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Over $100 Million Missing: CoinBene Claims Maintenance, a Month of Questions Point Toward a Hack



Remember CoinBene, the cryptocurrency exchange platform that denied being hacked at the end of March 2019, and instead saying it was undergoing maintenance? Well, it turns out the platform is still under maintenance, or so the company says.

Meanwhile, Cointelegraph has received exclusive details from stakeholders reportedly affected by the situation. These reports, for the most part, were only discussed on social media platforms like Twitter and Telegram but have yet to make an appearance on the cryptocurrency news circuit — until now.

The CoinBene saga — timeline of events

On Monday (March 25, 2019), there were massive outgoing transactions from CoinBene’s hot wallet to an unknown wallet that did not exist prior to that Monday. These transactions reportedly involved every single ERC-20 token (totaling 109) held by the company.

Those tokens include huobipool token (HPT), pundi X (NPSX), maximine coin (MXM) and udoo (UDOO). The latter two will prove important later on in this narrative.

The following day (March 26, 2019), Cointelegraph reported an announcement from CoinBene stating that the platform was undergoing maintenance. However, several reports were circulating at the time that the cryptocurrency exchange had been hacked.

Users on the platform had begun to report issues concerning pending deposits, which is often a sign that an exchange has fallen victim to cybercriminals.

Some stakeholders, like Nick Saponaro of Diviproject, alerted the cryptocurrency public to massive outgoing transactions from CoinBene’s wallet. For its part, CoinBene denied these allegations, saying that customer funds were safe and that it would announce the completion of the maintenance at a later date.

As pointed out by James Edwards, cryptocurrency analysts and editor of the blog Zerononcense, the cleanout of CoinBene’s hot wallet did not include ether (ETH), coinbene coin and maximine coin. The suspected hacker only removed a portion of CoinBene’s MXM holdings.

These tokens were sent to about 12 addresses separate from the alleged hacker’s address. These 12 addresses are also fairly new — created around the same period as the suspected hack. The inbound transactions from CoinBene are the first recorded in all 12 addresses.

Rumors of the hack only added to the negative press surrounding CoinBene, following a previous revelation that the platform was inflating its trading volume. A report by Bitwise Asset Management earlier in March had identified CoinBene as one of the platforms engaged in wash trading.

Curious details

On March 27, 2019, the day after CoinBene’s maintenance announcement, data scientists at Elementus — a blockchain infrastructure firm — published a report that described the fund transfers out of CoinBene’s hot wallet bore all the hallmarks of a hack.

The Elementus report provided the first definitive glimpse of the monetary value of these fund transfer, which stood at $105 at the time. According to the report, the fact that the ERC-20 tokens removed from CoinBene’s wallet were subsequently sold could point to the fact that the platform had been hacked.

An excerpt from the report, stated:

“After leaving CoinBene, the tokens were quickly moved into Etherdelta, where they were sold for ETH. A large amount of funds were also moved into centralized Exchanges, including Binance, Huobi, and Bittrex. The funds continue to move into exchanges as I write this.”

If indeed the hack theory is correct, it would explain the movement of the other three tokens not involved in the attack. CoinBene was most likely trying to secure those tokens in its cold wallet.

However, there is a problem with this explanation, and the issue lies in the timeline of events. According to Edwards, the transfer of the three tokens not involved in the hack occurred several hours after the suspected hack took place.

Thus, valuable ETH and about 1.2 billion MXM (worth about $118.6 million) were left untouched by the hacker. Days later, MaxiMine would issue a new smart contract and send 1.9 billion MXM ($200 million) to CoinBene.

So, CoinBene reportedly suffered a hack, had $118.6 million worth of a particular token spared in the suspected attack but finally ended up with $200 million worth of that same token after the fact — all within the space of three days.

Meanwhile, all the other tokens previously held in the company’s wallet are still reading the same amounts they did after the hack. In addition, maximine’s price surged between those three days. How 18 million UDOO disappeared in the CoinBene hack

In an interview with Cointelegraph, David Brierley, the CEO of Howdoo, one of the projects affected in the alleged theft, provided two weeks’ correspondence between his company and a representative of CoinBene listed as a manager on the platform’s LinkedIn page.

