5 year study looks at if token rewards can improve HIV patient outcomes in Africa

A Kenyan university and a blockchain healthcare provider will join forces to study whether Africa’s HIV crisis can be helped by using crypto and blockchain technology.

A groundbreaking five-year study into whether crypto token incentives can improve health outcomes for patients with HIV/AIDS will be launched in Kenya by the end of the year.

On Nov 1, the blockchain-powered healthcare ecosystem Immunify.Life and the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) announced they had secured the approval needed from an ethics committee and the national commission to launch the study.

Together they will conduct a five-year study on HIV/AIDS starting before the end of 2021 in the Kakamega County region of Kenya, before extending throughout the rest of the country.

MMUST will use Immunify.Life’s blockchain technology to collect and analyze patient data to help improve the outcomes of HIV treatments. It will evaluate whether patients have better treatment outcomes if they are incentivized with token rewards for health-positive behaviors identified by project sponsors like NGOs and government institutions.

Immunify.Life CEO Guy Newing told Cointelegraph:

“The program we are testing will offer token incentives to encourage lapsed patients to present at the clinic for their treatment.”

Patients and doctors will be rewarded with Immunify.Life’s native ERC-20 IMM token. He added these could be offered for “completing a prescribed course of antibiotics for Tuberculosis,” and to incentivize, “HIV patient returning regularly to the clinic for their check-up and treatment.”

Newing said that health care workers will also be rewarded for positive behaviors such as “correctly filling out consultation records, ordering a certain number of tests for Tuberculosis, or completing medical education.”

Every patient who uses the platform is issued a nonfungible token (NFT) health ID that captures key medical data, like vaccination records. This data is then transferred to a digital registry to enable remote medical supervision and real-time data access for medical professionals.

The study’s sample size is 600 patients. Half will receive the token incentivization, and the other half will act as controls and will not receive token rewards. The patients will be monitored over six months and will receive active treatment and monitoring on a monthly basis.

The study will also track the efficacy of using paperless healthcare tracking systems in a low socio-economic area.

Source: Immunify.Life

Newing said that, “Critical Medical data treatment data can be captured in real time, time stamped and secured; it can’t be hacked or changed.” The platform will initially use a second-layer solution on Ethereum using Polygon, with long-term plans to bridge to Cardano.

Aside from the token rewards provided by sponsors, patients will also financially benefit from the sale of anonymized medical data. Immunify.Life is currently conducting a private round for Strategic and Institutional investors before its initial DEX offering (IDO) which is planned for early 2022.

“Patients will be empowered to take control of their data and share in the financial rewards. The system is funded by fees charged to organizations who fund and deliver the healthcare.”

In addition to work in HIV in Kenya, Immunify.Life is applying its blockchain technology in two other therapeutic areas, COVID-19 & Opioid addiction.

Related: How Blockchain Will Revolutionize Healthcare

Kenya is home to around 1.5 million people with HIV according to the 2020 UNAIDS report. While 70% of these patients undergo treatment, there are present difficulties around tracking, access, program design, and data collection.

Many people diagnosed with HIV are unable to continue with treatment. In some areas, the number of ‘lapsed’ patients can reach up to 40%, according to Immunify.Life. This includes pregnant women, who can pass on the virus to their child during birth.

Continue reading

The Holy Grail for crypto traders: Consistent average returns over 5%

Over 2,000 data points consistently demonstrate a singular truth: Crypto asset prices tend to increase when this quant algorithm identifies bullish conditions.

If you look at crypto assets’ price movements as a series of isolated events, the picture is messy. Sure, some traders can occasionally win big off one-time events or thanks to sensing a meme-inspired trend.

In the long run, however, most of these “fortuitous” traders tend to lose.

Why? Because they have to pick big-time winners to cover all the times they miss their targets.

For every Shiba Inu, there were a thousand coins that didn’t moon.

Which is why crypto traders who employ processes rather than try to predict events are more likely to fill their bags in the long run.

They trade on probabilities rather than hoping that Token X goes parabolic next week. They win on aggregate numbers instead of sexy-looking one-offs. If you offered them average weekly returns of over 5% on trades… they’d bite your hand off.

The table below shows average returns following high VORTECS™ Scores generated by Cointelegraph Markets Pro’s historical analysis.

Good things come to those who wait

There are two unmistakable trends here. Firstly, the higher the VORTECS™ Score, the greater the average returns. In other words, the more confident the algorithm is that the historical conditions around the coin are bullish, the more likely this asset is to deliver greater gains after the high score was registered.

