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Top 5 decentralised exchanges and how they work

The signs of early panic began on the 12th of January as Twitter mentions of @krakenfx rose, coupled with ever-increasing references to Mt. Gox, whose 2014 hack led to a loss of 850,000 Bitcoins and depressed the value of the cryptocommodity for years afterward. The panic surrounding Kraken, the largest exchange in the world for EUR denominated trading, mounted as the initial ‘planned maintenance’ of 4 hours stretched to over 48. Kraken reassured users that funds were safe and the platform had not been compromised, but it wasn’t hard to draw comparisons to the earlier Bitfiniex hack or the Mt. Gox hack, which took days to uncover. Bears were convinced a hack had occurred, painting a big target on the exchange’s Bitcoin and Ethereum hot wallets, which had held millions of EUR worth of the two currencies.

Such a hack at a centralized exchange would invariably tank the price of the commodities, compounding the actual losses to every single user on the platform. And for it to happen to Kraken, which had been considered the prime standard for security, would be catastrophic. There was, of course, no hack. Kraken had trouble with the planned upgrade, and even removed all fees from the platform to make up for the downtime but this did little to defuse the panic-selling or the lawsuits which had been threatened.

In the wake of the not-hack, public opinion surged again in favor of hardware wallets. Centralized exchanges, even the most robust, were always susceptible to being hacked, and an offline wallet would at least protect your holdings – but this only provided an option for safe storage, not for trading. How would one keep holdings tucked away safely while also trading when required?

Enter decentralized exchanges 

One of the major selling points of blockchain technology is the ability to disintermediate and remove centralized control. Why, then, could the exchanges trading these assets not be decentralized themselves? If the exchange did not exist in a single physical location, apart from the immediate safety for stored funds, it would also become less vulnerable to governmental censorship (China, for example, would not be able to ban Bitcoin twice a year any more). An exchange existing as a decentralized network of nodes could only be shut down if every single node were taken down. Such an exchange would be the logical step ahead for trading these assets.

The decentralized exchange (DEX) ecosystem is still very much in its infancy, but there are some that are already usable. Most of the interfaces are still clunky and there aren’t dedicated companies or teams working on all of these to provide customer support when required. As DEXes rely on recording transactions directly on the blockchain, the transaction speeds are far lower than what a centralized exchange might provide while also resulting in higher fees during peak times. Together, these factors also result in significantly lower volumes being traded across these exchanges. However, if safety is a priority, using a decentralized exchange is a necessary tradeoff. Some of the currently active DEXes are discussed below.

Bisq Network 

Bisq is a fully open-source client that can be downloaded and used for trading. This is one of the few exchanges that allows trading with fiat currencies as well as other cryptoassets. Bisq allows the use of BTC, DASH, DOGE and LTC as base currencies when trading.

Bitshares / Openledger / Cryptobridge 

Bitshares and its derivatives allow the trade of any asset pegged to their own native currencies (Bitshares or Bridgecoin). While these are DEXes by design, the need to buy an additional token just to trade on them is an unnecessary additional step in their usage.

Etherdelta 

Catering exclusively to Ethereum and Ethereum-derived ERC-20 tokens, Etherdelta has been the most prominent exchange of late, fueled by the rise of ICOs and ERC-20 tokens. Built using smart contracts on the ETH blockchain, this is as close as it gets to trading natively on the blockchain. However, Etherdelta was the victim of a recent DNS hack that resulted in the loss of funds for many users. This raises an important concern for users: while DEXes are robust as long as the underlying platform or smart contract is foolproof, the access points of DEXes (through your web browser) can still be tampered with. Extreme vigilance is required on the part of the user to ensure they’re not looking at a hacked version of the website, but this isn’t always easy to discern. While the Etherdelta hack required users to provide their private keys a second time (which was a clear red flag), not every user has the awareness needed to identify malicious actions on a DEX.

Idex market 

Idex is a marked usability improvement over Etherdelta that allows the trading of ERC-20 and ETH tokens. The addition of the AURA token (similar to how Bitshares or Bridgecoin provide rewards) allows users to benefit from increased usage of the platform.

Rader Relays 

Also catering to ETH and ERC-20 tokens, Radar Relay is built using the 0x protocol. An added advantage over Etherdelta or IDEX is that no withdrawals or deposits are needed for using the exchange, lowering the chance of misplaced funds.

