With digital currencies gaining popularity, discussions about Bitcoin’s future attract more and more attention with concerns being raised over the ways it’s being mined and the energy costs of the mining process. This article deals with different mechanisms of cryptocurrencies’ emission and outlines the main advantages and disadvantages on the example of Bitcoin and MILE, a fully decentralised, transparent and environmentally-conscious ecosystem that uses a completely different approach to money-minting.
Bitcoin is rather expensive for the economy. Even if miners use the most inexpensive electricity in the world that costs three US cents per kWh, Bitcoin’s annual electricity bills exceeded two billion USD in summer 2018. According to the most realistic estimates, it was amounted to 3.5 billion USD, if 1 kWh cost miners five US cents. Rapid growth of energy consumption was caused by exponential growth of hashing operations that are used for adding new blocks into the blockchain. Such operations were performed 26 quintillion times per second in March 2018, and now the figures are already equal to 52 quintillion.
In the last year and a half, starting from 2017, Bitcoin’s energy consumption grew approximately from 7-8 to 73 TWh. Bitcoin consumes more energy now then countries like Austria and Chile (72 TWh). According to the estimates of Arvind Narayanan, a computer scientist, who delivered his speech at the US Congress, approximately 1 percent of global power capacity is being used by Bitcoin’s miners – 5 GW.
Digital money is extremely convenient. It does not take space in your wallet, and large transactions can be completed almost instantly. But how environmentally-conscious is cryptocurrency? According to the estimates of Alex de Vries, PwC cryptanalyst, Bitcoin’s production capacity last year was equivalent to 2.55 GW. It consumed approximately 22 TWh/h what is almost equal to the levels of energy consumption in Ireland. To compare, Google consumed 5.7 TWh/h with its giant servers what is four times less.
Blockchain’s energy consumption is rapidly increasing. It was increased by five times in 2017. Why does Bitcoin that exists only in the digital space require so much energy? The problem is in the mechanism called Proof-of-Work. Distributed systems that store information about money and its movement are secured from malpractices with blockchain receiving information after the completion of complicated algorithmic problems. Miners are competing in solving these problems (blocks), and once the block is being solved successfully, they are being rewarded with 12.5 Bitcoins and 1000 USD. This reward is being decreased by half every four years.
The Proof-of-Work mechanism allows the network node to verify that another node responsible for adding a new block into blockchain has completed necessary calculations. In the process of verification, the string of the new block’s header is being discovered. It contains the link on the former block. In March 2018, such hashing operations, according to de Vries, were performed 26 quintillions times per second in the world.
This mechanism created the mining industry and made it a giant consumer of electricity. In 2012, Bitcoin’s total capacity exceeded the most powerful supercomputer in the world. Computers require a lot of energy to solve algorithmic problems, but they become more and more powerful. Consequently, Bitcoin’s protocol gets more complicated upon the completion of the next 2016 blocks once every two weeks as otherwise miners would have been generating too many Bitcoins. It is a perpetual cycle: the faster the computers get, the more complicated problems miners are solving become. People engaged in mining have to upgrade their devices that consume more and more energy.
It is impossible to win this race. The cheaper and the more effective the mining equipment gets, the more complicated the problems become, and the more energy is required to solve them. Fortunately, the original number of Bitcoins is not infinite. Therefore, the energy consumption of Bitcoin’s blockchain will gradually decrease, but the final outcome will depend on its price. According to Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index, energy consumed by miners will soon reach the level of Austria or 20 percent of the UK’s energy intensity.
De Vries is concerned with the fact that Bitcoin’s overall electricity consumption will grow from current 0.5 percent of the global figures to 5 percent. This year’s profit of the mining industry will exceed 5 billion USD, and its costs (electricity and equipment) will amount to 3.7 billion USD. However, de Vries’ estimates are just one of the models assessing Bitcoin’s energy consumption. His opponents argue that in reality, Bitcoin’s energy consumption is approximately three times lower.
