Getting through security in time for one's transfer on a late summer's day can be a hassle at most international airports, not least since the world has become increasingly concerned by security threats. Cross-border travel is expected to grow by 50% over the next decade and reach 1.8 billion international arrivals by 2030, according to the World Tourism Barometer, creating jobs that contribute to GDPs. Measures must thus be taken, according to the World Economic Forum, to accommodate the vast flow of travelers despite increasing security threats, limited infrastructure and numerous layers of screening.
Yet, even as the Northern hemisphere is becoming increasingly digitised, digital identities tend to remain tied to local and national schemes. Most identity systems are centrally planned and managed, making it a cumbersome process to integrate or link them to other systems, which again could lead to inefficiencies, data leaks or identity theft. Moreover, some current digital identities could be facing limits pertaining to security, single point of failure or access to the data being restricted by the operator. None of the systems place the identity owner in a place of entitlement or power.
And although many developing countries, such as India, see the dawn of digital identity forming, a large group of people are unable to authenticate themselves digitally, excluding them from a range of possibilities in a modern digital society. An estimated 2 billion people are still unbanked globally, 20% of whom unable to provide the documentation necessary to open a bank account, let alone travel cross borders.
Shaping the future of security in travel
To take the friction out of travelling, the World Economic Forum has explored solutions to seamless and secure travel challenges, developing a concept called 'the Known Digital Traveler Identity' as part of its project Shaping the Future of Security in Travel.
The concept of 'Known Digital Traveler Identity' is based on the principle that a traveler has control over the use of his or her own identity and its components – a so-called self-sovereign identity. By decentralising the control over the components of one's identity, the traveler would be able to push proof of his or her identity to governmental and private-sector entities throughout the journey. The components verifying the traveler's identity, such as verified personal biometric, biographical and historical travel data, would be secured by distributed ledger technology and cryptography.
Access to the data would enable entities along the way to undertake advanced risk assessment, verify the individual's identity and provide seamless access through a biometric recognition technology. Simultaneous access to all this data could be achieved without having to store personal data in one central database, as this could pose too great a risk for those responsible for handling personal identity information. Taking the friction out of verifying identities is also likely to ease processes, which again would allow security officials to focus on equally pressing issues such as improved geopolitical security worldwide, according to the World Economic Forum.
World-wide digital identity a welcome challenge
The concerns of the obstacles to seamless travel raised by the World Economic Forum, coupled with a desire to explore the boundaries of a self-sovereign identity, inspired Smart Payments and Nets to develop the case 'Global ID' and present it along two cases from WWF and Topdanmark to 90 Ph.D. and master's students at the third annual Blockchain Summer School at the Copenhagen Business School:
"The case focused on global identity and was centered around the dilemma: 'How can we create a truly global identity scheme that is independent of governmental supervision yet at the same time interoperable with existing governmental identity schemes," Rakesh Moturi, Blockchain Lab Lead at Smart Payments by Nets, explains.
At the Blockchain Summer School, he was excited to see how the six groups working on the case explored the many aspects of global ID, including traveler ID, Know Your Customer (KYC) as well as a blockchain-based solution that could make it easy and transparent for a person based in Europe, for instance, to buy real estate in China, with all paper work being sorted through smart contracts on a shared ledger.
The annual Blockchain Summer School, hosted by Copenhagen Business School and partners, is organised by the European Blockchain Centre and presents a unique opportunity for industry partners to meet global talent as they build expertise within emerging technologies:
"We started dipping our toes in emerging technologies, such as blockchain, biometrics and VR, back in 2015. Together with Smart Payments and partners, we're on a journey exploring the opportunities technology presents to us. The Global ID case is an example of our appetite for exploring new grounds and possibly combine commercial and societal purposes, while other projects allow us to apply our expertise to new technology such as our work within blockchain-based micropayments," explains Simon Buchwaldt-Nissen, Director, (Digital Practices), Corporate Strategy at Nets.