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Aetna, Other Health Insurers Team up With IBM on Blockchain Project

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Millennials

CVS Health Corp’s Aetna and a host of other health insurers said on Thursday they have partnered with IBM Corp to create a blockchain network aimed at cutting costs in the healthcare industry.

The companies intend to use blockchain technology, which allows the sharing of databases across a network of computers, for processing claims and payments and to maintain directories, they said in a joint statement.

Blockchain, the technology that underpins crypto-currencies such as bitcoin, is being increasingly adopted across varied industries. Financial services firms too note the distributed ledger technology has the potential to generate wide-ranging savings.

Other companies involved in the project are health insurers Anthem Inc, Health Care Service Corp and financial services company PNC Bank.

“Using this technology, we can remove friction, duplication, and administrative costs that continue to plague the industry,” Chris Ward, an executive at PNC Bank’s treasury management unit said.

New members, including technology companies and healthcare providers, are expected to join the collaboration in the coming months, according to the statement.

Another blockchain alliance was formed in April between several healthcare firms including insurers Humana Inc and UnitedHealthcare Group to explore how the technology could be used to make the most current healthcare provider information available in directories.

Aetna and Ascension, the largest U.S. non-profit health system, are also partners in the other project.

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Crypto.com Lists BAT, Powering Brave Browser’s 6m Active Users

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Bitcoin Core

Crypto.com, the pioneering payments and cryptocurrency platform, announced today it has listed the Basic Attention Token (BAT) to the Crypto.com app, joining bitcoin (BTC), ether (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Binance Coin (BNB), XRP, Enjin Coin (ENJ), and its own MCO and CRO tokens.

The Basic Attention Token (BAT) aims to improve the efficiency of digital advertising. BAT is a utility token that can be exchanged between publishers, advertisers, and users on the Brave platform, which leverages blockchain to provide digital advertising and services. The token also powers the Brave web browser, a free and open-source web browser developed by Brave Software Inc. Built by a team of privacy-focused, performance-oriented pioneers of the web, Brave has over 5.5 million monthly active users and features over 28,000 Verified Publishers. Users can choose to replace ads with Brave’s ad network, and receive BAT from advertisers from viewing their ads.

On Crypto.com’s Wallet & Card App, customers may securely buy, sell, and send BAT, as well as other cryptocurrencies with no fees and no markups, as Crypto.com’s proprietary Vortex Trading Engine is able to offer the true cost and best execution prices possible. At the same time, BAT holders may enjoy the option to spend their digital assets in the real world at over 40m merchants through the MCO Visa Card.

Kris Marszalek, Co-Founder and CEO of Crypto.com said: “Crypto.com shares the same goal as the Brave team – to eliminate the middleman with the power of blockchain. We are keen to support their goals in the advertising sector, and by bringing onboard BAT users we are yet another step closer to accelerating the world’s transition to cryptocurrency.”

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Flexa Raises $14.1 Million to Catapult Retail Blockchain Adoption

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Cryptocurrency

Flexa, the pioneering payment network uniting retail and blockchain technologies, announces today that it has raised $14.1 million in funding, led by Pantera Capital, 1kx, Nima Capital, Access Ventures, and other strategic partners. The funding announcement precedes the company’s public launch in May 2019.

The Flexa network enables retailers to take control of their own payments by reducing costs, overhead, and fraud through frictionless, instantaneous, and reliable blockchain-based settlement. Flexa’s upcoming mobile app also helps customers make practical use of the cryptocurrencies they already own, unlocking the hundreds of billions of dollars stored in the global crypto ecosystem.

“The anti-fraud and cost benefits of global cryptocurrency payments are enormous, but there are many barriers to mainstream adoption for merchants and consumers alike. Flexa’s going to change that, and very quickly,” said Tyler Spalding, Co-Founder and CEO of Flexa. “With this funding, we’ll continue to develop our network infrastructure to support our retail network and strategic partners.”

“Flexa is one of those extremely rare applications in the cryptocurrency space that actually touches consumers in an impactful way while also solving a major problem of high fees in payments today,” said Joey Krug, Chief Investment Officer at Pantera Capital. “I’m excited to see people actually be able to spend their crypto!”

Flexa will announce a major product rollout in May, at the Consensus conference in New York City.

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Provenance.io Blockchain Raises $20 Million in Security Token Offering

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Provenance Blockchain, Inc., the administrator for the Provenance.io blockchain, announced it has completed a $20 million security token offering to support the continued development and expansion of the Provenance.io ecosystem. The Reg D private placement included broad participation from both blockchain and traditional technology investors.

