Decentralized identity can bring the analog world into the digital

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It goes without saying that connected devices need reliable, distributed and technology-based digital identity solutions. This is an essential requirement for the Internet of Things (IoT). In the machine economy, devices must be able to recognize and communicate with each other; Robust identity management solutions are essential to effectively secure data and processes. But what about the multitude of analog “things” all around us? They can certainly also benefit from the advent of digital identity.

Imagine the following: You have just returned from a grocery run or a walk in the park with your dog when you suddenly realize that the family ring that has come a little too loose around your finger is missing. more there. You retrace your steps, scan the ground and inspect the gutters and molehills, but you come back empty-handed. So many aspects of our daily lives have moved online, with valuable things like passwords, PINs and login certificates safely stored in appropriate security solutions. You can retrieve them at any time and manage them centrally. Why can’t you have the same for your family ring or other analog valuables?

Unlike your email password, your ring currently only lives in the analog world. You can tag it with a tracking device that connects to your phone, like Apple’s AirTag, but that raises privacy and security concerns, perhaps more than it actually solves – without talk about the fact that this is a bulky and strange jewelry accessory. More importantly, we own a sizable number of analog valuables, and slapping trackers on each at $ 40 a pop isn’t practical. Now is the time to talk about the digital identity of analog objects and finally invite our precious possessions offline into our increasingly virtual world.

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What is decentralized digital identity?

Decentralized Identity, or DID, refers to a digital identifier for something existing in the physical world. This digital identifier is placed on an immutable distributed ledger and includes a detailed description of attributes, capabilities and ownership. Concretely, this means that there is a reliable record that establishes you as the owner of your now lost family ring. It describes the ring up close and makes it instantly identifiable. With your credentials, you can prove that you are the owner; a miniature QR or barcode – or some other type of scannable identifier – attached or laser engraved on the object is all it takes. Another viable option, according to the article, is digital labels with additional capabilities.

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Over a simple tag or other tracking device, digital identity has a few other key advantages. It is stored securely with its distributed ledger technology (DLT) support, and it can establish ownership without leading directly to the owner. If you don’t want to post your Personally Identifiable Information on the ledger – a wise move anyway – you can create your own verified digital identity and link your analog assets to it. In the example of your lost ring, you have proof that you own the ring and can also use pseudonymization to make it harder for unwanted third parties to trace your valuables back to you.

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Conspicuous property of discrete value

Analog objects have different types of value – monetary, emotional, practical – and can attract unwanted access and potential theft from malicious actors at any time, for any reason. Establishing a robust DLT-based digital identity system for physical valuables has the added benefit of discouraging theft, as confirming the provenance of a stolen item on the general ledger would automatically void the transaction. possibility of reselling it.

To further discourage hijack attempts, you can create a variety of verifiable credentials associated with your digital identity. You also choose with whom you share this sensitive information, if applicable. With selective disclosure, you can establish your ownership of analog objects reliably, without sharing more information than necessary. For example, a public record on the ledger might tell you as the owner of a white porcelain vase with blue floral designs measuring 20.5 inches in height and weighing 14.8 pounds.

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In another verifiable ID, you can specify that the vase is a Qianlong, a collector’s item valued at several million dollars. This information does not have to be public, but you can share it with potential buyers if you decide to part with your precious collector’s item. DLT-based digital identity gives you full control over how much information you make public and how you compartmentalize it to match your individual ownership, identification and security needs. security.

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Global identification and authentication

Cross-platform communication remains a challenge in the digital realm, even more so on the analog side of things. Verifying the identity and ownership of an item across national borders and language barriers can be a long, slow and expensive process that involves several steps and the services of certified professionals. In the case of particularly valuable objects or real estate, verification involves notaries, translators, independent experts and even consulates and embassies. A unified digital identity system can replace long chains of approval and authentication with a simple DLT solution that instantly confirms the ownership and characteristics of an analog item anywhere in the world.

However, digital identity is not only useful for cross-border transactions. Today’s supply chains span the globe, and tracing materials and product components across continents is a daunting task that remains surprisingly analogous. The tracking of shipments is still often done by hand and on paper. The risk of human error is high and errors perpetuate and multiply throughout the shipping lifecycle. An immutable digital identity can speed up and automate many logistics processes. Special items that require special handling, such as temperature control or motion stabilization, can be paired with sensors that monitor their shipping conditions. Ultimately, the items will arrive at their destination with an immutable record of the quality and safety of their transport.

Such solutions are not limited to the logistics industry. The world is on the cusp of the post-COVID-19 era and the return to the international travel it promises. Many of us will take off in search of exciting new destinations, but sometimes our bags won’t travel with us. According to pre-pandemic statistics, airlines around the world lose around 25 million bags per year. Chances are this has happened to you as well, and you know firsthand how painful it is to find and recover your lost luggage. Pairing your bag with a DID would make it instantly findable – no more searching for a black hard-shell suitcase among the thousands. Airlines could also tag your bag at check-in with a DLT-compatible sensor that would give an audio or visual warning to baggage handlers if they are about to put your suitcase on the wrong plane.

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A digital afterlife for analog things

Analog objects get lost or misplaced – it’s in their nature. Whether in production, logistics or personal items, such incidents are often costly and painful. In our increasingly digitalized daily life, our analogue possessions are in danger of remaining permanently disconnected. Instead of leaving them behind, we can associate them with a digital identity that gives them the electronic afterlife they deserve without infringing on their nature.

DID doesn’t require scanning analog objects, and it doesn’t need expensive sensors or high-tech labels to function properly. Instead, it offers an affordable, reliable, and versatile way to remove offline items from the digital blind spot.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of UKTN.

Dominique schiener is co-founder of the Iota Foundation, a Berlin-based non-profit foundation. He oversees the partnerships and the overall realization of the project vision. Iota is a distributed ledger technology for the Internet of Things and is a cryptocurrency. Moreover, he won the biggest blockchain hackathon in Shanghai. For the past two years he has focused on machine economics via Iota.