Using any of these exchanges follows the same set of steps:

1) Create a separate wallet that you control the private keys to. Use MEW, Metamask or a hardware wallet to interact with your address.

2) Link your wallet address to one of the exchanges through the use of a private key, Metamask or a hardware wallet.

3) If an intermediary token is required, buy the token using stored ETH.

4) Trade!

Adding a layer of security to DEXes 

DEXes are definitely safer than traditional centralized exchanges but are still dependent on the user exercising caution when trading. A relatively simple extra step would be to use offline wallets (paper wallets or hardware wallets) as an additional security layer. Exchanges such as Etherdelta and Radar Relay even allow for the direct linking of hardware wallets to the trading contract. Such a setup would give the user complete trustless control over their holdings – from the storage to the trading of tokens – without dependence on a centralized server or service.

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Blockchain

NASA, ESA Considering Innovative Applications of Blockchain Technology

NASA and other space agencies, such as the European Space Agency (ESA), are considering potential applications of blockchain technology to space missions and internal operations.

According to a NASA presentation titled “Bitcoin, Blockchains and Efficient Distributed Spacecraft Mission Control,” blockchain technology could have useful applications in distributed spacecraft missions involving multiple elements. Artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technologies could be further integrated to make space-based sensor networks more efficient and responsive.

In September 2017, NASA awarded a $333,000 grant to University of Akron (UA) Assistant Professor Jin Wei to research how to make space hardware smarter and more autonomous. The research program, titled “RNCP: A Resilient Networking and Computing Paradigm for NASA Space Exploration,” wants to improve the automation, environment awareness and intelligence of NASA space probes, which is an important requirement for deep space missions.

“The objective here is the application of blockchain and distributed intelligence to our space and ground network communication assets,” said Thomas Kacpura, advanced communications program manager at NASA’s Glenn Research Center. “If successful, the overall objective will be to incorporate Dr. Wei’s research in our overall portfolio to ultimately optimize our communication networks.”

ESA is also quietly researching innovative blockchain-powered solutions. Recently, the Agency has been investigating the applicability of blockchain technologies to key challenges for ESA’s space activities and administrative areas. A position paper titled “Distributed Ledger Technology: Leveraging Blockchain for ESA’s Success,” authored by trainee Torben David and senior coordinator Gianluigi Baldesi, offers a concise summary of blockchain technology and its main applications, and then goes on to list several potential applications to the Agency’s mission.

In particular, the paper mentions faster and more accurate payments, blockchain-based smart contracts applications to streamlining procurement, audit processes and record-keeping, data traceability and access rights, and voting and direct democracy.

It’s worth noting that the ESA paper focuses on blockchain technology applications to administrative processes but doesn’t address embedded blockchain technology for space hardware and software, which is covered by NASA’s RNCP. However, since ESA’s exploration of blockchain technology is just beginning, it seems likely that applications to space missions will be considered in due course.

In conversation with eBits.Co, Baldesi confirmed that the Agency is considering potential applications of blockchain technology with keen interest and a forward-looking approach. In the framework of “the Space 4.0 era” with diverse space actors around the world, including emerging private companies and citizen groups empowered by digital technologies, ESA launched the “Exploring Threats and Opportunities through Mega Trends in the Space 4.0 Era” initiative with the support of consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, and hosted a related workshop at the ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, on October 23, 2017.

“In the era of Space 4.0 — as in our own lives — we have to be adaptive to change and nurture a culture of pro-activeness and open-mindedness to both disruption and opportunity,” said Baldesi.

The workshop was live-streamed and is now available for public viewing. Several presentations discuss blockchain technology as a key enabler of disruptive innovation in a wide range of industries, including space. Potential space applications of blockchain technology include  mission data; smart contracts and smart procurement to optimize the supply chain; and information management where applications may include virtual spacecraft (traceability and configuration consistency) and configuration control (hardware and documentation).

Baldesi explained that the Agency is awarding exploratory research contracts related to blockchain technology, such as a Satcom Maker Space initiative that includes Internet of Things (IoT) solutions for satellite telecommunications and a “Testbed for Blockchain supporting satellite M2M/IoT,” as well as an intended “Blockchain for Space Activities” study and an intended “fintech” initiative for innovative fintech-related applications and services based on the integration of space and non-space technology.

The governance and “direct democracy” applications mentioned in the position paper are especially interesting. Baldesi explained that the current Director General of the Agency, Johann-Dietrich Wörner, known for his vigorous support of bold, visionary initiatives such as the “Moon Village,” is determined to systematically use tools such as Kahoot for crowdsourced decision making and has launched several pilot e-voting initiatives, not only internally but also with the participation of external actors.

