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Ripple

Everything You Need to Know About XRP and the Ripple Payment Network

While many cryptocurrencies aim to decentralize the banking system, one currency stands alone in their attempts to collaborate with banks: Ripple.

In our past two articles, we’ve spotlighted the top 10 cryptocurrencies to look out for in 2018 and the top trends to know about to invest wisely in cryptocurrency in 2018. Both articles had one common topic: Ripple.

While Bitcoin was created to decentralize the financial industry, Ripple is the only digital asset actively working with banks to improve rather than undermine their operations. Ripple boasts the ability to process on average over 1,500 transactions per second, making it the fastest cryptocurrency on the market. Ripple has teamed up with Western Union, Santander, American Express, and more to test the fastest cross-border transaction network available.

The process of making cross-border payments is unnecessarily tedious. In the internet era, the only reason why a currency transfer should take a week to process is because of  outdated procedures. Ripple attempts to create the currency exchange for the digital age. While traditional international transfers require two banks, two reserve banks, two correspondents, and up to a week to process, Ripple offers a transfer method that reduces the time and costs of traditional methods while also offering less failure points and higher security.

Check out Team KoinOK’s Medium post for a smooth summary of how Ripple changes the traditional transfer process.

The other major difference between Ripple and Bitcoin lies in their ledgers. While Bitcoin has a completely decentralized ledger enabled by proof-of-work, Ripple is owned by a private company. Ripple’s internal ledger does not use proof-of-work, but rather a consensus protocol with an amendment system that enacts all amendments that receive 80% support from developers over the course of two weeks. Ripple’s ledger is internal and therefore centralized.

Ripple consists of two components: the digital currency (XRP) and an open payment network that facilitates the transactions. Ripple markets the payment network toward banks as a way of enacting real-time settlements. Ripple is designed as a currency-agnostic transaction system. In order to avoid a currency exchange, currencies are converted into XRP and then sent to the recipient. Unlike Litecoin, XRP are not intended in the long run to be used by consumers to purchase products, but instead to be a middle-man currency that enables instant transactions. XRP and the Ripple network are designed to create a currency-agnostic value web designed to do for currency transfer what email did for messaging.

Rather than take our word for it, check out this awesome summary by Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse:

WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE VALUE OF XRP AND THE PAYMENT NETWORK?

The acute investor must ask: if the Ripple payment network is Ripple’s main innovation, then what is the value of XRP? The long-term value of a cryptocurrency will be dictated by the problem that it is solving. If Ethereum becomes the platform for executing smart-contracts for a massive corporation like Amazon, then that ensure it’s existence in the long run, improving its function as a  store of value. If Ripple becomes the main transfer network for banks, its existence in the long term will be ensured and the function as a store of value will be greatly enhanced.

BOTTOM LINE

The transparency of the team behind the Ripple network and their vision of the platform instills great confidence in its ability to maintain value as a currency. If Ripple can achieve its goal of creating an internet of value where banks can exchange currency as easily as information, then it will definitely have the staying power to outlast the alt-coins and attain significant value over the coming years.

Image via http://technolocheese.com/

Top Cryptocurrency Trends You Need to Know to Invest Wisely in 2018

In December 2017, Bitcoin reached just over $19,000 per coin, its highest all time value. After a brief, precipitous decline to $7,000, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency is now making its way up around $10,400 as of February 26th, 2018.

If last year was any indication, 2018 will prove to be a major year in the further development and stabilization of cryptocurrencies.  Here are the top trends to look out for in 2018:

THE TRANSACTION PROBLEM

Slow transaction times and high transaction fees plagued Bitcoin in 2017. According to CoinMetrics, fees started 2017 averaging $0.30 per transaction and eventually peaked at over $40 in December. Bitcoin will implement several potential enhancements to its system designed to lower transaction fees in 2018.

SEGREGATED WITNESS PROTOCOL

The Segregated Witness protocol was first activated in August 2017. It is an upgrade to the Bitcoin protocol replacing Bitcoin’s block size and weight limit to allow for increased transactions and lower transaction fees. While adoption has been off to a slow start, 2018 should see many more wallets and marketplaces adopting the SegWit protocol, including Coinbase, who recently announced they have finished testing SegWit and begun implementing it for customers.

LIGHTNING NETWORK

First proposed by Joseph Poon and Thaddeos Dryja in January 2016, the lightning network is an overlay network which could enable long-term scalability and near-free transactions for Bitcoin. After two years of development by ACINQ, Blockstream and Lightning Labs, the Lightning Network should find more adoption in 2018.

