messaging on chain at the first ever Hong Kong blockchain conference back in the days and got 85 bitcoin as a speaking fee (yes, I lost the recovery phrase). I talked about food tracing, personal ID records, smart cities and manufacturing, insurance policies and land deeds using blockchain. Essentially I was talking about smart contracts before Ethereum was even born.

Smart Contracts

Smart contacts are the greatest invention since sliced bread. They offer endless possibilities for transmitting self-executing instructions over vast distances in record speed. Like the fax machine made it possible to send documents instantly to the other side of a transaction, smart contract on Ethereum are marvelous, for tracing goods, executing land deeds and, it turns out, powering NFTs – from real utility NFTs like trade documents or financial obligations to silly works of “art” – and even music. So far Ethereum is the medium on which they travel (plus the occasional alternative like Solana which has been catching up lately). Today, we have smart contacts & NFTs on Cardano, Algorand, Near, and any other competitor out there.

The problem is they are all the same.

The problem with smart contracts

Smart contacts are a feature of the blockchain they live on (for now let’s focus on Ethereum). They are limited to simple If/Then logic arguments and require what we call oracles – gateways to information not available on-chain. Like Chainlink for example, which basically has a price oracle monopoly. The most damning shortcoming of smart contracts and NFTs is the fact that they depend on the underlying chain’s condition and suffer from the same problem as the chain itself. Like congestion, scalability and transaction costs (called gas fees)

Enter the State Channel

There is an alternative now available that does away with all these problems. They are called State Channels, and they use the Constellation Network. The very same Constellation used by the US Air Force and trusted by FourSquare. The same Constellation that co-authored the standard for autonomous vehicles with GM and Ford, and the very same Constellation working alongside Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to protect America’s space assets.

State Channels are chain-agnostic. They can define their own complex business logic and even include good old-fashioned ERC-20 tokens. Most importantly, they make oracles unnecessary, because they validate data from where it originated in real time. They can involve multiple data types simultaneously because of the horizontal scalability of the network. But above all, they become faster and cheaper the more data you throw at it.

NFTs without gas

The same horizontal scalability and the ability make Constellation the perfect place to run an NFT marketplace. Users can be paid out in any currency and buying and selling as well as transferring NFTs.

While this may not matter for Bored Apes and other abominations, it does matter when trade documents, government licenses, legal documents, ID papers, driving permits, public transport passes or airline tickets are involved. You don’t want to pay 60 bucks in gas fees to get the boarding pass for a $100 fight

The same feature of infinite scalability and fee-less transactions makes project like EnterTheVoid ideal of charitable projects, democratic tools like voting systems, public records, tax receipts etc. My own wildlife conservation NFT project Natoura, which pays photographers for their work while sending proceeds from sales directly to conservation societies and animal refuges is using the EnterTheVoid marketplace.

Speed Matters

Many of the taunted advantages of Ethereum alternatives revolve around speed and throughput, essentially two aspects of scalability. Some of them are incredibly fast and cheap. But even as Ethereum is trying to move to Proof-of-Stake it can only scale up to 100.000 tps. A single node in the Constellation Network delivers around 2000 tps, and there are over 5000 nodes already. You do the math. More importantly, the network gets faster and cheaper with every node added. A bit like a human brain growing more neurons.

Let me repeat that: FASTER and CHEAPER the more data you process. If there is anything you take away from reading this article, let it be this:

What I call “classical blockchains” like Ethereum get more and more congested and expensive with increased usage. Constellation State Channels get faster and cheaper. That’s the key.

So while Ethereum changed the world and smart contracts showed us the way to more efficient business processes and much else, I think we’ve reached a bottleneck. No layer or scalability solution will ever solve Ethereum’s trilemma or it’s security problems (it needs cross-chain and multi-chain solutions which are essential band-aids on a patient suffering from bowel cancer.)

Data is everything

Data is eating the world. You’ve had that before. But classical blockchains, while good for many things, are bad at dealing with large amounts of data, especially real data. This is where the Hypergraph shines.

 “Hypergraph technology is a dramatic game-changer in the world of data, as well as for out-of-this-world data. State channels enable project- and business-specific data-intensive applications that require the acquisition, processing, securing, and delivering of any volume or any variety of data and data products from any type of sensor to any data-hungry application. That is not simply enabling data to move at the speed of business, but more importantly state channels are enabling businesses to move at the speed of data. I expect to see state channel technologies inspiring a massive wave of innovation and innovative new businesses in the universe of data,” says Dr. Kirk Borne, world renowned data scientist, astrophysicist, and former data archive project scientist for NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

Ethereum is not going to disappear overnight. It will have a role to play in the future, undoubtedly so. It may be ideal for a vast number of applications where speed doesn’t really matter, like ID documents, proof of origin declarations, insurance policies and land deeds. But it is not suitable for anything involving massive amounts of data like military operations, smart cities, smart manicuring, voting systems, tamper-proof real time data applications in physics or law enforcement, payments on a massive scale like cross border, retail, CBDCs, or advertising.

The world before us is a world where data rules. Data that needs to be processed in real time. Massive amounts of data, sensor data, algorithm outputs, legacy databases, unstructured, and multi-conventional, DNA data even, and Ethereum and its “killers” are not cut out for that.

So yes, Ethereum changed the world. But it’s time to change the world again.

The author is the Head of Research at Uphold. To sign up for the world’s safest web3 bank with full crypto services click here.

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In Defense of Apeism

When the first apes appeared, we ignored them. When they procreated at the speed of mice, we called it a fad. When the bored early hominids became zombies, got stoned, and brought along their dogs and other friends, furry or not, hilarious or gruesome, or well, just bored, we said: that’s not going to last. 

Then serious acquaintances changed their Twitter — or worse, their Linkedin — profile pic to some form of comic figure (the writer still struggles to call them “art”). And then Andreessen Horowitz got involved, and Yuga Labs became a proper company, and Apecoin launched (and got hacked) and on the favorite simian (hominid, actually) playground all sorts of — sometimes rather impressive, and truly deserving the label ‘art’ appeared. 

And then, one sleepless night, your writer tried to find a particular person on Linkedin, found him (or rather his monkish self) and next to it where it has become popular to add ones gender identity (as in He/His, They/Them) there were the unmistakable pronouns “Ape/Virtual”. And it was there your writer had an epiphany. 

Those silly cartoon creatures are not, as we were led to believe, signs of the infantilization of the world. They were not the atrocious outcrops of puerile, intoxicated minds. Nor were they the art of the disenfranchised or the “art of web3” as many a pundit has called them. They were something else. 

The entire art movement is an expression of self and in an age where the self seems to shrink even more before the giants of technology, discovery, and infinity (truly so, in the metaverse) possibilities. 

Where once we had one village, one farm, one church, and one self to relate to some deity, wife, children, clan, we then became citizens in nation states, and just another piece of paper in the ballot box. The Internet came, and in an instant we swam in a sea of people and opinions. We handled this by locking our digital selves into echo chambers, apps, and secret societies online. And now, at last, the metaverse has arrived: a wonderful world of endless possibilities, or a dystopian nightmare, destroying the last vestige of what it means to be human. We were lost, and more than ever, we needed a sense of belonging. 

The well-heeled, those with cushy jobs, large family clans, or just a lot of money: they belonged. The jobless twenty-some year old still living with her parents and in sole possession of a few crypto coins and a mobile phone: she was drifting. She was not the Hollywood actress on the cover of a glamour magazine, oh no! She was not a Lady Gaga. She was invisible. 

Worse perhaps for the male of species: he must feed the family but has no means to do so; he has other males threatening to take his place. He is also engaged in a battle for alpha dominance, and adoring Elon Musk is just no longer enough, is it? And the superhero movies are just, well — they are getting worse with every iteration. 

So, abandoning our disillusioned selves in the sea of metaverse experiences, in which “to be human” no longer had meaning, we abandoned all pretense of being human, and became — by pure chance, one feels at first compelled to add — apes. We could have also become snakes, dragons, lizards or lions. No, not lions. Lions lead and dominate, and that is what our insignificant collection of bytes in the metaverse cannot. The age of heroes has passed. 

And thus the Apes were born. They were mostly bored, but one day, one day for sure, they would make it, with dogecoin, or shiba, or any other meme nonsense, and have enough money to belong to a yacht club. 

This is, your writer thinks, the true mystery behind the success of BAYC, and not the backing of a major VC clan, or the chaos of crypto. 

And thus there are lessons to be drawn here for any marketer or any product, lessons in marketing psychology; lesson, we think, that will be essential in any metaverse project, fungible or not 

First an foremost, the vastness of the universe, or metaverse, the mass of people, apes, and creatures inhabiting them, leaves us with a desire to stand out. You don’t want to be a number in an army, you want to have an identity, a unique sales proposition, a special sense of self. IRL (in real life, as it were) it was enough to single like Adele, or have the looks of Ryan Gosling. In the metaverse, anything goes. (Incidentally, once there are too many apes, their value and price will plummet.) 

Secondly, we are truly lost not just in our world, in the universe, but in the unimaginable possibilities of the metaverse. Carl Sagan said the universe was vast. Try infinite meta verses. So we want to belong somewhere. It was the clan at first and then the family. It became the nation state and the movement.  Now it’s the yacht club. (Observe the large number of families, armies, societies and clubs in the crypto space.)  Young men in particular have this in common: they grow up, leave the family, and are forever in search of new home. That can be a wife and children, but increasingly it will be some form of virtual abode. 

And lastly, we don’t live by facts and figures, we live in dreams and aspirations. We don’t go to school to enjoy school, we go to ‘make something of us,’ on the way to another home. We don’t take a job because of what the job offers, but what it could bring in the future (career or money-wise). And we don’t join the universe to sit under a virtual apple tree, but to explore our very self, and see what we could make of it. 

This is why the first step in the metaverse evolution is the ape. After all, hominids started with apes, or that form at least is the earliest one we feel we can relate to. And at the start of our journey we were bored. 


The name Bored Ape Yacht Club, it seems, was not a flippant joke, but a prescient expression of great — or dismal — things to come. 

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Forget TA for crypto

Why technical analysis doesn’t work for crypto (at least not as well)

In the stock market, technical analysis is predicated on the completeness of information model, meaning that all the information that can be had about the stock is already priced in. Companies need to publish results, their results are audited, important announcements have to be reported to the regulator and sometimes trading is even halted before an important announcement. None of these requirements and mechanisms exist for crypto assets. While the models have some validity because a large part of the community believes in them, making them in effect a self-fulfilling prophecy rather than a data-driven conjecture, on closer inspection most of the technical analysis does not deliver actionable predictions. 

