Saturday, December 30, 2017

Bitcoin cash a new addition to trading on Coinbase exchange

(December 20) Coinbase just added support for trading bitcoin cash on the exchange. You can now send, receive, buy and sell bitcoin cash on the exchange. Bitcoin cash will also trade on Coinbase's institutional-focused exchange GDAX.

The launch of trading of the new coin has been experiencing difficulties and apparently trading has been suspended for a while at least.
Bitcoin price is way down — bitcoin cash way up
The announcement that bitcoin cash would trade on Coinbase was followed by a drop of as much as 25 percent in the price of bitcoin. It fell to a low of $14,000 but obviously had support at that level and recovered to $16,600 when the Techcrunch article reporting on the launch went to press.
On the other hand, bitcoin cash rose about 50 percent just in the last two hours trading around $3,000. Given these extreme price swings it is not surprising that the exchange felt that it should pause trading. It could be the exchange is also unable to handle the volume.
Details of trading stoppage
According to Coindesk, trading was stopped after four minutes of trading.
The exchange said at 18.30 Pacific Standard Time: "All BCH books will enter cancel-only mode, and all existing orders will be cleared. While in cancel-only mode, no new orders will be accepted. We will post an update shortly," BCH is the trading symbol for bitcoin cash.
The service outage was only trading in bitcoin cash, as trades continued in bitcoin, ether and litecoin, the other three coins traded on the exchange.
No doubt the flock of new users put a strain on the resources of the exchange.
What is bitcoin cash?
The coin was created when bitcoin experienced a hard fork in the beginning of August creating the new coin. There were a group of developers who wanted bitcoin blocks to be increased in size eight times. This would allow more and faster transactions and lower fees. These developers created bitcoin cash when the other bitcoin miners and developers refused to go along.
Another attempt to increase the size of bitcoin blocks did not go through in November and another possible hard fork was avoided. Some analysts touted bitcoin cash as an alternative to bitcoin. Litecoin was also mentioned as a possible successor too. Both are faster and have lower transaction costs.
Coinbase has changed its tune on bitcoin cash
Back in early August when bitcoin cash was first created, Coinbase said they would not support it. However within a couple of days they changed their mind and promised that customers would be able to withdraw it by January 1st next year. They did not however, promise full support.
This early development with full support surprised many.
Coinbase's rationale for adding bitcoin cash to its trading roster
Coinbase claimed that they considered ”developer and community support, security, stability, market price and trading volume” in deciding to fully support bitcoin cash. The company said: “Coinbase operates by the principle that our customers should benefit to the greatest extent possible from forks or other networks events. This is essential in our mission to make Coinbase the most trusted, safe, and easy-to-use digital currency exchange."
The exchange intends to support a number of digital currencies in the future so it makes sense that they have now added bitcoin cash which is the third largest coin by market cap. Coinbase already offers ethereum (ether) the second largest cryptocurrency.
Present prices
As I write this about 10:30 Central Standard Time coinmarketcap lists the price of bitcoin cash at $3,339 up over 50 percent on the day.
On Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) it is already December 20th about 5:00 a.m. The opening for bitcoin was $17,608, far off its recent high of over $19,000. Its low today was $15,577 according to Coindesk and are an average from several exchanges so you may find different figures elsewhere on a single exchange.
It remains to be seen if bitcoin can continue to recover from its losses or if it will drop further due to competition from other cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin cash. Many cryptocurrencies appear to be gaining value. The attention to bitcoin and the launch of bitcoin futures trading appears to have created more interest in many other cryptocurrencies as well, perhaps to the detriment of the price of bitcoin.

Previiously published in Digital Journal

South Korean exchange Youbit files for bankruptcy after 2nd hack in 8 months

Cryptocurrency exchange Youbit is shutting down after it was hacked for the second time in less than eight months. The exchange earlier called Yapizon lost 4,000 bitcoins in a hack in April.

Youbit has now filed for bankruptcy after the firm lost 17 percent of its assets in the hack. The company did not disclose how much those assets were worth at the time of the cyber attack.
Investigation started by South Korean government
South Korea's Internet and Security Agency says it had already started an inquiry as to how the hackers had gained access to core systems of the exchange.
Earlier attacks on the exchange were blamed on cyber-spies who were working for North Korea. More recent attacks on the Bithumb and Coinis exchange have also been blamed on North Korea. However, no information has been released as to who might be behind this attack.
United States also accuses North Korea of cyber attacks
The U.S. has accused North Korea as being responsible for the "WannaCry" ransom ware attack.
Ironically, Wanna Cry was traced by security experts to the exploitation of a weakness in older versions of WIndows not equipped with security patches by the U.S. National Security Agency(NSA). It was part of a large cache of stolen NSA cyberweapons that was publicly released by a group of hackers known as Shadow Brokers.
In a further irony, a U.K. hacker Marcus Hutchins found the author of the malware had embedded a kill switch in the program. This put an end to the attack.
Hutchins was later arrested when he visited the U.S. and charged with creating malware — unrelated to Wanna Cry.
Much of the firm's crypto-currency safe from the attack
The customers will get back about 75 percent of the value of the cryptocurrency they have with the exchange.
Any currency that was not being traded was safely stored in a secure wallet.
Youbit is one of the smaller South Korean exchanges. About 70 percent of trading in South Korea is done on the Bithumb exchange.
Criminal activity on the rise
As cryptocurrency gains in popularity it also attracts more criminals. Earlier this month, hackers got away with more than $80m in bitcoins from NiceHash, a Slovenia-based mining exchange as discussed in a recent Digital Journal article.
Another recent article claims that North Korea may mine bitcoin, demand payment for ransom in bitcoin, and also outright steal it.
An earlier Digtial Journal article also reports on the Youbit hack.

