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ssi for nfts

SSI for NFTs with Caspar Roelofs from Gimly [SSI Orbit Podcast]


Listen to this Episode about SSI for NFTs on Spotify

Transitioning from Sustainable Biotech to Web3

Mathieu: All right, Caspar. As a starting point, I would be interested to hear about your background and how you found your way into blockchain and Self-sovereign Identity. I know that not too long ago, in a past life, you did Ph.D. research in sustainable biotech innovation. I’d love to hear about that. I’m quite interested in the biotechnology space as a whole, and I’m interested to hear about you going through the process; what research you did, and what you published in that space. How did you transition out of the space, and how did you find your way into this Web 3 world?

Caspar: Thank you for having me, Mathieu. My background has indeed had a few turns. Before I founded Gimly two years ago, I was doing my Ph.D. research at the University of Groningen. I have a background in biomedical science. However, while I was doing my master’s, and afterwards, I pivoted away from the laboratory type of work, more towards the social sciences. I was asking questions such as, “What is knowledge? And, why do some artifacts of knowledge end up being successful and embraced by a wider majority, and others remain unembraced and never accepted — less successful?” I was interested in the understanding that this isn’t really about one type of knowledge being better than the others. Rather, it’s more about the context around it and the societal systems around it; the alignment of stakeholders around it.

How strong is your network of stakeholders when you’re thinking of something new? That all influences how our knowledge is shaped. From that perspective, I started focusing on a field called ‘Science and Technology Studies’. That’s all about the co-evolution of society and technology and politics, and how they all influence each other. That’s a topic that I usually find interesting, and also now in blockchain industry and innovation.

You’re right. At the time, the research was about biotechnology. The question was around the ways in which biotech innovation is shaped by the societal context and political context, specifically in African countries. That was a topic focusing on genetic modification of crops and how all kinds of political narratives and societal narratives around this technology are very much shaping its innovation.

Mathieu: That’s super interesting. We often see good examples of cross-disciplines or amalgamation, and it’s not only one thing that is the driver. There’s a very good COVID-topical piece about the fact that different aerosol scientists were trying to drive forward the thinking that this was a virus that was carried in the air. It outlines the troubles they had getting people to believe that and looks at how they had to involve historical data and research. So, when you start talking about societal context or involving the social sciences around a science like biotechnology, that is quite interesting. As you moved towards the chain and Self-sovereign Identity space, it’s quite true that you have all these different layers that play together. It’s not like, “Yeah, I’m doing technology now.”

Caspar: Yes, absolutely. I do want to make it clear to the listeners and to put it out there for clarity; after four years of Ph.D. research, I didn’t finish the Ph.D. Part of the reason for that is that I felt it was becoming very difficult to continue pursuing my theoretical interest in these types of questions. I wanted to explore questions around why certain innovations are taking place and what the drivers might be behind that. More often than not, the drivers are not, per se, an objective view on what is best. Often, the drivers are economic and political, or sometimes, what is convenient or coincidental at the time. That became a bit more difficult. Meanwhile, in my free time, I had become very interested in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. I had started reading more and more and spending an increasing amount of time on the topic of discovering more on this blockchain technology, to identify why it is so interesting and potentially disruptive.

I also wanted to look into how decentralization, blockchain technology, and, of course, Self-sovereign Identity can be differentiated from many of these other technological revolutions that have been previously hailed as ‘THE’ next revolution, democratizing the world and resolving poverty. There are a lot of cross-pollinations in those interests, that’s for sure.

Mathieu: As we talk about societal context, there are clearly a lot of social movements where people generally are becoming more socially aware; people want to have more transparency, more insight and information into the items that they buy or purchase. They want to have more visibility and transparency in the different relationships that they have. They care more about social responsibility today.

So, you have all these trends that, on a societal level, align very well with the whole Web 3.0, or blockchain; call it whatever you want. What were some initial use cases once you got into Bitcoin? I think it’s a similar story, with most people getting into Bitcoin or Ethereum or some other project. I’m always curious; if someone starts a project outside of those two, what drew them to that?

