Tech roundup, Nov. 1, 2019 | Brazil’s first “blockchain baby” is born

. Nov 01, 2019
Tech roundup, Nov. 1, 2019 | Brazil's first "blockchain baby" is born

You’re reading The Brazilian Report‘s weekly tech roundup, a digest of the most important news on technology and innovation in Brazil. This week’s topics: Brazil’s “blockchain baby.” Brazilians are completely hooked on WhatsApp. Brazilian “green cleaning” startup to go to the U.S. And São Paulo’s 2-square-meter accommodations.

Brazil’s first “blockchain baby” is born

Hearing that a baby has been put on the blockchain sparks one of two reactions: either

you think that we are entering a magical era in which technology will solve all of our problems, or you&#8217;re already preparing your bunker for when the machines inevitably rise against us.</p> <p>But, yes, blockchain babies exist. The first was recorded in Tanzania last year, as part of an <a href="">experiment by international organization AID:Tech</a> to use technology as a way to ensure that charitable donations reached their intended targets. This trend—if we can call it that—has reached Brazil. Born in Rio de Janeiro on July 8, 2019, Álvaro de Medeiros Mendonça became Brazil&#8217;s very first blockchain baby.</p> <h4>What is blockchain?</h4> <p>Blockchain technology is the brainchild of a mysterious person—or group of people—under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. As I do not claim to be an expert on the concept, allow me to borrow the definition written by entrepreneur Ameer Rosic on the <a href="">BlockGeeks website</a>. He writes:</p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p><em>A blockchain is, in the simplest of terms, a time-stamped series of immutable records of data that is managed by a cluster of computers not owned by any single entity. Each of these blocks of data (i.e. block) is secured and bound to each other using cryptographic principles (i.e. chain).</em></p></blockquote> <p>Got it?</p> <script src="" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script> <h4>Blockchain babies</h4> <p>While there was no practical reason for it, little Álvaro&#8217;s birth certificate was registered through Growth Tech&#8217;s Notary Ledgers network, which provides notary services through IBM&#8217;s blockchain. Besides the two companies, a Rio de Janeiro notary office teamed up with the initiative—which should be soon implemented in several maternity hospitals.</p> <p>&#8220;At the moment of birth, one of the members of the medical team registered the birth immediately using our tool. Then, whoever registers the child will create their digital identity based on the validation of personal data with official agencies, as well as powerful facial recognition tools. Then, the information goes on the notary office&#8217;s system, which then generates a completely valid birth certificate in a maximum of 15 minutes,&#8221; said Hugo Pierre, CEO and founder of Growth Tech</p> <h4>Implications of blockchain babies</h4> <p>In an <a href="">article</a> called &#8220;What Blockchain Can&#8217;t Do,&#8221; for the Harvard Business Review, Catherine Tucker and Christian Catalini write about possible problems created by the technology for the use of tracking babies:</p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p><em>The digital records may be immutable and verifiable, but how does someone know which digital record is attached to which baby? To link an entry on the blockchain to an actual, real-life baby, we need to give the baby a physical identifier through a physical tag, or in a more futuristic world, a small chip or digital genome record that links the baby to its digital record. And this is where blockchain falls down. It can’t help with this process, and can’t verify that perhaps the most important step of verification is happening correctly.</em></p></blockquote> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>How hooked are Brazilians on WhatsApp?</h2> <p>It is hardly news to say that Brazilians <em>love </em>chatting on WhatsApp Messenger. It is by far the <a href="">most popular app</a> in the country—for 65 percent of smartphone users, WhatsApp is the last thing they see before sleeping, and for 50 percent, it is the first thing they check after opening their eyes. Moreover, a recent <a href="">survey</a> by the Reuters Institute showed a growth of 4.2 percent in the use of the app for news consumption.&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, a new <a href="">study</a> by consultancy group Deloitte gives some dimension to just <em>how addicted</em> Brazilians are to their favorite messaging app. No less than 80 percent of the app&#8217;s 130 million users in Brazil check their WhatsApp notifications <em>at least</em> once an hour, outstripping second-placed Facebook which &#8220;only&#8221; 52 percent check every hour.