The second half of 2018 will likely represent a decisive period for cryptocurrencies, as many of the core functionalities and services offered across blockchains and protocols are poised to come to fruition. This “utility wave” of upcoming projects has the potential to radically change the nature of virtual interactions and even cause a paradigm shift throughout major industries worldwide.
One exciting utility that has recently been announced is the Endor Protocol which has recently entered its beta phase, enabling its 25,000+ members to engage with the protocol via its native EDR token to engage in predictive analytics.
The Evolution of Predictive Analytics
Predictive analytics is a practice where big data is analyzed to develop predictions, primarily for businesses to answer questions in regards to consumer preferences, market trends, product reception, and so on. Currently, the practice is primarily employed by major corporations like Amazon with funds to spend millions of dollars on data science teams, infrastructure, and proprietary data. Despite the massive investment, prior initiatives have exhibited questionable accuracy and have, in many instances, lacked merit to justify the costs.
As such, there has been major skepticism surrounding this method – largely due to its failure to prove that machines and algorithms are capable of making accurate predictions. As it stands, predictive analytics is typically developed through machine learning- computers and algorithms are given procedures and models to interpret big data into predictions.
Harvard Professor and Director of Social Science Gary King summarizes the critique well,
“We need to know if you are getting the right answer randomly or you’re getting the right answer because of something you are doing”.
In other words- are computers capable of learning the future?
Endor, however, approaches the idea through from a new angle. Rather than focusing efforts on machine learning, the protocol instead bases its logic in Social Physics supported by their co-founder, MIT professor Alex Pentland, who is the flagship proponent for this approach.
In its essence, Social Physics is situated around an idea that human behavior is comprised of patterns, both repeatable and uniform, and that computations can be used to predict human nature itself.
Rather than focusing efforts on infrastructure enabling computational predictions, Endor’s method focuses on predispositions and consistencies seen across society in order to forge predictions. This social physics approach synergizes quite well with the blockchain-based nature of Endor.
Both qualities enable new forms of accessibility for users. Social Physics allows for more accurate predictions with far less resources required and the blockchain environment fosters a platform that is simple to interact with.
Another limiting factor of predictive analytics is the method typically employed to interact with data. It was previously thought to be impossible to analyze big data without first decrypting it. A blockchain-based approach, however, disproves this belief, as data can be analyzed while remaining encrypted.
When the protocol communicates with or is supplied data from users, sensitive information it has accessed is hidden behind a hash. The protocol understands and can interact with the information, but any other party would be unable to decipher the data. Users can allow the protocol to interact with their data without any other party being involved. This means data is always secured and can never be leaked which is why leading banks are employing Endor.
These qualities, in harmony with one another, empower Endor as the future of predictive analytics. Their platform enables analytics which are automated, scalable, simple, and most importantly, more accurate than ever before.
Endor has already been recognized by a number of major business- current clientele includes Walmart, Coca Cola, Mastercard, and many more Fortune 500 companies. Despite the breakthroughs enabled by blockchain, no other project currently offers a blockchain-based system for predictive analytics.
Accessible to All
Now, with the launch of Endor Protocol, any individual or SMB (small- and medium-sized business) can utilize EDR to interact with the same platform as the major enterprises that are current users. This process is simple and requires no background in data science.
Users can simply query the machine via EDR, and receive automated responses. Unlike traditional approaches, where models must be created by data scientists to ask questions and properly analyze data, The Social Physics approach means any number of predictive questions can be asked by any number of users.
With the launch of Endor Protocol, all users receive the exact same service from SMBs to enterprise clients. When Walmart, for example, uses the platform, their fiat payments are converted into EDR, which is then used to query the protocol. By purchasing EDR and using tokens at the individual level, the experience is democratized.
Alongside its adoption by major banks and other Fortune 500s, The company has been named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum in 2017 and a “Cool Vendor” by Gartner the same year. The brains behind the project, Professor Pentland, was recognized by Forbes as one of the seven most powerful data scientists worldwide. Of course, this may not come as a surprise from the project pioneering the future of predictive analytics.
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WCX, the stock brokerage powered entirely by Bitcoin, just crossed $1 billion in transactions
Swiss-based WCX marks a new era in financial trading as a platform that lets you trade stocks, foreign currencies, cryptos, and more using just bitcoin – no fiat required.
Started by ex-Apple engineers and launched in October, the platform has amassed over 130,000 traders and recently surpassed $1 billion in traded volume.
WCX Sees Significant Growth
WCX was founded by Amatsu Soyonobu and Tagawa Hayashida, who worked for Apple in software engineering and management capacities. Both were early Bitcoin adopters and first started dabbling with the cryptocurrency in 2012.