When people get into the space, you start understanding how fundamentally different these decentralized properties are for storing assets and then being able to do other stuff with them. What were some of the initial use cases that interested you on the enterprise side?

Did you see that these were some things that you thought you could contribute to or help build?

Using NFC & Blockchain:

Caspar: At the beginning of my journey, my interest went out towards the nexus of the physical and the digital worlds. That is, you have the immutability of the blockchain; but then, what happens at this interface of the digital blockchain when it starts touching on the physical world? What type of data do you get in there in the first place? How can people, or machines, or organizations interact with this blockchain technology? How do you connect those difficult-to-connect worlds?

As a result, I was looking a lot at solutions where, for example, IOT sensors are being connected to blockchains. Quite early after I started Gimly, I ran into Tangem. Tangem is a Swiss manufacturer of NFC (Near Field Communications) chips that have the capability to sign a blockchain transaction right in their NFC chip. At the time, they were mostly using it for what is still the most well-known use case; signing cryptocurrency transactions. In that way, you would basically have a crypto hardware wallet on your NFC card. You could sign a transaction by tapping that card, or you could give that card to someone else. When you do that, you hand over the cryptocurrencies that are on that wallet because you’re handing over the private key which is inside the chip.

Immediately, I said, “Well, that’s very interesting,” and indeed, I haven’t seen any other NFC chip that can do that. There are some similar chips that can be connected to blockchain, but, the signing and the private key management happen somewhere in the cloud or on the server. I thought it was interesting, but I also determined that it’s even more interesting for these supply chain use cases, to connect the physical goods shipments in a secure and immutable way to their digital twins within the blockchain network.

So, that was the first topic of interest: the supply chain and provenance and anti-counterfeit capabilities. Quite quickly, that led me to the topic of Self-sovereign Identity. I was thinking about identities for objects, and ways for people (humans, but also machines) to identify themselves in a blockchain system. I ended up being focused on Self-sovereign Identity as the core building block for pretty much everything related to the future of the internet.

Mathieu: I think you and I had similar entry points into Self-sovereign Identity, by looking at these decentralized use cases, and seeing that certain properties were potentially missing the main property to do with verifiability. It’s great that I’m building a supply chain system, and I’m trying to increase the transparency in a supply chain; I’m trying to give more visibility to the end consumers, or even regulators, throughout the supply chain or whoever is a stakeholder there. It’s great that I have an immutable record, but it’s the same old concept: if it’s garbage data, then you’re going to get garbage data out of it. How do you control the data inputs coming in? Through that property of verifiability, so it’s the same thing.

Is the whole concept, then, that with these NFC chip cards, you could essentially transplant that concept into an IOT device to ensure that it’s the right IOT device that’s signing off on transactions? Is that the idea?

Caspar: That’s definitely one of the ideas that I’m exploring for more longer-term. Yes, exactly that — to have the same capabilities. That is, to have an embedded a private key in a secure element within the IOT device, and be able to verify the identity or the source of your IOT data through an SSI mechanism. That’s the longer-term, broader vision when talking about the supply chain, for sure.

There are smaller steps in between. I don’t feel I need to do everything with the chips directly, but they do open up a lot of potential for Self-sovereign Identity in many more use cases. These may be in supply chain and enterprise, but there are also other use cases. For example, use cases where you don’t want to rely solely on the use of personal smartphones, either, because not everyone in this whole world has a smartphone. Sometimes, we tend to forget that when talking about Self-sovereign Identity, which has such an important philosophical background.

I find it important to realize that a lot of the things that we are developing and working on now, are very much focused on the use of personal smartphones. For the time being, that will be largely for a small proportion of this world. It’s possible that using these cards as a way to identify and verify yourself could contribute to that. I’m also very realistic that even for the time being, with the use of these smart cards, you will probably also want to have a smartphone, in order to be able to manage the credentials that you’re sharing, or not. I have one project running; we’re using these cards when there’s a single purpose. For example, they could work as a student ID card, and then they would also work for students who do not have a smartphone.

