Cointelegraph By Helen Partz
Italian football giant AC Milan has just launched its own fan token, enabling fans to vote on a club motto for the season.
According to a Feb. 11 announcement, the club’s ACM fan token is now live on fan engagement Socios.com, which allows fans to purchase the token which gives access to club polls, VIP rewards, super-fan recognition, games and chat forums. The token debuted trading at $6.68.
In partnership with blockchain firm Chiliz, AC Milan is debuting the ACM token with a team motto poll that will see ACM holders create and vote on a motto to inspire players for the rest of the 2020–2021 Serie A playing season. The winning motto will be placed inside the first-team dressing room at the San Siro stadium.
Scheduled for the next week, the poll is designed to provide over 500 million AC Milan fans around the world with an opportunity to support their favorite football stars.
AC Milan officially announced its plans to launch the ACM fan token on Chiliz in January 2021 in a move to reach the club fans amid the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.
Prior to helping AC Milan in launching their fan token, Chiliz and Socios launched a number of tokens for multiple sport clubs and organizations including FC Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain. Barcelona fans used the tokens to vote on the placement of a fan-designed artwork in the team dressing room, while Juventus fans had a chance to choose the club’s new celebration song.
Chiliz (CHZ) rallies 60% to a $1B market cap as fan token offerings expand
Cointelegraph By Jordan Finneseth
Nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and decentralized finance (DeFi) are two of the hottest concepts in the crypto sector, and each is altering the way projects and companies interact with the public on a wide scale.
One project that is looking to apply these concepts into a framework for sports fan engagement is Chiliz, a blockchain platform created by the Socios fan engagement platform. The project is designed to allow fans to purchase branded Fan Tokens that let them influence their teams through the popular vote.
According to the project website, all Fan Tokens are minted on the Chiliz blockchain with on-platform voting being executed through a series of smart contracts.
Data from Cointelegraph Markets and TradingView shows that over the past month, the price of Chiliz (CHZ) has increased 760%, going from $0.022 on Feb. 8 to a new all-time high of $0.189 on March 8. CHZ trading volume also hit a 24-hour record at $1.92 billion.
The platform currently offers Fan Tokens for some of the most popular sports teams in the world, including FC Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, AS Roma, Galatasaray and Atletico de Madrid.
Token launch sparked a strong rally
Momentum for Chiliz began to gather steam at the end of 2020 when the platform partnered with Binance to launch the ACM Fan Token for AC Milan on Feb. 24. The launch generated $6 million in revenue for the CHZ ecosystem.
ACM is part of a network of 23 major sporting and esports organizations that also have plans to work with Chiliz on launching Fan Tokens.
CHZ price received an added boost on March 2 when CEO Alexandre Dreyfus announced that the project would allocate $50 million to expand operations to the United States, and there are already plans to start working with local leagues and sports franchises.
VORTECS™ data from Cointelegraph Markets Pro began to detect a bullish outlook for CHZ on March 1, prior to the recent price rise.
The VORTECS™ score, exclusive to Cointelegraph, is an algorithmic comparison of historic and current market conditions derived from a combination of data points including market sentiment, trading volume, recent price movements and Twitter activity.
As seen in the chart above, the VORTECS™ score hit a high of 66 on March 1, less than 5 hours before the price of CHZ began to break out above $0.06. Following the price rise and consolidation above $0.11, the VORTECS™ score climbed to 69 on March 6, two days before the price surged to a new all-time high.
Currently, Chiliz is in ongoing talks with Formula One, and if the team is able to onboard popular U.S. sporting teams, the project could be well positioned to see further growth as blockchain technology and NFTs become more ingrained into the sports industry.
The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph.com. Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.
UAE enables private sector to adopt blockchain tech
Cointelegraph By Shiraz Jagati
It is no secret that the United Arab Emirates, along with Switzerland, Singapore and several other countries, is one of the most forward-looking tech nations in the world, with the Middle Eastern powerhouse promoting the use of blockchain in almost every sector imaginable, from energy to shipping to media.
To help the country with its adoption efforts, the UAE government has launched two extensive, well-crafted initiatives — i.e., the Emirates Blockchain Strategy 2021 and Dubai Blockchain Strategy. While the former seeks to spread the use of blockchain tech for facilitating over 50% of all government transactions by 2021, the latter will help Dubai transform itself into the first city in the world to be fully powered by blockchain.
