Where are we

Today.

How many passwords are you trying to manage!  Does your LinkedIn contact list connecting you to more than  4,000 individuals?  Does Facebook, Instagram, and other social media websites inundating you with news and stories about your friends, colleagues and interesting people?

How many cookies have your computers accumulated?  How many databases have more information about you than they need?  If we search the dark web, how valuable is your data?

Cando seeks to help you manage your data, identity, assets, and relationships.

Philip lives on Sea Island with his 93-year-old father, the Doctor.  They pursue travel and Philip keeps his head into what is happening in financial services, blockchain, authentication, digital identity, and, whatever else people seeking to understand the transformation; particularly those in the identity and payments space.

What is happening means we can unlock our hotel rooms, cars, and homes from our phones. Our security system iwill be another app we have to find on our phone.

Instead, we need an intuitive assistant seeking to simplify our lives by taking on repetitive tasks like driving, working inside a data table or simply opening up the house for the season.

Normalizing data and performing the analysis capable of earning value is the name of the game.  Management is about stimulating a team to work in the mutual interest of the organization.  Executives define the strategy and articulate the vision in a manner conducive to success.

Cando seeks to help you manage your assets and relationships.  Assets those places and things you use doing your daily life and those interactions you have with people and entities seeking to serve, sell and partner with you.

Then there are friends who we expect to be part of our lives and therefore have privileges and access capabilities.

All of this with a target of selling integration services to the top million and simply assuring each person has an identity thus serving the bottom billion.  ultimately earning $1 per year per user to simply be there when it all breaks and you wish to restore your digital life.

At the core, your digital security will be based on the use of cryptography and sophisticated matching algorithms designed to assure anyone that you are that one individual in the populatations of the universe.

What You possess, What You Are, What You Claim … Your Certificates

NCCOE NIST Multi-Factor Authentication

What you Possess — The Thing

What you Are — You

Your Relationships

Responsibilities

Authority

Advice

— Secrets

My Certificates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Words

World Wide Web Consortium

FIDO Alliance

Global Platform

The Trusted Computing Group

Future interests

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Machine Learning
  • Nature Language Interface
  • Predictive Analytics

Another short description of Blockchain

WTF is The Blockchain? The ultimate 3500-word guide in plain English to understand Blockchain.

This technology called the Blockchain is built on the desire to create a new model to assure “trust”. 

To establish trust between ourselves, we depend on individual third-parties.

Could there be a system where we can still transfer money without needing the bank?

This statement begs the question, What is a Bank.  Is it simply an institution for recording the value we deposit with them and then allow us to move/transfer some portion of that value to another.  This then means the loans a bank makes, based on the sum of the deposits we trust them with, is not part of what a bank does.

If the only role of the intermediary is to maintain a ledger capable of recording and facilitating the transfer to electronic facsimiles of something, then, yes a distributed ledger removes the need for the middle man the trusted intermediary.  Instead of trusting a third party we agree to a methodology “The Distributed Ledger” to record these intangible assets or rights of ownership of a tangible asset in a manner where each of us has a copy of the ledger.  The beauty of this concept is for someone to attempt to change a record in the ledger, recording the disposition of a tangible or intangible asset; 51% of us would have to agree to that alteration.

In the above-linked article, all of what happens can be summaries with this quote

Earlier the third-party/middleman gave us the trust that whatever they have written in the register will never be altered. In a distributed and decentralized system like ours, this seal will provide the trust instead.

 

Review of the IMF The rise of Digital Money

While reading the recent document produced by the IMF I am compelled to wonder.

What is the difference between what they call Bank Deposits and e-money.  My first question, ignoring the words bank deposit.  Both are electronic accounts of value, recorded in someone’s ledger.  These two diagrams extracted from a BIS paper offer a perspective.  

They then speak to four attributed to the “means of payment”

  1. The Type, be it a claim or an object.
  2. The value, be it fixed or variable.
  3. If it is a claim who is liable?
  4. The technology, be it centralized or decentralized


They then speak to the five ‘Means of payment”.

Object-Based

  1. Central Bank Money (cash)
  2. Crypto-currency (non-Bank Issued)

As we think of the evolution of these object-based means of payment, we need to reflect on a new term “Central Bank Digital Currency” CBDC.