Secondly, time is of consequence. The algorithm has been trained on a fuzzy time frame with the emphasis on identifying favorable conditions that may materialize over several days.

The more time passes after the signs of a historically favorable outlook are recognized by the VORTECS™ algorithm, the better, on average, the asset’s price performance looks. Favorable conditions shaping up around high-scoring tokens generate the greatest price increases after 168 hours (one week) from first showing up on the algorithm’s radar.

Doing the crypto trading math

A 5 or 6% return on investment over a week may not seem a lot, in these days of bull market plenty. Don’t be fooled.

Studies show that short-term traders often lose money. One recent paper estimated that “97% of all individuals who persisted for 300 days” in the Brazilian equities futures market fell into this category. Other studies have demonstrated similar results.

So to find an algorithm that can generate consistently positive average returns over accurately measured periods of time is — well, the Holy Grail for crypto traders.

Is it infallible? Absolutely not. Again, don’t be fooled. The VORTECS™ algorithm has thrown up plenty of scores that suggested bullish conditions, and yet prices failed to rise.

What this table shows is the AVERAGE return over a specific time frame following an arbitrary score.

But what this table PROVES is that VORTECS™ does exactly what it is designed to do. It consistently identifies market conditions for specific crypto assets that have been historically bullish, and employs confidence modeling to determine a score that traders can use as part of their decision making.

VORTECS™ Score ROI methodology and background

The VORTECS™ Score is an AI-powered algorithm exclusively available to Cointelegraph Markets Pro members.

The tool is trained to search for historical patterns of price change, trading activity and social sentiment around 200-plus digital assets, ringing the alarm whenever the arrangement of these metrics starts to resemble those that, in the past, consistently showed up before price increases.

The higher the VORTECS™ Score at any given moment, the greater the model’s confidence.

The table presents average price changes across all digital assets that hit VORTECS™ Scores of 80, 85, and 90 after fixed intervals, from the moment the Score was first registered. The period of observation is the entire period of CT Markets Pro platform’s operation, from early Jan. to late Nov. 2021., or almost 11 months.

For this analysis, each asset could only yield one observation per day, i.e. if a coin went from 79 to 81, then back to 79 and then to 80 once again within a few hours, only its first entry to 80+ would count.

This way, we ensured that the analysis did not give disproportional representation to instances of more volatile VORTECS™ Scores as opposed to those times when assets went above reference thresholds and maintained high Scores for longer times.

The average price movement figures that you see in the table are aggregated from hundreds of digital assets hitting high VORTECS™ Scores over the observed period of almost 11 months.

They reflect crypto assets’ performances in bull, bear, and sideways markets, in both Bitcoin season and Altseason, and for all sorts of assets from DEX tokens to layer one platforms and privacy coins.

Start using the VORTECS™ algorithm today!

Cointelegraph is a publisher of financial information, not an investment adviser. We do not provide personalized or individualized investment advice. Cryptocurrencies are volatile investments and carry significant risk including the risk of permanent and total loss. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Figures and charts are correct at the time of writing or as otherwise specified. Live-tested strategies are not recommendations. Consult your financial advisor before making financial decisions.

Continue reading

Bank of Russia Pushes to Introduce Liability for Illegal Use of Digital Assets

Bank of Russia Pushes to Introduce Liability for Illegal Use of Digital AssetsThe monetary authority in Moscow, the Bank of Russia, wants those who use cryptocurrencies against the law to be held accountable. The financial regulator has proposed the introduction of legal liability for some operations with digital assets which it considers illegal. Central Bank of Russia Aims to Prevent Circulation of Decentralized Currencies Cryptocurrencies in the […]
Continue reading

Scaling Ethereum & crypto for a billion users

A guide to the multi-chain future, sidechains, and layer-2 solutions

Around the Block from Coinbase Ventures sheds light on key trends in crypto. Written by Justin Mart & Connor Dempsey.

As of late 2021, Ethereum has grown to support thousands of applications from decentralized finance, NFTs, gaming and more. The entire network settles trillions of dollars in transactions annually, with over $170 billion locked on the platform.

But as the saying goes, more money, more problems. Ethereum’s decentralized design ends up limiting the amount of transactions it can process to just 15 per second. Since Ethereum’s popularity far exceeds 15 transactions per second, the result is long waits and fees as high as $200 per transaction. Ultimately, this prices out many users and limits the types of applications Ethereum can handle today.

