By Danny Scott, CEO at CoinCorner
A little reminiscent of the ‘Internet’, ‘The Cloud’ or even more recently the ‘Internet of Things’, people hear new terms like these and even use them in everyday conversations, but in the background are often quietly confused about what they are or even what they actually do. As with anything new, it can be difficult to break the jargon down and not only explain what it is, but how it’s used in the real world. After 5 years of working in this exciting and fast-paced industry, here are a few key Bitcoin buzzwords worth understanding!
Where does Bitcoin’s story begin?
A little over 9 years ago Bitcoin was launched in a 9-page white paper by Satoshi Nakamoto (a publicly mysterious person or group) as a platform for trustless peer-to-peer transacting. Peer-to-peer simply means that transactions can take place between computers using code, rather than through third-party companies.
Nakamoto concluded in the white paper that what was being proposed was ‘a peer-to-peer network using proof-of-work to record a public history of transactions that quickly bec[ame] computationally impractical for an attacker to change if honest nodes control[led] a majority of CPU power’. Pretty technical stuff, right?
Essentially, what Nakamoto did was to very cleverly piece together a variety of concepts and technologies to create what we refer to as Bitcoin. In this article, I’ll highlight the different parts of ‘Bitcoin’ by breaking it down to explain how each piece fits together. These comprise of ‘Digital Currency’, ‘Code’, ‘Nodes’, ‘Miners’, ‘Blockchain’,and the ‘Internet’!
At the top level we have ‘bitcoin’, the Digital Currency. This is the part of the puzzle that has an actual value, with today’s price currently sitting at $6,709. At CoinCorner we offer services that enable consumers to buy and sell bitcoin.
Next up is the Code that actually runs Bitcoin – let’s call this the law. The code is often referred to as the ‘Bitcoin Protocol’. It’s open source which means that anyone in the world with Internet access can see the code and help to develop the protocol. In being set up like this, no single authority or company owns or manages Bitcoin.
Nodes are people like you and me who run software on a computer. This software connects the whole Bitcoin network together and essentially allowing each computer to talk to others in the network. Each node connects to other nodes and enables transactions to be passed around the network.
A Miner is a computer run by a real person or company, and it’s sole task is to process Bitcoin transactions and confirm them. The mining process involves running a node on a computer which helps the miner to find all of the transactions on the network and ‘mine’ (or simply add them) them into a block on the Blockchain. Miners are rewarded with bitcoin as a thank you for their efforts, which comes from transaction fees paid by the user and as a reward from the ‘code’.
The blockchain is a database or ledger of all transactions that have been processed (confirmed) on the network by the miners. Bitcoin’s blockchain cannot be edited or deleted, only added to. Nodes around the world will keep a record of the blockchain (all the Bitcoin transactions to ever occur) on their computer. This means that the blockchain is distributed on thousands of computers worldwide – it has no one point of failure which removes the risk of the network going down.
This may seem like an obvious one, but all of this couldn’t be completed without the Internet. I feel that this is one under-appreciated piece of the puzzle! The internet facilitates the connection of all of the nodes and the passing of data around.
Bitcoin in Summary
This is a high-level overview of the different parts that make up Bitcoin, which shows that each part is as important as the next. At present, the Blockchain is being hyped as a revolutionary technology (which it is to an extent), but in reality, it’s actually only one piece of the Bitcoin puzzle and is no more important than the others mentioned here. If you took away any one of the above parts in this current scenario, Bitcoin wouldn’t work or have survived this long.
Staying connected: keeping the numbers moving in the finance industry
By Robert Gibson-Bolton, Enterprise Manager, NetMotion
2020 will certainly be hard to forget. Amongst the many changes we have come to live with, for many of us it has been adapting to a new style of working. Whatever your take on it is, remote working, working from home or even agile working, one thing remains clear – for many of us, this could be the new-normal for the foreseeable future. The professional services sector is no different. For example, many finance practices around the world are now allowing staff to work from home part of the time. In addition, a recent KPMG report found that half of the UK’s financial services workforce want to work from home after COVID-19.
Will this therefore become the de facto working practice for the finance industry too? We can’t say for sure, but this agile approach to working has certainly caused a major rethink for many firms. And as they evolve and adapt to meet the demands of a different way of working, firms need to ensure that their workforce can seamlessly interact with each other and their clients – this is key if they want to continue to deliver exceptional client service. Whilst financial services organisations everywhere are busy adopting innovative new technologies to better reflect the ‘work from anywhere environment’, they need to ensure secure access to resources and strive towards enhancing the end user experience. Success will be replicating the office working experience at home or wherever else they may be.
It’s all well and good for a firm to boast about the ability of their staff to work successfully from home, but how do they also establish that their people are just as productive as they were before? Whilst the IT department will have to grapple with security and compliance issues that arise from agile and remote working, they must also ensure that their people can connect securely, without eschewing user experience. And it needs to be completely seamless, without compromising the service level provided to clients.
Why all the fuss?