According to the correspondence, the March 25 incident saw 18.4 million UDOO ($209,000) removed from the CoinBene hot wallet. According to Brierley, upon initial contact with CoinBene, the manager admitted to not knowing the source of the intrusion — while still telling the public that there was ongoing maintenance.

Meanwhile, Brierley says CoinBene still allowed people to trade nonexistent udoo tokens on the platform. Consequently, the price of udoo began to tank. CoinBene was trying to devalue udoo’s price so it could easily cover its losses from the suspected hack.

Suddenly, on March 28, 2019, CoinBene put out an announcement saying the Howdoo project was undergoing maintenance. Brierley shared the statement with Cointelegraph, which reads as follows:

“The UDOO project are doing maintenance upgrades recently. CoinBene has suspended UDOO’s trading function already. After the completion of the upgrade and maintenance, the transaction function will be opened and the specific time will be announced separately.”

According to the Howdoo CEO, the above statement was not only false, but an attempt to pin the problem on the Howdoo project team. CoinBene also ceased trading on udoo, which alerted even more token holders to the situation.

From this point onward, the conversation features several attempts by the manager to deflect, claiming that upper management at CoinBene was looking into the matter. Meanwhile, the Howdoo CEO continued to press for a concrete answer from the platform.

By March 29, 2019, Brierley began pressing CoinBene to come clean about the hack to the broader cryptocurrency community. In reply, the CoinBene manager stated that such a decision was above his pay grade.

Under the radar: Attempted coverup?

April 1, 2019 heralded yet another twist in the tale, as the entity responsible for the original removal of the 18.4 million udoo tokens sent them back to the project’s smart contract. This action effectively destroyed the tokens and offered further evidence that CoinBene had been hacked.

For Brierley, the hacker probably wanted to make a statement, as it seemed highly unlikely that a hacker would give up their loot in such a manner. Sperando’s response was for the Howdoo team to come up with a solution that sorted out the matter quietly, without CoinBene having to make any of the details public.

The details of the conversation show Brierley objecting to this course of action:

“The loss here is for the users of CoinBene who had uDOO in their custody at CoinBene. The relationship is between CoinBene and its users.”

At this point in the correspondence thread, the CoinBene business development manager suggests that it would be better for the Howdoo team to communicate with someone higher up in the organization.

The manager then said a certain individual would contact Brierley on the next steps to take. The company’s LinkedIn page lists this individual as an “Assistant” in one of the departments. According to the manager, the individual has ties with upper management.

The conversation with the individual yielded little result, as the CoinBene employee simply asked Brierley to facilitate an 18.4 million UDOO transfer from Howdoo’s treasury to cover the lost tokens.

Brierley told Cointelegraph that CoinBene later sent another offer for Howdoo to provide the 18.4 million udoo for a knocked-down price of $50,000, to which Howdoo declined. Meanwhile, CoinBene continued to tout the official maintenance line, obscuring the behind-the-scenes goings-on from the public.

The Howdoo chief shared a screenshot of CoinBene’s official Telegram channel in which a user asked the channel admin when the trading of udoo would resume. The admin simply replied:

“Please wait for the completion of maintenance.”

Cointelegraph reached out to CoinBene for comments via various channels of communication. The only responses received were via the company’s Twitter handle, which promised to provide answers to Cointelegraph’s inquiries, as well as from the manager, whose reply on Monday (April 15, 2018) reads in part:

“Thank you for getting in contact with me! I forwarded your request to our global marketing department, in charge of all our PR, with a strong suggestion for at least a statement, I’ll follow up this overnight tonight.”

Cointelegraph has yet to receive any further response from both channels.

When asked what the next course of action would be for Howdoo, Brierley responded:

“We have already begun pursuing legal avenues and have reached out to lawyers in Singapore and China to see if affected users in the community can set up a class action suit against CoinBene and its founders.”

CoinBene and MXM: More questions than answers

Judging solely based on the experiences described by the Howdoo team, it would seem that CoinBene cover up the fact that it suffered a hack. Well, remember MaxiMine, the platform whose the token the suspected hacker left largely untouched? Well, investigating certain oddities surrounding the MaxiMine’s alleged involvement in the matter pushes the CoinBene story into a suspiciously sinister territory.

