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Oasis Pro deal will give developing world better access to financial markets

Partnership aims to break dominance banks have on low-risk investment from primary bond markets

26 September 2021 Anthony Quinn 2 mins read

Oasis Pro deal will give developing world better access to financial markets

IOHK and Oasis Pro have formed a ground-breaking partnership to develop an alternative trading system that will use blockchain technology to open up participation in primary bond markets to developing countries.

The two companies are joining forces to create a bond issuance platform. Oasis Pro is the parent company of Oasis Pro Markets, which already operates a multi-asset alternative trading system called OATSPRO in the US. This allows secondary trading of public and private multi-asset digital securities.

The Oasis Pro technology facilitates digital cash for digital securities transactions, and by using the Cardano blockchain to remove the need for intermediaries such as banks from the process, trading fees will be cut by half. The combined platform provides a viable and secure financing alternative for governments of developing nations.

 With recent reductions in foreign aid and investment, many governments are struggling to access capital.  By integrating OATSPRO technology with users of Cardano’s ada cryptocurrency – with a market capitalization of $70 billion – a new source of foreign investment can be tapped for crucial infrastructure projects.

 John O’Connor, director of African operations at IO Global, said: ‘At IO Global, our mission is to build systems which widen and democratize access to vital financial and social services, for both governments and citizens alike. This was the drive for our partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education this year to bring provable educational credentials to students and  teachers across the country, and is the same for our work with Oasis.

 ‘Systems like the one Oasis is developing are essential to bridge the growing global investment gap and give developing nations the tools to level the playing field and invest in critical infrastructure.’

 Pat LaVecchia, chief executive of Oasis, said: ‘Developing nations often lack the access to overseas capital that other nations have. We want to ensure that this changes. IO Global’s vision to democratize opportunity aligns closely with our desire to ensure access to financial markets for developing nations, and this partnership represents a key step in enabling greater accessibility to international capital markets for those that require it.’

Cardano fund injecting $6m to support Africa’s pioneers

Investment will help entrepreneurs capitalize on lack of barriers from legacy infrastructure

25 September 2021 Anthony Quinn 2 mins read

Cardano fund injecting $6m to support Africa’s pioneers

A new fund in Africa is investing $6m to finance the most innovative blockchain projects on the continent. The fund was created in recognition of the unique opportunities for innovation in Africa, which has the highest percentage of entrepreneurs of any continent

The fund focuses on blockchain technology because the lack of deeply embedded legacy infrastructure means that African governments and businesses have fewer obstacles to adopting next-generation technology than the West. This opportunity can potentially level the global playing field when it comes to offering game-changing blockchain-based products and services. 

The unique fund will offer capital to the most innovative African start-ups wishing to build on Cardano, the third-largest blockchain platform. IOHK will ensure successful projects benefit from teaching, financing, and sustained support in partnership with the fund.

IOHK works across the continent providing education and innovation in formal programming techniques. The company has a strong presence in Ethiopia – and is currently rolling out a system for verifiable education credentials to five million students and teachers in partnership with the Ethiopian government.  

Having been embedded in Africa for five years and in collaboration with investment and education companies on the ground, IOHK will be well placed to ensure that the projects most needed for the region’s development get the funding and support they require. 

John O’Connor, director of African operations, said: ‘Working with businesses in Africa I have encountered the most inspirational entrepreneurial spirit. At Input Output we believe in democratizing opportunity, which means giving equal access to funding to realize these innovative ideas, solving problems across the world.

 ‘This investment project marks a milestone in Input Output’s African development, enabling young ideas to flourish and capitalize on the opportunities provided by blockchain.’

Luxury spirits brand chooses Cardano to verify alcohol supply chain

25 September 2021 Anthony Quinn 2 mins read

Luxury spirits brand chooses Cardano to verify alcohol supply chain

Strait Brands, an Australian luxury spirits company, is embracing a blockchain-first approach to managing its alcohol supply chain. Set to deliver four million bottles before the end of 2022, the business will build its production process around the Cardano platform. 

The partnership will see Strait Brands deploy a tamper-proof software system created by Input Output using Atala SCAN, which can record and store data securely and instantly verify the origins of products throughout the supply chain. 

Philip Ridyard, founder of Strait Brands, said: 'Strait Brands is embarking on large-scale international distribution and, conscious of the challenges the industry faces, we decided to take a blockchain-first approach to production, ensuring industry-leading levels of safety and verifiability in our supply chain.