If miners’ profit no longer exceeds the electricity and equipment costs, mining firms will be dismantled. There are cases, however, when miners do not pay their electricity bills or buy mining equipment. According to the report prepared by the University of Illinois, National Science Foundation’s supercomputer was used to mine Bitcoins worth of 8.000-10.000 USD what caused the university 150.000 USD in charges. In Orenburg, Russia, the authorities ceased the operations of the biggest mining firm in Russia and Europe stationed in the building of an abandoned factory that did not pay the bills for 8 million kWt/h it used. Miners’ profit exceeded almost half of the costs in August 2018. It means that we will not be able to witness the growth in Bitcoin’s energy consumption if its price remains the same. One can only imagine what the mining costs will be if it reaches 50.000 USD.
Entrepreneurs are finding different locations for mining where they would either have cheaper electricity bills or they would not have to pay for it at all. This is the reason why the main mining equipment producer is the Chinese company Bitmain and the center of mining industry in Inner Mongolia in China, where 1 kWt per hour costs 4 US cents, what is five times lower than in the UK.
21 thousand computers work at the biggest mining firm located in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, what is amounted to four percent of the global energy consumption to mine Bitcoin. Each of these computers generates 14 trillion hashes per second and consumes the same amount of electricity as a microwave. Approximately 30-40 percent of energy consumption in a lot of data-centers is being used for cooling: Bitmain computers cannot function when the temperature reaches 38 degrees Celsius. Electricity supplied to the firm in Ordos is being produced from coal (the fifth in China, coal production-wise), that’s why it is argued that mining is not an environmentally conscious activity. Bitmain consumes 40 MWt/h, the number equivalent to the energy consumption of 12 thousand apartment buildings. Bitmain pays its bills with industrial tariffs, approximately four cents for kWt/h: if the electricity costs the same as for households, this type of business would not be considered attractive. The amount of electricity used in order to serve Bitcoin’s entire industry is equal to the amount consumed by 7 million households in the US.
Bitcoin is extremely unecological. A single Bitcoin’s transaction in summer 2018 consumed 934 kWt. In comparison, 100.000 transactions in the Visa system require 5.5 times lower energy. Bitcoin’s “carbon footprint” is equal to 17.7 million tons of CO2. Mining capacities will reach its economic limits with Bitcoin’s current price as profit will no longer cover the electricity costs. However, if its price hits the 20.000 USD target, a steady increase in its energy consumption will be observed. It is not surprising as Bitcoin’s protocol offers a 200.000 USD reward every ten minutes to those who will be able to find inexpensive electricity and fire their laptops.
It can cause problems for Ireland with cold climate where it is not necessary to spend money on cooling of computers and where almost 80 percent of electricity is being generated on hydro stations. It makes it so attractive that this year local crypto firms would need more electricity than households.
It is possible that crypto industry will find the way to decrease its energy consumption. One of them is the substitution of the Proof-of-Work mechanism with Proof-of-Stake (PoS). In this case, those blocks will have higher chances to generate the next block that already have a large number of tokens and keep them longer. It is not necessary to build mining firms that are competing in solving algorithmic problems. If the entire crypto industry has transferred to the Proof-of-Stake simultaneously, its energy consumption would have decreased significantly. Keeping one coin in the wallet in the system of delegated Proof-of-Stake is equivalent to having the right to add the next block into the blockchain. MILE’s emission is built in a similar manner. Each participant of MILE’s ecosystem can become both the owner and the emitter of the money and get a small percentage from issuing it.
The difference lies in the fact that MILE uses a mining protocol (environmentally conscious mining) sdBFT that only slightly resembles PoS. Any PoS protocol has limitations in the form of several dozens of active masternodes what increases the probability of decentralisation. It can be observed in case of Ethereum or stablecoins like Bitshares. As opposed to conventional strategies, in MILE’s ecosystem, the first ecosystem that was able to implement sdBFT on practice, decentralisation is programmed in the way that only hundred nodes are selected from thousands in order for the block to be solved. Selection happens according to the algorithm that guarantees high-level entropy combined with energy consumption.
Bitcoins’ emission requires a lot of energy, and with the Proof-of-Stake mechanism, it is necessary to have cryptocurrencies in order to emit it. If in the process of Bitcoin’s emission miners compete with one another, money is being emitted by the community itself in Proof-of-Stake. The drawback of such a mechanism is in the fact that cryptocurrency is being concentrated in the hands of a limited group of people. There are hybrid versions as well, and one of them is described above, that combine both mechanisms and help to save the energy. Insignificant time constraints and financial costs of finding the consensus make it possible to assume that the future is ahead of energy efficient minting, and not mining.
