Taking Swiss Trains for a Bitcoin

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Isokivi || Wikimedia Commons

The major allure generating the most interest in the past couple of weeks was the price of Bitcoin, still rising at the time of writing, to the delight of many investors. Elsewhere, the market was saturated by other noteworthy facts and occurrences that we will discuss below.

It is well known these days that Switzerland has embarked on a journey towards the application and circulation of Bitcoin. As an example, the city of Zug gained its fame for being a hub for companies working with cryptocurrencies, or at least companies that allow for payments in Bitcoin. The latest updates now reveal that Swiss rail stations will sell Bitcoins at their ticket machines. The ticket machines will soon be upgraded by an option to top-up your wallet via the machine. All you will need is a Bitcoin wallet and a phone number paired with a bank account, meaning that you will not have to make a physical deposit of any money.The system was bound to start operating on November 11, although it remains unclear whether it will be possible to purchase tickets for Bitcoins. In the light of the context of the Swiss fascination with Bitcoin, however, this prospect remains very likely. It would be intriguing to see Slovakia getting ahead of Switzerland in this respect. As mentioned in our previous article, the Transport Authority of Bratislava is now very close to accepting Bitcoins as a means of paying for travel tickets.

A similar determination has been long visible in Japan, where Bitcoin already enjoys the status of an official currency. Being part of this ‘elite club’ of officially recognized currencies also means that the 8% excise duty currently imposed upon the Bitcoin trade industry will be abolished from next year onwards. This is a natural consequence, as Bitcoin will cease to constitute a ‘product’ as it will be recognized as a currency. These measures did not wait long to create a rapid increase in the Bitcoin trade, as costs are expected to fall, for both businesses and consumers alike. Meanwhile, Japan is being recognized as the only country of the 7 most developed countries of the world that levied tax on Bitcoin.

Shifting our focus to the west of Japan, another country, namely South Korea, is trying not to fall behind. The country, with its number of stock exchanges so low you could count them on your two hands, has announced governmental plans to engage with the phenomenon of Bitcoin. More specifically, the government wants to create a consortium with other companies in order to apply Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, for the benefit of financial markets. The Commission of Financial Services, a government agency dealing with the regulation of financial markets, is aiming to invest EUR 2.3 billion in the development of the financial sector in the upcoming three years. This is an important piece of news that could serve as an example for many other countries, including Slovakia, revealing that a government previously inactive in the area of cryptocurrencies can find incentives sparking further action. In South Korea itself, cryptocurrencies have not even been subject to regulation so far.

On more practical terms, Argentina reports that one of its start-ups has been testing an app called Signatura. It is used as a tool verifying official or administrative documents, without the need for third party confidentiality agreements. According to the start-up itself, the app had already been tested by several lawyers and related institutions, with the majority expressing support for the app. It simply enables various institutions to sign and verify given documents, with one caveat: it is not possible to revert the verification process. Potential areas of application include both the public and the private sector. Companies and institutions could also share their registers or mutual contracts while cutting the costs of administration and verification. The whole process would remain transparent, as all data would be stored on Blockchain, which makes it impossible to retroactively erase or revert stored data. It remains to be seen how target groups respond to this idea, but the potential and practical application of this app already seem great.

Translated by Edward Szekeres

Martin Lindak
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