Friday, March 4, 2016

Bitcoin Could Help Cut Power Bills


Accenture a multinational service and consultancy firm has created a smartplug which tends to leverages blockchain technology in seeking the lowest tariff possible thus saving money by reducing the electricity costs whenever it is possible. Research recommends that the technology behind the Bitcoin virtual currency could be helpful in reducing electricity bills.

A blockchain based smart plug has been created by technologist at Accenture which tends to adjust power consumption every minute. The blockchain is the automated ledger which tends to underpins Bitcoin, tracking where the coins are spent and swapped. The plug shops for various power suppliers and would sign up for a low-priced tariff it comes across one.

Accenture has mentioned that the smart plug can help people on low incomes who may pay directly for power. According to Emmanuel Viale, head of the Accenture team at the firm’s French research lab which tends to work on the plug, has commented that the smart plug tends to adapt the basic Bitcoin blockchain technology in making it more active.

 Rather than just resolving and confirming the records of transaction, Accenture work helps in changing the blockchain in permitting it to negotiate deals on behalf of its owner. Mr Viale has mentioned that `it is about how one puts more business behaviour or logic in the blockchain and that this essentially embeds a `smart contract’ in the digital ledger.

Searches for Energy Price When Demand is High/Low 

The smart plug model tends to work with the other gadgets in the house which monitors the power use. It tends to search for energy prices when the demand is high or low and then utilises the modified blockchain in order to switch suppliers if it finds a cheaper source.

Mr Viale had said that so far the Accenture system was just a proof of concept though it could help several people on lower incomes who seem to pay for their power through a meter. With the capability of shifting suppliers, it could save this group with over £660m in the UK annually,recommend Accenture research. Blockchain-based system which tends to act on behalf of its owner could also be useful as the Internet of Things becomes more universal according to Mr Viale.

He adds that handling of several various gadgets could be complicated without a much centralised system. A mobile services expert at analyst firm CCS Insight, Martin Garner stated that blockchains were beginning to crop up in various areas inclusive in share trading, fishing rights databases as well as land registry claims. He said that they had two main attractions for the Internet of Things.

Substantial Ventures in Exploring/Investing in Blockchain 

He further added that they avoid dependence on any particular supplier or ecosystem. Some users seem to have concerns regarding the possible dominance of key internet players developing for instance, the Google-of-Things or the Amazon-of-Things.

The second attraction is a means of enabling autonomous trading between things like the appliances in your home being set up to re-order supplies from a pre-approved list of suppliers. As the leading independent services firm in the world, Accenture has made substantial ventures in exploring as well as investing in blockchain or distributed ledger technology recently.

Moreover, the company also became one of the investors in blockchain-startup, Digital Asset in January. A new partnership following its investment with Digital Asset would also see blockchain solution together with ideas offered and organized to the global client base of the consulting firm. Accenture has been servicing 42 of the top 50 financial institutions worldwide, thus making its blockchain attempt, a substantial one to the Bitcoin technology.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Pensions still the most effective savings option, says IFS


Pension – The Most Tax-Efficient Kind of Savings

Pensions still tends to be the most tax-efficient kind of savings, inspite of the tax changes, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies – IFS. It seems to be the big winners since they are subject to various tax advantages. The pension contributions are taken out of untaxed income resulting in paying into a pension that actually lowers the income tax bill.

Moreover, the returns on your investments are not taxed though one tends to pay tax on withdrawals. Besides this one tends to take 25% of the pension as a lump sum without having to pay a penny in tax. According to IFS, `pension saving is in effect subsidised’.

 The IFS had made a comparison of saving in a pension with buying a house, putting funds in an Individual Saving Account –Isa, or investing in buy-to-let property. The foremost motive is that under the auto enrolment programme, employers tend to match employee contributions resulting in workers getting 60% increase to their pension, according to IFS. According to the report, since the employers seldom make equivalent offers matching employees’ contribution, for instance in an Isa or a house, it tends to make savings in a pension more attractive comparative to other assets.

Personal Savings Allowance – PSA

The research took into accountthe new Personal Savings Allowance – PSA as well as the changes to dividend taxation which will be effective in April and probable changes to pension taxation. The government had earlier mentioned that any such changes would motivate people in saving. When the PSA tends to become effective, basic rate taxpayer would not pay tax on the first £1,000 of their saving income while higher rate taxpayers would be getting an allowance of £500.

IFS have mentioned that due to this, the 16m people would stop paying any interest on their income savings and 95% of the people would no longer have their savings taxed. But the report has stated that the change would weaken the incentive for several people in saving in an Isa.

It stated that for most of the people, the ordinary bank account would in effect be tax-free just the same way as cash Isas and there would be little incentive in saving in a cash Isa. Moreover, the PSA would also mean an end to tax deduction at source on the saving accounts that would be of certain help to pensioners.