Previously published in Digital Journal

Friday, December 29, 2017

On December 17th bitcoin futures began trading on Chicago Mercantile Exchange

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) the largest in the world began trading bitcoin futures just a week after the rival Chicago Board of Exchange (CBOE) first launched bitcoin futures trading.

CME is a much bigger player in futures than CBOE so many expected its debut would make a bigger splash.
CME launch fast, efficient, and active
As described in a recent Digital Journal article the CBOE launch was paused for a while because of difficulties handling the volume, although overall things went well.
The most active contract in the CME trading traded 221 times in the first hour of trading. CBOE's debut saw their most active contract trade 570 times. However, the CME contracts are worth five times as much as they are based on 5 bitcoins rather than the one of the CBOE.
Bobby Cho, head of trading at Cumberland, the cryptocurrency trading unit of DRW Holding LLC said: “People were better prepared. They knew how they were going to hedge their positions.”
Futures markets bring bitcoin a step further into the financial mainstream
The futures contracts settle in dollars and trade on regulated exchanges. The contracts may be bought by institutional investors who are not allowed to purchase bitcoin directly. BItcoin exchanges are largely unregulated.
Gabor Gurbacs of VanEck Associates Corp. said: “One of the biggest issues when it comes to investing institutionally in digital assets is banks and larger institutions can’t hold an unregulated instrument in their balance sheet, and a futures contract is something they can hold." There are not the same risks as with buying and holding the coin itself.
Jose Nascimento, head cryptocurrency trader at Solidus Capital said: “We were waiting for the launch of the CME futures because the price is more robust and the exchange trades much larger volumes. Futures are a very positive development for the bitcoin market, as it will help everyone from miners to traders hedge risk, and having a price curve will help limit price swings.”
Futures prices and bitcoin price
The futures at CME traded about 2 percent about that of bitcoin's price this morning. CBOE's future prices went as much as 13 percent above that of bitcoin in its first day of trading.
Bitcoin today climbed 9 percent from its Friday New York close reaching a new record over $19,000 as reported in a recent Digital Journal article.
CME exchange has controls on trading
If swings in the rise and fall of prices are too large, trading will pause briefly. Prices will not be allowed to move more than 20 percent. Pausing was not necessary in trading at the CME on its first trading day. It appeared to weather the traffic.
CBOE also has volatility halt measures. They were triggered in the initial hours of their trading as the January contract rose as much as 26 percent.
Some firms hesitant to give customers access to bitcoin futures
TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. did not immediately give its customers access to the bitcoin futures. However the company said on Friday that it would begin offering CBOE's futures starting on Monday.
The company will not offer CME contracts until it demonstrates sufficient liquidity.
JB Mackenzie,. the managing director of futures trading at TD Ameritrade said: “We look at the volume, the open interest and the spreads, and we want to make sure that all those conditions are maturing properly. We have had a lot of customer interest, and we have spent a lot of time educating them as to the differences between the two products.”
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. demanded that some clients set aside collateral that equaled 100 per cent of the value of their trade. Option Clearing has a margin requirement of 44 percent to clear contracts at CBOE. CME demands 47 percent.
Brokerages often have higher requirements than the exchange itself.
Interactive Brokers Group Inc. that claims it handled over 50 percent of trading at CBOE the first day said it required a 50 percent margin on longer investments but for short selling about 240 percent.
Short sellers face expensive trading
The futures exchanges offer short sellers a way of placing short bets on bitcoin but even when the second exchange opened trading the price of bitcoin continued an upward trend in price.
However, the CME futures required a 47 percent initial margin or almost $50,000 on a five-bitcoin future. With the trend still going upward a short seller could end up having to purchase futures at a price higher than they were sold. $50,000 is a reasonably large sum to risk when bitcoin could continue up for some time.
Jeremy Goldwyn of Bands Financial Ltd. a futures brokerage in Hong Kong said: “In theory, it does open it up to shorting opportunities, but as always, the devil is in the detail. I’m not totally convinced that this offers a clear enough link to enable people to play the short side and still reap the financial benefit at settlement.”
Those who might try to bet on the price of bitcoin are no doubt nervous about pouring money into a bet that the price of a hot commodity such as bitcoin will go down. So far there is no sign of that only that the coin makes continual leaps upward often a thousand dollars at a time. Although there can be a decline of a thousand and more it is always short-lived so far. It makes more sense to sell short when there are clear signs of a steep decline that is continuing.
John Butler, head of GoldMoney Inc, a company that offers both bitcoin and gold custodian and storage services said: “Futures have definitely opened bitcoin up to shorting opportunities. But shorting something with this much momentum would be brave."