As a historian, I then wonder where things like Digi-cash and Mondex fit into the classification.  The value was originated and then distributed into a personal and secure storage device (Wallet).  Redemption or better said the guarantee, was provided by a party.  Maybe not a bank or the central bank, yet, easily embraced by such an institution.  Somehow history seems to lose sight of the origins of money and assumes the existence of a central bank.  Here in the USA, the formation of a Central bank was one of many areas of political discourse.

Claim-Based

  1. b-money (Bank issued)
  2. e-money (Privately issued)
  3. i-money (Investment funds)

The magic word behind all of these discussions is “Liquidity”.  The bottom line does the receiver of the money appreciate the value of the unit of measure and is the receiver confident they will be able to convert that money into another form, of their preference

 

 

Blockchain made simple

Let’s start at the beginning, the transaction, the distributed ledger entry. Think about the content of the transaction as the payload. Next think of the payload as the land deed, cryptocurrency value, record of ownership, journal entry, smart contract … marriage contract.  Whatever two or more people seek to exchange and record. Another way to think about all of this is as a block of data, code or other digital representation of something duplicated in every participant’s copy of the current ledger.

A governance model is required

What is essential, before anyone can do anything.

The parties seeking to exploit a distributed ledger must define how it will work.

It is what the community or parties seek to represent and manage, using distributed ledger technology, agree.

The whole process of defining the payload begins when the community agrees to and sets off to publish the processes, procedures, rules, functions, and purpose of their application. It is this act of governance we use to define how and what will be conveyed in the payload to be stored and recorded on a blockchain. Which blockchain, protocol, and cryptographic processes; obviously is a decision of the community.

We should be clear before we can do anything with the payload.  Ourselves and ultimately others will have initially and subsequently defined the mechanics and processes designed to assure the integrity of the blockchain, itself.

A Transaction is appended to the chain

There are two parties to each event recorded within these transactions. The agreed events, transactions and smart contracts are ultimately included in a block and properly extended onto the chain for everyone to see and read.  More about Confidentiality in another post.

Once governance is established
People can now interact

Each party has an address and then addresses unique to each asset e.g. coin. The address, in most cases, is simply an asymmetric cryptographic public key.

    • The individual, as is always the case with cryptography, has their own private key(s); they must retain, never lose and keep secret.

When the two parties decide to record an event; the sale or transfer of the title to a car.

    • A formal record of a property, a transaction, ledger entry is created.
    • The basic data.
      • The seller’s public key
      • the buyers public key
      • the payload
      • a hash
      • the signature created by the seller using their private key.

The transactions are broadcast to the network. The nodes or miners continuously work to assemble a defined number of transactions and create the next block.

The chain’s role is to record the providence of an asset and the immutability of all the associated transactions.

These records and blocks of data include content: of, by and following the rules of the consensus process.

    • Each active node or miner is attempting to create the next block.
    • The mathematics involved and the use of hashes to bind this new block to the existing blocks in the chain is beyond the scope of this blog.
    • Let us simply assume the mathematicians and cryptographers define as part of the original design of each chain an infallible solution to the issues of economics, security, integrity, and immutability.
    • These specifications will define the hash game and how one adds the next block to the chain retaining the immutability of the present and the past

By being the first to calculate the cryptographic nonce

The winner receives a reward.

    • Hopefully proportional to the cost of work or other discernable and agreed method of reward.
    • The other active nodes then test to see if they agree the first got it right.
    • If consensus is reached the new block is appended to the chain.
    • This all assumes 51% or more of the miners or nodes reach consensus on the winner’s answer.  And no one can control 51% or anything closer than 33%.

Around and around the game continues, as transactions are added and immutably recorded on the chain.

This whole process fundamentally assures history cannot be altered.

Chains split and fun things happen

If the process is not elegantly managed in full sight of all the participants.

Distributed Ledger and Things

As I sat to write, I was drawn to the Wikipedia’ Bitcoin article. As I read the story of how it all happened memories and concerns once again flowed through the neurons of my mind. Silk Road and their involvement and the evolution of the value of a Bitcoin, struck me as a magical mystery tour through a world of mathematicians, anarchists, profiteers and speculators.

