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Blog2018-07-19T19:58:54+00:00

From My Vantage Point

The Challenge of Improving Cryptocurrency User Experience

The tailwinds continue to gather behind cryptocurrencies, propelling the sector forward and scattering it in a thousand different directions. Non-fungible tokens, anyone? What of Web 3.0? And besides its ongoing disruption of the financial space, is it not possible that at some point in the not-too-distant future other nations will follow El Salvador’s lead and begin using crypto as legal tender?

The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind.

Granted, bitcoin’s value plunged from $69,000, a record high, in November 2021 to $33,000 in January 2022, but as of mid-April it had climbed back to between $37,500 and $38,000, with the expectation that it would continue to rebound. One expert, Galaxy Digital founder/CEO Michael Novogratz, envisions its value skyrocketing to $500,000 by 2027.

Then there were the results of two surveys in March 2022, by NBC News and Checkout.com. The first of those concluded that 21 percent of Americans have dabbled in crypto, a remarkable figure for an industry which originated only in 2009, when bitcoin first appeared. The second poll also echoed the first in showing that there is particular enthusiasm for crypto among younger Americans. Forty percent of those between the ages of 18 and 35 would like to use it in the next year to obtain goods and services.

As Jess Houlgrave, Checkout.com’s head of strategy for crypto, told Yahoo Finance: “The cryptocurrency world is maturing and is increasingly being driven by utility, pragmatism and empowerment.” She added that the potential is there “for cryptocurrency to not only transform the way people transact, but also to potentially reinvent the dynamics of the entire digital economy.”

To do so, however, will require some tweaking on the part of those operating the various crypto platforms. As in other industries, the customer experience matters – improving it, personalizing it and maximizing it. Navigation and functionality must be improved, as reflected in the fact that only nine percent of those dealing in crypto are completely satisfied with the exchanges in which they are working, according to Statista.

Of those who are not, the most common issues mentioned were faulty security, high trading fees and lack of liquidity. Inconvenient user interface and subpar customer support also made the list.

A deeper examination of the issues mentioned fees and security, as well as onboarding problems (specifically, that it can take more than a day to register) and completing a transaction (i.e., not every one of them can be completed with fiat currency).

The solutions

  1. Improve usability by providing users the information and tools they need for frictionless navigation.
  2. Design the platform so it is predictable and consistent, but not dull.
  3. Make sure it’s up to date and pleasing to the eye.

The bottom line is that crypto is speeding forward, and headed to parts unknown. Those in the industry can hasten the process that much more by maximizing the customer experience. Otherwise, they risk being left behind.

How Likely Is a “Crypto Winter”?

When Bitcoin slid from a record-high valuation of $69,000 in November 2021 to under $33,000 in January 2022, there was genuine concern in the cryptocurrency community that it was an indication that dire things were ahead. In the parlance, there were those who wondered aloud whether a “crypto winter” was at hand.

David Marcus, former head of the digital wallet Novi, went so far as to tweet on Jan. 24 that the crypto had already entered that bearish phase, while adding that it might not be the worst thing, as it is during such periods that savvy investors tend to make hay. Nadya Ivanova, chief operating officer of the tech research firm L’Atelier, was of the same mindset, telling CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” that the crypto market was in “a cooling-off period” and that that “might actually be an opportunity to start building the fundamentals of the market.”

As the weeks have passed and Bitcoin’s value has stabilized, optimism has only grown. By mid-March its value stood just over $40,000, and while the Federal Reserve raised interest rates to combat inflationary trends, Bitcoin held steady. Certain experts foresee its value exceeding $76,000 by the end of 2022, before climbing to $192,800 by the end of 2025 and $406,400 by the end of 2030.

Michael Novogratz, founder and CEO of Galaxy Digital, told Bloomberg that in his estimation Bitcoin will remain in the $30,000-to-$50,000 range this year, then mushroom to $500,000 by 2027. As he put it:

“We see an adoption cycle that accelerates. Bitcoin grew so much faster last year – crypto grew – than the Internet did at its best in the ‘90s. So I see this going viral everywhere. If it’s in the Mideast or in pension funds in the United State, all are getting ready to participate.”