This guest post was contributed by the Mile Unity Foundation, an international, non-governmental organisation, announces the launch of a broad network of its Embassies with the aim to popularise the knowledge about the digital assets industry and to inform the population about ultra-effective mechanisms for the development of the global economy.
*Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to the company, product or service. BitcoinAfrica.io is not responsible, directly or indirectly, for any loss or damage caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any content, product or service mentioned in this guest post.*
5 Reasons Why Online Casinos Should Adopt Cryptocurrencies
Online casinos are at the forefront of technological innovation in the gambling industry, while cryptocurrencies are arguably the most innovative payment solution on the Internet.
In this article, we will discuss the top five reasons why online casinos should consider adopting cryptocurrencies as a payment method.
Access to More Markets
Online casinos heavily rely on online payment platforms such as PayPal and Stripe. Despite the fact that online casinos are available in all areas with Internet connectivity, not all Internet users are able to use these platforms.
Payment platforms such as PayPal and Stripe are not available in all jurisdictions. Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Ghana, for example, are not supported by PayPal. What’s more, some countries have low debit card and credit card penetration, making it difficult for customers from such markets to use online casinos.
Cryptocurrency payments are available worldwide and present an important use case for internet casinos that want to reach an entirely new market of prospective bettors who are unaccounted for by payment platforms. By supporting cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, online casinos stand a chance of reaching new users from markets without popular online payment platform support or penetration.
Access to a New Community of Bettors
The cryptocurrency community has grown exponentially over the last few years with big businesses built around the cryptocurrency ecosystem and its users.
With a total cryptocurrency market capitalisation of $266 billion, online casinos that support cryptocurrencies could reach a new community of bettors who prefer to use digital currencies over other payment methods.
The cryptocurrency community is riding a huge wave of momentum. Many companies that have strategically placed themselves in the ecosystem have seen exponential growth as a result. Online casinos that add cryptocurrency payments could also benefit from the momentum of a rapidly growing online economy.
Online gambling providers are generating healthy profits according to market statistics and predictions. However, these platforms could increase profits further if less of their revenue was lost to payment platform fees.
Bank cards and online payment platforms charge a percentage for all transactions. Fees for cryptocurrency transactions, however, are usually far less and are generally paid by the user. By adding cryptocurrencies, online casinos could accept payments faster and incur lower on fees.
Currently, small merchants pay between two to four percent per credit card transaction, which often involves additional “hidden fees.” Cryptocurrency transaction fees are comparatively low and do not include hidden fees.
No Chargeback Fraud
Chargeback fraud, also known as friendly fraud, occurs when a consumer makes an online purchase with their credit card and then demands a chargeback from the issuing bank after receiving the purchased goods or services.
Cryptocurrencies offer online merchants protection from chargeback fraud. Unlike credit card payments where transactions can be disputed even after they have been charged, cryptocurrency transactions are final.
For online gambling providers who accept exclusively cryptocurrency payments, chargeback fraud is a thing of the past.
Cryptocurrencies have one of the biggest communities online, full of passionate people who are always happy to propagate positive news, such as the addition of cryptocurrency as a payment method at an online casino store. Additionally, online platforms that accept cryptocurrency as a means of payment also receive extra coverage from cryptocurrency media.
This additional publicity comes in handy for online casinos due to the saturated nature of the industry, which requires platforms to leverage every opportunity that puts them ahead of the competition.
Is Nigeria Likely to Formalise Remittances and Become the Third-Largest Inbound Market Worldwide?
Nigeria is the sixth-largest recipient of remittances in the world with an estimated volume of nearly $25 billion a year. This estimate for remittances flow doesn’t account for the informal market, that even if it is shrinking, as most analysts believe, it adds approximately $10 to $15 billion a year to the formal number. That places remittances for Nigeria at around $40 billion. If this were to be true, then it would squarely place the country as having the third-largest volume of remittances in the entire world, ahead of the Philippines and Mexico with highly formal markets.
