In a world first, students from Imperial College London have created a series of digital money seminars which are now available to the public.
The interactive workshops — which were developed in conjunction with Citi and the Institute of Digital Commerce — serve as an introduction to the basics of bitcoin, ethereum, and other crypto-currencies. They also provide an opportunity for attendees to ask questions about this cutting edge topic in a practical setting.
“This partnership with Citi and the IDC is an incredible opportunity for our students to learn more about real world applications of cryptography and how it all connects with the blockchain,” said Imogen Waller, co-founder of the Ethereum Foundation and head of education at the world-class institute. “The do seminars are a great example of how important it is for students to get real-world experience, and this brings the theory of crypto-currencies into meaningful and practical application.”
The three-day program, which costs £495 (around $635) per person to attend, is an introduction to the inner workings of the blockchain and how it functions as a distributed ledger — a technology that underpins all cryptocurrencies.
The seminars, which take place in London, are aimed at corporate executives, government officials, legal practitioners, and other professionals who have a genuine interest in understanding how crypto-currencies work and why they are becoming so in demand. They also provide an opportunity to hear from experts in the field who can provide guidance on taking practical steps to integrate blockchain technology into their own businesses.
“The blockchain is a profoundly innovative technology and opens up countless possibilities for the future,” said Andrew Keys, global co-head of digital custody at Citi. “It’s an exciting time to be studying it and working with leading experts like the ones at Imperial College London. This new initiative will no doubt prove highly beneficial for those seeking to better understand digital currencies and how the blockchain can benefit their own work.”
The first day of the seminar takes an in-depth look at bitcoin and how it works, followed by a practical examination on solving real-world business problems with blockchain technology.
The rise of cryptocurrencies
Innovators and engineers in the field of cryptography were first introduced to the concept of “blockchain” at the end of the 1990s, when a programmer named Satoshi Nakamoto published a white paper outlining the revolutionary technology.
The technology allows for the creation of a decentralized, shared ledger that records transactions made using computerized money — known as cryptocurrencies — in a transparent and auditable manner.
Decentralized ledgers of this kind are an incredibly valuable tool in the fight against corruption — making them popular in countries like Syria, where the creation of such a ledger could help bring about democratic reform — and among activists who want to protect certain types of data from being manipulated by authoritarian regimes.
But that’s not all that the chain ledger does. Thanks to its transparency, the technology also provides a way for the public to examine the activities of their government and other powerful institutions — from banks to retail businesses — without having to trust these organizations‘ word to do so.
Since their invention, cryptocurrencies have been on an absolutely incredible journey and have gained a huge amount of popularity. The total value of all cryptocurrencies is currently around £179 billion ($236 billion), with Bitcoin making up a significant portion of that value, at around £73 billion ($99 billion). In comparison, the aggregate value of all traditional currencies is around £17.7 billion ($24.5 billion).
What is bitcoin?
Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency and was first introduced in 2009 as “a purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash” that is “completely decentralized,” noted the cryptocurrency’s website.
The cryptocurrency relies on a computer network known as the “blockchain” to verify and record transactions. While the blockchain was initially developed to serve as the underlying infrastructure of the Bitcoin network, it has since been adopted by other cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum and Litecoin, which was initially designed for financial services use cases.
Bitcoin is also one of the most difficult cryptocurrencies to get your hands on. The value of a single bitcoin can fluctuate widely, even doubling and redoubling in value, which has led to a generation of “Bitcoin millionaires” who have gone on to become instant billionaires thanks to their investment in the cryptocurrency.
The decentralized, cryptocurrency-focused nature of Bitcoin makes it ideal for use in highly regulated industries where fraud and corruption are known to occur, and it is popular among money launderers and illegal drug dealers who want to engage in clandestine transactions.
Ethereum for business
Ethereum was invented by a Canadian software engineer named Vitalik Buterin, and it is considered to be an improvement upon Bitcoin in almost every way.
Buterin first published Ethereum in 2013 with a goal of creating an “open-source, public, and decentralized” platform that would allow for the creation of “decentralized applications” (or DApps), a type of program that runs on the Ethereum network.
Thanks to its open-source nature and vast community of developers, Ethereum is often the go-to platform for innovators who want to build decentralized applications that can interact with the world around them — and each other.
But beyond simply existing as a platform for building decentralized applications, Ethereum has emerged as a significant player in its own right, with a large number of cryptocurrencies — known as “Ethers” — relying on its platform for their operations. The first of these was Ripples, which was later rebranded as “XRP.”
The fact that Ethereum is one of the largest cryptocurrencies in existence and is frequently used in conjunction with other cryptocurrencies means that it has the ability to act as an intermediate currency for value exchange, helping to make international and cross-border payments much easier.
The case for Litecoin
While Bitcoin and Ethereum have been racing toward future-forward innovation, another cryptocurrency, Litecoin, has been putting that innovation to use in the present, developing cutting edge technology known as “scrypt” that is resistant to quantum computing attacks — and more power efficient than algorithms found in Bitcoin and Ethereum.
The scrypt algorithm was developed by a Litecoin creator named Charlie Lee, who launched the Litecoin network in October 2011.
While other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum give users a way to make and receive payments, Litecoin adds an extra element of searching for merchants who are willing to accept your cryptocurrency. In order to find these merchants, you need to use a toolkit that helps make the process easier. And because it’s based on Bitcoin’s protocol, you can use your existing Bitcoin wallet to store and spend your Litecoins.
Litecoin’s proof-of-work algorithm is ASIC-resistant, meaning that it’s harder for powerful computers to mine the coins as compared to specialized hardware designed for mining bitcoins. This makes it ideal for use in industries where specialized hardware is used to process large amounts of data quickly and accurately — such as in financial services and healthcare.
While the above cryptocurrencies may not be easily usable directly at this moment in time, the fact that they were all born out of the blockchain should serve as proof that this technology is changing the world of finance, as well as the many industries and use cases that it can transform.
Indeed, these cryptocurrencies were built with one thing in mind: to bring about total transparency within industries and in government. Thanks to blockchains like these, we will soon see an evolution of how we interact with the world around us, where every transaction made is recorded and stored on a distributed network that is beyond the control of any one party. And while it’s still in its infancy, the blockchain is already starting to change the world of finance and how we will all interact with our money in the future.