I then remember reading

an element of a report from the Bank of International Settlement on crypto currency. The picture above is intriguing for those of us who appreciate the complexity of payments. The article gets ever so intriguing when one continues to read and finds this interesting illustration of

the difference between what we all are familiar with and what those who understand DLT and Bitcoin appreciate. The central focus of this new technology is to address one and only one concern. Trust in the intermediary.

I must admit this particular article is not the one I originally intended to speak to. I do though recommend reading it.

The article I had intended to reflect on is Central Bank Cryptocurrencies. In this document they speak to the possibility of the banks issuing a stablecoin. The recent announcement of JPMorgan Chase is one example of such.

This then causes me to reflect on the various use cases and conversations with people about the potential of DLT. I wonder why, at least here in the USA with our judicial and regulatory framework and the rule of law; we would seek to replace the existing intermediaries with a permissionless distributed ledger and the associated consensus mechanisms of a public ledger. There is enormous and growing cost in consensus built on “Proof of Work” and massive duplication of the ledger or as most call it the chain. Be it the electrical cost, the cost of a data center or the specialized computers necessary. The people and companies, the nodes and miners, will expect a reward for their effort.

Which is cheaper, if a reasonable level of trust exists?

Where are we going from here

This is the question. There are those that believe Block-chain and all of the other distributed ledger technologies are the answer to everything. I would suggest one much consider:

    • The level of trust the various parties have in each other.
    • The cost of multiple copies of the distributed ledger.
    • The cost of the consensus mechanism versus a trusted intermediary.
    • The governance required to maintain security, software and specifications.
    • The value and ethical issues of anonymity.

This then begs the question of a permissioned or a permissionless ledger. Which then begs the question of governance and who is responsible to establish the rules.

It is clear there is value in the idea of a distributed ledger. I would suggest caution in deciding if it makes sense for your use case.

      • What are the goals and objectives of the solution?
      • What are the economics of the various approaches?
      • Who are the stakeholders?
      • Who determines the rules and manages change?
      • Can the participants trust an intermediary?
      • Does everyone fear what another could do?

Helping you to understand the answers to these questions is what we do.

NYTimes: Transaction Costs and Tethers: Why I’m a Crypto Skeptic

Transaction Costs and Tethers: Why I’m a Crypto Skeptic https://nyti.ms/2NYYSdw

As a technologist with an understanding of cryptography and very aware that in order to remain secure and tamper proof we increasingly increase the complexity of the work to assure the integrity of what we are using cryptography to protect. I wonder why so many people got so excited about Bit coin and Blockchain. As I have written before the cost to assure the integrity of the ledgar. Be it the original work to calculate the nonce or the subsequent work to confirm that the nonce the miner calculated was the right one, there is a need to spend money buying work specific computers, renting or building a facility to houses these work units and the power to cool and run these computers.

Mr. Krugman properly outlines the challenges. He effectively focuses on two issues. The cost and the idea of tethering.

It is this need to identify the value of the coin. Governments help to stabilize their defined currency. The intrinsic value or use of Gold, establishes its value.

Understanding and being able to clearly articulate how cryptocurrencies are valued and how then can achieve the stability necessary to support commerce is essential. This is what tethering is about. How do we establish and more importantly share the nature of the valuation.

Could a US Cryptocurrency Prevent Systemic Harm to the Underbanked and Underserved?

I recently absorbed the following article  and offer the following reflections.

Frankly, it disturbed my social consciousness.

There are an estimated how many million smartphones in the hands of US consumers?

An article answering the question can now be found at this link.
http://paymentsjournal.com/could-a-us-cryptocurrency-prevent-systemic-harm-to-the-underbanked-and-underserved/

After reading the article, I thought about this graph derived from the US Census.  What income level equates to that of the un-banked?  I think of my expenses and about the expenses most people are dealing with.  Health issuance for two people in Georgia is $1,100 a month.  That’s a lot of people struggling to make sure they at least have health insurance!  If $53,700 is the median income and $13 thousand is spent on health Insurance, and then we consider all the other daily expenses we need to live: food, medicine, co-pay, gas, utilities …

Then I remember an economics report which claimed that the hourly wage required to afford a place to live in the least expensive part of the US was something just over $15/hour.  All of this causes me to ask the question – At what income do people find it of value to have a banking relationship, e.g. a card?