Furthermore, the Dubai Future Foundation, which is backed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, recently established the Global Blockchain Council in order to help spur the exploration and real-world applications of blockchain tech across a host of financial and non-financial sectors within the country.
As things stand, the council currently comprises 46 members, including government entities, international players, leading local banks, as well as tech firms from across the globe.
Where does the UAE stand?
On the subject of the UAE’s holistic crypto outlook, Hadi Malaeb, CEO of AgoraGroup — a firm that seeks to facilitate international trade — told Cointelegraph that in his view, the UAE administrative regime is by far the most responsive to the crypto industry in the MENA region and one of the most progressive in the world.
To drive home his point, he highlighted that the UAE’s Securities and Commodities Authority recently published “The Authority’s Chairman of the Board of Directors Decision No. (21/R.M) of 2020,” which provides local businesses and digital asset owners with an additional detailed outlook regarding the regulation of crypto assets. Malaeb added:
“I can tell you from first-hand experience that the industry has developed tremendously within a very short period of time from an investment, adoption and regulatory standpoints.”
Business adoption is growing
While most countries across the globe are just starting to recognize the monetary and technological proposition put forth by blockchain and crypto tech, the UAE has already set in motion a number of projects that can potentially transform the country’s landscape in the coming decade or so.
For example, UAE’s Roads and Transport Authority is currently working on a project that seeks to help establish a fully automated vehicle lifecycle management system using an advanced blockchain framework. In brief, the final platform will create a mesh of manufacturers, dealers, regulators, insurance companies, buyers, sellers and garages, thereby creating a detailed record of each vehicle through the entirety of its life cycle.
On the subject, Khaled Alkalbani, CEO of Ideaology — an open-source project built atop the Ethereum ecosystem — told Cointelegraph that while use cases related solely to cryptocurrencies are low at the moment, the UAE is without a doubt one of the most advanced in terms of blockchain use cases and applications, adding:
“The UAE, as always, is bustling with blockchain, digital assets, crypto-related news — to mention, our central bank is using DLT for SME funding and trade finance. The Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) is building an excellent foundation to use/trade crypto, as they believe that this technology will help the economy, businesses and investors.”
Notable use cases
In this vein, researchers affiliated with the UAE’s Khalifa University recently developed digital immunity passports, using blockchain tech. The passport, which will come in the form of a smartphone app, will serve as a digital document detailing a person’s innate risk of spreading COVID-19. Furthermore, the passport will also contain details such as prior negative test reports, vaccination info, etc.
The offering could potentially prove its value in settings where there is a high risk of transmission, like sporting events, live concerts, movie theatres or shopping malls. Not only that, but it could also help the travel industry immensely because it could streamline the screening process of high-risk individuals.
Etisalat, an Emirati-based telecommunications services provider, recently announced the launch of a new blockchain platform that will enable the company to conduct all of its human resource-related activities in a decentralized, transparent fashion. What’s more, Etisalat’s customer engagement program, Smiles, launched the UAE’s first-ever Rewards Exchange powered by blockchain tech.
Related: The United Arab Emirates chase crypto and blockchain adoption
The company also has its hands in a number of other notable blockchain projects, most notably, a platform called Shahada, a tamper-proof digital certificate ecosystem that can be used by any educational institution operating in the region, as well as UAE’s trade finance platform UAE Trade Connect.
Lastly, the UAE’s national carrier Etihad Airways joined forces with open-source travel platform Winding Tree to explore the use of blockchain tech, primarily as a means of distributing its various products and services directly to its customers, thereby cutting out the need for any intermediaries.
Unprecedented interest across the UAE
With each passing year, the UAE seems to be garnering more business interest from blockchain enthusiasts globally, especially as the country continues to help spur the widespread adoption of the technology by providing startups as well as big-name firms with a highly conducive atmosphere to develop their envisioned platforms with the least amount of regulatory pullback.
In this regard, Malaeb pointed out: “We have hosted more than six events in that space within a period of three years,” adding that AgoraGroup’s conferences “have helped startups and well-established companies in this industry to meet, one on one, with pre-qualified investors, and we have witnessed many deals taking place.” Overall, he believes that:
“There is a palpable increase in appetite of institutional investors to explore investment opportunities in digital assets.”