The double top, the triple top, the V shaped recovery vs. the round bottom, the domed house, the falling and the rising wedge — all of these chart patterns are certainly there but they do not hold the same information content as they do with a properly audited stock market asset. In essence, crypto trades far more on expectations, hopes and predictions then it does on technical criteria or fundamentals. A crypto asset goes up when people believe in it, not because an analyst put a price target on it based on a revenue stream, and financial forecasts. However, because only a handful of technical analysts and even less the general public understand the difference in technical analysis validity, the cryptosphere  is full of wannabe analyst who simply take over the traditional stock market model and apply it to crypto assets haphazardly, ignorant of the essential differences. 

What we are facing is the tug-of-war between individual technical analysts and the wisdom of crowds; and since we have so little information about the financial position of crypto projects available and charts cannot reflect the future prospects of an asset as they do in traditional stock market settings, we need to look at the expectations of crowds, their risk aversion or appetite as a guide to potential future performance. 

Because the movement of crypto assets depends so much on hopes and expectations, on FUD and FOMO and on highly engaged fan communities — often full of impressionable newbies without any financial knowledge — on YouTube influencers and professional coin shillers, on airdrops and giveaways, and lastly on celebrity endorsements (cf. Musk vs. Doge) it may actually be more interesting to base one’s buying or selling decisions on prediction models inherently possible with prediction market apps as the one we have designed at Unity Network. 

If a majority of users in a prediction market votes for a specific outcome, the likelihood of that answer delivering the desired actionable results increases. That is exactly the reason why crypto Twitter and other platforms are full of polls, full of information gathering efforts, which in absence of audit reports, balance sheets, and other solid information build the bulk of the data available to make decisions.

Meta’s Massive Miscalculation

Meta’s Massive Miscalculation

I try not to disparage projects I disapprove of because let’s face it — who am I to tell you where to waste your money. Besides, I am, admittedly, frequently wrong on almost all predictions, in particular those about the future. My ascorbic criticism of incumbents and their ass-saving last minute forays into the latest fad are however my peeve specialty and the Zuckerverse is my preferred target, being, as it is, a completely misinformed, misaligned, misconceived and misguided approach to the magic & mythical metaverse (alliteration bonanza!) with the sole purpose of enriching Mark and his fellow robots.

This week’s announcement shows once more what a complete technical and marketing circle jerk Meta has become. They announced brazenly that you can now buy Instagram NFTs on Polygon and Solana. That is the MATIC with probably the least credible advantage in the NFT space and SOL, the crappy venture capital greed fueled joke that has crashed more often than my Xbox. 

What a company like Meta should really be doing is questioning the usefulness, longevity and business case of existing NFT implementation and realize that in its current form NFTs won’t go anywhere if you trade them on other chains. There is no way to eliminate the criminal and fraud risk with non-fungible assets and the only way to make NFTs AML compliant is to run them on their own native protocol, a state channel for example or a chain native asset rather than a token. 

It is devastatingly sad and depressingly concerning that a billion-dollar enterprise comes up with technical solutions unworthy of a tenth grader. XDC has a whole web3 Instagram ready, as does HBAR. Constellation is running web3 business networks and across the spectrum companies like Onino, Unity, Covalent, Vectorspace, etc. are embracing a new Open Metaverse and open data concept that will change the world. Meta is about preserving its past, and its wealth, not about changing the future. 

The only question is how do new entrants you grow to web2 era followers. Meta has been having all the audience, they don’t really care what rubbish tech is being used as long as the great unwashed buy their sullied wares. This lack of thought leadership, incumbent conservatives, repressive competitive tactics and old-school mine’s bigger than yours captialism happens in every cycle. It is impossible turning Meta into a web3 venture. Its entire business model is privacy abuse and data collection. LinkedIn sells your data- 75% of their revenue. Facebook is trying to own your blockchain data also. Buy one NFT for your bloody boring IG reels and your address is logged. That’s why Google offers ETH search and more to come. That’s why data collection vehicles like Parsiq and Covalent are the real threat to the incumbents, and that in a nutshell is what Meta will fail in the metaverse. Zuckerboy doesn’t understand it, his people don’t know enough about blockchain to make it work, and its users are … well. Here is the twist. Users are so plentiful that WHATEVER zuck does prints money. This is what we are up against. Don’t let the web2 giants win. 

What am I saying. Go ahead, waste your money on a Solana NFT for your Instagram cooking channel. All you do is give Meta and co more opportunities to push ads in your face and sell you shit you don’t need… You ask for crap and crap you will get. Noon fungible crap to be specific, but crap it is. Welcome to dystopian commercial metaverse.

An irreverent lock back at DAS:London 22

Two days of mingling with institutions and digital asset service providers at the beautiful Royal Lancaster Hotel in London. (Seriously, stunning 1970s architecture, balustrades, and chandeliers, you’d expect Roger More and Pussy Galore walking down the central staircase any time.)

  1. Well organized, hats off to #Blockworks. The blue B of the logo on blue wavey background is a slight eyesore. The catering absolutely delicious. 10 points
  2. All the important institutional players there, service providers like Gemini, Bequant, fireblocks, Elliptic, Merkle Science you name it, with their own little unobtrusive booths, nicely done, 10 points
  3. Panels dominated by the Ethereum crowd layer this layer that, as if institutional finance itself was another layer on the Ethereum cake. One would expect more variety at an event like this. 7 points
  4. Every poster, every video screen, every brochure featuring the keywords Trust, compliant, reliable, with the occasional “KYC” and “AML” for good measure. We now live in Reguland. (was it Crypto Legoland before?)
  5. Every outfit out there slapping the word “Institutional” at the end doth not a professional offering make. But hey, it’s marketing.
  6. Banks building their own stuff for their own clients was a surprise: Standard Chartered with Zodia, HSBC, BNP Paribas: they use whitelabel solutions from proper CEX providers, presumably
  7. It is expensive to run your own blockchain. Duh, tell me about it. Institutions more likely to make use of qualified, regulated DeFi offerings to save on engineering and maintenance costs. Make TradFi more like DeFi and DeFi more like TradFi. This brings us back to my 2018 invention “CeDeFi”. Yes, it was me who first used that word which sounds like seedify. Is that a thing?
  8. Seed indeed: planted. Everyone and their dog is now aware of “digital assets”. No mention of “cryptocurrency” anywhere.
  9. Tons of investment bankers turned crypto bros. Traditional investment banking is the ever shrinking pie, highly competitive, stressful, too much cocaine, and you have to wear a tie. Post-COVID crypto work environment, plus you can watch your kids grow up working from home.
  10. Did see one guy in a tie. One guy. Sartorial revolution: wondering how Saville Row is doing these days. Must be only lawyers left. Ah yes, lawyers, too, turned to crypto. The space once dominated by autistic developers now brimming with pinstripe chaps reinventing themselves in sneakers and hoodies. Reminds me: ask HR for new Uphold gear.
  11. General consensus: central banks will lose their nerve and start printing money again. Regulators are acting swiftly and surprisingly well-informed. Europe + UK (can we undo Brexit so we can just say “Europe” again. Hey, Liz, how about that?) are the trailblazers. MiCA round 4 is expected to bring clear definitions to financial instruments. Across the pond, USA, quo vadis? We are confused
  12. The big question: how do we build in a regulatory vacuum? The answer: move slow and don’t break things. Be nimble. Be water (purloined from the Hong Kong protests that phrase is).
  13. Prime Brokerage is the business model that will satisfy institutions. Anyone who is not an individual is an institution, by the way. Don’t just think banks and corporations; think teams, agencies, government entities, NGOs, and anyone with a collective need for payment rails and digital asset solutions.
  14. We are still children in a sandbox, God bless. The crypto market is tiny tiny tiny. Systemic risk my arse. TradFi, try as they may, cannot keep up with DeFi — proper, regulated, based OG DeFi, not the undoxxed crypto bro kerfuffle that brought us Luna & Co. (He’s wanted in 195 countries, can you believe it)
  15. OTC to the rescue: while we are building the right venues with the right liquidity (it’s not easy being a market maker people actually can rely on), we need OTC. Omid Zadeh says: “centralized exchanges, all-to-all trading” perfect for retail (thanks a bunch for mentioning Uphold there, but institutional needs OTC execution done right. Hey bro, were are on it. Uphold Securities OTC is best in class, trust me.
  16. Credit where credit is due: DeFi lending is nice, earns you a fixed income and was desirable before inflation went off the carts. Now not worth the risk, methinks, TradFi rates are back again. What’s really missing is a DeFi credit market. Hashtag interest rate swaps.
  17. All those financial products shouldn’t be built on dumb tokens. We need algorithmic contracts, hashtag Actus, hashtag cashflow, hashtag smart tokens. We will organize a panel at Eurofinance in a month and I’ll be inviting Sandner and Casper & Co.
  18. Why are we putting up with VASP without a license? Not mentioning Binance here — conspicuously absent from this high-brow bash. It will come back to haunt them.
  19. This is not a crypto winter; this is a blockchain spring. Everyone is busy building, and no one gives a rat’s arse about the price of milk right now.
  20. Afterparty: didn’t go, too busy giving press interviews and writing this. Liver needs a rest at any rate. I hear it was less boozy anyway, unlike TradFi. DeFi is the sober TradFi?

My Main(net) Impressions

Mainnet 22 was my first conference post the Ethereum Merge. I came back from it with a mixed patchwork of emotions and ideas. The same patchwork Ethereum and DeFi overall is now.

Three things stand out: Fore one, the absolute unwillingness of speakers to engage with other projects or viewpoints. Every panel was a shill fest rather than a constructive engagement. Second, the recalcitrant insistence that DeFi is not in trouble. Even after the Wintermute hack. Where a CEO had to defend an attach on a single point of attack, none of which spells decentralization. And thirdly, the fact that every other project out there is trying to fix/improve something that is wrong with Ethereum. That is not a sustainable business model.

The unwillingness of crypto bros to say good bye to existing solutions and embrace the new and promising alternatives says a lot about how immature crypto actors are. Most of them don’t have a lifetime experience assessing competitive threats or even know how to run a company. They are coders, or directed by coders, and led to the slaughter by greedy venture capitalists. This is exactly the formula for Solana & Co — technically worthless or at least misguided, but an easy sell with the right marketing. One hopes the next gen players Aptos and Sui don’t fall into that same category.

