Everything You Need To Know About Etherum

What is Ethereum?

Steven Heap/123RF

By Will Nicol — Posted on July 4, 2017 6:30 am

If you follow tech or financial news, you’ve probably seen the name “Ethereum” popping up over the last couple years, often in connection with bitcoin. Ethereum is a rising star in the world of cryptocurrencies, entirely digital forms of currency that grew in popularity after the creation of bitcoin by a person or group calling themselves Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009. Demand for Ethereum is so high that it may even be driving up the price of graphics cards, as miners try to generate as much currency as they can. What is Ethereum exactly, and what does it mean for the future of cryptocurrency (and maybe society)? Here’s the rundown.

To start — what is a cryptocurrency?

People often refer to Ethereum as a cryptocurrency, but that isn’t precisely true. It is a platform that allows individuals to conduct transactions and draw up contracts, using a currency called “ether.” To understand what distinguishes Ethereum from a cryptocurrency like bitcoin, it helps to understand what a cryptocurrency is, as well as the concept of a blockchain.

A cryptocurrency is a form of digital currency created through encryption. A cryptocurrency has no physical form — like a banknote or coin — and it is not issued by a central bank or governmental authority. Units of cryptocurrency exist as data on the internet, and are created and managed through something called a blockchain.

A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger, shared amongst any number of computers. When transactions occur, they are recorded in blocks; in order for these blocks to go into the ledger, they must be validated by a certain number of computers on the blockchain network. Crucially, the ledger exists, in the same form, for everyone on the network. Anyone can can look at to see a complete history of every transaction that has occurred, and any changes would be visible to everyone.

The individuals who validate the transactions — which they do by having their computers solve complex computational problems — are called miners. Mining is a surprisingly intense activity, as our guide explains, that requires powerful hardware and a lot of planning. As a reward for their help in validating blocks, miners are given rewards. This is typically a specific cryptocurrency; Bitcoin miners receive bitcoin, while Ethereum miners receive ether.

When you send someone an amount of cryptocurrency, a digital signature is created to authenticate the transaction. Your public key is essentially your “address.” When someone sends you funds, they send it to your public key. When you send funds, you use your private key, which is essentially the password that grants you access to your funds, and a transaction message to create a digital signature. Miners use this signature to verify the transaction, and a new signature will be generated for every individual transaction, so the transaction can’t be repeated.

Why is this important?

Digital transactions have, historically, required third parties, such as banks, to authorize or validate the transaction. This is because money, when digital, is essentially a file, which could be copied and reused. But these more traditional intermediaries typically don’t work for free. Banks and other authorities require individuals to play in their sandbox, and pay whatever fees they demand.

Cryptocurrencies are all about skirting around financial institutions and authorities, but they still need some way to track when and how currency moves through transactions, so as to avoid problems like double spending. The currency would be useless if anyone could just create copies of their units.

Blockchains allow for peer-to-peer transactions, with no need for a third party to participate. They are inherently secure; if any data in the block were changed, computers on the network would need to revalidate it, discouraging tampering. In theory, cryptocurrencies are safe from seizure by authorities. Because they are stored nowhere in particular, and can only be accessed by a person with the private key, it would be incredibly difficult for even a government to seize them.

The broad strokes of a blockchain apply to Ethereum just as they do to bitcoin, but the two products have different goals. As mentioned, bitcoin is strictly a digital currency, designed to function as a means of payment. Ethereum takes a grander approach; it functions as a platform through which people can use ether tokens to create and run applications and, more importantly, smart contracts.

Ethereum focuses on “smart contracts”

What is a smart contract? It is a contract written in code, which the creator(s) upload to the blockchain. Any time one of these contracts is executed, every node on the network runs it, uploaded to the blockchain; thus, it is stored in the public ledger, theoretically tamper-proof.

Smart contracts are essentially structured as If-then statements; when certain conditions are met, the program carries out the terms of the contract.

As an example, say you want to rent a car from a service that uses Ethereum. A smart contract is generated, stipulating that if you send the required amount of funds, then the service will send you a digital key to unlock the car. The process is is carried out on the blockchain, so when you send the ether tokens, everyone on the network can see that you did so. Likewise, when the rental service sends you the key to unlock the car, everyone will see it. In this scenario, the contract might state that if the service does not send you the key, the tokens are refunded.

Since every computer on the network is keeping track of this transaction through the digital ledger, there is no way to tamper with it; if someone altered the details of the contract, every copy of the digital ledger would note this.

Every program on Ethereum will use a distinct amount of processing power, and since the program must be run by the nodes, it is important to keep superfluous activity to a minimum. This is why every contract and program on Ethereum is given a cost in “gas.” Gas is a measurement of how much processing power the program will require, and the higher the gas requirement, the more ether tokens the user will need to spend.

One of the commonly cited advantages of smart contracts is that there is no need for “middlemen” like lawyers or notaries. In theory, this means that you can carry out transactions without the waiting times inherent to paper filings, and without paying fees to whomever would typically oversee such a transaction. This is particularly important for people living in countries where the legal system is corrupt, or woefully inefficient.

