IBM CEO Virginia Rometty was one of the dignitaries present at the “Tech for Good” conference organized by French President Emmanuel Macron on May 23, 2018. And she has pledged to hire 1,800 French nationals as part of the tech giant’s contribution to Macron’s project which seeks to make France a hotbed for artificial intelligence and blockchain technology.
According to reports, Big Blue is looking to create a research team that would focus primarily on blockchain projects, artificial intelligence and the internet of things (IoT).
According to France 24, the French President “paints himself as a champion of France’s plugged-in youth” and is poised to transform the European nation into a “startup nation” that would be a hotbed for tech and AI firms.
“I believe in innovation and at the same time in regulation and working for the common good,” Macron said at the summit that included tech heavyweights like Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, Intel Corp’s Brian Krzanich, Microsoft Corp’s CEO Satya Nadella and the tech-loving President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame.
“Revolutions create winners and losers; our job is to make sure there are fewer losers and more winners,” Kagame saidback in 2016.
Commitments Needed, “No Free Lunch”
Notably, just as the attendees were about having lunch at the event venue, Macron made it clear to all that France needs their help to achieve its vision. “There is no free lunch. So I want from you some commitments,” he declared.
In response, IBM announced it would hire over a thousand blockchain and cloud computing professionals from France as part of a contribution to the project. Employing 1,800 workers shouldn’t be a big deal for Big Blue as the corporation has over 380,000 workers globally. The company is also championing the blockchain revolution, with several innovative solutions to its credit.
On May 23, 2018, IBM announced the launch of its distributed ledger technology and AI solution, Crypto Anchor Verifier. The solution which can be installed on mobile phones, helps users identify counterfeit objects.
“Interest in using blockchain to track physical goods is growing rapidly. IBM’s Crypto Anchor Verifier solution can be used to capture the optical signature from an original, uncompromised item and subsequently record it on the blockchain, which can verify throughout the supply chain that the item hasn’t been tampered with,” IBM wrote.
The Next Cryptocurrency and ICO Hub?
Quite a vast array of nations in Europe have a relatively liberal stance toward bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. However, the French love for the digital currency ecosystem is on an entirely different scale.
On April 27, 2018, BTCManager reported that the French Ministry of Finance had slashed the tax rate on bitcoin-related transactions, categorizing profits generated from digital currencies as capital gains of “movable property.” Just under a month later, on May 18, 2018, France’s Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire declared he now has a renewed interest in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.
In his words, “I was a rookie a year ago, but now, I’ve been seized by a sudden passion. It took me a year. Let’s teach this knowledge to our fellow citizens to make France the first place for blockchain and cryptocurrency innovation in Europe.”
With IBM’s renewed interest in France, coupled with the crypto and tech passion of the nation’s authorities, Europe’s third-largest economy could become a new crypto hub.
Ford Test Driving Blockchain for Energy-Efficient Vehicles
Ford is giving a little more road to a blockchain pilot program aimed at improving fuel efficiency.
On Tuesday, the auto-giant said it will use blockchain to monitor and automatically implement fuel efficient driving modes for a fleet of vehicles in Cologne, Germany. This is part of a wider pilot program also happening in London and Valencia, Spain.
In collaboration with the City of Cologne, Ford outfitted 10 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with cellular modems that enable geofencing. As the vehicles enter low-emission zones, they will automatically switch to electric-drive.
The metadata, such as when the vehicle enters or exits a zone as well as the miles driven, will be recorded to a blockchain.
The pilot addresses the issues municipal authorities face in administering and implementing low-emissions zones by transmitting data to officials in real-time.
“Security, trust and transparency of emissions data are of paramount importance to all stakeholders in this project, and are key for our vision of cleaner air in the city,” said Gunnar Herrmann, chairman of the management board, Ford-Werke GmbH.
The pilot is part of SmartCity Cologne, a collaborative program to promote climate protection and energy transition.
On Monday, CoinDesk reported that 5 major automakers including BMW, Honda and Ford are working with the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI) to implement automatic payments for tolls, parking meters and similar vehicular payments.
Italian Banking Association Uses Blockchain to Test Data Reconciliation Successfully
The banks from the Italian Banking Association (ABI) have processed a reconciliation of data from an entire activity of the year using the blockchain technology. According to the group’s press release, the tests were successful and proved that the technology could be very useful to local banks.
During this first test, the group processed around 200 million data entries using the blockchain system, which is called Spunta Project. The success is proof that the platform can be used to verify the data quickly.
At the moment, the project has eighteen Italian banks participating and 35 nodes that process the transactions and operations. This means that 78% of the banks present in the country are a part of this project.
According to the reports, the system will be officially implemented on March 1, 2020. Most of the necessary tests were already made, so the technology is ready to be more widely used by the banks which are a part of the national association.
The Spunta Project is officially led by ABI Lab, a research team created by the ABI. It also has the participation of NTT Data, Sia network and the R3 network with its Corda technology.
This is far from the only case in which banks are using the blockchain to achieve better results when processing data. In fact, blockchain technology is impacting the banking sector more than almost any other sector and specialists believe that it will be responsible for huge changes in the upcoming years.
Swedish central bank now looking into plausibility of issuing ‘e-krona’ CBDC
According to the Head of the Swedish central bank, Facebook‘s Libra project has given incentive to central banks across the world to review and investigate the development of new financial technologies. Stefan Ingves, Governor of Sveriges Riksbank, told CNBC,
“It has been an incredibly important catalytic event to sort of shake the tree when Libra showed up out of the blue, and that forced us to think hard about what we do. Part of my job is to produce a good/service called the Swedish krona which is convenient to use for Swedish citizens, and if I’m good at that in a technical sense then I don’t have a problem. But if I were to start issuing 20-kilo copper coins the way we did in 1668, then we soon would be out of business.”
As the use of cash continues to fall in Sweden, the Swedish central bank has been looking into the possibility of issuing its own digital currency. Several local business in the country no longer accept physical currency, with some even putting up signs to warn customers before they enter the store. As of now, Sveriges Riksbank is looking to investigate the plausibility of an ‘e-krona’ digital currency, which it says could be introduced if it decides to do so. However, it isn’t the only central bank looking into this.
China has already announced that it is close to launching its own digital currency while just last week, the Swiss National Bank declared that it was looking into the use of digital currencies in trading.
With Libra having lost backing from more than a few companies recently, Ingves warned that Facebook would be faced with challenges as it moves forward with the project. He said,
“In this day and age we have to twist things in our heads and do things based on the assumption that nothing is on paper, and then when we talk about money everything is going to be digital in one form or the other. But the old issues — private sector money or public sector money — they are basically identical, and if history gives us any guidance at all then almost all private sector initiatives have collapsed sooner or later.”
Just yesterday, The Libra Association announced the appointment of members to the Board of Directors, with the Board including David Marcus, former PayPal executive and Head of Facebook’s blockchain strategy. Currently, the group has 21 members, 7 fewer than its original 28 after Mastercard, PayPal, Visa and four more members backed out.