All the while, the more serious contenders like Algorand, Quant, even Ripple, were absent (Ripple does have a booth everywhere, but nobody to attend it) and doing their own thing. Algorand Decipher is in November. Others were relegated to the Sponsored Room, which is basically paid advertising, which Avalanche desperately needs at this point. One would have liked to see more alternatives, more future proof technology at a Messari event. But then again, their sponsorship now comes mostly from Circle, which is – not to put to fine a point to it – a dollar lobby.

There was a Hiro booth (programmable Bitcoin) and a few other minor projects not getting the attention they deserved. Radix seemed lost in the overall Etc-self congratulatory mood. Vitalik only joined via video. The OFAC event was embarrassing.

That’s the one side. On the other, I met with bankers and fund managers, regulators and lawyers, who used the event to meet people only peripherally interested in the future of Ethereum. It is mainnet after all, one of the key events in the crypto calendar. It is growing up, and I will be back next year.

The case against CBDCs

You know me. I’m tweeting about #digitalassets all day long. I’ve been involved in eight central bank digital currency #CBDC trials. I live and breathe “crypto,” as I shall no longer call it. (Digital asset with many classes)  I hold a ton of QNT from back when it was dirt cheap. 

And yet. Coming out of three meetings with the MIT, a Washington Thinktank, and a large hedge fund, I am more than ever skeptical that CBDCs are a good thing. At least not now. 

Here is the feedback from people who actually decide our financial future ) heads up: that’s not you!) 

  1. Financial inclusion my arse

Electronic money is said to create greater inclusion. It only does so when people actually have money to buy devices and access to banking. Millions of refugees, immigrants, poor have no way to get proper KYC. 

  • Privacy? What privacy? 

We can’t have citizens transactions in a public blockchain. I don’t what anything you know where I spend what. We need privacy for firms too. If everything is on a public blockchain  we no longer have these secrets nor competitive advantage. Business needs a certain amount of opacity. 

  • Cybersecurity

Just because blockchains themselves are safe, the projects that use them are not. Few see DeFi projects have any kind of cybersecurity awareness. Not a week goes by without another hack. 

  • Big brother

Digital assets give too much power to the government. They make it easier to respond to crisis, but I really don’t want to live in a world where the taxman knows my tax bills by simply going to a chain explorer. 

Let me rant on

None of these arguments make me quit my membership in the lobbying groups I’m working in. I won’t sell my Quant. But they make me think that perhaps there is a reason why repressive dictatorships and failed states like China are the first to adopt big brother money aka CBDC. And why the West has been extremely hesitant to move forward. You don’t want the people to trade on XRP – it’s a private company profiting from your daily booze buy.  Nor do I want Circle control my USDC spending. And after all, what is the difference between a CBDC and a Stablecoin pegged to the fiat at digital national currency is set to replace. There is none. 

What’s left are the less desirable features of a CBDC: control. And that goes against the grain of #crypto wisdoms and #web3. 

The payment rails we have can only be improved by smart token with algorithmic components like cash flow.  

What about a CBDC that includes sustainability and cashflow calculations or inflation targets in the algo.  Such a coin would be an algorithmic stablecoins by any other name but still be sufficiently pegged to be indistinguishable from fiat on a blockchain. 

And then there is Deloitte proposal of using Bitcoin as a CBDC. Hello Bitcoin Maxis. Feast on that. Expect nobody wants a national currency volatility largely unrelated to a nation’s economic output or transparency without accountability. 

Maybe what we need is programmable money with zk proof as Israel seems to think. But even that is something your average woman on the street won’t trust. At least not until you get a cashback or other benefits from it. 

The people clamoring most for national digital currencies are people whose fans to profit from their adoption. That alone makes me suspicious. Why is Ripple a sponsor at every CBDC forum? Why is Accenture so involved? It’s not for idealistic reasons. And not for #inclusion or #equality. It’s for profit. 

And the one thing the government shouldn’t profit from is your freedom. In my world view at least.  

The American idea of not trusting government and preferring private enterprise is rubbish. America has huge infrastructure deficits. Crumbling buildings and potholes everywhere. Collapsing bridges and overflowing sewers. Believe it or not, the government is actually good for something and removing it from the equation is a program. Where is the right balance?

The ultimate rationale why a government would want a traceable digital asset is money laundering and taxation 

The state of CBDC is like my Facebook status. It’s complicated man.

On Oracles

The future according to XYO

Even though we aren’t experiencing the global adoption bull-run we may have wanted in 2022; we see extensive innovation and recognition. The industry is innovating quickly, whether it is legal regulation, a faster and more scalable network, or a potential blockchain interoperability solution. Today, we are here to talk about the XYO network ($XYO) – a network that claims to be the world’s first Reality Oracle.

What is an Oracle?

An “oracle” acts as a bridge between blockchain networks and the real world. Oracles will be an extremely beneficial tool within the ecosystem. They will enable decentralized networks to access and consume external information, such as data from central banks or public companies. This technology acts as a third-party service that allows communication and integration between blockchains and the outdated legacy systems currently in use (which have never been able to interact with newer systems). In essence, if a network can create an oracle that can successfully operate on a global scale, it could be the missing puzzle piece in creating an entirely data-driven, connected world.

Who is XYO?

XY Labs launched the XY Oracle (or XYO) network in May 2017. On the front page of their website, it says, “Introducing the world’s first Reality Oracle.” Knowing the potential impact this could create in the blockchain ecosystem; we had to fact-check this claim. When looking at XYO Network’s top 15 competitors in its sector, their claim seemed to be true. But, in almost all sectors of life, the first generation of technology doesn’t automatically make it the best (and, in our case, the most highly adopted solution). What the XYO network does not put on its website is that Chainlink Labs launched its oracle solution less than 30 days later, which is currently the most widely used oracle network in the blockchain ecosystem. Usually, competitors in a business are considered a threat — but not in this scenario. Instead, the XYO network partnered with Chainlink Labs to improve interconnectivity between data and blockchains by providing seamless data and chain-to-chain integration.

Along with this favorable partnership, the XYO Network has also shown continuous system improvements. On February 28th, 2022, they unveiled their next generation of technology, XYO2.0. This update allows experienced and inexperienced developers to set up an XYO cloud service and participate in a seamlessly connected worldwide digital economy. This technological improvement helps blend familiar legacy systems (such as APIs and SDKs) with complex blockchain systems. The protocol is designed to improve data validity, reliability, and value, as their solution could help build a global data-driven marketplace.

What does this mean?

Oracles (or a similar concept) will play a vital role in creating an efficient ecosystem within blockchain technology. It is apparent that blockchain technology improves how the world can collect and record information, but that does not eliminate the fact that 99+% of information in the world is currently stored outside of the blockchain ecosystem. The success of XYO Network (or likewise projects) will increase the likelihood of mass adoption, as it will empower the current outdated legacy systems to integrate, communicate, and enhance their system proficiency in a blockchain structure. We want this sector (Oracle tokens) to win, whether it is XYO Network, Chainlink, Band Protocol, or DIA. Whoever succeeds within this industry sector will be playing a significant part in connecting blockchain networks to the “real world.”

FINAL THOUGHTS:

XYO Network was the first network to provide an oracle, or at least the first to be realistically implemented. With a recent network upgrade, a partnership with the sector’s industry favorite (Chainlink: $LINK), and an extraordinary amount of network growth in 2021, the XY Oracle network should be a project that is on your watchlist. Not for an investment opportunity – but instead, because of their mission. Their protocol and intended solution could effectively solve a problem that is currently diminishing blockchain technologies’ ability to onboard current information and data stored throughout the outdated but popular legacy systems used today. Oracles (or similar solutions) will be the superglue for connecting and integrating the current, real-world data with the new and upgraded blockchain system we all love.

If we want to see enhanced blockchain efficiency, we should all be cheering for enhanced interoperability.

DAG for Dummies

Of Freeways and Helicopters

DAG technology or directed acyclic graph models are the future of blockchain, as they are on track to providing solutions to fulfill some of these common problems we commonly see in the space.  The solution pertains to the overall structure of how the technology integrates, communicates, and connects.  

As blockchain technology gains traction and provides a proven track record of benefits, developers and users are beginning to see some of the weaknesses and issues within the standard blockchain methodology.

Ethereum, along with most blockchains structures, uses a model representing a chain to operate.  So-called layer 1 blockchains (like Ethereum) act as highways and freeways for vehicles to drive on.  Even though we can successfully travel on highways, we are all aware that they become congested with high-volume traffic, leading to less efficiency (or toll charges, i.e. gas fees) .

Ethereum’s blockchain is like an overcrowded, congested highway, like many others with similar blockchain-like structures. The initial wave of new blockchains tried to solve the problem of scale and congestion by improving the highway (making it wider, or raising the speed limit.) These highways are all Layer 1, built above the ground (Layer 0).

On these highways travel different vehicles: passengers cars, trucks, busses, with various speeds and configurations: some for freight and some for people. Big SUVs with one occupant and tour busses with many. This is the layer 2 solution, improving throughput, speed, efficiency, or cost on the freeway.

A current problem in the standard blockchain model pertains to miners being forced to compete for new blocks to add to the chain.  This model creates aggravated competition due to a “block” having to be completed before the next begins.  This increased competition among the miners slows down the process for users while increasing the cost.

In this simile of freeways and cars that travel on them, Constellation ($DAG) is a helicopter. It is not working with blocks but vectors, it can transport information even if the highway below is congested. In a matter of speaking, it doesn’t even relate the ground (Layer 0); it doesn’t care about terrain. Calling $DAG a Layer 0 solution is like calling aircraft “ground vehicles”. These DAG models use nodes with multiple parent roots to process transactions vertically and simultaneously, thereby eliminating the conflict between miners over who gets the next block in the chain or, in our real-life comparison, getting from point A to point B on an overcrowded highway.

As blockchain technology evolves rapidly, many developers are beginning to eye DAG’s structure, as they believe it may be a turning point in creating a more secure, effective solution in the space.

The directed acyclic graph model was first introduced in 2015.  While it still needs fine-tuning, it is slowly enabling solutions to current issues we see in traditional blockchain technology: the ability to remain decentralized while offering a scalable, speedy, and secure network.  

There is a high likelihood we will begin to see this model of cryptography being implemented in the space, as it is gaining the attention of many due to its ability to provide a more cost-effective solution.  

And let’s be honest – what is the use of sitting in traffic on Route 66 (Ethereum) if we had access to a flying car (DAG). No traffic jams, not traffic lights, no collisions. Well maybe some mid-air collisions. But that’s for different blog post.