Provenance.io was built by Figure Technologies, a leading fintech company founded by former SoFi CEO Mike Cagney. Figure has been an early adopter of Provenance.io, originating, financing and selling its HELOC loans entirely on the blockchain. Jefferies is providing a warehouse facility for Figure loans, using Provenance.io.

The token sale coincides with Figure spinning out Provenance.io and its administrator, PBI, as independent entities. Proceeds will go to staff the administrator and finance operations including compliance, technology and business development, as adoption of Provenance.io grows. Figure continues to be a Hash™ holder and is assisting in the establishment of the PBI board and providing certain services to PBI.

The security token on Provenance.io, Hash, is the underlying equity of the blockchain. Hash serves two purposes: it provides a means to distribute fees paid into Provenance, and it provides a governance voting structure for PBI. There are 100 billion Hash tokens, and Hash can neither be created or destroyed. The price of Hash floats, and its value should be driven by the use of – and fees paid – on Provenance.

“This is a seminal moment for the blockchain industry in financial services,” said Sheila Bair, former Chairwoman of the FDIC. “Provenance.io has the potential to bring massive improvements to the industry, across asset originators, the buy and sell side, as well as regulatory benefits and better consumer protections. In particular, it will provide loan-level transparency around the quality of securitized assets and a clear, unalterable record of ownership—two things that were sorely missing during the financial crisis.”

Figure built and deployed Provenance.io, a distributed stakeholder blockchain, in 2018. The company leverages the security, efficiencies and cost advantage of blockchain for loan origination, financing and sales. A diverse set of funds, banks and dealers are active on Provenance.io today.

“Blockchain technology will disrupt financial services in ways that unlock tremendous value through improving current processes but also introducing new ways to do business,” predicts Jenny Johnson, President and COO of Franklin Templeton, a founding node manager for Provenance. “We are excited to facilitate and support blockchain adoption because change will happen when the technology is embraced by the market. The technology platform combined with the ecosystem makes Provenance stand out.”

Concurrently to the token sale, PBI released a white paper (available at provenance.io for download) on how blockchain can impact credit ratings. The paper, with comments from leading rating agencies, argues that blockchain should ultimately reduce the cost of ratings and drive ratings improvement.

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Blockchain’s Aviation Potential Explored at Inaugural ICAO-UAE Summit

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An ICAO chief has acknowledged the foundational of distributed ledger or ‘blockchain’ approaches and noted the clear areas where they could bring benefit to civil aviation customers and operators.

Speaking at a high-level audience of government and air transport officials for the inaugural ICAO-UAE Blockchain event in Dubai, ICAO Council president Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu said: “With traffic growing at its exponential rate, one of the new challenges and risks is the growing number of logistical, administrative and oversight activities which will result from projected traffic growth.”

“Blockchain technologies could be of tremendous benefit to reduce the pressure on current human resources, while at the same time sustaining increasing demand and quality levels.”

Global air traffic volumes are anticipated to double within the next 15 years. Increases in the number of aircraft and flights translate to increased ground, passenger, ticketing, and cargo handling activities, and a parallel expansion of the associated tracking, documentation, approval, and certification requirements.

“Blockchain has the potential to virtually exclude loss, distortion, or forgery of vital log data in all aviation sectors where certificates are issued and controlled,” Dr Aliu said. “It can ensure the integrity of the ever growing certification-based system which is integral to aviation, with the potential to increase efficiency while reducing errors, and therefore enhancing both safety and security.”

The application of blockchain technology can be envisioned for almost all areas of the aviation system where complex and safety critical records are managed and updated, such as personnel licensing, aircraft maintenance, operational approvals, or cargo manifests.

Another promising application of blockchain for aviation and governments concerns the methods we use to establish traveller identity.

While offering many benefits, the integration of the technology would nonetheless present many challenges, and could cause fundamental changes in the structure of today’s aviation systems.

“The aviation system today relies mostly on human agents or intermediaries to assume validation activities, and so we can foresee that the integration of blockchain processes in support of a State’s aviation safety oversight system, for example, would likely require substantial adjustments to related regulations, procedures, and responsibilities,” Dr Aliu explained.

