Q&A with: cheqd
The Data Sharing Coalition is an open and growing, international initiative in which a large variety of organisations collaborate to unlock the value of cross-sectoral data sharing. In our recurring blog section ‘Q&A with’, you learn more about our participants and their thoughts, vision and ideas about data sharing. Tobias Halloran, Head of Partnerships & Business Development at cheqd, shares his thoughts.
1. Could you introduce your organisation?
cheqd is a market-leading technology company enabling individuals and organisations to take full control of their data. It provides payment rails, customisable commercial models and governance structures for trusted data (information of which the source can be proven), including self-sovereign identity (SSI). SSI is a user-centric methodology for exchanging trusted data in a more secure manner. It is also widely believed to be the next generation of digital identities across open networks. Based on blockchain technology, cheqd is built upon a public permissionless network with a dedicated token – $CHEQ.
Focusing on interoperability and portability – the utilisation of information and services without users losing control of the information they shared – and through SSI technology, cheqd provides organisations with the most effective way of managing digital identity. In line with the decentralised, open and user-centric aspects, SSI removes the need to store personal information entirely on a central database, giving individuals greater control over what information they share and safeguarding their privacy.
Without data sharing ecosystems like the Data Sharing Coalition, we would have no foundational position to provide the tooling and infrastructure to support data sharing.
2. To what extent is your organisation involved in data sharing (within and across sectors)?
cheqd provides infrastructure as a layer one blockchain network (the main blockchain architecture, where we invite SSI partners to build their solutions) to support data sharing ecosystems in two ways: technically and commercially.
Technically: in the Decentralised Identity/SSI space, three technologies are integral to building trusted data ecosystems for data sharing:
- Decentralised Identifiers (DIDs). These are essential cornerstones of how decentralised identity works at a technical level. DIDs use public/private key cryptography to enable each entity in the SSI ecosystem to establish trusted interactions.
- Verifiable Credentials (VCs). These are data files with a set of claims about a person, organisation or thing. The use of VCs can be combined with DIDs to enable these claims to be cryptographically verifiable. E.g. imagine you have a digital passport on your phone, it has sets of information about you (name, age, country). You can store this information as a VC on an app, an SSI wallet on your phone and you are the only party which can control and manage this data. These claims are cryptographically signed by DIDs of parties who issued this data to you. If you want to present the VC that you own to an interested third party, cheqd provides software to support VCs, a network to verify VCs using DIDs, and soon, payments for issuing/accepting VCs.
- Blockchain technology (used with SSI as a Verifiable Data Registry).
To ensure that data is trustworthy, both Decentralised Identifiers (DIDs) and Verifiable Credentials need to work in tandem. DIDs act as a form of digital stamp or hologram, making it possible to check the authenticity of the data. VCs contain information that needs to be checked and verified. Blockchain is often described as a ‘trustless’ system because a synthetic indeterminate level of trust is not necessary as this is provided by rules and structures laid out in the code. As a result, this provides the infrastructure necessary to attest to the authenticity of the data being shared.
Commercially: In addition to providing a foundational technical infrastructure to verify trusted data and thus promoting trust in data sharing ecosystems, cheqd also provides ‘payment rails’ for the ‘flows’ of data within those data sharing ecosystems. This associates financial values to VCs within these trusted ecosystems. Thanks to the ‘payment rails’, individuals and companies that validate their online identities – such as passport offices, banks and utilities – are financially rewarded (see the image below). By providing the technical and commercial tooling, cheqd supports data sharing ecosystems from an infrastructure perspective where interested companies can utilise cheqd’s network to build applications and use cheqd’s payment system to transact upon trusted data flowing within data sharing ecosystems.
Imagine, for example, you want to open up a bank account. The bank will do a Know Your Customer (KYC) check to verify that you’re who you claim to be. This currently costs the bank two to ten US dollars. Once the bank has completed the KYC check, you can open up a bank account. With cheqd you can now go to another bank to open up another account, but you don’t have to go through the same KYC process. Through the cheqd network, the second bank can pay the first bank at a very low rate to release this data as a Verifiable Credential. So the second bank will save money because it doesn’t have to go through the KYC check. Sometimes the first bank will be the issuer, sometimes this will be the second bank. This creates a data sharing trusted data economy, which has monetary transactions within it.