In a blog post published by remittance expert Hugo Cuevas-Mohr, he discussed the volume of remittances to Nigeria and the importance of achieving more accurate figures and the success in formalising the remittance market in Nigeria. These are also key topics that will be extensively examined at IMTC AFRICA 2019, a conference that will take place in Lagos on September 24-26 at the EKO Hotel. IMTC is the leading gathering for international money transfer, cross-border payment, and Fintech companies around the world and has chosen Nigeria as the site of its biannual African event to help in the innovation, formalisation, and transparency of remittances in the country.
Why Formalisation is Necessary
Parallel markets, or informal markets, are notorious for skewing a country’s volume, revenue, and wealth statistics; in an age where data is glorified, it is clear to see why this is such a problem. Countries are valued and respected based on their stats, and if Nigeria’s stats are not reflecting the true volume of remittances, then their significance is being missed.
The Nigerian Naira is traded at different rates on the parallel market than on the official market. For instance, as of August 6, the Central Bank of Nigeria valued 1 USD at 306 NGN (Niara), whereas the parallel markets revealed that 1 USD was actually trading at 360 NGN. Such a large discrepancy in the exchange rate reveals just a portion of the issues taking place. If the parallel market exchange rates are correct, then it is extremely unlikely that Nigeria will be successful in curbing the informal market.
Nigeria’s parallel markets have been prevalent for some time now, but the issue became serious in 2016 when the Central Bank of Nigeria, to curb the informal market, limited the number of legal money transfers to only three International MTOs: Western Union, MoneyGram, and Ria. This subsequently forced all other MTOs to call upon CBN to allow more MTOs to be licensed, jumping to more than 60 in three years. Has the strategy from CBN been successful?
Mr. Cuevas-Mohr states in his blog: “The remittance market in terms of companies abroad serving the Nigerian Diaspora is growing now at a fast pace as remittance volumes to the country increase, partly due to organic growth and partly due to more funds being channeled through official channels.”
Leon Isaacs, IMTC AFRICA 2019 Co-Chair, and an expert in remittances will discuss extensively at the conference the findings that his surveys and data gathering work is revealing. Other topics to be discussed at this trendsetting event will be the impact of Payment Service Banks and Fintechs on remittances, the role of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, the importance of strong compliance and risk management and the importance of MTO partnerships with local banks and Fintechs to help to formalise remittances.
Nigeria And the Mobile Industry
Another pressing topic at the conference is that of the mobile industry. In a recent development, the Nigerian government is allowing mobile companies to directly offer financial services. Previously, mobile companies were required to form rigid agreements with banks to offer financial services in the country. These new companies will be known as Payment Service Banks (PSBs), similar to how India enables mobile companies to offer such services.
This is massive news for the world of remittances as PSBs can give their unbanked customers, and generally to all low-income residents, the opportunity to manage mobile money as the digital ecosystem grows. It can also impact the government’s financial inclusion initiatives. The impact of the PSBs in the remittance market is hard to predict but everybody will be watching. Mr. Cuevas-Mohr said: “It will take time to see the impact to the market of Telcos being allowed finally to offer themselves financial services, and remittances.”
As many MTOs participating at the IMTC AFRICA 2019 conference in Lagos have expressed, the event comes at the best time for the industry in Africa. Filled with a compliance course, an innovation forum, panel discussions, keynote speakers, roundtables, and ample time to network with industry leaders, the event will be a gathering of the Who-is-Who in the field of African remittances.
The article was contributed by David Cullinan.
South Africans Can Now Invest in Crypto-Asset Bundles
South Africans can now invest in crypto-asset bundles thanks to Revix, a digital asset management platform incorporated in the UK. Revix aims to expose investors to 80 percent of the cryptocurrency market through bundles.
Bitcoin Africa talked to Revix’s co-founder Sean Sanders to better understand this new digital asset investment option.
Passive Crypto Investment Through Bundles
Bundles are cryptocurrency portfolios that expose an investor to a diversified number of cryptoassets at a low cost while reducing risk. These bundles are comprised of the top cryptocurrencies that are rebalanced each month to keep investments up-to-date with the changing market.
