In a demonstration of the potential for decentralized digital identity solutions to enhance IT infrastructure, researchers at Bundesdruckerei (BDR) have tested a blockchain-based self-sovereign identity solution. Digital identity experts at the federal government security company supplying Germany’s ID cards, passports and more are working with different ID management solutions and technologies. One of these approaches used the Jolocom identity library and wallet. In this instance, identity information remains under the complete control of the citizen via the Jolocom SmartWallet downloaded onto their mobile device.
Developing the proof-of-concept
The researchers at BDR merged Jolocom software for decentralized identity and access management with existing government IT infrastructure for identification and verification. Their goal was to create one of the early proof of concepts (POCs) for decentralized digital German IDs. The 2019 POC enables citizens to get a digital version of their official, government-issued credentials – such as their national ID card or driver’s license – sent directly to a Jolocom SmartWallet-equipped mobile device. They can then reuse their credentials to engage public or private sector services in a variety of interactions, ride sharing or requesting a student ID card, for instance.
In this decentralized model, citizens retain complete control over their legal identities through every service interaction.Combining the potential of SSI credentials with sophisticated public sector technology, BDR has created a POC showing how the same quality of attestation can be given in self-sovereign use cases.
Together, the public sector and self-sovereign identity tools can unlock the potential for people to interact with services in a fast, efficient and privacy-preserving way.
Why decentralized digital IDs?
While the push to digitize government services is not new, some governments have looked beyond digitization to decentralization as a comprehensive solution to common identity and access management challenges. As well as offering better usability than standard digital services, decentralized digital services allow users to remain completely in control of their identity data. They can reuse their credentials, making for faster interactions, with privacy built-in by default. Decentralized models also benefit from low data management costs and are often seen as a compliance mechanism for new privacy standards, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), launched across Europe in May 2018.
This particular POC is an early example of an issuing and verification authority merging its existing technology with self-sovereign identity software. Already, BDR’s work in this area has been deployed in a live use case. Recently concluded, the Xride pilot offered fully decentralized ride sharing to Deutsche Telekom employees in Bonn and Berlin. Pioneered by T-Labs, Jolocom worked with BDR and other partners to provide decentralized identity infrastructure and verification, allowing seamless, decentralized communication between rider and machine.
The next steps for this technology will include a real world pilot in Germany in 2020. It could not have come at a more appropriate time following the announcement of the German Blockchain Strategy. This strategy places particular focus on identity, and this POC represents a perfect use case in line with the strategy’s vision.
Diving into the demo
To demo this POC, Bundesdruckerei published an online portal showcasing the transition from analog ID card to digital credential issuance. This further demonstrates the interaction between citizens and services, using citizens’ freshly minted decentralized ID credentials. To try out the services portal, a Jolocom SmartWallet (Android or iOS) is required.
In the first interaction, municipal employees verify citizen ID cards and driver’s licenses either through a manual, in-person verification process done with a BDR PC equipped with a badge reader, or with an ID reader-machine issued by BDR (see graphic two, above).
Employees then issue this data directly into citizens’ SmartWallets and can further use this information to issue driver’s licenses, residents parking permits, or municipal registration information (graphic one). Now, with their smartphones, citizens can store and make use of their personal information as soon as they leave the authority office.
Two demonstration service interactions are made available as part of this POC. The first enables citizens to interact with a public transportation authority and get discounted tickets, pensioner passes or rideshares. The second is an interaction with a university to send a student ID directly to a SmartWallet. (Graphics three and four, above).
Jolocom’s role in the POC
Jolocom’s software is fully open source. As such, the part we have played consisted of making adjustments to our app interface to support BDR’s work. This included adding a Documents tab, visual elements for displaying a user’s digital ID cards and a display for the public profile of the issuer. We also made some minor improvements to the visual styling, to help users differentiate between claims and credentials, and added a filtering functionality for documents.
This has been the third opportunity we’ve had to work with a public sector organization on the development of self-sovereign identity systems for citizens in 2019. Earlier in the year, we concluded our work with Blockchain on the Move, during the project’s first phase that looked at how blockchain-backed technologies could practically benefit both citizens and state by enabling individuals to manage their own data and identity.
With more governments exploring the advantages of blockchain and, more specifically, self-sovereign identity solutions to common identity and access management challenges, we look forward to offering our open source library more widely, and supporting customizations where needed too.
More demos & deep dives
Avalon and Aelondo Jolocom SmartWallet demos for e-government and mobility use cases.
For the deep dive reading:
Explore the Blockchain on the Move e-government POC.
Learn more about the Xride pilot.
This project was featured in Enterprise Times.