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What’s new in blockchain, AI and IoT: June 9 – 15, 2017

Following are highlights from the past week’s news developments in blockchain, artificial intelligence and Internet-of-Things technologies:

Blockchain/Bitcoin conferences planned across Europe 
Moscow-based Smile-Expo is hosting a series of Blockchain & Bitcoin conferences across Europe this year, including a first-time event scheduled for Sept. 7 in Stockholm. During another conference held in May in Prague, attendees talked about how cryptocurrencies and other distributed ledger technologies are affecting business communication, labor markets and the power industry, among other sectors. Other events have also been held in Moscow and Tallinn, with additional cities also set to host conferences.

Facebook says it’s tackling terrorist content with help of AI
Facebook on June 15 described how it is using artificial intelligence to change how it prevents the appearance of radical accounts and “potential terrorst propaganda” on its site. It said AI is helping it to remove clusters of terrorist-linked content on Pages, groups, posts and profiles, and to reduce the time it takes to identify and remove repeatedly created fake accounts by terrorist actors. “We want to find terrorist content immediately, before people in our community have seen it,” director of global policy management Monika Bickert and counterterrorism policy manager Brian Fishman wrote. “Already, the majority of accounts we remove for terrorism we find ourselves. But we know we can do better at using technology — and specifically artificial intelligence — to stop the spread of terrorist content on Facebook. Although our use of AI against terrorism is fairly recent, it’s already changing the ways we keep potential terrorist propaganda and accounts off Facebook.”

Orange eyes Narrowband IoT outside of France
France-based telco Orange plans to roll out Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) solutions in markets outside of France, LightReading reported on June 15. According to the publication, Orange’s Jean-Pierre Casara said during the 5G World conference in London that, while NB-IoT doesn’t make sense in markets like France with widespread long-range low-power (LoRa) solutions, “it does in other markets”. LightReading reported, “So while LoRa and LTE-M are used in France, NB-IoT and LTE-M seem likely to form the technological pillars in countries such as Belgium and Spain, where Orange is already rolling out LTE-M services.”

AIG, Standard Chartered pilot multinational ‘smart’ insurance contract 
Working with IBM, American International Group and Standard Chartered Bank announced on June 15 that they have successfully piloted a blockchain-based first: a multinational, smart-contract-based insurance policy. Aimed at improving efficiency and transparency in global underwriting, the pilot built by IBM is based on The Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger framework. The test application converted a master policy written in the UK — along with three other policies in Kenya, Singapore and the US — into a single contract that offers a shared, real-time view of policy data and documentation. “There is tremendous opportunity to apply advancements in blockchain technology to transform the insurance industry,” IBM Blockchain general manager Marie Wieck said in a press announcement. “By helping solve some of the biggest problems challenging the industry from eliminating silos of information to improving efficiency, blockchain can truly make an enormous impact and even lead to new business models.”

US officials consider closer scrutiny of Chinese AI investments
The news agency Reuters on June 14 reported that federal officials are considering closer scrutiny of Chinese investments in US technology companies, especially those exploring applications that use artificial intelligence. The agency quoted an unnamed Trump administration official who said the role of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States might be strengthened, “given China’s predatory practices.” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis added that the committee’s current status is “outdated.”

Telefónica, Huawei to launch Open IoT Lab in Chile 
Spain’s Telefónica and China-based Huawei announced on June 15 that they plan to launch an Open IoT Lab in Chile in the next few months to develop products and applications using NB-IoT. The lab will be aimed at building “a complete ecosystem of partners, manufacturers, technicians, developers and designers to bring the best solutions to market around Mobile IoT networks,” according to Vicente Muñoz, Telefónica’s chief IoT officer.

Thomson Reuters releases ‘smart oracle’ to blockchain ecosystem 
Market information provider Thomson Reuters said on June 14 it was releasing a blockchain-based “smart oracle” called BlockOne IQ to the blockchain development community for “lean experimentation purposes”. BlockOne IQ can be used by third-party organizations to provide cryptographic proof that Thomson Reuters was the source for market data in their applications. The oracle, which is a mechanism to “bridge the gap between web-based APIs and the blockchain,” is part of Thomson Reuters’ wider BlockOne ID program launched last year to help developers map digital identities to Ethereum addresses.

Intel among investors in AI’s ‘largest series A funding round’ to date
Intel Capital announced on June 14 that it had made investments in three technology companies working on AI applications, including CognitiveScale, AEye and Element AI. Together with additional capital from Microsoft and Nvidia, Canada-based Element AI has raised $102 million, which it said is the “largest series A funding round for an artificial intelligence company in history”.

InsureX plans token sale to raise startup funds
London-based startup InsureX has scheduled a crowdsale from July 11 through 31 to raise funds for its blockchain-based market platform for insurance products. Crowdsale participants who make Ethereum-based investments in the company will receive IXT tokens they can use to pay for platform subscriptions, data access, API licenses, transactions and custom integration or support. In a whitepaper published last week, InsureX said it designed its platform to “streamline the process between buyers and sellers of insurance products”.

Decentralized data storage provider Sia resolves payment problems
Sia, a US-based technology for cloud-based data storage, said on June 13 it has resolved problems that have prevented users from making digital currency deposits and withdrawals using Poloniex and Bittrex. Writing on the company’s blog, vice president of operations Zach Herbert said the issues were caused by “a major spike in transaction volume on the Sia blockchain.” He added, “We’ll be increasing the size of the transaction pool from 2MB to 5MB, with the ability to automatically grow further if there are large quantities of high-fee transactions. We will also be creating a fee market, similar to Bitcoin, so that miners can prioritize transactions based on fees. With the upgrades implemented, the Sia network should be able to safely scale by an order of magnitude.” Sia’s technology envisions a decentralized data storage network that lets anyone “make money by renting out their hard drive”.

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