Previously published in Digital Journal

On December 17th bitcoin reached new high of over $19,780 per coin

(December 17th) As investors prepare for a second bitcoin futures launch by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) its price reached a new high of $19,783.06 at 12:14 UTC today , December 17th.
The next big breakthrough will be $20,000. In the last 24 hours alone bitcoin (BTC) has gained 10 percent. A year ago it was trading below a thousand. Only a month ago it was still under $8,000 less than half its price now. In the past seven days it has risen in price almost 35 percent
Everyone is wondering when the upward price flight will end or if it will continue through the stratosphere.
First futures market also boosted price
Last weekend when the Chicago Board of Exchange (CBOE) launched the first futures market prices broke through $16,000, The launch was discussed in a recent Digital Journal article. The upward boost appears to be repeating itself today.
A major part in the rallies after the future exchange launches are hopes that the future exchanges will attract mainstream investors and institutional money. The chart of the price changes also appears moderately bullish.
Social media comments predict bitcoin price to test $24,000
On social media a significant number of investors are said to be expecting bitcoin to test the $24,000 mark in the short run.
Technical analysis also exhibits signs for further upside in the bitcoin price, although it also shows overbought conditions.
Bitcoin has crashed before
The price of bitcoin is notoriously volatile and even within the recent rising tendency there have been drops of thousands of dollars.
According to Dr Daniele Bianchi of the UK Warwick Business school earlier crashes were due to hacking, regulatory interventions, or technology updates with subsequent competition from other cryptocurrencies.
The worst case arguably is the hacking of the leading exchange Mt. Gox, Wikipedia summarizes it as follows:Mt. Gox announced that approximately 850,000 bitcoins belonging to customers and the company were missing and likely stolen, an amount valued at more than $450 million at the time.[9][10] Although 200,000 bitcoins have since been "found", the reason(s) for the disappearance—theft, fraud, mismanagement, or a combination of these—were initially unclear. New evidence presented in April 2015 by Tokyo security company WizSec led them to conclude that "most or all of the missing bitcoins were stolen straight out of the Mt. Gox hot wallet over time, beginning in late 2011."
After China banned Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and closed down bitcoin exchanges the price of bitcoin fell. South Korea also banned ICOs. There was also a drop after a rise when a hard fork in bitcoin was avoided recently but the price soon recovered. Some money appeared to be transferring to alternatives to bitcoin such as bitcoin cash and litecoin.
Bianchi explained: "This tells one simple story; the main risk for Bitcoin comes from external factors such as regulatory intervention and security breaches which might hit the credibility of the entire protocol and its effective usefulness as a method of payment/store of value."
He also expects that competing currencies like bitcoin cash could impact the original bitcoin currently generating all the attention : "The very open source nature of Bitcoin makes it vulnerable to competition, although the “first-mover” advantage had so far gave a gap with other competitors which is hard to close."
There are many warnings about the risks of investing in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies including a recent one by Charlie Lee the founder of litecoin.
Perhaps the future is not ours to see, especially in this case, and we will just have to wait and see what happens. However, there are predictions in the appended video.

Previously published in Digital Journal

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Tax credit for EV purchase survives in recent tax bill

(December 16)The US tax credit of up to $7,500 on the purchase of an electric vehicle (EV) has managed to survive in the latest Trump tax plan. An earlier House bill would have ended the Obama-era credit as of the end of this year.

Earlier House bill would have ended EV tax credit
A bill passed by the House of Representatives in November would have ended the credit which ranges between $2,500 and $7,500 depending on the size of the EV and its battery capacity. A later bill passed in Senate in November kept the credit along with a number of other items that were cut in the version passed through the House of Representatives.
The credit would be phased out once a manufacturer sells 200,000 EV's as explained on the appended video.
Removal of the tax credit could crimp demand for EV's just as many auto makers are directing more investment towards EV's. EV's are a hard sell because of their high initial cost, limited charging infrastructure and range without being recharged. Gas prices are still relatively low as well.
Automakers and others successfully lobby to keep discount
The text of the reconciled bill has now been released and the tax credit was not ended.
A letter by two dozen mayors in support of keeping the credit along with pressure from auto manufacturers helped change the final bill to keep the discount. There was also pressure from the general public and environmentalists.
Automakers relieved at retention of discount
The large discount was a major factor in making the EV competitive in price with gas and diesel powered vehicles.
Many popular credits and deductions in other areas were zapped in the bill as the Trump administration tries to offset the slashes to corporate and other tax rates.
The automakers also want to encourage use of EV's to counteract the costs of increased emission regulations. Demand for EV's is already weak. The elimination of the subsidy would result in even less demand.
Tax bill remains a boon for corporations
The reconciled bill would permanently slash tax rates while offering only temporary cuts for individuals.
The corporate tax rate is to be cut from 35 percent to just 21 percent.
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the bill will lower federal revenue by a whopping $1.45 trillion over a decade but this is within the limit of $1.5 trillion allowed a year under Senate rules.
The bill also takes away many existing benefits. It repeals the individual mandate in Obamacare. This represents a cut of $338 billion from the health care budget and is expected to leave 13 million uninsured by 2027.
The bill also does away with the minimum tax saving corporations billions.
The bill should be voted on in the House of Representatives on Tuesday and by the Senate later. It is hoped that it will be available for Trump to sign before Xmas.
Previously published in Digital Journal

