Blockchain Bites: CBDCs on Capitol Hill, Custody Battles and Smart Drugs

Lawmakers will convene today to discuss the possibility of using digital dollars to distribute coronavirus relief, while Filecoin releases its new testnet.

AccessTimeIconJun 11, 2020 at 4:57 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:50 a.m. UTC

Top shelf

The House Financial Services Committee (FSC) Task Force on Financial Technology will convene Thursday to discuss digital currencies and other novel technologies. This includes a discussion on how FedAccounts and other digital tools might help the federal government distribute stimulus payments to help Americans suffering the economic fallout of COVID-19. The virtual hearing kicks off at noon Eastern (16:00 UTC), which you can watch here. Separately, ING Group, crypto custodian Copper, smart contract platform Cypherium and Giesecke+Devrient Currency Technology GmbH have joined the Digital Monetary Institute (DMI), which seeks to research the adoption of digital currencies by central banks. 

Decentralized Storage
Arweave, a blockchain network meant for the permanent storage of data, has released a completely new approach to smart contracts to run on users’ computers rather than the blockchain itself. The SmartWeave update will dispense with gas fees and only requires a smart contract’s code to be run as often as it’s needed and not by every node on the network. Meanwhile, Unstoppable Domains released an uncensorable  decentralized blog (dBlog) service hosted on Protocol Lab’s InterPlanetary File System. Finally, Filecoin announced the launch of the ‘Incentivized Testnet’, the final phase of testing for its decentralized storage network.

Custody Battles
Crypto custodians are in a race to build the next State Street or BNY Mellon. Recent acquisitions in the crypto space have seen a bundling together of services such as custody, settlement, lending and trade execution – including examples by BitGo, Genesis Trading and a recent partnership between Galaxy Digital and Bakkt. This pace of consolidation is likely to continue, and firms specializing in standalone custody or trade execution may need to pivot to offer additional services or risk being swallowed up, think BitGo CEO Mike Belshe. 

Patrick Nelson (D-NY) is running for New York State Senate, with a background in local politics, progressive activism and vocal support for cryptographic monies. CoinDesk spoke with Nelson about his previous attempts to fundraise using bitcoin, reforming the state’s burdensome BitLicense and his attempts to convince party leadership to use blockchain voting to elect the state’s delegates.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) will support bitcoin privacy tech with its Bitcoin Developer Fund. The first $50,000 grant has been awarded to a CoinSwap developer, and HRF will continue to support those “working on strengthening Bitcoin pseudonymity at the network level,” Chief Strategy Officer Alex Gladstein said. Elsewhere, Catallaxy, a blockchain consultancy affiliated with accounting giant Grant Thornton, is teaming up with CipherTrace to better track cybercrimes.

Financial Products
Crypto exchange BTSE will price its new tether gold futures contracts in bitcoin. The perpetual contract tracks the value of one tether gold (XAUT) token, which itself tracks the value of gold, allowing traders to speculate on whether bitcoin or gold will turn out to have the most demand. Elsewhere, crypto retirement savings firm Bitcoin IRA will take on smaller accounts with the launch and redesign of its IRA products. The firm has dropped the standard account minimum to $3,000, and launched Saver IRA. Separately, crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital now holds 6.26% of GBTC shares, worth nearly $259 million. (The Block) Lastly, Coinbase is looking to possibly add 19 new digital assets, including Aragon, Aave, Bancor, Siacoin, Origin Protocol, Ren and VeChain. The news is drive prices up between 8-25%.

Hut 8 Mining is looking to raise at least C$7.5 million to upgrade its fleet of BlockBox bitcoin miners. The firm, the biggest cryptocurrency miner in Canada and one of the largest publicly traded miners in the world, seeks to raise the funds through an overnight marketed public offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Elsewhere, Celsius Network is running a $5 million fundraising round on BnkToTheFuture, a crowd investment platform. (Decrypt)

Hackers have moved approximately $4 million of stolen bitcoin from the 2016 Bitfinex hack into unknown wallets. (Decrypt) Additionally, Europol has shuttered a $17 million video stream service, accused of pirating content from Netflix and Amazon, which was partly funded through cryptocurrency. (Decrypt

Human Interest
Smart drugs, a class of performance-enhancing supplements are seeing widespread use in the tech and crypto sectors, and prompting much skepticism everywhere else. “Being in frontier tech means you’re (a) more exposed to new ideas and tools, (b) in a community where experimentation is normalized and widely and openly discussed and often encouraged, and (c) more willing to try new things,” Meltem Demirors, CEO of CoinShares, said. 

Market intel

Inflationary Boost?
There’s no end in sight to loose monetary policy at the Federal Reserve, and that’s just fine with bitcoin bulls. Fed officials said Wednesday they expect to keep interest rates close to zero through 2022, while pumping at least $120 billion a month of freshly created money into the financial system for the foreseeable future. While the monetary guardians are not expecting runaway inflation, cryptocurrency analysts said that the longer the central bank sticks to its loose-money stance, the higher the chances of inflation down the road. Prices for bitcoin, seen by many investors as a hedge against inflation, rose on the news. 

Stuck for Now
Bitcoin remains stuck below $10,000 amid jitters in traditional markets over the pace of economic recovery. While bitcoin’s price is down 1% on the day, the major equity market indices in Europe are reporting over a 2% drop. The futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Wall Street’s equity index, are down over 600 points and reporting a 1.8% decline on the day. Asian equities also suffered losses early Wednesday, according to data source Investing.

CoinDesk podcast network

A Vision for Digital Property Rights, Feat. Nic Carter
Most people today look at social platforms like any other private company, but what if we saw them as alternative jurisdictions with a new set of property rights? That's the vision Nic Carter, a partner at Castle Island Ventures, lays out in conversation with NLW. You can read more about it here. 

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