Blockchain and Distributed Ledgers are innovative technologies that have many uses and applications across multiple sectors of the economy. From a government perspective, the technology holds the potential for enhanced transparency and auditing of public service operations, greater supply chain visibility to combat the distribution of counterfeit products, and automation of paper-based processes to improve delivery of services to organizations and citizens. Examples include ensuring the authenticity and integrity of videos and photos from cameras; sensors and Internet of Things devices; enhancing and facilitating international trade and customs processes; facilitating and securing passenger processing; and mitigating forgery and counterfeiting of official licenses and certificates.
The challenge with blockchain technology is the potential for the development of “walled gardens” or closed technology platforms that do not support common standards for security, privacy, and data exchange. This would limit the growth and availability of a competitive marketplace of diverse, interoperable solutions for government and industry to draw upon to deliver cost effective and innovative services based on blockchain and distributed ledger technologies.
DHS and Blockchain
There are several Department of Homeland Security (DHS) use cases that could be enabled by blockchain technology, including:
- Digital issuance of currently paper-based credentials to enhance their security, ensure their interoperability, and prevent their forgery and counterfeiting
- Creating immutable records and audit logs of data that cannot be spoofed and can be publicly verified without revealing personally identifiable information
- Improving traveler experience in airports by reducing redundant checks
- Reducing fraud in the transfer of goods across international boundaries that touch multiple entities who do not trust each other
With such potential, enhancing the security, privacy and interoperability aspects is where DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is currently focusing its resources. DHS S&T places emphasis on architecture, standards and interoperability to bring a level of rigor, expertise and credibility that is unique in supporting DHS Components and other partners across the U.S. government, so homeland security applications of blockchain and distributed ledger technology are effective and trusted.
SVIP Solicitation Topic: Preventing Forgery and Counterfeiting of Certificates and Licenses
DHS is interested in blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT) that address the challenges of interoperable digital entitlement attestations that support individual control and accountability of data release, while incorporating digital counter-fraud technologies and tactics, enterprise lifecycle management, and a high degree of usability across service delivery modalities. This solicitation call was released through the Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) in December 2018. The press release announcing the search for collaborative blockchain innovation solutions can be viewed on the DHS S&T website. Phase 1 awards were made in November 2019.
DHS Operational Need
DHS Operational Components and programs have common needs across their mission sets for potential use of interoperable implementations of Blockchain and DLTs that also support the growth and availability of a competitive marketplace of diverse technology implementations for government and industry to draw upon to deliver cost effective and innovative solutions.
This SVIP call seeks technical capabilities that could serve the mission needs of one or more DHS Operational Components and programs including:
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
- Issuance and Verification of Certificates, Licenses and Attestations
- Storage and Management of Certificates, Licenses and Attestations
- Decentralized and Derived PIV Credentials
Illustrative Use Cases
- Identity Documents for Travel
- Identity of Organizations and Organizational Delegates
- Tribal identity Documents for Travel
- Citizenship, Immigration and Employment Authorization
- Cross-Border Oil Import Tracking
- Origin of Raw Material Imports
- Validate the proposed architecture and design to incorporate interoperability specifications
- Validate digital security criteria equivalency to existing paper-based security features
- Evaluate the design of the APIs
- Articulate a go-to-market commercialization strategy
Phase 1 Funded Start-Ups
Danube Tech, Vienna Austria
Universal Issuer and Verifier: Will integrate interoperability support for multiple credential data formats, blockchains and standardized and open application programming interfaces into their existing decentralized identifier (DID) registrar and DID resolver products for credential issuance and identity verification.
Digital Bazaar, Blacksburg, VA
Interoperable Enterprise Identity and Credential Life-Cycle Management: Will enhance their existing product offering that supports emerging global World Wide Web Consortium security, privacy and interoperability standards such as DIDs and verifiable credentials with enterprise workforce and credential lifecycle management features.
Factom, Inc., Austin, TX
Applying Cross-Blockchain Technology to Help Prevent Forgeries or Counterfeiting of Certificates and Licenses: Will develop a system that provides a way for organizations to manage certificates and licenses associated with tracking raw material imports via an open system that ensures the provenance of issued credentials.
Learning Machine Technologies, New York, NY
Leveraging Learning Machine’s Commercial Offering in Public Infrastructure for Fraud Prevention: Will adapt their current commercial technology using the open-source Blockcerts standard to support emerging global World Wide Web Consortium security, privacy and interoperability standards such as DID and verifiable credentials for credential issuance and verification solutions.
Mavennet Systems, Toronto, Canada
Blockchain-as-a-Service for Cross-Border Oil Exchange: Will apply the company’s expertise, gleaned from building a platform enabling real-time auditability of the natural gas trading markets in Canada to address CBP needs for cross-border oil import tracking. Mavennet’s solution will build a generic end-to-end platform that can be used for any type of commodity that includes automation and integrating application program interface, physical measurement and legacy system capabilities.
SecureKey Technologies, Toronto, Canada
Identity Documents Proofing, Presentation and Exchange System: Will adapt the concepts and code associated with its Verified.Me commercial strength identity network solution that offers availability, disaster recovery, fraud prevention, monitoring and other essential operational controls to support TSA and USCIS needs around the issuance and validation of identity documents for travel and employment authorization.
SICPA Product Security, Springfield, VA
Decentralized Digital Identity for Online and Offline Verification: Will build a flexible, credential-based identity solution that includes the enrollment, creation, issuance and management of secure digital credentials through interoperable, open standards, which will seamlessly coexist with current processes and systems while enabling offline credentials validation.
Stranger Labs, Cambridge, MA
Untangling the New Web of Trust: Digital Credentials Offline: Will enable issuance, exchange and verification of digital credentials in an isolated environment — directly between devices, with no internet, LAN, or cellular connectivity —without sacrificing integrity guarantees or the ability to establish credentials' provenance while simultaneously enabling control of credentials from multiple devices.
Transmute Industries, Austin, TX
Verifiable Provenance, Traceability, and Regulatory Compliance for Raw Material Imports: Will adapt Transmute ID, its core technology product that leverages centralized and decentralized identity infrastructures to secure individual agency identities and verifiable credentials to ensure that CBP has visibility into the provenance, traceability and regulatory compliance of raw material imports.
The S&T Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) team, led by Managing Director Melissa Oh and Technical Director Anil John, kicked off the SVIP Phase 1 “Preventing Forgery and Counterfeiting of Certificates and Licenses” meeting in San Francisco November 19-20, 2019, with solicitation awardees, DHS Component partners, S&T Privacy Office and representatives of the World Wide Web Consortium. The solicitation called for blockchain and distributive ledger technology to issue digital documentation to prevent fraud counterfeiting and forgery. SVIP awarded eight companies Phase 1 awards that covered three technical topic areas and these six use cases:
- Identity Documents for Travel (TSA)
- Identity of Organizations and Organizational Delegates (CBP)
- Tribal Identity Documents for Travel (TSA & USCIS)
- Citizenship, Immigration and Employment Authorization (USCIS)
- Cross-Border Oil Import Tracking (CBP)
- Origin of Raw Material Imports (CBP)
The kick-off, which served to focus the Phase 1 proof-of-concepts on the DHS Component use cases, provided an opportunity for companies to interact directly with USCIS, TSA and CBP engineering teams and build successful working relationships. Each company provided a 10-minute overview of its technology solution and use cases, and the three Components conducted working group sessions to focus on the processes, procedures and requirements for their use cases.