Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Russia's Crypto-Winter Shows Signs of a Thaw in Saint Petersburg

stpetersburg.jpg

A mixed crowd of denim jeans and custom-tailored suits, typical for crypto-events, is standing across the vertical aisle of the the main conference area at the Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference in Saint Petersburg, blocking the line of sight for those lucky enough to have snatched themselves a chair in the back. The hall, while spacious — high ceiling, tall arched windows partly covered with ASIC mining billboards — still isn’t quite large enough to fit all interested visitors.

The speaker on stage works for Alfa Bank, one of the biggest banks in Russia. The financial sector in the former Soviet block is taking as much interest in Bitcoin and, of course, blockchain technology as anywhere else is. Having skipped Russia’s second-biggest city for the past two years, Smile-Expo re-introduced its Eastern European conference tour in Saint Petersburg last Thursday.

“The event had over 600 visitors, 25 exhibitors and some 20 speakers. Four of those work for Russia’s largest financial institutions,” event organizer Pavol Likhomanov told Bitcoin Magazine. “Entrepreneurs and finance professionals are increasingly taking this technology seriously. This is evident from the turnup here in Saint Petersburg; and we’ve seen year-over-year growth in interest at our Moscow event as well.”

This interest is not necessarily self-evident. It was only in 2014 — indeed, around the time of the last Saint Petersburg conference — that Russia seemed to emerge as one of the most crypto-hostile nations on the globe. In an attempt to curb criminal activity, the Putin administration introduced draft legislation that would essentially ban any use of cryptocurrencies. Not much later, access to a number of Bitcoin websites, including bitcoin.org, was blocked in the country.

But so far, the proposed law has never actually been implemented.

“Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies still have no legal status in Russia,” Artem Tolkachev told Bitcoin Magazine. The director of Deloitte Russia’s legal services for technology projects was one of the headline speakers at the event, where the legal implications of blockchain technology represented a big chunk of the morning program.

“The central bank considers cryptocurrency like bitcoin a money surrogate, which is a progressive stance. But the Ministry of Finance is more conservative. They don’t like anything they don’t understand and cannot control,” he said. “And Russian policymakers are not always very open-minded. They prefer to have their own internet … their own currency.”

Needless to say, Bitcoin is not a great fit in such a worldview.

The Thaw

But the initial icy stance on digital currencies seems to be getting a bit less frosty these days.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Russian president Vladimir Putin met Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin at the International Economic Forum, also held in Saint Petersburg. In the widely reported event, within the crypto-sphere at least, the president was said to have “supported the idea of establishing ties with possible Russian partners” — referring to Buterin’s technology pitch.

The announcement has been interpreted as a sort of preliminary green light for Russian blockchain entrepreneurs and investors. While not quite an official endorsement from the Kremlin, let alone formal regulation, it’s been a hopeful sign nonetheless.

But until it’s official, Russian cryptocurrency users across the halls in the historic Vedensky Hotel, the site of last week’s event, remain reserved.

“The Russian market is volatile,” Timur, a former forex trader, told Bitcoin Magazine. He offers a platform that allows Russian brokers to trade on behalf of their clients, Russian cryptocurrency speculators. Speaking from his exhibit stand in Saint Petersburg, he explained: “We never know for sure if what’s accepted today will be legal tomorrow. Official policy could change at a whim.”

That’s why his company sets customers up with foreign bank accounts in Switzerland, or Lithuania, or maybe offshore. The coins themselves — bitcoin, litecoin, ether — never leave the exchange where they are traded.

And these exchanges are not in Russia either … at least not officially. Incorporating abroad is a typical strategy for Russians and their cryptocurrency startups.

Mining

It’s not just traders and the finance sector that are taking an interest. Bitcoin mining is growing in Russia too.

This is perhaps most evident from the rise of mining pool BitClub Network over the past months. While officially established outside of Russia, the team works from Kazan, a city to the east of Moscow. Already one of the biggest non-Chinese miners on the Bitcoin network, BitClub Network’s founder — he’s casually wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with an image of Putin — assured Bitcoin Magazine his will be a top-five pool by the end of the year. At least, that’s what one of his employees translated into English, his smartphone showing videos of data centers full of humming ASIC miners.

Russian miners are now setting up data centers such as these in the east of Russia, Alex of mining service provider MyRig told Bitcoin Magazine. “The temperature in Irkoetsk, for example, is ideal for Bitcoin mining: it can be -40 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, electricity is cheap. There’s a big raw material industry, but with the crisis, some factories are out of use. With energy to spare, miners are starting to fill that void.”

MyRig, a rebranding of Bitmain Warranty (not to be confused with Bitmain), is not the only mining business at the Saint Petersburg conference. The company is vying for attention with several competitors in one of the exhibition rooms. One of them sells entire containers full of equipment, not unlike BitFury’s mobile data centers. Another is re-selling Antminers, the best-selling Bitmain machines.

“But to mine bitcoin in Russia at scale, you do still need to have the right connections,” Alex continues. “If you don’t know your way around local policymakers you risk being shut down.” Though with the increase in profits that the mining sector has seen over the past half year or so, the “big dicks” are entering the space, Alex said. “The guys with lots of money — and lots of connections. I’d expect mining in Russia to continue to grow significantly over the next year.”

And official regulation should be coming too, Deloitte’s Tolkachev said. A draft bill for cryptocurrency should be introduced within a few months, and could be approved by early 2018. This could bring some much-desired regulatory clarity for Russians wanting to open cryptocurrency-related businesses and otherwise openly engage in the industry without needing to work around the existing legal structure.