The research also observed that people desiring to invest in property would make a much better tax-efficient choice by investing in their own home instead of becoming buy-to-let landlords. The report further states that `investment in owner occupied housing is significantly more tax-advantaged than the investment in property to-let, prior to recently announced changed to the treatment of mortgage interest for landlords.

There have been plenty of talks regarding further changes to pension that would be announced in the next month’s Budget. The present thinking seems to be that the government would be setting a flat rate of around 30% and this would essentially represent a further increase to pension saving for basic rate taxpayers who tend to currently enjoy tax relief of 20% on their contribution.

 However, it will dip the appeal of pensions to higher rate as well as additional rate taxpayers who tend to enjoy tax relief of 40% and 45% presently.

The current thinking seems to be that the government will set a flat rate of somewhere around 30%. This will actually represent a further boost to pension saving for basic rate taxpayers, who currently enjoy tax relief of 20% on their contributions, but will dent the appeal of pensions to higher rate and additional rate taxpayers who enjoy tax relief of 40% and 45% at the moment.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

China Replaces Securities Regulator Xiao Gang

Xiao Gang Replaced by Liu Shivu – China Securities Regulatory Commission


China has removed the head of its securities regulator after a stormy period in the country’s stock market, by appointing a top state banking executive in his place since leaders tend to move in restoring confidence in the economy. The announcement on the official Xinhua news agency recently trails a string of assurances from senior leaders succeeding the Lunar New Year holiday which China would be supporting in slowing economy as well as steadying its shaky currency.

According to media report, Xiao Gang has been replaced by Liu Shivu as the chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission – CSRC as it tried to tackle main volatility in its stock markets. Mr Xiao had been in charge when China’s market had crashed in mid-2015 at one point and the Shenzhen and Shanghai stock exchanges had lost around 40% of their value. Mr Xiao who had become the CSRC chair in March 2013 had faced criticism for mishandling the crisis. Under his supervision, the new circuit breaker mechanism of China which was designed to limit any market sell-off had been organized twice in January in reaction to the stock market drop though was then scrapped totally after it had cause additional panic.

Departure of Xiao – Not a Surprise

Zhang Kaihua, fund manager of Nanjing-based hedge fund Huyang Investment stated that the departure of Xiao was not a surprise after the recent stock disaster and this is a role which is vulnerable to public criticism since most of the Chinese retail investors are intended to lose money in such markets. Xiao and the CSRC had come under fire as Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets of China had collapsed to about 40% within a few months last summer.

It was a further blow when a stock index circuit breaker that had been introduced in January to limit stock market losses had to be deactivated after four days of use since it was responsible for worsening a sharp selloff. The online media had labelled Xiao as `Mr Circuit Breaker’. According to Reuter’s reports, Xiao 57 had offered to resign after the `circuit breaker’ failure.A Shanghai-based analyst at Capital Securities Corp, Zheng Chunming had informed Bloomberg News that someone had to shoulder the responsibility after the suspension of the circuit breaker system.

Liu – Experience in Financial Sector

Mr Liu 54, had been the vice governor of China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, prior to becoming the chairman of the Agricultural Bankof China, which was the country’s third largest lender in 2012. On Weibo, the Chinese micro-blogging site, commentators recently played on Mr Liu’s name speculating if his tenure would bring about a `bull market’ of leave a `dead fish’ behind. Zhang stated that `Liu had a lot of experience in financial sector though there would be some policy uncertainty in the short term since it would take at least six months for the earlier banker to get used to his new role.

The managing director, sales trading at Haitong International Securities Group in Hong Kong, Andrew Sullivan said that removing Xiao had been mainly expected but by bring in the AgBank chairman; they are really not bringing anybody with a fresh market perspective but a political insider. Liu had spent major part of his career at the People’s Bank of China escalating to deputy governor, holding the post from 2006 till he left in late 2014 to head the AgBank.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Bitwalking Dollars - Digital Currency Pays People to Walk

Digital Crypto-Currency Generated by Human Movement

Digital crypto-currency generated by human movement has been launched and the bitwalking dollars would be earned by walking which would be different from other digital currencies like Bitcoins that are mined by computers. A phone application tends to count and verify the user’s steps with walkers earning around 1 BW$ for about 10,000 steps. Originally user would be given the opportunity of spending what they earn in an online store or trade them for cash.

Nissan Bahar and Franky Imbesi, the founders of the project have drawn over $10m of initial funding from mostly Japanese investors in helping to launch the currency as well as in creating the bank that tend to verify steps and the transfers.