RIPPLE ON THE RISE

Among our top Cryptocurrencies to watch out for in 2018, we featured Ripple. Ripple has  gained traction and value fast in 2018. Recently, Western Union revealed they have been testing the Ripple blockchain for cross-border payments. Ripple currently offers two main payment products for banks: xCurrent and xRapid. Over 100 banking clients are testing xCurrent, which does not use the Ripple coin. Western Union’s announcement makes them the fifth customer to test xRapid.

Ripple has always catered to banks. Ripple’s consensus protocol makes it more scalable than other major cryptocurrencies. While Bitcoin can process seven transactions per second, Ripple can process up to 1500 transactions in the same second. Ripple’s network is designed to trade any asset with any other asset. If Ripple can entrench itself as a payment processor for banks, its value may shoot way up in 2018.

REGULATION, REGULATION, REGULATION

Anybody with significant money invested into cryptocurrencies knows that perhaps the biggest threat facing cryptocurrency is government regulation. While the US has not instituted regulations, South Korea recently created a ban on anonymous accounts.  Governments all over the world are still in the process of developing regulatory measures. These regulatory decisions can make or break the future of cryptocurrencies.

Check out Bitcoin Magazine’s comprehensive rundown on how countries are regulating cryptocurrency across the globe.

WATCH FOR ALT-COINS

With cryptocurrency fervor at an all-time high, 2018 will no doubt see many new players enter the cryptocurrency game as well as current players making big moves. With over 1,300 alt-coins on the market right now, understanding how to properly research a coin is key. Below, check out our brief guide for evaluating a new cryptocurrency:

  1. THE TEAM: While Satoshi Nakamoto may have chosen to remain anonymous, many other cryptocurrencies are prioritizing transparency. By examining the team behind a cryptocurrency, investors can determine how serious a cryptocurrency really is. For example, having Steven Seagal as a brand ambassador does not contribute any value to a cryptocurrency whatsoever. On the other hand, knowing that Litecoin’s creator Charlie Lee is an engineer at Coinbase only further validates our belief in Litecoin’s capacity for growth.
  2. THE “WHY?”: What is it about a specific cryptocurrency that will ensure it will retain its value and significance in the long run? Bitcoin is the original and most popular cryptocurrency. Ethereum automates smart-contracts. Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash are designed for commerce. Ripple is attempting to establish itself with banks as a lightning quick transaction network. Many coins don’t offer any real long-term value. It’s vital to understand the key benefit of a coin in making the decision to invest.
  3. THE “WHEN: How far along is the cryptocurrency in the development process? Is there an ICO? Are new features being released? Coins come and go, so it’s best to invest in coins with solid long term plans.

CONCLUSION

After a landmark 2017, all eyes are on cryptocurrencies in 2018 to see if they can sustain their growth or if it will prove to be a bubble soon to burst. It is an exciting time to be a wise investor!

Securing Your IoT Devices Must Become a Top Priority

The Internet of Things has seen unprecedented growth the past few years. With an explosion of commercial products arriving on the marketplace, the Internet of Things has entered the public lexicon. However,  companies rushing to provide IoT devices to consumers often cut corners with regard to security, causing major IoT security issues nationwide.

In 2015, hackers proved to Wired they could remotely hack a smartcar on the highway, kill the engine and control key functions. Dick Cheney’s cardiologist disabled WiFi capabilities on his pacemaker, fearing an attack by a hacker.  Most recently, the October 21st cyber attack on Dyn brought internet browsing to a halt for hours while Dyn struggled to restore service.

Although the attack on Dyn seems to be independent of a nation-state, it has caused a ruckus in the tech community. A millions-strong army of IoT devices, including webcams and DVRs, were conscripted with a botnet which launched the historically large denial-of-service attack. Little effort has been made to make common consumers aware of the security threats posed by IoT devices. A toy Barbie can become the back door to the home network, providing access to PCs, televisions, refrigerators and more. Given the disturbing frequency of hacks in the past year, IoT security has come to the forefront of top concerns for IoT developers.

SECURING CURRENT DEVICES

The amount of insecure devices already in the market complicates the Internet of Things security problem. IoT hacks will continue to happen until the industry can shrink vulnerable devices. Securing current devices is a top priority for app developers. Apple has made an effort to combat this problem by creating very rigorous security requirements for HomeKit compatible apps.

The European Union is currently considering laws to force compliance with security standards. The plan would be for secure devices to have a label which ensures consumers the internet-connected device complies with security standards. The current EU labeling system which rates devices based on energy consumption could prove an effective template for this new cybersecurity rating system.

ISPs COULD BE THE KEY

Internet service providers could be a major part of the solution when it comes to IoT Security. Providers can block or filter malicious traffic driven by malware through recognizing patterns. Many ISPs use BCP38, a standard which reduces the process hackers use to transmit network packets with fake sender addresses.