If smart-contract based blockchains are to ever grow to support finance and Web 3 applications for billions of users, scaling solutions are needed. Thankfully, the cavalry is beginning to arrive, with many proposed solutions coming online recently.

In this edition of Around The Block, we explore the crypto world’s collective quest to scale.*

To compete or to complement?

The goal is to increase the number of transactions that openly accessible smart contract platforms can handle, while retaining sufficient decentralization. Remember, it would be trivial to scale smart contract platforms through a centralized solution managed by a single entity (Visa can handle 45,000 transactions per second), but then we’d be right back to where we started: a world owned by a handful of powerful centralized actors.

The approaches being taken to fix this problem come twofold: (1) build brand new networks competitive to Ethereum that can handle more activity, or (2) build complementary networks that can handle Ethereum’s excess capacity.

Broadly, they break out across a few categories:

  • Layer 1 blockchains (competitive to Ethereum)
  • Sidechains (somewhat complementary to Ethereum)
  • Layer 2 networks (complementary to Ethereum)

While each differs in architecture and approach, the goal is the same: let users actually use the networks (eg, interact with DeFi, NFTs, etc) without paying exorbitant fees or experiencing long wait times.

Layer 1s

Ethereum is considered a layer 1 blockchain — an independent network that secures user funds and executes transactions all in one place. Want to swap 100 USDC for DAI using a DeFi application like Uniswap? Ethereum is where it all happens.

Competing layer 1s do everything Ethereum does, but in a brand new network, soup to nuts. They’re differentiated by new system designs that enable higher throughput, leading to lower transaction fees, but usually at the cost of increased centralization.

New layer 1s have come online in droves over the last 10 months, with the aggregate value on these networks rocketing from $0 to ~$75B over the same time period. This field is currently led by Solana, Avalanche, Terra, and Binance Smart Chain, each with growing ecosystems that have reached over $10 billion in value.

Leading non-ETH L1s by TVL

All layer 1s are in competition to attract both developers and users. Doing so without any of Ethereum’s tooling and infrastructure that make it easy to build and use applications, is difficult. To bridge this gap, many layer 1s employ a tactic called EVM compatibility.

EVM stands for the Ethereum Virtual Machine, and it’s essentially the brain that performs computation to make transactions happen. By making their networks compatible with the EVM, Ethereum developers can easily deploy their existing Ethereum applications to a new layer 1 by essentially copying and pasting their code. Users can also easily access EVM compatible layer 1s with their existing wallets, making it simple for them to migrate.

Take Binance Smart Chain (BSC) as an example. By launching an EVM compatible network and tweaking the consensus design to enable higher throughput and cheaper transactions, BSC saw usage explode last summer across dozens of DeFi applications all resembling popular Ethereum apps like Uniswap and Curve. Avalanche, Fantom, Tron, and Celo have also taken the same approach.

Conversely, Terra and Solana do not currently support EVM compatibility.

TVL of EVM compatible vs non-EVM compatible L1s

Interoperable Chains

In a slightly different layer 1 bucket are blockchain ecosystems like Cosmos and Polkadot. Rather than build new stand-alone blockchains, these projects built standards that let developers create application specific blockchains capable of talking to each other. This can allow, for example, tokens from a gaming blockchain to be used within applications built on a separate blockchain for social networking.

There is currently over $100B+ sitting on chains built using Cosmos’ standard that can eventually interoperate. Meanwhile, Polkadot recently reached a milestone that will similarly unite its ecosystem of blockchains.

In short, there’s now a diverse landscape of direct Ethereum competitors, with more on the way.

Sidechains

The distinction between sidechains and new layer 1s is admittedly a fuzzy one. Sidechains are very similar to EVM-compatible layer 1s, except that they’ve been purpose built to handle Ethereum’s excess capacity, rather than compete with Ethereum as a whole. These ecosystems are closely aligned with the Ethereum community and host Ethereum apps in a complementary fashion.

Axie Infinity’s Ronin sidechain is a prime example. Axie Infinity is an NFT game originally built on Ethereum. Since Ethereum fees made playing the game prohibitively expensive, the Ronin sidechain was built to allow users to move their NFTs and tokens from Ethereum to a low fee environment. This made the game affordable to more users, and preceded an explosion in the game’s popularity.

As of this writing, users have moved over $7.5B from Ethereum to Ronin to play Axie Infinity.