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Crowd-funding platform helps Doug Jones win in Alabama

- Democrat Doug Jones used online funding to support his campaign and relied on a platform called ActBlue. Crowdfunding is nothing new in politics and specialty platforms such as ActBlue are increasing in number.
An article in Techrepublic suggests that the way the campaign was funded "represents a sea change in the digital transformation of politics." The article notes that ActBlue had raised more than $474 million in 2017 and had a record number of donations. Unfortunately it is not made clear if these donations were all for the Jones campaign
As far back as 2004 Howard Dean made use of certain crowdfunding practices and also social media platforms to drive his campaign.
Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2008 also used crowdfunding techniques and social media. Obama also used You Tube.
Techrepublic claims: "Social media and online fundraising are now almost foundational in political campaigns, and big data is emerging as the next tech trend that will further drive its digital transformation."
In the 2016 campaign big data gave insights into how much candidates were raising, voter sentiment and much more. A firm called CFB strategies raised about $92 million during the 2016 campaign.
Techrepublic suggests that AI is the next logical step in analyzing big data in politics. However, such technology could create cyber-security problems
However, both main parties can use these techniques and they have been around for a long time. There is little evidence that any special new technology was crucial to the victory of Jones.
ActBlue is a US political action committee that was established over decade ago in 204. It is a platform designed to raise money on the internet for Democratic Party candidates of their choice. However, it does not endorse any individual candidates.
By the 2014 election cycle more than 445 federal candidates and committees used the service. Campaigns pay a 3.95 percentage of donations to fund the platform.
On April Fool's Day 2008 ActBlue announced it would begin collecting donations for US candidates in Euros due to the falling value of the US dollar.
Democratic super PAC Highway 31
Highway 31 is a political action committee(PAC) specifically designed to collect funds and otherwise help the Doug Jones campaign. Highway 31 connects the cities of Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile.
In the final weeks of the campaign Highway 31 spent $4.1 million compared to just $1.3 spent by outside groups backing Moore.
It was surely these funds collected through a traditional PAC that had as much or more influence on the election of Jones over Moore as the ActBlue funds.
Roy Moore was a poor candidate
Moore not only faced accusations of sexual misconduct with three teenagers, including one who was 14 at the time of the incident when Moore was in his thirties, but was elected to be Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court only to be removed. He was elected a second time and was suspended then resigned. This is not exactly a stellar record.
Moore is strongly supported by Steve Bannon the nationalist, a thorn in the side of establishment Republicans. Some establishment Republicans refused to support Moore and no doubt many Republican voters just did not vote. Some probably even chose the Democrat Jones as the "lesser of evils".
In contrast, Jones was a highly attractive candidate for progressive voters. Jones was one of two prosecutors who were able to obtain a conviction in the case of two KKK members who were involved in the September 1963 bombing of a church which left four young girls dead. The conviction was almost 40 years after the event.
Jones believes in climate change and abortion rights positions that would attract funding from liberals not only in Alabama but widely throughout the U.S. Here was an opportunity to turn the tables on the Republicans, and especially Bannon and Trump.
Voting results
Jones won because of the huge vote in his favour by black voters and also because Democrats did better than earlier elections and Moore was simply unable to keep the votes that Trump had gained even though he had Trump's support. However the vote was close. CNN exit polls showed Jones winning 49.9 percent of the vote and Moore 48.4 percent. Write-in candidates received 1.7 percent of the vote.
It is not close enough for an automatic recount but Moore has yet to accept the result.
Women as a group preferred Jones by 57 percent over Moore but this was only due to the fact that 98 percent of black women voted for Jones. A majority of white women 63 percent actually voted for Moore. Of all white voters only 30 percent chose Jones. It was black votes that won the election together with disillusionment on the part of many Republican voters.
Taking into consideration all white voters. 68 percent still voted for Moore and the vote was especially strong in rural areas for Moore. White college-educated women were a group of whites who voted in favor of Jones, 57 percent. Considering college graduates overall only 43 percent favored Jones.
A large percentage of white males voted for Moore 72 percent. However, two percent wrote in candidates a move that no doubt helped Jones to his narrow victory.
President Trump seemed to take the Jones win in stride and did not engage in his usual blame game but congratulated Jones saying that a win is a win. He said that Alabamans are great and that Republicans would have another shot at the seat in a short time.
Even Jones appeared a bit surprised at his win saying in his victory speech: "I got to tell you, I think that I have been waiting all my life, and now I just don't know what the hell to say. I am truly, truly overwhelmed. But, you know, folks, and you have all heard me say this at one point or another in this campaign, I have always believed that the people of Alabama have more in common than to divide us."
The last Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama was in 1992.
No doubt some will argue that the reason that Jones won was that Russia had decided that it would not intervene to help Moore!

Previously published in Digital Journal

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Charlie Lee Litecoin founder warns of risks of buying litecoin

Recently the price of litecoin a smaller competitor of bitcoin, and in many ways similar, shared in the meteoric rise of its big brother. Its price more than doubled from Sunday Dec. 10 to over $300 on Tuesday morning.

