The Seam and IBM launch the first cotton industry blockchain consortium
Date: 9 January 2017
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Blockchain applied to commodities: just a matter of time!

Commodities markets rarely feature in blockchain conversations, but if Memphis-based commodities brokerage The Seam and their technology partners at IBM and Hyperledger are successful, cotton will be the first commodity where an industry-wide consortium takes advantage of a blockchain to improve the trade process.

Starting on Thursday, The Seam website-based exchange is open to all industry players. The firm claims to be the first to offer “Agriculture’s only real-time price reporting.”

Along with the exchanges launch, the partners have called on the rest of the cotton industry to sign up as consortium members, placing their order books on the unified exchange. If they do, the industry would be able to use a single, shared blockchain to record, track, and trade all of the world’s cotton markets in real-time, and with instant trade execution.

(…) But this is just the starting point

While the banking industry has several consortiums like R3 CEV, The Seam’s consortium is among the first to address commodity markets. Kynetix, a commodities market technology company in the UK, was first to attempt a blockchain consortium in November 2015.

“The trouble is that everybody wants 2-way trust but not everybody wants 2-way transparency,” states Kynetix Co-founder and Director, Matt Dolton. “More than any other asset class opaqueness offers knowledgeable physical market participants the ability to take advantage of their knowledge.”

The argument can be made, however, that commodities are just more products to be tracked across a supply chain, which is already a  well tested use for blockchains today. Startups like the diamond-tracking Everledger and the general-purpose, customer-oriented Provenance have shown that the technology can be applied to global-scale supply chains.

Several other projects track items such as luxury goods, smart clothing, prescription drugs, and most recently, 3D printed parts. With so many varied uses already employing blockchains, it may only be a matter of time before all commodities are tracked via a blockchain as well.

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China to Restrict Bitcoin Marketing, But Blockchain Firms Unaffected
Date: 9 January 2017
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Just hours after it was first revealed that the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) had held closed-door meetings with domestic bitcoin exchanges, new details are emerging about the conversations. According to a new report by Caixin, the PBoC sought to restrict how the exchanges could seek to acquire potential new users, with the central bank […]

No impact on blockchain

Notably, such instructions do not appear to have been given to startups working on blockchain projects or implementations using the distributed ledger technology behind bitcoin or alternative cryptographic tokens.

DJ Qian, CEO of blockchain-as-a-service startup BitSE, for example, indicated that the news “does not affect its business” due to its focus on non-monetary applications, a statement that was echoed in other responses.

Tong Li, CEO of Circle China, the bitcoin and blockchain-based messaging service, noted that he is not concerned about the directives or its impact on Circle’s operations.

However, he did suggest that the announcement would be worth “following closely”.

Blockchain investor Bo Shen, founding partner of Fenbushi Capital, expressed similar sentiment, indicating that he had not been in contact with any central bank officials about the topics discussed with bitcoin exchanges.

Shen is one of the more prolific investors in China-based blockchain projects, backing firms including Juzhen Financials as well as a number of open-source, alternative blockchain projects

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Study: Bitcoin Hedges Global Uncertainty
Date: 9 January 2017
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A newly released study on the relationship between bitcoin and global uncertainty finds that bitcoin acts positively to uncertainty. Analyzing a lengthy period from the 17th of March, 2011, to the 7th of October, 2016 by using the VIX index, a widely used key market risk indicator that reflects market sentiment and investor expectation of 14 countries, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US, the study concludes:“Bitcoin is shown to serve as a hedge against uncertainty at the extreme ends of the Bitcoin market and global uncertainty, but at shorter investment horizons. Therefore, short-horizon investment in Bitcoin can help investors hedge global equity market uncertainty, especially when the market is functioning in bear and bull regimes and also when uncertainty is either low or high.”

By using a quantile regression framework as well as a well-known method of wavelets to decompose Bitcoin returns into its various investment horizons, the study was able to provide a more nuanced view in analyzing the effect of different levels of uncertainty as well as different time frames. The study [PDF] finds that:

“[T]he ability of Bitcoin to act as a hedge against uncertainty is conditional on not only whether the market is in bear or bull regime but also whether global uncertainty is high or low. Specifically speaking, at shorter investment horizons, Bitcoin returns seem to hedge against the global uncertainty at extreme ends of both Bitcoin returns and uncertainty.”

Excerpt of article: Study: Bitcoin Hedges Global Uncertainty

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Why machine learning will decide which IoT ‘things’ survive
Date: 9 January 2017
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No billion-dollar machine could replace a doctor. But a $25 machine can tell you when you need one. In 1996, the ER at Cook County Hospital of Chicago used an algorithm to determine when a patient with chest pain was in danger of having a heart attack and was thus worth one of its scarce hospital beds.Using a systematic, flowchart-based approach of basic tests, the algorithm proved not only to be quick and efficient, but accurate: It sorted 70 percent more patients into the low-risk category, but caught a higher percentage of heart attacks (95 percent) than human doctors (75-89 percent). And this was before any deep computing was involved.Now consider that there are around 6.4 billion IoT devices in use this year — nearly one for every living human. If even one percent could analyze people for medical conditions, by collecting data on pulse, diet, or sleep, it would extend the reach of the world’s doctors by a factor of five.

But the real magic comes from machine learning. Beyond just applying singular algorithms in more places, data collected at this scale is already finding patterns in conditions that even human doctors couldn’t see after decades of experience. Imagine, for example, a Fitbit noticing fluctuations in your pulse that correspond strongly to a heart condition, sending you to a hospital for treatment. Machine learning means solving impossible problems with household devices.

But machine learning stopped being a question of potential when IBM’s Watson and Google’s DeepMind started outperforming humans in domains like Jeopardy and Go. Now the question is this: If a Fitbit could save your life and a Nike+ Fuel Band couldn’t, which would you buy?

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Strategic renewal in times of environmental scarcity: the mediating role of technology in business model evolution
Date: 7 January 2017
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Journal of Organizational Change Management, Volume 30, Issue 1 , February 2017. Purpose This research paper analyses how strategic renewal occurs in large incumbent newspaper companies facing a specific context of environment scarcity (i.e., environmental dissolution [the market gradually changing in size and scope]).

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Open Innovation: a Key Driver of Societe Generale
Date: 7 January 2017
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Societe Generale ‘s website reported on the bank’s outlook: “The digital era is changing how the Bank innovates: from ‘product’-oriented innovation to a relationship-focused innovation based on the customer experience, from inward innovation to open innovation in order to capture changes around the world by remaining open to the outside world, from incremental innovation to groundbreaking innovation….Societe Generale has opted for a differentiating approach and system in terms of open innovation and relations with ecosystem players: rather than limiting itself to a corporate venture initiative, Societe Generale favors active equity investments and partnerships with ecosystem players, dividing up its presence across several locations and prioritizing operational cooperation.

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