How blockchain helps move money internationally like you send emails

Navin Gupta, MD (South Asia and MENA region) at Ripple.

We want to move money around the world like information moves today. We should be able to send money the way we are able to send emails and WhatsApp messages. When I say money, I mean legal money which is fully authenticated, regulated and controlled,” Navin Gupta, managing director of South Asia and the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region for Ripple, a provider of leading enterprise blockchain solutions for payments, said at the Mint Digital Innovation Summit held in Bengaluru on 15 March. He was speaking on “Understanding Blockchain’s Impact on Payments”.

It is estimated that today the world sends more than $155 trillion across borders. Yet, the underlying infrastructure is dated and flawed. This is where Ripple with its blockchain technology connects banks, payment providers and digital asset exchanges to provide a seamless experience to send money globally. More than 200 institutions are using the blockchain technology built by Ripple to transact daily, Gupta claims. “In India, banks like Axis and Yes Bank are using our technology to process their customers’ payments anywhere in the world. We live in 40 corridors and 6 continents, besides having offices in 8 countries,” said Gupta.

Blockchain has advantages because it is open source, decentralized, reliable and trusted, Gupta said. The cost of transaction is consistent—there is no fee or timing loss and it is scalable. There are no physical assets and enterprises that leverage Ripple’s digital asset XRP (cryptocurrency used by the Ripple payment network) when sending payments on behalf of customers. Using XRP for liquidity when sending a cross-border payment helps financial institutions avoid the hassle of pre-funding accounts in destination currencies. It allows them to make faster, lower cost payments than they can through the traditional correspondent banking system. Banks can now help global companies send on-demand payments around the world without fail. There is an opportunity to “secure a greater share of cross-border payments volume”, said Gupta.

Ripple also helps bank customers send money to people in many emerging markets including Mexico, India, and Thailand to increase their share of “this large and growing market”. What’s next? “Ripple is moving beyond blockchain, and connecting networks so that we can move money across networks. Again this is open-source and lightweight so it becomes easy to transfer money across networks. So we are building the ecosystem for networks to connect with each other and in our view globalization will be completed when data, goods and money flow seamlessly. That’s the way we think of it as an internet of value when the whole world gets connected through payment systems,” Gupta said.


From Wallets and UPI to Blockchain, How Digital Payments are Evolving in India

From Wallets and UPI to Blockchain, How Digital Payments are Evolving in India


  • The government has played a key role in the digitisation of cash in India
  • Digital payments went down in February but are rising again
  • Upcoming payments firms will have to expand reach via new channels

Most accounts of successful digitisation feature technology providers or tech-hungry consumers in the lead role. But in the story of digital payments in India, it is the government that is the unlikely hero.

In his budget speech this year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley set the nation a target of 25 billion digital transactions for 2017-18. And enabling this, we have the creation of a new category of financial institutions, namely the Payments Banks. Telecom/ e-commerce companies have turned into payments banks, and are processing huge numbers of low-value transactions via digital wallets and other electronic prepaid instruments for their subscribers and customers, many of whom never had the benefit of formal financial services.

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In August 2014, India’s financial inclusion agenda got a huge boost with the launch of the “Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana”, devised to provide every Indian easy access to basic banking services. In just over two and a half years, the Jan Dhan Yojana has garnered a record breaking 282.3 million “no-frills” bank accounts and deposits worth Rs. 640 billion. From here, the next step is to enable these accounts to make and receive digital payments. Aadhaar, India’s unique identification program, is the perfect platform for that because it links to bank accounts to enable both Direct Benefit Transfer (of government payouts) and a host of simple financial transactions via the Aadhaar Enabled Payment System.

aadhaar card reuters 548

Another government initiative that ended up promoting digital payments, even though that was not its primary intent, was the overnight demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes in November 2016. With about 86 percent of cash instantly going out of circulation, consumers from all segments, and even tiny, unorganised businesses were forced into digital transactions, shooting that number from 672 million in November 2016, to 958 million just a month later. Even after the new notes flowed into the system and digital transactions dipped considerably, they remained at higher than pre-demonetisation levels at 763 million in February 2017, and were at 844.7 million in June 2017, as per the RBI.

