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Growing number of restaurant chains to go 100% cashless in 2017

(FINANCE NEWS) National chain Sweetgreen has announced they will be completely ditching cash in 2017. As more and more businesses follow suit, we have to wonder if this is the new normal.

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Safety, efficiency, cleanliness

Sweetgreen has announced they will completely ditch cash at all 64 of their locations starting in 2017, after successfully testing the concept for about a year at select stores.

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The decision is both an embrace of new technology and a way to make the stores more efficient, safe, and clean. Sweetgreen believes the risk of robbery will decrease by not having cash in the stores.

Additionally, managers will not have to count transactions at the end of each day. Employees will not have to handle cash either, reducing the possibility of contaminating or spreading germs to food. As a result, more resources can be spent on training and mentoring staff, as well as improving the product and experience.

A bit elitist

Payments will now be made with credit cards or through Sweetgreen’s app, which the company plans to update by the start of 2017. Ordering through the app will also hopefully reduce wait times and incorrect orders, the company says. Cutting out cash will also make payment more efficient, since a card swipe is much quicker than counting change.

The obvious problem with a cashless system is that it may exclude customers who do not have credit or debit cards. About 7 percent of the U.S. population currently does not have a bank account, according to the FDIC. But Sweetgreen co-founder Nicolas Jammet said he does not think the fast-casual restaurant’s core demographic will be affected. He may be right, but it’s certainly a little elitist to completely cut out cardless customers, who are often poor, have no credit, or are even just too young to get a credit card.

Core demographic

From Uber to Starbucks, we’ve seen a rise over the past few years in paying for services via apps. However, completely cashless establishments are a rarity in the United States. In fact, in some states like Massachusetts, refusing to accept cash is illegal.

For Sweetgreen, a national chain, to go cashless is big news because as of now, most cashless establishments are small startup businesses or mom-and-pop stores that tend to attract younger, tech savvy customers.

Sweetgreen has not made public any results from their year of trials for the new cashless system, but it is assumed the number of customers they had to turn away was not large enough to pose a problem.

Just go with it

A few weeks back, I visited a Sweetgreen in New York City’s Meatpacking District and attempted to pay for my Kale Caeser with cash. While I didn’t mind pulling out my debit card, it was bothersome that my initial payment method was rejected.

Surely, within a few months we will all be accustomed to Sweetgreen’s cashless system. But it certainly may take some getting used to, and it may be even longer until other chains follow suit, but going cashless will be a trend you’ll be hearing more often in the coming year.

#Cashless

Brian is a staff writer at The American Genius who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, and majored in American Culture Studies and Writing. Originally from California, Brian has a podcast, “Revolves Around Me,” and enjoys public transportation, bicycles, the beach.

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Business Finance

Blockchain has a competitor that could already obsolete the tech

(TECH NEWS) Just as people are learning what the word “blockchain” means, technology is already advancing beyond this groundbreaking innovation.

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Blockchain’s new competitor may one day render the popular database service obsolete. Hashgraph pitches itself as a “superior consensus mechanism/data structure alternative to blockchain,” featuring a decentralized platform for micropayments, live collaboration apps, distributed MMOs, auctions, and distributed capital markets.

The distributed ledger technology system notes it’s faster, fairer, and more secure than blockchain. However, Hashgraph has very diplomatically stated, “The pitching of Hashgraph against Blockchain is a sensationalist angle that we do not endorse.”

They go on to say, “We consider Blockchain to be like a capable older brother who graciously paved the way by bringing the power of Distributed Ledger Technology to the light of day, for which we are very grateful.”

Very Miss America of them. Unlike Bitcoin, Hashgraph doesn’t need massive amounts of computation or energy consumption. This is in part due to how the system handles transactions, particularly mining.

Bitcoin mining is the process of adding records of transactions to Bitcoin’s public ledger. These records are a blockchain, which serves as a confirmation of past transactions. With standard bitcoin mining, each transaction is put into a container, forming a long single chain.

If two miners happen to make two blocks at the same time, one will be discarded eventually, especially if one arrives too quickly. Instead, Hashgraph uses every container, and any member can create transactions at any point without threat of deletion.

Currently, Bitcoin uses proof-of-work (POW), requiring costly custom hardware. PoW artificially slows down the mining process, which is why miners need special hardware to gain anything close to efficiency. However, Hashgraph offers faster transactions, too.

Right now, Bitcoin on standard blockchain are limited to seven transactions per second, but Hashgraph could be up to 50,000 times faster with 250,000 transactions per second (pre-sharding). The transactions would only be limited by bandwidth availability.

Further, Hashgraph brings fairness into play with consensus time stamping, meaning no one can alter the order in which transactions are processed. Basically, there’s no line cutting or fast passes like in blockchain, where miners can choose what order transactions occur in a block, even delaying or stopping future blocks.

Unlike blockchain, Hashgraph uses asynchronous Byzantine fault tolerance to achieve consensus within the community using virtual voting. Members cannot change the consensus once reached, nor can they prevent any community from reaching a consensus.