Greg Beard, CEO of Stronghold Digital Mining and formerly the Global Head of Natural Resources, Senior Partner and Member of the Management Committee at Apollo Global Management is also optimistic. Beard told Fortune that while it’s hard to predict where Bitcoin might be at the end of 2022, he believes it “should be worth multiples of today’s price in five years, I’d say at least five times.”

That would take it to $200,000.

As noted by CoinDesk, Bitcoin’s recent slump does not quite compare to the one that befell the leading crypto in 2017-18. Then, it lost 70 percent of its value in one 51-day period, after being valued at $19,850 – an all-time high to that point – in December 2017. This time, it lost 52 percent over 75 days. 

The crypto market as a whole plunged 66 percent in ‘17-18, while it has fallen 48 percent during its current slump. 

The inescapable conclusion is that while Bitcoin has undergone something of a chill as of late, it is a considerable stretch to say that a “crypto winter” is approaching. Rather, it is as Vijay Ayyar, vice president of corporate development at crypto exchange Luno, told CNBC: The current trend represents a “correction,” as opposed to an extended slump. Judge accordingly.

Five Bitcoin Predictions for 2022

When Bitcoin plunged from its all-time high of $68,950 in November 2021 to under $33,000 in January 2022, analysts raised concerns that a “Crypto Winter” was at hand, that cryptocurrencies in general and the world’s most popular crypto in particular were headed toward a deep freeze.

Analysts quickly revised that prediction, however, and by late January foresaw Bitcoin’s value exceeding $76,000 by the end of 2022, before climbing to $192,800 by the end of 2025 and $406,400 by the end of 2030. Just a few weeks later, as Bitcoin’s value climbed above $40,000, the predictions grew rosier still. There was an expectation in some corners that it would reach $200,000 in the second half of 2022.

Sean Farrell, head of digital asset strategy for the research firm FSInsights, made that observation in a note to investors, basing his prediction on “legacy market capital entering the fold.” 

Wells Fargo expressed similar optimism in a report issued in early February, comparing crypto adoption to that of technology in the mid- to late ‘90s: “At that time, the internet hit a hyper-adoption phase and never looked back. Cryptocurrencies appear to be at a similar stage today.”

And indeed, the report added, some 221 million people were using cryptos around the globe in June 2021, over double the number of four months earlier:

If this trend continues, cryptocurrencies could soon exit the early adoption phase and enter an inflection point of hyper-adoption, similar to other technologies. There is a point where adoption rates begin to rise and do not look back […] Precise numbers aside, there is no doubt that global cryptocurrency adoption is rising, and could soon hit a hyper-inflection point.

In short, things don’t sound so wintry anymore. The comparison to the last Crypto Winter, which began late in 2017, continued into early 2018 and saw Bitcoin lose 84 percent of its value, would not appear to be valid.

So Prediction No. 1 for 2022 would be this: Things are going to be fine in the Bitcoin space.

The website Analytics Inside likewise believes that more people will be adopting Bitcoin as a digital asset, and at least paid lip service to the idea that other countries will follow El Salvador’s lead and make Bitcoin legal tender.

Nigel Green, CEO of deVere Group, one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory, was even more bullish about the latter, suggesting that three other countries will adopt Bitcoin this year, and mentioning Panama, Paraguay, Guatemala and Honduras as possibilities.

Per Analytics Inside, here are three other predictions for this year:

  • Crypto will face increased regulation: And indeed, there were hints in 2021 that that will be the case, as mentioned in the Global Blockchain Business Council’s inaugural International Journal of Blockchain Law. In it, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission commissioner Caroline Crenshaw suggested that several governmental bodies, including the SEC, should take the lead on this front.

  • Banks will offer Bitcoin-related services: Again, this is already on the front burner. Even though banks and cryptos have a fraught relationship, the banks understand the demand for Bitcoin, as exhibited by U.S. Bank’s decision in October 2021 to offer custody services for cryptos.

  • There will be more cyberattacks: This has become a sad fact, as shown by the increasing number of cyberattacks and scams inflicted upon the decentralized finance sector in 2021.

On balance, the year ahead is a promising one for Bitcoin. January’s downturn seemed to be nothing more than a momentary setback. Far from being another Crypto Winter, there appears to be nothing but green grass and high tides ahead.