But arguably, the government’s crowning achievement is the Unified Payments Interface, which has transformed the fragmented mobile payments landscape with an environment where money can move from any bank or financial provider to any other, instantly, cheaply, securely and transparently.

The path ahead
Although the average Indian consumer is way more financially empowered today than a few years ago, as a nation, India still has a long way to go. Getting the one billion plus largely feature phone subscribers to use their device for simple financial transactions is one thing, educating them into financially responsible, informed consumers, quite another. Although India’s payments infrastructure is looking solid, there is a need for a massive effort to build awareness about basic financial management as well as safe financial practices to protect customers from fraud. The fact that India is deemed a favourite target for cyber-attack underlines the seriousness of the problem.

Viability is a big challenge for India’s niche digital payment providers, who are pouring large sums of money into acquiring customers and keeping them happy. At present, almost all digital payment services are being offered free of cost or with attractive incentives – for instance Paytm Payments Bankcharges no fees on any online transaction, while Airtel Payments Bank offers free talktime. Once the honeymoon is over, providers will certainly look at charging these services, which might put the brakes on growth.


One way to keep costs (and hence fees and charges) down is to leverage Blockchain and other open source technologies to facilitate digital payment transactions. Actually, Blockchain fells several challenges in one go – it collapses transaction time and cost, improves transparency, and provides virtually impenetrable security. It can also scale up to meet India’s requirements with ease.

The last point is crucial because it is also the key to viability. Niche payment providers will need to extend their services down to the very last mile and feature phone to sustain the business; banks, although under less pressure, should also look at expanding reach via mobile and other channels, such as micro ATMs and business correspondent agents carrying handheld devices for delivering digital payments to the doorstep.


Media giants partner to develop ‘Blockchain Insights Platform’ for video advertising efficiency

Image result for Media giants partner to develop ‘Blockchain Insights Platform’ for video advertising efficiencyComcast’s Advanced Advertising Group, announced that it is developing a new ‘Blockchain Insights Platform’ that it aimed to improve the efficiency of premium video advertising.

The blockchain platform will enhance planning, targeting, execution and measurement across screens. Comcast has partnered with media giants NBCUniversal, Disney, Altice USA, Channel 4 (UK), Cox Communications, Mediaset Italia and TF1 Group (France) for the blockchain initiative.

The announcement was made at the Cannes Lions in Cannes, France and the Blockchain Insights Platform intends to formally launch in 2018. The company is also in discussions with other programmers, distributors, device makers and marketers from the U.S. and Europe.

“Television advertising is an efficient and effective way for marketers and their agencies to reach a large audience, yet today the way advertisers use insights to plan, buy and deliver advertising is limited,” Marcien Jenckes, President, Advertising, Comcast Cable, said. “This new technological approach would make data-driven video advertising more efficient and consumer data more secure. We’ll work with the participants in this initiative to improve ad planning, addressable targeting, execution and measurement, to ultimately create even more value for the television advertising industry.”

Blockchain Insights Platform characteristics include consumer privacy, where each blockchain participant’s data would stay in their own systems and they would continue to manage the protection and privacy of their users. The technology includes a series of encryption and rights management layers that would result in a system that lets blockchain participants in the platform ask questions of each other’s data without having to access or take possession of anyone else’s data to get their marketing questions answered.

Comcast’s Advanced Advertising Group has developed platforms and technologies in order to create simplified solutions that benefits Comcast Cable, distributors, programmers, agencies and advertisers from the U.S. and Europe. The company will collaborate with other media giants to develop the Blockchain Insights Platform.

