Korean electronics giant Samsung has made a raft of announcements in the past few years that show it is expanding its blockchain and cryptocurrency-related operations. On Tuesday, CoinDesk revealed that Samsung was developing its own Ethereum-based blockchain, with plans to possibly issue its own token in the future. And the same day, CoinDesk also reported that Samsung has invested 2.6 million Euros – equivalent to $2.9 million – into hardware wallet Ledger. This follows the launch of the Galaxy S10 handset in February, which comes equipped with an in-built cryptocurrency wallet and also has the capability to run blockchain-based decentralized apps (dApps).
We recently looked at how regulation and development surrounding blockchain and cryptocurrencies is occurring rapidly in South Korea and its neighboring countries in East Asia. The latest news from Samsung comes just a day after news broke that Japan is planning to propose international cryptocurrency regulation at the next G20 summit. Earlier this month, Vitalik Buterin traveled to South Korea to address lawmakers in an attempt to convince them to be more receptive to cryptocurrency. And it seems Buterin’s message has been well-received, with reports of growing cross-party support for a relaxing of Korea’s cryptocurrency regulation.
Samsung is the world’s largest mobile phone handset manufacturer and its moves are sure to lead to increased use and adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrency. Samsung and other mobile manufacturers have been moving for some time now toward encouraging their devices to be used in place of other payment methods. All Samsung and Apple devices come equipped with Samsung Pay and Apple Pay respectively, which allows users to make cardless payments. And Apple announced the launch of its own credit card in March. While Apple will issue a physical card, the American tech giants seem to intend for iPhone handsets to be used in place of the actual card wherever possible. While Apple is usually seen as Samsung’s biggest rival in the mobile device sphere, last summer Apple was overtaken by Huawei as the second largest mobile device manufacturer. Samsung will be hoping that its increasing experimentation with blockchain and cryptocurrency will help it pull further ahead.
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— Huawei Mobile (@HuaweiMobile) August 1, 2018
With the support of Samsung and other tech firms, South Korea may well be the country to spark mainstream adoption of dApps. Kakao, the company behind the KakaoTalk messaging app which is installed on 93% of Korean handsets, is also pushing toward increase use of dApps. In March, Bloomberg reported that Kakao’s blockchain subsidiary Ground X had raised over $90 million in its latest round of funding. And last year, it was widely reported that Line was launching its own cryptocurrency. Line is the most popular messaging app in countries including Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Indonesia, though like KakaoTalk, it is actually owned by a South Korean company. Although Line has more than 200 million active users, it’s cryptocurrency may have had limited success on launch, due to regulations in Japan concerning the use of cryptocurrency. But as these regulations are relaxed and cryptocurrency becomes increasingly normalized in Japan, its likely the Line cryptocurrency will grow in popularity.
Around the same time that it launched the G10 handset, Samsung announced that it had selected beauty review app Cosmee as its first official dApp partner. With more than 300,000 downloads and 70,000+ reviews shared on the platform, Cosmee is an example of a South Korean dApp that is already receiving widespread use. And there are a number of projects in development which could have the potential to reach a large userbase in the country. Ontology has partnered with Pandora.tv to develop MovieBloc, a dApp that allows for users to share and view video content. Ontology is a major player in the cryptocurrency space, with its own token and development of the open NEO platform meaning it is behind two of the top 20 ranked cryptocurrencies. Pandora.tv is a video platform that works similarly to YouTube and has achieved major success in Korea, being the fastest-growing website in the country during 2007 and attracting the largest Silicon Valley-based fundraising of any South Korean internet start-up. Pandora.tv’s assets also include K-Media Player, a freeware multimedia player similar to VLC. With its native support of Korean subtitles, KMP proved widely popular in Korea and other countries, attracting more than 800 million downloads.
Samsung isn’t the only major firm looking to leverage Ethereum to create its own blockchain platform. Less than a week ago, big four accountancy firm Ernst and Young (EY) announced plans to launch Nightfall. Nightfall uses zero-knowledge proofs to allow for the content of transactions made within a sub-chain of Ethereum to be hidden from view, which is seen as being crucial to allowing for the adoption of Ethereum within information-sensitive business environments. A few days before this, the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance announced plans to greater clarify the classification of various blockchain tokens to help foster greater mainstream usage of them. The ‘Token Taxonomy’ plan would create a globally agreed-upon standard for knowing what a token represents. For example, it would allow various firms to easily understand that a token represents an insurance policy or other asset class. Samsung is one of many major firms belonging to the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance, whose membership includes such well-known firms as Microsoft and JPMorgan.
Initial coin offerings (ICOs) were the “killer app” that allowed Ethereum to rise to prominence during the Great Bull Run of 2017. Vitalik Buterin has always insisted he has a very limited interest in Ethereum’s price, being much more focused on its usage and adoption. Widespread use of the decentralized apps made possible by Ethereum’s innovative introduction of smart contracts has always been the long-term goal of Buterin and other core Ethereum developers. With Samsung and other major firms increasingly putting their support behind the drive toward dApp adoption, they may enter the mainstream sooner than many people expect.