Archives 2020

US Homeland Security’s Startup Booster Calls Blockchain Startup Hunt

The Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP), which acts as the startup booster of the DHS or the United States Department of Homeland Security, has recently started yet another hunt. It is primarily for an anti-counterfeiting project based on blockchain technology. The DHS is looking for the project to have flexible interoperability features. The renewal of hunt this year came on the day of Virtual Industry Day.

The use case for the startups has been redefined by the Silicon Valley Innovation Program this time. This time, the array of use cases for use by startups includes food supply chain, natural gas, e-commerce, and also a sustainable alternative to Social Security Number. One of the use cases added by SVIP is for the essential worker license, which was mainly inspired by the COVID-19 epidemic. The SVIP is offering up to $800,000 in initial funding as an incentive for the startups to come forward along with the possibility of being given government contracts. It is to lure first-time federal partners as well as new partners.

Just over two years ago, the Silicon Valley Innovation Program was active in the space of distributed technologies and forgeries, where it ventured to find suitable partners. The Department of Homeland Security has been following the developments in the blockchain technology for the last few years. The focus of DHS has been on the efforts of the private sector in the field of blockchain technology. The renewed hunt by DHS has only pointed out how seriously it has been focusing on the blockchain technology and solutions. The government’s cabinet has been highly interested in this technology as well, and it is also one of the reasons why the DHS has not only garnered the support to pursue blockchain but to closely integrate its solution.

One of the technical directors of the Silicon Valley Innovation Program, Anil John, said that the department is looking to attract talents from across the globe to solve the issues here in the United States. However, he cleared the air of any misconceptions that may be out there that SVIP is involved in or interested in doing any kind of science experiments. Anil John clearly outlined that SVIP is looking for results from this venture and not only futuristic concepts that may not come to fruition.

The Silicon Valley Innovation Program has more than gone out of the way to showcase its support for the blockchain technology in the past. It can be seen how it has closely supported Factom, Mavennet, SecureKey, and Digital Bazaar. However, it should not in any way be construed that SVIP is solely focused on blockchain technology and solutions as it has hands in building Border Patrol camera platforms as well as timber credential mechanisms for the DHS. The SVIP is the sub-wing of the Science and Technology Directorate and has given out millions in funding to achieve its purposes.

Anil John has been associated with the blockchain technology and world from the very onset and is rightly called the “Blockchain Guru” in the DHS. Also, he is quite popular in the blockchain space in the private sector as well. In the recent virtual event hosted by SVIP and DHS, Anil John challenged the 300 participants to present deployable and innovative tools for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Privacy Office, and the United States Customers and Border Protection (CBD). These are the three primary branches of the DHS, for which SVIP presents the new use cases.

Blockchain technology has gained worldwide acceptance in terms of its security, privacy, and scalability. As technology continues to grow, it is presenting its viability in many different sectors and platforms. It is what has attracted so many public and private sectors to divert its focus on it and extend its research and focus on blockchain technology. The SVIP hopes to infuse new life in its mechanisms and the branches of DHS by integrating blockchain technology, which can potentially present solutions to many of the hurdles and streamlining its operations.

Anil John is well-versed with the capabilities of this nascent technology and has been closely following its development globally. It is one of the reasons he has pushed for inviting teams from across the globe to present their custom solutions.

Why IBM’s blockchain isn’t a real blockchain?

In the world of IT, the name of IBM is much known as a primary service provider in various domains. It has come up with multiple technologies in the past some years that have proven the game-changer in the market. Recently this IT giant is again in the news, and this time it is for its penetration in another segment.

IBM has recently introduced Hyperledger Fabric and is in the process to launch blockchain pilots with giants like Aetna and Walmart. IBM’s version of blockchain called Fabric is promoted as a permissioned blockchain, and it has features similar to Ethereum and Bitcoins. However, it is facing some criticism from market participants as it leaves a lot of loopholes that are not integral to blockchains. It is also not scalable and compatible with public blockchains, which further limits its options in the market.

Understanding real blockchain

Before going into an in-depth discussion of IBM and blockchain one must have a clear concept of blockchain. One needs to know what blockchain is and how does it work. When it comes to real blockchains, the base is built on a decentralized ledger concept which can store transactions or events. All these are enforced through a consensus mechanism like mining or proof of work concepts. In other cases, users can supply cryptographic signatures for consensus.

IBM’s version of blockchain

IBM’s version of blockchain leaves out the decentralized concept, which is the core of regular blockchain technology. The Hyperledger Fabric does not require a proper consensus mechanism, which is the norm in regular blockchains. It is difficult to prove that ledgers are not tampered as it leaves out various loopholes to be exploited in the long run.

