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Meet Africa’s Blockchain Startups: Custos Media Technologies



Digital Media Piracy

South Africa-based Custos Media Technologies aims to fight online media piracy using blockchain technology. Founded in 2014 at the New Media Research Lab in Stellenbosch, the startup is run by a team of experienced specialists in disciplines such as cryptocurrency, signal processing, machine learning and media economics. Since its inception, the company has been working towards creating a watermarking technology that combats piracy using the bitcoin blockchain.

Custos’ CEO G-J Van Rooyen is an Electronic Engineering Ph.D. holder who majors in the commercial application of the blockchain. Custos Technologies aims to help film makers and other content creators to ‘eradicate piracy’ in a smart manner. They identify the specific people responsible for illegally leaking files using a trace back technique. 

How It Works

Custos Media TechnologiesCustos embeds a reward on target files. It utilises the ‘bounty hunter’ method, where individuals who find pirated files are rewarded for finding new infringements. The company embeds bitcoin rewards on the copies sent out to recipients. This lures anonymous bounty hunters to claim the prize, and this way, Custos can instantly detect the leak. The company then trails back to the person who initiated the leak, and then informs their client about who the original pirate is.

The targets comprise of three groups. The first group consists of the bounty hunters, who are basically anonymous users in piracy communities. To get a large number of users, Custos makes pieces of free software. In most cases, these bounty hunters use the Custos’ tools for personal gains. The company notes that humans are ‘endlessly resourceful in finding things’ especially when there’s a reward for it.

These hunters allow Custos’ software to crawl into the dark web, deep web or anywhere else where ordinary content crawlers have no opportunity to scour. The fact that the bounty hunters remain anonymous makes the deal even more lucrative for them.

The second group consists of Custos’ trusted partners who offer web crawling services. The crawlers search and identify the Custos protected files. Then, the third group is made of Custos’ forensic team. The team utilises web algorithms to find pirated content. Once the client is informed, it is up to them to deal with the source of the leak.

According to Van Rooyen, a bounty on contraband eBook or film or any other content takes less than five minutes to be claimed. On leading social networks, it can take about 42 seconds for the reward to be claimed. Rooyen says that Custos is also able to detect content shared offline. He adds that it takes 28 minutes to identify a movie or file shared on a DVD or USB drive.

Early Success

Despite all the hype, Von Rooyen indicates that the project is still in its ‘very early stages’. Yet, Rooyen says that Custos has been able to catch a good number pirates. He says that the majority of its bounty hunters are college students from developing countries who take the $5-$10 worth of bitcoin reward seriously.

Regarding the use of bitcoin, Rooyen explains that Custos relies on several anonymous users who have the information needed by clients and bitcoin, he believes, is an ideal way to pay them anonymously. 


Bitcoin Wallet Luno Adds SegWit Support to Lower Transaction Fees



Luno Adds SegWit Support

Luno, one of the most popular bitcoin wallets in Africa, has announced full SegWit integration for bitcoin send and receive transactions. Previously, Luno customers could only receive BTC through a legacy wallet address, which was not integrated with the recent Bitcoin blockchain upgrade SegWit. Only send transactions were SegWit compatible.

With the full integration of SegWit, Luno users can now enjoy cheaper and faster bitcoin transactions.

“By implementing SegWit internally, Luno has managed to reduce the send fees paid by customers by over 25% already. As customers start switching over to new SegWit addresses, this will translate into a further reduction in sending fees in the coming weeks and months,” Werner van Rooyen, head of marketing and communications at Luno stated.

Luno currently operates in South Africa, Nigeria, Malaysia, UK, and in 35 other European countries.

What is SegWit?

Segregated Witness (SegWit) was an upgrade to the Bitcoin blockchain that is intended to address Bitcoin’s scalability challenges as well as fix the issue of transaction malleability. With SegWit, signature data is separated from transaction data in order to enable more transactions to fit into each block. The signature data is kept in an extended block called the witness. As a result, bitcoin transactions become faster and transaction fees become lower.

In theory, the Bitcoin network can handle seven transactions per second. However, in reality, it is around four transactions per second. With the number of bitcoin transactions increasing as bitcoin’s popularity grows, transactions take longer as the unconfirmed transactions pool increases. Therefore, bitcoin users who can afford it have been paying higher transaction fees to incentivise miners to prioritise their transactions and, thereby, increase the speed of their transactions. At the end of 2017, this has led to the average bitcoin transaction fee spiking to over 35 dollars.

However, when SegWit addresses are used, bitcoin transactions become faster and the required resources decrease as well. Consequently, the transaction fees reduce.

