The current COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to bring the world to a standstill. Everybody, famous or infamous, rich or poor, has currently been rendered equal in fear. Governments in America, Asia, Europe, Middle-East and Africa are going for a total lockdown to try and stop the spread of this killer virus that has claimed thousands of lives around the world and still spreading like bush fire.

Many businesses have closed shops in these difficult times. Others have opted for unorthodox means to try and stay relevant while hoping and praying for the return of better days.

However, for the FinTech industry, it is a race against time to try and offer solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic using Blockchain technology.

Blockchain technology has been hailed as the mother of all inventions in the 21st century. It has offered numerous solutions to many problems that have affected humankind over the ages. Currently, almost all departments ranging from, infrastructure, healthcare, transport, communication, and sports have adopted blockchain technology.

WHO launches a blockchain platform to Fight COVID-19 in partnership with blockchain and tech companies

With the COVID-19 Pandemic unfolding too fast for institutions and governments to keep track of the data concerning the Pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with tech and blockchain companies launched a blockchain platform called Mipasa that would help in sharing information on the coronavirus.

Mipasa is based on distributed ledger technology (DLT). Its main purpose is to help in the early detection of those infected with the COVID-19 especially in the infection hotspots.

The companies involved in the development of the platform include Hacera, an enterprise blockchain platform, Microsoft, an IT corporation, IBM, a technology company and Oracle a computer firm.

The fact that the platform uses blockchain technology makes the shared information full-proof to doctoring. The platform shall also facilitate private sharing of information between individuals, health institutions and organizations as well as state authorities. Therefore the patient’s privacy is guaranteed.

According to the platform’s official website:

“MiPasa can help monitor and foresee local and global epidemiological trends and detect likely asymptomatic carriers by feeding big data on infection routes and occurrences to powerful AI processors around the world.”

The platform has also received backing from several state health institutions including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Europe, the US, and China. The Department of Health of Hong Kong, China’s National Health Commission and the Government of Canada have also offered to contribute to the project.

UAE’s Ministry of Community Development (MOCD) is also adopting DLT-based solutions

The Ministry of Community Development (MOCD) in the United Arab Emirates has also been reported to adopt DLT-based solutions to facilitate the work from home situation.  DLT shall make it possible for the distribution of official documents and identity verification, thus allowing the customers to engage with the MOCD at the comfort of their homes.

Blockchain proposed as the best means for the US to distribute the stimulus package

There are suggestions that the United States Government should consider using blockchain technology, especially DLT to distribute the stimulus package that the government intends to give. Experts have suggested that the US could launch a “digital dollar” based on the DLT.

China also using DLT to censor the spread of the Virus

China which was the starting point for the Coronavirus pandemic deployed blockchain in a number of areas in its efforts to fight the virus. It has adopted DLT to track the spread of the virus, distribute medical supplies, monitor health records and also distribute charity donations.

Could blockchain help in winning the fight against COVID-19?

It shall only be a matter of time before we get the real answer to this question. However, governments, institutions, organizations, and individuals have adopted the use of blockchain technology as the fight against COVID-19 intensifies.

There are reports that over one million personal computer users have donated their processing power to a distributed computing project being referred to as Folding@Home that is working on the simulation of protein dynamics, to find out therapies that can be used for the COVID-19 patients.

There are also reports that Bitcoin users and miners have also joined in the fight. A group of Bitcoin users calling themselves “CoroHope” are said to be working on a coronavirus vaccine.

Commercial real estate business in Japan is undergoing a radical revolutionization as tech companies come up with new innovative ways to make the industry more efficient and tech survey. These tech companies in collaboration with the real estate developers have devised ways of tokenizing real estates using security tokens.

Several companies in Japan among them Securitize, LIFULL, and Lead Real Estate, have announced the creation of real estate investment platforms that will allow the use of digital securities better known as security tokens.

In partnership with LIFULL, Securitize, which is a tokenization firm aims to promote real estate crowdfunding through blockchain technology and it is being sponsored by Nomura, MUFG and Sony Financial Ventures.

LIFULL, which is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, provides real estate information services in Japan and it has 14 subsidiaries. LIFULL is the one that started the development of the real estate crowdfunding platform in partnership with BUIDL, which was later acquired by Securitize. In their trial version, they were able to reduce the costs of operation, improve the efficiency of divided payments and automate the distribution of the security tokens.

To their advantage, Securitize developed a tokenized securities compliance platform that makes it possible for the security tokens to be traded on secondary marketplaces.

Lead Real Estate, on the other hand, is already using blockchain with the help of Securitize to fund the construction of hotels and condominiums ahead of the Olympics 2020, which will be held in 2020.