Blockchain-based e-voting platforms are, according to Baldesi, especially promising and in line with the desired openness and inclusiveness of Space 4.0.

These sorts of Space 4.0 citizen initiatives are growing in popularity; projects like Space Decentral project are moving in a eBits.


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Blockchain

FUSION wants to bring cryptocurrencies together

The cryptocurrency market is enormous. With a total market cap of more than $476 billion and thousands of currencies, there’s no denying the huge potential it holds.

There are so many new ICOs and services, each delivering its own benefits, and the result is a multi-layered and rich marketplace of useful ideas and potential.

This blockchain-based ecosystem has become known as the Internet of Values and represents decentralization and connectivity on a huge scale.

The IoV could represent a new phase of the internet, based on sharing value and data across a network of decentralized systems and platforms. The blockchain is proving to have many use cases in a number of industries that make it a better choice than existing tech, and many believe it could truly revolutionize the way we manage data.

Unfortunately, in spite of all this, this network is fragmented and isolated. There is little co-operation between different blockchains, and exchanging value across cryptocurrencies can be challenging. It’s frustrating to see so many pioneering projects and platforms cut off from one another and unable to work together.

Despite being hugely promising, this market needs to overcome certain obstacles before it can reach its full potential. 

The problems with the IoV

Right now, the huge numbers of cryptocurrencies and blockchain decentralized apps (dApps) exist more or less independently. There isn’t much overlap between them, and smart contracts are usually confined within the same blockchain.

This makes moving value across blockchains almost impossible in most cases, which seriously restricts the ability to build the kind of multi-dimensional financial ecosystem that exists in the real world.

Cryptocurrency is often hailed as a possible improvement on our existing financial institutions. But the truth is that crypto will likely not be able to challenge the fiat economy unless it can overcome these problems and find some way to allow easy communication and interaction between different blockchains.

Smart contracts are currently a great way of transferring value, but they only work on the same blockchain. There’s no good way to build smart contracts that work between two different blockchains, with different tokens.

What’s more, smart contracts aren’t well-suited to handling off-chain data. The Ethereum Virtual Machine, for example, is completely isolated. This means smart contracts built on the EVM have no way to access data outside of it.

For these reasons and more, the IoV isn’t developing the way it should and lags behind the fiat economy. These scalability issues have made it tough to build a credible crypto economy and they limit the scope of what can be done with blockchain technology.

Fortunately, there could be a solution.

FUSION’s solution

FUSION is a new platform aimed at creating a public blockchain that all other blockchains can use. It reached its hard cap within 24 hours of the token sale and is ambitiously focused on upending the way blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies operate.

FUSION wants to build a system to bring all blockchains together. The aim is to overcome the divisions and separations by making it possible to transfer value across different cryptocurrency systems.

The platform uses distributed network nodes to control the private keys of tokens, which means transactions can take place between different blockchains. It’ll allow for cross-blockchain smart contracts, and even make it possible for smart contracts to work with off-chain data.

Developers will build their own apps and software on top of the FUSION platform. These could include things like using smart contracts for loans which operate without the need for trust. It can also allow users to borrow one kind of token or crypto asset while using another as collateral.

The long-term possibilities of this kind of project are truly exciting. It offers the chance to take the crypto economy up to the same level as fiat currency and opens up a whole host of new possibilities.

By making it possible to use off-chain data in smart contracts, FUSION will create a range of new applications for them. This broadens the scope of blockchain in general and could bridge the gap between centralized and decentralized organizations. It even creates the ability for blockchain platforms to respond to external events in real time, potentially transforming the way we use data.

It’s a new way to knit the crypto community together and create a system that isn’t so fragmented and is more interoperable.

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Blockchain

5 must have altcoins for 2018

After losing ground over the holiday season, cryptocurrencies are on the up again. This year the best action will be found in coins which offer real utility. Even if you missed out on the 2017 Bitcoin bull market, here are some coins which promise great returns in the year ahead:

What is the Coin?

NEM calls itself a better way to implement an enterprise-grade blockchain data system that minimizes complexity and implements seamlessly with existing systems. NEM’s smart assets blockchain is configurable to handle almost anything, from currencies to supply chains to notary services. NEM was recently the target of a high-profile cryptocurrency hack, where criminals lifted nearly $700m of coins (XEM) from Japanese Coincheck.

