Chinese Province Launches Blockchain-powered SMB Financing + More News

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Crypto Briefs is your daily, bite-sized digest of cryptocurrency and blockchain-related news – investigating the stories flying under the radar of today’s crypto news.

Source: iStock/YinYang

Blockchain news

  • China’s Guangdong Province has launched a blockchain-powered finance platform for small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) in the region. Per Sina, the platform will allow SMBs to take out loans from the local authority, and has been co-created by OneConnect, the blockchain and fintech arm of Chinese insurance giant Ping An. As previously reported, OneConnect is also looking to move into the Japanese banking sector in conjunction with the SBI Group.
  • Over 40% of Brazilian fintech companies want to work in the blockchain sector, per media group Valor Investe findings, as reported by Criptonoticas. The study found that there are currently some 500 fintech startups in Brazil, 4/10 of which are actively focusing on cryptocurrency or blockchain technology, and 22% of which are looking into payment solutions. A whopping 57% of the startups are based in São Paulo, which is rapidly becoming a hub of all things blockchain- and crypto-related in Brazil.
  • City authorities in Incheon, South Korea’s third-largest city, have asked Inha University’s blockchain center to build a parking data platform. Per Herald Kyungjae, the platform will help drivers find parking spots, easing congestion in the city center. The project will receive some USD 260,000 in public funding, and will make use of a smartphone app.
  • The Kadena blockchain, a hybrid blockchain project led by two former leaders of JP Morgan’s blockchain wing, is set to launch on January 15, 2020. Per Finance Magnates, neither public or private, hybrid blockchains create a bridge between the two, enabling the sharing of private data to a specific set of users, while the blockchain can be accessed publicly.
  • Major Italian natural gas infrastructure company Snam has managed bilateral transactions for the purchase and sale of natural gas based on blockchain technology for the first time in the sector globally. The announcement says that the transactions took place starting from Tuesday 17 December on the Virtual Trading Point (PSV), the Italian gas Trading Hub managed by Snam as the national transmission system operator, and involved two users (Axpo Italia and Sorgenia). The experimentation will continue in 2020.

Cryptocurrency news

  • In an in-depth analysis piece, South Korea’s Joongang News Magazine has asked if North Korea is using cryptocurrency as a “weapon” to cut through American sanctions. The article’s author is Nam Sung-wook, a professor at Korea University’s Department of North Korean Studies. Nam says that North Korean industry 4.0-related research is at an advanced state, and that Pyongyang is focusing on “training and technology acquisition” in a bid to work its way around American blocks on international payment platforms such as SWIFT. The expert also claims that Pyongyang has assembled a 500-member military cyber unit, comprising hackers. The unit is charged with tasks such as developing firewall software, viruses, hacking programs and identifying vulnerabilities in operating systems including Windows and Linux.

Decentralization news

  • Nikolai Mushegian, a former MakerDAO (MKR) contributor and Carnegie Mellon University alumnus, has committed a total of MKR 10,000 (c. USD 4.2 million) to the University to develop a research program for decentralized applications/protocols and game-theoretic mechanisms. Per his post, he previously donated 3,200 MKR to Carnegie Mellon, and has informally committed another 6,800 for a total of 10,000 MKR to be donated over the next 1-3 years.

Cryptocurrency exchanges news

  • Bitfinex now supports UnionPay cards in collaboration with OWNR Wallet. This follows the platform’s previous announcement that it has enabled credit and debit card purchases of cryptocurrencies on December 20, with an integration with specialist third-party providers Mercuryo and OWNR Wallet.
  • Binance has opened trading for BTC/EUR, ETH/EUR, BNB/EUR, XRP/EUR, EUR/BUSD and EUR/USDT trading pairs, the exchange announced.

Digital fiat news

  • The European Central Bank (ECB) finds the idea of issuing central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) interesting, but wants to control how much of it can the citizens of the European Union hold. A working paper on CBDCs by Ulrich Bindseil, the ECB’s Director General of Market Infrastructure and Payments, says that it’s essential to be able to steer the issuance of CBDC in such a way that it serves the efficiency of retail payments, but without putting into question the monetary order by making CBDC a major form of store of value. Issuing an European CBDC comes with both benefits and disadvantages, Bindseil finds, and he proposes a two-tier interest rate system that would offer “unattractive” rates to holdings above a certain threshold, and which would reduce the probability of savers selling fiat for the CBDC in times of crisis.
  • A cross-border team from global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright advised NZIA Limited, a Bahamas-based company specializing in network, blockchain and distributed ledger technology solutions, on developing and implementing the world’s first consumer-ready digital fiat currency for the Central Bank of the Bahamas. The press release states that transactions using CBDC ‘Sand Dollars’ began taking place as soon it was made available on December 27, at local restaurants, supermarkets, bill payment services and street vendor operations. All merchants and consumers were onboarded through banks and other mainstream financial institutions in the Bahamas.
  • The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed a court order to compel the messaging giant Telegram to hand over bank records, testimony and other relevant documentation that would provide details of how the USD 1.7 billion raised in its initial coin offering (ICO) have been spent, reports Law360. The SEC seeks to have the documentation by next week. This is a part of an ongoing intervention from the American regulator, which started back in October.

Career news

  • Evan Schwartz, senior software developer at Ripple, American blockchain company focusing on payments technologies, is leaving the company after six and a half years, according to his tweet. He said he’d be cheering the team on from the outside, and that he’d be taking a step back from active development on for a while, but that he’d stay involved with the Interledger community and the boards of web monetization platform Coil and the Interledger Foundation. Schwartz is a co-inventor of the Interledger protocol – an open suite of protocols for connecting all types of ledgers, as well as a payment solution that’s a part of the foundation of Ripple’s internet-of-value vision.