Over 100 Million Unique Users in the Crypto Ecosystem; University of Cambridge Digital Asset Study


The 3rd Global CryptoAsset Benchmarking Study, an initiative by Cambridge researchers to analyze the developing growth of the industry, has estimated that over 100 million people in the world currently hold BTC or alternative crypto assets. According to this publication, the number of new digital wallets increased significantly, with around 191 million accounts opened in Q3, 2020 alone.

Going by these stats, the number of new people who own crypto assets has skyrocketed compared to the 2018 estimates, which barely hit 36 million. The research attributes this growth to an increase in activity and awareness within the main functions of the crypto ecosystem. Other metrics highlighted include mining, off-chain service provision, regulatory compliance, and improvement in IT infrastructure.

A Vibrant Outlook

Despite taking a hit after the 2017 ICO boom, crypto onboarding has been at its highest post the bubble. More off-chain service providers have launched to on-ramp newbies through fiat-crypto ecosystems and vice versa. Notably, the usage demographics were found to vary between different regions greatly; for instance, crypto exchanges domiciled out of APAC emerged as more crypto-focused trading platforms. Reads the report:

“While North American and European firms primarily serve crypto asset hedge funds and traditional institutional investors …

a notable share of APAC service providers deals with miners (41%), in part explained by the high level of mining activities in the region, especially in China.”

Regulatory and Compliance

As for the regulatory scope, much still has to be done according to figures revealed by the research. Over 2 out of 5 firms surveyed have obtained a license or are in the process of doing so. This is despite the FATF Travel Rule coming in place last year, requiring all Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs) to comply with new KYC/AML standards.

However, the research also argues that general compliance has increased, and some of those who are not licensed are because their activities do not fall within current regulatory frameworks or established guidelines.

“However, the remaining 58% should not be perceived as the share of entities conducting unregulated activities or evading regulations: some surveyed service providers are engaged in activities that do not yet warrant any authorization process.”

IT Security

With scamming being prevalent in the crypto ecosystem, the research notes that at least 90% of the VASPs keep the entrusted assets in cold storage. Nonetheless, there’s always a downside risk attributed to insurance since this line of service is yet to make in-roads into the crypto market. Had it not been the case, ‘Those who do have insurance plans are primarily insured against cybercrimes, professional errors, hazards, and loss or theft of private keys.’

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