Those who argue that we should migrate from Cash to Card should remember the primary motivation for credit cards is directly related to the profits and revenue the banks, processors and other players who touch the flow of money earn from processing the payment transaction, and the revenues earned by lending money (i.e., a credit card) or by holding your money (a debit card).

Sure, we could propose giving the poor pre-paid cards, as some of the Government’s entitlement programs already do.  But then who will be responsible for the fees to manage the program and who will earn the interchange from each transaction?

The service fees, OK, maybe we the taxpayer will cover, given the perceived social value of supporting the poor.  On the other hand, entitlement is perceived by many to be a scheme to support the lazy, therefore many would say that the fees are part of what the entitlement should cover.

Let’s get back to the real subject at hand:  What is the most economic form of payment and are crypto-currencies the future?

In the world of cards, interchange is a cost to the merchant and revenue to the Banks.  Therefore, since merchants end up loading their processing costs into their price, the consumer pays.  Those who advocate migration away from cash recognize and argue cash has costs, for intance:

  • Cost of Employee pilferage
  • Cost to store and carry to the bank
  • Cost to handle and count

Many would agree that a card is cheaper.  Others would argue they are not.  This becomes a question of faith in your employees, the cost of a safe and a visit to the bank and the fun of sitting up at night counting your earnings.

Are crypto-currencies an answer?  At whose cost?  The nodes or miners who maintain the Blockchain need to be paid to ensure the immutability and consensus inherent in the Bitcoin model.  Someone must pay.

This begs the question: Which is more expensive to society?

  • Cards
  • Crypto-currencies
  • Checks
  • Cash
  • Coins
  • Certificates – in other words, tokens

 

 

Could a US Cryptocurrency Prevent Systemic Harm to the Underbanked and Underserved?

cryptocurrencies

A toll on the Massachusetts turnpike is $4.00, unless you can’t afford an EZPass then it will cost you $7.35*.  This article published in Convenience, the web site of National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), points out that restaurants are also increasingly eliminating cash and that the impact this has on the poor has finally started to create some pushback in D.C.:

“As more restaurants go cashless, a backlash is building, especially in the nation’s capital, where an increasing number of fast-casual eateries are only accepting credit or debit cards and mobile payments, the Washington Post reports. Sweetgreen, a national chain, doesn’t accept cash at most locations, including its Washington, D.C., unit, while Menchie’s, Barcelona Wine Bar, The Bruery, Jetties and Surfside in the District also refuse cash payments.

‘By denying the ability to use cash as a payment, businesses are effectively telling lower income and younger patrons that they are not welcome,’ said D.C. Council member David Grosso, who has introduced a bill that would require retailers to let customers pay in cash. Chicago didn’t pass a similar bill last year, and Massachusetts has a 1978 law on the books that’s for cash payments but it hasn’t been enforced regularly, according to the state retailers association.” (Emphasis by Payments Journal)

I was unaware of the 1978 Massachusetts law described here, but clearly MassDOT and the Massachusetts legislature are more interested in how it will spend the money saved and the new revenue generated than it is in old laws. The fact that the policy to go all electronic will also increase late payment fines from the poor, perhaps even putting some in jail for non-payment, is just icing on the cake.

In our rush to save money we have ignored the systemic biases this action creates against the poor (if you doubt this statement reread the Justice Department’s report on Ferguson Missouri and how the town’s cost cutting measures created that very same bias). My dollar bill states that “THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE” and yet nobody is considering how this is becoming less true every day and the impact that reality will have and it isn’t just the poor.

It is ludicrous to think that paper currency can survive even as everything around us shifts to electronic bits that are controlled by software. But we mustn’t ignore the ramifications of this shift. Consider what the future would be like if all payments are electronic utilizing our existing payments infrastructure. It is likely the cost burden would move from the Federal government (that prints money) to all the entities that need to send or accept money (because they pay the network and processing fees). In this scenario a) the government will see significant savings, b) the entities making a payment will see increased costs, and c) payment networks will receive increased revenue and profits.

If we would prefer to keep the status quo then the Federal government should support an electronic form of tender, establishing a cryptocurrency that replaces paper but is also recognized as “LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE”.

If not done relatively soon, say in the next 5-8 years, then every state and private payment network will be so entrenched that it would likely prove too difficult and costly to switch.