Dr Martin Hiesboeck is the head of blockchain research at Uphold Inc. and Founder of the world-renown consultancy Alpine Blockchain Consultants.

What governments want

The future of money isn’t what you thought it’d be

2021 was the year the world learned the acronym CBDC — central bank digital currency. It seems like a logical next step in the history of money. Digitize the currency we have and call it the digital dollar, euro, krona, neira, peso, won, dirham, yuan or yen, rand or rubel.

There is only one problem with it: central banks don’t want CBDCs.

It is one of my jobs to advise central banks on the adoption of crypto currencies and electronic payment systems. Every single meeting I’ve joined in the last three months of 2021 ended with the same conclusion.

„We are a central bank. We are the arbiter of the national fiat currency. We control the banking system. We must stay in control. And, most importantly, we don’t want to deal with retail.“

The mindset, structures, tools and the sheer will to deal with the general public are absent. Therefore, if we intruduce a digital version of our currency we no longer need banks to control checking and savings accounts, the distribution of fiat currencies through retail banks and ATMs, the administration of loan schemes and government bonds, or even the transfer of money from one account to another. All that can be done cheaper and faster with the digital form of currency. At the end of the day, digital money, they fear, will make them obsolete.

China was the first country to realize that the only real use of digital currency for the government was to spy on citizens. It’s eCNY is used to track spending patterns, identify illegal money flows and support the social credit score system of a totalitarian regime.

If a digital version of the currency would take hold, dominated and administered by a central bank, it would have to come with the same guarantees as fiat currencies. Its supply would have to be pegged to the fiat version as well as its value. It would, except for its electronic properties, be the exact same as the fiat version, without the need for banks to administer it. It would, over a relatively short period of time, destroy the banking system. Decentralized finance solutions would take over the savings, yield or interest bearing properties; DeFi investment consulting operators would create funds and administer payments, from social security, insurance, pensions to … you name it. The banking system as we know it would collapse.

We can’t have that, government say. There are too many jobs at stake for one, too many vested interests. Older and more tech averse generations would balk at the idea of having no more cash at hand (cf Sweden). Anonymous cash drives not just church collections in the pew, but is the underpinning of corruption and the entire grey economy. Political parties would lose voters, as all payments become traceable and thus taxable. No central bank wants to takes responsibility for that.

Why not, central banks say, let crypto be crypto issue a stable coin instead. Leave the responsibility to the issuers, let them bear the cost of introduction, and see how the electorate responds. If things go awry and wallets get hacked, the government can be swiftly absolved from all responsibility.

There will be many different stablecoins, some issued by companies like large retailers, think Walmart or Apple, some by DAOs, one to run on every blockchain, pegged or algorithmically rebased, audited or not. Let banks, insurers and credit card firms figure out how to deal with it. If you want to see the future of money, look at VISA and Mastercard with their vast payment networks. No government will bat an eyelid if Ripple fails. If it all goes well, banks will pat themselves on the shoulder and say: you see, we gave you this magical Internet money. If it all goes pear-shaped, they cry “We told you so” and will step in to save the day.

If 2021 was the year of the CBDC, 2022 is the year of the stablecoin. Safe , sound and predictable, they won’t rock the boat and make for easy accounting and taxation.

Stablecoin will remove the need for exchanges, centralized or decentralized, and other fiat-crypto bridges. They will be traced and tracked even better than fiat transactions. They are the antithesis to bitcoin, they are pro-establishment and anti-freedom. They are the last-ditch effort to save a broken system.

The one thing they will enable is DeFi. They even reduce the need to regulate DeFi operators. As long as governments can control in the (electronic) money supply they won’t have to care too much about what companies do with it. Certain products like securities and loans backed or issued in stablecoin will fall under existing laws, many others will be allowed to operate freely under the motto caveat emptor without threatening the status quo.

Here’s to the future of money. It’s not quite what you expected.

Unstructured data provides equal risk and opportunities for businesses

This article is originally posted on Nightfall.ai

Unstructured data is projected to account for approximately 80% of the data that enterprises will process on a daily basis by 2025. Data breaches and other security issues get a lot of attention in the media, but all businesses working with data, especially data in the cloud, are at risk of data loss. Preventing data loss can be difficult for a number of reasons.

IDG projects that by 2026, there will be 163 zettabytes of data in the world. To put that in context, one zettabyte is equal to a thousand exabytes, a billion terabytes, or a trillion gigabytes. The astronomical amount of data transmitting, living, and working in the cloud is just one of the complications that make securing data a tough task for businesses to manage. Of all the unstructured data in the world, most of it goes completely unused. According to industry analysts IDC, more than 90% of unstructured data is never examined. This means large portions of data float around unsecured and underutilized for many businesses.

That’s why it’s important to understand where unstructured data comes from, why it’s so hard to pin down, the risks of not securing unstructured data, and the rewards of bringing that data into a structured environment.

Hiding in plain sight

Unstructured data can come from almost any source. Nearly every asset or piece of content created or shared by a device in the cloud carries unstructured data. This can include:

  • Product demo videos on your website
  • QR codes for discounts and deals on an e-commerce app
  • Podcasts and other audio blogging files hosted on your website’s blog page
  • Social media messages on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

Internal communications and collaboration platforms are major sources of unstructured data. Think Slack, Confluence, and other SaaS applications where many people do their daily work and communicate with colleagues. Most cloud-based applications like these allow unstructured data to pass through massive networks to be shared, copied, accessed and stored unprotected.

IDG Communications published an article written by then-Pitney Bowes Software Vice President Andy Berry in 2018. Berry commented on how the modern workplace approaches data and why these norms contribute to the data loss problem, citing one study that found enterprises using almost 500 unique business applications. SaaS applications generate data that can quickly become obsolete, unusable, and eventually inaccessible.

Data powers everything we do in our professional and personal lives, but with little to no oversight on data hygiene, we often miss out on key opportunities to improve security blindspots and maximize data performance.

A complex problem

The various sources of unstructured data show how complex data loss can be. Many problems with DLP start with the three V’s of data — volume, velocity, and variety. It’s hard for humans and manual review to keep up with the staggering amount of data, speed of data proliferation, and the many different sources of data.

Adding to the problem is the fact that unstructured data is very difficult to organize. It’s impossible to dump every piece of unstructured information into a database or spreadsheet, because that data comes from myriad different sources and likely doesn’t follow similar formatting rules. On top of that, finding unstructured data through manual processes would take more time than there are hours in the day. It’s not a job for humans.

Other roadblocks to unstructured data collection include increasingly stringent privacy regimes, laws that protect intellectual property (IP) and other confidential or proprietary information like trade secrets, and businesses communicating across different security domains between the cloud and traditional hard-drive based storage systems. Information security is evolving at lightning speeds, but some schools of thought are still based on older priorities that focus on preventing outsider threats. It’s important to protect an organization from malicious actors, but what about good-natured, everyday workers who don’t know what they don’t know? That can still hurt an organization in tremendous ways.

Unstructured data isn’t all bad news. It can also be an opportunity for organizations that can recognize two main ideas. First, that this data must be gathered, protected, and understood. Second, that there’s value in all the data that is currently going unused. Computer Weekly cited sources that estimate modern businesses are utilizing as little as 1% of their unstructured data.

Our world runs on data, and each person interacting with apps, platforms, and devices contributes to the growing data reserves. When organizations think about gathering data to help with marketing, business intelligence, and other key functions, they must also factor in the impact of unstructured data. Unstructured data presents equal risk and opportunity for business leaders. When that data lives in the darkness, its only impacts are negative. But when data is brought into the light, we can use that data to be smarter and better at work. 

Solving the unstructured data problem

Unstructured data is a major concern for organizations using cloud-based collaboration and communications platforms. Productivity relies on environments where co-workers can share ideas and messages quickly, without fear of exposing sensitive data. Nightfall, a data loss prevention (DLP) solution, provides much-needed security for today’s most used communications and collaboration platforms like Slack, Confluence, and many other popular SaaS & data infrastructure products.

Since these applications lack an internal DLP function, and each allows for the lightning-fast transmission of massive amounts of data, Nightfall’s machine learning based platform is an essential partner for many organizations handling sensitive information like PII (personally identifiable information), PHI (protected health information), and other business-critical secrets. Nightfall’s three step approach allows businesses to discover, classify, and protect unstructured data through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Our solution makes sense of unstructured data, while traditional security solutions solely rely on users to help categorize data through methods like regular expressions (regex), which have limited accuracy in unstructured environments.

Each step of Nightfall’s ML solution is critical to the process of DLP. Discover means a continuous monitor of sensitive data that is flowing into and out of all the services you use. Classify means ML classifies your sensitive data & PII automatically, so nothing gets missed. Protect means businesses can set up automated workflows for quarantines, deletions, alerts, and more. These three arms of DLP save you time and keep your business safe — all with minimal manual process or review oversight from you or your staff.

Helping businesses identify and access unstructured data

Data is a part of life, especially as remote work becomes an essential function for productivity and collaboration. Business leaders must understand the risk of ignoring unstructured data and the value of making that data work for the business. It’s a tall order to identify and bring in a mass of unknown data to the cloud, but the rewards come with a better understanding of your organization, your industry, and your customers. Good things can come from unstructured data — as long as you’re ready to approach the issue with a solid data strategy and a knowledgeable DLP partner like Nightfall.

IoT, Cybersecurity and Manufacturing: War is Coming

The Internet of Things or IoT is being hailed as the next big thing changing our world: our daily lives, the way we shop and consume information, and, finally, manufacturing.

Increasingly however, issues with data security, privacy, and hacking of connected systems, are making it clear that the rollout of a globally interconnected Internet of Things is anything but assured.

Cyber criminals are increasingly focusing on connected devices, hacking anything from Wi-Fi routers to coffee machines. If it is connected to the Internet in any way, it can be hacked. Cloud computing does not offer any consolation: blackouts at cloud service providers due to, say, DDoS attacks, affect millions of customers, supply chains, and production lines. Even edge computing, hailed as the antidote to cloud troubles, does not offer a convincing solution.

Read also: The Future of the Internet of Things

 

The Problem is Asian Manufacturing

From the perspective of manufacturing, there are a few obvious, and some less obvious reasons, why the deployment of IoT may be delayed, or perhaps never happen at all. That is because the vast majority of devices – an estimated 90% or more – are manufactured in Asia, namely in the mega hubs of Shenzhen and Kunshan, and of course in Taiwan. Yet both China and Taiwan are not prepared to offer the cyber security needed to make IoT a success.