Polygon POS

Where sidechains like Ronin are application specific, others are suited for more general purpose applications. Right now, Polygon’s proof-of-stake (POS) sidechain is the industry leader with nearly $5B in value deployed over 100 DeFi and gaming applications including familiar names like Aave and Sushiswap, as well as a Uniswap clone called Quickswap.

Again, Polygon POS really doesn’t look that different from an EVM compatible layer-1. However, it’s been built as part of a framework to scale Ethereum rather than compete with it. The Polygon team sees a future where Ethereum remains the dominant blockchain for high value transactions and value storage, while everyday transactions move to Polygon’s lower-cost blockchains. (Polygon POS also maintains a special relationship with Ethereum through a process known as checkpointing).

With transaction fees of less than a penny, Polygon’s vision of the future looks plausible. And with the help of incentive programs, users have flocked to Polygon POS with daily transactions surpassing Ethereum (though spam transactions inflate this number).

Layer 2s (Rollups)

Layer 1s and sidechains both have a distinct challenge: securing their blockchains. To do so, they must pay a new cohort of miners or proof of stake validators to verify and secure transactions, usually in the form of inflation from a base token (e.g. Polygon’s $MATIC, Avalanche’s $AVAX).

However, this brings notable downsides:

  • Having a base token naturally makes your ecosystem more competitive rather than complementary to Ethereum
  • Validating and securing transactions is a complex and challenging task that your network is responsible for indefinitely

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could create scalable ecosystems that borrowed from Ethereum’s security? Enter layer 2 networks, and “rollups” in particular. In a nutshell, layer 2s are independent ecosystems that sit on top of Ethereum in such a way that relies on Ethereum for security.

Critically, this means that layer 2s do not need to have a native token — so not only are they more complementary to Ethereum, they are essentially part of Ethereum. The Ethereum roadmap even pays homage to this idea by signaling that Ethereum 2.0 will be “rollup centric.”

How rollups work

Layer 2s are commonly called rollups because they “rollup” or bundle transactions together and execute them in a new environment, before sending the updated transaction data back to Ethereum. Rather than have the Ethereum network process 1,000 Uniswap transactions individually (expensive!), the computation is offloaded on a layer 2 rollup before submitting the results back to Ethereum (cheap!).

However, when results are posted back to Ethereum, how does Ethereum know that the data is correct and valid? And how can Ethereum prevent anyone from posting incorrect information? These are critical questions that differentiate the two types of rollups: Optimistic rollups, and Zero Knowledge rollups (ZK rollups).

Optimistic Rollups

When submitting results back to Ethereum, optimistic rollups “optimistically” assume that they’re valid. In other words, they let the operators of the rollup post any data they want (including potentially incorrect / fraudulent data), and just assume it’s correct — an optimistic outlook no doubt! But there are ways to fight fraud. As a check and balance, there is a window of time after any withdrawal where anyone watching can call out fraud (remember blockchains are transparent, anyone can watch what’s happening). In the event that one of these watchers can mathematically prove that fraud occurred (by submitting a fraud proof), the rollup reverts any fraudulent transactions and penalizes the bad actor and rewards the watcher (a clever incentive system!).

The drawback is a brief delay when you move funds between the rollup and Ethereum, waiting to see if any watchers catch any fraud. In some cases this can be up to a week, but we expect these delays to come down over time.

The key point is that optimistic rollups are intrinsically tied to Ethereum and ready to help Ethereum scale today. Accordingly, we’ve seen strong nascent growth with many leading DeFi projects moving to the leading optimistic rollups — Arbitrum and Optimistic Ethereum.

Arbitrum & Optimistic Ethereum

Arbitrum (by Off-chain Labs) and Optimistic Ethereum (by Optimism) are the two main projects implementing optimistic rollups today. Notably, both are still in their early stages, with both companies maintaining levels of centralized control but with plans to decentralize over time.

It’s estimated that once mature, optimistic roll ups can offer anywhere from a 10–100x improvement in scalability. Even in their early days, DeFi applications on Arbitrum and Optimism have already accrued billions in network value.

Optimism is earlier in its adoption curve with over $300M in TVL deployed across 7 DeFi applications, most notably Uniswap, Synthetix, and 1inch.

Arbitrum is further along, with around $2.5B in TVL across 60+ applications including familiar DeFi protocols like Curve, Sushiswap, and Balancer.

Arbitrum has also been selected as Reddit’s scaling solution of choice for their long awaited efforts to tokenize community points for the social media platform’s 500 million monthly active users.

