With the price of Cryptocurrency Bitcoin gyrating wildly it is time to examine the technology and what industries may be impacted.  As it stands, if your industry transacts or uses a database it is likely to be disrupted by Bitcoin or its underlying technology Blockchain.

Table of Contents

What is the Blockchain?

Where might Blockchain be useful?

Does my business need Blockchain?

Critical success factors

Industries impacted by Blockchain

Is Bitcoin an unstoppable force?

The Genesis Block

What is The Blockchain?

The blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that underlies cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. It provides a way to record and transfer data that is transparent, safe, auditable.  Each block in the Blockchain effectively carries the digital signature of the previous block. Like the ‘Digital DNA’ of its parent block.  Picture of a strand of DNAIndeed, it contains the digital DNA of its entire lineage all the way back to the first ‘genesis’ block.   Any attempt to manipulate an earlier block will cause a vastly different digital DNA to be produced along the chain.  This effectively makes the system immutable.

 

The Blockchain may help organisations that use it become more:

  1. Decentralized,
  2. Transparent
  3. Efficient, and,
  4. Secure

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Where might Blockchain Technology be useful?

Broadly speaking distributed ledger technology can be useful to any business or organization that keeps a database.  More specifically:

  1. Anywhere value is exchanged
  2. Busy market ecosystems, comprising buyers, sellers and perhaps even regulators. Cases where your business is interacting with lots of people.  In such cases the Blockchain can be relied upon as a trusted source of information for all participants.
  3. In situations where the existing market is clumsy and slow. Markets where there is, no trust, no transparency and/or privacy concerns.  Transactional situations where there are many participants requiring a high level of verification before proceeding with a deal.  One example might be Real Estate – where bankers, agents and solicitors all require verified information.
  4. Where simple rules might be automatically implemented. Win/loss situations in betting and gambling are examples here.  (As are futures trading and forecasting).
  5. Where markets are experiencing transactional friction. Supply chains where buyers and sellers worry about payment and delivery.  In cases such as this a shared ledger of exactly what has happened and where the product/service is at any given instant can increase trust and transaction comfort.  Thus, speeding up commerce and lowering costs in terms of required working capital.
  6. Government Regulators may utilize the Blockchain to provide government benefits to those that are eligible. Also, data collection and storage for the purposes of planning may be an application.  For instance, the collection of data concerning rentals in a specific area may be useful in future town planning and resource allocation.

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Does my business need the Blockchain?

Having read all of the above you may be asking yourself if all of this is really necessary for your business –  Is the Blockchain just an emerging technology looking for a problem to solve?

Those are real concerns.  In addressing these concern, you should consider the following:

  1. Are you dealing with the most important problems for your business?
  2. Perhaps, not using Blockchain Technology if there is a better way to solve the problem using existing technology. I.E.  Asking yourself does this really need to be in a distributed ledger?

Dilbert blockchain cartoon

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Critical success factors

In order to successfully implement a Blockchain project, it is important to consider the following factors:

  1. Ensure that you are reducing transaction friction.
  2. How will you achieve a ‘critical mass’ of users to ensure that the project is beneficial to all?
  3. What will you charge and who might you subsidize into your system to ensure success?  Who are the most important users?
  4. How will you ensure a great user experience for all participants?
  5. How will you ensure the platform is properly Governed? E.  Clear, open and trusted.  Keeping the platform secure and stable, whilst adhering to any required regulations…and… operating within your specified platform ethics and principles?

Check out some of the industries it’s already impacting.

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Industries Impacted by Blockchain

  1. Banking and Payments

The blockchain technology holds great promise in this area. Providing equitable access to financial services Globally – including those in third world countries who don’t have access to traditional banking. Bitcoin allows anyone to send money securely across borders with relatively low fees. Abra is one startup that is working on a bitcoin-based remittance service.

Barclays are also working on adopting blockchain technology to make their business operations faster, more efficient and secure. IBM predicts that 15% of banks will be using the blockchain by the end of 2017.

A prime example of disruption – Ripple:  Global Bank Transfers

Ripple is distributed financial technology that allows banks to send international payments across networks in real time.  It is a faster and cheaper option than the current transfer technologies.  They have experienced explosive growth, with some 75 banks having signed up to date.  From Ripple’s website:

“In a world where three billion people are connected online, cars drive themselves and appliances can communicate, global payments are still stuck in the disco era.”

Ripple also have a well performing Cryptocurrency.

Ripple’s XRP coin recently become the world’s penultimate cryptocurrency (by market capitalization).

Image of Ripple's Cryptocurrency

At day’s end banking digitization in a smart manner can not only impact direct cost savings for the bank by opening efficiencies, but more importantly, provide a far more frictionless experience for end customers. From individuals to global organizations, the impact of quicker international payments is staggering.

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  1. Cyber Security

Although the blockchain ledger is public, the data is verified and encrypted using advanced cryptography. This way the data is less prone to being hacked or changed without authorisation.Picture of an eye spying through Google logo

That said, the applications build on the blockchain are still young and there have been several hacks in recent months. This is something future applications will need to address.

 

 

  1. Supply Chain Management – Tracking Diamonds and Wine

Blockchain technology has been applied to the wine industry.  Everledger, announced last year that the intention of getting into the fine wine industry is to tidy up supply chain tracking. As an example, a 2001 Margaux bottle of wine was certified on the Blockchain with the help of fine wine experts.

4981xz-1630

The provision of permanent transaction, documentation, decentralization and 100% transparency, should…

“minimise counterfeiting and thereby increase confidence and activity in the collectible wine industry”… according to Anthem Blanchard CEO of Anthem Vault.

Experts broadly agree but there is more to the story.

Combined with IoT technologies the ability to collect data along the entire supply chain is now a reality.  This should have three very clear and distinct benefits:

  1.  Transaction transparency along the chain
  2. Guarantee of asset delivery
  3. Facilitation of insurance claims.

Blockchain streamlines companies supply chain management -asset transfer and insurance claims –  by feeding data directly into the distributed ledger.  The technology could also be applied to other high value items such as diamonds and works of art.

Picture of a Diamond

Indeed, Everledger also has been used for a new a new system that teams a private blockchain with a public blockchain to verify where diamonds come from. Transactions are recorded on the private ledger and then ‘time stamped’ for verification on the public ledger.  The system is designed to counter the infamous trade in conflict area diamonds or known as blood diamonds.

  1. Forecasting

The blockchain is set to change the entire approach to research, consulting, analysis and forecasting. Online platforms like Augur are looking to create global decentralized prediction markets. These technologies can be used to place and monitor bets on anything from sports to stocks to elections in a decentralized way.

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  1. Networking and the Internet of Things

Samsung and IBM are using blockchain technology for a new concept called ADEPT, which will create a decentralized network of IoT devices.2 Operating like a public ledger for a large number of devices, it would eliminate the need for a central location to handle communications between them. The devices would be able to communicate to each other directly to update software, manage bugs, and monitor energy usage.

