What next? Oh yes, turning a luxury car into a non-fungible token

We’ve seen more than one project use the immutability of blockchain to verify important physical things. So, for instance, a pioneer in the space, Verisart, has brought blockchain certification of high art to leading galleries worldwide, and other players are now entering this growing market. Codex Protocol is a new startup also putting art on the blockchain. The benefits are obvious: reducing to near-zero the possibility that an artwork could be fake. This is an incredibly powerful idea, especially at the high end of the commercial spectrum.

A relatively new idea is to take blockchain to the car market. Automakers are already starting to take an interest. BMW, Ford, Renault and General Motors recently joined a new working group of more than 30 auto companies to employ blockchain technology. The Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative aims to speed up the adoption of blockchain, with use cases ranging from autonomous payments to ridesharing. But that’s not where blockchain adoption for cars ends.

There remains the need for trustworthy assurances of authenticity and condition, especially when it comes to high-end cars. And that’s doubly true of classic and exotic vehicles. Collectible, classic cars can have their documentation forged or misassigned as there’s no one, single, global document standardization for these kinds of cars.

Now a startup hopes to bring their newly launched platform for tokenization to this market.

Proxeus is a blockchain startup that has launched a user-friendly method to register classic car collections on the blockchain, making it both unforgeable and verifiable by anyone. The first client is Mercuria Helvetica in Switzerland.

Proxeus’s process verifies the certificates of authenticity and conditions of the vehicles. As an additional step, the car itself could actually be taken to the blockchain as a non-fungible token with an integrated certification library, offering not only proof of ownership and history but also to serve as a permanent link to the verified documentation.

It’s now launching the beta version of its engine, which has a drag and drop interface.

But do we really want to tokenize luxury cars? Proxeus says that’s not the point. They say their technology means someone without specialized programming skills can have the ability to deploy blockchain for a wide variety of use cases.

Antoine Verdon, co-founder, says: “For the first time we are able to show that our technology is real.” Artan Veliju, CTO, says the platform has the “ability to easily build the workflows needed to use blockchain productively without needing to launch a software development project.”

Their idea is to allow anyone to legally incorporate businesses, register assets and validate certificates on their testnet blockchain. It’s so far been used by the University of Basel’s Center for Innovative Finance course certificates or WWF Switzerland’s tax donation verification system. Test XES tokens will be provided to show how they function within the Proxeus ecosystem and are used to pay for Proxeus’ services.

Shortly after raising $25 million as a part of their ICO, Proxeus now plans to complete the functions described in its whitepaper and release a fully developed solution for enterprise.

Meantime, I’m going to make a, perhaps obvious, observation: The tokenization craze is clearly not going to end here.

Trump’s tariffs threaten global prosperity, warns Angela Merkel

US levies on European and Chinese goods may also break WTO rules, says German leader

The war of words over President Donald Trump’s threat to impose wide-ranging tariffs on imports from China and the European Union intensified on Friday after the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said the levies threatened the incomes of workers across the world.

Merkel described possible US tariffs on imported cars as a breach of World Trade Organization rules and “a real threat to the prosperity of many in the world” as Trump went on US television to say that he was ready to expand his roster of tariffs on Beijing to $500bn, covering almost every product imported to the US from China.

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Tempow’s Bluetooth stack can improve your TV setup

French startup Tempow has been working on improving the Bluetooth protocol at a low level to make it more versatile. The company is introducing a new audio profile for your TV or set-top box.

TV and set-top box manufacturers can license Tempow’s software and integrate new features in their devices. It works with regular Bluetooth chips, but it opens up new possibilities.

In particular, Tempow has been working on a one-to-many pairing model. You can pair multiple Bluetooth speakers with your TV to create a wireless surround system using good old Bluetooth speakers.

The reason why soundbars slowly replaced 5.1 systems is that you don’t have to run cables on the floor to the back speakers. Tempow solves that, and Bluetooth speakers are much cheaper than a bunch of Sonos speakers.

With Tempow’s stack, you can also stream different audio tracks to different devices. In other words, you could pair multiple headphones with your TV and watch a movie in different languages. If your kid is too young to read subtitles, you no longer need to make compromises.

You can also configure each speaker individually so that you can reproduce the same sound profile across the board, even if you’re using speakers from different brands.

The startup first worked on an audio profile for smartphones. For instance, if you have a Moto X4 phone, you can pair it with multiple Bluetooth speakers at once. With today’s news, the company is expanding beyond smartphones. But it’s still about Bluetooth.

British Airways shows everyone how not to GDPR

Let’s all take a minute to appreciate the view in the British Airways social media cockpit, where staffers at the coalface of the airline’s Twitter account have presided over a wildly unusual ‘interpretation’ of Europe’s new data protection rules.