Of course, the automation means that, if something goes wrong — if, for example, there is a bug in the code of the smart contract — the blockchain will still carry out the terms of the contract, which could be problematic.

A scandal involving The DAO — a decentralized autonomous organization — serves as a case study in how smart contracts can go wrong. The DAO was essentially a leaderless investment fund; members invested ether, gaining tokens that allowed them to vote on how to invest the DAO’s funds. As CoinDesk explains, the DAO was built through a series of smart contracts.

However, a vulnerability in the DAO’s code allowed one user to funnel millions of dollars worth of ether into a child DAO. A writer for Forbes compares the process to embezzlement, but notes that, because the DAO’s contract allowed for it to happen, it was not illegal; the user was working within the confines of the code.

What does it mean for the future?

In its short time in the spotlight, Ethereum has cast an enormous shadow. It is trading at around $300 as of June 28, 2017, and has grown by around 3600 percent in 2017, according to Business Insider. The platform has already attracted massive corporations like JP Morgan Chase and Microsoft, who are among the more notable members of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, which aims to provide “Resources for businesses to learn about Ethereum and leverage this groundbreaking technology to address specific industry use cases.”

That bodes well for Ethereum’s usage in the business world, but true believers see the platform as something more than a tool for corporation; they see it as a way to decentralize the internet, and make it more democratic.

In an interview with Wired, Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin lays out his view of how Ethereum will disrupt the traditional power structures of the world:

“I think a large part of the consequence is necessarily going to be disempowering some of these centralized players to some extent. Because ultimately power is a zero sum game. And if you talk about empowering the little guy, as much as you want to couch it in flowery terminology that makes it sound fluffy and good, you are necessarily disempowering the big guy. And personally I say screw the big guy. They have enough money already.”

Smart contracts could free individuals from the constraints of the legal system and big business. However, technology enthusiasts often promise such utopian futures; in reality, just as social media has helped the spread of fake news, Ethereum and the automated, decentralized internet it seeks may have unintended consequences, as the DAO hacking indicates. Like other cryptocurrencies, ether is prone to wild fluctuations. While Ethereum has been riding high in 2017 for the most part, it suffered a flash crash in June, a drop which some think may have been exacerbated by false rumors of Buterin’s death. Whether Ethereum is sturdy enough to survive long term, or an ephemeral trend, remains up in the air.

Mike Prettyman Chief Information Officer Green Fire Engineered Reclamation Member GreenFire DAO Whatsapp only Phone: 1-602-315-1571 Skype: mike.prettyman Website: http://greenfirefunding.com email: greenfirereclamation@gmail.com

Blockchain-Based Smart Contracts Approved

Greenfire supports blockchain business and technology. It is a belief held by Greenfire that business is growing into a blockchain technology based accountability system that will provide the move into a more sound money system.

Aaryn Prettyman

 

Maybe you’ve heard the term “blockchain” but aren’t quite sure what it is. You’d be in good company. However you may want to start learning, as it just may be a technology platform that changes the ARM industry someday.

In super-simple terms, blockchain is a decentralized way of keeping track of what is “true” (i.e. who owns what, who has signed what, who has paid what, etc.). This decentralized mechanism is called a “distributed ledger” – imagine a town checkbook, but instead of living in city hall, everyone in the town has a copy of it. Each time an entry is made it must be validated by everyone with a copy, and then everyone’s copy is updated. Each update is a new “block” in the “chain,” and each block needs all the other blocks to form the whole picture. The result is said to be a highly secure, transparent, interdependent chain. 

Today, most information is tracked in major centralized databases owned by one company (or government) or another. As we know, these databases are often vulnerable to hackers, they are not at all transparent, and they can be difficult to get corrected when they are wrong. This has created a lack of trust in our systems, and makes it frustrating to do business.

Blockchain was first used to manage bitcoin, the new kind of electronic currency that pretty much operates on the fringe. But many are now experimenting with a wide range of other, more mainstream uses. One example is that the State of Arizona has just passed a bill giving legal status to smart contracts and blockchain based signatures. Here’s what the bill says,

"A signature that is secured through blockchain technology is considered to be in an electronic form and to be an electronic signature.

A record or contract that is secured through blockchain technology is considered to be in an electronic form and to be an electronic record.

Smart contracts may exist in commerce. A contract relating to a transaction may not be denied legal effect, validity or enforceability solely because that contract contains a smart contract term.