Regulators Taking a Long Look at DeFi

In the wake of some troubling cyberattacks and scams inflicted upon the decentralized finance sector in 2021, questions were raised about the necessity of DeFi regulation, questions that were addressed in part when the Global Blockchain Business Council rolled out the first edition of the International Journal of Blockchain Law in November of that year.

In the foreword, Dr. Matthias Artzt, Deutsche Bank’s senior legal counsel, wrote that blockchain technology “will have a significant impact on the field of law,” while adding that it is too early to tell how great that impact will be:

Will current law bend to new use cases inspired and enabled by blockchain technology or will we see new laws enacted, especially in such areas as contract, intellectual property, regulatory, and antitrust law?

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission commissioner Caroline Crenshaw amplified the point later in the report, noting that while DeFi “presents a panoply of opportunities,” it also “poses important risks and challenges for regulators, investors, and the financial markets.” She added that DeFi’s current “buyer beware” approach was simply not adequate, and that besides the SEC, the Department of Justice, Internal Revenue Service, Commodities Future Trading Commission and Financial Criminal Enforcement Network have jurisdiction over “aspects of DeFi.”

There are “a variety of tools” at the SEC’s disposal, according to Crenshaw, “ranging from rulemaking authority, to various exemptive or no action relief, to enforcement actions.”

It is not the first attempt on the part of a regulatory body to get a read on DeFi, much less a handle – an understandable trend, given that as of early 2022 there was nearly $237 billion of value locked in DeFi projects, up from $13 billion at the end of 2020. 

On Oct. 28, 2021 the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international organization, issued some guidance for dealing with DeFi, centering not only on the licensing and registration of Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs) but also on such matters as money-laundering and terrorist financing through peer-to-peer transactions.

But the guidance raises a simple question: Who can be held accountable when the things go awry with a DeFi exchange? It is a monetary system (not to mention an investment vehicle) that operates without a centralized authority; that’s the whole point of DeFi to begin with.

Agustin Carstens, general manager of the Bank for International Settlements, told CNBC in December 2021 that “the decentralized aspect tends to be illusive” and added: 

“There are some incentive issues related to the fact that, through this decentralization, at some point you end up with some agents that play an important role, and not necessarily for the best (interests) of users of financial services.”

Unraveling that mystery will be one of the great challenges for any regulatory body that is seeking to solve DeFi issues. So too is the fact that DeFi platforms are not bound by any geographical boundaries, though there are those who believe guidance can be found in the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2010, which enables U.S. authorities to regulate American citizens’ use of foreign currency around the globe, and the European Union’s General Data Protection regulation, which was passed in 2018 and governs data usage on the part of Europeans when in a foreign land.

The bottom line is that governmental officials are well aware of the risks and challenges of DeFi. While it is not entirely clear what might happen next, it seems certain that various bodies will continue to monitor the situation, and that movement on this front is entirely possible.

By |February 9th, 2022|Tags: , , , , , |

The Four Layers of Smart City Architecture, and How They Can be Implemented

There’s no question that technology has infiltrated every corner of our lives, from smartphones and watches to smart doorbells, electric cars, and non-stop streaming media. And most would agree that technology makes us smarter. Or at least more aware and engaged.

Cities worldwide, too, have gotten smarter. As a matter of fact, smart cities are proliferating; these municipalities are taking advantage of technology to increase operational efficiency, share information, and improve the quality of government services and citizen welfare, according to the Internet of Things Agenda website. And in a study by research firm Frost & Sullivan, it was reported that smart cities’ spending on technology in the next six years will reach $237 billion by 2025, up from $96 billion in 2019, and there will be more than 26 smart cities worldwide by 2025.

So, how are smart cities designed? And how do they utilize technology?

Smart cities create and implement an ecosystem of solutions that add value and employ intelligent methodology and proper implementation of problem-solving techniques to benefit the collective good. Most smart cities rely on the internet of things ( IoT), a network of connected, web-enabled, unique computing devices. Further, they depend on these “things” transferring data over this network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. For example, smart earbuds, fitness trackers, and a person with a heart monitor are all “things.” IoT provides businesses as well as cities with a real-time view of how their systems work, providing insights into everything from machine performance to supply chain and logistics operations.

How is IoT used in smart city architecture?