A lot of the following observations and deductions first appeared on Edward’s blog post published earlier in April. According to the blog post, examining the chain of events throws up some irregularities in the dealings between CoinBene and MaxiMine.

On March 25, 2019, the day of the suspected hack, someone transferred out 669.87 million MXM from CoinBene’s hot wallet. The following day, CoinBene moved 1.2 billion MXM from its hot wallet to its cold wallet.

On March 27, 2019, MaxiMine created a new token contract address. The following day, MaxiMine destroys its old smart contract. Via its Medium account, MaxiMine published a blog post explaining the process:

“All cryptocurrency exchanges listing MaxiMine tokens will automatically complete the upgrade of token address in a few days. Once the upgrade is completed, users can resume normal trading activities. Currently, new tokens have already been issued to all existing token holders in a 1:1 ratio.”

According to MaxiMine, the decision to issue a new token smart contract address was part of the rollout of its public chain. The odd bit lies with the number of maximine sent to CoinBene.

MaxiMine sent CoinBene 1.9 billion MXM, despite its announcement saying the token distribution would be on a 1:1 basis. Thus, why did CoinBene receive an extra 700,000 MXM — which were worth about $77 million at the time — from MaxiMine?

Cointelegraph also reached out to MaxiMine for comments about the story. As of press time, no one from MaxiMine has responded to Cointelegraph’s request.

Did MaxiMine spot CoinBene a whopping $77 million to cover the damages from the suspected hack? If so, do both companies share any sort of affiliation? Also, why was maximine the only token not completely drained by the suspected hacker? And finally, why was 18.4 million udoo sent back to Howdoo’s smart contract to be burned off?

These are some lingering questions that persist in the CoinBene saga that have so far managed to fly under the radar of the broader cryptocurrency news circuit. The victims of the situation and the cryptocurrency community at large need answers.

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Bitcoin Bull Market Gets Everyone Hyped, Parabolic Trend Currently Present – Is It Too Soon Yet?



Bitcoin Bull Market Gets Everyone Hyped, Parabolic Trend Currently Present - It It Too Soon Yet?

Bitcoin Bull Market Gets Everyone Hyped, Parabolic Trend Currently Present - It It Too Soon Yet?

Last weekend’s Magical Crypto Conference was and continues to be highly spoken of. One event that took place was Charlie Lee’s success in selling unique Litecoin collectibles, which has grabbed the attention of many, as reported by Bitcoin Exchange Guide (BEG).

Another interesting thing about the Magical Crypto Conference, which pokes fun at the current bull market, is the presence of an actual bull! As per Bloomberg, a real-life bovine named “Little Dude” supposedly greeted crypto fanatics. With faith in Bitcoin (BTC) either never lost or regained, many have been trying to understand what’s to come for BTC in the future.

According to the CEO of crypto exchange, eToro, Yoni Assia, “A lot of people say, “party like it’s 1999,”” which might be a reference to 2017’s ultimate and popular bull run. That year saw BTC experience a 1400% increase in prices alone, with many calling it “digital gold,” writes the news platform.

This month has treated BTC well, as its price has seen a relative spike in prices. Interestingly, the current shape of its trend is an upward trending parabola. This was noted in one of BEG’s recent posts, where crypto trader, DonAlt noted that if BTC’s prices don’t go below the 6,400 mark, then the bull market is here for stay.



News outlet U Today also reported on the presence of parabolic trends. In particular, it was noted that Chief Analyst at eToro, Mati Greenspan believes that it’s normal for BTC to experience such a move. He supposedly gave the example of BTC’s 85% drop in value as travelling down a parabola.

As per U Today, Greenspan trusts that:

“The market is at the moment about to begin a new rise, the start of which the community has witnessed recently.”

As for the recent drop in BTC, Greenspan does not seem to be concerned by it as he believes it is a natural part of growth.

