- Bitcoin ‘Creator’ Races to Patent Technology
The man who last year made global headlines by claiming to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of bitcoin, is working with a fugitive online gambling entrepreneur to file scores of patents relating to the digital currency and its underlying technology, blockchain.
Craig Wright, the Australian computer scientist who made the Satoshi claim, has the backing of Calvin Ayre, a wealthy Canadian entrepreneur, according to people close to Wright and documents reviewed by Reuters.
Ayre has been indicted in the United States on charges of running online gambling operations that are illegal in many U.S. states — an accusation he rejects.
Wright’s expertise combined with Ayre’s support make a potentially formidable force in shaping the future of bitcoin and blockchain, the ledger technology that underlies digital currencies.
Wright and his associates have lodged more than 70 patent applications in Britain and have plans to file many more, according to documents and emails, and sources with knowledge of Wright’s business.
The patents range from the storage of medical documents to Wi-Fi security, and reflect Wright’s deep knowledge of how bitcoin and blockchain work.
Their total compares with 63 blockchain-related patents filed globally last year and 27 so far this year by multinationals from credit card companies to chipmakers, according to Thomson Innovation.
Neither Wright nor Ayre would comment for this story on their business relationship, details of which are revealed here for the first time, or their goals. But their interest in bitcoin and blockchain highlights two key trends.
First, an increasing number of entrepreneurs believe blockchain, which can circumvent the need for big financial intermediaries, will challenge traditional payment systems.
Various banks are investing large sums to explore how blockchain could revolutionize payment systems and cut costs.
Bitcoin involves sending payments directly, securely and potentially anonymously between two people’s digital wallets, whereas all mainstream transactions, including those using intermediaries like PayPal and credit card lenders, run through banks and usually require named accounts and verification.
Second, blockchain has the potential to defy authorities trying to enforce borders and national regulations — and it already does so in areas such as online gambling. In internet chat rooms some online gamblers say that using bitcoin enables them to disguise their identity and transactions.
The confidentiality conveyed by the currency is one source of its popularity. Bitcoin hit a record high this week, partly because of speculation that the first bitcoin exchange-traded fund is set to receive U.S. regulatory approval.
After a sharp rise this year, the cryptocurrency reached more than $1,200 per bitcoin.
Ayre said last year that he saw a “growing convergence” of bitcoin and online gambling, according to the website CalvinAyre.com.
Documents show Wright’s links to online gambling go back decades and that bitcoin grew out of code originally developed with gambling in mind.
Early bitcoin code, seen by Reuters and analyzed by a computer coding consultant with no ties to Wright or any blockchain-related project, contains unimplemented functions related to poker.
Wright’s vision for bitcoin, though, goes much further than gambling, according to his research papers and interview transcripts.
It remains unclear whether he is Satoshi Nakamoto or not, and even whether Satoshi is one person or a group of people.
But some of the documents, including two folders of computer code for early versions of bitcoin, support Wright’s claims that he was closely involved in the development of the cryptocurrency before it became public in 2009.
Whatever Wright’s original role, he has suggested bitcoin could have widespread applications. In a paper from November 2015, he wrote, “The bitcoin blockchain can be scaled up to replace all existing payment system networks to become the world’s single global economic infrastructure.”
The paper is unpublished, but it gives an insight into the global scope of his plans for the technology.
While it is far from clear the two will be successful in their patent applications, bitcoin and patent experts say Wright’s project represents the single largest filing of bitcoin-related intellectual property they have seen.
“It’s certainly bullish,” said Justin Hill, a patents expert with law firm Olswang. “With the ambition comes the risk.”
Global Investments into Fintech Companies Plunged by Almost 40% amid Pandemic
The year 2020 was a challenging year for many fintechs. The global slowdown in funding caused by the COVID-19 led to a significant drop in the number of venture capital deals and brought uncertainty for many companies operating in this market.
According to data presented by AksjeBloggen.com, global investments into fintech companies hit $105.3bn in 2020, almost a 40% plunge amid pandemic.
US Fintechs Raised 75% of Total Investments
Fintech companies apply modern tech solutions in the financial services industry to offer digitally enhanced products and allow widespread access to financial products at a lower cost than traditional players. Over the years, these innovative startups transformed how people and businesses spend, invest, save, or borrow money.
Even before the pandemic, many fintechs found it difficult to access funding, as investors focused on established companies instead of early-stage businesses. Nevertheless, the total value of investments into fintech companies increased dramatically in the last decade.
In 2010, fintechs raised $9bn in funding, revealed the KPMG’s 2020 Pulse of Fintech report. By 2015, this figure grew more than seven times to $67.1bn. In 2018, the total investment value jumped to $145.9bn and continued rising to $168bn in 2019, as the record year for fintech investments.
After the COVID-19 pandemic brought many deals to a halt in the first half of 2020, H2’20 reversed the trend as investors and fintechs learned to do business in a new normal. Nevertheless, statistics show that last year witnessed 2,861 deals worth $105.3bn, almost $63bn less than before the pandemic.
The Americas were the region attracting the most investments in the sector, accounting for 75% of the total, or $79.2bn. Fintechs from the EMEA region raised $14.4bn last year. Asian fintechs followed with $11.2bn worth of investments.
The Number of Fintech Startups Doubled Since 2019
Although the COVID-19 affected the investment activity in the fintech sector, it also triggered a surge in the use of fintech solutions, creating a huge space for new companies.
The BCG data revealed the number of fintech startups worldwide more than doubled since the pandemic struck, rising from over 12,200 in 2019 to almost 26,500 this month.
As of April 2021, there were 10,738 fintech startups in North America as the leading region, up from 5,800 in 2019.