Litecoin(LTC) is now the fourth largest crypto coin by market cap.
Litecoin creator Charlie Lee sounds warning for litecoin buyers

Many litecoin enthusiasts were busy celebrating the rise in their holdings. However, Charlie Lee a former director of engineering at the well-known crypto-exchange Coinbase sounded a clear warning last Monday night.
Lee wrote: "Sorry to spoil the party, but I need to reign in the excitement a bit…,Buying LTC is extremely risky. I expect us to have a multi-year bear market like the one we just had where LTC dropped 90% in value ($48 to $4). So if you can't handle LTC dropping to $20, don't buy!"
Joe Clayton who heads the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also had words of warning: "The world's social media platforms and financial markets are abuzz about cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings. There are tales of fortunes made and dreamed to be made. Investors should understand that to date no initial coin offerings have been registered with the SEC. The SEC also has not to date approved for listing and trading any exchange-traded products (such as ETFs) holding cryptocurrencies or other assets related to cryptocurrencies. If any person today tells you otherwise, be especially wary."
Causes of litecoin's rise
Many think that bitcoin price growth is positively impacted by the start of futures trading on the Chicago Board of Exchange (CBOE) and the prospect of more futures trading by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange(CME) later this month.
The increased trading activity in bitcoin has trickled down into other cryptocurrencies such as litecoin.
The increased activity in bitcoin trading is not only driving up transaction fees but clogging the network. Litecoin has faster speeds than bitcoin transactions and lower transaction costs making it more attractive.
Coinbase, the popular cryptocurrency exchange is adding an astonishing 100,000 new users a day and as noted in a recent Digital Journal article was for a time the number one app on the Apple App Store.
Coinbase is only dealing with bitcoin and litecoin as well as the second largest coin etherium (ether).
Some buyers are beginning to realize that litecoin has advantages over bitcoin in terms of speedier transactions and lower fees as well as having many more coins available. As a result its price is not yet that high.
Even though the prices of both bitcoin and litecoin have created what many consider an unsustainable bubble, many inexperienced buyers may be entering the market so that they do not miss out on the tremendous games that many who entered the market earlier have gained.
Finally the creator of litecoin Charlie Lee has often been appearing on media so that litecoin has a stronger presence in the public mind. Lee is hardly a charismatic figure but a low key straight-sounding chap but this may actually be a plus as he does not sound like an insincere huckster. Lee has been on CNBC and Glenn Beck as shown on the appended videos.
With the huge increase in prices news media have begun to cover the news about Litecoin and this too no doubt creates more buying interest.
Can the upward trend last?
Even Charlie Lee warns that the present trend is ultimately unsustainable. Lee notes that there could be a multi-year bear market with the litecoin price dropping as low as $20.
At the very least there is likely to be a correction of considerable magnitude, no doubt thousands of dollars in the case of bitcoin.
However, others point out that new players are coming in all the time and that the market is nowhere near saturation but is constantly growing. In the case of bitcoin the number of coins is quite limited so any new demand will push the price up even further. Litecoin has more coins so the movement may not be as large.
For the present the market is likely to show more volatility with large swings rather than simply a burst of the bubble with prices continuing down and down.

Previously published in Digital Journal

Monday, December 25, 2017

Pepsico orders 100 Testa Class 8 heavy duty electric trucks

PepsiCo is the latest company to reveal orders for the Tesla Class 8 heavy duty electric semi truck. Earlier Budweiser beer brewer Anheuser-Bush announced that it had put money down for 40 units.
 1 of 2 
Pepsico order largest so far
Pepsico was required to put down a $20,000 deposit for each of the units. Earlier the down payment was just $5,000. The Pepsico order is the largest so far.
The order represents just a small percentage of the over 10,000 trucks operated by Pepsi. It may be many years before electric semi trucks make up a large part of the global fleet.
At this stage the vehicles ordered just represent pilot projects for the different firms placing the orders.
Other firms also have already placed orders

Walmart has placed orders for fifteen of the semi trucks in the US and Canada. The company said it hoped that it will help Walmart lower emissions noting: "We have a long history of testing new technology -- including alternative-fuel trucks -- and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle."
Earlier Meijer a supermarket chain in Michigan also placed $5,000 down for four trucks. J.B Hunts Transport Services a top trucking company said it had reserved multiple trucks.
CEO of Hunts, John Roberts said: "Reserving Tesla trucks marks an important step in our efforts to implement industry-changing technology." Roberts claimed that the trucks would be most beneficial on local routes and intended to use them first on the west coast of the US.
Loblaws the Canadian grocery chain also ordered some of the trucks.
Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch ordered 40 trucks
James Sembrot, head of Anheuser-Busch's head of logistics strategy said that the company was constantly trying make its supply chain more sustainable, efficient and innovative: "This investment in Tesla semi-trucks helps us achieve these goals while improving road safety and lowering our environmental impact."
Tesla says trucks will be available in 2019
Tesla has a long history of pushing back deadlines for production of its vehicles.
At present the company is behind in production of its new Model 3 sedan that it hopes to mass produce. It began production in June but by October1st had produced just 260.
Cost and features of the new semi
The base price is expected to be $150,000 for a truck with a 300 mile driving range on one charge or $180,000 for one with a longer range of 500 miles. The special "Founders Series" will require payment up front of $200,000.
Although diesel trucks are cheaper and can go further Tesla claims that the electric trucks will pay for themselves in just two years through saving on fuel costs.
As a recent Digital Journal argues new battery technology will be needed for Tesla to keep its promises.
Tesla trucks still will not have the driving range of diesel trucks and will no doubt first be used on shorter routes.
There is no passenger seat. The driver sits in the middle allowing the truck to have a more aerodynamic shape.
Tesla claims the truck can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles an hour in just 20 seconds even with a full load.
The company claims there will be shorter delivery times and savings for the trucking company.
Trucking companies will be watching closely the results of the pilot projects. However, they may have to wait a considerable time before they can make their first observations.
Previously published in Digital Journal