  1. Insurance

The global insurance market is based on trust management. The blockchain is a new way of managing trust and can be used to verify many types of data in insurance contracts, such as the insured person’s identity. So-called oracles can be used to integrate real-world data with blockchain smart contracts. This technology is very useful for any type of insurance that relies on real-world data, for example crop insurance. Aeternity is one blockchain project that is building tools that are useful in the insurance industry.

  1. Private Transport and Ride Sharing

The blockchain can be used to create decentralised versions of peer-to-peer ridesharing apps, allowing both car owners and users to arrange terms and conditions in a secure way without third party providers. Startups working in this area include Arcade City and La’Zooz.

The use of built-in e-wallets can allow car owners to automatically pay for parking, highway tolls, and electricity top-ups for their vehicle. UBS, ZF and Innogy are some of the companies developing blockchain based e-wallets.

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  1. Cloud Storage

The current cloud storage landscape is not without its faults.  Data on a centralized server is inherently vulnerable to hacking, data loss, or human error.  Using blockchain technology allows cloud storage to be more secure and robust against attacks. However, the most compelling issue is that one company has control over all of your important files.

Decentralising Cloud Storage Sia:

Sia splits, encrypts, and distributes stored user files across a decentralized network.  Thus wresting total control of your important files from Dropbox, Amazon, Microsoft and other cloud storage innovators. The value proposition here is that one single company no longer owns your crucial files and data, while also dragging down costs and spreading files across nodes, mitigating the risk of any singular point of failure.

Sia also allows anyone to potentially monetize their own hard drives. Hoping to be the storage solution of the future, they have seen massive growth already. The decentralized storage space is one to watch in general with plenty of action coming from other innovators such as Storj.

  1. Charity

Common complaints in the charity space include inefficiency and corruption, which prevent money from reaching those that are meant to have it. Using blockchain technology to track donations can let you be sure your money is going to end up in the right hands. Bitcoin-based charities like the BitGive Foundation use blockchain’s secure and transparent distributed ledger to let donors see that the intended party has received the funds.

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  1. Voting

Probably one of the most important areas of society that the blockchain will disrupt is voting. The 2016 US election is not the first-time certain parties were accused of rigging election results. Blockchain technology can be used for voter registration and identity verification, and electronic vote counting to ensure that only legitimate votes are counted, and no votes are changed or removed. Creating an immutable, publicly-viewable ledger of recorded votes would be a massive step toward making elections more fair and democratic. Democracy Earth and Follow My Vote are two startups aiming to disrupt democracy itself through creating blockchain-based online voting systems for governments.

  1. Government

Government systems are often slow, opaque, and prone to corruption. Implementing blockchain-based systems can significantly reduce bureaucracy and increase security, efficiency, and transparency of government operations. Dubai, for example, is aiming to put all its government documents on the blockchain by 2020.

  1. Public Benefits

The public benefits system is another sector that suffers from slowness and bureaucracy. Blockchain technology can help assess, verify, and distribute welfare or unemployment benefits in a much more streamlined and secure way. GovCoin is a UK-based company that is helping the government to distribute public benefits using blockchain technology. The blockchain is also a good contender for implementing a basic income. Circles is a project working on developing a blockchain-based technology for implementing a universal basic income.

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  1. Healthcare

Another industry that relies on many legacy systems and is ripe for disruption is healthcare. One of the challenges hospitals face is the lack of a secure platform to store and share data, and they are often victims of hacking because of outdated infrastructure. Blockchain technology can allow hospitals to safely store data like medical records and share it with authorized professionals or patients. This can improve data security and can even help with accuracy and speed of diagnosis. Gem and Tierion are two companies that are working on disrupting the current healthcare data space.1

  1. Energy Management

Energy management has been a highly centralized industry for a long time. Energy producers and users cannot buy it directly from each other and have to go through the public grid or a trusted private intermediary. TransactiveGrid is a startup using  Ethereum that allows customers to buy and sell energy from each other in a peer-to-peer way.

  1. Online Music

Several startups are coming up with ways for musicians to get paid directly from their fans, without giving up large percentages of sales to platforms or record companies. Smart contracts can also be used to automatically solve licensing issues, and better catalog songs with their respective creators. Mycelia and Ujo Music are two startups creating blockchain-based solutions in the music industry.

  1. Retail

When you shop, your trust of the retail system is tied to the trust of the store or marketplace. Decentralised blockchain-based retail utilities work differently: they connect buyers and sellers without a middleman and associated fees. In these cases, trust comes from smart contract systems, the1 security of exchanges, and built-in reputation management systems. One startup disrupting the retail space is OpenBazaar.

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  1. Real Estate

Some of the issues in buying and selling real estate are bureaucracy, lack of transparency, fraud, and mistakes in public records. Using blockchain technology can speed up transactions by reducing the need for paper-based record keeping. It can also help with tracking, verifying ownership, ensuring accuracy of documents, and transferring property deeds. Ubitquity, is a blockchain-secured platform for real estate record-keeping that is an alternative for legacy paper based systems.

  1. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding has become a popular method of fundraising for new startups and projects in recent years. Crowdfunding platforms exist to create trust between project creators and supporters, but they also charge high fees. In blockchain-based crowdfunding, trust is instead created through smart contracts and online reputation systems, which removes the need for a middle-man. New projects can raise funds by releasing their own tokens that represent value and can later be exchanged for products, services, or cash. Many blockchain startups have now raised millions of dollars through such token sales. Although it’s still early days and the regulatory future or blockchain-based crowdfunding is uncertain, it’s an area that holds a lot of promise.

  1. Gaming

CryptoKitties is a brand-new start up (28 November 2017), that has taken the blockchain world by storm.  It simply allows for the purchase of ‘digital kittens’.  This is probably better explained using the tag from the CryptoKitties Webpage,

“Collect and trade CryptoKitties in one of the world’s first blockchain games. Breed your rarest cats to create the purrfect furry friend. The future is meow!”

Picture of a CryptoKittie

(Well beauty is in the eye of the beholder!)

But the concept is genius!  You purchase your Kitty for collection or breeding purposes.  If you are breeding then you select an appropriate mate, pay a siring fee, and your Kitten will produce offspring with a combination of the features of the parents.  This may seem trivial – but a CryptoKitten was sold for almost $US 120,000 recently!

Perhaps, the future truly is “meow!”

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  1. Marketing and Media

Blockchain has proven useful in finance — for currency transfers and secure data applications — as well as in tracking objects (as outlined above).  However, marketing applications may take some time to reach fruition. (There is little happening in the area yet, with the notable exception of BitTeaser, an advertising network that collects revenue in bitcoin!)