ISPs can also notify customers, both corporate and individuals, if they find a device on their network sending or receiving malicious traffic. ISPs already comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which requires internet providers to warn customers if they detect possible illegal file sharing.

With the smarthome and over 1.9 billion devices predicted to be shipped in 2019, IoT security has never been a more important issue. Cyber attacks within the US frequently claim the front page of the mainstream media. CIO describes the Dyn attacks as a wake-up call for retailers. The combination of a mass adoption of IoT and an environment fraught with security concerns means there will be big money in IoT security R & D and a potential slow-down in time-to-market pipeline for IoT products.

Will the federal government get involved in instituting security regulations on IoT devices, or will it be up to tech companies and consumers to demand security? Whatever the outcome, this past year has proved IoT security should be a major concern for developers.

Water Cooler Tech Talk: What iOS 10 Can Do For Your Business

As we detailed last week, the release of iOS 10 marks a major turning point for the software. By opening up internal apps to developers, Apple has offered a major opportunity for businesses to improve and expand the functionality of their apps. Here are a few ways that iOS 10 can help your business.

CISCO INTEGRATION

Apple & Cisco (image via Apple)

While Apple announced their partnership with Cisco in August 2015, iOS 10 introduces the fruits of that partnership. Businesses which utilize Cisco networks and iOS devices will see a major improvement in functionality and compatibility. Companies with Cisco networks would be smart to encourage employees to switch to iOS, and companies which use other networks may want to take note of the new changes as they are designed to improve business processes.

OPTIMIZING WIFI

Finding the right AP can make or break major business processes. As a leading network provider, Cisco understands this issue and has used iOS 10 as an opportunity to address it. Devices with iOS 10 recognize Cisco networks, enabling WiFi optimization and prioritization for business critical apps. So if an employee is walking as they take a WebEx meeting on their iPad, rather than scanning all channels for the next strongest signal, Cisco networks use a 801.11k to provide a list of the top six neighboring APs. This saves time and battery. As iPhones reach the end of a cell, they check the location and create a short list of the next best AP based on signal and utilization.

BUSINESS APP PRIORITIZATION

With the bevy of applications, devices and content constantly occupying business networks, network connections can easily become bogged down, slowing business critical processes. Networks typically give apps the same level of priority, regardless of whether they are business apps like voice, messaging, video conferencing and document sharing, or non-business apps like games, movies and social media apps.

Cisco networks allow users to not only configure QoS (Quality of Service) on company infrastructure, but to control the link from client to AP. Thus, even if a wireless network is congested with different app traffic, businesses can “whitelist” critical apps to prioritize them over noncritical apps. IT managers can even whitelist by SSID, allowing them to customize each user profile so that apps are prioritized by what is critical to the individual’s performance. Users can have different settings for different networks, optimizing connections for apps based on whether they are at their office network, school network, home network or somewhere else.

CISCO SPARK INTEGRATION

iOS 10 also includes CallKit, a new API which allows VoIP apps like Cisco Spark to be built to take advantage of the accessibility of iOS 10. CallKit enables VoIP apps to utilize the native phone app, ensuring continuity of habit with the native iPhone call experience, while allowing for the superior capabilities of Cisco Spark.

TAKEAWAYS

Cisco’s tests on iOS 10 integrated with Cisco networks have yielded the following results:

  • Up to 8 times faster roaming
  • 90 percent reduction in web browsing failures
  • Up to 66 percent more reliable calling
  • Management overhead can be reduced by 50 percent

iMESSAGE FOR BUSINESSES

iMessage (Image via Silicon Angle)

iMessage has opened its doors to developers, and with it, billions of dollars in market potential. Forbes recently commented: “The launch of the iMessage platform will mint a new generation of billionaire entrepreneurs and become the most valuable social platform in the west over the next five years.”

With a billion active iOS devices worldwide, the iMessage app store has 100 times the distribution footprint compared to the App Store when it launched in  2008. The iMessage store allows for Sticker Packs and iMessage Apps for free or purchase. Aside from creating branding opportunities for celebrities and a whole new platform for social gaming, the iMessage app store opens the door for companies to create extension of their existing apps which utilize iMessage. By integrating internal business apps with internal iOS apps, companies can simplify communication by keeping everything on the same thread.

iOS 10 FOR BUSINESSES

Utilizing the latest software will only improve business processes. iOS 10 provides numerous opportunities for businesses to create more efficient business processes and consolidate business communication on personal devices. It also opens the door for a bevy of future possibilities for businesses to take advantage of as the software evolves. Bring it up at the water cooler and you could change your company for the better.