Plus, Hashgraph uses bank-grade consensus algorithms for added security, and is resilient to DDoS, Sybil, firewall, and virus attacks, as well as network partitions.

The amount of storage is reduced as well by only keeping the effects of the transaction, shrinking the amount of storage from its current 60GB for bitcoin to 1GB. So what does that mean? Your smartphone could act as a node.

Yes, you can start geeking out now.

At this time, Hashgraph isn’t available on public networks or ledgers, so no associated cryptocurrency is currently available. However, you can apply for an an enterprise or commercial license use on a private network by contacting Swirlds, the company that handles Hashgraphs licensing.

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Business Finance

Like it or not, Millennials prefer Bitcoin over Stocks

(FINANCE NEWS) A new survey shows that the investment pendulum has swung to favor blockchain backed cryptocurrency over stocks when it comes to millennials.

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Informed or not, Millennials prefer bitcoin over stocks. Could it be because “bitcoin” sounds cool and futuristic while “stock” sounds super boring? Studies haven’t officially evaluated my hypothesis, but let’s go with a maybe for now.

Venture capital firm Blockchain Capital’s survey of 2,000 people found that around 30 percent of the participants in the 18-34 age range would rather own $1000 of Bitcoin than $1000 of government stocks or bonds.

Additionally, of those surveyed, 42 percent of millennials were at least marginally familiar with bitcoin, while only 15 percent over age 65 knew of the concept.

On Wednesday bitcoin rose more than six percent to as high as $7,545, pushing the value of the cryptocurrency market over $200 billion for the first time ever. This time last year, bitcoin was worth around $700.

In the past year, cyrptocurrency has risen 600 percent. This is compared to measly gains of 15 percent for the S&P 500 Index. Despite the rise in value, only 2 percent of Americans currently own or have ever owned bitcoin according to Blockchain Capital’s survey.

However, as millennials become more involved in the investment force, this number is sure to increase. If U.S. regulators allow bitcoin ETFs, it may be even easier for new bitcoin buyers to enter the market.

According to Google Trends, more people are searching online for how to buy bitcoin that gold. Can you dive Scrooge McDuck style into a ludicrous pile of bitcoins? Well, no. But you also can’t have the Dothraki give you a melted bitcoin crown, so there’s that safety factor working in bitcoin’s favor.

What else is so appealing about bitcoin? Unlike traditional banks, the bitcoin network isn’t run by a centralized agency and has no physical backing. Instead, it’s run by a network of computers worldwide digitally keeping track of all transactions by storing records in a blockchain.

Since anyone can make an anonymous account, bitcoin gained notoriety a preferred method for drug dealers and ransom payment aficionados. However, the cryptocurrency is also accepted by many major businesses, including Overstock.com and eBay, for legal transactions.

Since there are no transaction or currency conversion fees, people in countries with high inflation can use bitcoin to avoid losing money. Plus, bitcoin makes international money transfers significantly faster than traditional methods.

While bitcoin certainly has proven fruitful for shady transactions, the rising popularity of cryptocurrency for legitimate uses indicates a market shift.

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Business Finance

Venezuela cash crunch means workers won’t see money for months

(FINANCE NEWS) Venezuela is currently in a cash crunch due to a weakening oil market which means that Venezuelans won’t see pay for at least 5 months.

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If you ever ran out of money as a broke 20-something, you know how nervewracking it can be to go without cash. Now, imagine you ran a country and ran out of money. Sweating yet?

Be glad you’re not Venezuela, who is extremely cash poor at the moment. According to coverage from Bloomberg, “more than $1.2 billion of the company’s debt is coming due in the next few days, and investors are showing less confidence that funds will be transferred.”

The country is already two weeks late to pay off several other bonds. Additionally, cargo ships full of crude oil have idled for months because Venezuela can’t pay for their supply of oil.

The biggest culprit for the cash shortage is the shrinking market for crude oil. PDVSA controls one of the large crude supplies in the world, and it’s been a lucrative export for the country. However, in three years, the price of oil has dropped by 50 percent.

The biggest demand for crude used to come from America, who would pay cash for the barrels; however, shipments are down 35 percent since August.

Part of that demand shortage is due to political sanctions, imposed on the country by the United States. In response to Maduro’s aggressive political maneuvering, which sought to arrest opposition leaders, “rewrite the constitution and strip power from Congress,” President Trump punished this behavior through sanctions on imports from Venezuela.

Because oil was such a lucrative export, PDVSA was targeted heavily by the sanctions. Oil importers don’t want to run afoul of these sanctions by buying crude from the country. That problem will get even worse if the sanctions increase, which Bloomberg predicts is likely to happen within the year.

There is a risk that PDVSA could default on its debt, which could have a huge impact on the oil economy. According to Bloomberg, if oil could be seized as an asset to cover for debts, oil traders will expect a significant discount to cover for that risk. That discount will sink overall oil revenue. This same problem came up when Ecuador, another large exporter of oil, defaulted on its debt in 2008.

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