There are some complexities in there; I’m very well aware of that. However, I think it’s interesting and important to explore how we can expand the concept of Self-sovereign Identity more broadly than just for smartphones.

Mathieu: Good point. I think it does open up a lot of other use cases, if we talk about financial inclusivity use cases or, you mentioned, single-purpose use cases. Building access is a single-purpose use case; potentially, it’s a much more straightforward implementation than selling a mobile or some other type of wallet, to an enterprise that doesn’t want to have their data or their assets sitting outside of their four digital walls. It also opens up a space we see a lot more discussion about right now, which are the connection-less use cases. When you talk about mobile SSI wallets, today, they basically do two things: they help you manage your credentials, and they help you manage your connections. However, there are certainly some use cases that are very valid and valuable, without having the need to have a connection.

Caspar: This is a very important use case for Gimly. We see this as a way to enable Self-sovereign Identity in enterprise settings, where we don’t want your employees to run around with their personal mobile phone, signing off on potentially sensitive data, or every time that they need to identify themselves, such as when they pick up a shipment (to stick with the supply chain use case). When employees are using company-managed devices on the premises, then we propose to use these cards for the employees to log in and to sign with their personal card. The card is connected to their personal identity, or their employee identity; however, you want to structure this, of course. They can log in with that card into the application on the company-managed device, and then two hours later, a different employee can log into that same device, signing off with their own decentralized identifier, for example. That’s another very important direction that I see this going.

Mathieu: In any use case where you have a quadrant of high volume/low volume and high risk/low risk, it could make sense to adopt something like that into a high-volume and low-risk type of transaction. For example, getting into a building; it’s probably just like signing off on a shipment.

I find it quite interesting; the supply chain use cases can be difficult, because of the different fragmentation that inherently exists within any mature supply chain. Where there’s a lot of specialization across the supply chain, generally, there are tons of different organizations and people involved. That means there are tons of different systems involved. When you start going down into the ERP rabbit hole, you can get lost in the complexity, and you realize that, “Wow, that’s a crazy space.” Potentially, without suggesting that you’re going to connect all these ERP systems together to get transparency, you could simply use the signing with credentials to create some type of a chain of verifiable credentials, instead of having everything sitting on a blockchain. Was this the particular use case that you ran through?

Earlier, you were describing the Momentum 2020 event; that was all about physical world stuff, but due to COVID, it had to go digital. What did you do at this event, and was it this exact supply chain use case?

Caspar: Yes, it was. Indeed, that was Odyssey Momentum, which used to be one of the largest physical hackathons, at least in Europe. But, that was also very much about the physical experience of being in that old factory in England. Of course, then came COVID, so it was postponed a few times. Ultimately, they decided to give it an entirely new direction and make it a fully virtual event, and since then, it has become Momentum.

The idea behind that, is not to have it as a single moment in time where people do a one-time trick, and after that, it’s over. The idea is to really build ecosystems, and keep the momentum of innovation continuing. So, now it was fully virtual.

We participated in the KLM challenge for a compliant air cargo flow, and we proposed to use these Tangem cards as a physical identifier in Self-sovereign Identity. That’s pretty much in the way that I just described it, where you could use it for an employee to log in or to sign off on a certain shipment.

In fact, we won the challenge as one of two teams. The other team was CryptoMice, who developed or proposed a solution to track a shipment and to analyze if there are any potential red flags. For example, if in the electronic data, it was stated that Shipper A is going to pick it up, but now we see that Shipper B picked it up, so maybe we need to look into that in more detail. Very roughly speaking, that was their proposal. I hope I don’t make them angry by describing it in that way. Using our ‘signature’ from the employees could then feed into that analysis tool.

We did quite a lot of work on the use case, together with KLM and DHL. However, then came COVID, and still, it’s COVID, so things got a bit stalled and slowed down. It’s still on the shelf somewhere, I think, but I hope to pick that up again with them someday.

