The 6 Most Important Cryptocurrencies Other Than Bitcoin
Bitcoin has not just been a trendsetter, ushering in a wave of cryptocurrencies built on decentralized peer-to-peer network, it’s become the de facto standard for cryptocurrencies. The currencies inspired by Bitcoin are collectively called altcoins and have tried to present themselves as modified or improved versions of Bitcoin. While some of these currencies are easier to mine than Bitcoin is, there are tradeoffs, including greater risk brought on by lesser liquidity, acceptance and value retention. Since Bitcoin prices are soaring new highs, we look at six cryptocurrencies, picked from over 700 (in no specific order) that could be worth your while. (Related reading, see: How Do Bitcoin Investors Combat Price Volatility?)
1) Litecoin (LTC)
Litecoin, launched in the year 2011, was among the initial cryptocurrencies following bitcoin and was often referred to as ‘silver to Bitcoin’s gold.’ It was created by Charlie Lee, a MIT graduate and former Google engineer. Litecoin is based on an open source global payment network that is not controlled by any central authority and uses “scrypt” as a proof of work, which can be decoded with the help of CPUs of consumer grade. Although Litecoin is like Bitcoin in many ways, it has a faster block generation rate and hence offers a faster transaction confirmation. Other than developers, there are a growing number of merchants who accept Litecoin.
2) Ethereum (ETH)
Launched in 2015, Ethereum is a decentralized software platform that enables Smart Contracts and Distributed Applications (ĐApps) to be built and run without any downtime, fraud, control or interference from a third party. During 2014, Ethereum had launched a pre-sale for ether which had received an overwhelming response. The applications on Ethereum are run on its platform-specific cryptographic token, ether. Ether is like a vehicle for moving around on the Ethereum platform, and is sought by mostly developers looking to develop and run applications inside Ethereum. According to Ethereum, it can be used to “codify, decentralize, secure and trade just about anything.” Following the attack on the DAO in 2016, Ethereum was split into Ethereum (ETH) and Ethereum Classic (ETC). Ethereum (ETH) has a market capitalization of $4.46 billion, second after Bitcoin among all cryptocurrencies. (Related reading: The First-Ever Ethereum IRA is a Game-Changer)
3) Zcash (ZEC)
Zcash, a decentralized and open-source cryptocurrency launched in the latter part of 2016, looks promising. “If Bitcoin is like http for money, Zcash is https,” is how Zcash defines itself. Zcash offers privacy and selective transparency of transactions. Thus, like https, Zcash claims to provide extra security or privacy where all transactions are recorded and published on a blockchain, but details such as the sender, recipient, and amount remain private. Zcash offers its users the choice of ‘shielded’ transactions, which allow for content to be encrypted using advanced cryptographic technique or zero-knowledge proof construction called a zk-SNARK developed by its team. (Related reading, see: What Is Zcash?)
Dash (originally known as Darkcoin) is a more secretive version of Bitcoin. Dash offers more anonymity as it works on a decentralized mastercode network that makes transactions almost untraceably. Launched in January 2014, Dash experienced an increasing fan following in a short span of time. This cryptocurrency was created and developed by Evan Duffield and can be mined using a CPU or GPU. In March 2015, ‘Darkcoin’ was rebranded to Dash, which stands for Digital Cash and operates under the ticker – DASH. The rebranding didn’t change any of its technological features such as Darksend, InstantX. (Related reading, see: Top Alternative Investments for Retirement)
5) Ripple (XRP)
Ripple is a real-time global settlement network that offers instant, certain and low-cost international payments. Ripple “enables banks to settle cross-border payments in real time, with end-to-end transparency, and at lower costs.” Released in 2012, Ripple currency has a market capitalization of $1.26 billion. Ripple’s consensus ledger — its method of conformation — doesn’t need mining, a feature that deviates from bitcoin and altcoins. Since Ripple’s structure doesn’t require mining, it reduces the usage of computing power, and minimizes network latency. Ripple believes that ‘distributing value is a powerful way to incentivize certain behaviors’ and thus currently plans to distribute XRP primarily “through business development deals, incentives to liquidity providers who offer tighter spreads for payments, and selling XRP to institutional buyers interested in investing in XRP.”
6) Monero (XMR)
Monero is a secure, private and untraceable currency. This open source cryptocurrency was launched in April 2014 and soon spiked great interest among the cryptography community and enthusiasts. The development of this cryptocurrency is completely donation-based and community-driven. Monero has been launched with a strong focus on decentralization and scalability, and enables complete privacy by using a special technique called ‘ring signatures.’ With this technique, there appears a group of cryptographic signatures including at least one real participant – but since they all appear valid, the real one cannot be isolated.
The Bottom Line
Bitcoin continues to lead the pack of cryptocurrencies, in terms of market capitalization, user base and popularity. Nevertheless, virtual currencies such as Ethereum and Ripple which are being used more for enterprise solutions are becoming popular, while some altcoins are being endorsed for superior or advanced features vis-à-vis Bitcoins. Going by the current trend, cryptocurrencies are here to stay but how many of them will emerge leaders amid the growing competition within the space will only be revealed with time.
