Can Blockchain Fix Security and Identity, Consumers’ Top Concerns?

  • Grace Noto
  • November 18, 2016
  • 1

The two most prevalent use cases for the blockchain in fintech are trade finance and cross-border transfers—moving money at a quicker pace and more securely, according to research by Coindesk.

However, as has also been reported, security is becoming more of a concern for fintechs and for consumers, especially as our lives increasingly move online—making online identity something of a top security concern.

“Typically [your] identity is managed by entities—the DMV issues your license, et cetera,” said Peter Kirby, CEO of blockchain-for-data company Factom, which just received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to come up with a blockchain system to secure patient medical records. “The trick [to your identity] is that there is a central party that manages all of those things—but the magic of blockchain is that it’s a public utility, like the internet.”

The trick then, according to Kirby, is to make digital identity a public utility—but more importantly, to make it a public utility under the control of that individual person.

In building secure medical records, there is the additional challenge of building a secure system that can be successfully deployed low-tech; in order for it to provide what doctors and medical professionals actually need to treat patients in the countries the Gates Foundation is typically active in.

Aside from those specific challenges, the larger issue at play is who controls your identity in the digital world—blockchain enthusiasts have long professed that the technology could give the control and value of our own identities back to us instead of to central entities.

If that seems unlikely to happen in the near, near future, that’s because it probably is—but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen eventually, if the technology is applied effectively.

“I have worked a lot with transitions; most of them are messy and most felt unlikely to happen,” says Leda Glyptis, director for Sapient Global Markets. “Blockchain provides a different type of engagement with the individual; it’s a social system. Banking was that, but we’ve moved on a lot since then.”

Of course, before we focus on securing our identities on the blockchain, we might want to work on securing it during our everyday transactions—in other words, something like EMV, but with a better user experience. Like contactless.

“The user experience is greatly enhanced [with contactless cards]. It drives additional spend in what I would call micro-payments,” says Jack Jania, SVP of strategic alliances for Gemalto; micro-payments being those PoS transactions under $5 or $10.

Gemalto has delivered more than 1 billion contactless cards across the globe during the past five years. This includes markets like Australia, where contactless makes up the majority of payments, and the U.S., where it decidedly does not.

At least, not yet, but contactless is coming, according to Jania, who himself has two contactless cards as well as a contactless ring, a Gemalto and Visa product that was debuted during the Rio Olympics.

“I’m sort of testing it out in the States. I get weird looks [from the tellers], but it works,” says Jania of the ring, which like Gemalto cards is completely EMV certified, meaning consumers get the security as well as the speed.

That security does not yet involve blockchain, but hey. Baby steps, right?

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