Bitcoin Wrapped In Ether – Yummy!

You can take two good things and combine them together to get the best of both. In LA’s streets you can get what some would consider one of the city’s iconic sandwiches. It is the hotdog wrapped in bacon. It brings you the meaty flavor of a hotdog with the greasy goodness of bacon. Now think about the top digital asset Bitcoin (BTC). What would you wrap it with if you were to compare it to a hotdog wrapped in bacon? How about Ether (ETH), the Ethereum blockchain’s token. BTC is your hotdog, while ETH is your bacon. It actually exists and it is called Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC).

Wrapping one cryptocurrency with another uses the hotdog wrapped in bacon example as a simpler way to illustrate an analogy. Wrapping in this sense means to create a protocol to represent one cryptocurrency on another cryptocurrency’s blockchain. BTC can be represented on the Ethereum blockchain by issuing an ERC-20 token called WBTC. This allows BTC integration with smart contracts that can be traded on the Ethereum network using the ERC-20 standard.

In Wrapped Bitcoin, BTC is locked into a smart contract and issued as WBTC. This allows BTC holders to access DeFi systems on the Ethereum blockchain. It is as good in value as BTC which is verified by a Proof-of-Reserve system. This ensures a 1:1 peg between the issued or minted WBTC tokens and BTC. The actual BTC is still on the Bitcoin blockchain since you cannot store it on the Ethereum blockchain. The BTC is taken under the custody of the WBTC token issuer, so it is not directly with the WBTC token holder. It is maintained by a group called the WBTC DAO, who are the custodians of the BTC. The group’s members include blockchain-based organizations like BitGo, Ren and Kyber.

What is the purpose of WBTC?

As mentioned earlier, it is primarily for giving BTC holders a way to gain access to the DeFi markets. A large portion of the DeFi space uses the Ethereum blockchain and BTC is not directly compatible with it. It is a bridge that allows BTC holders to use DeFi protocols to provide liquidity or participate in other services that yield returns. WBTC is a way to bring the value from BTC into the DeFi space without having to convert BTC to ETH. BTC (as of 2020) has the largest cryptocurrency market cap and this is crucial in helping bring liquidity to the DeFi space as well as expanding on the collateral types available.

This is a great way for BTC holders to take part in the DeFi markets. Many BTC holders have plenty of value stored, but are not able to use it if they are HODLing. DeFi provides ways for cryptocurrency to earn even while HODLing, using decentralized protocols like Uniswap, Curve and Yearn. Most DeFi protocols will only support ERC-20 or ETH since they execute from smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. WBTC is a protocol that allows BTC to be wrapped in an Ethereum ERC-20 token. Holders would not need to convert their BTC to ETH during this process.

Minting WBTC

To enter the DeFi space, Bitcoin holders would have to deposit their BTC into a smart contract of a WBTC issuer (e.g. BitGo, Coinsquare, etc.). This can be a digital exchange or DEX (Decentralized Exchange) that accepts BTC. Once the BTC has been deposited, WBTC tokens are minted that have a 1:1 value to the BTC that was deposited. Once the holder receives their WBTC, they can now use it for loan collateral, providing liquidity and swapping for other tokens. Digital exchanges will most likely require a KYC (Know Your Customer) in compliance with the law before the WBTC can be issued. On a DEX or over-the-counter it is not required (check with the exchange requirements always). The WBTC can be cashed out to either BTC or ETH.

Another way to get WBTC is through a DEX like Uniswap. Instead of depositing BTC into a smart contract, anyone who holds ETH can purchase WBTC. It requires connecting a digital wallet like Metamask to perform the transaction with ETH. The WBTC is already available in the market and it does not require BTC for purchase in this case. Since WBTC is an ERC-20 token, it can be purchased with ETH very easily.

Other Uses For WBTC

WBTC can be put to use in DeFi yield farming protocols. This allows WBTC holders to put their digital asset for lending and trading purposes. In return, the WBTC holders earn yields as a their return on investment. These yields are fees collected from the transactions. Rewards can be issued in the form of governance tokens, which allow the holders to participate in digital governance through voting. This provides holders a way of participating in decisions that govern these protocols.