5 cloud computing trends to prepare for in 2018
1. Exponential growth in cloud services solutions
Software as a Service (SaaS) opened a flexible and financially attractive door for businesses and consumers to try early cloud services. The growth of infrastructure and platform as a service (Iaas and PaaS, respectively) has expanded the number of cloud solutions available in the public and private sectors. In 2018, we expect to see many more organizations take advantage of the simplicity and high-performance the cloud guarantees.
According to a forward-looking 2016 survey on cloud services from Cisco, these solutions will continue to be deployed and used worldwide to accomplish diverse goals on an unprecedented level. 2018 will see SaaS solutions take the cake as the most highly deployed cloud service across the globe. The Cisco survey also forecasts that SaaS will account for 60% of all cloud-based workloads—a 12% increase over 2017 predictions. PaaS solutions will experience a modest five percent growth rate, while IaaS solutions are also set to increase. Given that these projections were made in 2016 and given positive performance in 2017, we can reasonably expect even greater growth in cloud services solutions than these predictions. Businesses that want to simplify operations and make it easier for their customers to access services will move more aggressively toward integrating SaaS, IaaS, and/or PaaS into their business processes.
2. Increased cloud storage capacity
As cloud services increasingly become a de facto part of doing business, we expect data storage to grow exponentially in the coming year. To accomplish this, service providers will bring more data centers online with larger-capacity storage equipment. The Cisco survey estimates that in 2017, the total amount of data stored in data centers would be 370 EB, while global storage capacity would reach 600 EB (see page 12 of the survey). These numbers are set to grow in 2018 to an estimated total storage capacity of 1.1 ZB, which is approximately twice the space available in 2017.
While data centers owners move to increase available storage, forward-thinking businesses will be able to take advantage of that space to further their objectives. For example, businesses that work with big data will use this increased space to store large data sets, perform analytics on them, and harvest valuable insights into areas such as customer behavior, human systems, and strategic financial investments. For small businesses, increased storage capacity means that 2018 will provide custom or bespoke storage options at far lower prices than were available in 2017.
3. The Internet of Everything (IoE) will take center stage
In 2017, the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence played a stellar role in the tech community, with respected innovators like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking commenting on their near-term potential. While industry experts anticipate IoT will see its own growth, continuous innovations in real-time data analytics and cloud computing are set to push the internet of everything (IoE) to the fore in 2018. IoE relies on machine to machine communications, data, processes, and how humans communicate with everything in their environment. Cloud computing will play a significant role as the IoE develops into complex systems aimed at simplifying all interactions.
For humans, this means we will be able to interact intelligently with every device in a network—just like IoT. Even more intriguing, humans will be able to interact more easily in human-to-human communications. For example, Google’s Pixel Buds(which are expected to be released in late 2017) are a headset equipped with the ability to recognize and translate 40 languages in real-time for its user. IoE will also provide businesses with more insight into how consumers relate to their products or services, customer care units, and one another. This data can then be used in multiple ways, including simplifying customer experience through automation and the use of smart robots. Japanese hospitality robots, which are imbued with the ability to welcome guests, converse in real-time, and provide certain services, give a sneak peek into what IoE could accomplish in the near future.
4. Enhanced internet quality and the rise of 5G
Just as the amount of data generated and stored around the world is poised to grow tremendously in 2018, consumers will also expect better and faster connections from network providers. Qualcomm Snapdragon has been spearheading the move to faster network speeds, and 2018 should see an increase in the number of groups working on these improvements. As this work gains momentum, we anticipate strong movement from gigabyte LTE speeds to full 5G networks, helping us reach 5G capabilities in record time.
Enhanced network quality will increase consumer expectations for highly-responsive, fast-loading services and apps. Savvy business owners will move quickly to reevaluate and upgrade their SaaS, PaaS, and website platforms to be more responsive. The IoT and IoE industries will also benefit from faster network speeds by allowing organizations in this space to receive and deliver data more efficiently in real time.
5. Security challenges and the cloud
Although 2017 hasn’t come to an end, it has already made a name for itself as the year of more cyber attacks than any other in history. Attacks such as the WannaCry ransomware, the CIA Vault 7 hack, and the Equifax data breach are reminders that cyber attacks are a reality of the 21st century.
We expect 2018 will see more individual and state-sponsored attacks aimed at undermining the security of cloud infrastructures. As cyber attackers become more sophisticated, security analysts in government, public, and private sectors will also have to become more sophisticated and timely in their methods for detecting and preventing attacks. Businesses will recognize the necessity of investing in tools like security information and event management (SIEM) and malware detection systems as fundamental defense mechanisms for cyber security. Cloud services can play a role here as well, with managed security service providers offering robust services to businesses that could not otherwise implement full security measures.