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What is IOTA? | The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

What is IOTA

IOTA is a peer to peer, decentralized payment and exchange platform for the global network of Internet-connected devices, otherwise known as the Internet of Things (IoT). To understand what IOTA is trying to accomplish, you first have to understand the potential of the IoT, which is about much more than just devices connecting. Rather, it’s…

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IOTA is a peer to peer, decentralized payment and exchange platform for the global network of Internet-connected devices, otherwise known as the Internet of Things (IoT).

To understand what IOTA is trying to accomplish, you first have to understand the potential of the IoT, which is about much more than just devices connecting. Rather, it’s about how they interact, share data, value services offered to the network, and make payments between themselves — potentially without the need for manual human intervention. Examples of the IoT at work include automatic exchanges of computer power, bandwidth, and storage; sharing of storm or tsunami threats between remote weather sensors and communities; a machine that can automatically pay for its own maintenance, parts, insurance, energy, or even its own manufacturing; a fleet of self-driving cars that fuel/charge themselves and automatically pay for the service; or even entire smart cities with traffic sensors capable of coordinating traffic in real time. The potential is enormous.

While the IoT is more science fiction than modern reality, that is expected to change in the near future. In just the last year, the number of Internet-capable devices increased 31 percent to a total of around 8.4 billion devices. It’s predicted that this number will skyrocket to 30 billion devices by 2020 and that the total market value of such devices will reach $7.1 trillion.

IOTA has made some big promises about how they intend to be an early mover in this space, but the truth is that the technology is still relatively new and unproven. As such, IOTA has gotten a lot of criticism from technology and security experts as well as the blockchain community in general.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at why that is, how IOTA works, and some of the challenges IOTA faces going forward by looking at the following topics:

IOTA was launched in June 2016 by a German non-profit organization called the IOTA Foundation, with the goal of being a pioneer in the IoT space. The ultimate vision behind IOTA is to create a semi-automated marketplace for machine to machine transactions.

But IOTA is not alone in this vision. In fact, numerous major companies are also entering the IoT space. Many such companies have formed direct partnerships with IOTA, while others are working with the IOTA Foundation peripherally (e.g. Microsoft) or as co-founders of the Trusted IoT Alliance, an association of companies working in the field.

The IoT vision isn’t necessarily possible with regular blockchain technology. Most blockchains require massive amounts of resources and power just to perform a few dozen transactions per second, while the IoT ecosystem would need to perform potentially millions of transactions per second. What’s IOTA’s proposed solution to this scalability problem? A new piece of tech called the “tangle”.

IOTA’s “tangle” is a network structure which doesn’t rely on dedicated computer nodes (called miners) to validate transactions as blockchains do. Instead, the tangle uses a technology called Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) to require that each device on the network confirm two transactions for every transaction it performs.

As devices on the network verify each other’s transactions, the network builds a consensus-based ledger that is theoretically immutable and highly secure. In this way, IOTA avoids the high fees and slow transaction speeds of traditional blockchains that would make it impossible for IoT devices to quickly trade resources in real time while logging vast amounts of data.

Suggested Reading Learn how IOTA compares to Ethereum.

Although IOTA doesn’t require mining, transactions are still securely stored by computer “nodes” using a cryptographic algorithm called SHA-3 Proof of Work (PoW). This operates similar to Bitcoin’s SHA-256 PoW algorithm to create a chain of transaction records that are stored on full network nodes. How these nodes will be rewarded for their services is not yet clear, since they don’t actually receive any of IOTA’s tokens (called MIOTA) for their work. This has resulted in some debate about how IOTA will solve this lack of incentive to run a node.

Early in IOTA’s development it actually used a hashing algorithm called Curl which was custom-built by the IOTA development team. Curl was replaced, however, after an MIT team found a potential vulnerability in the algorithm. 

This sparked a huge controversy in which the IOTA development team was widely criticized for handling the situation poorly, and for over-reaching when they tried to create their own algorithm. Many argued that a cryptographic algorithm must be widely available and tested for years prior to being released to verify the algorithm’s security. 