Bitcoin’s Recent Value Goes Down: Crypto Bulls and Bear At Tug of War for Future BTC Prices

In a recent Bitcoin Exchange Guide (BEG) report, the reasons why Bitcoin’s (BTC) transaction fees increased were expounded upon. Of the three reasons, one that primarily stood out was that of the sell order took place on BitStamp, ultimately driving down BTC’s value to the lower end of the $6,000 ranges.

As it turns out both the crypto bulls and bears have been standing on opposite ends of the pole in terms of what’s to come for BTC’s prices reports CCN. In particular, it was noted that bulls trust BTC to reach 5-digit price levels (i.e. USD10,000), while bears trust that it will go down again before it can go back up.

CCN documented a number of tweets from known crypto fanatics and experts taking on their respective positions. Here’s an overview of what has been shared.

The first is crypto trader from Twitter, DonAlt who shared the following tweet:

To which, blockchain innovator, Vinny Lingham retweeted and shared, “I concur”. A conversation also seemed to have stirred up in the comments between Twitter user, Tom Gloor and DonAlt, where the former asked at which point or resistance level DonAlt thought the prices will go back up considering the downward trend.

In response, he said that said downward trend no longer exists and that it is “at worst sideways”.

In addition to his $10,000 claims, DonAlt also shared a graph of Bitcoin taking on an upward parabolic trend, noting that this is a sign that the bull is for here to stay given that it holds at the 6,400 mark and does not dip any further.

The next who has shared his sentiments is Tim Seymour from the CNBC Trading Desk, who has since shared that:

“You actually are above that trend line, which probably takes you up to around $6,800. You got to a 95 nine-day RSI. Even for bitcoin, that was extreme.”

Finally, we have derivatives trader and analyst, Tone Vays who has since described the event as resulting in a “beautiful short trade.” He also noted that, in his opinion, buying “along the way” isn’t the best strategy but waiting until its possible low before buying more.

As for what he predicts in terms of BTC’s value to come, here’s what he was quoted saying:

“I actually think we are going to go down and I think we are going to go sub-$6,000 on this one […] I even think we’re going to go below $5,000 as well.”

If the aforementioned is the case, this would be a great opportunity for those who’ve missed the BTC train when it was sitting at below $6,000 in most of 2018.

With all this being shared, where do you stand? Are you for crypto bulls or bears? Let us know why in the comments below.

<span data-sheets-value="{"1":2,"2":"

Bitcoin’s price is $7,284.49 BTC/USD exchange rate today. The real-time BTC market cap of $128.99 Billion currently ranks #1 with a chart dominance at 56.25%, daily trading volume of $6.05 Billion and live coin value change of BTC 2.78 in the last 24 hours.

Live Bitcoin (BTC) Price:

1 BTC/USD =$7,284.4893 change ~ 2.78%

Coin Market Cap

$128.99 Billion

24 Hour Volume

$6.05 Billion

24 Hour VWAP

$7.33 K

24 Hour Change


var single_widget_subscription = single_widget_subscription || []; single_widget_subscription.push("5~CCCAGG~BTC~USD");

"}” data-sheets-userformat=”{"2":14849,"3":{"1":0},"12":0,"14":[null,2,0],"15":"Open Sans","16":11}”>Bitcoin’s price is $7,284.49 BTC/USD exchange rate today. The real-time BTC market cap of $128.99 Billion currently ranks #1 with a chart dominance at 56.25%, daily trading volume of $6.05 Billion and live coin value change of BTC 2.78 in the last 24 hours.

<span data-sheets-value="{"1":2,"2":"

"}” data-sheets-userformat=”{"2":513,"3":{"1":0},"12":0}”>Latest Bitcoin Price Updates and Real-Time News Analysis

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John McAfee Emerges, Reportedly Says Americans Are ‘Hated Universally’




By CCN: In a new interview with Newsweek, John McAfee surfaced to discuss living abroad and what he’s learned about the global perception of Americans. After recently going dark, he told Newsweek “we’re hated universally.” According to him, the reason most American tourists don’t pick up on this fact is that they’re a source of income for the people and places they visit.

America: Hated Universally

“I have traveled around the world. Everybody hates America. Do they show it? No. If you’re a tourist, you’re never going to see it. Why? If you’re a tourist you are a source of income for that country. You’re never going to see the truth. Well, I’ve lived in these countries, and I’ve seen the f***ing truth. We’re hated universally. We interfere in affairs that we do not understand for our own benefit….”