Mathieu: It’s a really good use case. Simply being able to use the cards to sign off on it, too: it’s back to the connections use case, potentially, for a chief compliance officer or someone to review afterwards. It doesn’t need to be done all on the spot. It’s not for every use case; you need to have the proof requests, and the verification, and that decision at that point right away. However, there are some use cases, where potentially I just want to log stuff for it to be audited later, but I want to have verifiability of who actually signed off on these things. I find that super cool.

Caspar: Yes. It is also an offline use case, or a semi-offline use case, where one party is offline, but the other party is online, and where you do the immediate verification. This would be like the example that you gave to enter a building, or when someone is coming to pick up a shipment at the Schiphol Terminal. Then, the driver doesn’t need to be fully connected, but, of course, the receiving party will manage that connection.

Europe’s SSI Ecosystem

Mathieu: Would you mind talking about the European ecosystem, overall? It’s of interest to me, being in Canada. There are many European listeners here, but we have a lot of listeners in North America as well, who are either in the public or private sector. I think, overall, what’s happening in the EU right now is extremely exciting, with the momentum and the investment and the traction we’re starting to see. Would you mind talking about how you fit into the European SSI ecosystem, and what are some of the organizations or ecosystems that you’re part of, or that you really see momentum behind?

Caspar: Sure. Your community here in Canada is an inspiring example in terms of Self-sovereign Identity, but you are right; in Europe, there’s also a lot of momentum and traction for Self-sovereign Identity. There’s a lot of public interest, and also governmental interests, specifically in terms of funding. I shouldn’t even try to explain the funding ecosystem in Europe, but there are a lot of funding programs; most of them are bundled under the grand Horizon 2020 initiative, as it has been called up to now. The new program is going to be called Horizon Europe, I believe.

If you look into several of the more recent goals in a lot of the programs, Self-sovereign Identity and the principles behind Self-sovereign Identity are really a core concept in those goals. Not all of them will mention it as explicitly as some others; one of the most explicit ones is eSSIF-Lab, the European Self-sovereign Identity Framework program. I am participating there now, in the second infrastructure call — that’s one big one. There are a few more; there was also the NGI (Next Generation Identity) ONTOCHAIN project, where we made a Self-sovereign Identity proposal, because it was also about trust and verifiability and data exchange. There are a lot of programs like that, that are really focusing on Self-sovereign Identity. Let’s see, what else is there?

I think it might be interesting to share this also: we started two years ago, and from the start, my focus has been very much on collaboration; building partnerships, and working with other companies that have certain expertise. One of those companies has been Sphereon. Sphereon is a Dutch company that has been in the space a bit longer than I have. They’ve had a lot of experience in Self-sovereign Identity, and in infrastructure building and components building, and we collaborated quite a bit. We also participated together in the first eSSIF-Lab call, which was mostly focused on business solutions. There was a project with Off-Blocks, where Sphereon is the technology provider.

Since then, things have moved quite nicely, to be able to develop new things and to make new proposals in these NGI (Next Generation Identity) programs. In fact, there’s an NGI Atlantic program coming up, which is aiming to foster cross-Atlantic collaboration. This could be something that you and I might want to explore. Do you have specific questions about the European ecosystem on SSI?

Mathieu: I think the one that I personally see a lot of material come out of is the eSSIF-Lab ecosystem. Is the eSSIF-Lab defining what a governance framework or looks like in its funding projects? What is the role of eSSIF-Lab? Is it effectively an incubator type of organization?

Caspar: Well, it’s both. eSSIF-Lab has two tracks: one is focused on the infrastructure, and the other one is focused on business applications. The second one is really more of an incubator-type where project proposals are made. It’s also a contest. You start with something like 17 teams participating, I think, and then in two or three different steps, more and more teams get eliminated. The idea, there, is to also help the teams in their business development, in sharpening their business plan, and on product-to-market fit.