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Artificial Intelligence being used to study chicken communication

Researchers are using machine learning technology to understand and analyze patterns in chicken speech. The scientists hope to better inform farmers about the health and happiness of their poultry.

New technologies continue to revolutionize the business of farming — from self-driving tractors to IoT sensors monitoring crops. However, scientists at the University of Georgia University and Georgia Institute of Technology are taking a different approach to monitoring the health of farm animals.
Over the last five years, both engineers and poultry scientists have been studying chicken "language" at the two institutions hoping to be able to better use the information gleaned from their studies to help poultry farmers such as Mitchell.
Chickens are chatty creatures
Kevin Mitchell of Wilcox Farms, with properties in both Washington State and Oregon, notes that chickens make sounds that exhibit "patterns of speech" that reveal a considerable amount of information about their well-being.
Mitchell says chickens usually make the most noise in the morning with many clucks, chortles, and caws. When he hears these sounds, Mitchell claims he knows they are reasonably healthy and happy.
In the evening when they’re preparing to roost Mitchell claims, the chickens are much more mellow, cooing softly.
When a hen lays an egg it issues a series of clucks, like drumbeats that culminate in a loud "buck-caw" as heard on one of the appended videos.
When chickens detect an aerial predator approaching they produce a short, high-pitched shriek as also heard on one of the appended videos.
The repetitive clucking often heard when you approach chickens is in fact an alarm call as well indicating a predator may be approaching on the ground.
Studies at the University of Georgia and Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Tech research engineer Wayne Daley and his colleagues studied the effects on 6 to 12 broiler chickens of moderately stressful conditions and recorded their vocalizations. The conditions included increased ammonia levels in the air, minor infections and higher temperatures.
The resulting audio data was fed into an AI learning program that enabled it to learn the difference between contented and distressed birds through their vocalizations.
What the AI has learned
The program can now detect when birds are uncomfortable due to heat stress on the basis of the sounds they are making.
It can also detect when the birds have a respiratory infection because of the sound they make when mucus clogs their airways.
Daley notes: “A lot of poultry farmers we have worked with say they can hear when something is wrong with a flock, but they can’t tell us exactly how they know that. There’s a lot of subtlety. We’re learning that there are changes in the frequency of the sounds and the levels—the amplitude or loudness—that the machines can pick up on.”
Chicken "language" may be more complex than previously thought
Carolynn Smith a biologist at Macquarie University in Australia, a leading expert on chicken vocalizations, together with other scientists have discovered that chicken communications appear to be more complicated and nuanced than previously thought.
For example, roosters do not automatically shriek every time they see an aerial predator. After all, the shriek makes them more vulnerable in that the predator can hear it. If there are females around they usually do sound the alarm. However, if they are alone or surrounded by other males they often stay quiet. They also shriek more often when there is cover nearby where they can be safe.
Technology in commercial chicken farms a challenge for AI
One of the problems facing researchers is that large scale commercial chicken farms are very noisy as they have large fans meant to circulate air as well as large heater fans.
Given the background noise it becomes difficult for the AI software to simply concentrate on the sounds of the chickens. The challenge will be to have the software filter out the loud background noises.
When this is solved, the AI software can simply be added to the existing advanced technology which includes the ability to monitor and modify lighting, temperature, and ventilation. The farmer can also activate automatic feeding systems from their phones or computers. The audio AI data would just be one more tool to monitor the conditions of the fowl.

Previously published in Digital Journal

Thursday, December 21, 2017

On December 12th bitcoin set another high of $17,615

(December 12)Bitcoin set another high today with CoinDesk recording an intra-day high of $17,615. Many analysts think that the rise could have been fueled in part by the launch of bitcoin futures last Sunday evening by Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE).