Lastly, Mohanned Halawani, a communications expert and blockchain technology specialist, believes that the country’s tolerance toward practicing new technologies has had a direct impact on the number of crypto entrepreneurs moving to the country. He believes that UAE’s fiscal foundation makes it easier for local firms to adopt blockchain solutions with relative ease, adding:
“It is a tax haven compared to countries with similar economic growth. […] But yet, there is still lots of room for blockchain adoption here. We hope to see crypto being accepted in retail businesses very soon.”
Some of the interviewees have participated in the Global Blockchain Congress in Dubai on Feb. 9, hosted by the Agora Group.
The quest for Bitcoin scalability through layer two protocols
Cointelegraph By Osato Avan-Nomayo
As the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, Bitcoin’s (BTC) effectiveness as a medium of exchange is still a matter for debate. Unlike fiat money that is inherently infinite in supply and must be managed by a central bank, Bitcoin is akin to gold in that it is commodity money with a finite supply of 21 million.
However, the supply cap is not the major stumbling block for BTC as a medium of exchange, but rather, the transaction throughput. While Satoshi Nakamoto envisioned Bitcoin as a peer-to-peer electronic cash system capable of facilitating online payments without a central counterparty, seven transactions per second on average is hardly the standard for scalability.
Indeed, scalability is only one of three major metrics required for any currency system to succeed as a medium of exchange along with adoption and liquidity. There is an argument to be made of Bitcoin’s growing adoption around the world across several strata of the global economy.
Price volatility that has seen Bitcoin peak at $58,000 and then briefly fall below the $30,000 mark within the first two months of 2021 likely indicates lingering issues with liquidity. However, it’s important to note that the current period is being characterized by a bullish advance that began in October 2020. Ultimately, some analysts expect Bitcoin’s volatility to level out as more institutions take up positions in the market.
What do the critics say?
Bitcoin’s scalability problem is even older than the network itself. Indeed, upon first proposing the system back in 2008, James A. Donald replied to Satoshi Nakamoto with: “The way I understand your proposal, it does not seem to scale to the required size.”
This astute observation has been at the heart of some of the more contentious and controversial debates within the Bitcoin ecosystem. Disagreements over how to solve the problem have even resulted in multiple hard forks.
These days, when Bitcoin critics cannot definitively dismiss BTC’s store of value proposition, scalability seems to be a low-hanging fruit with which to craft some anti-Bitcoin soundbite. Speaking during the 2021 Daily Journal annual shareholders meeting, Berkshire Hathaway vice-chairman Charlie Munger remarked that Bitcoin will never become a global medium of exchange due to its price volatility.
The 97-year-old billionaire investor is no stranger to espousing anti-Bitcoin sentiments. Indeed, together with Warren Buffett, the two Berkshire Hathaway chiefs have been responsible for some of the more colorful negative remarks among Bitcoin. From being “rat poison squared” to “trading turds,” Munger once slammed BTC investors for celebrating the life and work of Judas Iscariot.
Munger, like Buffett, is among a class of Wall Street Bitcoin critics who have often claimed that Bitcoin has no intrinsic value. However, with the price of BTC continuing its relentless upward advance over the past decade while attracting significant institutional interest, detractors now seem to be left with only the scalability argument.
Even among mainstream crypto adopters, Bitcoin’s inability to scale at the base protocol level also seems to be a significant issue. In an address during the Future of Money conference back in February, Mastercard executive vice chair Ann Cairns declared that BTC was not suited to its crypto payment plans.
According to Cairns: “Bitcoin does not behave like a payment instrument […] It’s too volatile and it takes too long to transact.” As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Mastercard recently announced plans to offer support for cryptocurrency payment on its network.
Lightning Network node count rises, but slowly
Together with the 10-minute block creation time, the one-megabyte block size acts as the actual transaction throughput constraint for the Bitcoin network. The block size debate of 2017 that ultimately led to the Bitcoin Cash hard fork proved the adamance of Bitcoin purists to the 1MB block size ethos.
With the “big blockers” now firmly on their own Bitcoin forks like BCH and Bitcoin SV, the question of how to get BTC to scale without changing a thing on the protocol level still lingers. From Bitcoin banks to sidechain protocols, and even deferred settlement infrastructure layers like the Lightning Network, several developmental projects are currently ongoing to make Bitcoin more suitable for microtransactions like paying for coffee.