What is Real estate tokenization?

Commercial real estate business is recognized to be among the most profitable businesses in the world. However, the traditional business model employed in real estate limits many investors from investing in the business since it requires a substantial amount of capital even though it is a viable investment option.

Thanks to blockchain technology through asset tokenization, the commercial real estate industry can now be tokenized.

Real estate tokenization refers to the practice of using tokens to represent real estate assets. The tokens can then be sold out or offered at a price to investors. By owning the real estate tokens, the investors respectively own a share of the real estate project and they are entitled to a share of the rental yield accordingly or profits originating from the sale of the assets.

Advantages of real estate tokenization

Blockchain is known to be an incontrovertible distributed ledger, whereby the data/information stored/recorded cannot be altered unless the whole network is brought down. As a result, it brings transparency, enhanced security, reduced costs of processes, traceability, and storage of immutable documents.

Of utmost importance to the real estate market is the ability of blockchain to allow the execution of transactions without the need for an intermediary. The transactions are only between the involved parties and they are stored in a ledger that holds the history of the transaction, the property involved or the asset involved and the title. Therefore, real estate tokenization eliminates the need for lawyers, brokers, and agents.

Tokenization also offers investors the ability to transact using digital currencies like Bitcoin and the like. This, in addition, is cheaper since the buyers bypass the fees that banks could have included.

Furthermore, the use of Escrow and smart contracts makes it easier and efficient to transfer title deeds upon payments.

Most importantly, real estate tokenization makes it easy for the common man to own a share of a real estate through crowd ownership. A person can invest a small amount of money by purchasing the minimum required amount of security tokens in real estate to become a shareholder of real estate. Also, the security tokens are more liquid and owners can trade them thus fostering growth-financing.

Below is a case study of a process done using blockchain technology without the use of middlemen or the need for an agent.

After unveiling major announcements, towards the end of 2019, about the future of blockchain technology in China, the Bank of China is set to introduce a tough security token protocol soon. The bank is also seeking to create its cryptocurrency that will be centralized and pegged on the Chinese RenMinBi (RMB).

This has brought hope to blockchain startups in China where Security Token Offering (STO) campaigns were banned almost immediately after the Initial Coin Offering was banned in 2017.

China’s hard stand on Cryptocurrencies

Despite being the country with the most blockchain startups and cryptocurrency adopters worldwide, China has had a hard stand on cryptocurrencies. In 2017, just as cryptocurrencies were making their debut, China banned exchanges, ICOs and STOs making it practically impossible for blockchain startups to raise capital for their projects through fundraising campaigns.

Interestingly, China has also been very hard on the cryptocurrency miners even though the government controls some of the largest cryptocurrency mining rigs/facilities.

The turnaround

It appears Chinese officials, especially at the Bank of China, have finally realized that blockchain technology is here to stay.

China outlined its new strategy on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology through Weimin Guo, the Chief Scientist at the Bank of China, in a Finance Technology Summit held towards the end of 2019.

Among those new strategies is the intention of China to release its cryptocurrency that shall be called China’s Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP). The DCEP shall be a stablecoin pegged on the Chinese RenMinBi (RMB).

According to the DCEP developers, the introduction of the digital coin will streamline the obsolete traditional financial practices currently in use. They also anticipate that the digital coin will rival Bitcoin, one of the most adopted cryptocurrencies in the world.

According to Weimin Guo, Bitcoin failed in its purpose to provide a better financial market compared to avoid the manipulations of the traditional markets.

Proposed strict regulations on STOs

As China loosens its stand on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, it still wants to ensure that the technology is kept in check.

Among some of the strict regulations that China seeks to introduce is the tough security token protocol that will see all Security Token Offerings (STOs) operate within an austere “regulatory sandbox mechanism”. By giving STOs a leeway, the country seeks to promote blockchain technology innovations as it maintains complete control of the sector.

However, as China inches back into the game, it is interesting to see how the Chinese regulators continue to embrace blockchain technology. The country seems to be realizing that times are changing and changing fast. Regulators seem to have realized that the country has to embrace blockchain technology or get left behind as the completion across the world hits up. Other countries are doing all they can to ensure that they conform to the technology by introducing laws and regulations to govern it.

Coinbase, a US-based cryptocurrency exchange, is set to join the league of cryptocurrency exchanges with IEO Launchpads soon. Kayvon Pirestani, the head of Coinbase institutional sales in Asia, revealed that the exchange was currently exploring a number of capital-formation tools including an IEO Launchpad.

According to the head of sales, an Initial Exchange Offering (IEO) Platform is a great opportunity and Coinbase is carefully exploring it. Though also hinted at developing a Security Token Offering (STO) platform, the IEO platform seems to have stolen the show and it could be the first to be launched.