Other cryptocurrencies such as litecoin are also showing a surge in popularity. Bitcoin is up over 1600 percent this year according to Yahoo Finance. Yahoo lists the new high at $17,580. Perhaps this was an earlier listing than that of CoinDesk or from a single exchange. Coindesk uses an average price from several exchanges. The two are not far apart in any event.
Bitcoin price rise is not dampening demand for gold
Jeffrie Currie, head of commodities research for Goldman Sachs said that there was no evidence that the high demand for bitcoin was weakening demand for gold.
Currie said that he thinks the investors pools for gold and bitcoin are different. He also said that bitcoin's lack of regulation will keep traditional investors out of the bitcoin market.
Currie said: "In our view, bitcoin is attracting more speculative inflows relative to gold."
Currie noted that gold exchange trading funds (ETFs) are at their highest level in over four years, a sign that there is no mass exit from gold into bitcoin.
Currie said that while the lack of liquidity and high volatility of bitcoin made it interesting, it will not likely tempt investors away from the diversification and hedging benefits of gold.
The CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein said some time ago that he believes it is too early yet for the bank to consider a bitcoin strategy but that may change now that there are bitcoin futures. In November he said that while he was not comfortable with bitcoin he was nevertheless open to crytpocurrency.
Bitcoin bulls see bitcoin price up to $20,000
Price chart analysis by bitcoin bulls leads them to predict that the price of the coin could continue up to the $20,000 level.
When the price dipped over the weekend solid demand developed around the $14,000 level fueling a recovery that ended up with record highs yesterday over $17,000.
On social media some investors express fears of at least a minor pullback but the price chart analysis according to the bulls shows that the broader outlook is for the price to continue up.
Detailed analysis of the chart can be found here.
If there is a dip support is expected at the $14,000 level. Two end-of-day closes below $14,000 would negate the bullish view.
Bitcoin futures trading
Futures trading began at the Chicago Board Options Exchange on Sunday evening as described in a recent Digital Journal article. The website was not available for a time at the launch apparently due to heavy volume.
On Monday the trading went largely according to plan according to the CEO of CBOE,
The circuit breakers that pause trading when volatility is excessive were triggered twice during the first six hours of trading but were not triggered at all on Monday.
Michael Mollet, CBOE director of product development said:"The trading has been orderly. We hit a couple of our circuit-breaker halts, but those were due to price movement in futures and not due to any systems issues. We halted like our rules said we would and opened back up."
Market data show that the January futures contract is trading at around $18,000 with 197 contracts since the December 12th session began.
The Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group (CME) is expected to also launch bitcoin futures trading on December 18th.
As I write this the price of bitcoin is not far off its recent high and is at $17, 238. Check this site for the present price.

Published previously in Digital Journal

Bitcoin competitor litecoin reaches new high December 11th

(December 11) Not only bitcoin has been soaring to new heights lately but Litecoin a competitive coin released by Charlie Lee on October 13th 2013 based on the bitcoin core but having several differences.

Litecoin's new high
During today's trading the price of the currency rose as high as $186.89 according to CoinMarketCap.
While this may seem minuscule compared to bitcoin's sprint up to $17,000 plus, Litecoin started 2017 at a mere $4.33. At that price anyone could buy a few. Your return up to now would be about 4,215 percent, quite a bit better than bank interest! It also even compares well with the gain on bitcoin which is somewhat more than 1,600 percent. Some exchanges put the recent high at $18,300 with a gain of 1,800 percent for the year but that is still lower than the litecoin gain.
The evidence seems clear that Litecoin's gain so far this year is over twice that of bitcoin even though all the press and chatter is about bitcoin.
Litecoin often rises and falls in close concert with bitcoin
Some even suggest that litecoin is cruising in bitcoin's wake or riding bitcoin's coattails.
A recent CoinDesk article claimed that bitcoin and litecoin were "birds of a feather".
While the aforementioned explanations may provide a better sense of why both Bitcoin and Litecoin have pushed higher this year, certain analysts have started offering different points of view.
Some of them have asserted that Litecoin is a "Bitcoin hedge," as the latter currency's network is dealing with a high level of unconfirmed transactions.
Litecoin as a bitcoin hedge
Mati Greenspan, senior market analyst for eToro, was in this camp.
"Litecoin is more scalable by nature and with bitcoins mempool currently flooded with unconfirmed transactions Litecoin is looking much better than BTC as a medium of exchange," he said.
Charles Hayter, co-founder and CEO of digital currency platform CryptoCompare, also agreed that Litecoin is a Bitcoin hedge, stating that while the two are very similar, the altcoin has greater upside potential and less downside risk.
Bitcoin Alternative
Other market observers took a different tack, describing Litecoin as an investment that has been receiving tailwinds as market participants flock to cryptocurrencies.
Jeff Koyen, strategic advisor for 360 Blockchain, stated:
"All the attention paid to bitcoin in the past few weeks has served as a rising tide for all cryptocurrencies," he said.
"But with bitcoin overbought at the moment and Ethereum relatively flat, they're turning to Litecoin -- a grande dame crypto with reliable underpinnings and enough similarities to bitcoin that they're comfortable buying."
Yazan Barghuthi, project lead at Jibrel Network, also weighed in on the situation:
"We're going to see a lot of value flow into alt-coins driven by portfolio diversification and realization of gains," he stated. In a speculative market, with new non-savvy entrants, the alt-coins that will do the best are the ones with highest accessibility. With LTC being provided across the main exchanges - i.e. is highly accessible to the average investor, it is no surprise to see a large chunk of the Bitcoin to Altcoin flow towards LTC."

