We are seeing a significant move towards using biometrics and blockchain technologies for identity management.

Currently we rely on governments issuing specialised documents – such as driving licences, birth certificates and passports – as identity credentials. Such documents are physical representations of information that a central authority keeps in protected digital storage.

If, for instance, you wish to board an airplane or open a bank account, a driving licence or passport provides sufficient identification on its own.

However, the downside of such documents is the ease with which they can be lost or stolen. It can be expensive and arduous to replace these documents.

Online identity management presents even greater challenges  

Let’s imagine, for instance, that you lose your driving licence. Most of us in this situation have to walk into a government office, complete a form and have their face compared with the one in the government’s system. This procedure requires you to be physically present to prove your identity.

It is much trickier, however, to prove and secure your online identity. In most parts of the world, you cannot open a bank account unless you visit the branch in person. This is because banks require physical identity credentials to be sure that you are who you say you are.

Soon, however, it will be common place to prove your identity to banks and other institutions without the need to provide documents or be physically present. The secure collection of biometric information via mobile platforms will enable institutions to remotely enrol new clients.

Take for example Monzo, the digital bank based in London. They do not have physical banks so in order to approve someone to open a bank account, they use document verification software and biometrics to verify a form of ID against an individuals face in real time. This isn’t standard fare for most financial institutions as they operate on a quite traditional basis. Monzo are however still a centralised service who will hold information about their clients identities.

There is the persistent question of who should hold your definitive identity credentials. Any centralised service run by a government or company could be a single point of failure in a cyber attack. The identity community has come to the conclusion that such a service must be decentralised and resilient to attack.

Blockchain technologies can fulfil all of these requirements. Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) can serve as a means of securing identity details via blockchain.

Concerns persist about the use of blockchain in identity management

Given that blockchains are pseudo-anonymised, many have asked how someone could claim identity credentials on a blockchain to be theirs. Blockchain authentication could be a solution for brokering verifiable claims. However, when making a claim you would need  a password or have something such as a token, for their claim to be verifiable.

This is why biometrics has become increasingly popular in blockchain technologies for identity management. Whereas a password or token can be easily lost, you will always have your face or other biometric details that you could use for identity management on blockchains. Many observers are still waiting to see, however, what exact forms blockchain-based identity projects will take in the years ahead.

Contact the SmilePass team to learn more about the identity management solutions that we can already provide for your organisation or to get a personalised quote.