* The difference described above is for anyone driving 113 miles between Natick and West Stockbridge according to MassDOT’s toll calculator

Block Chain. Hype, the future, fiction or a scheme?

A month or so ago I was asked to speak to an assembly of bankers and processors at the Atlanta Federal Reserve on Cryptocurrencies and blockchain.

 Yesterday over a lunch I ended up synthesizing my thoughts into a neat little package that I would like to start sharing.

Those who extoll the virtues of Block Chain  speak of:

  • Immutability – Cryptographers and mathematicians will prove the immutability of the algorithms, at least for now
  • Distributed – as long as there a multiple diverse and competing stakeholders this is great
  • Trustless – I keep asking the same question Who defines the content of the Block or the ledger or the transaction?  Everyone ultimately agrees a body of people and I sit there and say that sounds like a governance model.  Be it a currency, a ledger, a contract two or more must agree to structure format, content and rules.
  • Consensus – Great as long as we never exceed the 51% participation by A party, the model is superb.

I then think about Work and the reward

Be it Proof of Work or Proof of Stake the entities that do the work are intermediaries and will want to be rewarded for their work.

Then one must think about shifting from a solution that rewards someone with a coin to a system that rewards someone with a fee earned.

I then reflect on Bit Coin and its use of Proof of Work

Coins are created by the party who figured out the Nonce, as a reward for solving the cryptographic puzzle.

  • Once they earned 25 Bitcoins
  • Today they earn 12.5 Bitcoins
  • At some point, in the future, the reward will be cut in half and then half again

The challenge

As the chain gets longer the work gets harder

As time moves forward and the number of coins in circulation grows

The reward decreases in notation value. 

Sounds like inflation is built in. 

Real estate, computers and electricity cost money. 

As the work expands the costs increases!

In conclusion

There is inherent Inflation built into the Bit Coin Model.

We simply replace intermediaries with Nodes and Miners.

We require a governance model so we simply change the governor to another.

People will want to be paid for the work they do to build the block or assure consensus of the chain

What is truly revolutionary? 

The math, ok maybe. 

Immutability, it is done today with cryptography, without a block chain.

Multiple copies of the ledger spread around the world.  Yes, as long as we address confidentiality.

We have governance, sure we can always elect a new government

What is so magical?

 

DIY the Cyber Guy a conversation about Bitcoin and EMV 

https://www.voiceamerica.com/promo/episode/104814

A interesting discussion withDavid the the Cyber Guy.  We spoke of the inherent risk of Bitcoins and the essential issue of the secret and a BitCoin folders resoponsibility to make sure they never lose the secret.

We then wandering off to talk about EMV or Chip and Pin.

Always a pleasure to work with David.

ICO Independent Coin Offer

Fantasy or a new reality. November 2nd 2017 I attended a conversation about the legal, accounting and tax implications of an ICO. Nelson Mullins was our host and brought their legal might to the discussion.

Language is the first concern in embracing and understanding. The first phrase requiring an appreciation is the “White Paper”. For me, this is something people or entities write to explain a concept; most often intended to educate and inform. In the world of ICOs the meaning is very different. This document is intended to explain what the entrepreneur is trying to do and what the investor is investing in. In other word the “White Paper” is the “Business Plan” or better said the Prospectus.

Next word is “Security”. Here I must admit I was out of my depth. First let’s be clear, the use of this word is not about securing something, it is about an instrument one invests in and ultimately expects to profit from. Having spent 9.

Years immersed in Capital Markets understanding what stocks, bonds and commodities are, this should have been easy. The challenge is we are trying to figure out how to not be classified as a security.

To fully appreciate the discussion one needed to be steeped in the regulations and opinions of the courts and regulators at a national and regional “State” level. What I understood, a key reason ICOs emerged is as a method to avoid the complexity of the regulations surrounding the sale and trading of securities.

Next term is “token”. Once again a term we are constantly confronted with as we move from a physical to a digital environment. I am not exactly sure what a “token” is in the context of the ICO discussion, save ti say it represents something. I appreciate it is another term one must properly framed when discussing ICOs.

With these familiar terms with new meanings it is clear, this digital ecosystem built on the complexity of Block Chain, as a technology, is either a long term transformational technology or a magical mystery tour that will end in confusion and discomfort.