Previously published in Digital Journal

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Los Angeles fire department using surveillance drones to help fight wildfires

(December 11) The horrible fires over Los Angeles, San Diego, and Ventura counties that have destroyed over 500 structures and forced over 200,000 to flee is now being surveyed by drones which can track the path of the fire and survey damaged property.
Los Angeles Fire Dept. using drones
Chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) Ralph Terrazas said at a recent news conference: “For the first time ever, we’re going to use our drones,"
Shortly after Terrazas' remarks, a firefighter launched one of two quadcopters and flew it over the adjacent Skirball fire. The fire destroyed at least six mansions in the luxurious Bel Air area.
As can be seen from the attached video, the drones give a clear detailed view of the fire damage from their excellent cameras.
The drones also gave the firefighters information on remaining hotspots and a view of the exact path of the fire.
Although the Skirball fire is tiny compared to many other wildfires burning in the LA area, it nevertheless provided a good test run for the drones as it is near homes and the 405 freeway. It showed how much detail the drones can see.
There were two tests each lasting about a half hour.
Special waivers needed to launch drones
The emergency services need to get a special certificate from the FAA. They apply for "Certificates of Waiver or Authorization" for specific missions. This is necessary to avoid violating rules restricting the use of the drones and the emergency services are bound by these rules just as are commercial enterprises.
Drones soon pay for themselves
Although the department spent $50,000 for 8 drones, the drones eliminate the need to rent infrared cameras that are attached to helicopters. The helicopter flights equipped with cameras have very steep operating costs compared to the drones.
According to Dronefly a vendor of these drones, 347 different public services bought drones from 2009 to 2017. Sixty nine were fire departments.
London firefighters used a drone during the Grenfell Tower blaze last June to get a good idea of where the flames were spreading and where residents might be trapped.
Ordinary fixed wing planes sometimes cannot operate against southern California fires
At times the Santa Ana winds are so strong that fixed wing planes cannot operate. The job of dropping fire retardant falls to helicopter pilots. The giant Boeing 747 SuperTanker is often not of much use given the weather and the terrain.
Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky, and Aurora Flight Sciences are developing autonomous helicopters who might be able to do some of the work that piloted helicopters do now.
Flying cars
Added to the mix of drones and autonomous helicopters there may be flying cars.
Firefighters around the world are watching as vertical takeoff and landing vehicles are being developed.
Others are interested in their development as well. The vehicles will be great for shuttling people around cities. They would be useful in emergencies and would circumvent traffic jams. They could also airlift victims from burning buildings to hospitals. They would have lower operating costs than helicopters and simpler controls.
Wired takes a look at some 10 different flying car concepts in development. It may be some time before any of these are commercially viable and regulations exist governing their use.

Previously published in Digital Journal

Launch of first bitcoin futures exchange at CBOE causes website problems

(December 11)The Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) launched its first bitcoin futures contracts at 6 PM Eastern Standard Time this Sunday evening December 10.
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Too much traffic at launch
The website of CBOE became unavailable just as the bitcoin futures contract was launched. CBOE blamed the downtime on the heavy traffic. However, the incident also happened at the same time as a sudden jump in the price of bitcoin. It went from $14,509 at 22.59 Coordinated Universal time (UTC) to $15,732 at 23:06 UTC.
First future contract sales
The first contracts will expire on January 17th 2018 with other contracts to expire on March 14th. CNBC claims that 672 January contracts had been sold as of 7:10 PM with CNBC reporting the price at $15,800.
A Reuters report said that trading opened at $15,460 but then leaped to a high of $17,000 on Monday (UTC). When the Reuters article went to press the price was quoted at $17,120 a premium of one thousand dollars over its price on the Gemini exchange.
The futures are cash-settled contracts based on the auction price of bitcoin in U.S. dollars on the Gemini exchange. The Gemini Exchange is owned and operated by the cryptocurrency entrepreneurs Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
Today's launching may be a sign of more future developments
The launch of the futures trading allows investors to bet for or against the bitcoin price without buying or selling the coin.
A further development slated for next week is the launching of futures trading by the huge Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).
There is hope that the future trading will lead to the revival of pressure for development of a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF).
Edward Tilly CEO of the CBOE said that the exchange could use information from the futures trading to make a case before the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to allow the development both of bitcoin-linked ETS but also exchange-trade notes (ETNs)
ETFs are tradeable securities linked to an index, commodity or basket of assets and can be purchased by retail investors. People who are attracted to bitcoin due to its price gains might find the ETFs appealing since they would not involve the hassles and the risks involved with storing the coin and securing it.
Earlier this year, the SEC rejected an attempt by Gemini to start an ETF. One SEC concern was the lack of other regulated bitcoin products. However the bitcoin futures trading will be regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Another attempt to start an ETF could be looked on more favorably.
Tilly said: "All of that information goes into building the next steps. One of those potential next steps would be moving into ETFs and ETNs that would take SEC approval."
Price of bitcoin recovering
After reaching a low of around $13,300 yesterday, the price of bitcoin climbed back up and opened on Monday about four hours ago at over $15,000 but as I write this it is now at about $16,300 a gain of well over $1,200 in four hours. Volatility appears to persist for now.

Previously published n Digital Journal

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