Taiwan

Taiwan is suffering from a massive shortage of talent in cyber security, data science, and engineering in general. Falling birth rates and low wages are to blame: many talented young people try their fortunes abroad, where opportunities abound and pay is better. (Just to give you an idea: data scientists earn about 1/10 of American salaries in Taiwan, security specialists even less. And then there is quality of live and overall career prospects.)

Secondly, companies in Taiwan have a tradition of churning out products efficiently and competitively priced, focussing on “cost-down” strategies rather than innovation. That leaves little room for expensive testing or the consultation of experts who could make sure products are really hacker-safe.

After all they get paid to make products primarily. Increasingly they also feel that whether those products can be hacked or not is something out of their control. “It doesn’t matter how safe you build it, hackers will always find a way,” an engineer from one of Taiwan’s leading electronics manufacturers told me.

He may be right, but undoubtedly there is also a culture of laissez-faire, a lack of organizational excellence and oversight that prevents majorly flawed products hitting the shelves.

A few years ago, one of the largest and most successful electronics manufacturers delivered millions of routers with the password “password” hardcoded to US consumers and was promptly fined by the FCC.

Finally, Taiwan has a cultural tradition of engineers leaving jobs around age 40 to start their own business. Thousands of startups making IoT devices are thus underfunded and understaffed; all the money goes to product development, none to marketing or making sure the product meets international standards of safety and cyber security.

So, both large incumbent manufacturers and startups lack the means, the willingness, or even the awareness of the product flaws that endanger the development of the Internet of Things.

China

Taiwanese companies manufacture in China, and China itself is increasingly creating companies that make products for the Internet of Things. Just like in Taiwan, there are excellent and talented engineers at work, inventive and dedicated to their job – yet they do not have the right safety mindset, lack access to international norms and standards, or cyber security training.

Apart from all the problems it shares with manufacturers in Taiwan (including talent shortage, bad organizational oversight, lack of responsibility for plant managers, insufficient testing etc.) China has a trust problem.

Party officials oversee every major company; products are supposedly engineered to send back data without the knowledge of users; intellectual property protection is weak. China has nothing in the way of data protection laws or penalties for products and services that fail to adhere to such regulations; fake products fill the markets and shelves, and when something goes wrong, managers and company owners simply disappear due to lack of legal protection.

Korea and Japan

Korea and Japan may be someone better in terms of guaranteeing safe products for the IoT due to better organizational structures and more rigid SOPs, but many of their companies are manufacturing in China anyway and are thus exposed to the same risks. Even there, manufacturers hardly suffer the consequences of providing consumers with unsafe products – the legal systems and judicial process are simply not prepared for that.

Even those who don’t outsource to China are far behind in terms of digitalization. Only about 5% have a Chief Data Officer; over 40% of CEOs have never even heard the term CDO.

Compared to Europe’s and America’s leading corporations, Asian enterprises are about a decade behind in creating intelligent digital processes, deploy machine learning and artificial intelligence, data science and predictive analytics, and all the other necessary tools to detect fraud, negligence, and deficient products, predict security issues, and improve product safety and quality.

Read also: Digital Transformation: How to Create an Intelligent Company

All in all, Asian manufacturers are not in position to deliver safe products for the IoT.

IIoT is the Exception

There are exceptions, in particular companies producing for the Industrial Internet of Things. These companies cannot afford to ignore cybersecurity issues because potential losses from data breaches or cyber attacks are monumental. A single factory hacked could lead to bankruptcy, the affects could trickle down the supply chain and affect hundreds of suppliers and customers.

Yet the Industrial Internet of Things is not immune to hacking, mostly because the products are usually installed, connected, and maintained by service providers or “integrator” which suffer from the same organizational problems of inadequate SOPs, lack of oversight and accountability.

What’s more, Asian manufacturers have a tradition of skimping on maintenance contracts and try to do upgrades, repairs, and modifications to existing installations in-house by engineers who often lack awareness of cybersecurity and data privacy issues. They may know how to install an extra sensor or modify parameters on an existing machine, but they usually don’t see the big picture. A major hacking accident at local manufacturer is only waiting to happen. The smaller incidents – and there are over 1000 each year, according to industry sources – are usually hushed up.

Trade Wars, Industry 4.0 and Lawyers

I have outlined the major effects of the technologies surrounding Industry 4.0 in this article: The True Meaning of Industry 4.0 for Manufacturers

From a security perspective, the lack of awareness, talent, and trust outlined in this article means that many brands who buy products manufactured in Asia will sooner or later  opt for repatriation of their operations. As penalties for delivering unsafe products or violating data protection laws get stiffer in Europe and America, the risks involved with buying from Asian companies will only increase.

There is of course political will behind that too. Made in America, Made in Germany – everyone from electronics to car parts and shoe manufacturers – are trying to bring back manufacturing to their own countries and their own jurisdictions.

Thanks to automation, robotics, 3D printing etc. that is now possible. Labor cost is no longer a major factor. Supply chain issues will resolve themselves over time.

Why risk security issues, copycats, insufficient IPR protection, allegations of child labor or horrid working conditions in Asia, when you can bring everything back to almost completely automated high-tech plants fully under the brands control; with no cultural or language barriers. Why did Tesla build the Gigafactory in America, and why is Adidas building robotic sneaker factories back in Germany? Why is Foxconn starting manufacturing in Wisconsin? (hint: it’s not just the perks and tax cuts)

Because as of now, outsourcing to Asia is no longer advantageous in the long term. Companies do it mainly because old supply chains are still too rigid, and talent pools in certain locations too shallow. Automation, ad-hoc manufacturing, robotic processes etc. will overcome these hurdles.

The risks involved with creating defective IoT products, the threat of law suits or protests by customer over work practices of environmental protection issues, far outweigh the advantages Taiwan and China have in terms of lower labor costs. So don’t be surprised if Apple starts building its own Gigafactory in America soon.

The end of the trend is in sight. Sophisticated manufacturing, smart manufacturing, robots and additive manufacturing – and whatever comes next – mean that brands no longer have to take the risk of having a third-party in control of the quality and safety of their products.

For only if everyone is on board with the same level of safety and cybersecurity concerns, the same SOPs and preventative measures, can we rollout a globally interconnected Internet of Things. Otherwise there will be war.

 

How the Internet of Things will change the Supply Chain

Despite advances in manufacturing that will move the bulk of product production away from mega-factories in developing countries back to Europe and America, logistics will always play a big role in a world of global trade.

Read also: The True Meaning of Industry 4.0 for Manufacturers

The industry employs millions of people worldwide, and even robots will struggle to make a big impact in the short-term. That is because logistics is inherently a complicated industry, with hundreds and thousands of variables, complex system, interconnectivity problems and standards varying from country to country, even port to port.

If you have ever tracked a parcel through a delivery service, you know that at present we only have information when a package transit from one system to another, from one data point to another. We know very little about what happens to shipments in transit.

That is important. Drugs, food, livestock, and many other things should be constantly monitored to ensure quality and product safety. Most of these items should be tracked from the source all the way to the receiver, 24/7.

(This is where blockchain may come in: How Blockchain Will Save the World

The Advent of 5G and IoT

5G networks with their big throughput rates, safety features, and low latency will not only enable industry 4.0 and better automation, they are also the key to a successful deployment of the Internet of Things. We will finally have information systems and bandwidth that allow us to track anything we like from source to end-user.

This will not be an immediate transition, due to the complexity of systems. It will take the better part of the next decade to make the transition meaningful. Some companies will go ahead and build their own proprietary systems, but interconnectivity and cybersecurity will delay adoption in the short term.

Real-time insights will allow for greater efficiency in tracking not just the physical route of a package, but also its condition, e.g. temperature, humidity, etc. Integration with traffic information systems will allow flexible re-routing; data analysis and machine-learning algorithms will allow new and existing logistics providers to offer far more flexibility, and thus cost and energy savings.

What Supply Chain Managers Are Looking For

Delays and problems during shipment account for the majority of complaints in international business. What CIOs and supply chain managers really want for their business is customer satisfaction.

  • Enhancing customer satisfaction
  • Increasing efficiency and faster shipments
  • Cost savings (including human resources)
  • Compliance with international rules
  • New delivery and distribution methods

All of these are components of Customer Success, the key to successful value propositions for customers.

Read more: How to Design Value Propositions in B2B Marketing

Once the proper systems are in place, companies will be able to offer just-in-time deliveries with speed and flexibility, unlike anything we have now. Combined with robots and drones, these new logistics systems will be completely unrecognizable.

New IoT devices will have far better connectivity. Visual positioning systems (VPS) will replace or augment GPS, allowing for tracking in enclosed spaces like warehouses, basements, or remote areas.

The key technologies to make IoT devices efficient are energy conservation or independence from traditional energy sources like batteries, and interconnectivity with sophisticated control systems in factories and logistics control centers.

Read also: The Future of the Internet of Things

AI is the final ingredient

The transportation systems described will be incredibly complex, perhaps too complex for humans to control. Integration with sophisticated artificial intelligence and machine learning system is the final ingredient to make them successful.

There is a clear connection between AI and IoT: it’s called data. IoT devices will produce so much data, it can only be leveraged by machines.

The use of 5G and IoT will speed up transportation of goods air, waterways, rail, and road. Vehicles, conveyor belts, drones, and storage systems have to be linked with open,  interconnective protocols on a global scale. Only AI will be able to manage larger systems.

Read also: The Difference Between Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning

Regulation Must Catch Up

One of the biggest obstacles to 5G and IoT adoption in supply chain management is regulation. Even if some countries are keeping ahead of the curve, in the majority of trading nations custom clearance and regulatory approval of shipments (like food or drugs for example) are still years behind.

Companies may end up with fantastically advanced internal systems that have to interface with government agencies through antiquated paper records. Every time such an interface opens, you have a problem with data entry and human interference: the latter being the biggest source of error and wrong data. Machine learning and AI can only be accurate and useful if the data they work with is accurate.

The Security Issue

Interconnectivity is alright, but it also opens these complex systems to hackers and criminals with nefarious intent. The more interconnected, the greater the danger of major damage to global IoT systems, in particular in logistics. One hacker could paralyze the supply chain of a single company or an entire country.

5G promises the implementation of security problems that will tackle these issues. But as a cybersecurity expert and friend keeps telling: everything that can be hacked will be hacked. In particular, DDoS or denial of service attacks may become far more powerful than ever, as they block access not to PCs but actual integrated systems. And in an integrated supply chain, if one part fails, the entire process may collapse.