Around February 24, 2018, however, leaked emails between the MIT team and IOTA were published on an IOTA enthusiast’s blog called The Tangler that seemed to at least partially exonerate the IOTA developers. The leaked correspondences reveal that the MIT team failed to provide evidence of their claims — which were not confirmed by peers — and ceased communications with the IOTA Foundation developers before useful conclusions were reached. The emails also suggest that the MIT team did not fully understand how IOTA works (as they themselves admitted).

In an official release about the incident from the IOTA Foundation on February 26, the foundation stated:

“To date, the IOTA team has not received any answers to questions posed, code demonstrating the attack, or other documentation elaborating on the vulnerability beyond what was seen in these emails.
We would very much appreciate help finding actual vulnerabilities in the IOTA protocol, and as of November, 2017 we have been working with a team of cryptographers to obtain an accurate and objective assessment of this situation.”

Another point of contention about IOTA in the blockchain community is the technology’s reliance on a central coordinating entity to begin with. Before IOTA’s network is truly decentralized, it must first gain enough users to validate transactions and secure the network, which is theoretically possible to control with only 34% of the computing power of the network as a whole. For now, IOTA has been forced to implement a temporary central entity called the Coordinator to secure the network. There is very little information about the Coordinator in the white paper or elsewhere, but the basic rundown is that the entity (likely one or more powerful computers) validates all transactions by throwing its own transactions into the mix every minute.

These transactions are referred to as milestones and are used as a sort of snapshot that can be verified against all other transactions in the network to validate that a given transaction is untampered with. Even if the Coordinator acts maliciously, every other node in the network would be able to recognize this, because it would start issuing bad milestones.

According to the IOTA Foundation, the Coordinator will be turned off when the network has enough full nodes to ensure a self-validating network.

Since there’s no mining in the network, MIOTA coins — all 2,779,530,283,277,761 of them — were issued all at once at the launch of the DAG chain. IOTA’s currency units are named using metric system prefixes before the word “Iota”. As the official name of the cryptocurrency, MIOTA is also the unit of account used on exchanges. These are the units, in order of size:

Iota = 1 iota = 1i = 1i
KiloIota = 1 kiota = 1Ki = 1,000 i
MegaIota = 1 MIOTA = 1Mi = 1,000,000 i
GigaIota = 1 giota = 1Gi = 1,000,000,000 i
TeraIota = 1 tiota = 1Ti = 1,000,000,000,000 i
PetaIota = 1 Piota = 1Pi = 1,000,000,000,000,000 i

There are a number of advantages that IOTA has over other cryptocurrencies, mostly because of its DAG chain technology.

Fast and Free Transactions: As mentioned, IOTA dispenses with mining, which means no transaction fees. Since the network is entirely user validated in real-time, transactions are also very fast.

Energy and Resource Efficiency: Bitcoin and many other popular cryptocurrencies that use miners consume enormous amounts of energy. Mining computers (called rigs) are also regularly replaced with more powerful computers as mining becomes more difficult, wasting further resources. The tangle eliminates these inefficiencies.

Ternary Computing: IOTA uses ternary logic in its network as opposed to traditional binary logic. Ternary computing is potentially more efficient than binary computing, and is also more effective in artificial neural networks, artificial neurons, artificial intelligence logic, graphical processing, and cryptography. However, some argue that the ternary computing revolution may never come, or if it does, it will be far in the future.

Quantum Proof: Quantum computing is an emerging field of computing that promises unprecedented processing power that could potentially compromise regular cryptography systems, including regular blockchain technologies. IOTA claims to be “quantum proof” by using an “unforgeable” scheme that makes it impossible to hack, even by quantum computers.

Zero Inflation: Since no more IOTA coins will be created, there will be no inflation. This means that the value of the currency will not decrease because of an increase in coins (though it could, of course, decrease for other reasons).

Many Competitors: There are many competitors in the IoT space, including large multinational corporations with virtually unlimited resources. Other cryptocurrency competitors include Waltonchain and IoT Chain. Other DAG based cryptocurrencies like Byteball or Nano could also theoretically be used as a means of scalable, fast transactions for the IoT, while other scalable decentralized application (dapp) platforms like EOS could potentially use dapps to provide use cases for the IoT beyond simple transactions.

Unproven Technology: As mentioned, several cryptography experts have shown concerns over IOTA’s stability and security as a platform. Using so many unproven technologies at once certainly opens up the possibility of unforeseen security vulnerabilities or other problems.