One that, er, suggests quite the opposite of GDPR compliance… Given the company’s social media staff have been caught encouraging customers to post personal data such as their address and passport number into a public forum — and here’s the anti-privacy cherry! — claiming it’s necessary for GDPR compliance!

Insert your own [facepalm of choice]…

Mustafa Al-Bassam, the UCL information security PhD student who flagged the company’s social media fail in the above Twitter thread has since filed his own data protection complaint against British Airways — after finding its check-in page was leaking his personal data to a bunch of third parties for ad targeting purposes.

Now that could be okay — say if the company asked for and gained consent for sharing his data. Or if it had another valid legal basis for collecting data, i.e. other than consent. Though it’s pretty hard to imagine what might legally justify an airline sharing paying customers’ personal information and travel data with advertisers without their express consent…

Well, Al-Bassam says he was not asked for consent to share his information with advertisers. And if you’re processing data by consent — as British Airways’ privacy policy appears to suggest is what the company thinks it’s doing here — then GDPR does in fact require you to actually ask for and actually obtain consent first.

tl;dr: Consent by default is not consent. So again the company appears to be suffering from some form of regulatory delusion syndrome where whatever it thinks GDPR compliance means is what GDPR compliance means. Say like embedding a catch-all ‘consent’ in the depths of a privacy policy. Or just saying the word ‘GDPR’ out loud three times while looking in the mirror.

Hint: Nope! Not compliance! No!

We reached out to British Airways to discuss its approach to GDPR compliance but at the time of writing the company had not responded to a request for comment.

Asked if it could give the company any GDPR guidance, a spokesperson for the UK’s data protection watchdog told us: “Any personal information that an organisation asks for must be limited to what’s necessary for that purpose. Any processing of that information must be secure and take appropriate technical and organisational precautions.”

Of course the airline is by no means the only company failing entirely to grok GDPR. The regulation is still pretty new (having come into force on May 25) and there are clearly A LOT of privacy dents still to be ironed out all around the online place.

Some of these are accidental and/or idiotic kinks. While others look much more like an intentional deforming of the rules (hi Facebook!). But given the GDPR regime also supports punitive fines for compliance breaches (hello lawsuits) it’s to be hoped that none of these privacy fails — accidental, spectacularly stupid, intentionally hostile or otherwise — will be around for too long.

Northern Ireland close to recession, CBI warns as May visits region

Business group says collapse of power-sharing and Brexit turmoil are taking their toll

Northern Ireland is edging towards recession, the Confederation of British Industry has warned as Theresa May arrives in Belfast for her first visit to the Irish border.

The CBI said the political vacuum left by the collapse of power-sharing in Stormont along with Brexit uncertainty were taking their toll in the region, which is already the poorest performing of the 12 UK regions.

Related: Varadkar says Ireland is stepping up plans for no-deal Brexit

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Lifebit raises $3M to scale-up AI-powered analysis of DNA data

Making sense of DNA data is a two-step process, namely the biochemical-sequencing of the DNA and the analyzing and extracting insights from the sequenced DNA data. As of today in 2018, the first part of this process is now almost fully automated requiring minimal human intervention. Even sequencing costs have dropped below $1,000 and soon they will reach $100, according to the industry. The second part of the process, however, is a long way from being automated because it’s very complex, time-consuming and requires highly specialized experts to analyze the data.

Now a startup plans to address this problem.

London-based Lifebit is building a cloud-based cognitive system that can reason about DNA data in the same way humans do. This offers researchers and R&D professionals, with limited-to-no computational and data analysis training, and their corresponding organisations (ie. pharmaceutical companies), a highly scalable, modular and reproducible system that automates the analysis processes, learns from the data and provides actionable insights.

It’s now closed a $3m (£2.25m) Seed funding round led by Pentech and Connect Ventures, with participation from Beacon Capital and Tiny VC (AngelList). The company is simultaneously announcing the launch of its first product, Deploit, what it claims is the world’s first AI-powered genomic data analysis platform, and, says the company, is already being trialled by major pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

The main “competitor” for Lifebit is the DIY process of analysing and getting actionable insights out of genomics and biodata. Organisations, both in industry and research, build custom software and hardware solutions to be able to analyse the huge volumes of genomic and biodata at scale. This leads to a large waste of resources since custom software and hardware is expensive and hard to scale and maintain.

A few platforms have been created like DNAnexus and SevenBridges. However, these platforms tend to lack flexibility, don’t integrate with the way the vast majority of bioinformaticians work, operate like black boxes which fail to provide the user with full control and transparency, can be very costly to use, and enforce lock-downs. All in all, if the user stops using these platform, all their past work is no longer accessible. And they are not designed for AI and advanced learning from previous analysis performed.