Because they are connected, hackers have a million opportunities to enter the system. There will always be weak points. If, for example, in a factory, someone hooks up ancillary systems like air conditioning to the main node, there is a way to hack into the system. WiFi routers, robots, access control, and anything else connected that is not under the direct control of the supply chain security team, are especially dangerous.

Neither cloud services by large companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft or SAP, nor proprietary systems by individual suppliers are immune from such attacks. Startups like Cloud Logistics will offer new challenges: as they experiment with new approaches, things could go terribly wrong.

The biggest threat does not come from the security threats we are aware of, but from new developments. Every time we change systems on a large scale, we cannot be sure that we have covered all the bases.

Is Blockchain the Solution?

Some experts predict that the security features of the distributed ledger or blockchain technology are the key to making these supply chains safe. Others bet on quantum computing. One thing is sure: a lot of it will happen in the cloud, controlled by a handful of large technology companies that implement and manage cloud and edge computing solutions. And as I said, those are vulnerable too.

What 5G and IoT promise to do, however, is far more important and beneficial than the danger of cyber attacks. Not only could the IoT make supply chains make more efficient; it will also solve problems like pollution, recycling, fighting corruption, food and drug safety, and help developing countries catch up with the rest of the world far more quickly. And that is why nothing will stop the IoT, no matter how serious the security issues.

Read: How Blockchain Will Save the World

Can Blockchain Technology Solve the Food Chain Crisis?

At blockchain-themed events around the world, bold promises are being made about the ability of blockchain technology to solve the problem of food traceability and supply chains in general. But how realistic is that prospect? Is blockchain really the right tool for supply chain management and traceability? What will happen if deploy it broadly?

Incidents of food fraud are on the rise globally. Multinational conglomerates often intentionally hide the precise location of food sources, while consumers – ever more health conscious – increasingly pay attention to where their food comes from.

No one is immune from the crisis. From e-coli spinach in America to horse meat lasagne in Europe – not to mention plastic-contaminated infant formula in China – food traceability is a global and very serious problem.

Food traceability is complicated

Truth be told, the problems of the food industry are manifold. Tampering with labels and seals, misreporting of fraud numbers, parallel imports, are costing the industry billions of dollars a year. From contaminated milk to re-labelled, expired, Spanish ham; from foul tomatoes ending up in ketchup to horse meat DNA across a variety of frozen food products, to dogs and cats in Indian mutton curry, not a week goes by without another scandal somewhere in the world.

But it doesn’t have to be fraud – consumers also want to know that their food is truly organic, or that animals have been treated properly. The British are afraid of chlorinated chicken and the Germans are obsessed with buying only “made in Germany” jam – even if all the fruit come from Romania and Ukraine.

Shoppers were flabbergasted when it turned out a famous local brand farmed all their shrimp in a polluted region of China. In short, food traceability is a huge issue for manufacturers and consumers alike, from marketing to actual health risks.

Complicated Supply Chains Scream for Blockchain

Supply chains have become so complicated, manufacturers themselves often don’t know where the ingredients really come from and how they reach their destination.

Blockchain promises a solution. The distributed ledger technology of blockchain means that thousands of copies of a ledger prevent alteration of the records. Every ingredient at every step of the manufacturing process can be monitored, the responsible parties held accountable. Hundreds of startups are working on solution promising one thing above all: transparency through blockchain.

Companies like Provenance connect the digital and physical world using natural markers like genetic profiles at the top end of their tech solutions, but at the very least promise to eliminate the most egregious examples of fraud, like copying or falsifying certificates of origin or batch numbers.

Fish are tracked with data including the fishing vessel, the phone number of the captain, date and location of the catch, and other verifiable data entered throughout the journey to market. Vegetables are tracked from farm to supermarket in the same way. Meat is traced from the moment an animal is born to the moment the customer swipes the ham package at the supermarket checkout.

But is blockchain really the solution?

The problem is that the blockchain technology itself doesn’t guarantee the accuracy of the data; you still need to trust the people making the ledger entry. This problem, experts predict, will be overcome with government regulation and machine learning: big data sets will be able to flag implausible and possibly fraudulent entries. Individuals and corporations being flagged repeatedly can be blocked from the supply chain accordingly.

Food fingerprinting – the record of molecular properties of food, recorded with blockchain – is another component of the fight against food fraud. I will allow consumers to verify that a particular product found on a shelf is actually the same product recorded at the source of production.

Sensors will offer another piece of the puzzle. Did irrigation from a neighboring farm contaminate a certified producer? Did refrigeration fail during a sea voyage? Was the shipment repackaged at a port along the way? The more data points we collect on the blockchain, the safer a food product will be.

The question is do we really need blockchain (with its proof-of-work step) or is this only a question of a distributed ledger? Are there solutions that involve safe, traceable data entry without actually requiring proof-of-work and enormous energy consumption?

Expect an Increase in Food Cost

We do not have all the answers. If there is no payment step involved, perhaps blockchain is an overkill. Perhaps there are other distributed solutions on the horizon which do not come with the baggage of long hours of computer processing.

However, all this technology will, at least in the short run, increase the cost of food production. Producers banned from the blockchain tracing system will continue to operate in a gray area, providing cheaper (albeit less safe) alternatives, which will be mostly used by the poor.

Blockchain, in other words, may make food safer for affluent societies while worsening the quality of alimentation in poorer countries.

That is unless a solution provider takes on the problem and offers a viable solution to any player in the market.

 

 

 

 

 

The Future of the Internet of Things

Imagine yourself in the future. You get up and your coffee is already made for you, perhaps even your entire breakfast. Smart kitchen utensils are preparing your scrambled eggs, and the smart fridge reorders soy milk as you take out the almost empty bottle.

You are probably not reaching for your phone; instead, voice commands will bring up the latest information – messages, news, weather or traffic reports, on any surface you want: the TV, the fridge door, the bathroom mirror. Or no surface at all, if holograms and virtual displays replace OLEDs and plasma devices.

An AI system has prepared the daily schedule, ordered the Uber or the autonomous car at exactly the time you need to leave the house for work. In the car, you link to the local display and check your stocks and bitcoin holdings. When you arrive at work there is no entering the parking garage; you simply leave the car while your payment is processed. The car moves to an induction charging platform while waiting for the next customer.

There are no queues at the elevator because not everybody arrives at the same peak hour. The elevator, prompted by you walking through the main door, arrives and takes you to your floor, without you ever pressing a button. You enter the office where the lights and AC are already on.

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Virtual screens pop up in front of you and you start your day at work, perhaps monitoring environmental conditions or the waste management systems of this smart city. Data from millions of sensors is collected, analyzed, and actions are recommended as pipes in one part threaten to overload, and toxic effluent is detected at the edge of an industrial estate. An AI notices the local maintenance crews or inspectors while typing up a report of the night’s events, which is read out to you while you lean back and dream of your next vacation.

It is 9:30 in the morning and the Internet of Things around you has already processed millions of gigabyte of data. Chips implanted in your body remind you to exercise and the AI schedules a doctor’s appointment and makes a restaurant reservation based on your registered preferences after you confirm that you’d like today’s special lab-grown meat burger at a particular brand new restaurant. And on the way home, the autonomous electric car makes a slight detour to avoid traffic or pollution or to pick up your date for tonight, who has been notified by the AI 3 minutes before you arrive at their doorstep.

At this point, you are screaming STOP! What about privacy? All these interconnected systems know way too much about you, your routines, your physical condition, your dating habit, and your work attendance. And what about safety? Everything has been working smoothly so far, but what if any component gets hacked? The dream of ultimate efficiency and convenience becomes a nightmare of social control once we take security under consideration. The technological overlord controls far too much of your life.

 

Is this the future we want?

Yes, of course, but only if you, the consumer, are ultimately in control of your data. If the AI supports you and doesn’t manipulate you. If the systems work hand-in-hand with humans. If machines serve humans, rather than the other way round.

Right now this is not possible, because the big collectors of data, from Apple and Amazon to Google and Uber, and all the industrial systems data agents in between want to be in control of your data. We have let the Internet revolution create corporate giants that are not accountable to anyone but themselves, and if you happen to live in places like China, where you have been watched and monitored through face recognition from the moment you got up in the morning, to the time you go to bed, you feel even more helpless. That doesn’t even include your health bracelet or implanted glucose monitoring chip.

 

Where is the balance between convenience and security?

The answer to the question of privacy, security, safety, and human rights, may be the blockchain. We cannot create an IoT ecosystem fit for humans if private companies or governments control all the data.

Big corporations control our data, but we the consumers offer these companies something very valuable: massive amounts of personal data. To be honest, we are getting very little in return. It’s a bad deal. As automation and robots are taking our jobs, many of us will be left with only one option: monetizing these data.

Read also: Blockchain Is the Most Disruptive Invention Since the Internet

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Is blockchain the key to monetizing?

Some startups proclaim with conviction that blockchain technology is the way to safely monetize personal data in the future. And don’t underestimate how much data there is and how valuable it is! Google and Apple know, based on your phone’s GPS position, where you will likely be at a certain time of day; meal ordering services like UberEats know what you are likely to order. Selling the combined dataset of thousands of people could influence the pricing in local restaurants or the choices on their menus.

In medicine, big data, machine learning, and medical records controlled by insurers, big pharma, or even your local hospital, may decide whether giving you a specific drug is worth it or not.

It goes further. We now have pavements that create kinetic energy, and your house may generate energy through solar panels or intelligent coating on the walls. Your walking makes money in the form of energy, your mere living in your connected house produces data for the grid. Your recycled and purified wastewater could be sold back to the utilities. That data too is valuable, and you should be reimbursed for it.

 

How does blockchain monetization work?

Blockchain’s distributed ledger approach could combine all these data streams and reimburse you in crypto assets or hard currency. But there is a problem. People don’t live just in one place, they move around, from city to city, from country to country. Cities around the world would have to coordinate their approach to blockchain monetization or adopt open protocols that are transferable between locations. In other words, a global, neutral, decentralized system. In a system so vast, one good hacker could bring the world to a standstill

Blockchain proponents claim that the decentralized, distributed ledger is absolutely hacker proof. Any security expert will tell you that every system ever called hacker-proof has ultimately been hacked. Even if it isn’t a malicious attack, solar flares, earthquakes, wildfires and any number of misadventures could bring even a global, decentralized system to its knees, as long as it is sufficiently interconnected.

