Tech Roundup, Jul. 18, 2019 l Stablecoins connect Brazil to the cryptocurrency market

. Jul 19, 2019
Tech Roundup for July 18 l Stablecoins connect Brazil the cryptocurrency market

You’re reading The Brazilian Report‘s weekly tech roundup, a digest of the main news concerning technology and innovation in Brazil. This week’s topics: cryptocurrency, telemedicine, the Internet of Things (IoT), and novelties with Google Maps, among other stories.

The first stablecoins reach Brazil

Stablecoins (cryptocurrencies designed to minimize the volatility of prices) have taken center stage in the cryptocurrency world after Facebook announced its plans to develop a digital coin in June. The currency, called Libra, will be backed by a mix of assets in four official currencies.

Meanwhile, at least three stablecoins have already been launched in the Brazilian market: GMC, BRX, and RealT. The first is pegged to the U.S. Dollar and the latter two to the Brazilian Real. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Stablecoins differ from other digital currencies because they are proportionally tied to the value of other assets, such as bonds or fiat money. Similarly to how cash was once tethered to the value of precious metals, like gold, these digital tokens are tied to assets that have proven stability, including national currencies such as dollars or euros. These types of coins usually match the value of currency. In the case of GMC, for example, 1 coin equals 1 US Dollar. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As their name implies, stablecoins aim to limit volatility and foster stability in terms of conversion rates and coin value. Keeping this in mind, it may seem odd for a company to base their coin on the Brazilian Real. While it is certainly more stable than its predecessors, the national currency only recently </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">celebrated its 25th birthday</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and it has lost nearly four times its value against the dollar since 1994. </span></p> <h4>So why are digital currencies like BRX and RealT important?</h4> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The answer lies in the goal to facilitate Brazil’s participation in the global cryptocurrency market. </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">More Brazilians are trading crypto coins than stock</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and having a coin tied to the national currency offers more certainty and ease in trading. Until recently, Brazilians have had to buy extremely volatile cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, in order to participate in the market. This not only limits the predictability of trading on blockchains but also slows down the process because of complicated calculations. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let’s say someone has Bitcoins, and wants to trade for another cryptocurrency. They would first have to determine the value of Bitcoin, which has historically varied by as much as 30 percent in a 24 hour period. The trade can only happen after determining the value of the second cryptocurrency, which is likely just as volatile. Having a stablecoin takes some of the speculation out of one half of the equation—assuming the national currency it is tied to is tightly regulated to control inflation. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It also facilitates Brazilian participation in markets other than cryptocurrency trading. One of the ideas behind digital tokens is that because they are decentralized and based on blockchain technology, they eliminate some of the operational costs of the current monetary system. What this means practically is that as long as a retailer accepts cryptocurrencies, customers don’t have to worry about things like foreign transaction fees or expensive wire transfers. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cryptocoins remain </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">relatively unregulated</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> as of yet, but all must undergo anti-money laundering procedures known as KYC/AMLl, and a fund-raising procedure known as an Initial Coin Offering (ICO). The Securities and Exchange Commission (CVM) states publically on their website that they are “carefully watching” the market and advise investors to be aware of the risks of participating in the emerging cryptocurrency market. </span></p> <hr /> <h2>Will telemedicine remain legal?</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Brazilian Medical Association (AMB) filed a complaint to the National Supplementary Health Agency (ANS) about the use of telemedicine in the country. The complaint was filed just days after the announcement that health insurance company AMIL would team up with Albert Einstein Hospital to offer digital services to its premium customers. The AMB claims that while technology has its place in medicine, its current use is not consistent with the Law of Medicine Act, which holds standards for the dignified treatment of patients. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to the AMB, digital communication damages the patient-doctor relationship, especially during diagnosis. The association went on to say that decisions about where to incorporate technology should be made to the benefit of the patient, and not to curb institutional expenses. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The virtual consultations offered by the partnership between AMIL and Albert Einstein functions through video conferencing and aims to address simple medical cases, such as colds or the flu. On one hand, this allows for a better allocation of resources, as hospital staff could commit more time to serious medical cases. On the other hand, superficial complaints can sometimes indicate more significant health problems, and sensory information such as smell and touch can help identify these issues. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Telemedicine is highly sought after in Brazil, with </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">87 percent of doctors having answered patient questions via WhatsApp</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. It opens the possibility of providing medical advice to remote areas, and often affords the sick and elderly greater autonomy in their day-to-day lives. But the healthcare field must be especially conscientious about implementing technology for technology’s sake. Regulation will take into consideration legal, financial and practical considerations, as well as ethical questions such as the Hippocratic Oath.