More Centralized at First: Regular blockchain networks become vulnerable if one party has 51% of the computing power on the network. If this happens, it may be possible for the controlling entity to verify false transactions and falsify data in their favor. IOTA, by contrast, is vulnerable if only 34% of the network is controlled by a single entity. This vulnerability would theoretically be very difficult to take advantage of once the network scales into an IoT made up of millions or billions of devices, but until then, the Coordinator is required. Some argue that this is a form of centralization and potentially an unfortunate single point of failure. As mentioned, IOTA plans to eliminate the Coordinator after the network scales enough.

Buying MIOTA directly with fiat currency (e.g. USD) is not widely possible yet, but it’s simple enough to purchase another cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, Ethereum or Litecoin on an exchange like Coinbase or Bitstamp and then transfer that to an exchange where you can buy MIOTA. Exchanges selling MIOTA include Binance, OKEx, Bitfinex, Exrates, and

You can see a step-by-step guide on How to Buy IOTA here.

Storing MIOTA on exchanges is not recommended, nor is it recommended to store a significant amount of any cryptocurrency on an exchange. The best IOTA wallets available today are the Trinity desktop wallet, the Nelium mobile wallet, and the Ledger Nano S hardware wallet. For a comprehensive guide to these wallet options, check out our guide to the best IOTA wallets.

Although many people in the cryptocurrency and digital security industries are skeptical of IOTA, it’s possible that the technology will prove itself valuable with time. If the IOTA Foundation is successful in working out any lingering bugs or unforeseen attack vectors, the tangle and its DAG technology could become increasingly popular over more resource-intensive and expensive blockchain alternatives. IOTA’s success may even help kickstart the forthcoming IoT marketplace, which would launch an exciting new chapter in humanity’s relationship with machines. The potential is unprecedented, but for now, we’ll have to wait and see if IOTA can deliver on its ambitious goals. 



‘Bitcoin maxis’ like Solana, but is there sound logic to that



Recent changes in cryptocurrency market dynamics have fueled the popularity of altcoins like Solana [SOL]. It recently became one of the most trending blockchain platforms around on the back of its surging price.

The cryptocurrency, in fact, had a 1-year ROI of over 4,200%, despite dropping by 34% since its peak in early September. Despite the latest hiccup in value, however, market observers believe the project has managed “winning over a significant number of Bitcoin Maxis or near-maxis.”

Ikigai Funds’ Travis Kling offered this observation on Twitter when he said,

“After talking to a bunch of folks over the last couple months, it’s pretty clear that SOL is successfully winning over a significant number of BTC Maxis or near-maxis, which have previously owned zero ETH or very little ETH.”

While the crypto-space is competitive, the tech-twist to the age-old saying – “competition of your competition is your ally” also holds true. Solana is not competing with Bitcoin. Instead, it is competing with Ethereum’s position in decentralized finance, NFTs, and smart contract offerings. Given the fact that transacting on Ethereum is still a pain for some users, Solana’s cheap and fast transactions provide a better alternative to many.

Solana’s DeFi projects recently crossed $3 billion, despite Ethereum hosting the maximum number of DeFi and NFT projects. While Bitcoin “maxis” are also opting-in for smart contracts, they prefer SOL over ETH, according to Kling.

Why? According to the exec,

“I think maxis look at ETH vs SOL and think –

Well as long as its not going to be all that decentralized, might as well have a smart contract platform that can actually handle enough throughput with cheap enough fees where it can really scale, instead getting choked up like ETH.”

However, not everyone agrees with Kling’s opinions. Many believe the decentralization narrative to be wrongly used by Kling, with another Twitter user @mikemcg0 noting that Ethereum is “more decentralized than BTC.” Anyone can run an Ethereum validator,” he said, “but only a select few oligopolies can mine BTC.”

Even so, Bitcoin mining has spread out even more after the recent China crackdown. Although the process is extensive in terms of effort, time, and money, according to another user, “anyone can” mine BTC “if they have the entrepreneurial mindset.”

Now, the latest outage faced by Solana did raise questions about the level of centralization. However, that has not really discouraged those who want to indulge in DeFi, NFTs, and smart contracts. As Solana forges new contracts with Hacken Foundation and, others institutions like Osprey Funds and Grayscale are in a race to include Solana in their respective bouquet of products.

