OWI Digital Forum Recap: The Rise & Adoption of Verifiable Credentials

On Tuesday, May 18, 2021, Trinsic CEO Riley Hughes sat down with One World Identity (OWI) CEO Travis Jarae to have a one-on-one conversation about “The Rise & Adoption of Verifiable Credentials”. Below is a short summary of the conversation as well as answers to the questions that were asked by the audience during the Q&A portion.

An overview

As the title of the event suggests, Riley and Travis discussed the state of adoption for verifiable credentials and self-sovereign identity (SSI). Travis started the conversation by stating that critics of SSI claim adoption will be a hurdle too high to jump for any SSI platform or product to be successful at scale. Riley agreed that adoption is the most important hurdle to overcome, and explained that early technologists building SSI technology didn’t build tech that was easy to adopt. Today’s SSI approaches, partially pioneered by Trinsic, are now being built so they are adoptable today and not just in a fully decentralized, 20-year Web 3.0 future.


Riley went on to more specifically address where verifiable credentials are at in terms of adoption. About a year and a half ago, there was essentially zero real-world adoption. Today, there’s between 100,000-300,000 verifiable credentials being used by real end users. In the last 18 months, demand has skyrocketed and there have been strong adoption signals, but the adoption of verifiable credentials is still very early.


Trinsic is addressing this adoption problem for its customers with the recent launch of its enterprise-grade product—Trinsic Ecosystems. Riley explained how Trinsic found that a large subset of its customers were wanting to use SSI to enable secure, privacy-compliant data sharing between multiple organizations and customers (or in other words, within an ecosystem). Trinsic Ecosystems is an out-of the-box solution that enables just that with all of the governance and technical tools to make adoption within any ecosystem easy.


Travis and Riley then focused on what role the COVID-19 pandemic has had in impacting the adoption of verifiable credentials. Riley explained how the pandemic has greatly accelerated interest and demand in verifiable credentials, but it is yet to be determined whether the recent uptake of verifiable credentials adoption is causation or correlation. However, the pandemic has created a major emphasis in creating a solution for digital health passes where health information (like COVID-19 test results or vaccination records) can be shared in a way that abides by data privacy regulation, safeguards the individual, and is standardized.


Travis brought up that health passes related to COVID-19 will eventually not be needed as the world fully recovers from the pandemic. Riley expressed that he looks forward to that day because that means we have beaten the pandemic. Until then, for jurisdictions and businesses that do have policies around COVID-19 test results and/or vaccinations, verifiable credentials provide a good way to enforce those policies in a standardized way, while putting the individual in control of their data.


With that being said, if Riley had to make a prediction of what will be the next big use case for verifiable credentials, he said that it would be around taking the identity verifications that are done by Onfido, Passbase, Jumio, and others and simply codifying them in a way that can be reused by the individual.


They ended their conversation talking about the future of Trinsic. Riley said that Trinsic’s biggest priority right now is adoption and because of that, they are buckling down on refining the Trinsic Ecosystems product for the foreseeable future.


Q: What verifiable credentials use cases are enterprise and businesses using Trinsic for?

A: From the enterprise side, we are mostly seeing customers want to use Trinsic to make data sharing secure, privacy-preserving, and standardized between multiple organizations and their customers. Essentially, instead of disjointed systems having to build and maintain a custom API to share data, with Trinsic, the customer becomes the API, enabling a seamless data sharing process that puts the customer in control of his or her data.


Q: How does self-sovereign identity reduce costs?

A: Because credentials can be reused by the individual, organizations no longer have to go through the costly and time-consuming process of re-verifying their customers and their data and can instead do it instantaneously. Additionally, SSI reduces costs for credential issuers in that issuing companies no longer need to be “on call” to vouch whether or not the information is accurate or not, and they no longer need to outsource that role to companies like Equifax and give them access to their database.


Q: How involved are governments in deploying SSI?

A: Governments are some of the most active proponents of SSI. The USA, Canada, various governments in Europe including the UK and the EU, as well as Asian governments are all investing money in SSI projects. Smaller governments such as state or large jurisdictional governments are also deploying SSI at a surprisingly rapid pace.


Q: Do you think that we will have one wallet containing all our credentials or separate wallets by use case based around health, employment, identity, etc.? In the UK, the covid passport is being built around the NHS app, for example.

A: I think in the near-term we’ll see separate wallets by use case (actually, I think they’ll be by ecosystem). That’s the signal we’re seeing strongly from the market with interest in our Wallet SDK and Ecosystems product.


Q: How does this differ from Civic’s identity.com (open source ecosystem providing access to on-demand, secure ID verification)?

A: There are a variety of differences, but the primary one is that identity.com, to my knowledge, is an identity verification solution, whereas Trinsic is infrastructure for creating such solutions. Trinsic’s customers span not just identity verification, but government, B2B, and IoT use cases as well. Identity.com is also a solution built around the CVC cryptocurrency and leverages smart contracts, whereas Trinsic uses blockchain only as an optional dPKI for organizations. See more about how blockchain fits here.


Q: How do you get people to care about adoption? How do you talk about decentralized identity outside of enterprises to encourage people to take action?

A: People will adopt something if it has a clear benefit to them. It’s too much to expect people to pick up a random SSI wallet from the App Store and start using it throughout their lives. The adoption process will be gradual and may be happening without end users really knowing what’s going on under the hood. For example, a digital health pass might just appear in an app on their phone. The user probably thinks about it in terms of the ability to travel that it affords, not in terms of self-sovereign control over their data.


Q: Do you see a use case around account takeover for financial institutions?

A: Yes, account takeover is one of many use cases we’ve seen financial institutions look into. One of the most challenging parts of securing an account is the different authentication methods for different channels. For example, calling-in uses security questions while in-person uses a physical ID card. Verifiable credentials are an ideal solution for omni-channel authentication, meaning the same factors of authentication can be used in any scenario (login, drive-through, ATM, etc.). Feel free to get in touch to discuss in more depth.

Links to resources

Watch the full recording below or visit: https://oneworldidentity.com/session/trinsic/.

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