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4 Keys to Self-Sovereign Identity Adoption

 

This graph shows a more realistic picture; it assumes an "S-curve" rate of adoption.

 

Understanding timing of verifiable credential adoption

 

56,115 verifiable credentials in production

 

While it's impossible to know the current state of SSI adoption precisely, my research leads me to believe we're somewhere in the highlighted area. We've come a long way, but there's still a long way to go.

It’s important to understand where we’re at in the adoption lifecycle so that you can spend your time focused on the right things. It may be too early for point-of-sale systems integrations, but the perfect time for an SSI-powered loyalty program. Given that most experts believe we’re still a few years away from mainstream adoption of SSI, should you want to build a verifiable credential-powered business? Maybe. Would you rather have started an internet company in 1996 or 2001? The earlier you build, the more upside potential exists. But I believe, like the internet, there will be business opportunities in this space for decades to come.

Selling the value of SSI

 

Overcoming obstacles for going to production

The third key to adoption is to overcome the obstacles that will inevitably come. All new technologies need to overcome obstacles to go to production. Most of these obstacles are common regardless of the technology, but a few are unique to verifiable credentials. My interviews consistently identified 10 distinct obstacles blocking teams from going into production. Here, I’ll share a short thought on how to mitigate them.

Obstacle
Description
Mitigant
Perceived complexity
Friction to get started or complexity to integrate with existing systems
Explain things simply. Stay out of the weeds of the technological underpinnings.
Lack of business case
Both enterprises and startups need to clarify what business value verifiable credentials deliver in their particular use case
Balance technical R&D with business model R&D. This is a place where you can innovate and get ahead. Be systematic in terms of product development and quantify the value that you deliver whenever possible.
Lack of “safety”
Nobody wants to be the first one to arrive at a party or the first to adopt a new technology
Find examples of companies who’ve gone to production and hold them up as examples. Find your own lighthouse customers who are willing to vouch for you.
Buy-in from stakeholders
Getting approvals up the chain can take time
Quantify business value. Support teams not just in tech but also marketing, governance, legal, and operations.
User experience
The UX of SSI can be less than ideal
Find customers who will accept your technology “warts and all”. Use a platform like Trinsic that you can customize to the ideal UX for your specific use case.
Slow-moving issuers
The ideal issuers of credentials are slow-moving or highly-regulated entities
Start small and expand from there. Don’t try to boil the ocean. Quantify results and proactively offer additional solutions.
Execution
Teams deploying verifiable credentials need to execute better
Leverage books, podcasts, and other resources to hone your skills. Be focused in your execution and systematic with your product development.
Governance
Governance defines the rules of play for a given situation
Some people have viewed governance as needed to go to production while others have felt an over-emphasis on governance was slowing our industry down. In the end, it depends on your use case. If you can wait on governance, then wait. If you need formal governance, leverage the templates being created at the Trust over IP Foundation.
Standards paralysis
Waiting for clarity on which implementations will become the de facto standards
If you’re building from scratch, be clear on which standards you’re leveraging and why. Participate in the NGOs (DIF/Hyperledger/ToIP/etc.), and work with the community to make this a non-issue. If you’re leveraging Trinsic, we’ve got you covered.
Advanced tech
Some buyers think verifiable credentials are too forward-thinking and advanced
If you hear this, you’re probably not talking to your ideal customer. Find customers that are willing to accept newer technologies, at least until you get a few lighthouse customers.

Which came first, the issuer or the verifier? Overcoming the chicken/egg problem.

 

 

 

Ecosystem approach

An ecosystem-driven approach is a method to overcome the chicken-egg problem where an entity brings together all sides of the market at the same time. If we take COVID-19 test results as an example, an ecosystem approach would bring together doctor’s clinics & labs (issuers), employers (verifiers), and patients (holders) all at the same time. By curating an entire ecosystem of participants, each can receive the full measure of the value they could expect when verifiable credentials are widely adopted. The challenge with this approach is bringing together all sides of the market simultaneously; it may take longer and cost more than expected. Even in this approach, the use case will need to be constrained in some way (scope, geography, etc.).

Single-sided approach

 

Conclusion

The chart on the right illustrates the adoption of the fax machine over time. It had to overcome the chicken and egg problem at first, too. It took a long time, but ultimately it only needed two things: specific, individual “killer use cases”, and recognition as a global standard. SSI is well on its way to both.

 

Trinsic is focused on building the best tools to enable developers and other innovators to easily build with verifiable credentials. Over 1,000 developers and companies choose to build on Trinsic.

If you’re building a solution and want more support, or would like to give feedback on this work, reach out to us here.

Notes