Blockchain Could Help Musicians Make Money Again







As a musician, I want to encourage other artists to collaborate with my music. But recently, a visual artist had all of his Vimeo videos taken down for using just 30 seconds of one of my songs. The label that exclusively licenses one of my songs likely had a bot looking for copyright infringement that automatically took it down. I hear the artist now has them back online after a few weeks of hair loss and negotiations. I’d personally like to avoid these types of situations in the future, which means providing an easy way for others to license and collaborate with my music. A blockchain-empowered rights and payments layer could provide the means to do so.

A major pain point for creatives in the music industry — such as songwriters, producers and musicians — is that they are the first to put in any of the work, and the last to ever see any profit. They have little to no information about how their royalty payments are calculated, and don’t get access to valuable aggregate data about how and where people are listening to their music. But a rising tide of musicians and bands are pushing toward transparency and fairness in their own ways — for example, Paul McCartney’s recent lawsuit again Sony, Duran Duran’s lost battle with Sony/ATV, and Taylor Swift’s dust-up with Spotify. It’s within this climate that an enticing seed of an idea is being planted: blockchain technology has the potential to get the music industry’s messy house in order.

One of the biggest problems in the industry right now is that there’s no verified global registry of music creatives and their works. Attempts to build one have failed to the tune of millions of dollars over the years, largely at the expense of some of the collective management organizations (CMOs) — the agencies (such as ASCAP, PRS, PPL and SOCAN) who ensure that songwriters, publishers, performers, and labels are paid for the use of their music by collecting royalties on behalf of the rights owners. This has become a real issue, as evidenced by the $150 million class action law suit that Spotify is currently wrestling with. The inter-organizational cooperation that blockchain is providing for the fintech sector should inspire these “collecting societies” to use the technology to create an open (or partially open) global registry if they hope to remain relevant, which would help organize the immense amounts of new music being uploaded every day. Music creatives could build upon such a registry to directly upload new works and metadata via blockchain-verified profiles.

Blockchain has the potential to provide a more quick and seamless experience for anyone involved with creating or interacting with music. For example, listening to a song might automatically trigger an agreement for everyone involved in the journey of a song with anyone who wants to interact or do business with it — whether that’s a fan, a DSP (digital service provider such as Spotify or iTunes), a radio station, or a film production crew.

Where would this new music ecosystem “live”?  One idea is .music, the soon-to-be-introduced and much-anticipated new generic top-level domain (gTLD). Decisions about its fate, and about who will be granted control of the domain, are currently on hold at ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the non-profit organization that’s responsible for coordinating and managing internet domains. Currently, DotMusic, a music community applicant, is appealing for control of the .music gTLD. But if they fail, it could potentially go to the highest bidder at auction. Some of the bidders in the running include Google and Amazon. Should the winning party do the right thing and hand over individual .music URLs to verified music creatives (for example, Paul McCartney would own and Taylor Swift would own, rather than treating these new URLs as their own storefronts, it would make a lot of sense to link a blockchain-enabled ready-for-business music registry to those URLs, adding a whole new dimension for music creatives to drive business toward themselves and their work.

The blockchain could also store information about and/or link to a musician’s online profile, (or “Creative Passport,” as I like to refer to this concept), such as latest biography, tour dates, press images, and social media-style information, such as artists you champion, charities you support, skill sets, or organizations or companies you are connected to. This information could then be updated and accessible to anyone searching for that data, whether human or machine. At the song level — e.g. — the blockchain could share information on all of the people involved in the making of the song, at the very least, but in addition could be linked to the metadata on specifics such as the equipment that was used to produce the song, where and when the song was recorded, the artists’ inspiration for the song, attributions, and more – sort of like extended liner notes. This could help spawn new apps and services atop of those datasets, and with them, new revenue streams for everyone involved.