However, Pirestani careful to say that he could make a formal announcement on the development yet. Nevertheless, the revelation is already an indicator that the IEO platform could be coming within the next few months.

If successful, Coinbase shall join its peers, the likes of Binance, KuCoin Bitfinex, Probit and OKEx. This would greatly enhance Coibase’s revenue and reputation, which is already high at the moment following years of great cryptocurrency exchange services.

A strategic choice for the US Market

Coinbase’s move to launch an IEO Launchpad could be viewed as a strategic move considering the trouble that US investors are going through trying to invest in ICOs. In the US, ICOs are either classified as stocks or securities depending on whether the tokens meet the Howey Test or not. And being a US-based exchange, it stands to benefit the most from US clients who wish to use IEOs instead of ICOs to solicit funds for their blockchain projects.

Compared to ICOs, IEOs offer a better investment opportunity for investors since they are not very much sought after by the regulatory authorities, especially the SEC. The only hectic part is getting an exchange to allow to host the IEO. Once the token sale is allowed to be offered on the exchange platform, authorities do not come looking for the IEO. The exchange is the one responsible for scrutinizing the IEO token sale.

Exchanges scrutinize the IEO token sale issuers to ensure that they are not scams. They also evaluate the project to see whether it will be of any economic value to the exchange.

Source of revenue

In addition to creating an opportunity for investors, IEOs also come in handy in attracting users to register with crypto exchanges. For investors to cash in on any IEO, they have to first register with the exchange running the IEO.

Therefore, if a promising project chooses a certain crypto exchange to run its IEO, the exchange can be sure that new users will sign up with it for them to be able to invest in the IEO.

The new users who sign up with the exchange start trading the IEO tokens once they become tradable and in the process pay commissions as they trade, which adds up to the exchange’s source of revenue.

On the other hand, IEO issuers also pay a certain amount of fee to the exchange running their IEO so as to be allowed to issue their tokens through the exchange’s IEO Launchpad.

Initial Exchange Offerings (IEOs) may be headed for a more complicated scenario than the ICOs. ICOs got banned in a number of countries, including China and South Korea for poor regulations. When IEOs were invented, they proved to be the tie-breaker, especially in these countries.

However, the fact that the exchanges offering the IEOs act like brokers by bringing the development team and investors together, these exchanges could be headed for a legal confrontation with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Lately, a senior official indicated that the crypto exchanges that are offering IEOs could be violating the U.S. securities laws. The official argues that if an exchange has a set fee for listing an IEO and either the issuer of the token or any of the investors is from the US, the exchange can best be classified as Security Dealer (better referred to as a broker-dealer) under the US securities laws.

And according to the Law, security dealers engaging in broker-dealer activities should be registered and licensed as broker-dealers, national securities exchanges or alternative trading systems (ATS). But unfortunately, none of the exchanges that have listed IEOs in the past have met with these requirements despite the fact that a significant amount of IEO investors come from the United States.

At the look of things, this could be signaling the wake of a SEC crypto-crackdown targeted towards IEOs. However, we are yet to see if the exchanges interested in offei8rng the IEO and targeting US citizens shall choose to comply with the SEC regulations or choose to leave the US market.

Localcoin, a crypto exchange, has been receiving a backlash from the online community as well as investors for possible whitepaper plagiarism.

It is so embarrassing for a company or startup to be caught up in a plagiarism scandal! It throws the entire ICO project into jeopardy. It becomes extremely difficult to convince investors that it was just a mistake since a whitepaper should be a very original document explaining a project that should be original. Otherwise, any similarity in whitepapers shows that the project could also be a “Copy Paste” or a scam. It becomes extremely hard for investors to believe that the project is real.

This is what is happening to Localcoin exchange. People, especially on Bitcointalk, have concluded that the whole project is a scam.

Localcoin blames the whitepaper author, whom they say they had outsourced, for the misfortunes but it will be hard to persuade investors into buying into this narrative. The back still stopped with them even if they outsourced the author. An author can only write depending on the information he/she gets from the project developers. And further still, the development team out to have gone through the whitepaper before publishing it.

But what could have made the author make such grave mistakes? Was it deliberate?

From a closer look at things, the author could have made deliberate plagiarism possibly from a misunderstanding with the development team. There are allegations that Localcoin owes marketers over $15,000 and this could be the reason behind the plagiarism.

However, all in all, it shows that the team behind the whole project isn’t serious.