Some of the ways that the industry may make use of blockchain include:

  • Audit of Advertisement delivery
 Blockchain could be used to logue adverts to ensure they are being delivered on time and to the appropriate target audiences. Using expert Auditors such a Price Waterhouse Cooper or Deloitte is very expensive and time consuming.
  • Corporate social responsibility
 Accountability of CSR is a bit soft. CSR statements may be released, yet and subsequent meanings and interpretations may become blurred over time. The blockchain provides for the possibility of CSR accountability. Effectively creating “immutable digitized promises,” or contracts and publishing these on the Blockchain. Some areas a company might use this for marketing include:
    • Certified child labour free
    • Sustainable/Environmental production practices used
    • Conflict Zone Free

There are many possibilities.  In fact, anything the company deems as important to the consumer and be codified into a Blockchain “CSR social contract”.

Marketing
  It is possible to use Blockchain to let customers verify a product. Perhaps scanning a code with their phones to see the story behind the product – where it’s from, who designed it, what other colors it might come in etc.  The idea is that a customer can more readily identify and engage with the product.  This makes for more palatable marketing for the consumer, who now sees the product as ‘one of a kind, instead of one in a product line’.  A start-up in this area is VeChain.

  • Managing consumer data
 The blockchain gives marketers a way to maintain an individual’s anonymity. Many brands are now seeking direct connections to customers and are intent on removing the middlemen when it comes to data. The blockchain would be a way to maintain transaction data in a highly decentralized way so it’s both secure and massive.
  1. Renewable Energy – MyBit:

MyBit is designed to enable anyone to invest in any money-making machinery. They are achieving this goal starting with renewable energy. They created a blockchain using the Ethereum platform for granting landowners access to crowdfunding and investment sources for a decentralized power grid. (For example, solar power installations).  MyBit is looking to remove the financial barriers to entry in the alternative asset investments.  Effectively letting anyone worldwide to benefit from renewable energy.

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22.  Paragon and Medical Cannabis

With the medical benefits of Cannabis gaining wider acceptance and several states legalising its use it was somewhat inevitable that cannabis and the blockchain would be combined legally.

Beauty queen Jessica Versteeg, (Inspired by the painkiller overdose death of her New York Giants boyfriend Tyler Sash), started the CannabisCoin – Paragon – A cryptocurrency designed to facilitate cannabis transactions on the blockchain,

Picture of a Cannabis coin cryptocurrency
Cannabis Coin

Tyler had been battling an addiction to painkillers prescribed for him after sustaining a severe injury playing for the New York Giants.  He on multiple occasions requested cannabis as a form of pain control but Versteeg refused.  She believed cannabis to be a dangerous drug.  Sadly, Tyler Sash succumbed to his addiction to the painkillers.

The Paragon system is designed to maintain a patients ‘medical confidentiality’, by using different data access ‘permissions’ for different users.  Medical records are kept off the blockchain, but critical information like the prescribing doctors name and license number together with the patients prescription are verified on the blockchain.

Image of medicinal cannabis
Medicinal Cannabis

 

It is estimated that the Cannabis industry in the U.S. is a $US100 Billion industry.   Most of it illicit and cash based.

It is hoped that VerSteeg’s enterprise will bring some standardisation and  transparency to the industry.

 

 

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Is the Cryptocurrency Bitcoin an unstoppable force?

No lesser mind than Bill Gates has claimed ‘nothing can stop Bitcoin‘.  So, is Bitcoin really unstoppable?

Image of a bitcoin

Technologically: yes. Completely.

Politically: Well… sort of.

Bitcoin is a technology. Not a company or a specific currency.  It’s fully decentralized across about 10,000 computers worldwide, any one of which can fully restore the entire network.

In a way, it’s very similar to the internet. You can block specific people from using specific websites… but it’s pretty hard to stop “the internet.” With satellites flying around the world beaming internet, 3G networks in many countries, and phone lines that you can plug a modem into, it’s pretty damn hard to stop people from using the internet altogether.

Bitcoin is just like that… except even without the internet, you can still hold on to your Bitcoins in an offline way.

As such, it’s not something you can “close down.”

Even if governments make it illegal to use Bitcoin, they can’t ever actually “close it down” or stop it, unless they stop the internet.

With that said:

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If governments make it outright illegal to use or own Bitcoin, or outlaw exchanges, that’s going to put a BIG fork in the works.

Right now, Bitcoin is not stable or popular enough to be a standalone currency. In order to survive, it needs to be exchangeable to other currencies… In fact, most currencies need to be exchangeable. Imagine if it was illegal to exchange your Swedish Kroners to any other currency… You probably wouldn’t want to be paid in Kroners, would you?

If governments reduce the liquidity of Bitcoin, they make it less viable.

If they make it illegal, they push anyone using it into the fringe.

A great way to think about this is the Prohibition Era in the United States. Overnight, millions of people who enjoy a drink became outlaws, consuming alcohol in secrecy in their basements. Drinking didn’t stop (After all, Al Capone made millions as a result), but it certainly put a hamper on the industry.

A similar thing could happen to Bitcoin. It wouldn’t stop it altogether, but it certainly would negatively influence it’s ability to become a viable everyday currency, and would push people into the fringes, using and keeping Bitcoin secretly.

Fortunately, most liberal, democratic governments probably won’t try to outlaw Bitcoin entirely.

Doing so would be like blocking you from investing in startups, or buying gold. Some countries have done it, but the majority of them don’t mind too much.

Despite the fact that Bitcoin is an existential threat to the fractional reserve monetary system, I don’t think that governments are going to shoot it down… but now I’m just getting into conjecture.

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  • First block to be created at the beginning of the blockchain.
  • For bitcoin, it is numbered  block 0.
  • The genesis block is almost hard-coded into the software of the applications that utilize its block chain.

 Block #0 was created on 2009/01/03.

View the Genesis Block

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So, what is Bitcoin?  And is it the financial Road Ahead?

You may have heard of Bitcoin this month.  Its value has been gyrating wildly and heading toward$US20K.  Clearly it holds substantial value, but what is it?

Bitcoin is a “Cryptocurrency”.  A totally secure digital currency with the potential to remove middlemen and clearinghouses from the transacting landscape.   Utilizing a ‘Trust Machine’ – whereby opinions of a transactions validity are confirmed and reaffirmed by a network of independent computers.  Essentially, Bitcoin, (and its underlying platform, Blockchain), is a self-auditing ledger.  Allowing person-to-person transactions to take place with absolute security and transparency.  Imagine, loans without banks, internet trading without ebay and ridesharing without Uber…

Basically, it’s the Fin-Tech equivalent of leaning over your neighbor’s fence, and asking, “How much do ya want for the old Ford pick-up?”.

And that is the paradigm shift – the ‘Brave New World’ – envisaged by Bitcoin enthusiasts and supporters.  It is this perceived power that prompted no lesser Tech visionary than Bill Gates to quip,

‘Bitcoin is a Tour de Force.  Nobody can stop Bitcoin’.