Along with this potential there will be risks, to be sure, mainly as relying on a set of servers and smart contracts to validate documents and issue certificates poses clear cyber risks,” he said. “It is therefore important to recall one of the outcomes from the 2017 ICAO Cyber Summit, also hosted here in the UAE, that collaboration and exchange between states and stakeholders is key to an effective and coordinated global cybersecurity posture for civil aviation. This becomes even more valid if we rely on blockchain to manage critical safety and security processes.”

ICAO said the organisation of the summit represented a very important step in aviation’s consideration of the technology, with the invited specialists expected to explore both its merits and its risks. It most certainly responded to the expectations of the ICAO Council and Air Navigation Commission, which have shown growing interest in blockchain potential.

“I am looking forward to some provocative ideas and insights from our key presenters as we seek to ensure a suitably robust and resilient blockchain preparedness in the civil aviation sector,” Dr Aliu concluded.

“The hosting of this summit, and creating a forum with a collaborative platform, is of high importance to the UAE and the entire international aviation industry. Staying ahead of evolving threats is a shared responsibility, involving governments, airlines, airports, and manufacturers,” explained HE Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, director general of the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority.

Accompanied by several representatives on the ICAO Council, the director of ICAO’s Air Navigation Bureau Stephen Creamer and by the ICAO regional director for the Middle East Office in Cairo, Mohamed Rahma, the president held a series of bilateral meetings with senior government officials from states in attendance.

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PayPal Targets Identity Ownership With Its First Blockchain Investment

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PayPal has joined a Series A investment in Cambridge Blockchain, a startup working to give individuals a way to own their own online identities without the need of middlemen like Facebook, much the way bitcoin lets its users store value without a bank.

As part of the investment, PayPal’s first in blockchain, the company is exploring how it might use Cambridge Blockchain’s platform to let its users prove who they are while still preventing personal information from being unnecessarily shared.

Think Facebook login, but where the users have control over who gets to see the information used to prove who they are.

Prior to today’s announcement PayPal’s only known blockchain work was a patent filed in March 2018 to speed up cryptocurrency transaction rates and an internal project to incentivize employee participation using tokens issued on a blockchain. But today’s announcement provides some of the clearest evidence yet about how the $121 billion PayPal might employ blockchain in the future.

“We made an investment in Cambridge Blockchain because it is applying blockchain for digital identity in a way that we believe could benefit financial services companies including PayPal,” a PayPal spokesperson told Forbes.

The funding is an extension of Cambridge Blockchain’s Series A funding round, revealed in May 2018, including a new investment from Omidyar Network. Neither PayPal nor Cambridge Blockchain disclosed the investment amount. Recent filings with the SEC, however, indicate the company raised $3.5 million in new equity since the initial $7 million round led by Foxconn’s HCM Capital.

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Wells Fargo, Mastercard CEOs Say Blockchain Has Yet to Live Up to the Hype

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The chief executives of Wells Fargo and Mastercard told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the Fintech Ideas Festival on Wednesday that they see potential long term, but that blockchain’s business use-case is still unclear.

“Blockchain has been way oversold,” Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan said on stage at the conference in San Francisco. “I think the fundamental technology is very interesting, but it’s been very slow to roll out.”

Sloan pointed to a pilot the U.S. bank did with Commonwealth Bank in Australia, using blockchain for trade transactions. That and other blockchain “consortiums and pilots” within the bank have yet gain real adoption, he said, adding that the Australia pilot resulted in just one transaction.

“If you turned the clock back a few years ago, it should have completely changed the industry — that’s just not the way it works,” Sloan said. “Over time, I think it’ll have an impact.”

Blockchain is also known as a distributed ledger, essentially a database that can’t be altered or changed, and can be seen by all participants using it. Its use cases range from tracking lettuce on a supply chain to storing health records. The technology also underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

Around the time bitcoin was climbing to nearly $20,000, blockchain was also becoming a corporate buzz word. In one case, a public company saw its stock soar 200 percent after announcing it was pivoting to blockchain. Executives have largely embraced blockchain, while very few have openly backed bitcoin.

Mastercard CEO Ajaypal Banga also had reservations about the technology, even though it has the third most blockchain patents.

“I think blockchain could be interesting, but the business model is not proven,” Banga said on stage with Sloan. “A lot of this has to improve and change over time.”

Still, Mastercard is “deeply invested” in a few blockchain ideas, he said, pointing to its potential to improve supply chains and problems with counterfeit goods.

“There are interesting possibilities with blockchain and to ignore that would be a bad idea,” he said. “We’re just saying we don’t know the business model yet.”