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/856199"></div><script src=""></script> <p>But why is WhatsApp so popular in Brazil?</p> <p><strong>Free texting.</strong> WhatsApp became a hit in Brazil at the beginning of the decade—providing something lacking in Brazil: free text messages. Unlike in many countries, Brazilians paid for each SMS they used to send (with telecom companies only offering free text bundles for use with other numbers on the same cell phone provider). Until 2016, it cost USD 0.99 per year—but the app quickly paid for itself.</p> <p><strong>Simplicity. </strong>While Brazilians had many apps allowing users to send free messages (such as Skype, MSN Messenger, Viber, or Facebook Messenger), WhatsApp provided the easiest, most user-friendly interface. It required only a phone number—no account with a login and password. Also, it demanded far less memory than its competitors, allowing a smooth experience even for users with outdated smartphones.</p> <p><strong>Groups, video, and voice messaging. </strong>After being bought by Facebook, WhatsApp incorporated functions such as allowing <a href="">group chats</a>, video calls, and voice messages, making it <em>the</em> app for communication among Brazilians.&nbsp;</p> <p>And Brazil has taken WhatsApp groups to a <a href="">new level</a>. The latest trend to creating group for members to imitate particular sounds. None is funnier than &#8220;Horrible Beatboxing,&#8221; or &#8220;Imitating Aircraft Pilots,&#8221; in which members send voice messages imitating pre-flight announcements.</p> <p>In some cases, WhatsApp groups are serious business. In the state of Minas Gerais, a woman was sued for expelling a user from on group. In other cases, group administrators were considered liable for the illicit acts of members.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Brazilian-made &#8220;green cleaning&#8221;</h2> <p>Brazilian startup YVY has announced a funding round to expand its operations to the U.S. Founded in 2018 by two former employers of ABN Amro Bank, YVY produces cleaning products using only natural basic products (so-called &#8220;green cleaning&#8221;) sold in capsules, similar to Nespresso coffee. In their first purchase, customers get three spray bottles where they can connect their capsules.</p> <p>The U.S. branch will be headed by executive Rodrigo Tostes, former CEO of the company which administered Rio&#8217;s bus rapid transit system, and former chief financial officer at the Rio 2016 Olympic Committee, Thyssenkrupp Brazil, and <a href="">football club Flamengo</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>&#8220;Clean&#8221; cleaning has 20-percent share of the market in the U.S. but the segment is practically non-existent in Brazil. Nevertheless, YVY reports a 20-percent growth rate, having reached 850 recurring customers after one and a half years of operations. To boost sales, the company plans to raise more funding in Brazil and invest heavily in advertising.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>2-square-meter accommodations are a thing in São Paulo, it appears</h2> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img loading="lazy" width="910" height="650" src="" alt="pod hotel são paulo - brazil tech" class="wp-image-26832" srcset=" 910w, 300w, 768w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 910px) 100vw, 910px" /></figure> <p>In September, reporter Natália Scalzaretto talked about how the market of compact apartments is the <a href="">latest real estate trend</a> in Brazil. But Vitacon, a São Paulo realtor, has maybe taken it too far, launching &#8220;On Pods,&#8221; a system of accommodation of only 2 square meters (or the size of a phone booth).</p> <p>These pods will be launched in November in Vila Olímpia and Itaim Bibi—two upper-class business districts in São Paulo—and will cost from BRL 40 per hour and BRL 150 per night (a four-star hotel in those areas can cost around BRL 320 per night). In a statement, Vitacon CEO Alexandre Frankel explains the reason for the pods: &#8220;It is a new concept for accommodation for someone just passing through São Paulo, or those needing to pull an all-nighter at work, or just anyone needing a nap after partying.&#8221;</p> <p>Described by CNN&#8217;s Jarrett Bellini as &#8220;Hobbit holes,&#8221; pod hotels were created in the Japanese city of Osaka back in 1979. Their lower fares are their appeal—as comfort is certainly not a key feature.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <p><em>Disclaimer: This article has been edited for clarity.</em></p> <p>

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Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

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