Most startups, as well as seasoned companies, fear that ICOs/IEOs could end up not raising enough money as hoped. However, with the current trend in ICOs/IEOs, companies are finding it easier to raise sufficient funds through ICOs and IEOs, which can be attributed to the fact that investors have found it to be a promising way to invest their money.

In Mid-May, Bitfinex, a prominent crypto exchange platform, announced through its project CTO, Paolo Ardoino, that they had raised over $1 Billion both in soft and had commitments. This goes a long way to prove that no amount of money is too much for an ICO/IEO.

Bitfinex IEO token sale involved its own LEO tokens, which have already been listed in a number of exchanges like ZB.COM, a Chinese based crypto exchange, and Delta-Exchange among many others.

The $1 billion funds will go a long way in financing the company as it faces a legal battle concerning the missing $850 million.

According to Ardoino, the investments mainly came from private companies who contributed over $100 million each and Users who invested over $1 million each.

Originally, Bitfinex had planned to do a discretionary public phase of the IEO in case the funds raised within the 10-day private token purchase window did not raise enough funds. But as it stands, this ended up being a record-breaking IEO which pretty much seems it will not go to the public face after raising such a huge amount of money in the private face.

This shows how effective ICOs and IEOs can be when it comes to collecting funds for Silicon Valley startups and companies.

There is information that there is a draft bill named “Banning of Cryptocurrencies and Regulation of Official Digital Currencies Bill 2019″ circulating through the various departments of the Indian government. The bill, if adopted could see an end to the adoption of cryptocurrencies in India, which would be a great blow to blockchain developers throughout the world, considering the large population in India that is seen as a great opportunity for cryptocurrency communities.

The government is currently said to be consulting the different ministries on the issues so as to come up with a conclusion on the way forward.

Familiar sources indicate that a committee of comprising of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), the Investor Education and Protection Fund Authority (IEPFA) and the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) is supporting the idea to ban any cryptocurrency activities in India including the issuance, sale and purchase of the digital currencies.

The Committee could use the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to ban the cryptocurrencies since it argues out that the digital currencies are a haven for money laundering and other fraudulent schemes. The ministry of Cooperate affairs has previously said that the cryptocurrencies are being used to swindle innocent investors of their money.

This development comes after the Supreme Court of India gave the Indian Authorities 4 weeks to structure regulatory policies for cryptocurrencies so that the court could stop handing cryptocurrency cases including the demand for the reverse of the Reserve Bank of India circular on cryptocurrencies.

There were also concerns from India Economic Affairs Secretary that the digital currencies would greatly impact the Indian currency if they were to be fully adopted as modes of payments.

Ocean, a data marketplace, felt the pinch after missing its Token Sale using CoinList. It is always painful and embarrassing to miss funding targets and it gives a big setback to any project.

Ocean has a vision of becoming the world leader in the data marketplace. However, it requires a significant amount of funds to actualize that dream. It released its Version 1.0 beta network in April this year with big anticipation of succeeding in its quest.

The leaders have opted to change the listing firm and chosen to offer an Initial Exchange Offering (IEO) with Bittrex instead. They target to raise $6.77 million.

Their initial Token sale was only able to raise about $24 million falling short of its target by about $7 million.

There is a lot of hope that the company will meet its target this time round despite the fact that Bittrex is currently involved in a dispute with the Department of Financial Services in NY. The issues in New York do not affect Ocean’s ambitious move.

The founder of Ocean Protocol, Bruce Pon, attributed the poor token sale in the first offering to the poor US crowdfunding market.  Though the US market is highly regulated, there lacked investors interested in the project.

With Bittrex, the customer base will widen to capture other regions other than the US.

And better still, Ocean has slashed the price of its token by half to $0.12 down from $0.25.

 

Brave Browser (a web browser just like the likes of Chrome and others) had promised that its registered users shall be paid for viewing online ads. The promise was made during the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) and users are can now enjoy the benefits since the promise has now be actualized. According to an announcement made by Brave on 24th April 2019, the users shall start getting a share of the revenue coming from the ads.

So let’s look at what is in for the users:

  • First of all, the program of sharing the revenue will only be available through the new MacOS, Windows and Linux Operating Systems upgrades.
  • The ads will be opt-in ads and they will not replace the normal ads.
  • Once a user clicks on a Brave Browser sponsored ad, they will be directed to a page containing more info about the particular ad related offer.
  • Brave Browser is offering a 70 percent revenue sharing program and it is paid using the Basic Attention Token (BAT) directly to the user’s BAT wallet.
  • Some of the suppliers who users should look out for BAT ads from include: MyCrypto, Home Chef, BuySellAds, ConsenSys, Vice, eToro, TAP Network, Ternio BlockCard, The Giving Block, Fluidity, Uphold and AirSwap.