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Bitcoin Volatility Tightens After Prices Surge to 1-Month High


%name Bitcoin Volatility Tightens After Prices Surge to 1 Month High

Bitcoin prices entered rangebound trading today after soaring to their highest level in over a month.

Earlier in the session, the digital currency’s price climbed roughly 3%, peaking at an average of $1,054.73 – the highest since 5th January, according to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index (BPI).

The price rally came as traders responded to a recent uptick in market sentiment and overnight reports that the People’s Bank of China’s foreign exchange reserves had declined.

Following this ascent, bitcoin prices pulled back somewhat, falling slightly lower to $1,046.24 by 15:30 UTC, a less than 1% decline from the daily high, BPI data shows. The digital currency’s price began to rise once again over the next few hours, increasing by 0.3% to $1,049.83 by 17:45 UTC.

These modest fluctuations continued over the next several hours, with bitcoin prices dropping 0.2% to $1,047.46 at 19:30 UTC and then appreciating 0.3% to $1,050.67 by 21:00 UTC.

At press time, the average price of bitcoin is $1,051.75, according to the BPI.

The relative lack of volatility that bitcoin prices saw during the latter part of today’s session may be the latest sign that the digital currency is experiencing a new trend of more modest price fluctuations.

This reduced volatility has become more apparent since major Chinese exchanges BTCC, OKCoin and Huobi opted to eliminate margin trading and begin charging trading fees.

Image via Shutterstock


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Book Review: Reinventing Remittances with Bitcoin


News about immigrants, refugees and guest workers has received a massive amount of media attention of late. Amid this political clamor, questions are being increasingly raised about the future of cross-border remittances and monetary exchange. With this, a new book entitled “Reinventing Remittances With Bitcoin” aims to usher in the next new normal of cross-border financial transactions.

With a message directed toward Bitcoin enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and industry veterans, this compact 47-page read offers a deep dive into the emerging frontier of Bitcoin-powered remittance.

This book is chock-full of stories documenting innovative startups that have had a disruptive impact on this space since 2013. Replete with poignant use cases and data-rich insights, it offers a fresh look at an economic landscape that’s destined for an exponential growth spurt in coming years.

With the advent of Bitcoin in 2009 came its most obvious use case, namely, making the global transfer of money as simple as sending an email. The success of this has now informed the world of remittance, a billion-dollar market with profound implication for migrants and their families.

According to a recent World Bank research report, the potential benefits are enormous for the 250 million global citizens that send $601 billion in remittances back home every year. But as the book “Reinventing Remittances With Bitcoin” suggests, there is still much ground that needs to be explored in terms of blockchain technology’s vast potential in this equation.

The book’s author, Luis Buenaventura, is a Filipino entrepreneur who has been building internet startups for over 10 years. Based in Manila, he has specialized in digital currencies, with a specific focus on the bitcoin remittance space since 2014. Over the years, he has presented on related topics at a number of conferences, including Inside Bitcoins, BlockFin Asia, the International Money Transfer Conference and the Brookings Blum Roundtable.

With his current startup BloomSolutions, Buenaventura helps money transfer businesses improve their processes through Bitcoin and the blockchain. He says he initially discovered Bitcoin back in 2014 in an attempt to identify a solution to low credit card usage rates in the Philippines (around 5 percent at the time) — an issue that had made it challenging to build an e-commerce business. He says that while Bitcoin wasn’t a great fit for ecommerce payments, it was a superior mechanism for cross-border value transfer. This, he says, is how he got started on the road of bitcoin remittances.

His new book is informed by remittance developments occurring in the Philippines, his home country. The number of Filipinos working abroad (the seventh largest among nationality groups of migrant workers around the world) registers at slightly more than 6 million (based on 2013 data). Remittances to families back in the Philippines were estimated at $29.79 billion, the third highest in the world.

In the opening chapter of the book, Buenaventura asserts that it’s simply not possible for a small Bitcoin startup to singlehandedly overthrow Western Union, MoneyGram or other major remittance industry players at this stage. He does, however, suggest the possibility of delivering a very compelling alternative to a small subsection of their customers. “Narrow your focus to the smallest possible problem you can solve, as the oft quoted startup saying goes,” he notes in the book.

He admits that while Bitcoin has a ways to go as a currency, it is extremely good at instant settlement. The book cites Bitspark in Hong Kong and Align Commerce as examples of companies that are currently facilitating the acceptance of fiat currency and converting that cash into bitcoin on the back end prior to transferring the funds to off-ramps in countries like the Philippines and Indonesia.

In breaking down this process, he explains the First Mile and Last Mile challenges and solutions; the former reflecting the remittance transaction origination point, and the latter the end point destination for the settlement process.

Case studies on companies like BitPesa, Bitspark and Abra are widely interspersed throughout the book, along with topical coverage of themes such as “Does the Bitcoin Price Matter?,” “Bitcoin Regulation Around the World” and “Abra: The Uber of Remittances?” among others.

He brings the book to a close with a section entitled “Why Doesn’t Western Union Use Bitcoin?” Here, Buenaventura states that Western Union doesn’t need Bitcoin in its infancy stage, noting that the current unregulated status of digital currencies makes it a risky proposition for a publicly traded company.

“I felt like we’ve gotten so caught up in how Bitcoin is performing as a speculative investment, that we’ve forgotten its usefulness in other regards,” Buenaventura said to Bitcoin Magazine. “The community has largely moved on from the initial excitement in 2014 around using Bitcoin as a remittance vehicle, and I wanted this book to reaffirm that it’s still happening, and it’s actually working successfully. The fact that 20 percent of the personal remittances flowing between South Korea and the Philippines is now powered by Bitcoin is a big deal, and it deserves to be recognized.”