</span></p> <hr /> <h2>The National Plan for the Internet of Things</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Bolsonaro administration announced a national plan for the Internet of Things (IoT) last month. The Science and Technology Ministry is at the forefront of the initiative, which aims to incentivize the use of IoT in civil society. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Internet of Things is based on the principle that anything can be connected to the internet. From washing machines that text you when your load is done to closets that can choose your outfits, the possibilities are endless. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The plan lays out educational programs and incentives for businesses developing this new technology, in the hopes that laying out infrastructure will help Brazil be more efficient and prepared for digital transformation in the coming decades. Essential for the smooth adaptation of these new technologies, however, is 5G internet, which has </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">yet to reach the country</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The document also delineates how IoT factors into the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">data protection law</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> (LGPD). Items equipped with IoT often use cameras or sensors to gather the information necessary to complete their functions. A person’s image is considered a piece of personal data, meaning that if images are saved, they are subject to data protection. </span></p> <hr /> <h2>Rio de Janeiro fintech proposes a blockchain-based stock market</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The fintech Banco Maré made headlines last year when it launched an app to provide financial services to unbanked individuals in Rio’s poorest communities. The system is completely digitized and was the first micropayment network in Brazil to use cryptocoins.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now, the fintech has its eyes set on the investment market, planning to partner with blockchain entity R3 to create a stock market specifically for startups. Such a system would allow an individual to invest in startup stocks from the area, subsequently supporting </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">entrepreneurial ventures in the region</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. Banco Maré is reportedly planning to submit the plan to the Brazilian Securities and Exchange Commisions later this year. </span></p> <hr /> <h2>Instagram tests a numberless system</h2> <p><img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-20923" src="" alt="instagram no likes" width="1200" height="675" srcset=" 1200w, 300w, 768w, 1024w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1200px) 100vw, 1200px" /></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Brazil is one of seven countries in which Instagram is trialing a change, whereby the number of likes on user posts are hiddens. They made the following public statement on via Twitter: “We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.” The trial comes amid criticism that social media raises depression and anxiety in teenagers. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The social media company is owned by Facebook, which has adopted a “pay to play” model for advertising in recent years by shifting their algorithm to prioritize user-generated content over company pages. Whether the new numberless system achieves a similar goal is yet to be determined, but businesses should be aware of how the change affects marketing. Not knowing the level of, or details about, post engagement has implications for competitor research and influencer marketing, among other considerations. </span></p> <hr /> <h2>Google Maps showing bike routes</h2> <p><img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-20921" src="" alt="google maps bike-sharing" width="1400" height="875" srcset=" 1400w, 300w, 768w, 1024w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1400px) 100vw, 1400px" /></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Google is implementing a bike route option in its Maps app, which will differ from those for pedestrians and cars by taking into consideration elevation, as well as the availability of bike paths and bike-sharing stations. This option has been available in European cities for over five years and Brazil is just now catching up, likely because of the recent rise of bike- and scooter-sharing services in the country. This is one more step towards </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">urban mobility</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in Brazil’s largest cities. </span></p> <hr /> <h2>Educational kit for architects and engineers crowdfunds BRL 1 million</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The educational kit “Mola”, which is described as an advanced Lego, </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">raised</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> over BRL 1 million through crowdfunding for its third edition. The kit helps architects and engineers build more accurate 3D models that show not only aesthetic considerations, but also concepts such as tension and stability. The pieces are easy to use and store, as they are magnetic, and are already being used in over 300 universities around the world.  </span></p> <hr /> <h2>Events</h2> <h4><a href="">Gramado</a> (Rio Grande do Sul)</h4> <ul> <li style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Described as a “brainstorming session”, Gramado is an event for early-stage start-ups looking to discuss disruption in their fields. The third edition takes place July 31-August 2.</span></li> </ul> <h4><a href="">Start Up Summit</a>  (Florianópolis)</h4> <ul> <li style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">This is the second year of this conference for entrepreneurs looking to scale their ventures. August 15-16.

Juliana Costa

Juliana is a growth strategist and contributor to The Brazilian Report

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