'Input Output is an essential partner in Strait Brands' pioneering movements in the alcohol industry, protecting the integrity of Strait vodkas, gins, and our new super-premium range, Badger Head.'

Fraud is a growing problem for the alcohol industry. Counterfeited, mislabeled, substituted or diluted products worth upwards of $40 billion a year are making their way to consumers. 

Atala SCAN is reshaping the way the alcohol industry combats counterfeit products. By storing an authentic and secure record of ingredients throughout the production process, it can eradicate the possibility of either counterfeit or hazardous substances making their way onto the shelves.

SCAN is part of Input Output's Atala suite, which is already being used in the biggest blockchain partnership yet seen. The pioneering project with the Ethiopian education industry will provide five million pupils with instantly verifiable digital identities. These will be used to verify grades, monitor school performance and boost education and employment nationwide.

Strategic partners pave way for Plutus smart contracts

Metalamp and Runtime Verification among developers priming Cardano for the age of DeFi

12 May 2021 Anthony Quinn 6 mins read

Strategic partners pave way for Plutus smart contracts

The technical infrastructure is being laid for Plutus smart contracts on Cardano. But such infrastructure for decentralized finance (DeFi) is like a road with no cars if there aren’t the developers to write the contracts that will drive platform adoption and usage. 

The Plutus pioneer program was kicked off in April, as part of an evolving scheme for developer education that began over two years ago. The goal? To provide structured training for anyone who wants to learn about functional programming, so they can begin using Haskell and Plutus, and start building their first apps. Alongside this keen and committed group of about 1,500 ‘trainee’ Plutus developers, we’ve also formed partnerships with experienced software development houses to build a number of decentralized applications (DApps) to stress-test the network, provide some early proof-of-concept applications, and assess our processes and support for the army of developers that follow.

The plan for Plutus is to have ‘professional developers complement the work of the pioneer program and help fast-track our quality assurance and testing process towards the Alonzo hard fork,’ says Silviu Petricescu, director of product strategy. 

‘The Cardano community has been integral to us testing, improving and rolling out the network since the days of the incentivized testnet,’ he adds. Professional developers add another element to the process – in terms of expertise, sitting somewhere between the core internal team and the pioneers – ‘to scrutinize everything’, he adds. ‘Starting with documentation, tools and all the support elements that we are going to provide, they are going to be the first to test it all and give us feedback. We will include that in our internal testing and quality assurance processes.’

It’s a two-pronged approach: the pioneer scheme will be training up an army of developers, while the partner scheme will bring in heavyweight expertise to make sure everything works – that way, everyone is ready when Plutus is deployed to the mainnet as the final component of Goguen on the Cardano roadmap. ‘Having these developers as part of this is a way for us to ensure that our quality of build towards the next hard fork will be at the level that we want,’ says Petricescu.

Gerard Moroney, director of operations, has been bringing these software houses into the scheme. ‘We've been talking to companies that have experience with blockchain, and blockchain consultancies, and others that are not necessarily crypto but know distributed computing. We've also looked at consultancies that have solid Haskell experience.’ Enthusiasm and passion are also part of the equation: ‘We're working with companies that really want to try something new, something innovative and interesting. Fundamentally, we're backing people who want to be brave and be ahead of the curve.’ 

Of course, the blockchain never sleeps and the search has taken him far and wide, holding talks with consultancy companies across Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Americas. ‘Some of them were entirely new to us,’ he says, ‘but they already knew about Cardano and Plutus – and that's been really interesting.’

These are companies that have experience in the finance sector and business so ‘they've all got great ideas’ he adds. ‘We're giving them guidance about what we want them to work against at the beginning, but they're also coming up with new ideas – and that’s a lot of fun.’ 

March’s Cardano360 show ran interviews with some of the partner companies. When it comes to software engineering, their expertise soon becomes clear. Obsidian Systems, for example, provided many of the tools and the technical support for the block validators who maintain the Tezos proof-of-stake blockchain.

On a visit to the Metalamp offices, you’d find yourself in the city of Omsk in Siberia among a team that thrives on ‘complex and time-consuming projects’, often built on the Haskell programming language. ‘The company had heard about Cardano and knew that ‘it is one of the most fascinating projects written in Haskell’. Some of their teams had already played with Plutus before the companies came into contact. Metalamp has experience with financial technology and has built applications involving lenders, loans, and ledgers. 