At a high level, these scaling solutions involve the creation of trustless, centralized (pardon the oxymoron) entities or layer-two networks that maintain lightweight versions of the BTC ledger to handle the actual “coin” transfers without having to maintain the full Bitcoin ledger. These sidechain implementations then transmit the transaction data for final settlement on the actual Bitcoin network.
LN is one of the major Bitcoin scaling solutions under active development by several organizations including Blockstream and Elizabeth Stark’s Lightning Labs. The Lightning Network is perhaps the most popular of the “defer-reconcile” scaling implementations that allow users to create payment channels that offer instant coin transfers at minimal fees.
According to data from LN data aggregator 1ML, there are over 17,300 public Lightning Network nodes and more than 38,400 channels. LN capacity is currently north of 1,100 BTC.
While LN adoption is yet to attain significant heights, layer-two implementation might be about to get a boost with Zap — a Visa-backed Lightning Network payments startup. In February, the company launched Strike — a payments and remittance app that utilizes the Lightning Network for payments.
Strike has also partnered with crypto exchange platform Bittrex to deliver LN-powered payments to over 200 countries around the world. The company plans to issue Strike Visa cards to users in the United States as well as in Europe and the United Kingdom before the end of the year.
What about Statechains?
There is a school of thought that argues Bitcoin scalability is only possible via layer-two solutions. Ruben Somsen, Bitcoin developer, crypto podcaster and founder of the Seoul Bitcoin meetup, is one of the proponents of this argument.
Somsen is an advocate of Statechains, another layer-two implementation but with a twist — transaction participants send private keys instead of actual unspent transaction output, or UTXO. The process involves loading a Statechain-compatible wallet with the exact BTC sum required for the trade followed by the transfer of the private keys from the sender to the recipient.
Since transferring private keys across the blockchain is fee-less and instant, the Statechain idea seems to have gained some traction within the Bitcoin scalability discussion. However, revealing private keys comes with significant security implications.
Thus, in recent times, the Statechain concept has been modified to include a third entity that acts as an intermediary between the transacting parties. Detailing the workings of this counterparty federation within the Statechain matrix, Somsen told Cointelegraph:
“Statechains allow you to take your coins off-chain (meaning cheap transactions) in a way that puts a minimum amount of trust in others. You have to trust a federation, but the federation won’t know that they are getting partial control of your coins, and they can’t refuse peg-outs (moving back to the Bitcoin blockchain).”
Blockchain infrastructure firm CommerceBlock is one of the companies actively developing Statechains as a viable scalability solution for Bitcoin. The firm is credited with introducing the counterparty federation or “Statechain entity” to improve the security of the system. In a conversation with Cointelegraph, CommerceBlock CEO Nicholas Gregory outlined how Statechains operate:
“At a high level, Statechains are simply a way to transfer your private key to another user. To facilitate this, you have to cooperate with a Statechain entity. However, at all times, the user has full control of their funds; at any anytime, they can withdraw their Bitcoin to their own custody. Therefore, the transfer is instant and private.”
While Statechains is a scalability solution on its own, some proponents agree that the system could integrate with the Lightning Network. With Statechains operating on the UTXO level, it is theoretically possible for another layer-two protocol such as the Lightning Network to be implemented on top of Statechains.
Such a hybrid integration could solve the limited node capacity issue of Lightning Network while ensuring the ability to facilitate multiple microtransactions via Statechains. Since the exact transaction amount is loaded into Statechain wallets, it’s impossible to split UTXOs making Statechain in its present iteration unsuitable for microtransactions.
According to Somsen, the Statechains can operate independently as well as function together with the Lightning Network: “Statechains complement the Lightning Network perfectly because opening and closing channels can happen off-chain. This removes a lot of the friction that exists in the current Lightning Network design.”
For Gregory, integrating Statechains with the Lightning Network is among the future developmental plans for CommerceBlock: “Statechains are instant and do not require liquidity lock up; however, you are sending the private key, so you can’t do small or specific denominations. This is where LN excels.”
With these developments and more, the quest for a workable Bitcoin scalability solution is still ongoing. While critics, like Munger, who have been consistently wrong about BTC, continue to drop soundbites, developers are hard at work to solve one of the longest-running operability issues concerning Bitcoin.
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