Well, William Henry Gates III, has got my attention a little…  After all, Billy boy is the man that predicted the exponential growth of personal computers and envisaged a PC in every home. Similarly, he may have noticed that, Bitcoin and the Blockchain are fast growing acceptance within the financial and business worlds.

Blockchain Start-ups

Bitcoin and Blockchain start-ups have sprung up across almost all sectors.  Examples include,

  • Banking, (IBM predicts that 15% of banks will be using the blockchain by the end of 2017).
  • Insurance, (Aeternity is one blockchain project that is building tools that are useful in the insurance industry).
  • Medicine,
  • Forecasting,
  • Supply Chain Management,
  • Private Transport and Ride Sharing, (Startups working in this area include Arcade City and La’Zooz).
  • Even Charity, (BitGive Foundation use blockchain’s secure and transparent distributed ledger to let donors see that the intended party has received the funds).
  • And many more…

Cryptocurrency’s gaining wider acceptance

In Australia, you can now use your bitcoin to, buy your coffee, work-out, go para-gliding, design a website and even hit the Pub.  It seems Bitcoin is popping up everywhere.

Indeed, Crypto Industry luminary Mr. Peter Smith (CEO of Blockchain), claims 2018…

“… will be the first year we start to see central banks start to hold digital currencies as part of their balance sheet”

Peter even went further claiming Central Banks would ‘mint’ their own Cryptocurrencies.

It is also interesting to note that this month saw the world’s first Cryptocurrency Futures Exchange opened by CME Group.  Essentially trading a derivative security of a digital asset.  An asset comprising of some very clever computer code – but still consisting only of electronic 1’s and 0’s in a distributed computer database.

With Bitcoin gaining wider acceptance and commanding such high prices, you better buckle up for a wild ride, as it appears Bitcoin and Blockchain are here to stay.

 

 


 

2019 – The year of the Blockchain

The last 24 months has seen a exponential growth in the interest in Blockchain.  Businesses are moving quickly to embrace it – Many, without really understanding it!

Really Important concept right here:

1 + 1 = 2

And, if you change anything!!

 Anything at all…

It’s obviously wrong!!

It’s that simple…

This article will examine the technical aspects associated with a Blockchain.

So what is Blockchain?

Elliptic Curves and Blockchain Encryption

Blockchain Finite Fields and Hash Functions

Private and Public key Wallets

Digital signatures and the Blockchain

Bitcoin Mining and the “proof of work” concept

Playing with the SHA256 Calculator

The Bitcoin “Difficulty Parameter”

What is the Genesis Block?

Blockchain: writing things down forever

So what is a Blockchain?

A blockchain consists of blocks that hold batches of valid and immutable transactions.

Picture of a strand of DNA
A ‘Hash’ is like digital DNA

Each block includes the hash of the prior block in the blockchain, linking the two. A “hash’ might be described as the mathematical DNA of a transaction or piece of information.  And just like DNA the hash of each block is passed down to the hash of the next block.  The linked blocks form a chain, all the way back to the first block – called the Genesis Block.  

Any minor change in any prior block will produce a vastly different hash and cause a major change in the hash of subsequent blocks.  This difference is obvious to other computers in the distribute network and is therefore penalised as per the scoring system described below.

In addition to a secure hash based history, any blockchain database has a specified algorithm for scoring different versions of the history so that one with a higher value can be selected over others. Peers supporting the database don’t have exactly the same version of the history at all times, rather they keep the highest scoring version of the database that they currently know of.  Whenever a peer receives a higher scoring version (usually the old version with a single new block added), they extend or overwrite their own database and retransmit the improvement to their peers.

There is never an absolute guarantee that any particular entry will remain in the best version of the history forever.  Blockchains are typically built to add the score of new blocks onto old blocks.  There are incentives to only work on extending with new blocks rather than overwriting old blocks.  The probability of an entry becoming superseded goes down as more blocks are built on top of it – eventually becoming very low.

In the context of bitcoin, the blockchain is a digital ledger that records every bitcoin transaction that has ever occurred.

A blockchain system consists of two kinds of records:

  • transactions, and,
  • blocks.

This short background will follow the The evolution of “Block Chain” technology.

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  1. Elliptic Curves and Blockchain encryption

    : Such as  (a Third Degree Polynomial) has a specific known solution.

Elliptic Curve for encryption purposes

And Elliptic curves have a unique property, in that you can to “add” solutions of an elliptic curve together to get another solution.

If you draw a line through the curve (that is not horizontal or vertical), it will always intersect the curve at a third point.  This is defined as adding Point P to Point Q.  As shown below:-

Finding unique related points on Eliptic Curve

The only exception is if a line is Tangential to the Elliptic curve.  In this case, the line intersects the curve at one other point only.  And this is defined as “Doubling” of point “P”.  As shown below:-

Unique points with tangential

In the above examples point R is found by reflecting R though the x axis

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  1. Blockchain, Finite Fields and Hash Functions

A finite field, in the context of Elliptical Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA), can be thought of as a predefined range of positive numbers within which every calculation must fall. Any number outside this range “wraps around” so as to fall within the range.

The simplest way to think about this is calculating remainders, as represented by the modulus (mod) operator. For example, 9/7 gives 1 with a remainder of 2:

9 mod 7 = 2

Here our finite field is modulo 7, and all mod operations over this field yield a result falling within a range from 0 to 6.

A Hash function is simply a rule applied to data to give a result – in this case a number.  For example, SHA256 is a Hash function that takes an input and has a 256 bit output.  (SHA = Secure Hash Algorithm.  “See Playing with the SHA256 Calculator“)

File                  >

Password       >       SHA256    >    256 bit number

Data                >

In the case of SHA256 there are 2256 possible outcomes.

(Another important Hash algorithm is RIPMED160).

Block Chain technologies (such as Bitcoin), use very large numbers for their base point, prime modulo and order.  The security of the blockchain relies on these values being large, and therefore totally impractical to reconstruct.

In the case of Bitcoin:

Elliptic curve equation:  y2 = x3 +7

Prime modulo = 2256 – 232 – 29 – 28 – 27 – 26 – 24 – 1 = FFFFFFFF FFFFFFFF FFFFFFFF FFFFFFFF FFFFFFFF FFFFFFFF FFFFFFFE FFFFFC2F

Base point = 04 79BE667E F9DCBBAC 55A06295 CE870B07 029BFCDB 2DCE28D9 59F2815B 16F81798 483ADA77 26A3C465 5DA4FBFC 0E1108A8 FD17B448 A6855419 9C47D08F FB10D4B8

Order = FFFFFFFF FFFFFFFF FFFFFFFF FFFFFFFE BAAEDCE6 AF48A03B BFD25E8C D0364141

Private and Public Keys and Wallets

To produce a “Private Key”, the Block Chain protocol chooses a point on the elliptical curve, eg. Point “E”  i.e. The Base Point.