The other track is the infrastructure track; that’s where Gimly is participating now. We’re building an open-source SSI / NFC bridge, which of course relies on the NFC chips that we talked about before. We aim to make it possible to implement these NFC cards easily into any Self-sovereign Identity solution or platform. That’s very much a track that is focused on open source, and it’s also focused on defining the European Self-sovereign Identity framework. So, it’s a bit more about different types of wallets, and more and more on the infrastructure side rather than on the application side.

Mathieu: Got it. It’s great that there’s a business side as well, looking at business focus and product/market fit. One of the bigger challenges with any new or revolutionary type of technology is finding fit, and that’s not simply trying to ‘push tech.’

Now, I’d like to switch a little bit; I think it’s still loosely on the topic of trust and verifiability. We’ve been talking a lot about NFC, and let’s just switch the acronym slightly. Rather than talking about NFC, let’s jump over to NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) — which is a totally different space. However, I think that a lot of the stuff that you’ve been talking about is applicable here. You wrote a piece on something happening in the NFT space recently. Do you mind talking about what the problem statement is behind what you had written in your piece?

Verifiable Credentials Use Cases for NFTs

Caspar: Yes, definitely. I think NFTs are very exciting; if not for the technology itself, then definitely for the movement that it’s bringing about, and the new opportunities and new ways of approaching art and artists, for example. I find that very interesting.

At the same time, with NFTs, there are some issues that I believe remain to be resolved. The article that I wrote was a blog post that I wrote together with Jack Tanner, our Tech Lead at Gimly. It takes an example where someone took a screenshot from an artist’s work, from Petek, who is a bitcoin artist. She makes beautiful artworks representing the stock-to-flow model from Plan B, and she uses all kinds of very rare materials. She uses the stock-to-flow data points in the artwork, and creates limited editions. People have been asking her,” Hey, when are you going to make an NFT?”

However, we were talking about, “Okay, but NFTs, what does it really mean? What is so special about NFT, and what does it convey actual ownership of to you? What do you prove ownership of? Basically, you’re proving ownership over that NFT, and you can prove that there’s only one of those NFTs. However, it’s a lot more difficult to prove that there’s only one of those objects, be it digital or physical, that the NFT is referring to. This becomes even more difficult when you’re talking about physical objects, of course. Obviously, I would have a solution there, of using these NFC chips and implementing those into physical objects. But, that still doesn’t resolve one key issue; when you create the NFT, it’s very difficult to also verify that the creator of that NFT is actually legitimate. Is that person who created the NFT legitimately authorized to convey ownership over the object that it’s conveying ownership over? In this use case, we saw that someone had simply taken a screenshot of her artwork, put an NFT on it, and tried to sell it on Wareable.com. They didn’t succeed, because some fans of Petek contacted her and asked her, “Hey, did you really make an NFT?” and she said, “No, I didn’t.” It turned out to be a scammer, and then the screenshot with NFT was taken off of Wareable.

What this illustrates, is that NFTs lack some type of identity layer, where you can verify the creator of the NFT, and the legitimacy of the NFT. Now, of course, some people will say that you can look up the public key of the first owner, and then you will see that he or she created multiple NFTs. Yes, that may be true, but there’s no way for an average consumer to instantly see the authenticity and the legitimacy of this NFT. I think that’s a very important aspect. It doesn’t mean an absolute no-go, but there is this idea around NFTs that because of the NFT technology, it is impossible to defraud, so to speak. In the current hype, I think that opens up a lot of possibilities for all kinds of scams. I would be interested in solving that by ensuring a connection to a verifiable identity of the creator, and the buyer, or the seller. I think that would be very interesting to explore.

Mathieu: It only increases the value of these things, if you have verifiability behind the creator of it. There are the ones that make the news, such as Christie’s auctioning the Beeple compilation of digital artwork for 69 million dollars. Just last week, there was another one that went for some tens of millions; I think that they were just avatars. But, they’re going through Christie’s.