Frustrated by the lack of real world use cases for the digital currency, and utilizing their previous experience in quantitative trading, they left their Silicon Valley jobs and set out to create a service to let regular people access global markets using Bitcoin.
We spoke with WCX CEO Amatsu Soyonobu: “If you’ve used an online broker before, you know that you’re required to link a bank account or to somehow deposit fiat to start trading. And that you’re geographically bound. And there are tons of other limitations.”
But WCX is different, he says. “With WCX, what’s unique is that you just need BTC, which means you can access the markets from pretty much anywhere in the world. It makes everything so much easier and faster.”
That includes deposits, withdrawals, trading, and onboarding, Mr. Soyonobu stated. “WCX basically combines the speed and trading experience of a crypto exchange with the broad range of markets typically offered by your stock brokerage.”
That speed and trading experience is attracting thousands of traders from 189 countries, according to a company statement.
Bitcoin Means Lower Costs
The company charges 0% fees for deposits, withdrawals, and trades. Mr Soyonobu says that’s thanks to accepting Bitcoin only and shunning the fiat option, which is costlier. “Because we don’t have to rely on banks and accept just Bitcoin, we can cut costs that other exchanges and brokers have to deal with, and pass on those savings to our users in the form of 0 fees.”
“Just like using an open source tech stack drives your costs down as a software company, using open source payment processing, as in bitcoin, drives your costs down as a finance company.”
The company makes its revenue from the spread it quotes on the various markets it offers, which can be as low as 0.001% for highly liquid foreign currency markets.
“To us, bitcoin is a competitive advantage. Our costs across the board are inherently lower because the platform is powered entirely by Bitcoin,” Mr. Soyonobu says.
Using the WCX platform is pretty straightforward. Users can simply deposit Bitcoin and choose a market they’d like to trade. For instance, users can decide to trade cryptos, stocks like Tesla or Netflix, commodities like gold, and foreign currencies like Euro. The interface also displays real-time charts and a plethora of technical analysis indicators. Users can submit both long and short positions.
Bullish on Bitcoin
When it comes to Bitcoin itself, Mr. Soyonobu is quite bullish. “There is no doubt in my mind that the future of bitcoin is very bright. At WCX, we’re living it first hand every day. It will take a little time for everyone to get used to it, but we’ll get there.”
Mr. Soyonobu concluded: “We don’t touch dollars, euros, or banks because we think those belong to the past. Our goal, along with many others in the community, is to build a future powered by crypto, and I think we’re just getting started.”
Crypto Banks – The Need of the Hour
Cryptocurrencies are gaining popularity. The underlying technology, blockchain, is being used for various applications. One of the biggest potential applications will be in the banking sector. Banks are archaic and blockchain is ready to disrupt the mammoth sector with innovative solutions that bring efficiency and transparency in operations as well as providing features that a traditional bank would never be able to.
There are quite a few projects like Monaco that have the aim to disrupt the banking and payments sector while new generation projects like FOTON bank have a focussed approach on a much wider net of banking services. Foton bank’s team envisions to provide a complete suite of banking services including a virtual card like Monaco. Let us look at how an ideal cryptocurrency bank can disrupt this market. Some other projects vying for this market are World Bit Bank, My Crypto Bank, European Crypto Bank.
What are Crypto banks?
With the rising popularity of smart contracts on popular platforms like Ethereum, a completely autonomous organisation or a platform with complex banking capabilities is not too far in the future.
Crypto banks are essentially decentralised platforms that can fulfil all the functions of a bank without a mediator. A crypto bank would ideally have following features:
Provide users with accounts. These accounts, although similar to traditional bank accounts, will be completely in control of the user. Even if the platform or the crypto bank shuts its operations, users do not lose their funds.
Anonymous or Identified
A crypto bank can provide the option to keep user data anonymous or link them with their identity by way of KYC procedures.
Business or Personal account set up
It would provide a business or a personal account enriched with relevant services. A business account would feature a multi-sig wallet, a stable coin, provide acquiring service and many other features that would make a traditional bank look primitive.
A business account could be connected to Payroll, payments, invoicing systems and taxation. Many states in the US and countries have started accepting taxes in crypto tokens and this trend is only growing by the day.
Payments and transfers
More businesses are accepting crypto payments and implementing payment gateways to collect them. A good crypto bank would streamline remittances, payments and transfers across geographies. It would not only facilitate crypto transfers but also conversion to and from Fiat.
Credit facility and Peer-to-Peer lending
A crypto bank would also provide credit and lending facilitated by blockchain-based open market. Such facilities would be transparent and interest rates would be determined by the market.
Virtual card and Mobile application
A crypto credit card is the holy grail of crypto payments. This will simplify payments for those who aren’t savvy enough to use a wallet and secure their own funds. A mobile application for digital payment would enable instant peer-to-peer transactions.