How Can You Add a SegWit Wallet Address on Luno?

To add a SegWit address on the Luno wallet you have to follow these steps:

  • Open your Luno account either on the mobile app or the web app
  • Choose “wallets” from the menu
  • Click on your “BTC wallet”
  • Choose “receive bitcoin”
  • Click “add address” and follow the prompt

To receive bitcoin, use your SegWit bitcoin receive address. Legacy bitcoin addresses begin with 1 while SegWit bitcoin addresses begin with 3. Even after adding a SegWit wallet address, bitcoins sent to your previous legacy bitcoin address will still work. In addition, you can still send bitcoin from a SegWit wallet to a legacy wallet and vice versa since the transactions are still taking place on the same blockchain. But if you are sending bitcoins to and from a SegWit wallet, you can benefit from reduced fees.

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Bitmart Opens Cryptocurrency Mining Hardware Store in South Africa



Bitmart Opens Cryptocurrency Mining Hardware Store

Bitmart, South Africa’s leading supplier of mining hardware, has opened a cryptocurrency mining hardware store in South Africa. This makes Bitmart’s retail outlet the first cryptocurrency mining store in Africa.

Products and Services Offered by Bitmart

Bitmart was founded by CEO Jacques Serfontein in 2015 to offer cryptocurrency mining hardware to South Africans. Currently, Bitmart offers GPU rigs, ASIC miners, GPU rig mining software, graphics cards, international mining rig monitor app, cryptomatic watches, hardware wallets, and motherboards. Customers can find GPU mining rigs that mine cryptocurrencies such as zcash, monero, decred, bitcoin, and litecoin.

Additionally, Bitmart provides services such as bitcoin mining farm design and deployment, mining training, antminer repair tickets, mining farm management using Genesis Hive, and shepherd services.

Through its shepherd services, Bitmart helps owners of second-hand miners to find buyers. Therefore, both sellers and buyers are assured of safe and secure transactions through Bitmart’s SSL-secured online shop.

According to MyBroadband, Bitmart is an authorised distributor of Avalon Miners, Genesis Hive, Trezor, Ledger wallets, KeepKey, and UniSat (satellite mining solutions) in Africa.

The company also supplies mining hardware to countries such as Japan, Dubai, North America, Australia, and England.

What Does Bitmart Plan for the Future?

Bitmart will be holding seminars in Johannesburg and Mbombela. The seminars will focus on bitcoin basics and advanced cryptocurrency trading. In addition, Bitmart will be introducing a satellite mining connection in partnership with Uniwisp that will allow mining rigs to mine from any place in the world. Uniwisp is an Internet service provider based in Nelspruit, South Africa.


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Kenya’s BitPesa Acquires Spanish Money Transfer Platform TransferZero



BitPesa Acquires TransferZero

On February 8, 2018, BitPesa announced that it has acquired TransferZero, a Madrid-based online money transfer platform, which operates in over 200 countries using more than 50 currencies.

Why Did BitPesa Acquire TransferZero?

BitPesa, which is already operating in Africa and Europe, will be able to “set deep roots to UK and European licensing, bank accounts, and integrations” through this acquisition, according to the company’s statement on its blog.

“Europe is a hub for global remittance and payments companies. Digital currencies and decentralized technology have hit critical mass in the financial services and payments space. It is no longer a question of whether this technology will have staying power [but] which specific technology and what product iteration will launch and scale first […],” Elizabeth Rosiello, founder and CEO BitPesa said.

“BitPesa has the support of top-tier, institutional investors and a network that will help to bring TransferZero’s technology to the next level. With this support, we will be able to provide even more efficient transfers and user experience,” Luis Cambronero, former TransferZero CEO and present Managing Director, BitPesa stated.

Setting Up Infrastructure Across Europe and Africa is a Priority

“Setting up infrastructure across Europe and Africa has always been a focus of ours. […] We’ve just doubled our bank accounts, our infrastructure, and it’s licensed by the Bank of Spain as a payment institution. So we are fully compliant with PSD2 regulations […],” Rosiello said.

“This is truly a partnership where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, allowing BitPesa to solidify our leadership in this space. By bringing our regional and technological expertise together, we will further accelerate our month-to-month growth,” Rossiello asserted.

TransferZero will neither change its name nor its headquarters. In addition, its employees will remain with Bitpesa.

This acquisition from an Africa-based bitcoin startup of a European fintech startup shows that leading African startups can make waves beyond the borders of the continent and create a positive impact on a global scale.

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