Yield farming requires the holders to deposit their WBTC. In return, they are issued another token. Examples of these tokens include SNX (Synthetix token), REN (Ren Project token) and BAL (Balancer token). The tokens are specific to which protocol is used by the yield provider. To learn more about yield farming, there is an article on Coindesk that explains it a little bit further. (Link here)

The Best Of Both

Wrapped Bitcoin brings the best of two blockchains. It is a way to interoperate between two digital assets at the protocol layer. The value of Bitcoin and the decentralized applications on Ethereum. BTC is the digital asset while ETH is the protocol that utilizes it for liquidity, trades and financing. The Ethereum blockchain is serving as a transaction layer that can bring more capital into diverse markets. Bitcoin can provide the capital, as institutional investment grows in the digital asset. WBTC provides a way for investors to bring capital for yielding returns using the Ethereum blockchain.

Disclaimer: This is not financial advice, just reference. Do your own research always to verify information.

The Smartphone, Your Next Digital Wallet

The smartphone has become our digital Swiss army knife. We use it not only to make calls, but to send text messages, check the latest traffic conditions, get update on the weather, read the news, make electronic payments and take photos. I know people who would not survive a day unless they have their smartphone. In the Digital and Information Age, it has become a necessity of modern living.

What if you were told that smartphones can also use cryptocurrency for making payments and transactions? That would make it your digital wallet. The integration of cryptocurrency with smartphones are a precedent for mass adoption and this allows for more convenient ways to manage digital assets. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. Currently you would need a hardware wallet for fully securing your cryptocurrency from online hacking. Applying that same device on a smartphone adds more convenience and utility since it is integrated with something you use everyday rather than being separate.

Bringing cryptocurrency to smartphones is happening in different ways. All these products are targeted at mobile users. They are either directly wired as part of the smartphone’s electronics or can be installed as a DApp (distributed application). Let’s go over some of those applications.

HTC Exodus 

HTC has a special smartphone that integrates with the blockchain, to protect your digital assets called Exodus. The phone itself is great, but it is the cryptocurrency support features that is really the selling point for it. The Exodus provides the Zion Vault Trusted Execution Environment that allows users to hold their own private keys. It tries to remove the hassle of creating your own digital wallet so this is really good for beginners. You start by entering a 6-digit pin, then get a 12-digit recovery phrase and you are all set. The recovery phrase is very important in case you get locked out or forget your pin. Write it down on a piece of paper or take a screenshot of it and store it safely and securely. The Exodus also has a way to allow your social contacts to help in recovery in case something really serious happens using a feature called Social Key Recovery.

The thing to know here is that your Zion Vault is not tied to a personal account like Facebook or Google. You are your own sovereign identity of your account. Not even HTC controls it. This means that you are in full possession of your digital assets, which is why it is important that security features are in place to keep it safe from hacking or vulnerable situations. Your private keys are stored in hardware, not software, much like using a hardware wallet. This makes it harder for hackers to steal since it cannot be targeted on the network.

The Exodus is also a device compatible with Web 3.0 applications. This takes us from the semantic web to a more intelligent web. Since the Exodus is also blockchain-centric, it brings a world of innovation at your fingertips. A more secure way to trade is certainly a benefit for using the Exodus. You can be anywhere that has a connection to the Internet and use your smartphone to trade and make payments at your convenience. The added layer of security that HTC has put in place is what gives peace of mind while using it.

Samsung Galaxy S10

A cryptocurrency wallet feature has been available on the SamsungGalaxy S10model smartphone. I was confused at first at what Samsung was up to then I realized they were going to integrate a cryptocurrency wallet that will also hold private keys on the device. Much like the HTC Exodus, it aims to secure and protect your digital assets stored on your smartphone. Hodlers will be able to store their Ethereum private keys in a cold storage type of digital wallet. That means it is stored directly in the smartphone and not on the Internet. Your actual digital asset is actually always on the blockchain as a data value of your balances. Other coins the wallet supports are the Cosmo Coin and a gaming cryptocurrency called Enjin.

Samsung’s crypto feature uses an app called Samsung Blockchain KeyStore. It is limited in availability upon its first release. Not all countries where you can buy the S10 will have support for the wallet, though it is clear the feature will be available in South Korea and the US. How it expands this feature remains to be seen as it is going to be a competitor with other hardware wallets. Samsung has apparently investedin one of them, Ledger Nano as reported by Cointelegraph.

