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Blockchain Bites: Hyperledger Makes Inroads, Bitcoin Gets ‘Harder’ and Buffett’s Not ‘Halving’ It

There's a lot of action happening in enterprise-grade blockchains.

Big Blue's preferred chain, Hyperledger, is being tapped by three energy grid operators, a new consortium to establish digital identities for public and private organizations and has been shown to perform better than expected in a medical supply chain pilot.

You're reading Blockchain Bites, the daily roundup of the most pivotal stories in blockchain and crypto news, and why they're significant. You can subscribe to this and all of CoinDesk's newsletters here.

Elsewhere in the crypto-verse, Bitcoin's difficulty setting is increasing while Ethereum is seeing a burst in transactions. Though both may soon face a new competitor with the imminent launch of NEAR. Here's the story:

Big Blue Goes Green With BlockchainIBM has created a new blockchain consortium with three of Europe’s electricity grid operators to help smooth the transition to renewable sources of energy. The Equigy platform will use Hyperledger Fabric to share charging data between consumers, aggregators and three energy providers in Northern and Southern Europe.

Digital Identities on HyperledgerThe ToIP Foundation is building a solution to the problem of digital identity and how to maintain trust between various counterparties. A vast ecosystem of public bodies and private companies, including Mastercard, IBM and the Canadian Province of British Columbia, are working on establishing decentralized digital trust, which will live within the Linux Foundation.

Drug Blockchain Better Than ExpectedIBM, Merck, Walmart and KPMG’s drug-tracing blockchain pilot on Hyperledger Fabric has exceeded the benchmarks outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the group announced Monday. In their final report to the FDA, the partners said, "This technology might be able to address the foundational requirement of track and trace for [the Drug Supply Chain Security Act] in addition to establishing trust between trading partners."

Reweighing Gram ReturnsTelegram won’t repay its investors in gram tokens after all. After twice delaying the launch of its TON blockchain, the company is contractually obligated to pay investors back 72% of their investments immediately, but has offered to pay investors 110% of their investment in equity or gram tokens if they wait a year for the network to go live. Lawyers advised the firm "not to pursue an option involving grams or another cryptocurrency due to its uncertain reception from the relevant regulators."

'It's Gravy,' Turkish Authorities SaidiMiner, a Turkey-based company, has been granted a license to operate up to 6,000 mining rigs. The mining company has so far spent 311 billion rials ($7.3 million) on setting up the biggest mining operation in the country to date.

Getting HarderBitcoin mining difficulty – a measure of how hard it is to compete for block rewards – has neared an all-time high in the network’s last adjustment before the halving event, roughly seven days away. This adjustment is the second time mining difficulty has topped the 16 trillion threshold and follows the second-largest decline in the network’s history in late-March.

Ethereum Killer?NEAR, a blockchain project that aims to compete with Ethereum, closed a $21.6 million token sale led by Andreessen Horowitz and joined by some 40 other investment firms including Pantera Capital, Libertus, Blockchange and Animal Ventures. The creators are targeting April 22 for a mainnet launch of its Proof-of-Stake blockchain.

Busy DaysMeanwhile, Ethereum’s network is experiencing its busiest days in 10 months amid increased issuance of stablecoins and the runup to Ethereum 2.0. The seven-day moving average of the total number of confirmed transactions on Ethereum’s blockchain rose to 845,400 on April 30 to hit the highest level since July 1 , 2019, according to the data source Coin Metrics.

Milestone BlockEthereum has mined 10 million blocks in five years of existence. Ethereum’s protocol prints a new block every 20 seconds, compared to Bitcoin’s consensus mechanism, which usually will create a new block of transactions every 10 minutes. (Decrypt)

New SuitPuerto Rico-based Bitcoin Manipulation Abatement filed a lawsuit against Ripple and its CEO, Brad Garlinghouse, alleging they had violated securities laws when hosting its $1.1 billion XRP sale. Incorporated last year, BMA accuses Ripple of publicly promoting the sale to investors to drive up demand and maximize profits, without registering the sale with the relevant regulator.

Ongoing SuitThe long and tumultuous lawsuit between Craig Wright and the brother of his former business partner has a tentative trial date, July 6. The Kleiman estate is suing the self-declared inventor of Bitcoin for half of the suspected one million bitcoin trove Wright had mined with Dave Kleiman. (Decrypt)

Trade FunctionTrading messaging platform Paradigm will launch a trading feature that makes it easier to execute derivatives trades. (The Block)

Salty HackersA hacking group has installed crypto mining malware into a company server through a weakness in Salt, a popular infrastructure tool used by the likes of IBM, LinkedIn and eBay. "The mining attempt spiked CPUs and quickly overloaded most of our systems, which alerted us to the issue immediately,” an incident report reads.

The Long ReadFintech guru David Birch wrote "The Currency Cold War: Cash and Cryptography, Hash Rates and Hegemony," a book that seemingly foresaw the future. What was once a niche theory, that digital dollars could displace the sovereignty of money, is now front of mind for central bankers, regulators and the builders of new monetary systems. The world, it appears, is heading to a Cold War between a competing set of programmatic currencies, all with their own designs and purposes. Birch sits down with Jeff Wilser to discuss the coming state of the world where we will have to choose between “between the Federal Reserve and Microsoft (between dollar bills and Bill’s dollars)? Between Facebook’s Libra and China’s Digital Currency/Electronic Payment (DCEP) system? Between spendable drawing rights (SDRs) and Kardashian kash?”

CoinDesk Live: Lockdown Edition continues its popular twice-weekly virtual chats via Zoom and Twitter, giving you a preview of what’s to come at Consensus: Distributed, our first fully virtual – and fully free – big-tent conference May 11-15.

Register to join our sixth session Tuesday, May 5, with speaker Amy Davine Kim from the Chamber of Digital Commerce to discuss upcoming guidelines from the Financial Action Task Force, most notably the Travel Rule, hosted by Consensus organizer Aaron Stanley. Zoom participants can ask questions directly to our guests.

Investor Interest?Bitcoin failed to plant a flag above $9,000 early on Tuesday. Still, on-chain data suggests spiking investor interest. The seven-day average of the number of unique addresses active on the network rose to the highest level since June 29, 2019. “We have observed a significant increase in ‘new money’ entering the ecosystem,” said Matthew Dibb, co-founder of Stack.

Not for BuffettBillionaire investor Warren Buffett says he's having a hard time finding attractive investments as the coronavirus ravages the global economy. Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency the 89-year-old Buffett described in February as having "no value," is up 23% this year to about $8,870. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index of large U.S. stocks, which Buffett routinely endorses for amateur investors, is down 12%. CoinDesk's First Mover team reports, shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett's insurance-to-utilities conglomerate, are down 21% in 2020.

Let Them Eat GoldOther institutional players, including hedge funds, are betting on gold as a refuge from “unfettered” currency printing. (Financial Times, paywalled)

The Oracle of OmahaIn the latest episode of The Breakdown, Nathaniel Whittermore unpacks the “Woodstock of Capitalism,” or the 4.5 hour virtual Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting, addressing why Warren Buffet is sitting on $137 billion in cash and is hesitant to invest.

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