Lifebit’s Deploit platform is designed to address all these problems with a particular highlight on the machine learning functionalities that automate the process and on creating the next tool that will be used by everyone in the community who is trying to analyse and understand genomic and bio data, very much like GitHub changed software engineers’ lives.

In fact, Deploit will be priced with a pricing model similar to GitHub. It is free for individual, non-commercial, usage, and then you pay for team functionalities and for enterprise deployment and usage.

Lifebit was incorporated in April 2017 but founders Dr. Maria Chatzou (CEO) and Dr. Pablo Prieto only started working on it full-time in July when we moved to London to join Techstars.

“The problem these organizations face is no longer sequencing vast quantities of genomic data, but rather making sense of this data quickly and affordably,” says Chatzou. “This requires new data analysis technologies, which is where Lifebit comes in. Our mission as a company is to enable cloud-based real-time genomic analysis at scale, anywhere, by anyone.”

No-deal Brexit would harm EU countries as well as UK, warns IMF

Growth across Europe forecast to fall if UK adopted WTO rules, with Britain worst affected

Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal would inflict significant economic pain across Europe leaving the region without any winners, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

Staging an intervention as the new Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab warned Europe to prepare for a no-deal scenario, even as the IMF said such an outcome would hurt the UK most but would also have damaging economic consequences for Ireland and other EU nations.

Related: Brexit: Raab and Barnier to meet as EU steps up no-deal warnings

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Sweden’s Engaging Care raises $800,000 for its digital healthcare SaaS

Engaging Care, a Swedish heathtech startup co-founded by Charlotta Tönsgård, who was previously CEO of online doctor app Min Doktor before being asked to step down, has raised $800,000 in “pre-seed” funding to continue building out its digital healthcare SaaS. Backing the burgeoning company are a host of well-established angel investors in the region.

They include Hampus Jakobsson (venture partner at BlueYard Capital and co-founder of TAT, which sold to Blackberry for $150 million), Sophia Bendz (EIR at Atomico and the former Global Marketing Director at Spotify), Erik Byrenius (founder of OnlinePizza, an online food ordering company sold to Delivery Hero) and Neil Murray’s The Nordic Web Ventures.

With the aim of dragging healthcare into the digital age, but in a more patient-friendly and patient-centred way than tradition electronic medical record systems, Engaging Care is developing a SaaS and accompanying apps to bring together patients, healthcare providers and partners to be “smarter and better connected”. Unlike software and digital services that work outside existing healthcare systems, the startup’s wares are billed as being designed to work within them. It is initially targeting people with long-term health conditions.

“There has been tremendous progress made in the healthcare sector over the last decade. New advanced drugs, new methods for surgery and other treatments, but how healthcare workers share important information with the patient and the interaction between caregiver and patient still basically happens the same way it did 50 years ago,” Tönsgård tells me.

“The systems of today are still designed around the doctor – even though we might spend as little as 15 minutes with him or her every year, but hours, days and years alone with our condition. On top of this, most western healthcare systems are struggling financially, with an ageing population, more prevalence of chronic diseases and a shift in expectations from the public, adding to the challenges”.

In order to maintain current levels of service and make room for medical breakthroughs and new treatments that are happening at an increasing pace, Tönsgård argues that individual patients and healthcare providers need to work together in a different way. And that begins with empowering patients to better understand and take greater control of their health conditions and treatment — which is where a platform like Engaging Care can help.

“Our ambition is to become the first truly global healthcare system; supporting us as individuals to be more in control, and to make better decisions about our healthcare and to provide digital tools for healthcare providers to share knowledge and use their resources more efficiently,” she says.

“Our goal is to become the end-users first point of contact, but the clinics/healthcare providers are our customers. Right now we’re targeting specific clinics, but in the end, our platform will support any type of healthcare”.

The first “vertical” Engaging Care is exploring is patients who have gone through an organ transplant. “It might sound like a strange place to start, but it’s actually perfect in many ways,” says Tönsgård. “Both in terms of the possibility to make a difference for the patients and the care teams, but also in terms of a landing pod when going international”.

This has seen the company work with a small number of clinics in Sweden that are performing organ transplants to put patients through a pilot of the software. The first stages of commercial discussions are underway and Tönsgård is hopeful of securing the first customer this Fall, which will coincide with a full launch of the Engaging Care platform. “In parallel, we’re exploring multiple options for which verticals to kick off next,” she adds.

Meanwhile, Murray of The Nordic Web Ventures concedes that Engaging Care’s goal to be the first platform that enables a truly global healthcare system is “incredibly lofty,” but says that if anyone has the “drive, passion, ambition and guts to pull this off then it’s Charlotta and team”.