“The name Revix stands for ‘revolutionary index’ and we plan to shake up the cryptocurrency space by providing a secure and smarter way to invest in digital currencies. We are looking to broaden the appeal of cryptocurrencies by making the investment experience seamless. We target investors who are interested in crypto, but do not have the time or inclination to research every opportunity, work out the technicalities of investing, or properly understand the challenges of holding their assets,” said Sanders.
Revix uses diversification because it is difficult to forecast which cryptocurrencies will gain traction and which will not. By holding a diversified basket of assets, the investors’ risk declines while returns can increase.
Revix offers the following bundles:
- Top ten bundle: this bundle contains the top ten cryptocurrencies.
- Payment bundle: this bundle includes the top five largest cryptocurrencies focused on payments.
- Platform bundle: this bundle holds the five biggest platform-focused cryptocurrencies.
- Privacy bundle: this bundle comprises of the three largest privacy cryptocurrencies.
Sean Sanders and Louis Buys founded Revix in 2018 and held a launch on April 2019. The co-founders also raised R10 million during the first round of funding from Sabvest, an investment group listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).
How Bundles Work
To get started on Revix, register and deposit funds in your preferred currency. Investors can begin with as little as R500. Once you have deposited funds, you can now choose a bundle and invest in it.
According to Sanders, Revix leverages proprietary technology to link investors to crypto exchanges with a smart price routing algorithm that looks for the best available price for investors.
“By connecting with global, liquid markets and using technology, we can get better prices than what has otherwise been available to local investors. Major factors for local investors are the currency devaluation and geopolitical risk hedges that cryptocurrencies offer. With a rand depreciating over the long term, moving into an asset class that is peer-to-peer, borderless, and uncorrelated to South African specific risks is attractive,” he told Bitcoin Africa.
Revix charges a one percent transaction fee when purchasing or selling a bundle. The platform also ensures that all fees incurred are displayed to the user. Investors’ funds are secured in cold storage across multiple-vaulted locations.
Why Invest in Crypto?
Sanders believes that investing in cryptoassets offers South Africans an opportunity to “see the birth and application” of blockchain technology.
“The world of cryptocurrencies is not coming, it is already here, and we have already seen this asset class increase by multiples compared to all other asset classes out there. I mean, cryptocurrencies are the top-performing asset class of the last decade which should not be overlooked,” Sanders asserted.
Rather than waiting to see how the technology pans out, Sanders advocates taking advantage of the opportunity at the present. However, he advises against investing your life savings in cryptocurrencies. All you need to experience crypto and the blockchain is a small portion of your wealth, he said.
Why South Africa?
Revix is offering its investment products in South Africa because the country enables businesses to build online platforms at low costs and the regulatory environment supports enterprises in the crypto scene.
Furthermore, South Africa has a pool of professionals with technical skills in the blockchain and computer science fields. This factor is attractive to companies in the blockchain and crypto industry like Revix.
“South Africa is a key market for us as the country has a diversity of people with vastly different demographics allowing us to test specific concepts and strategies and get customer feedback while managing scale,” Sanders stated.
The Revix platform is attracting a wide range of users such as fresh graduates, retirees, investors well-versed with traditional finance but who are only now learning about crypto, and investors who are unfamiliar with traditional finance but knowledgeable about crypto.
Advocating for Crypto Regulation
Although the regulatory environment in South Africa is crypto-friendly, Sanders thinks that more should be done to enable businesses like his to run more smoothly.
Since a clear regulatory guideline is missing, crypto businesses like Revix take longer to create relationships with banks because of the perceived risk and they operate unlicensed. Therefore, Sanders is welcoming local regulation because it will offer more protection to consumers, provide guidelines on how to treat this asset class, and encourage institutions to participate in this market.
Sanders is an entrepreneur in the crypto space and has established other startups besides Revix. In the past, he has worked for a VC firm and an investment management company. With regards to recent trends in the crypto space, Sanders believes that Facebook’s Libra coin will drive the adoption and acceptance of digital currencies globally.
The South African Reserve Bank announced earlier in 2019 that it is carrying out a central bank digital currency feasibility study while the South African Revenue Service announced cryptocurrency tax laws in 2018. These events could indicate that South Africa is taking positive steps towards recognising, accepting, and adopting digital currencies.
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