In fact, Osprey Funds has already registered Osprey Solana Trust with the SEC.

‘Ethereum killer’ or not, Solana is en route to gaining more interest from the booming crypto-market. Even turning so-called BTC maxis in the process.

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Europe Now World’s Biggest Crypto Economy: Boasts Over $1T Worth of Transactions



Central, Northern, and Western Europe (CNWE) has grown into the world’s largest cryptocurrency economy since July 2020. The region experienced a massive increase in trading activity since then– particularly in the DeFi space.

The European DeFi Boom

Data from Chainalysis shows that CNWE received over $1 trillion in cryptocurrency over the last year alone. This represents 25% of global trading activity. Furthermore, it is responsible for at least 25% of all crypto value received by other regions, including 34% of the value received in North America.

This makes the EU the most concentrated in the world in terms of cryptocurrency trading volume. This is partially due to increases in all forms of trading activity over the past year, coming mostly from institutional investors.

Large institutional transaction value grew from $1.4B in July 2020 to $46.3B in June 2021, coming to take up half of all CNWE trading activity. The most pronounced increases were seen on DeFi protocols, where over 80% of these large institutional transactions were sent in June.

The impact of DeFi is further established when ranking coins in terms of transaction activity in the region. Despite being the largest cryptocurrency by market cap, Bitcoin heavily trails Ethereum in transaction volume among large institutional investors. Additionally, DeFi protocols took up a majority share of funds received by cryptocurrency services in CNWE in June 2021.


The Decline in Eastern Asia

CNWE has seen significant absolute increases in its crypto trading volume. However, its new place as the world’s largest trading hub is partly due to a sharp decline in market share held by Eastern Asia– the previous world leader.

In early 2019 the region held over 30% of global transaction volume. This figure has since fallen sharply to about 15% – less than CNWE, North America, and even Central and Southern Asia.

This may be related to China’s continued push to prevent and discourage crypto trading within its borders. China re-announced their ban on crypto trading in the country days ago, and have been moving to prevent all access to exchanges within the country.


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Here’s why a multi-CBDC bridge is being tested on Ethereum



The race to launch the first CBDC is one the world is following intently. While most have their eyes fixed on China’s digital yuan pilot, a group of countries has come together to take CBDCs a step further.

Phase 3 of Project Inthanon-LionRock saw BIS Innovation Hub Hong Kong Centre, the Digital Currency Institute of the People’s Bank of China, and the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates experiment with a multi-CBDC bridge or an mBridge.

What does this mean?

The mBridge initiative would ideally allow central banks in different countries to issue and redeem their own CBDCs across borders on a common platform – without having to depend on correspondent banks.

Meanwhile, commercial banks would be able to “submit peer-to-peer CBDC push payments.”

The BIS September 2021 report stated,

“If successful, an efficient, low cost, compliant and scalable multi-currency, multi-jurisdiction arrangement can provide a network of direct central bank collaboration, greatly increasing the potential for international trade flows and cross-border business at large.”

The report further clarified,

“The prototype demonstrates a substantial improvement in cross-border transfer speed from multiple days to seconds, as well as the potential to reduce several of the core cost components of correspondent banking.”

Here, it is also interesting to note that the project’s Phase 2 prototype was built on Ethereum. This was because the core layer of the prototype contained the blockchain ledger and smart contracts.

Notes on features

As a multiple CBDC project, regulation and compliance were functional requirements. Central banks would be able to monitor transactions in real-time, set balance limits, control the balance held by their commercial banks, and use data for surveillance.

Scalability was also part of the design to later onboard more participants and jurisdictions.

However, one complication was the wide difference in remittance charges across countries. While the global average was calculated to be 6.38% of the remitted sum, the report observed that even a percentage as low as 1% would be costly for payments in the millions of dollars.

An update from China

Alongside the mBridge project, China has also been steamrolling ahead with its CBDC program.

Changchun Mu, Director-General of the DCI of the People’s Bank of China. confirmed that e-CNY pilots have been taking place in 10 areas.

Mu added,

“Payment methods such as QR code and tap-and- go have been well-supported and innovative services such as dual-offline payment and wearable device payment have been tested for safety and efficiency.”

Meanwhile, Howard Lee, Deputy Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, suggested that an e-HKD could also be in the works.

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