McAfee, who is wanted by the U.S. government for tax fraud, is currently running for president. The software mogul invited this attention from federal authorities when he openly flaunted his tax evasion just after the new year. Later that month, federal authorities issued an indictment. While felons are legally allowed to run for president, it’s unclear if McAfee would be able to assume the office with a standing warrant hanging over his head.

Can a Fugitive Even Run for President?

Since 2000, the Justice Department has abided by the opinion that it cannot prosecute someone in the highest office.

This past week, rumors spread on Twitter that authorities captured McAfee.

The @officialmcafee account has since dispelled these rumors:

McAfee isn’t losing sleep over his situation with U.S. authorities and has no idea what it will take for him to return home.

“I don’t have a clue. I haven’t thought about it yet. I don’t address problems until I’m ready to actually do something. First of all, get a bunch of lawyers. Secondly, come back, I don’t know.”

McAfee’s Brashness as an Asset

McAfee wants you to know that he doesn’t care what you think of him. This is unusual for someone with political aspirations but certainly not new. McAfee draws the line at what is written about him, saying:

“I’m just being me. I’m not going to change me to be untrue or rather false or restricted while I’m trying to make you be unrestricted. That makes no sense. No, we should all be unrestricted. We should all give a shit nothing about what people think or say about us. We should give a shit about what’s written about us. We give a shit about our impact on the world, if we do something, which is absolutely us. No. I could care less about that, sir. I’m not creating a brand, I’m not creating an image.”

The security mogul says he has untold numbers of people working on his campaign in the U.S. and hundreds of people working in foreign countries for him. The multi-millionaire, for all his “not giving a sh*t,” is a Twitter celebrity. He likely wields little impact beyond that for the majority of the voting public.

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Might as Well Vote for Satoshi Nakamoto

A serious proponent of Bitcoin and blockchain technologies, McAfee throws off very little actual expertise on the subject. Here is his recent assessment of Ethereum, the second-most valuable cryptocurrency and the most-used platform for smart contracts:

McAfee also seems to believe he knows the identities of Satoshi Nakamoto. He previously said he would reveal Satoshi’s true identity to prove that Craig S. Wright is lying. However, on apparent legal advice, he chose not to disclose the identity, believing that it would further complicate his problems with the U.S. government.

Raw, gifted, and eccentric, John McAfee could be the type of leader who’d sufficiently “drain the swamp” because he holds no allegiance to any part of it. Unfortunately for him, his prospects are even less likely than those of virtually all Democrats currently running campaigns.

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Amazon Patent Casts Light on Plans to Create Proof-of-Work Blockchain Analog



Retail behemoth Amazon has received a patent for generating Merkle trees as a solution to the proof-of-work (PoW) algorithm, a document confirmed on May 14.

Amazon, which has taken an increasing interest in blockchain technology in recent times, now appears to be targeting development of a specific variation of the instrument.

Specifically, the patent targets Merkle trees — a data verification tool — to constitute the work required in a PoW setup.

PoW is the algorithm used in bitcoin (BTC) and some other major cryptocurrencies such as litecoin (LTC), dogecoin (DOGE) and monero (XMR).

“This document describes techniques for using the generation of Merkle Trees as a solution to a proof-of-work challenge,” the patent reads.

The exact nature of Amazon’s plans remains unclear. The patent document does not reference specific uses within a cryptocurrency or blockchain, continuing uncertainty over the company’s stance on the wider cryptocurrency phenomenon.

As Cointelegraph reported, rumors Amazon was preparing to take a direct interest in bitcoin, for example, have repeatedly sparked a frenzy within the crypto community, each time culminating in nothing.

At the same time, others consider it only a matter of time before an integration occurs. In February, Changpeng Zhao, CEO of exchange Binance, claimed Amazon would ultimately have no choice but to issue some form of cryptocurrency.

“For any internet (non-physical) based business, I don’t understand why anyone would not accept crypto for payments,” he said.

Late last month, Amazon Web Services publicly launched its enterprise blockchain setup network, based on Ethereum (ETH) and Hyperledger technology.