Murata, the Japanese electronics giant is working on a wearable wristband which would be providing a substitute of carrying a smartphone and show how many BW$, the wearer seems to earn. Shoe manufacturers are also ready to accept the currency where a UK high street bank is in talks in partnering with the project at one of the biggest music festivals in UK, next year. The founders tend to have a track record of disruptive technology which could support developing nations as much richer ones.

Bitwalking Scheme Help in Transforming Lives

Last year, Keepod, a $7 USB stick which tends to act like a computer had been launched in Nairobi, Kenya. The purpose of Bitwalking is to take the benefit of the trend for fitness trackers by providing an extra incentive in keeping fit.

The global scheme intends to partner with sportswear brands, health services, environmental groups, health insurance firms as well as possibly advertisers who may be offered exclusive visions in the targeting audiences. In the near future, employers could be invited in taking part in a scheme which would be offered to their employees in encouraging them to stay fitter with the currency they tend to earn converted and then paid along with their salaries.

The average person in developed nations would be earning about 15 BW$ per month, though it is anticipated that in poorer countries, where the people would have to walk further for work or school or just to collect water, the Bitwalking scheme could help in transforming lives.

Education on How to Use Money in Additional Opportunities

The power Bitwalking could make in the developing countries is not lost on the founders and is one of the main reasons for creating the currency. In Malawi, one of the African nations, tojoin at the time of the launch, the average rural wage was just US$1.5 per day.

Karen Chinkwita, business advisor runs Jubilee Enterprises providing business guidance to young people in Lilongwe and has commented that there could be a temptation for some to walk rather than work. Most of them would prefer to earn more money and would do both. With some education one can teach them how to use that money in creating additional opportunities.

 Carl Meyer, Bitwalking manager for Malawi, has established the first two Bitwalking hubs in Ligonwe and Mthuntama wherein local people would be trained on how to trade the BW$ online for US$ or the local currency, Malawi Kwacha. Bitwalking has not formally released the procedure utilised in verifying steps but states that it uses the handsets’ GPS position and the Wi-Fi connection for the purpose of calculating distance travelled. The phone reports the type of movement and speed as measured by the accelerometer.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Tax and Encryption Rows Cast Shadow on UK Tech Boom

Ed vaiez

Tax/Encryption Commotion between Tech Giants/Government

Digital minister Ed Vaizey MP has stated that tax and encryption commotions between tech giants and government need not dominate the growing tech industry of UK. Vaizey had debated that critics in tech had not appreciated the intention of the bill, on the same day when critics on the Joint Select Committee had reported that the extension of digital surveillance powers of the government had to be fundamentally reconsidered.

He had informed WIRED that he `wanted it to be in partnership between the government and tech and often there is a binary approach. If one talks about the security services requirements, in a digital age, to be safe, you will be riding roughshod over protected principles in tech’. UK tech is a central part of the economy informed Vaizey emphasising that the latest Tech Nation survey which showed in digital was faster by 32% when compared to the rest of the economy.

Tech giants including Apple and Google said that the Investigatory Power Bill seemed to outlaw end-to-end encryption utilised by messaging services inclusive ofWhatApp and iMessage. Other critics have informed that the bill is `sloppily’ written and comprises of areas of considered vagueness

Digital Industries – Annual UK Turnover of £161 Billion

In response, Vaizey had repeated the assertion of the government that the Prime Minister David Cameron had not wanted to ban’ encryption but maintain powers over its use as well as the companies which tend to employ it. Vaizey had mentioned that they had the same debate on adult content and saw nothing wrong, viewingit as the role of a politician.

He would not let kids to read hard-core pornography when it is printed and that they need to do something to ensure that they don’t stumble across this on the web and should work together. He feels that they have made progress on that and hopes to have the same debate with regards to security. As the debates tend to carry on, the industry continues to grow. As per the annual Tech Nation report, formed by the government-funded Tech City UK industry group, together with the revolution charity Nest and GrowthIntel, digital industries tend to have an annual UK turnover of £161 billion

Digital Jobs Created in Unexpected Areas

Tech seems to be growing across the UK, not just in London; with the turnover growth for instance higher in Southampton than London as per Tech Nation. The details of the report as in 2015 had highlighted continued issues beyond the South East on England with infrastructure, access to funding as well as availability of expertise.

Chief executive of Nesta, Geoff Mulgan had mentioned in a report that it showed a number of digital jobs created in unexpected areas. He had also mentioned that the government had to do more in supporting the growth of tech in health, new industries like the Internet of Things as well as the ability of the UK in the development, retaining high value companies to work on artificial intelligence and machine learning.

He further added that `for all those though there is a challenge over the question of whether government is really using its policy power, purchasing power sufficiently, policy plays a big role in FinTech’ He is of the belief that several people in government would acknowledge that there is not the same equivalent alignment yet.