That is, visitors in the Vedensky Hotel generally seemed to agree, unless Putin changes his mind.

The post Russia's Crypto-Winter Shows Signs of a Thaw in Saint Petersburg appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.



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Decentralized Ad Platform Developer AdEx Announces Token Sale

In an official blog post published today, decentralized ad exchange platform AdEx has announced that it will be holding a token sale, which is scheduled to begin June 30th, 2017. The project seeks to raise 40 000 ETH over the course of the crowdsale.


About the AdEx Project

Current advertising networks like Google AdSense, Adsterra, ShareASale, and others are fraught with problems, not the least of which are ad fraud and lack of consumer privacy.

AdEx aims to change all of that by developing a decentralized blockchain-based ad exchange that will benefit all parties – advertisers, publishers, and consumers – while bringing data security, fraud protection, clear and accurate reporting, and numerous other advantages of blockchain technology to the online ad market.

Co-founder and CEO of AdEx Ivo Georgiev explains:

Co-founder and CEO of AdEx Ivo Georgiev

The solution offered by AdEx seeks to benefit all parties involved in the online advertising ecosystem, which means end users as well as advertisers and publishers, while removing unnecessary and downright risky elements currently associated with centralized infrastructure.

Once launched, the AdEx Network will enable transparency for advertisers, better ad serving control for publishers, and more control over privacy and ad preferences for consumers.

The Technology Behind the AdEx Platform

Developed on the Ethereum blockchain, one of the core strengths of the AdEx platform will be its use of smart contracts. A smart contract is a piece of software, executed on the Ethereum blockchain, that contains all of the terms, rules, and regulations for negotiating the terms of a contract. It automatically verifies the contract and then executes the agreed upon terms.

In the case of AdEx, these smart contracts will ensure the removal of third party intermediaries and ensure complete transparency of the entire system, from ad selection and tracking to bidding and payment.  The complexities of choosing and tracking ads and facilitating bidding and payment will be defined in these smart contracts, simplifying and securing the entire process.

AdEx diagram

To mitigate the high costs associated with storage on the blockchain, AdEx will be utilizing IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) to host advertising related media such as images, videos, and larger data. Developed in 2014 by Protocol Labs, IPFS is described as a peer-to-peer hypermedia distribution protocol that allows for fast, secure storage and retrieval of data.

The AdEx team is also working on prototypes that incorporate several second layer solutions that will operate on top of Ethereum. These solutions will enable advertisers and publishers to easily interact while avoiding any potential blockchain limitations regarding speed and transaction fees. AdEx plans to implement IOTA as a future second layer to further improve the platform’s scalability.

Because AdEx is designed to be compatible with most of the existing ad tech industry, the process of adoption and integration by publishers and advertisers is easy. AdEx can be used in websites, mobile and desktop applications, and even embedded devices.

ADX Tokens and the Token Sale

The crowdsale, which begins on June 30, 2017, and runs through July 30, 2017, will fund the initial development and adoption of the AdEx advertising network. AdEx tokens (ADX) will use ERC20, a standard protocol for smart contract systems powered by native tokens. This will ensure the platform’s compatibility with other Ethereum-powered solutions.

AdEx token crowdsale

In order to estimate and optimize the perfect supply of native tokens for the token sale, AdEx has partnered with WINGS Foundation, the developer of WINGS DAO. The project also engages the social graph of the WINGS DAO crypto-experts to maximize potential project backers who can serve as product champions and evangelists, allowing AdEx to quickly go to market.

The terms of the ADX token sale are as follows:

  • Crowdsale duration: 1 month
  • Start date: June 30, 2017
  • End date: July 30, 2017
  • Total number of ADX tokens: 100,000,000
  • Number of ADX tokens available for sale: 80,000,000
  • Currencies accepted: ETH
  • Token price: 1 ETH = 900 ADX
  • Campaign cap: 40,000 ETH

Over the course of the token crowdsale, 80% of all ADX tokens will be available for distribution among the supporters. Of the remaining twenty percent, 16% will be reserved for developers and advisors, which will be vested for a year to ensure the smooth development of the platform. The remaining 4% will be distributed between WINGS DAO community and the bounty campaign participants, as shown in the picture below.

AdEx 20% distribution breakdown

During the campaign, only ETH transactions will be accepted. The address for contributions will be published at tokens.adex.network once the token sale has begun.

Future Plans

The first AdEx advertising platform prototype is scheduled for release as early as February 2018. It will include basic core features such as an ad bidding system, a front-end for advertisers publishers, and an SDK for publishers. The prototype will primarily focus on native and display advertising.

To ensure transparency, the prototype will undergo a stringent audit by an independent third party prior to release and its code will be completely open-source.

In the year following the successful release of its prototype, AdEx will focus heavily on business development as determined by both market needs and community feedback. During this time, AdEx plans to roll out major improvements to the platform, including user targeting and reporting, full integration of SDK, and video advertising.

By January 2019, AdEx plans to release AdEx v.2, which seeks to accommodate the needs of the increasing number of publishers and advertisers using the platform. The v.2 solution will essentially be a complete technological revamp, scaling the entire solution upward and possibly extending to other blockchains such as Aeternity or RSK.

Do you think the AdEx advertising platform will adequately address the shortcomings and failures of the current online advertising industry? What do you think is the most exciting aspect of this project? Let us know in the comments below.


Images courtesy of AdEx, AdobeStock

The post Decentralized Ad Platform Developer AdEx Announces Token Sale appeared first on Bitcoinist.com.



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