Microsoft is working an open-source, blockchain-based decentralised identitity system.
Decentralised IDs (DIDs) are a cryptographic means by which people can identify themselves to an online service while remaining in full control of their credentials with out requiring a centralised registry, identity provider or certificate authority.
Microsoft's project is called ION. Its GitHub page describes it as "public, permissionless, Decentralised Identifier (DID) network that implements the blockchain-agnostic Sidetree protocol on top of bitcoin."
It continues: "By leveraging the blockchain-agnostic Sidetree protocol, ION makes it possible to anchor tens of thousands of DID/PKI operations on a target chain (in ION's case, bitcoin) using a single on-chain transaction. "
Yorke Rhodes, a programme manager on Microsoft's blockchain engineering team, told CoinDesk that his team has been working on ways to make use of the secure inmmutibility of blockchains like bitcoin and ethereum while overcoming some of their scalability problems.
"To have Microsoft say they are not scared of bitcoin, and in fact, it has some very good properties and we are willing to take advantage of those properties, is, I think, a step in the right direction," Rhodes said, adding that the DIDs could be used alongside Active Directory, Microsoft's system for managing identities within an enterprise setting. DIDs could thus be used across the very wide range of Microsoft enterprise services and beyond, allowing authentication and verification while leaving the user in control of their identity.
Microsoft has been interested in this area for some time. In January 2018 the company published a decentralised identity portal and promoted the benefits of individuals being able to create, own and manage their online identities independent of any third-party. The company is also a founding menmber of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) working group for decentralised identity.
In the CoinDesk article, Rhodes likened the possible impact of ION on decentralised technologies and self-sovereign identity as being akin to that of Windows 95 on consumer computing. "Networking stacks were very tied to logins to existing networks," Rhodes said, describing how ID's were managed in the pre-internet era. "Like that, I think [ION] is pretty significant."
03/04/2019 Blockchain not dead as Facebook and PayPal announce further investments
No doubt about it, last year blockchain hopes crashed down to earth with an almighty bang. Closely tied up with get-rich-quick cryptocurrency schemes (and scams), when that market lost 75 per cent of its value blockchain lost a lot of its lustre, with some analysts and pundits writing it off altogether. It was too much too soon.
But now that the balloon has popped a welcome pragmatism has taken place of all the guff and bluster, with many decentralised projects (those that are still solvent) and companies just quietly getting on with it.
Two high-profile companies have announced they'd be investing more in blockchain technologies over the past few days. First, PayPal made its first blockchain investment in the shape of Cambridge Blockchain Inc, a digital identity enterprise software provider. PayPal joined other investors including Foxconn and Omidyar Network in an extended investment round.
Meanwhile, Facebook, which is working on a cryptocurrency of its own and has been poaching high-profile blockchain researchers posted an additional five Silicon Valley blockchain vacancies on top of 20 it advertised earlier.
And recruitment site Indeed.com announced that US bank JPMorgan Chase (which announced its own digital currency in February, see below) was behind only technology and consultancy firms IBM and Cisco, Accenture, EY, KPMG and Deloitte in its snapping up of blockchain talent according to Forbes - although the site did say interest from applicants had dropped in line with the bitcoin price.
While venture capital investment on blockchain startups is unlikely to hit the $5.5 bn of the bubble year of 2018, it looks set to match or exceed 2017's $1 bn.
In some cases this will be about keeping a hand in in case of some big development, or fear of missing out (FOMO). In others (maybe Facebook's) covering bases may be mixed with a large dollop of PR. However, with much of the hype behind it and the technology maturing there's certainly life in the old dog yet. Coincidentally, for reasons that are as yet unclear, the price of Bitcoin surged 15 per cent on Tuesday.
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13/03/2019 Energy firm Ovo invests in blockchain startup Electron in move towards zero-carbon smart grid
As covered by our sister publication Business Green, UK energy supplier Ovo has taken a minority stake in blockchain company Electron in a bid to accelerate the development of a smart electricity grid.
London-based Electron develops blockchain solutions specificially for the energy sector.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Ovo, which focuses on supplying energy from renewable sources, said that the investment comes through Kaluza, a new division within the Ovo that develops "software and hardware to support the integration of electric vehicles, electric heating and battery storage onto the grid."
In a blog post Ovo explained the strategy further.
"The integration of technologies such as blockchain and IoT, is essential to support the transition to a highly distributed, complex energy system, made up of multi-agents and millions of connected devices. The development of Electron's shared asset register will be crucial to supporting the growth of Kaluza and deliver on its mission to securely connect all devices to an intelligent zero-carbon grid," the company said.
A smart grid could to allow people to buy solar power from their neighbours and enable domestic appliances to exchange information and co-ordinate electricity use.
The move follows Mitsubishi's acquisition of a 20 per cent stake in Ovo last month.
Bank JP Morgan bets on blockchain, unveils its own digital currency
Jamie Dimon, CEO of Wall Street investment bank JP Morgan, has spent an inordinate amount of time bashing bitcoin and banning employees from trading in cryptocurrencies. But now the bank has announced it's been testing its own digital (not crypto-) currency for use in its wholesale payments business.
The digital currency is called the JPM Coin and has been trialled so far with one corporate client. It is pegged 1:1 against the US dollar, in the manner of so called stablecoins such as tether, and is instantly redeemable against that currency. There are plans to deploy it against other fiat currencies too.
The bank envisages three main uses for the JPM coin. The first is to offer corporate clients a real-time alternative to money transfer systems like Swift and wire transfers. Transfers can take hours or even days, whereas a trusted blockchain-based digital currency could allow the process to be virtually instantaneous.
Another is for securities transactions, reducing the time between settling the transaction and money changing hands. Again, wire transfers can introduce a significant delay.
The third use-case is to allow corporations that use J.P Morgan's treasury services to replace the dollars they hold in subsidiaries across the world with JPM Coin.
These use cases are just the start, said Umar Farooq, head of the bank's blockchain projects.
"So anything that currently exists in the world, as that moves onto the blockchain, this would be the payment leg for that transaction," Farooq said on the bank's website.
"The applications are frankly quite endless; anything where you have a distributed ledger which involves corporations or institutions can use this."
Farooq drew a distinction between the cryptocurrency markets and the sort of private blockchain applications represented by JPM Coin.
"We have always believed in the potential of blockchain technology and we are supportive of cryptocurrencies as long as they are properly controlled and regulated," he said.
"As a globally regulated bank, we believe we have a unique opportunity to develop the capability in a responsible way with the oversight of our regulators."
The pilot programme will be expanded later this year to include other corporate clients.
JP Morgan has also been involved in a consorteum developing the Ethereum-based Quorum blockchain. See earlier in this blog.
Next page: Facebook's crypto rumours, WWF-Australia launches food-tracking blockchain, China cracks down, Ethereum Classic hacked, New standards group for private blockchains, Hyperledger adds members, Blockchain too immature for government use, finds Australia, China mulls anonymity ban
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