ZK Rollups

Where optimistic rollups assume the transactions are valid and leave room for others to prove fraud, ZK rollups do the work of actually proving to the Ethereum network that transactions are valid.

Along with the results of the bundled transactions, they submit what’s called a validity proof to an Ethereum smart contract. As the name suggests, validity proofs let the Ethereum network verify that the transactions are valid, making it impossible for the relayer to cheat the system. This eliminates the need for a fraud proof window, so moving funds between Ethereum and ZK-rollups is effectively instant.

While instant settlement and no withdrawal times sound great, ZK rollups are not without tradeoffs. First, generating validity proofs is computationally intensive, so you need high powered machines to make them work. Second, the complexity surrounding validity proofs makes it more difficult to support EVM compatibility, limiting the types of smart contracts that can be deployed to ZK-rollups. As such, optimistic rollups have been first to market and are more capable of addressing Ethereum’s scaling woes today, but ZK-rollups may become a better technical solution in the long run.

ZK Rollup Adoption

The ZK rollup landscape runs deep, with multiple teams and implementations in the works and in production. Some prominent players include Starkware, Matter Labs, Hermez, and Aztec. Today, ZK-rollups mainly support relatively simple applications such as payments or exchanges (owing to limitations on what types of applications ZK-rollups can support today). For example, derivatives exchange dYdX employs a ZK rollup solution from Starkware (StarkEx) to support nearly 5 million weekly transactions and $1B+ in TVL.

The real prize however, is ZK rollup solutions that are fully EVM compatible and thus capable of supporting popular general applications (like the full suite of DeFi apps) without the withdrawal delays of optimistic rollups. The main players in this realm are MatterLab’s zkSync 2.0, Starkware’s Starknet, Polygon Hermez’s zkEVM, and Polygon Miden, which are all currently working towards mainnet launch. (Aztec, meanwhile, is focused on applying zk proofs to privacy).

Many in the industry (Vitalik included) are looking at ZK rollups in conjunction with Ethereum 2.0 as the long term solution to scaling Ethereum, mainly stemming from their ability to fundamentally handle hundreds of thousands of transactions per second without compromising on security or decentralization.The upcoming rollouts of fully EVM compatible ZK rollups will be one of the key things to watch as the quest to scale Ethereum progresses.

A fragmenting world

In the long run, these scaling solutions are necessary if smart contract platforms are to scale to billions of users. In the near term, these solutions, however, may present significant challenges for users and crypto operators alike. Navigating from Ethereum to these networks requires using cross-chain bridges, which is complex for users and carries latent risk. For example, several cross-chain bridges have already been the target of $100+ million dollar exploits.

More importantly, the multi-chain world fragments composability and liquidity. Consider that Sushiswap is currently implemented on Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain, Avalanche, Polygon, and Arbitrum. Where Sushiswap’s liquidity was once concentrated on one network (Ethereum), it’s now spread across five different networks.

Ethereum applications have long benefited from composability — i.e. Sushiswap on Ethereum is plug-and-play with other Ethereum apps like Aave or Compound. As applications spread out to new networks, an application implemented on one layer 1/sidechain/layer 2 is no longer composable with apps implemented on another, limiting usability and creating challenges for users and developers.

An uncertain future

Will new layer 1s like Avalanche or Solana continue to grow to compete with Ethereum? Will blockchain ecosystems like Cosmos or Polkadot proliferate? Will sidechains continue to run in harmony with Ethereum, taking on its excess capacity? Or will rollups in conjunction with Ethereum 2.0 win out? No one can say for sure.

While the future is uncertain, everyone can take solace in the knowledge that there are so many smart teams dedicated to tackling the most challenging problems that open, permissionless networks face. Just as broadband ultimately helped the internet support a host of revolutionary applications like YouTube and Uber, we believe that we’ll eventually look at the winning scaling solutions in the same light.

* This post focuses on scaling smart-contract based blockchains. Bitcoin scaling is best saved for a future post.


Scaling Ethereum & crypto for a billion users was originally published in The Coinbase Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Continue reading

Norway Mulls Backing Sweden’s Call for Euro Ban on Crypto Mining

Norway Mulls Backing Sweden’s Call for Euro Ban on Crypto MiningThe government in Norway is considering ways to limit the environmental impact of cryptocurrency mining and may support Swedish proposals to that end, including a European ban on proof-of-work mining. The European Commission has revealed it is already working to promote a transition to “more sustainable” protocols. Extensive Use of Renewable Energy for Mining Is […]
Continue reading