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Neutral launches platform for stablecoin deposits into an aggregated basket



Neutral, the open financial protocol for decentralized financial instruments, has today announced the launch of the Neutral Platform, allowing users to deposit stablecoin assets into Neutral Dollar (NUSD). Neutral Dollar, a next-generation stablecoin pegged to an aggregated basket of stablecoins initially comprising of DAI, PAX, TUSD, and USDC, will enable deposits of these constituent coins from May 16th, 2019 via various methods such as a desktop client or decentralized application (dApp).

“The launch of the Neutral Platform marks the beginning of our users journey into a better stablecoin with unprecedented levels of liquidity while presenting an asset with better stability and diversified risk. This platform will enable users to manage positions between stablecoins in a much more seamless and intuitive way.”

Matthew Branton, CTO of Neutral and Architect of Neutral Dollar

The Neutral Platform, available to download now, will present users with an overview of the Neutral Dollar basket, its value, and the distribution of each of its weighted constituent coins. From May 16th, 2019, users will be able to deposit constituent coins into their Neutral Dollar Basket, officially marking the launch of the Neutral Dollar system. The Neutral Dollar system is powered by Neutral’s smart contract protocol.

Neutral Dollar’s current peg of DAI, TUSD, PAX, and USDC is based on modeling by Neutral to find the combination of stablecoins needed to achieve maximum stability. A pricing mechanism ensures consistent weighting for each component relative to the overall basket and adjusts the basket in reaction to price fluctuations. Rigorous testing indicates that Neutral Dollar is significantly less volatile than any other stablecoin on today’s market with its current basket composition.

Branton concluded, “Our mission at Neutral is to bring superior decentralized financial products to the crypto finance space. We are moving to solve the problem of unexpected volatility in the stablecoin space, which is an enormous trap for investors, along with the lack of liquidity in the space. This announcement brings us one step closer to this goal and is a milestone on the way to reshaping the industry.”

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Blockchain as Key to Vienna’s Digital Future — Interview with Ulrike Huemer, CIO of Vienna, Austria



Austria is Europe’s leader in terms of applying modern day technology to better the all-around welfare of its citizens. Making cities “smart” and digital is a key part of transforming public goods and services in order to reach that goal. Vienna is especially keen on innovation, trying to find new solutions by way of digitization. Easy access and clear-cut benefits are key aspects to finding broad acceptance among Vienna citizens, making them willingly partake and help to better the transformation process.  

To further the breakthrough of digital technologies and make them the backbone of society, Vienna called into existence the so-called “Smart City Vienna” initiative in 2014, which aims to better the lives of its general population. The Smart City project isn’t meant to merely foster technology, though. Rather, the latter is supposed to be a tool, helping to achieve social change and making the city more livable overall. Technology as a servant to humanity, not the other way around.

The Smart City Vienna strategy takes into consideration multiple fields that need to be transformed, such as energy, mobility, real estate and others. Every single aspect of the strategy has well-defined target objectives in order to provide transparency and a sense of urgency. In total, 38 target objectives are set out until 2050, while different milestones are to be met by 2025, 2030 and 2050.

Blockchain is a key factor in realizing these goals. As such, it has been applied to different use cases that pertain to the strategy in one way or another. One of them is the notarization of Open Government Data (OGD) — to facilitate the use of food stamps by local government employees. Electric supplier Wien Energie, which is run by the city administration, has also been exploring the use of blockchain technology for quite a while now, trying to make distribution along its grids more efficient. Last but not least, Vienna is setting up a blockchain-based token that is part of an incentive driven initiative, rewarding citizens for “good behavior.”

In which ways can blockchain contribute to Smart City Vienna further? Will the capital city get its very own cryptocurrency eventually? Why is digitization so broadly accepted among Vienna’s population? Cointelegraph Germany sat down with Ulrike Huemer, the chief information officer of Vienna, to answer these questions and to further elaborate on what’s to come.

Smart City Vienna — the road to digitization

Cointelegraph: What is your vision of Vienna as a “smart” city?