A Private Key is just a number – “N” (such that, 0 <= N <= 2256)

The Public Key associated with a Private Key is simply the Point “E”, added to itself “N” times.  I.E. P = NxE

For Bitcoin, the address associated with the key is the RIPMED160 Hash of the SHA256 Hash of the Public Key.

Wallets are simply files that contain the Private and Public Keys and the addresses.  Wallets usually contain many keys and may also contain labelling information for transactions, such as “Loan Payment” etc.

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Digital Signatures and the Blockchain

The Elliptical Curve is used to construct a Digital Signature , (or Signature Hash), to sign the data.  The data can be of any length.    The first step is to “Hash” the data to create a number containing the same number of bits as the order of the curve (256).  The mathematics is quiet involved, so for simplicity I will just outline the steps.  (If you require further information click here for a full worked example using small numbers.

  1. Hash the Data to create a number containing the same number of bits as the order of the curve i.e. 256 bits.
  2. Calculate the point (x,y) = k * G, using scalar multiplication.
  3. Find r = mod n (if r = 0 return to step 1). Modulo Arithmetic Calculator Here
  4. Find s = (z + r * d) / k mod n.  (If s = 0, return to step 1)
  5. The signature pair is (r, s).

To verify the signature with the Public Key, a third party would perform the following steps:

  1. Verify r and s are between 1 and n-1
  2. Calculate w = s-1 mod n
  3. Calculate u = z * w mod n
  4. Calculate v = r * w mod n
  5. Calculate the point (x, y) = uG + vQ
  6. Verify that r = x mod n. The signature is invalid if not.

You may verify that these steps work by  here

Blockchain transaction flow

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  1. “Bitcoin Mining” and “Proof of Work”

Miners are not so much solving a math problem as they are spending a lot of effort making guesses until they guess correctly.

Bitcoin works by having a linked set of “blocks” of transaction records that document who has what bitcoin. To make bitcoin work, they needed some way to ensure that the record of blocks is immutable, i.e. nobody can change it.

The way they accomplished this was to create the concept of mining. Miners take a current set of transactions, which includes a link to the last set accepted, and make many trillions of guesses, each time putting a number into the “nonce” field of the block header. The block, including the “header” and “Nonce” is then a “hashed”.  For Bitcoin, the SHA-256 hash function is used.  Then it is just a simple “IF” statement:

If the output of the hash is below a threshold value, then the block is valid…

And the block will be added to the chain and considered valid by other miners.  The miner who guessed correctly is paid with a freshly minted Bitcoin.  Hence, a new coin enters the system and other miners remain incentivised to process blocks.

∧ Table of Contents

Playing with the SHA256 Calculator

You may test the above procedure by playing with the SHA256 calculator.  Just type in a line you want hashed – e.g.: Hello Dolly.  Note the hash produced.

6F813C0EEBC8AC32C0A84A7D6FA19985394516D55E5862B1AB6C541F1355EE96

Then add a number until the first digit of the hash is zero.

My inputs looked like this:

Hello Dolly

12342453

And the resultant Hash was:

04540EE2809F31C0B0DD30B8D9CF640EE8CA4F4F47638652B37CE34CCAE062FD

Essentially, this is what miners do.  However they are looking for a number that will produce many more leading zeros.  I.E. A much smaller number – or threshold value.    Try SHA256 for yourself.

The Bitcoin ‘Difficulty Parameter”

The “threshold value” above, is the “Difficulty Parameter”.  The lower this value is set the more difficult it is to provide a guess “Nonce” that will produce a Hash low enough to be accepted and agreed as valid by other miners.

Difficulty is adjusted every two weeks to ensure that a new valid block is produced approximately every ten minutes or so. Difficulty is based upon  how much time it took to find the last 2016 blocks (i.e. 60mins/10 * 24hrs * 14days). As an example:-   If it took only one week, then the “difficulty” should double – so that no matter how much mining is happening worldwide, a new block continues to be created every 10 minutes on average.

What is the Genesis Block?

A Genesis Block is:

  • The first block to be created in the beginning of a blockchain.
  • For Bitcoin it is numbered Block 0.
  • The Genesis Block is hard coded into the software of applications that use the Blockchain.

View  Bitcoin’s Genesis Block

Blockchain:- Writing things down forever

The blockchain is a permanent and agreed, self auditing ledger.  Anything written to it is written in indelible ink.

Any attempt to change an entry will change the Blocks Hash (Digital Signature) and invalidate the block and every other subsequent block in the chain…

This would be immediately noticed by all the other computers in the distributed ledger.  (All of whom keep a full and current copy of the last agreed upon blockchain (or ledger).

Bitcoin is merely a currency that is tracked on the Blockchain. There are possibilities for many more.

Please see my subsequent articles on Blockchain and Bitcoin.

As always,please like and share this article if you found it useful.

And you may download  Satoshi Nakamoto original white paper here –

Download Satoshi Nakamoto

Read the original white paper now!

Get instant access to the most important Financial Technology paper ever written!!

∧ Table of Contents

We all worry about internet privacy.  Who could be eavesdropping upon you at that free hotspot café you so love?  Giggling at your personal Facebook posts – or more seriously – spying upon your business plans?

Privacy in the “Internet of Things” age is a complex and growing concern.  You may recall the famous case of Hackers taking control of a moving vehicle via the vehicle’s entertainment system – honking the horn, controlling the stereo, switching on the wipers and ultimately turning the vehicle off entirely!!

Scary stuff…   But on a less dramatic scale what protection may we expect from our devices and suppliers?  And what is the legal framework that this is based upon?

An IoT ‘Technology Aware’ Conceptual Framework for Privacy

It has been suggested that four modes of regulation be applied in cyberspace.  Namely:

  • Law – which includes prohibitions and sanctions for online defamation and copyright infringement.
  • Social Norms – which may involve a user ensuring the behavior of their avatar conforms to the community expectations in an online world eg:
  • Markets – Which regulates the price paid for access to the internet and access to information on the internet, and,
  • Architecture – which is the code, hardware or software that shapes the appearance of cyberspace.

Broadly, these concepts are what is already applied in the real world.

Spying through a keyhole (privacy compromised)

 

Further to the above, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), recommends that Agencies and Organisations work together to ensure that individuals are ‘empowered’ with the ‘requisite knowledge of how to protect their privacy’.

What does that mean?  In short, Industries will develop their own “Privacy Code”, for approval by the Privacy Commissioner.  And once that code has been approved, it is binding upon the organisations that have agreed to be bound by it.

That seems simple enough.  So how might these principles be applied to some of our more innovative technologies?

Location Detection Technologies

These days, location detection technologies such as GPS are included as a standard feature on many new mobile phones.  Location detection technologies provide ‘real time’ information on the position of the device and consequently the user of the device.  Furthermore, they can provide details as to the physical movements of an individual.  As such they have the potential to impact heavily upon an individual’s privacy.  The issue has been addressed by the European Union Directive on privacy and electronic communications.

