Transportation, oil and gas industry players have put the pedal to the metal to push blockchain pilots. According to reports, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) is working on a blockchain-based system that automates the accounting process for oil and gas production from end to end. In addition, Maritime Blockchain Labs has announced plans to further develop its blockchain-based platform for tracking marine fuel quality and quantity assurance, with the goal of facilitating data-driven decision-making and alleviating industry-wide pain points. National Transport Insurance, a truck and transport insurer, is taking part in a trial to improve food safety, better animal welfare and monitor exports by leveraging blockchain technology, innovative packaging and IoT systems to secure supply chain provenance for Australian beef. Finally, State Farm is testing whether blockchain technology can streamline the manual process of subrogation, the legal right to seek damages from a third party responsible for a loss suffered by the insured.

In the public sector, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is soliciting applications for a funding program that provides blockchain startups and small businesses with the opportunity to receive grants of up to $800,000 for the development of anti-counterfeiting solutions. At the state level, Vermont's Attorney General has established a working group to study blockchain technology by engaging with stakeholders, associations, industry experts and state agencies. On the international front, UNICEF's Innovation Fund will invest up to $100,000 in six companies selected from more than 100 applications to fund open-source blockchain prototypes aimed at solving global challenges such as transparency in healthcare delivery and access to mobile phone connectivity. Early this week, the European Union Blockchain Observatory & Forum published a report that sets out use cases, advantages and challenges for deploying blockchain technology in government and public service applications – urging that experimentation needs to continue and that digital identity and blockchain-based central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) are fundamental building blocks.

Last Friday, Ethereum core developers agreed to launch the Constantinople hard fork (Constantinople) at block 7,080,000. Constantinople incorporates five separate Ethereum Improvement Proposals that soften Ethereum's transition from proof-of-work (PoW) consensus to a more energy-efficient proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus algorithm. This upgrade to a PoS consensus algorithm has the potential to fundamentally change the Ethereum blockchain system. Meanwhile, earlier this week, Hyperledger announced that 16 more organizations have joined its project as general members and four as associate members. According to a leading accounting firm, the price of bitcoin is down more than 80 percent from its December 2017 high, the total market value of all cryptocurrency has fallen 87 percent from its early January high, and about 86 percent of the ICOs from 2017 are trading below their listing price while 30 percent have lost nearly all of their value. According to reports, these market declines are causing investors to put pressure on crypto-based and blockchain-based enterprises to produce revenue-generating products.

A major online retailer's investment arm may soon become its core business. Yesterday, the retailer's founder announced that the publicly traded company is seeking to sell its flagship retail site by February and keep its portfolio companies, many of which have business models based on blockchain. These include the security token trading platform tZERO, enterprise technology provider Symbiont, voting application Voatz, lending startup Ripio and data managing platform Factom, among others.

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