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This week in crypto: New coins in China, crypto comes to CES and more

It’s hard to believe that crypto took a winter holiday just a week ago. There was so much activity last week, starting with Bitcoin ending the week up 10%. Elsewhere, there was no end of news, from New York lawmakers pushing a homegrown crypto, to a new stablecoin based on cans of sardines. Here are some other stories worth recapping:

Baidu launches Xuperchain Cryptocurrency

Internet search engine giant Baidu this week launched a public beta of its cryptocurrency, called Xuperchain. Needless to say, Xuperchain is compliant with the Chinese government, and it isn’t fully decentralized—it runs through a network of masternodes. 

The open source blockchain supports applications, a little like Ethereum. It wants to help China “leapfrog” other countries in blockchain development. 

Leapfrogging here is the well established Chinese strategy of developing new technology to overcome or sidestep a structural deficit. For instance, China lacked credit cards, but became the world’s leader in mobile payments, via apps like WeChat.  

If the white paper is to be believed, Xuperchain will be able to handle 10,000 transactions a second—more than 3 times as many as Ethereum is supposed to handle these days, but far short of the 45,000 transactions per second that Visa handles. Which doesn’t sound like much of a leapfrog, but hey. Who are we to judge?

Elsewhere in Sino-crypto news, the Chinese government has been beavering away on its own central bank-issued crypto, known as DCEP.  Per a paper published by China’s central bank, the government finished the top-level design for the currency; formulated the necessary standards, research and development; and completed testing the currency, both as a substitution for base money and for anonymity, reports JRJ. And you thought you had a busy week.

Plasma Group shuts down

Ethereum’s Plasma Group, the non-profit working on ways to make the Ethereum network scalable, shut down operations this week. Exactly one year into the project, the group said that since other competent teams were also “pushing production plasma into reality,” the research group could move on to tackle other projects, according to its blog post.

The Plasma Group was working on building Plasma, a layer-two scaling solution built on Ethereum—similar to the Bitcoin’s Lightning Network. One of its main accomplishments, though, wasn’t Plasma; it was something called Optimistic Rollup, a scaling solution for Ethereum that it showcased alongside Uniswap at Devcon 5 last year. Another was the Optimistic Virtual Machine, a project that combined all the different layer-two solutions together. 

Plasma Group is donating its remaining funds to Gitcoin, which connects freelancers with jobs, because it believes Gitcoin is “doing some of the most critical and underrated work not only in the blockchain space but also in the greater space of public goods.” 

Decrypt visits the Consumer Electronics Show

WIth the usual 90,000 nerds descending on Las Vegas, the biggest annual tech conference of the year, CES, happened last week. And thank god we weren’t there. Still, we kept a beady eye on the crypto-ish parts of the proceedings from afar. Here are the three projects that won Decrypt’s coveted Best Crypto of CES Award: Armchair Edition:

Watch yourself

Watch Skins (no website yet) is not in the digital screensavers business; it is in the blockchain collectibles business. Screensavers, gifs, and wallpaper all play a major part, but Watch Skins can do more than that. 

CEO Collin Knock aims to create a platform that lets smartwatch owners download custom watch skins from their favorite brand, applications that can show the latest score for your favorite football team, or the most recent tweets from your favorite celebrity. 

And, because it’s all on the blockchain, these skins can be proven to be one of a kind; ownership can be transferred from sellers to buyers through Watch Skins’ digital marketplace. Coming soon! Maybe!

Securing security cameras 

IoTeX debuted a new security camera that runs on its blockchain network. 

Larry Pang, head of business development at IoTex, told Decrypt that popular producers of home security cameras, “have to make caveats, saying ‘we won’t look at your data, we promise, but we do have cloud admins that have full access to the data’.” Such promises turn to ash when companies suffer security breaches, or are asked by government to hand over customer information. But not on the blockchain.

Cameras that run on IoTeX’s blockchain network can’t be hacked through conventional means, Pang says. And without a private key, nobody—not even IoTeX—can access the camera feeds. Take that local law enforcement trying to solve crimes!

Block full o’nuts 

IBM Food Trust wants to log the world’s food on its blockchain. Recent projects have included scallops, shrimp, and lettuce, which the system can track from production to dinner plate, creating an immutable, tamper-proof record of each food item. 

IBM’s latest break is for the non-masticatables. At CES this week, it announced “Thank My Farmer,” an app that tracks the production of coffee from its origins to its destinations.

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“Consumers now can play an active role in sustainability governance by supporting coffee farmers in developing nations. Through the blockchain and this consumer app, we’re creating a virtuous cycle,” said David Behrends, Founder and President of Farmer Connect, the company that’s partnered with IBM for the app. 

Currently, only 1850 premium single-origin coffee and Beyers 1769 are supported by the app. Scan a QR code printed on packets, and you can find out the provenance of your coffee. You have to admit: “block full o’nuts” is a pretty clever rubric.

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