Definitions vary, but researchers generally agree that there are four layers of IoT architecture that comprise a smart city. They are:

  1. The sensing or perception layer, where sensors either monitor or control some physical object to capture data; for example temperature, humidity, fluid levels in a tank, or the speed of an assembly line. Then an actuator—a mechanical device for moving or controlling something—can take action in real-time, like adjusting the flow rate of a fluid. 
  2. The network layer transfers raw data and converts it from analog into digital format and then sends it through an internet gateway via WI-FI, cellular, or wired technology systems.
  3. Once the data has been digitized, the data processing or management layer processes it to reduce the data volume before it goes to a data center or cloud. Machine learning tools can be used to provide feedback to the connected system to improve its performance. The data can then deliver key information to IT and business managers.
  4. At the application layer, industry and/or company-specific applications can be used to perform in-depth analysis to determine what action needs to be taken, like making changes to device settings or other means of optimizing performance.

By utilizing these four layers of smart city architecture, municipal planners and architects can work to improve a city’s quality of life for its citizens using technology and data analysis. Key characteristics that determine a city’s intelligence include a technology-driven infrastructure, environmental initiatives, a streamlined public or even free public transportation system, a strong sense of urban planning, and people to live and work within the city and utilize its resources.

A smart city’s success ultimately depends on its ability to form a strong relationship between its government and the private sector because most of the work that is done to create and maintain a digital, data-driven municipality occurs outside its government. U.S. cities including Columbus, OH, Denver, CO, and San Francisco, CA are just a few examples of how cities are embracing smart technology to find new solutions to some of their most urgent urban challenges. While creating a smart city has its issues—connectivity, energy conservation, and traffic and waste management are just a few—with good communication between city officials, urban planners, and residents, building or transforming a smart city is an attainable goal.

By |November 25th, 2021|Tags: , , , , , , , |

With 5G Still in Development, A Glimpse Ahead at 6G

5G technology has brought the world its fastest generation of wireless technology ever. Tech savants will tell you that includes greater speed, ultra-low latency, more reliability, grander network capacity and a better user experience.

Experts believe, in fact, that the 5G rollout, when it is complete, will unleash “the Internet of Everything,” which has been defined as a system that connects people, things, data and processes. That means sensors everywhere. It means smarter devices, which will enable people to engage in data-driven decision-making.

As exciting as all that is, tech executives and researchers couldn’t resist peeking ahead even further at the Mobile World Conference in July 2021, to 6G. That, they believe, will change the landscape even more dramatically.

Jeffrey Andrews, director of 6G research at the University of Texas, told Biz Tech Magazine that while 5G is “making some steps toward” enabling the IoE, “6G will really get it right.”

The signal towers that deliver 5G to our devices can likely change to deliver 6G as well but some research is suggesting that use of satellites might alter the way 6G arrives to our cells and computers. 

John Byrne, the service director of telecom technology and software at analytics company GlobalData, told Biz Tech, “The general thinking right now is 2030. It tends to be the same companies and folks that are involved, so everything on 5G impacts the timeline on 6G as well.”

While that may seem like a ways off, consider how fast these networks have started evolving. By 2035, projections state that the 5G network of companies will carry 22.8 million jobs, amassing nearly $4 trillion in economic output. 

One of the most intriguing possibilities of 6G is the ability to further connect our devices, giving us more computing power by creating a synergy between our most intelligent tools. By the fifth and sixth generation of wireless technology, it will have become the fundamental technology on which almost all the world’s industries rely.

That reliance is both an opportunity and a burden. Rollout of these new generations of technology need to be nearly flawless to support America and the world’s interconnected economic enterprises. 

Various reports in late October showed Engineers at LG and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft set 6G transmission distance records, expanding the network’s quicker data transfer rates with reduced latency. 

To date, 6G’s limitations have been short range which is why the engineers celebrated their increased transmission distance. Their power amplifier successfully transmitted a stable signal, equivalent to the previous transmission strengths at shorter distances. 

Between now and 2030, the world will have lived through 10 years of 5G, and that will have brought more institutional knowledge about signal transmission and data transfer speeds. That increased knowledge will engender more advanced research that puts 6G at our fingertips in the next decade.

By |November 20th, 2021|Tags: , , , , , , , |