On the ongoing crisis involving refugees and immigrants worldwide, particularly the terse climate between the U.S. and Mexico,and its potential effect on remittance markets, Buenaventura said:

“While my familiarity is limited to what I read on the feeds, I will say that any time you attempt to restrict cash flow between countries, people will get creative. Maybe that will bring more people into the Bitcoin fold, or maybe it will cause them to stuff cash envelopes into their shoes when they travel. Maybe it’ll be a little of both.”

He laments that there are a lot of components involved when building a bitcoin remittance corridor between countries, which he says is the reason you can’t just throw up new corridors every other week. He cites as an example the difficulty in building a corridor between Malaysia and Nepal because there are no bitcoin exchanges that will allow you to convert your BTC into local currency on the receiving side. And he says that building such corridors in Papua New Guinea, Myanmar or dozens of other countries is even more challenging because the banking infrastructure isn’t homogeneous and doesn’t lend itself toward automation.

Nevertheless he remains optimistic about the potential of Bitcoin as a conduit for advancing the remittance movement worldwide. “The book is meant to act like a general guide for the whole business process. I’m hoping that it will awaken entrepreneurs in these disparate locales to try to solve these problems in their own backyards, and then hook up to the global bitcoin remittance network when they’re ready. The only way to get the whole world connected is if you have hundreds of startups all working on their own piece of the puzzle, because the challenges are deep and varied. Call it the decentralized remittance revolution.”%name Book Review: Reinventing Remittances with Bitcoin

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Arizona Bill Would Make Blockchain Smart Contracts ‘Legal’


An Arizona legislator wants to amend state law to account for blockchain signatures and smart contracts, public records show.

HB 2417, introduced on 6th February, would make a signature enshrined on a blockchain a legal signature under Arizona law. Conversely, any “record or contract” secured by a blockchain would be “considered to be in an electronic format and to be an electronic record”. The bill was put forward by state representative Jeff Weninger.

Notably, the bill’s language also explicitly accounts for the use of smart contracts, or self-executing agreements built on top of a blockchain.

The proposed law states:

“Smart contracts may exist in commerce. A contract relating to a transaction may not be denied legal effect, validity or enforceability solely because that contract contains a smart contract term.”

Further, the measure also includes a stipulation about who exactly owns the information secured by a blockchain.

“Notwithstanding any other law, a person that, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, uses blockchain technology to secure information that the person owns or has the right to use retains rights of ownership or use with respect to that information as before the person secured the information using blockchain technology,” the bill states.

The bill is somewhat akin to another measure put forward in Vermont that would make blockchain records admissible as evidence in court. In both cases, state law is amended to create a kind of legal backing for blockchain-based information.

Notably, Weninger’s bill is the second to emerge from Arizona’s state legislature since the start of the year.

In mid-January, state representative Paul Boyer submitted a bill that would largely prohibit the use of blockchain tech to track firearms.

The text of HB 2417 can be found below:

Arizona 2017 HB2417 Introduced by CoinDesk on Scribd

Image Credit: Nagel Photography / Shutterstock, Inc.

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Blockchain Startup Hashed Health Raises $1.8 Million


The startup at the heart of a healthcare-focused blockchain consortium has raised $1.85m.

The funding round for Hashed Health was led by Martin Ventures, an existing investor. Blockchain VC firm Fenbushi Capital, along with a group of private investors and relatives of the management team, also took part in the round.

In statements, Hashed Health’s backers positioned the new funding as a way for the consortium to advance its work. Charles Martin, chairman and founder of Martin Ventures, said of the round:

“The healthcare industry must be drastically reformed in order to address problems related to quality, cost and waste. Hashed Health is poised to drive innovation and collaboration to reach these goals.”

Hashed Health launched its consortium last year in a bid to stoke interest amongst US healthcare firms in the tech. It’s one of a number of initiatives focused on healthcare applications, a topic that has led interests from Capital One to the US Food and Drug Administration to test use cases.

Yet large-scale adoption isn’t necessarily a given. As reported by CoinDesk, some of those working in the field say that those working with the tech aren’t exactly aligned with the needs of the healthcare industry.

Image via Shutterstock

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EU Securities Watchdog: New DLT Regulations Would Be ‘Premature’


Europe’s chief securities regulator said today that new regulations for blockchain would be “premature” at this stage.

The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) published a new report this morning, outlining the results of its year-and-a-half-long research process into the tech. The agency first began soliciting comments about possible new rules in April 2015, releasing its preliminary research outcomes in June.

While leaving the door open to future regulations – pending broader adoption by the market it regulates – ESMA said that, for now, it’s sticking with a hands-off approach to the tech.

The agency said in a statement:

“At this stage, ESMA believes that it is premature to fully appreciate the changes that the technology could bring and the regulatory response that may be needed, given that the technology is still evolving and practical applications are limited both in number and scope.”

In the meantime, the agency called on securities industry stakeholders to develop solutions around interoperability and standards. Further, ESMA indicated that, in the future, it may move to develop a regulatory framework.

“ESMA will continue to monitor market developments around DLT to assess whether a regulatory response may be needed,” it said.

Notably, the statement bears strong similarities to comments issued by Patrick Armstrong, a senior risk analysis officer for the watchdog, late last month during an event in Norway.

“We believe it is premature to appreciate all the technological changes and the potential regulatory response that may be needed, as the technology is still in its infancy,” Armstrong said at the time.

The full ESMA report can be found below:

dlt_report_-_esma50-1121423017-285 by CoinDesk on Scribd

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