Which brings us nicely to persistent connectivity. Persistent connectivity effectively allows you to do more. How frustrating for the user when connectivity drops, or when the device that they are working on can’t find a network to connect to (or if the device switches between different networks). When connectivity drops, and re-connection is required then there is that small period where the user is not connected at all. And the user might have to re-authenticate or log into their VPN again (most VPNs are rubbish when they lose connectivity). All of these different scenarios ultimately disrupt the user experience – persistent connectivity provides the flexibility to overcome these challenges. When you enjoy consistent connectivity, you are making sure that the technology works as it was designed to work, allowing staff to rely on optimum user experience, anytime, anywhere – in effect, supplying them with that office-like experience, wherever they are. Just think about how many hours might be spent on a train, in a hotel or even on a client site. Consistent connectivity is key here – consistent in any of these locations.
Connectivity will be a fundamental component for successful remote working as firms try to meet the demands of an increasingly mobile workforce. Ultimately, they need encrypted and reliable connections that enable them to quickly and easily reach business applications and services. Working in a disconnected environment can lead to frustrated workers, hardly fitting given all the new remote working policies in place.
Getting the user experience spot-on
When you fine-tune connection performance so that essential business applications run reliably across networks, you are essentially talking about traffic optimization. Mobile traffic optimization ensures that applications, resources and connections are tuned for weak and intermittent network coverage and can roam between wireless networks as conditions and availability change. When connections aren’t performing well, applications that are crucial for job performance can experience packet loss, jitter or latency that can make working on the hoof extremely tricky. Compared to wired networks, wireless networks operate under highly variable conditions, including such factors as terrain or congested mobile towers. When you optimise the flow of traffic, you are helping to manage packet loss. Effectively, packet losses are data loss, which happens very regularly when you’re on the move or transitioning between different networks. Applications that require a lot of data tend to become fairly unusable when you hit even minor packet loss, which can be a common occurrence for many on residential broadband or on local Wi-Fi. conversely, NetMotion can enable critical applications to work and prevent disruptions at over 50% packet loss – in this way, employees can rely on technology performing well in situations and locations where it simply could not before. That is incredibly powerful for firms.
The finance industry is facing many of the same challenges presented to other industries. It is a question of balancing the requirement for more sophisticated ways to ensure secure access to resources with the need to enhance the end user experience (key team members in particular). For finance firms everywhere, adopting the right technologies will ensure that their people can enjoy a ‘work-from-anywhere’ environment.
Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific warns of capacity cuts, higher cash burn
(Reuters) – Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd on Monday warned passenger capacity could be cut by about 60% and monthly cash burn may rise if Hong Kong installs new measures that require flight crew to quarantine for two weeks.
Hong Kong’s flagship carrier said the expected move will increase cash burn by about HK$300 million ($38.70 million) to HK$400 million per month, on top of current HK$1 billion to HK$1.5 billion levels.
Hong Kong is set to require flight crew entering the Asian financial hub for more than two hours to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks, the South China Morning Post reported last week, citing sources.
“The new measure will have a significant impact on our ability to service our passenger and cargo markets,” Cathay said in a statement, adding that expected curbs will also reduce its cargo capacity by 25%.
The airline, in an internal memo seen by Reuters, requested for volunteers among its crew who could fly for three weeks, followed by two weeks of quarantine and 14 days free of duty, adding it will be a temporary measure and not all its flight will require such an operation.
“We continue to engage with key stakeholders in the Hong Kong Government,” the memo said.
The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Separately, a company spokeswoman said the airline could not detail the impact on vaccine transport specifically in terms of cargo shipments.
The aviation industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as many countries imposed travel restrictions to contain its spread.
In December, Cathay’s passenger numbers fell by 98.7% compared to a year earlier, though cargo carriage was down by a smaller 32.3%.
($1 = 7.7512 Hong Kong dollars)
(Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney and Twinnie Siu in Hong Kong; Editing by Bernard Orr and Arun Koyyur)
Travel stocks pull FTSE 100 lower as virus risks weigh
By Shashank Nayar
(Reuters) – London’s FTSE 100 fell on Monday, with travel stocks leading the declines, as rising coronavirus infections and extended lockdowns raised worries about the pace of economic growth, while fashion retailers Boohoo and ASOS gained on merger deals.
The British government quietly extended lockdown laws to give councils the power to close pubs, restaurants, shops and public spaces until July 17, the Telegraph reported on Saturday.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index dipped 0.1%, with travel and energy stocks falling the most, while the mid-cap index rose 0.1%.
“Stock markets are crawling between optimism around the rollout of vaccines and worries that a jump in virus infections and fresh local lockdowns could further affect recovery prospects,” said David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets.
Britain has detected 77 cases of the South African variant of COVID-19, the health minister said on Sunday while urging people to strictly follow lockdown rules as the best precaution against the country’s own potentially more deadly variant.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earlier warned that the government could not consider easing lockdown restrictions with infection rates at their current high levels and until it is confident that the vaccination programme is working.
The FTSE 100 shed 14.3% in value last year, its worst performance since a 31% plunge in 2008 and underperforming its European peers by a wide margin, as pandemic-driven lockdowns battered the economy.
Online fashion retailers Boohoo and ASOS surged 4.8% and 5.9%, each. Boohoo bought the Debenhams brand, while ASOS was in talks to buy the key brands of Philip Green’s collapsed Arcadia group.
Recruiter SThree Plc gained 0.9% after its profit, which nearly halved, still managed to beat market expectations and the company said it had resumed dividends.
(Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)
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