Ulrike Huemer: Vienna does score favorably well in many different rankings already, some of it due to our comprehensive approach to the Smart City initiative, which constantly drives new projects and gets monitored on a regular basis. Our comprehensive approach isn’t just a means to an end, though. It is much rather our guiding principle to cover all our bases when making our city “smart.” It’s not just about technological innovation for the sake of it — instead, we are looking to use it as a vehicle leading us toward social change and environmental sustainability. It’s all about providing the best quality of life to all our citizens, thus we are incorporating every office of city administration, linking them up with companies from the private sector as well, to set up a broad network as a basis for the transformation process.

“It’s all about providing the best quality of life to all our citizens.”

We don’t just emphasize these points toward the general public, we also make sure to reiterate this concept internally to really make it stick. Driving research and development-oriented policies is key, but so is getting everybody on board with what we’re trying to do. Consulting-firm Roland Berger ranked our digital agenda number one in its recent “Smart City Index” publication, especially praising our continued efforts to better the health care system through technological innovation. Open Government Data and our progress in areas such as mobility, environmental sustainability and education put us in the top-spot according to the study. We’re looking to continue to build on this, truly making Vienna a “smart city” indeed.

CT: How well is Austria positioned in terms of the smart city concept? Is Austria in a good starting position for this?

UH: Austria is well positioned to master future challenges due to the various public infrastructure frameworks. The smart city concept can play a key role here. The most important aspect is the implementation and cooperation with relevant actors. The very first thing to ensure when dealing with the smart city topic is to create adoption through a broad process. Civil society, the economy and science must be given the opportunity to state their interests to the city administration so that we get the big picture of a future that is worth striving for by all parties. By integrating all interest groups, we can ensure the holistic nature of this strategy. Finally, to establish such an agenda, political support and an evaluation process that makes successes and potentials visible are needed.

CT: Implementing a smart city is enormously expensive. Who is paying for these digitization measures that are necessary?

UH: There is no direct answer to this question. It’s a fact that, as of now, the city of Vienna does not have an additional budget for the current smart approaches. Therefore, the individual departments and actors have to use their existing budgets and try to innovate their sovereign work themselves. Furthermore, there is some extra funding provided by the European Union or by national co-financing. In recent years, this has brought an additional investment volume of around 15 to 20 million euros to Vienna.

Blockchain solutions for the city of the future

CT: What is blockchain technology‘s role within the Smart City of Vienna?

UH: The city of Vienna has been exploring blockchain technology proactively. We want to use this technology to drive the city’s digitalization and the associated guiding themes of transparency, openness, trust and citizen participation.

We chose to use the technology for our own processes, to proactively shape the development and to support the promotion of it. From the start, we knew the only way to test the blockchain technology‘s potential was by “learning by doing.” This is why we launched pilot projects that were implemented successfully. The pilots‘ primary goal was to build the necessary expertise within the city administration and in our ICT [information and communications technology] municipal department named Magistratsabteilung  01 – Wien Digital.

“From the start, we knew the only way to test the blockchain technology‘s potential was by “learning by doing.”

Via the DigitalCity.Wien-Blockchain.Initiative, we are connecting key areas such as identity, education and research with the blockchain community in Vienna, thereby strengthening both the stakeholders and Vienna as a blockchain location.

CT: The city of Vienna provides open data and e-government for its citizens. How does blockchain improve the administration?

UH: In December 2017, a unique solution was published in Europe where Open Government Data was secured using blockchain. The City of Vienna’s first blockchain pilot dubbed “Open Data Notarization” was focused on the acquisition of knowledge on blockchain technology. The city of Vienna‘s OGD checksums are stored publicly on blockchains and are available to the public. Thus, anyone can view and check the authenticity and history of the data themselves, eliminating the need for middlemen.

The solution is being used now and is set to encompass all data records of Austria‘s administration located on Austria’s data portal in the following weeks.

CT: Wien Energie is researching the use of blockchain technology, also collaborating with the city of Vienna on Smart City concepts. Are there any blockchain solutions regarding sustainable energy you could tell us about?

UH: Blockchain technology allows us to scale innovative energy solutions. Let’s use microgrids as an example: These small and decentralized networks are completely autonomous, connecting supplier and consumer in the shortest way possible, reducing the loss of power to a minimum. On top of that, they eliminate the need to expand the main grid, which can be quite expensive.