3. Why is or should sharing data be important for your industry or domain?
Data has an enourmous value potential. But the simplicity that digital evangelists promised has changed into today’s mess, a spaghetti-like tangle of overload, inefficiency and unfairness. As digitisation has become ubiquitous, people everywhere are coming to understand that there is no such thing as ‘free’ pricing. The data that organisations hold on them not only defines their experience online, but creates massive financial returns that users rarely benefit from. The lack of transparency regarding how organisations utilise data has a direct impact on people’s justified worries about the privacy and security of their data. In addition, individuals have to fill out various forms as they use multiple digital services and e-commerce providers, which increases the risks around data protection. Personal data has become a trap. cheqd brings simplicity, ease and fairness by not using existing models of data ownership, but putting the individual at the centre. As a technology scale-up company, cheqd provides a solution for data ownership and value creation.
4. What are the most promising data sharing developments and trends you see in your sector?
Increased innovation surrounding data privacy and security: Maintaining privacy and control of their own data is of paramount importance to web users. An astonishing 68% of individuals believe they have limited to no control over their personal data, with many agreeing that SSI could be the solution over a five (or more) year time horizon, according to cheqd latest survey.
SSI will go mainstream: The unforeseen urgencies of the pandemic proved influential in accelerating the acceptance of SSI, and this widespread adoption is only set to continue in 2022. Use cases of SSI have sky-rocketed in 2021, with the technology proving foundational in the implementation of the National Healthcare Service Staff Passport as well as the IATA Travel Pass, the first verifiable digital credential capable of providing proof of Covid-19 testing and vaccination status. The fact that Evernym – the world’s leader in SSI – has been bought by Avast further indicates the extent to which big businesses will increasingly adopt the technology. Some other recent examples include Trinsic raising $8.5m for a decentralised identity platform and Block entering the SSI space with their decentralised web nodes.
5. How do you see the future of data sharing, and what steps are you currently taking in that direction?
We strongly believe that data sharing economies indicate the future of how data is owned, shared, governed and transacted upon. At cheqd, we wish to play an integral part in data sharing initiatives (like the Data Sharing Coalition) by providing technical and commercial frameworks that: 1) augment consortia experiments in the near term and 2) enable data sharing economies that promote meaningful participation of individuals, companies and other interesting use cases in trusted data ecosystems in the mid-term.
Through our network for SSI vendors, cheqd disrupts established identity paradigms and creates new trusted data marketplaces. The scale of distribution in the SSI space is unmatched. Through its strong community of partners, cheqd engages with companies in various industries, which further demonstrates the endless areas of opportunity for the application of SSI technology.
Our native utility token – $CHEQ – enables individuals to interact with organisations globally and for businesses to reap commercial benefits. In addition to data ownership, cheqd provides individuals and companies with a real-world financial incentive to share their data. We believe this will create fair and more equitable data sharing environments where data ownership remains within the sovereignty of the holder, and trusted data can be transacted upon and shared over and over again between all participants in data sharing ecosystems.
6. Why are you participating in the Data Sharing Coalition?
We decided to join and collaborate with the Data Sharing Coalition to contribute to the ideas, knowledge and to support the implementations of trusted data ecosystems for which other participants could consider our tooling and infrastructure. We can form new consortia with participants of the Data Sharing Coalition and support from and learn from one another. We also want to learn from other participants and from the Data Sharing Coalition – from their expertise, experience and lessons learned. Without data sharing ecosystems such as the Data Sharing Coalition, cheqd would have no foundational position to provide the necessary tooling and infrastructure to support data sharing from a technical and commercial perspective. Thus, it is critical to our industry (self-sovereign identity) that we not only participate, but also meaningfully contribute to the genesis and evolution of data sharing ecosystems.
Do you want to know which organisations are participating in the Data Sharing Coalition? Read more.