Christie’s is an established auction dealer of art; so that is interesting, where there’s more that goes into it than just the technology. People trust Christie’s. Christie’s has been doing this for however long, and they’re reputable. If Christie’s is saying, “Hey, we’re selling this piece of art,” there’s a level of trust that this is a legitimate piece of art — this is a one-of-one, or whatever the different properties are. I think, then, when you start getting to more direct sales (which is the whole promise of a blockchain) is that you could go directly to creator-to-consumer. I don’t need to go through a broker or an intermediary. Maybe someone like Christie’s performed a valuable service, and made sure that they got the right marketing, and the price of that thing went up, I’m sure. But, for more community-driven initiatives, or grassroots initiatives, where people are trying to sell ownership or a stake into digitally-native assets, whether it’s a piece of art or whether it’s a piece of music or whatever it is, that’s where I think you’ve said it correctly: for the average consumer, it’s so easy to fall victim to phishing, or account takeovers, or to stuff like that.

Caspar: I also find that the Christie’s example, and there’s also SuperRare: these platforms that do the due diligence, they will make sure that the one that’s creating the NFT, that’s creating the artwork, is also the legitimate creator. So, in those cases, it’s a bit less important.

I have a good friend of mine; Hessel Stuut. He’s a digital artist, and he made a really cool digital video that went viral, where you see Amsterdam as if Amsterdam is surrounded by mountains, which it is not. We live in the Netherlands, and it’s completely flat. Hessel was on a podcast just one week ago, with John Crane from SuperRare, and one of the things that Hessel and I were also discussing, was about this verification of identity. In the case of a SuperRare web platform, it is a bit less of an issue. However, at the same time, the whole idea behind NFTs for artwork is to enable any artist to become successful, in a decentralized world. That’s one of the arguments of why NFTs are good for art. But then again, if you end up needing to be part of these curated platforms like Christie’s or SuperRare, then that defeats the purpose of “anyone can get funded.” I think that’s two different directions, you could say. I fully see the value of a platform like SuperRare, and at the same time, it’s also slightly contrarian to what NFTs are about.

Mathieu: I think the Christie’s example is an interesting one because, on one side, you’re using a blockchain as an immutable store for the asset itself. Being a piece of digital art, you could be using smart contracts around that token, around that smart contract itself, too. So, you’re using a blockchain to store an asset, as well as potentially for some other computation. The trust, in this case, is in the physical world because I’m trusting that Christie’s has done the proper due diligence, as you described. Everything is legal, and I trust that. When I don’t have that physical trust, and I’m looking to create digital trust, that’s where I see Self-sovereign Identity being quite interesting. Although, some could argue that if you have compliance or due diligence, these other things take away from the self-sovereignty of a blockchain overall. However, you’re able to create digital trust by simply having the right credentials there, at least to a certain extent.

Caspar: Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-NFTs. I think it’s a very interesting technology. I think in many use cases, where they are used for verification or authentication of something, you’ll be better off using verifiable credentials in the SSI system than NFTs. However, in some other use cases, like in art, I think it’s a very legitimate and interesting development.

One of my oldest partners is Europechain: it’s an EOSIO-powered blockchain that aims to be the first, or maybe the only, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliant blockchain. They’re also working on several NFT projects, where they very much focus on getting all these legal questions around it in order. For example, what happens if the creator decides to make another NFT of exactly the same piece of art? NFTs are not going to prevent an artist from creating two NFTs, where he says he was planning to make one. Of course, there are social systems that will prevent that, because the artist would be throwing rocks in his own windows — that’s probably a different expression in English. There’s a social system around it, that prevents artists from scamming in that way, so to speak, but there are still legal questions, such as,” What does it mean that I own something, that you own something, that you get ownership over a piece of art or a piece of music? Are you allowed to display it? And, if so, in which ways?” These are all interesting things that you need to consider as an artist, if you’re thinking to NFT your work. Yes, there’s some work to be done there.