What’s cool about it?

NEM is API-driven, so any application is compatible; from mobile apps to mission-critical business infrastructure. NEM claims to have carried out tests across millions of accounts. Its XEM coin rose from less than $0.01 at the start of 2017, to a high of $1.87 at the start of this year. The current circulation supply of XEM totals 9 billion coins, which is 23% of the number of Ripple (XRP) and just under half the amount of Stellar (XLM). This means that XEM supply is relatively low compared to two of the most famous altcoins, so if demand grows NEM can enjoy exponential growth.

What is the coin?

DMarket is a decentralized marketplace for turning every virtual item into a real asset. Its founder and CEO is Volodymyr Panchenko, who is the biggest private seller of games in the world. Gamers collect virtual items such as armour, cars and crystals in the course of their hobby. With DMarket, these items are no longer locked in the silo of one particular game but can be traded with the platform’s DMarket Coin (DMC).

What’s cool about it?

More than 2 billion people now play games. By many metrics, gaming is now a bigger industry than movies, making $100bn in 2016. At its core, DMarket is a perfect example of the value of the blockchain as a distributed ledger – a technologically elegant solution for perfectly tracking ownership and trades of gaming assets with the possibility to make real money. Think of it as the grown-up version of trading football stickers in the schoolyard. By the way, to date DMarket is the first and only blockchain-based project in gaming that has signed up some of the top AAA game dev companies as partners willing to join the marketplace with their games after the full-fledged launch.

What is the coin?

The 0X (think “zero x” rather than the bovine singular of oxen) project is creating a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange for ERC20 tokens on top of the Ethereum blockchain. It seeks to tackle security issues linked to the centralization of current exchanges which makes them vulnerable to the attacks we have seen in recent months. With 0x protocol, orders are transported off-chain, reducing gas costs and eliminating blockchain bloat. Relayers help broadcast orders and collect a fee each time they facilitate a trade. Anyone can build a relayer and the project already boasts an impressive list of partners.

What’s cool about it?

Attacks on high-profile centralized exchanges have put cybersecurity issues at the forefront of investors’ attention.  The ZRX coin has strengths such as being trustless and therefore there is no counterparty risk. ZRX also allows for high levels of liquidity so there can be limitless exchanges built upon the protocol. These attributes have fuelled rumors that ZRX will be added to Coinbase. While Coinbase says it has no plans to add any new assets, ZRX meets all the key criteria for such a listing.

What is the coin?

Salt (“Secured Automated Lending Technology”) allows crypto investors to hold onto their Bitcoin while having fiat currency to spend at the same time. This is done by SALT holding users’ crypto assets in exchange for issuing a loan in fiat currency. So long as the loan is paid back, this crypto collateral is returned to the user. In the past, the difficulty and costs of transferring and storing assets required lenders to focus on the creditworthiness of borrowers as well as conservative estimates of the value of the borrower’s assets. This inefficiency results in limited accessibility to cash and high interest rates for borrowers.

What’s cool about it?

SALT allows the value of a borrower’s assets to be fully recognized and credit history thus becomes made irrelevant.  The project is developing rapidly and in the coming months plans to launch a credit card. SALT tokens give users membership access to the platform, which could develop into the primary tool for people who are “crypto rich but cash poor”. SALT claims that they do not lend out your collateral and even if SALT were to go out of business customers’ collateral would still be safe and accessible. SALT could also help to bring lenders into the crypto world by providing the infrastructure, compliance, and security they need to accept crypto collateral.

What is the coin?

Civic is an identity management service that allows you to protect and authorize the use of your identity in real time. Civic also offers additional features to protect your identity such as credit report alerting, identity fraud coverage and access to 24/7 fraud support. Identity is verified using decentralised architecture and biometrics. Each time you use your Civic identity this is independently validated on the blockchain.

What’s cool about it?

Civic doesn’t require a 3rd party authenticator, physical token, username or password. Information sits on your devices so nobody can use your information without your express consent. Civic last year partnered with giant consumer credit reporting agency TransUnion. With identity fraud increasingly being recognised as a major expense for individuals and businesses, the companies which successfully deploy blockchain to solve these issues are set to profit handsomely.

This article is written by a guest author and this is not investment advice. The opinions of the author, though well educated and researched, do not necessarily represent itsblockchain.com’s views. 

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