Two years ago, the penny dropped for me as a musician when I was introduced to Ethereum, an open-source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform featuring smart contract functionality. Soon after discovering Ethereum, I dreamt up a music industry ecosystem that I called Mycelia, and used my next musical release — the song  Tiny Human — as an excuse to explore the potential of blockchain further. I began by posting everything about that track on my website for anyone to experiment with and for fans to enjoy. Phil Barry at the Ujo Music platform joined in, which resulted in Tiny Human being the first song ever to automatically distribute payments via a smart contract to all creatives involved in the making and recording of the song. It was very basic — no licensing terms were exhibited — and it raised little money, due in part to the fact that you had to have an Ether wallet with Ether in it (the crypto-currency used on the Ethereum platform) before you could purchase the track, which lost some people along the way. But it nonetheless was a first step forward that generated a lot of steam for those in the business of music and blockchain.

Ease of use is one of the biggest keys to success for the widespread adoption of any new technology. The idea of a Semantic Web of linked media, artist profiles and other metadata spawning new apps with instantaneous peer-to-peer payments and exchange of data is an exciting one, but it will only become a reality for those who wish to interact with music if its solutions are better and simpler than those that currently exist. It was much easier and much more preferable for 60 million users to download music from Napster than it was to go to the store to buy a CD. It was a total failure on the part of the commercial music industry that they didn’t find a way to capture even a portion of those Napster users and turn it into a legitimate service at that time. Napster was an innovative idea that made music more accessible to music lovers.  But, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) chose to crush it, rather than explore the idea of sharing libraries and peer-to-peer music sharing in a legal context.

These days, however, the landscape is different and the vast majority of those wanting to listen to music head over to YouTube, which is free and perfectly legal. Astonishingly, thousands upon thousands of new songs are uploaded every day, not registered properly, and so are in desperate need of associated metadata. Surely, we can find better ways for people to both easily publish and interact with music that makes sense for everyone?

Some are trying. Organizations like Berklee’s Open Music Initiative (OMI) have managed to gather almost every party under the industry-wide sun to explain why blockchain is at least worth exploring and engaging with. And an increasing number of new all-in-one music services for artists, such as Revelator (which is blockchain-based) and Amuse (which is not) are using big data combined with audio fingerprinting to provide really useful data feedback, analysis and curation. They understand that good feedback data can be as valuable as money to creatives, enabling an artist to make business decisions with confidence and clarity. Combine this with the capabilities of social media aggregating apps like Hootsuite or Social Sprout, and artists’ partitioned online representations and scattered creative wares start to come together. Imagine being able to know, or being alerted to, when and where your music is being played. Say your song is playing on a certain channel on the radio… you could then dial the DJ to thank him for playing your song, while connecting to listeners in the moment, adding context and meaning to your songs.

Now is the time for the music industry to take the long-view look and explore blockchain together with its creatives for the sake of its sanity and future. It won’t be hard to make the business more efficient, as it’s such a giant mess right now. The larger players in the industry just need to have faith that they will make more money by doing the right thing — which would lead to fair remuneration, transparency, and a multitude of new business opportunities for artists. Simply put, if the industry is to have any clout, or any say in the sustainability of our music ecosystem, it needs to come together to develop tools and standards, so the necessary game-changing new services can flourish — but this time, under our own internet of agreements for music, where artists would be represented fairly.

I believe that featured artists — those “on the cover” — should inevitably be entrusted to ensure that everyone involved in creating music in their name will be duly acknowledged and compensated. The blockchain effect has inspired creatives in the industry that a better future lies ahead. If guided and nurtured in the right ways, blockchain holds the potential to give us a golden age of music not just for its listeners, but for those who make it, too.

Imogen Heap is a Grammy-winning recording artist who’s behind the Music glove system and is the founder of Mycelia, a non-profit with a focus on enabling a fair and sustainable music industry ecosystem. She also composed the musical score for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. She was recently appointed to board director for PRS and is the Featured Artists Coalition’s first Artist in Residence/Creative Executive Officer.