Finally, whole regions of the planet will be left behind, because they do not have the wealth, the political will, or the physical infrastructure to benefit from any of this. And then there are the Luddites: there will be a huge number of people who will want to opt out of this technological overlord. If their jobs have been automated, how are they to survive?

The future of the internet of things is not a question of technology, but social planning … and quantum computing.

It’s not the ledger, it’s the proof of work

In other words, the blockchain enthusiasts and technology futurists are confusing technological revolution with social revolution. It does not matter how many problems blockchain solves, what matters is how many problems it creates. At the heart of blockchain is not the distributed ledger concept, but the proof of work. Trillions of blockchain entries of work will require a huge amount of “proof or work” steps. Those take time and energy.

Only quantum computing will bring this increase in computing power. But quantum computing makes all our security protocols and encryption systems obsolete, which brings us back to the problem of hacking. We still don’t have the answers, but one thing is clear:

We should not attempt to build a global IoT ecosystem until we have addressed all these problems. 

How to Become a Smarter Marketer

Most marketers, even those with academic credentials, are too busy implementing corporate marketing strategies and working with the products they need to sell. We write copy, we blog, we post, we distribute, and we learn how to use the latest marketing automation tools. We waste endless hours on pointless meetings with clients who want us to understand their product and follow corporate guidelines. We chase likes and shares and retweets and spend hours trying to figure out how to best measure ROI, for that crucial final presentation with the boss.

We sacrifice our private time, time for the family, relaxation, or sport, in order to meet ridiculous KPIs and misguided client expectations.

None of that makes us better marketers, it just makes us busy, overworked, marketers. We do not have the time to look at marketing data, social studies, the psychology of the consumer, and hard evidence. That’s a bit like a doctor trying to cure your ailment without ever consulting the latest studies on a specific disease.

Spend More Time Studying

Studying marketing and then doing marketing just isn’t enough. You need to know the latest trends, facts, and figures. You need to know the usage patterns and the changing landscape. In order to become a smarter marketer, you need to spend less time marketing and more time studying.

Did you know for example that almost 80% of social media users on average use Facebook, but only 29% use LinkedIn (September 2017 data)? Most use Facebook daily but LinkedIn only 2-3 times a month? Why have a daily post content schedule if users only check-in once a month?

And then you spend all that time making a nice website and Facebook page for your shoe business, but forget that most people under 30 get their food, fashion and travel ideas from Instagram? Instagram on the other hand just released IGTV – which will disrupt not just Youtube but ever live broadcasting app influencers are currently relying on. Within hours of the launch, some videos on IGTV had over a million views, just as Instagram’s total user base has grown to over a billion people.

stats

Know Your Stats, and Adapt

Digital marketing is not about what worked, or what works, but about the next things on the horizon. Brands need to understand how users in different markets and industries use different digital platforms, and the changes these platforms are about to make in the future.

You make that WhatsApp group for your Asia marketing without knowing that a messaging tool called Line is the weapon of choice in your target market. We’ve had a client asking for a Facebook strategy for China, where it is banned.

And then everyone tells you that video content is king, whereas in many Asian countries, in particular, Chinese or Japanese speaking ones, there is still a great demand for informed long-form content in the local language. Or that marketing automation without human contact just doesn’t work in Asia.

And then you make that campaign for a computer server manufacturer on Facebook and special tech blogs, before you realize that 92% of IT professionals get their latest product news, tech news, server maintenance tips and tricks from Youtube. Or you have that fantastic website for your beauty products, hosting your own make-up videos, forgetting that over 90% of cosmetics are now launched on Instagram?

Or that 75% of Instagram users in a specific country are women? Or that in country X people will never engage with health websites or Facebook pages in fear or public shame? Or that over 60% of Facebook profiles in Indonesia use fake names and pictures? Or that customers in country Y hate to enter their credit card details and prefer payment on delivery?

You can get a lot of data from studies by local academic institutions and marketing agencies. One of the best for global marketing is emarketer, one of the most informative publications comes from wearesocial

36% of Instagram users want to find out what you or our brand are doing.
10% to document their own lives
8% because they want to be seen as popular

There is some useful data for you. And it changes from month to month.

Psychology First

Understanding the psychology of social media users is the basis of becoming a smarter marketer. Only 2% of users go to LinkedIn to “learn about new IT products or product updates”, yet we continuously see IT companies pushing their latest Notebooks and Smartphones on the platform. Not smart.

LinkedIn itself is promoting learning modules and solutions, yet in most countries, the platform is still seen only as a tool to find a new job, not a networking website or an online university. Google never made Google+ a success, despite its clout and insight, and Snapchat is struggling with every strategy it has tried: even the platforms themselves have a hard time remaining relevant in an ever-changing digital landscape.

Competition Chaos

Facebook just rolled out their “Jobs” function globally, making it easy to post job openings, apply for jobs, filter and follow up with candidates. Which should lead to more authentic CVs on Facebook, where too many profiles are incomplete or even fake. The move is of course intended to take on LinkedIn, whose HR hiring functionality is still so buggy few companies use it with complete satisfaction.

62% of users go to social media to get news, about 80% of them regularly (Source: Pew). That means that marketing content in news form gets more attention than spammy ads. 44% of Americans get news from Facebook and 10% get their news form Youtube. (I know, weird, isn’t it?) But not all news sources are traditional journalism outlets. Increasingly, users are following alternative news sources, brands, and influencers, rather than a Reuters or AFP.

In Germany, even though 30% go for news to Facebook, only 2% actually trust the news they read on Facebook. People in Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong click more on ads and have fewer ad-blockers installed that Europeans or Americans. Asian users scroll from post to post, while Europeans are much more likely to search for keywords.

Users on LinkedIn are 3x more likely to actively seek news. Sharing relevant content about your brand on your PRIVATE LinkedIn profile is the best way to engage users and create a following. The same is not true for Facebook. (Source: Buffer)

Consumers who actively engage with products online are much more likely to advocate your brand. But how many marketers know how to find and target those consumers? What’s the difference between a like on Facebook and one on Instagram? Why do people click like? Because of the picture? Or the accompanying text? Users in certain countries are much more likely to like something, in other cultures, it is common to only show dislike but never active approval. Psychology is behind everything we do in marketing, and even more so in digital marketing.

Digital-Marketing-Agencies-Can-Keep-Up-With-The-AI-Times

AI and Homework

Two things will make you a better marketer. The first is Artificial Intelligence, which will continue to invade the marketing space and allow to better filter content and understand trends.

However, even the best AI will not eliminate the need for marketers to do their homework. Content production cycles will continue to shrink, type of content and the way it is produced will continue to change. Smartphones now have cameras that rival professional equipment – startups and established firms alike can do their own content with a bit of creativity and will rely less and less on professionally created content. Micromoments on video platforms like IGTV will replace image and text posts, to the point where perhaps only long-form, in-depth content for the few, and user-generated short video content for the masses, will remain? And when AR and VR take off, everything will change again.

The only thing you can do as a marketer is learn, learn, and learn some more.

 

How Blockchain Will Save the World

Two years ago nobody talked about blockchain. Now the distributed ledger technology behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin is suddenly everywhere.

(See: Blockchain Is the Most Disruptive Invention Since the Internet Not Just In Finance)

Enthusiastic experts predict that in the coming 10 years, blockchain will change the way we do everything, from financial markets to health records to supply chain management, and so much more. It’s near impossible to name all the applications for the new technologies, but here are a few that will contribute to making our world a better place (or even save the planet).

 

Energy

Most visible for average users will be the impact of blockchain on the energy sector. The power grids of today are usually centralized oligopolies dependent on a very small selection of power sources (i.e. a few nuclear plants, augmented by oil and gas).

That means long distribution lines, bad management of demand, and susceptible to power outages during earthquakes and other natural disasters.

A peer-to-peer blockchain-based energy system would reduce the need to transmit electricity over long distances. It will certainly reduce the need to store energy in inefficient ways, which means fewer batteries, for example, which are expensive and need a lot of raw materials whose extraction often causes massive pollution. Imagine if every house had a solar panel and a wind turbine, or produced electricity from new smart materials on the outer walls.

Add road surfaces that produce kinetic or solar energy, and add in all the existing infrastructure like nuclear plants, oil or coal. Now imagine every one of these sources could trade with every other source, all managed automatically by a computer system, with unfalsifiable records based on the blockchain. And everyone gets paid for it into their digital wallet. This is the future of energy.

 

Waste Recycling

Current systems for recycling are often cumbersome and don’t give enough incentives to participate. Even the best intentions fall foul to human greed and laziness.

Here then is the future of recycling: you identify yourself with your smartphone at any recycling station and deposit your empty bottles (or batteries etc.). The system scans what you deposit and credits your electronic wallet.

If done right, this system could enable users in countries without local recycling industries to get paid the same way as users in locations with large recycling operations.

Companies could set up recycling plants and literally collect garbage from anywhere in the world. It would make it easy to transparently track data like volume, cost, shipping data, and profit, and to evaluate the impact of each location, company, or individual participating in the program.

Think one step further and the recycling containers could be fitted with solar drone technology and fly themselves to the recycling center when full.

 

Supply Chain Management

The way we transport goods around the world is wasteful and damages the environment. Industry 4.0 is bringing us a revolution of already connected devices; 3D printing means more decentralized manufacturing in much smaller batches.

See also: What Industry 4.0 Really Means for Asian Manufacturers

Blockchains can be used to track products from the manufacturer to the shelf and help prevent waste, inefficiency, fraud, and unethical practices by making supply chains more transparent.

They improve shipping ways, volumes, avoid empty shipments and will thus allow for fewer ships and trucks. Combined with drones and solar-powered airships we could even see pollutant-free solar shipments of individual consignments over long distances, secured, tracked and paid for through blockchain technology.

Or think about this: a blockchain enabled 3D-printer as a public service, secured, tracked, and monetized through blockchain.

The food industry is forging ahead hear with the tracking of origin and transportation paths of food.

Environmental Protection

From waste and transportation, it is an easy jump to the overall enforcement of environmental protection. Blockchain is ideally suited to manage records and incentives.

In can be difficult to track the real impact of environmental protection plans, agreements, or even international treaties. Very often incentives are misaligned, or corporate interests and even criminal elements prevent successful implementation.

Blockchain could discourage stakeholders from reneging on their commitments, misreporting progress, or giving in to pressure from nefarious players because the technology would allow the reliable tracking of important environmental data.