For the purposes of this section:

  1. “Blockchain technology” means distributed ledger technology that uses a distributed, decentralized, shared and replicated ledger, which may be public or private, permissioned or permissionless, or driven by tokenized crypto economics or tokenless. The data on the ledger is protected with cryptography, is immutable and auditable and provides an uncensored truth.
  2. “Smart contract” means an event-driven program, with state, that runs on a distributed, decentralized, shared and replicated ledger and that can take custody over and instruct transfer of assets on that ledger."

insideARM Perspective

The debt collection community – including creditors, collection agencies and consumers – could benefit greatly from innovation that provides transparency and trust. Unfortunately there are many hurdles, including regulatory limitations and perceived risk by financial institutions. Blockchain may or may not prove to be the solution, but many industries and organizations – including major banks — are in active exploration of how it might be used in their domain. In my opinion, the conditions and requirements of the debt collection ecosystem make it a perfect candidate for this type of innovation.

The iA Institute (parent of insideARM) is devoting considerable effort to the concept of innovation for the industry. In conjunction with the Consumer Relations Consortium, this week we are kicking off the first meeting of our Innovation Council – a thought leadership group of creditor, agency, and service provider executives who will gather to contemplate the future of debt collection technology.

Source: Blockchain-Based Smart Contracts Approved

The Ultimate Disruption in the Financial System – Blockchain Technology

The Ultimate Disruption in the Financial System – Blockchain Technology

Extracted from BBVA Research on Digital Banking.

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a peer-to-peer public ledger maintained by a distributed network of computers that requires no central authority or third party intermediaries. It consists of three key components: a transaction, a transaction record and a system that verifies and stores the transaction. The blocks are generated through open-source software and record the information about when and in what sequence the transaction took place.

This “block” chronologically stores information of all the transactions that have taken place in the chain, thus the name blockchain. In other words, blockchain is a database of immutable time-stamped information of every transaction that is replicated on servers across the globe. This technology is the foundation of bitcoin, a crypto currency.

In traditional transactions such as money transfers or foreign currency, there is usually an intermediary or a centralized entity that records the transmission of money or currency that exist apart from it. In blockchain, the token or digital coin itself is what has value, which is determined by the market. This is what makes the system a truly decentralized exchange. When people buy or sell cryptocurrency, a secret key or token is broadcast to the system. “Miners” use nodes, computers or devices linked to a network, to identify and validate the transaction using copies of all or some information of the blockchain.

Before the transaction is accepted by the network, miners have to show “proof of work” using a cryptographic hash function –a special algorithm- that aims to provide high levels of protection. Miners receive some form of compensation for their computing power contribution, avoiding the need to have a centralized system.

New protocols such as Ripple rely on a consensus process that does not need miners nor proof of work and can agree on the changes to the blockchain within seconds.

In any case, the blockchain offers an inherent level of trust for the user, eliminating the need for the middleman and mitigating the risk of human error. In this public ledger, the data is protected against tampering and revision, and individuals cannot replace parts of the blockchain as the cost of doing so is significant – hypothetically one would need to control more than half of the “nodes” to surreptitiously alter the block chain.

The Disruption

While cryptocurrency itself has received a lot of criticism, the blockchain technology is thought to offer great potential, attracting the attention of governments, businesses and venture capital at a rapid pace. Some ideas developed in recent years include a pay-as-you-go system that allows users to stream live video; a structure that allows sharing space-program information; or ways to record business information such as audits. In most cases, these options are thought to offer greater security, speed and reliability at a fraction of the cost of more traditional infrastructures.

Other ideas include the possibility to create digital identities that could substitute dozens of usernames and passwords while offering greater security features; and “smart contracts” with self-executing properties that would make the contract “unbreakable”.

In the financial industry, institutions are slow to recognize the potential of blockchain technology; however, dozens of large banks have now invested significant amounts of money in this technology.

The attention is likely the result of how disruptive this technology is to the financial sector, particularly if it allows massive simplification of banking processes and significantly reduces costs.

The first levels of disruption seem more likely in payment processing where traditional transactions such as money transfers, credit and debit card payments, remittances, foreign currency and online payments, require an intermediary such as a clearing house or a financial institution.

In these cases the transaction would occur directly between the buyer and the seller without any intermediary and the validation of the transaction would happen in a decentralized way or “distributed ledger”. This would result in significant infrastructure savings for banks by allowing them to bypass payment networks that are oftentimes slow, cumbersome, and expensive.

However, the biggest potential impact of a public ledger may extend beyond the payment system. Given that the majority of financial assets such as bonds, equities, derivatives and loans are already electronic it may be possible that someday the entire system is replaced by a decentralized structure.

In fact, the latest innovations are using tokens to store and trade assets like shares, bonds, cars, houses and commodities. These so-called “colored coins” attach additional information on the asset, generating “smart property” or the ability to record and transact these assets using “smart contracts”, which are enforced by complex algorithms, through distributed platforms without a centralized register, thereby increasing efficiency.

In this environment, the current system where financial institutions record individuals’ accounts in a centralized fashion and the banks’ reserves are stored by the central bank (i.e. Federal Reserve) would be replaced by the “Internet of money” or the “Internet of finance” – a fully decentralized financial system.

As other industries that have been transformed by new technologies and digitization, blockchain technology could reshape the financial industry well beyond the payments system.