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House and a car: Bitcoin's uses for payments aren't yet mainstream, but examples are starting to emerge in bits and pieces—and it could be argued that a large portion of life's necessities can be bought with bitcoin if you know where to look. Just a few days after a bitcoin-only real estate listing hit Miami, a car dealership in upstate New York has decided to accept bitcoins to buy cars. Michael Severance, the owner of Michael's Auto Plaza near Albany, said the rising value of bitcoin sparked his interest, the New York Daily News reports. Bitcoin is approaching $20,000, meaning one to three bitcoins would be enough to purchase most new cars. Severance told an Albany-area TV station that he noticed people were making larger purchases with bitcoin, and cars would fit that trend, the Daily News reports.
Fare use: Transportation systems are rapidly adopting payment systems that are more open and digital, creating management challenges and a possible larger addressable market for back-office technology companies such as Passport. Passport, which supports transit payments management in London, Miami and Los Angeles, has raised $43 million from Bain Capital Ventures to boost international growth, reports TechCrunch. Passport provides back-end software for parking, ticketing and tolling. As public transit payments change, private companies will have to link to government management systems, which TechCrunch reports will provide an opportunity for Passport. The company may also find more business among state governments that are adopting automated billing—Passport counts the Pennsylvania Turnpike among its clients, according to TechCrunch.
South Korean hacks take a toll: North Korean hackers have been rapidly hitting South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges in recent months, and the attacks may have caused a casualty. Yapian, which operates the Seoul-based Youbit cryptocurrency exchange, suspended trading and filed for bankruptcy following a hack this week. Youbit trades ten virtual currencies including bitcoin and ether. The Telegraph reports North Korean hackers are believed to be behind the attacks on Youbit, which also included a hack of nearly 4,000 bitcoins in April. Youbit reported the most recent hack resulted in the theft of 17% of its assets.
Blockchain inclusion: Mobile money services such as MPesa have proven to be successful in building financial services in emerging economies. Bitt, one of Overstock.com's portfolio companies, has launched a blockchain-powered mobile money app called mMoney. Barbados is the first market for what Bitt is calling a soft launch of a mobile wallet that allows users to execute digital transactions via smartphones, but without having to link to traditional financial institutions. Bitt contends this will save time and money for local businesses that currently contend with bank fees and waiting times. "mMoney...is safer, faster and smarter, which means that entrepreneurs as well as Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) can benefit from the merchant solution," said Rawdon Adams, Bitt’s CEO, in a release. "It gives merchants the ability to offer an innovative payment option which is, among other things, faster, more secure, more inclusive, more convenient and more cost-effective than existing options." Bitt plans to expand mMoney to other countries in the Caribbean and beyond, citing statistics from World Bank that report 38% percent of the world is unbanked. Bitt has reached an agreement with a central bank (which it did not identify) to digitize its fiat currency. The company said this deal is a significant step toward "surfacing" the billions of dollars of value currently trapped in informal economies among unbanked citizens and microentrepreneurs.
From the Web
Alibaba Cloud is opening its first data center in India
TechCrunch | Wed Dec 20, 2017 - Alibaba is bringing its cloud computing business into India as it continues to expand its fast-growing business unit. The Chinese firm said today that its first data center on Indian soil will come online in January and be based out of Mumbai. The business already has clients in India, but a local presence will allow it to better service customers in the country, it added. Beyond offering standard cloud products — like large scale computing, storage and big data capabilities — India-based customers will get access to elastic computing, database, storage and content delivery, networking, analytics and big data, containers, middleware, and security. The new center will give Alibaba Cloud 33 availability zones, which covers regions including China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, and the U.S..
Fintech Charter Is Still in Play, New Comptroller Says
The Wall Street Journal | Wed Dec 20, 2017 - New Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting said Wednesday that he supports the creation of a banking charter for fintech firms, which would allow online lenders or payments processors to be regulated nationally, instead of following different laws in every state. Asked during his first press briefing in his new role whether he thought his agency’s fintech charter initiative had a future, Mr. Otting responded, “I do,” adding, “The question is, what are the requirements on that fintech to get that charter?
'Bitcoin Jesus' says investors should be ready in case bitcoin falls out of favor
CNBC | Wed Dec 20, 2017 - Roger Ver, CEO of Bitcoin.com, said on CNBC's "Fast Money" that for years he's recommended investors not hold bitcoin on exchanges, which can be hacked. But right now, he said, investors may want to keep their holdings on an exchange so they can easily transfer their funds into another digital coin in case bitcoin falls out of popularity. Nicknamed "Bitcoin Jesus," Ver is a strong supporter of bitcoin cash, which split off from bitcoin on Aug. 1 as developers debated the best way to improve transaction efficiency.
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