The sentiment echoes comments from a top executive at Bank of America, which has the most blockchain patents. The bank’s tech and operations chief, Cathy Bessant, told CNBC she was “open-minded” but on her “private scoreboard, in the closet,” she is “bearish.”

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Blockchain Potent Force But ‘No Cure-all’ for Land Rights

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Austrian Government

Blockchain can prove a potent force to strengthen people’s land rights, but a poor understanding of how the technology works has so far limited its impact, researchers said on Tuesday.

From Georgia to the United Arab Emirates, countries are testing the technology behind the bitcoin currency to make land records more transparent or enable residents to find a flat and sign a lease within minutes.

But it is still poorly understood by governments and cannot solve every problem, said Tim Robustelli of New America, a think tank.

“There’s a general notion that blockchain is a magic bullet, can save the rainforest or solve world hunger – that’s not true,” he said at a World Bank conference in Washington, D.C. this week.

“It cannot, for example, make up for sloppy or incomplete data collection,” he said, adding that digitizing land records for example was a “huge bureaucratic and logistical” task.

Blockchain works by creating permanent, public “ledgers” of all transactions, potentially replacing a mass of overlapping records with one simple database.

If used correctly, it can tackle corruption “such as officials tampering with land records”, make services like property sales more efficient and provide greater protection against cyber attacks, said Robustelli.

Aanchal Anand of the World Bank said countries’ teething problems with blockchain reflect a broader tendency to “expect too much” from technology.

“Tech can look big and flashy, and like it can solve all our problems … but the Big Mac burger never matches up to the one in the ad,” she said.

“There’s a lot of other pieces to the puzzle, like cultural barriers to improve access to land,” Anand said. “And if you don’t have any data, what information are you going to put into your analytics?” she said.

Technology does not have to be complex or out of reach for most people to be effective, Anand added.

“Sometimes we get lost in the fancy things, but basic tech can deliver the results,” she explained, citing communities using phones to map land and forests.

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Bank of America Tech Chief is Skeptical on Blockchain Even Though BofA Has the Most Patents for it

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For half a decade, Bank of America has quietly been preparing for a future in which the world of finance migrates to the blockchain.

Under tech and operations chief Cathy Bessant, the giant bank has accumulated the most patents for the technology of any financial services company, for inventions ranging from blockchain-powered ATMs to storage for cryptocurrency keys.

But Bessant now says she’s grown doubtful that blockchain — the distributed ledger software behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin — will amount to anything in the near term. Or possibly ever.

“What I am is open-minded,” Bessant said recently in an interview at the bank’s New York tower. “In my private scoreboard, in the closet, I am bearish.”

Bessant is wading into the debate about the blockchain, whose proponents have claimed will be as significant as the internet. A blockchain is an encrypted database that runs on multiple computers, potentially cutting out the need for centralized authorities like banks or governments to settle transactions between parties.

Economist Nouriel Roubini has called it “the most overhyped ” technology in history. Others have said that blockchain merely needs time to evolve and could eventually upend entire industries from finance to cloud computing and health care.

As the mania over cryptocurrencies died down in the past year amid a bear market, attention and dollars have funneled into blockchain start-ups. Venture capital firms poured $5.4 billion into blockchain start-ups last year, compared with $1.5 billion in 2017, according to Autonomous Research.

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HYPE Sports Innovation Launches World’s First Blockchain Accelerator for Sports Technology

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HYPE Sports Innovation (HYPE), a global platform which facilitates connections and investments among the sports innovation ecosystem, today announced the launch of the first ever Blockchain accelerator for Sports Tech. The program will feature 14 week accelerators for 10 of the leading startups from around the world focusing on blockchain for sports technology. The accelerators will run globally, and startups selected for the 2 bootcamps will participate at the Preston Robert Tisch Institute for Global Sport at New York University as well as the ISDE Higher Institute of Law and Economics in Barcelona.

Interested companies can learn more and apply for the program by visiting the blockchain accelerator homepage.

Blockchain technology is already revolutionizing the sports industry with its many unique applications. Italian soccer club Juventus launched the “Official Fan Token” to enable the clubs’ 340 million fans worldwide to interact with and create a personal connection to the club, while the LA Kings of the National Hockey League launched the first augmented reality blockchain authentication platform, utilizing blockchain’s authentication features to ensure fans can easily verify the authenticity of their memorabilia purchases.