Low service and transaction cost
Last but not the least, it would eliminate most of the service and transaction costs. Banks employ thousands of people to perform tasks that would be redundant with a blockchain. Cost of providing service is a major cost head in banks.
Transaction costs on a blockchain are very low compared to the banks and this would ultimately benefit customers using a crypto bank.
Why do we need crypto banks?
Digital payments are on a rise. It is widely accepted that payments will move on a digital medium and blockchain is at the core of this transformation. As adoption of cryptocurrency rises even in a bear market, more traditional banks are testing cryptocurrency remittances and even more startups are using blockchain to disrupt legacy systems in various sectors. Banking sector is no different except the fact that the opportunity is humungous.
One of the reasons for the popularity of cryptocurrencies is the bureaucracy and friction in the traditional financial systems and banking is no different. Here are some of the problems that a crypto bank can solve:
Advantages of Crypto Banks
Crypto banks are much more flexible and nimble. The underlying technology provides it with the power that will make traditional banking system obsolete. Here are some of the major differentiating factors:
No Regulatory burden
Regulatory burden makes the banks slow to respond to customers changing needs. Banks need to wade their way through a complex mesh of rigid rules which often affect their ability to serve their customers best.
Crypto banks work on a decentralised platform with very little regulatory friction. If a crypto bank is sufficiently decentralised by incentivising users to host nodes and masternodes, it can operate in a country that has a friendly regulation.
Banks often have limits and elaborate procedures for simple transfers and customers end up suffering. There are no limits when it comes to crypto transactions.
Crypto transactions are known for their low cost and fast transfers. Transfers worth hundreds of millions of dollars would cost less than a dollar when done via Bitcoin and will be as fast as a handful of minutes. No bank can ever compete with such efficiency.
Banks have been known to be hacked and supply information to banking bodies. There is an increasing sense of loss of privacy in the sector.
Bitcoin has proven that the blockchain technology, when implemented at scale, has stood securely for over ten years now. Also, the factor of anonymity with transparency sets blockchain aside. A person or business can transfer funds from one wallet to another with a public entry on the distributed ledger but without revealing their identity.
This is the biggest differentiating factor. While it feels like we are in control of our funds, that is far from truth. Banks can stop transfers, freeze accounts and monitor every move.
Crypto’s decentralised structure makes sure any person, business or even government cannot control it or shut the network down. Many big governments have tried banning Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies without any success. This has led them to the only choice of adopting it and regulating it to an extent of curbing the illegal activities using crypto payments.
Availability and dependence
Banking service is subject to working hours, customer support hours, holidays and there is a strong dependence on the central bank that specifies an arbitrary rate of interest which can be changed any time.
A decentralised banking platform will be available 24×7. Equity markets have working hours but crypto exchanges operate 24×7. A banking platform on blockchain will operate similarly. Also, for a peer-to-peer platform, interest rates and other fees could be determined by the forces of free market. Peer-to-peer lending platforms already work better than the lending model governed by central banks where banks work as a middlemen and employ hordes of staff to complete the procedures and execute every transaction.
Scenario of Crypto Banks
Monaco has made a foray in this market by partnering with Visa and releasing a product in multiple geographies. But their narrow focus only on payments makes them more like PayPal for crypto rather than a comprehensive banking platform. Their recent rebranding to Crypto.com is a step that indicates their focus solely on payments.
A relatively new player, FOTON bank, looks much more promising and has the right focus. A platform like FOTON bank has the potential to be an integrated banking system on blockchain. The project is designing a decentralized crypto-bank for multi-currency trade with a Fiat to cryptocurrency exchange and instant payments made contactless by NFC delivered across the world. It aims to create an ecosystem that will help provide banking services for financial assets, exchange, virtual cards, business and accounting services at scale. FOTON bank aims to develop its own cryptocurrency exchange and an interbank ecosystem which eliminates the need of intermediaries. It is powered by the Light in-house blockchain with capabilities to deliver financial solutions and handle customer service processes.
FOTON bank works without intermediaries with its own cryptocurrency exchange and interbank ecosystem powered by the Light in-house blockchain technology combining finance and customer service processes.
Banking industry is ripe for disruption. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies are knocking at the gates and the former guardians of the industry have started joining the movement. The efficiencies brought in by this technology can no longer be ignored. These would be at the core of the next banking revolution.
The future belongs to code-governed open markets that do not require human interface for every transaction or determination of rates of trade. A completely automated decentralised platform with a strong governance model is the future of banking. Such a platform would not only work with cryptocurrencies but provide a full range of support for Fiat, stable coins as well as cryptocurrencies.
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Written by ~ Amrit Mirchandani
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