According to Samsung:

“Galaxy S10 is built with defense-grade Samsung Knox, as well as a secure storage backed by hardware, which houses your private keys for blockchain-enabled mobile services.”

It just didn’t seem to be that secure. It has reportedly been hackedalready. It wasn’t the actual digital wallet that was hacked, it was the fingerprint sensor. That does give bad actors a way to access your private keys should your smartphone fall into the wrong hands. That is some news for concern that Samsung will have to address, but the responsibility will rest on the owner of the smartphone eventually. Keeping their smartphone physically secure is still the best way to prevent this.

Sirin Labs Finney

Sirin Labs lays claim to developing the first blockchain-enabled smartphone, ahead of HTC. It just so happens that HTC was the first to release their product commercially. The Finney has a built-in hardware wallet for storing private keys safely and access to a DApp to manage your digital assets. Finney is also from an open source project that has its own coin called SRN which can be used to purchase the smartphone.

The main feature that Finney has crypto enthusiasts excited about is that it provides a Token Conversion Service, which enables automatic exchanges between supported tokens and coins. This removes the use of digital exchanges like Binance and Coinbase to convert from one cryptocurrency to another. The last I checked the supported coins on the Finney include Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) and Sirin’s own SRN.

Perhaps it is the robust cybersecurity features that make Finney a serious contender for blockchain smartphone. Sirin Labs claims military grade security with intrusion prevention and encrypted messaging features. This gives the Finney additional advantages in features that help in securing your digital assets.

Opera Browser

Perhaps it is the Opera browser which provides the easiest way to get cryptocurrency. It is the first major browser to provide blockchain integration with a digital wallet. At the moment it only supports Ethereum, but there are plans to support other cryptocurrency. It is as simple as installing the Opera browser on an Android device (supported) and coming to iOS devices as well. What I like about the Opera cryptowallet is its ease and accessibility. It is just one touch away from your Android screen. You don’t need to configure anything else, the cryptowallet has already been set up and ready for use.

The integrated cryptowallet in Opera is an example of a Web3 application. This brings the security of the blockchain to the openness of the world wide web. Even the web’s founder Tim Berners-Lee believes that Web3 applications are going to very useful. The benefits you get with using the Opera cryptowallet is direct P2P (peer-to-peer) payments to other people, merchants and trading on digital exchanges. You have your own bank in your browser on your smartphone. Another good thing the wallet supports are digital collectibles like ERC721 and tokens like ERC20. This makes it easy to use without having to code a smart contract on the Ethereum network.

Mobility On The Blockchain

All these applications are targeted for mobility on the blockchain. What better way than to implement it on a smartphone. There are other types of apps available now that you can install on your smartphone that provide similar functionality. They will either provide you with full ownership of your private keys, offer a cold wallet function or in some cases a custodial wallet service (your private keys are kept by the service provider). Depending on how much control you want, there is an app available for it.

It is important to remember that you cannot recover your digital assets on the blockchain if you forget your password or passphrase or do not know your recovery phrase. HTC provides different ways to recover it but on Opera if you don’t have the 12-word recovery phrase (you can find this by selecting the “Backup phrase” option) your funds are gone since Opera does not have a way to recover it for you. These are the drawbacks of having complete ownership of your cryptocurrency. 

Another use of these features are to access DApps, a collection of decentralized applications all over the Internet. Developers are building on top of the Ethereum platform in different ways. This is a showcase of the software that allows users to execute smart contracts that perform a service or to just enjoy playing games. So it provides a portal to access common DApps from Cryptokitties to DEX (Decentralized Exchanges). 

Ease Of Use

One of the main complaints new users have is that using cryptocurrency is not intuitive and user friendly. The HTC, S10 and Opera browser are providing an easy way to get on-board. It should be easy enough for everyone to use. Its usefulness can all start with being able to simply buy a cup of coffee. When more applications like these become available and easier to use, then we have greater adoption. 

New products that can quickly on-board users to cryptocurrency can lead to more liquidity in the market. As more people adopt it, there is also the growth in hype that can at times be misleading. Newbies to cryptocurrency may not fully understand how volatile the market is and what its real world uses are. For that reason, marketing these products is good for the hype. In the long run however, it is going to be whether cryptocurrency are going to be commodities needed for every day life. Then surely we already have a device we can use for it, the smartphone.