“The accelerators are at the heart of everything we do at HYPE,” said Bernd Wahler, Chairman of HYPE and former CMO of Adidas. “Sports has the unique ability to create magical moments for players and fans alike and technology is changing the way we experience and share those moments and celebrate our sports heroes. Our team at HYPE is always on the lookout for innovators and entrepreneurs that can make a meaningful impact on the games we all grew up loving.”

HYPE’s blockchain accelerator is the 12th unique accelerator program offered by HYPE and is designed to identify the most promising companies working on blockchain applications, and aid them in their quest to improve the world of sports. The program includes an intensive two day bootcamp, personalized mentoring processes, weekly remote classes from top experts, and access to an unrivaled ecosystem all culminating in a demo-day in front of partners, investors and sports clubs. To date, HYPE has 11 accelerator programs partnered with leading sports brands such as FC Cologne and Shakhtar Donetsk, as well as universities such as University of Queensland, George Washington University and Loughborough University.

“We are very excited about launching the world’s first blockchain accelerator,” said Dr. Ilan Hadar, CEO of HYPE. “While blockchain is a relatively new technology, it has limitless potential, particularly when it comes to sports. With the launch of this new accelerator, we will provide the entrepreneurs in our program with unmatched access to our global network of teams, investors and partners, helping turn their startups into real game-changers and market leaders.”

HYPE leverages an ecosystem of over 11,000 startups, 750 Investors and VCs, 450 global sports teams and 40,000 members worldwide to offer accelerator participants unrivaled resources in the world of sports technology. Of the 125 graduates of the 11 existing accelerator programs to date, 58 have signed equity agreements with HYPE, 27 have raised significant funding during the accelerator cycles, and 4 have signed major deals with strategic partners.

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Kudelski Security Partners with Hosho To Secure Blockchain Ecosystems

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Kudelski Security, the cybersecurity division of the Kudelski Group (SIX:KUD.S) today announced a strategic partnership with Hosho, a global leader in blockchain security and smart contract auditing, to extend the capabilities of Kudelski Security’s recently launched Blockchain Security Center (BSC). The partnership makes the companies’ unique skillsets, market-leading services, and proven intellectual property (IP) available to help forward-leaning organizations better secure their use of blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT).

Smart contracts are the most critical piece of a blockchain company’s technical ecosystem – contract vulnerabilities can be exploited by malicious actors, leading to stolen and often unrecoverable funds, or unintentional code executions that could result in the locking up of millions of dollars. According to Hosho, security vulnerabilities have cost blockchain companies more than $2 billion in lost or stolen capital in 2018, and their own audit of smart contracts found that more than one in four have critical vulnerabilities and three in five have at least one security issue.

“Hosho has deep expertise and a world-class reputation for auditing the ‘smart contracts’ that are essential to blockchain business process workflows,” said Rich Fennessy, CEO of Kudelski Security. “Combined with our expertise in cryptography, embedded security down to silicon level, and secure application development, Hosho is an ideal partner in what we believe will be a growing coalition of likeminded organizations focused on improving the underlying security of blockchain and expanding its use in business applications.”

Increasingly, organizations are investing in understanding how blockchain technology can optimize business processes as well as developing applications aimed at improving efficiencies, lowering costs and enabling new business models. The combination of resources enabled through this partnership provides business executives, investors, engineers, and blockchain developers greater confidence in designing, building, and running secure applications. The result is the potential for less risk, higher efficiency, and ultimately, greater value realized from these investments.

“Hosho and Kudelski Security share the same vision for cyber resilience. It is the first time a blockchain cybersecurity leader has joined forces with a publicly traded cybersecurity company,” said Hartej Sawhney, Co-Founder and President of Hosho. “Enterprises are rapidly investing into incorporating decentralized ledger technologies into their legacy systems. Companies such as Kudelski, with 30 plus years of experience in cybersecurity, IoT, and public access solutions, are needed to meet the increasingly complex demands of the Fortune 500.”

Kudelski Security’s blockchain expertise is built on more than 30 years’ experience in information security, cryptographic design as well as more recent work in public blockchain coin design and implementation, point of sale technology development, detailed audits of application code, protocol creation, and cryptographic algorithms for major industry players in the cryptocurrency, digital communications and IoT markets. In addition to providing security audits, architecture reviews, and development services, the Kudelski Security BSC is developing a suite of expanded cryptographic solutions, full-stack enterprise blockchain security recommendations, and developer tools to support the entire blockchain ecosystem.

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