Centrally the Directive provides that:

  • Location data must be anonymised before processing (unless consent has been provided by the user of the service).
  • Service providers must notify users, before consent,
    • As to the type of information to be processed,
    • The purpose and duration of location data processing, and,
    • Whether the data will be transmitted to a third party for the purposes of providing ‘value added services’.
  • Users’ must be given the opportunity to withdraw consent at anytime, and,
  • Processing of location data is restricted to that which is necessary for the purposes of providing the value added service.

Smart Cards and Privacy

The use of Smart Cards – particularly in the financial world – has potentially far reaching privacy concerns.  Obviously, the cards are linked to individuals for transacting purposes.   What this means is that the individual may ‘lose’ the ability to transact anonymously.  The ALRC warns that widespread use of Smart cards could enable the collection and storage of vast amounts of information about the activities of an individual.  By way of example they could:

“generate records of the date, time and location of all movements on public and private transport systems, along with details of all goods purchased, telephone use, car parking, attendance at the cinema, and any other activities paid for by smart cards”.

Potentially, this information could be used to generate highly detailed profiles of the user to market goods or services to them. Or of the possibility of unscrupulous government agencies seeking to capitalise upon, and/or abuse such information to the detriment of the individual.

Also of concern are smart card schemes that are used by numerous agencies or organisations.  Notably, they may lack a central data controller.  This means it is ‘unclear who is accountable for the use, disclosure, accuracy and security of personal information collected by the system’.

It should also be noted that “Function Creep” – (i.e. as technology improves more and more information is collected) – and the security of the smart card data pathways have been raised as privacy concerns.

Governments have moved to protect the privacy rights of individuals.  For example in 2004 the Council for Europe stated that the collection of personal information via a smart card system be for a “legitimate and specific purpose”.  They also require that suppliers offer an, ‘appropriate level of security given:

  • The state of the technology
  • The data stored on the card, and,
  • The security risks.’

Similarly, the Australian Government insists that Smart card systems include data protection clauses in agreements with third parties about the supply of smart cards.  Suppliers are also required to perform “Privacy Impact Assessments”, during the design of Smart Card systems.  And to ‘produce comprehensive privacy policy statements’ and to revise these statements ‘whenever a third party adds additional functionality to an existing smart card deployment’.

In conclusion, one can only assume that ignoring those long and wordy legal looking Terms and Conditions, with the ‘tick box’ at the bottom, is done so at the peril of your own privacy.

Do you worry about your privacy on the Net?

Thief stealing data from a smart phone (privacy compromised) 

 

Sales forecasting for new telecommunications products

Telecommunications sales forecasting….can be tricky.

Many executives and entrepreneurs are apprehensive about forecasting for entirely new communications technologies.  (There is just no historical data to rely upon).

Make a wrong decision here and it could cost you your, profit margin, your job or even your entire business.

This article will reveal a forecasting model that has stood the test of time.  To give you the best possible chance of accurately forecasting sales for your new telecommunications products.

Product Lifecycle approach to Telecommunications Sales Forecasting

Given that there is no “historical” sales data to rely upon, how can we scientifically forecast sales?  Well, we can go to established theory – The Product Life-cycle.

  • Introduction Phase: Usually characterized by slow growth.  Possibly due to –
  1. Smaller advertising budgets
  2. Poor distribution channels
  3. Poor/no sales training for frontline salespeople
  4. Pent up market demand (or lack thereof)
  • Growth: The period of fastest uptake by the market.
  • Maturity: The point of market saturation i.e.  when everyone who wants your product has bought it…  (The total market for your product).
  • Decline: As sales drop-off

The above three phases give rise to the famous squiggly “S-shaped” curve we are familiar with from our first year Marketing.

Telecommunications-Product_life-cycle_curve
The Product Lifecycle

It is a useful starting framework but how do we get some real numbers out of this “without historical data”?

The Three things you must know about New Tech Telecommunications Sales Forecasting

  1. The Maximum Saturation point: The time in the future when you estimate everyone who wants your product has made a purchase.  And the total lifetime number of units to be sold.  (I.E.  Years and Units).
  2. The Inflection Point of the Product: The time when the product is selling its fastest.  After this the sales rate begins to taper off and we enter the second part of the characteristic “S-curve”.  The inflection point is the point in time where you expect half the total lifetime sales of your product to be made.
  3. The Delay Factor: Or the amount of time you expect your product to languish in the “Introduction Phase”.

The Product Lifecycle Formula

From the above, you simply plug your variables into the following formula, and it will produce for you the estimated units sold for each month of your Product Life Cycle.

New Product  Forecast  =                                 S

————————–

1  +  B e^-aT

Where:

S =  Long run saturation level of the new product

T =  Time Index (1,2,3…..)

a =  Delay Factor (0-1)

I =  Inflection Point  ( the point where 1/2 of the saturation point is reached)

B =  e^Ia

It produces the signature “S-shaped” Curve of the Product Life Cycle.  (As below).

Telecommunications_life_of_product_sales
Telecommunications New Product Lifecycle Sales Forecast

 

So there you have it!

As stressful as sales forecasting for new-tech is, the consequences of doing it in a haphazard fashion are even worse.  When you consider what is at risk, a clear and methodical method of sales forecasting is a must.

Please click here for additional information .  And

Learn about “e” here.

Relaxed

After over 20 years in the fields of finance and sales – having seen thousands of Start-ups – I recommend this Simple 3 Step process.

Alternatively

You can Subscribe to Tranquility Halo – and for a limited time I will send you Free of Charge, my New-Tech Automated Sales Forecast Calculator and The Tech Forecaster’s Cheat Sheet!

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Happy birthday Nikola Tesla – The Lightening Man

Born 10 July 1856 Nikola Tesla is celebrating his 160th Birthday today.

Nikola Tesla American Inventor

So why is this important?

Well little Nicki was a genius.   Nikola Tesla  (who had an “eidetic memory”) and could perform Integral Calculus in his head….and,

…was a master of electricity.

(Well you know AC man…)

Alternating Current – Little Niki invented it.  In addition to being the first name of the greatest Rock’n’Roll band in history (AC/DC) – is what powers the modern world.  Tesla’s design for the AC Induction Motor and Transformer set the seen for modern power generation and distribution.

RMFpatent

Oh, by the way he also is arguably the father of modern radio – (ahead of Marconi).

Together with :

  • Mechanical and Electrical Oscillators
  • Electrical Discharge Tubes
  • Early X-Ray technologies. (see below)

_рукі_Тэслы

  • Vertical take off and Landing Aircraft (VTOL)
  • Tesla’s “Earthquake Machine”
  • Tesla’s famous “Death Ray” – capable of destroying enemy aircraft at 200 miles!! – was conceived but never built. And,
  • The first ever Radio Controlled Model Boat. (just for fun)

He produced artificial lightening, with discharges consisting of millions of volts and up to 135 feet long.  Thunder from the released energy was heard 15 miles away in Cripple Creek, Colarado.  People walking along the street observed sparks jumping between their feet and the ground. Sparks sprang from water line taps when touched. Light bulbs within 100 feet of the lab glowed even when turned off. Horses in a livery stable bolted from their stalls after receiving shocks through their metal shoes. Butterflies were electrified, swirling in circles with blue halos of “St. Elmos Fire” around their wings.