We’re also exploring so-called energy-sharing via blockchain. In order to do so, we are setting up a blockchain infrastructure in the “Viertel Zwei” research district, connecting it to the existing power supply.

CT: The city of Vienna is using blockchain as part of the so-called “City Token Initiative,” which got started in collaboration with the research institute of the crypto economy at the Business University Wien (WU). Could you please specify what the initiative is all about?

UH: Sure! At its core is the idea to get people engaged, making them care about their surroundings and setting incentives for them to contribute to the betterment of the city. We created the so-called “Culture Token” to foster this idea, acting as a reward for any type of good behavior as defined by the initiative. In return, citizens can use the token to get access to arts and culture around the city. As an example, we are looking to reduce carbon emissions by rewarding citizens for leaving their car behind, having them take a walk instead and earning tokens in the process.  

“The core idea of our ‘Culture Token’ is, to get people engaged […] setting incentives for them to contribute to the betterment of the city.”

CT: How are these “Culture Tokens” set up?

UH: The “Culture Token” exists in digital form only, being made available on mobile phones and tablet computers. It is set up as a reward system, but stands in stark contrast to the Social Credit System run by the Chinese government. The city of Vienna is keen to exclusively use technology to the benefit of its citizens. It is supposed to simply reward people for volunteer work, for doing good in many ways. We are trying to broaden the scope of the token, too — not only tying it to arts and culture, but establishing it as a true means of payment for many different services instead. That way, it wouldn’t merely be a “Culture Token,” but much rather a “Vienna Token,” which really is the long-term goal.

CT: Are there any further plans to use blockchain in the context of the Smart City initiative?

UH: We’re looking to make use of our findings from the aforementioned “Open Data Notarization” project. In collaboration with our partners, we want to establish a notarization service that can be applied in many different fields. For example, helping to notarize city government documents or to further “machine learning.” Another important topic is self-sovereign identity, which is concerned with being in full control of one’s own data — blockchain technology can be of assistance here, as well. There is an abundance of use cases, though, like the Internet of things (IoT) and related applications. We will most likely integrate blockchain into different devices and supply chains, too, wherever we see fit.

CT: Is the city of Vienna looking to issue its very own cryptocurrency?

UH: No. As a city, we are merely acting as an observer. At some point in time, blockchain technology might be used as a means of payment, though, since it can help to improve financial transactions considerably.

Creating dialogue

CT: What is the role of big technology companies in the city of Vienna? The Smart City initiative could be of great commercial use for them, especially in combination with blockchain, artificial intelligence, IoT and big data, couldn’t it?

UH: All our partnerships are supposed to provide mutual benefits to either side — technology companies are no exception. As such, the Smart City initiative does indeed establish a framework to strengthen existing partnerships through technological advancements. The overarching goal is to better the quality of life in Vienna, though, which is our main premise.

The “DigitalCity.Vienna” initiative is aiming to establish Vienna as a European leader for digitization, and we are looking to market the city accordingly. The DigitalCity.Vienna initiative has an open format, accessible to all parties interested. We are doing our best to connect all parties involved, helping them to find common ground along the way. In regularly scheduled events, we’re sitting down major companies, ascending startups, the city government, public authorities and academic institutions in order to create a running dialogue in the digital ecosystem.

“The ‘DigitalCity.Vienna’ initiative is aiming to establish Vienna as a European leader for digitization, and we are looking to market the city accordingly.”

CT: What kind of government assistance does Vienna need in order to stay ahead in the global race for blockchain adoption?

UH: We want to strengthen existing partnerships in this area, while attracting further blockchain projects to Vienna in order to benefit from their expertise in the long term. Intricate knowledge is crucial when it comes to blockchain, that is why we are adamant about building it up and retaining it. A prime example is the Austrian Blockchain Center, which is doing research on many different blockchain use cases. The research center recently settled down in Vienna, and we intend on keeping it here, providing some of its funding as well. It will take these kinds of projects, plus government assistance and close collaboration with the private sector, to make Vienna a major international blockchain city.

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