Other companies supporting the rollout include:

  • Eleks: custom software engineering and consulting services since 1991. Based in Ukraine.
  • Node Factory: blockchain research and development specialist in Zagreb.
  • MLabs: develops compilers, artificial intelligence, and DevOps applications, mostly in Haskell, Python, and Typescript. 
  • BinarApps: based in Poland, this developer specializes in projects for the retail and loyalty sectors.

Developers are looking forward to exploring applications involving digital exchanges and online sources called ‘oracles’ that bring information – whether it be commodity prices, exchange rates, airline timetables, or logistics schedules – into blockchains. The Essential Cardano page on GitHub maps the Cardano ecosystem and links to a library of resources. 

A long time in the making

Of course, Plutus will be used for complex financial smart contracts. There is a lot of money at stake with these contracts – it is reckoned that $43 billion is already locked into contracts using the Ethereum system. Yet DeFi is still at a very early stage and, as we showed in our recent #CardanoAfrica event, there is a whole new market out there for real world use cases (or RealFi as we call it).

Implementing secure smart contracts for the long term is hard, and software schedules are notoriously difficult! But the progress made by our blockchain engineers and the acceleration in the way the pieces of the Goguen jigsaw are falling into place are clear to see in the Plutus timeline below. The Plutus Playground is up and running. We have about 1,500 developers building their skills within the Pioneer program, writing scripts and building prototype apps. A series of Alonzo development testnets will soon begin rolling out – with core functionality at first, followed by a process of fast iteration with new capability and new user groups added in the weeks ahead. All the while, we are advancing steadily towards deployment of Alonzo on the mainnet and the start of smart contracts on Cardano.

It’s going to be an exciting summer as everyone in the Cardano community – partners, pioneers and developers of every stripe – works tirelessly to ensure that the Plutus smart contract platform hits the ground running. The secure, energy-efficient system that decentralized finance has been waiting for.

We’re in the final stages of preparing the first Alonzo testnet, aiming for the end of the month. Keep an eye on our social channels this week for an update. You can try out the Plutus Playground for yourself, and join Plutus discussions at the Cardano Forum. There is also a Plutus GitHub repository. You can register your interest and join our Slack community.

The final days of Christmas

The past, present, and future of Cardano in the spirit of an olde English counting song

4 January 2021 Anthony Quinn 3 mins read

The final days of Christmas

These are our final two thoughts about the past, present and future of Cardano in the spirit of an olde English counting song. There's one for each of The Twelve Days of Christmas, from December 25 to January 5, published in four batches. You can look back to the first batch, which went out on Christmas Eve.

Day 11. Charles Morgan, head of cybersecurity

My brief takes in a wide range of activities, from the obvious aspects of securing our websites, to advising staff on their physical safety on their travels (such as putting a wedge under a hotel bedroom door!), and enforcing two-factor authentication for almost 250 people around the world (Yubikeys are brilliant for this). And we’re having to deal with an awful lot more than Santa coming down the chimney, as you can see from these security statistics over the past year. Can you believe that one in five of the billions of files online are completely open for global access? Scary stuff if that’s your health records or financial information.

I have three interesting items I am working on the moment. The first is theft detection, tracing and anti-money-laundering strategies for Cardano using machine cognition. Then, there’s the automation of security audits and anomaly detection. And, on a more personal level, I’m working towards my Ethical Hacker v11 certification.

As for 2021, I am looking forward to having more team members in cybersecurity. This is going to allow us to be far more proactive in our security posture, in running dynamic and static audits of our products, and it will allow us to pursue ISO/IEC 27001 certification and compliance. This work is critical to Input Output becoming recognised globally as a technologically-stable company, which, thereby, will bolster confidence in Cardano and our products based on the blockchain platform.

Day 12. Rob Moore, digital deliveries manager

The Shelley launch and the start of decentralization for Cardano was a monumental event for the project. The whole of the web team was on call in case anything unforeseen happened, but, of course, all we ended up doing was watching the transition take place. However, even playing that bit part in helping to make Shelley happen is something I won't forget in a hurry. 

Setting ourselves up to deliver quality creative work has been absorbing much of my time recently. December’s Mantis launch of a new client for developers working with Ethereum Classic is a taste of things to come.

Live music, seeing friends and family, having plans, meeting work colleagues in real life, going abroad. All the things we used to take for granted. These are the things I’ve been missing and hope to get back to in 2021.

That completes our Twelve Days of Christmas. We hope some of them – whether on Daedalus, Japanese poetry, decentralized identity or the thoughts of a dreaming octopus – have struck a chord with you. The rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas by the choir of Clare College Cambridge has certainly raised plenty of laughs. Here's to an exciting 2021!