Vulnerabilities of Fabric’s architecture

There are many vulnerabilities in the Fabric’s architecture as the signatures of the users do not appear in the arbitrary dataset. On the other hand, the validator signature assumes more priority in any transaction. The speed is also not good enough as it cannot be scaled for large operations. Practically speaking, it cannot be deployed into production in most cases due to its slow operations.

IBM’s blockchain not compatible with public blockchains

Market participants are of the opinion that both public and private blockchains will have to work together to provide the best user experience. They cannot be cut off from each other, as this means that the sole purpose of having blockchains will become meaningless. When it comes to Fabric, it will not be able to access public blockchains due to its inherent restrictions. In this way, any user who implements this blockchain will be cut off from all the public blockchains. In the same manner, users of public blockchains who want to store some data in IBM’s private blockchain will not be able to do so again due to the same restrictions.

Not suitable for the future

Considering all the compatibility hurdles, it can be clearly said that IBM’s version of blockchain is not yet ready for the future. Unless they make suitable changes to its stability and provide compatible features, users will not come forward to implementing such systems. Even businesses in different segments will not benefit from such a blockchain structure as it is vulnerable to various threats that may arise in the future.

In this way, IBM’s blockchain cannot be considered as a true blockchain. It may not see good growth in the real world and may get restricted to private entities. If the company is serious about providing enterprise blockchains, they have to work on compatibility issues and improve the system’s overall performance so that they become suitable for production.

Bitcoins And Potential Regulations Of US Federal Agencies

In 2013, an event was hosted by the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes and Enforcement Division (FinCEN). During this event, advocates of bitcoin met with a few federal agencies to discuss the possibilities of bringing Cryptocurrency under government regulation. The discussion revolved around involving law enforcement and financial agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, and Department of Homeland Security.

The specialty of bitcoin is that it does not have a central governing body or central bank. Customers can send it using peer-to-peer networks that don’t have any administration. The money is saved in a digital wallet, and each transaction made is stored in a blockchain. Since blockchains are public records, it is easier to trace the transactions. This also makes it convenient to stop individuals from making copies, prevent them from selling bitcoins they don’t have and undo any transaction once sold.

While some countries have brought a complete ban on Cryptocurrency, countries like the USA have had a friendly approach towards this form of technology. Mining bitcoins online is entirely legal in the USA, although the government is trying to introduce laws to regulate it.

So far, Cryptocurrency has existed without any law implication by the United States Federal Government. Though there is no central law, the USA has left individual states to apply their regulations to Cryptocurrency. States like Arizona, New York. Nevada, Maine, and others have introduced bills to define codes for acceptable practices by blockchain companies and users.

As the bitcoin industry grows, the US government has raised its opinions on how people should disclose their capital gains or profits to the IRS and put forth a taxation system. In 2013, the Treasury Department had also suggested that companies dealing in Cryptocurrency should register themselves and report large transactions. 

Even as the world faces a pandemic situation, a US lawmaker from Arizona has proposed a law to bring all forms of Cryptocurrency under the federal regulations. Rep. Paul Gosar introduced the Cryptocurrency Act of 2020 in March 2020. 

He said, “We may be quarantined, but our work continues. In fact, I just introduced the Crypto-Currency Act of 2020, a bill that my team has worked hard on over the past several months.”

The lawmaker further went on to state, “By providing much-needed regulatory clarity about Cryptocurrency, we will make it easier for businesses, institutions, and everyday Americans to participate in this growing industry. No more murkiness, uncertainty, or confusion.”

The bill is aimed towards clarifying which federal agencies can regulate digital assets. It also suggests that those agencies must inform users of any certifications, licenses, or registrations required to trade in cryptocurrencies or related assets. The intention behind introducing such a law is to keep America at the forefront of the crypto industry.

Adding to this proposed law, Gosar further said, “Cryptocurrency offers a way for forgotten and oppressed people to participate in the global economy … A beacon of hope to much of the world, Cryptocurrency is becoming one of the fastest-growing industries. The United States must remain part of that growth.”

There is nothing concrete in place yet, in terms of regulations in the cryptocurrency market. Several agencies are trying to prevent digital money from being used in illegal trades. Many countries believe that bringing Cryptocurrency under legislation might boost its acceptance in the financial markets, but then again, it can harm the country’s fiat currency. Even with the prevailing confusion, countries across the globe are not taking Cryptocurrency lightly.