An intellectual powerhouse Tesla contributed so much to the way we live our lives today!

I wonder, what would the world look like if we only had DC electricity?

 

 

 

 

Angle of Arrival (AOA)

Uses an array of large antennas at the cell site to measure the angle of the incoming control signal from the handset. A minimum of two cell sites is required to determine location, and no handset modifications are needed. However, this solution requires capital expenditures by the carrier, particularly in remote areas. AOA accuracy is negatively impacted by line-of-sight obstacles and distance from the base station and may not function well in an urban environment.

 

Assisted GPS

By shifting much of the processing burden from the handset to the network, A-GPS helps to overcome some of the drawbacks of pure GPS such as cost, power consumption, speed to determine location, and the line-of-sight requirement. Additionally, the network keeps track of location so that when satellites are obstructed, a good estimate of location can be obtained based on the last reading. A-GPS is not costly (~$20) from a handset perspective but requires additional investment in the network, Location can usually be ascertained in about 5 seconds and A-GPS accuracy is considered the highest.

 

Authentication Center (AuC)

Database that keeps the authentication register of all subscribers. The mobile handset contains a key that must be authorized by the AuC for the handset to gain access to the network.

 

Average Revenue per User(ARPU)

Refers to the average monthly bill per subscriber.

 

Bandwidth

Breadth of the frequency used. Analogous to a water pipe, in which a larger diameter allows more water to be moved. Therefore, a 30-MHz wireless license to much more valuable, in terms of capacity and throughput, than a 15- or 10-MHz license.

 

Cell of Origin (COO)

System currently used to comply with Phase 1 E-911 requirements. This technology tells which cell a caller is occupying, but offers no greater resolution. Cell location can generally be ascertained in about 3 seconds. The accuracy of COO is determined by the teledensity of the area, with accuracy proportional to the number of cell sites, or size of the cell. This solution requires no alteration  to the network or to the handsets, but is insufficient for emergency services.

 

Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA)

Spread-spectrum approach to digital transmission. This method of transmission assigns unique codes to each transmission and then transmits over the entire spectrum. The mobile phone is instructed to decipher only a particular code in order to receive the designated transmission. The assignment of separate codes allows multiple users to share the same air spare. CDMA increases capacity 8-20 times vs. analog cellular and also has greater capacity than TDMA.

 

Enhanced Cell ID (E-CID)

A software-based solution that determines location by comparing the list, or table, of cell sites available to the handset. Once the available cell sites are known (this is constantly updated), location can be calculated based on the intersections of the overlapping cells. This system works best in areas with many cell sites, the location can be determined within about 100 meters (250 meters in rural areas). A key advantage of E-CID is that the line of sight is not required. Currently, this system only works with GSM networks. Because E-CID requires only slight modification to the SIM card in the handset and a proprietary network server it is regarded as a relatively low-cost and nondisruptive solution for GSM operators.

 

Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE)

An evolutionary path to 3G services for GSM and TDMA operators. It represents a merger of GSM and TDM A standards and builds on the GPRS air interface and networks. EDGE is a data-only upgrade and supports packet data at speeds up to 384 kbps. EDGE is able to achieve increased data transmission speeds trough a change in its modulation scheme, from GMSK to 8 PSK. Then upgrade to EDGE in relatively expensive and requires that carriers replace the transceivers (radio antennas) at every cells site. According to Commonwealth Associates, this scan cost as much as 60% of the original network cost.

 

Enhanced Observed Time Difference (E-OTD)

Operates under the same principles as TDOA (measuring the time it takes to receive a signal), but in reverse. This signals a received from at least three base stations, whose locations are known,  and location is calculated by the handset. E-OTD utilizes the existing capabilities of the GSM protocol as is relatively straightforward to apply to these networks. E-OTD is a more costly and complex solution to deploy TDOA because of the handset software upgrades and location measurement units (reference beacons), but it yields much better location information. Location measurement units are distributed throughout the network, with about one unit for every four cell sites. Time keeping is of the utmost importance, and system time is usually kept by an atomic clock. E-OTD can usually provide location information accurate to 50-125 meters within 5 seconds. However, this system can be susceptible to distortion in urban areas.

 

Global Positioning System(GPS)

A world-wide radio navigation system comprised of 24 satellites and ground stations sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. The systems measures the longitude, latitude, and elevation of the receiver. Triangulation is used to determine location.  This is accomplished by measuring the time it takes to communicate with 3 satellites. A fourth measurement is taken to ensure that the timing is the pseudorandom codes is synchronized. Because time is critical in the calculation of location, an atomic clock is used. This means that location cannot be determined if the user is inside a building, in an urban canyon, or under a heavy canopy of trees. To communicate with the satellites and to perform the complex calculations, GPS takes the most time of the location technologies to determine location, requiring 10-60 seconds.

 

Home Location Register (HLR)

Centralized database that stores information on all subscribers. The HLR also maintains location information about the subscriber.

 

Packet Switching

A packet-switched system transmits data in packets that are reassembled by the receiver, rather than by establishing a dedicated connection. This is the same method used by the Internet. Packet switching allows for an “always on” connection and a vast increase in capacity, since a dedicated circuit contains more bandwidth than is consumed by a voice call. Packet switching is a critical enabler for most of the data services currently being contemplated, and it allows for the “push” of information to the customer. Packet switched systems such as GPRS were being piloted in Europe in late 2000.

 

Subscriber Information

Removable cards that enable mobile users to customize their headsets and access to the services of carriers outside their home region. By inserting an SIM card into an appropriate mobile phone for a region, international travelers can access services from other operators. SIM cards can also contain personal information such as address books, phone numbers, and calendars. They can store account or credit card numbers securely and transfer them from phone to phone, thus enabling m-commerce.

 

Spectrum

Refers to the ability to transmit signals at a specific frequency and the bandwidth of the frequency.

 

Time Distance of Arrival (TDOA)

Uses at least three base stations to measure to compare the arrival time of the control signal from a mobile handset on order to calculate location. To accurately determine location, strict synchronization of the base stations is required. Synchronization is such a critical issue, that an atomic clock is used in each base station. This solution may be attractive to CDMA network, which are already synchronized, versus GSM network, which may be asynchronous. TDOA requires line of sight to determine location. This can present problems in rural areas, where three cell sites cannot be accessed simultaneously, and in urban canyons, where multipath reflection can be a problem. TDOA is also less accurate than E-OTD, Cell-ID, or GPS, and can take up to 10 seconds to determine location. TDOA antennas are less expense and easier to deploy than  AOA antennas, and TDOA does not require and handset modifications. However, TDOA is still regarded as a fairly expensive location solution.