After all, data in the public ledger of the blockchain is transparent and traceable forever. Environmental protection is at its core a contractual problem. Just like blockchain will revolutionize the storage and manipulation of legal records, it will reduce or eliminate fraud and manipulation of environmental schemes.

Development Programs

Like environmental protection, development programs are contracts between remote parties that need to be enforced.

When you donate to a charity, non-profit, development program or similar entity, you hardly ever know what really happens with your money. Bureaucracy, corruption, and inefficiency are still common in the charity space. Blockchain technology can ensure that money intended to be a reward for conservation, or a payment to a specific cause does not disappear into unintended pockets through bureaucratic labyrinths.

Blockchain-based money could even be released automatically to the correct parties in response to meeting specific environmental targets. This is particularly relevant in countries without modern banking structures. In particular, there are several schemes under consideration for the tracking of water usage in very dry areas of the planet.

 

Carbon Tax

In the current system, the environmental impact of each product is difficult to determine, and its carbon footprint is not factored into the price.

This means that there is little incentive for consumers to buy products with a low carbon footprint and little incentive for companies to sell such products.

Tracking the carbon footprint of each product using the blockchain would protect this data from tampering, and it can be used to determine the amount of carbon tax to be charged on at the point of sale. If a product with a big carbon footprint is more expensive to buy, this would encourage buyers to buy products that are more environmentally friendly, and would, therefore, encourage companies to restructure their supply chains to meet the demand for such products.

Such a blockchain-based reputation system would compute a score for each company and product. This would make manufacturing more transparent, and discourage wasteful and environmentally unfriendly practices.

You could automatically see (e.g. by scanning a barcode on a product) if it was made by an environmentally sound low-carbon facility or a wasteful polluter.

 

Access to credit

Just as it tracks financial payments and all the data mentioned above, blockchains could be configured to manage access to credit.

This would enable millions of people to escape poverty, by giving them easy access to small amounts of money and start their own business. Unlike the microfinance banking model, such a credit blockchain would be entirely transparent and thus safe from abuse.

 

Summary

In short, blockchain technology allows the management of incentives.

Consumers, companies, and governments would immediately see the direct effects of their actions on the planet. The blockchain can be used to transparently track a variety of data like the carbon footprint of each product, the greenhouse gas or waste emissions of a factory, or a company’s overall history of compliance to environmental standards.

Companies and individuals can be incentivized to act in an environmentally sustainable way through the availability of information, tokenized credits being issued for taking certain actions, or blockchain-based reputation systems.

There are many hurdles to overcome. We still do not know if the blockchain is really as safe and unhackable as promised. As a cybersecurity consultant I spoke to for this article said: “sooner or later, everything will be hacked.”

The second hurdle is the willingness of governments to change, and the willingness of participants to live in such a transparent world.

But I believe that managing incentives on the micro-level with blockchain could completely change the drivers of our economy, and benefit not only us but the future generations living on our planet.

What is the Benefit of Modern Data Warehousing?

[Guest Post by Ronald van Loon]

Access to relevant customer and industry information is the primary competitive advantage businesses have over their direct and indirect competitors today. It is the smartest approach to remaining vigilant in a business environment where competition is at an all-time high.

That is where data warehousing comes in. Data warehouses are central repositories of integrated data from one or more disparate sources used for reporting and data analysis, which—in an enterprise environment—supports management’s decision-making process.

Digitalization is integrated into the foundations of today’s business landscape, and there is no going back from here. Software companies are improving data engineering algorithms, and data analytics providers are using advanced techniques to provide better solutions to businesses. The result is much more efficient business intelligence solutions.

Businesses who are new to this trend and are skeptical about the availability of the data often inquire, “why do we need data warehousing systems?”

Data is Power

The simple answer is because data is knowledge and knowledge is power. A business with relevant information and access to useful industry insights has a greater chance of successfully striving in the business landscape and dominating the niche.

Access to Data Minimizes Risks

Entrepreneurs know that there is always some kind of risk involved when it comes to business processes. Although entrepreneurs are risk takers by nature, the smaller the chance of risk, the better. This is probably the most convincing reason for businesses to invest in data warehousing solutions.

Accurate data about your customers and the state of the industry minimizes uncertainty because it helps you make better decisions with definite outcomes. With the right kind of data, you can analyze past trends and forecast future outcomes with a high probability of accurate results.

For example, in IT operations, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are increasingly becoming common. To ward off such attacks, having a centralized logging architecture to identify suspicious activities and pinpoint the potential threats from thousands of entries is essential.

Another example is the core objective of a healthcare facility is to cater to the needs of patients. Data analytics has not only proven to be beneficial for the mundane tasks related to administration but also to have a positive impact on a patient’s overall experience. By maintaining a database of patients’ records and medical histories, a hospital facility can cut down the cost of unnecessary, repetitive processes.

Apparel industry is a third example that benefits from the access of data. The data enables companies to better cater to the needs of the public. With an idea of what the masses require, fashion industry thrives and rarely misses.

What’s Next for Data Warehousing Systems?

Big data analytics is a fast-paced industry that keeps on improving and evolving. There is no constant state in this industry, and that is why Business Intelligence (BI) should continuously evolve at the same pace.

BI is one of the determining factors shaping the future of data warehousing, data mining, and data engineering.

Why is there a need for continuous changes? The simple answer is that older BI processes cannot keep up with the customers’ demand. They lack in their ability to accurately interpret and quantify business’ Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Return on Investment (ROI).

A data management system is useless if it cannot fulfill its primary purpose of predicting accurate information about business processes.

In addition to that, older BI systems are also ineffective ways to integrate information from multiple channels and streamline the communication between various departments.

Big data companies are trying to improve data warehousing solutions in order to meet the new set of requirements. The modern data warehousing structure can store data in its raw form instead of the previously opted hierarchical structure. This enables users to more easily access data.

New data warehousing solutions also minimize the inefficiencies caused by gaps in communication. State-of-the-art structures can integrate the information from multiple channels and store it on one platform, streamlining the communication process.

The biggest recent advancement that we’ve seen in data engineering structures is that data analytics software has become extremely user-friendly. Previously, only professionals with the appropriate skill set were able to work with data. Now anyone with basic information can deduce results and information because the complex aspects of data engineering are taken care of by computer algorithms.

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Ronald van Loon is an Advisory Board Member and Big Data & Analytics course advisor for Simplilearn. He contributes his expertise towards the rapid growth of Simplilearn’s popular Big Data & Analytics category.

If you would like to read more from Ronald van Loon on the possibilities of Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT), please click “Follow” and connect on LinkedIn and Twitter.

This article first appeared here. Used by permission. 

Forget Fake News – Here Comes Fake Data

AI voice assistants will cause a flood of fake data

Everyone and their grandma are now working on algorithms to fact-check news. But as manufacturers, marketers and especially as consumers, we are facing a much bigger enemy. It is called artificial intelligence.

This is the present: you run out of milk and go to the store. Or you go online to order. Soon Alexa – Amazon’s AI solution will enter your home, or whatever other systems you choose. Everyone seems to be working on one. Like it or not, Voice AI will be the interface of the future. (Incidentally, why are all sinister AI systems female? Because of the Adam and Eve story? Note to self: ask an anthropologist.)

Now, once you got your new girlfriend up and running and you realize you are out of milk, you can say “Alexa, order milk!” Alexa will perhaps say “which brand?” You could answer “Are there any special offers?” And Alexa will say “at XYZ supermarket, TastesTerrible is having a 2-for-1 sale.” Having never heard of it, you will say “TastesTerrible? Is that a good brand?” And here is where the real kerfuffle begins.

With AI we will rely on automated voice systems to make our purchase decisions, but the AI is based on existing digital information. And that information can be manipulated. How will “TastesTerrible” end up being recommended by Alexa? Either by the number of likes its Facebook page has, or a ‘scientific’ study showing it is the best milk in the world. Or some marketer posting about TastesTerrible in a random foodie forum.

Take this real-life example. Ask Google Home (or simply google on the web) “What is the best motherboard brand?” The answer you will get is this:

“ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte are the 3 best motherboard makers, saying that one or the other are better is personal preference. By its very nature AsRock cannot be the best motherboard brand since its ASUS’s lower end brand, but since it is a derivative of ASUS it does have very good boards, often at very good prices.”

This is a completely arbitrary answer from a September 12, 2010, post on Tom’s Hardware. It is outdated and factually wrong (ASRock is an independent company, and its motherboards often rank better than the other three brands). (Disclosure: ASRock is my client.)

Whether you agree with that statement is beside the point. However you look at it, we are entering the age of marketing through Voice AI. How, as marketers, do we get any product message across, if artificial intelligence systems will repeat any nonsense they find on the net.

 

Voice Marketing Concentrates All on the Winner

Product marketing is becoming be a matter of manipulated data. And no one will get a grip on it initially. Big brands will spend billions in creating data to monopolize the AI systems. Your product, dear startup, not having the clout or money to produce that data, will remain invisible. No amount of Facebook or Google ads will change that. Marketers will ultimately become obsolete. Data manipulators will take their jobs. Hashtag #jobsforthefuture.

Well we are not there yet. But don’t underestimate the impact of artificial intelligence on the marketing business in the long term. Siri & co will soon be everywhere. There are companies working on bringing these AI systems to every corner of your life. You thought SEO was a hassle? Try doing SEO for Alexa.

The reason why AI is such a problem is that it’s not AI at all. There is nothing artificial about the intelligence Google, IBM, Apple and Amazon are peddling. It’s human-sourced intelligence. The misleading post above came from a misinformed human being. Just because Alexa says it doesn’t make it “artificial” or authoritative.

So, when Alexa and her girlfriends recommend a product, they are relying on human sources. Manipulating these sources, in other words “AI-SEO” will be the fastest growing business in the coming years. The crux of the matter is, you can create product comparison studies that prove anything. Just think of clinical studies: the ones that are beneficial to pharma companies are published, the rest is buried. AI based on such skewed data will never be authoritative. Or the organic vs. GMO debate. Who will win the data war – green bloggers or big food brands?

As AI rises, we seem to be destined to drown in fake data. Sooner or later we will come up with fact-checking algorithms for news and data. But that could take some time. And even if we do, nothing in marketing is really objective, as we know. The brands that control the data will control the world.

Enough doom and gloom. Here is the silver lining. Even without fact-checking, the more data in the AI system the more objective it will become. Algorithms will improve gradually to weed out the worst offenders. But it will be a painful transition, and for decades to come, brands will fight over data and how to put the right words into Alexa’s mouth.

Read also: Opportunities Created by AI Outweigh Imminent Threats

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