Mathieu: You could add more and more layers; for example, using verifiable credentials and using different mechanisms, for even more digital trust for some of the problems we’re discussing here regarding NFCs. I think we agreed that using an NFC as an identifier may be a whole other question. Acronyms are kind of mixing now; it’s tough to follow all these acronyms. However, you could digitize more and more, where I’m really trying to create as much digital trust as possible, but you still always have to have that element of human trust.

I think this is something you’ve said yourself, too, that NFTs don’t solve legal requirements. You still need to have a human system, or another system above this digitally native, automated system, to manage the governance, and the legal rules, and all this stuff above it.

Do you ever think about Self-sovereign Identity, or verifiable credentials in the decentralized finance space? Is that something that you thought about, and would you know just a simple use case? I see there could be value there. In that DeFi space, we’re able to conduct all sorts of different financial transactions, without relying on a bank to do so. It’s peer-to-peer, but if I want to lend to someone, or I’m lending crypto to someone, I want to make sure they have a certain reputation or a certain credit score, for example. It seems like that could be done in a Self-sovereign way as well. Have you thought about that whole space?

Using SSI for DeFi

Caspar: Yes, absolutely. I think that’s again why I referred to Self-sovereign Identity as a pivotal building block, for anything related to the future of the internet and Web3, actually. Exactly as you’ve said; there is also a need for identity in DeFi, and of course, there are different levels of identity. SSI doesn’t mean that you need to disclose your passport number with every DeFi transaction. Rather, it’s a way of reputation management, and I see a lot of potential in there as well. Nothing too concrete, at the moment, to talk about in terms of ongoing projects, but I absolutely agree with you; that’s an important building block in DeFi as well. I’ll be curious to see what happens; you’ve probably seen the launch of Bullish Global, the new exchange from Block.one, the company behind the technology?

Mathieu: I haven’t seen that; what is that about?

Caspar: Well, I should have read more about it before stating this, actually. They’re calling it the pro-finance, regulated DeFi, let’s say. It’s a new type of exchange. They just raised a good sum of money to bring this to market — around 10 billion was put into this. I’ll be curious to see how they will be handling this identification part; if their aim is to enable decentralized finance, but ensure compliance with all kinds of global regulations, there must be some SSI component in there, as well.

Mathieu: I think that’s a huge market for SSI. Especially if you look at the top exchanges out there today; just naming a couple, such as Binance or Coinbase, for example. They’re all central companies that are managing this, and managing the compliance and onboarding of users to allow them to get into the crypto world. But, it doesn’t protect the sovereignty of an individual; where you’re going into a site, and you’re giving them your driver’s license, or your passport, or whatever information, and they are reporting that, too. We could argue about what you should or should not be reporting; that’s a whole different topic.

It doesn’t ensure sovereignty, so that is quite interesting. If you could come into a crypto exchange, you could prove something through a credential. Maybe you might be partially disclaiming something, but that checks the box for their compliance. I would be quite interested to keep exploring that.

Caspar: Yes, absolutely. I think many of us have copies of their passports with dozens of more or less reputable exchanges. Especially if you’ve been in the space for more than two years, like before the bear market, you probably have your passports at quite a few exchanges that actually no longer exist, so who knows what happens there. But, yes, I agree with you. It’s something to keep an eye on, where a lot of benefits might be possible for multiple parties.

Mathieu: I think the users of these systems get it, anyways. It feels like an easier sale, sometimes. For someone that’s already sold on crypto for different reasons, being sold on decentralized identity should be very easy to understand and digest. So, when you talk about gaining more adoption of Self-sovereign Identity, that is an interesting crowd. You can really see people buying into that a lot quicker, just because they understand it right away; they already think about this stuff.

Caspar: That’s true, yes.

Mathieu: Caspar, thank you very much for doing this with me today. I very much enjoyed this conversation, and I look forward to doing this again.

Caspar: Yes, thank you, and I look forward to it.

Author

Mathieu Glaude

Mathieu is the Chief Executive Officer of Northern Block, a leading global provider of self-sovereign identity, blockchain, verifiable IDs & documents and automated business workflow technology headquartered in Toronto, Canada. Connect with him on LinkedIn here