However, statistics show Europe, the Middle East, and Africa have witnessed even more impressive growth in the number of fintechs. In 2019, almost 3,600 companies were operating in this sector. Since then, the number of fintech startups in the EMEA region surged by 160% to more than 9,300.
Asia and the Pacific ranked third with nearly 6,200 fintech startups as of April, up from 2,850 in 2019.
WeChat Brand Worth $68B, More than Three Major Chinese Banks
As the leading social networking app in China and the fifth most widely used globally, WeChat saw impressive growth amid the COVID-19 pandemic, both in revenue and the number of users. The brand value of Tencent Holding’s mobile messaging app also surged in the last year, launching WeChat among the strongest brands globally.
According to data presented by StockApps.com, WeChat brand value hit almost $68bn in 2021, more than three major Chinese banks.
The World’s Strongest Brand
WeChat or also called China’s “app for everything,” offers services from messaging and banking to taxi services and online shopping. During the pandemic, the app also helped keep track of those traveling or in quarantine, providing access to real-time data on COVID-19, online consultations, and self-diagnosis services powered by artificial intelligence to more than 300 million users.
This diversity of services offered to its users, especially amid the pandemic, helped the WeChat brand value surge by 25% YoY, revealed the 2021 Brand Finance’s Global 500 survey. With a valuation of $67.8bn, WeChat jumped nine spots on the ranking to enter the top 10 for the first time, behind giants like Apple, Amazon, Google, Walmart, or Facebook.
Also, the popular app ranked higher than the three major banks in China. In comparison, China Construction Bank hit a $59.6bn brand value this year, $8.3bn less than WeChat. Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of China also ranked below the popular messaging app, with $53.1bn and $48.6bn value, respectively.
The Brand Finance survey also revealed WeChat overtook Ferrari to become the world’s strongest brand with a top score of 95.4 out of 100 and an AAA+ brand strength rating. The relative strength of brands is measured through a balanced scorecard of metrics evaluating marketing investment, stakeholder equity and business performance.
Statistics show the Chinese mobile app is one of merely 11 brands in the ranking to have been awarded the elite AAA+ brand strength rating.
More than Hit 1.2 Billion Active Monthly Users
WeChat has lots of popular messaging app features, including Moments. A majority of WeChat users access WeChat Moments every time they open the app. Voice and text messaging, group messaging, payment and games are other examples of WeChat services.
Tencent’s 2020 financial results revealed the number of WeChat active accounts has been multiplying over the past years.
Between 2011 and 2015, the number of monthly active accounts surged from 2.8 million to nearly 700 million. In the first quarter of 2018, WeChat`s user base hit the one-billion benchmark, and the number just kept rising.
Statistics show the popular social networking app had over 1.2 billion monthly active users in the last quarter of 2020, ranking as the fifth most widely used social networking app globally.
Migration to IPv6 Will Enhance Digital Economy, Says Pantami
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, has stressed the need for Nigerians to migrate from the use of Internet Protocol version four (IPv4) address system to Internet Protocol version six (IPv6), in order to diversify Nigeria’s economy and prepare it for a digital economy transformation.
The Minister who spoke as a special guest of honour at a recent webinar on the state of IPv6 deployment in Nigeria, organised by the IPv6 Council Nigeria, in collaboration with the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), said there was need for migration from IPv4 to IPv6, saying IPv4 was fast depleting in numbers, while the population of internet users in Nigeria is on the rise.
Internet Protocol (IP) addresses are assigned numbers on the internet, which are part of the underlying infrastructure of the internet. The former IP version four, which Nigerians are connected to, is fast depleting and the world is fast migrating to a newer version known as version six (IPv6).
The Minister who was represented by the Managing Director of Galaxy Backbone, Prof. Muhammed Abubakar, said the conference on IPv6 came at a right time, when the federal government was focusing on economic diversification to drive the country’s national digital economy policy for a digital Nigeria and the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP 2020-2025).
“IPv6 is an important ingredient of our National Digital Economy Policy and the Nigerian National Broadband Plan.
“The current Internet Protocol that Nigeria has, which is driving the use of internet, is the IPv4, which has a combined capacity of about four billion addresses, and it is already reaching its capacity limit, which calls for the need to migrate to IPv6, with larger capacities.
“The increase in the adoption rate of IPv6 will require the creation of policies and regulatory instrument that will encourage and drive its adoption.
“So the federal government is putting regulatory instrument in place in line with the developmental regulation pillar of the National Digital Economy Policy. This will serve as a guide for both the public and private sectors to drive adoption of IPv6,” Pantami said.
One of the keynote speakers, CEO, MainOne Broadband Company, Ms. Funke Opeke, said Nigeria’s presence on the internet had been low even in the days of IPv4, adding that it calls for growth and increased access to the internet, being a critical foundation of Nigeria’s broadband plan.
“One of the key ways to achieve Nigeria’s broadband target is to leverage IPv6. It is not possible to connect Nigeria ‘s large population of over 206 million people without IPv6 adoption. With IPv6, we can connect people, networks and devices.,” Opeke said.
President of ATCON, Ikechukwu Nnamani, in his welcome speech, said with the projection that by 2030, more than125 billion devices would be connected using Internet of Things (IoTs), which would put about 15 connected devices into the hands of each consumer, all the devices would therefore need a unique IP address to function efficiently.
“The world has run out of IPV4, the initial IP addressing system. AFRINIC the only regional body in Africa that still has some IPV4 for allocation, recently indicated it has less than 1.8 million IPV4 available. The migration to IPV6 is therefore not optional at this point.
“ATCON being a very proactive Association saw the need to train network engineers in Nigeria in order to be able to migrate from IPV4 to IPV6 several years ago and this led ATCON hosting international training on IPv6 with the support of some of its members. This training was done in conjunction with AFRINIC,” Nnamani said.
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