 

Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA)

Utilizes a scheme in which the transmission channel is broken into six time slots. Three of the time slots are used to carry information and three of the time slots are unused in order to minimize interference or noise. Work is currently being done to increase the number of time slots and thus capacity. TDMA increases capacity 3 to 5 times that of analog cellular.

 

Visitor Location Register (VLR)

Database that keeps a record of all mobile subscribers currently active in a particular MSC. The handset routinely sends signals to the VLR to alert the system to its presence. The VLR forwards this information back to the HLR so that calls can be properly routed to the handset.

 

Wireless Application Service Providers (WASPs)

Companies that host or provision applications in a wireless environment. This is a relatively new industry with new firms entering at a rapid pace. As a new industry, the boundaries are not well defined, and clear winners have not yet emerged. The services offered by firms in this market space include wireless web hosting, wireless web translation, information provision, mobile middleware, and enterprise-application hosting. These services are generally managed from a central location or network operation center.

 

 

The Immense Power of Exponential Growth

My father taught me to play Chess.  And I am still a terrible player.  However, I do remember a wonderful little story about exponential growth he wove around the origins of the game.

Legend has it that an Indian King was presented with a beautifully hand-crafted chess board by a chess-master mathematician.  Delighted with the magnificent piece the king asked what the mathematician might like in return.  Humbly, the mathematician requested that a grain of rice be put on the 1st square, 2 on the second square, 4 on the third….. doubling at each successive square.   The King quickly agreed to his humble request.

Things were going really well (at first) and are summarised in the following table.

Square Number

Grains on that Square Total Rice on Board

1

1 1

2

2

3

3

4 7

4

8

15

5

16

31

6

32

63

7 64

127

8 128

255

After the first row, the total amounts to 255 grains of rice – barely half a cup full.  And some interesting relationships emerge.  The total rice on the board is given by

2(Square Number) -1. 

For example:

Square Number

2(Square Number) – 1

Total Rice on Board

1

21 – 1

1

4

24 – 1

15

8

28 – 1

255

Then, square 12  =

212 – 1

4095

Based on this how much rice might the King owe at the end of the second row of the Chess Board?

And at the end of the first half of the board? I.E. on the 32nd square?

16

216 – 1

65,535

32

232 – 1

4,294,967,295

So at the half way point (i.e. the 32nd square on the Chess Board), the King owes the mathematician over 4 Billion grains of rice.

Clearly the mathematician had a plan…

Continue reading

Satellites and Orbits – Background and Context

It was no lesser mind than the 17th Century super-genius Sir Isaac Newton who first suggested the possibility of a man-made object launched into orbit around the Earth.  I.E. a satellite.

It took 300 years to see that vision become a reality.  And to date, there have been around 6,600 satellite launches, with approximately 3,600 satellites still in orbit.  Of these only 1,071, or so, are fully functioning.

communications-satellite-in-orbit
A Modern Telecommunications Satellite

Words like Low Earth Orbit and Geo Stationary Orbit are common expressions in the satellite and telecommunications communities.  But what do they really mean?

Geosynchronous Orbit

This is where the period of rotation is not 24hrs but some multiple (or fraction) of 24hrs.

Such a satellite would pass over the same spot on the Earth at a given time (or times) each day.  For example, a satellite in Equatorial Orbit with a period of rotation of 12hrs, would pass over the same spot twice each day.

Geostationary Orbit

Geostationary is a special case of “Geosynchronous orbit”.

In the 1940’s Arthur C Clarke, published an article in Wireless World.  Clarke explained that a satellite orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 36,000 km above the equator would circle the Earth in exactly 24Hrs.  Such a satellite would maintain a “geostationary position”.  Thus, to observers on Earth, it would appear to remain motionless in the sky.

Of our 1071 satellites still functioning approximately 500 are in “Geostationary” or “Geosynchronous” orbit.  I.E.  around 36,000 km above our heads.

Medium Earth Orbits (MEO)

These are satellites orbiting at an altitude of between 10,000km and 20,000km.  This distance places them between the Van Allen belts where radiation exposure is minimized.  MEO’s are not necessarily  limited circular orbits.  We have approximately 50 satellites in MEO.

Low Earth Orbits (LEO)

Satellites such as the International Space Station (ISS), are in LEO.  Typically, such orbits are 1000km or less and circular.  This facilitates easy “re-visit” capability.

Low Earth Orbiting satellites have a relatively short period of rotation, usually of the order of 100 minutes or so.  This means that they speed across the sky and disappear below the horizon quiet quickly.  As such until recently they were thought inappropriate for Telecommunications.  However, during the 1990’s a “constellation” of these satellites was deployed making them useful for telecommunications.  (Eg: Iridium Satellite Constellation).  There are approximately 500 satellites screaming across our sky in Low Earth Orbit at present.

And more recently Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are investing heavily into Satellite Internet technologies, such as Halo-Fi.

Newton would be very proud……..

Have you ever seen a satellite with you naked eye? 

And what of the future of satellite technology?  Have you heard of the amazing new Cubsat Technology?

Why Grandma budgeted with money in jars?

As promised, I’m back with the second installment of my thoughts on exponential behaviour.

My Grandmother had money in jars for everything…. Rent, food, housekeeping, buttons, even pin money…  everything!

You may recall my last blog outlining the relationship between exponential numbers, science and finance.  (This has always been a fascination of mine – I mean, interest rates and satellite orbits?? Why?)

Well “e” (or 2.71828…) is a very unique number….

We’ll get to that in a minute.  Let’s examine natural phenomena –  Bacterial growth rates.

Binary Fission
Bacteria reproduce by “binary fission”

Let’s assume a single bacterium is put in a jar at 11pm.   The bacterium reproduces itself every minute, i.e. the number of bacteria in the jar doubles every minute.  The number of bacteria increases in the sequence 1,2,4,8, etc.   After 1 hour the jar is completely full….

I ask you at what minute is the jar half full?

That’s right –  at 11:59 pm

And at 11:58 pm it is a quarter full.

And at the 11:57 pm it is an eighth full.

And so on, right back to the original bacterium.

Why is this important?

Well, interest rates work that way too!  We all know that your money is unlikely to double every minute, but it will double.  For example, at 10% your money will double every seven years.  And this is easy to calculate…. Just divide 70 by your interest rate:

70/10 = 7 years

The math is based on the natural logarithm of 2 (ie doubling), and 100Ln 2 = 69. Whatever, use your calculator…  but trust me its close enough to 70.

Another question…

At 11:58 pm, how many bacteria would have realized that they were running out of room?

And if you retire at age 65 and your money is invested at 10%, how old are you at 11:58pm?

Yep, that’s right….  You are 51 years old.

Have you got enough money in your jar?