The challenge: to come up with language that describes the value that is enabled through the technical standards that comprise what is known as IDTech (also known as Self-Sovereign Identity or the Decentralized Identity stack). This is independent of the different variations within the technology stack, and more importantly is meant for the vast majority of the business population that have never heard of different standards bodies, protocols or tech stacks, and who quite frankly don’t care and will never exert the effort to learn about them. In many cases these are the exact people who make the final investment go/no-go decision.
After hundreds of conversations and countless hours of research and reading over the past five years, four ‘qualities of value’ have emerged. These are provenance, persistence, flexibility, and portability. If these values are important in your business or operations, then this technology sector will be important for you.
Provenance, the ability to trace where something, whether data or physical object, has come from, and to have confidence the data has not been tampered with. More than just that, it is being able to trace back to the source with the highest level of confidence. This means to be able to automatically (no human intervention) determine what entity issued or attested to the data or physical object and to validate that this party is authorized to make these claims.
Persistence, the ability to act on data and information whether the original source of the data continues to exist or not. A reality of life is constant change. For anyone interacting with technology, the rate of change seems only to go up. With change, older systems become unavailable, but information links may need to persist far beyond the life of the source system. Having a mechanism that provides high levels of assurance on the information integrity under the control of the interested entity define / rephrase? can mean a decoupling of systems, reducing complexity and increasing resilience.
Flexibility, the ability to use the data about an object in ways that extend beyond the original intended use of the data. The most common example of a document that is used widely outside its intended use is the driver’s license, which is also used as a piece of identity documentation for purchasing age restricted products, writing a check (in the US), checking into a hotel and many other uses that have nothing to do with driving a vehicle. This is a broad but simplistic use case. When an individual or organization has the ability to select data from various parties and combine these into a single new claim, presenting this composite claim to any entity while retaining the highest levels of provenance outlined above, this creates new business models and revenue opportunities are found.
Portability, the ability to bring the data “with me”, and to do so in a manner that does not leave a link or connection to the issuer of the data. This is the ability to move this information between systems and vendors. As an individual or business, data portability is of value as a means to prevent capture or lock-in to a specific vendor. Additionally, being able to use the data in a manner that does not leave a ‘bread crumb trail’ every time it is used (or shared) is critical for personal privacy as well as business confidentiality, and has become a requirement under the law with the GDPR and CCPA regulations.
In this first post, I have intentionally kept the concepts at a high level. In the following posts, I will delve further into each of these Values, expanding on them and bringing in examples of where they would apply. I will endeavor to keep technical language and jargon out of the posts where at all possible.
First posted to The Dingle Group blog on 8 March 2023 as “Qualities of Value.”