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Businesses’ desire to store less digital identity data stokes travel’s SSI brushfire

Businesses’ desire to store less digital identity data stokes travel’s SSI brushfire

The potential use cases for self-sovereign identity to transform the travel industry are almost limitless, particularly with the impending arrival of decentralized identifier communications, also known as DIDComm, attendees of a PhocusWire roundtable discussion on the role of SSI in the future of identity and travel at the Phocuswright Conference 2021 heard from an panel of digital identity experts.

The panel, moderated by Phocuswright Senior Research Analyst Robert Cole, was made up of IATA Americas Director of Airports Filipe Pereira dos Reis, Indicio CEO Heather Dahl, and Kaliya Young, who is ecosystem director of the Linux Foundation Public Health’s COVID Credentials Initiative.

Cole explained the basic concept, and the workflow for credential verification in an SSI system. The approach was similarly characterized as “a big wave of change that’s coming” for travel in a CAPA Live event last October.

Dahl described the enhanced control of identity and other digital data as a return of “dignity.”

Young emphasized the “very broad expressive capacity” of the Verifiable Credentials standard, and contrasted it with other talks at the same event which focused on mass sharing of individuals’ data.

Rolling out the standards that underpin the ecosystem is the next challenge ahead, in the estimation of Pereira dos Reis, who also described the idea behind the IATA Travel Pass. The Aruba system built by SITA with support from Indicio contrasts with IATA’s Travel Pass in that its user wants to collect certain health data. It still operates, however, on the premise of selective disclosure through the ‘Happy Traveler’ credential, which proves a health claim without sharing personal information.

Cole noted the four use cases developed by the Decentralized Identity Foundation’s Hospitality and Travel Special Interest Group, and the panelists discussed potential future use cases for their respective organizations in the public and private sector, and not just in travel.

The desire to hold less data is motivating use cases throughout the travel sector and elsewhere.

Dahl pitched verifiable credentials and decentralized digital identity as a way to replace the cost associated with usernames and passwords in the form of reset processes, and also noted the ability of verifiable credentials to help manage things, like baggage items, potentially helping redirect lost bags back to their intended destination.

The promise of decentralized identifiers, Young says, is communication based on them. An always-open, cryptographically secure channel represents a better way to coordinate practically any use case.

“You’re not emailing the customer, or begging them for their phone number so you can text them, your using DIDComm into their wallet to potentially communicate and connect,” she explains.

In closing, Cole forecast that in ten or fifteen years, in discussion about credentials verification with young people they will say “You used to do this with paper!  What the heck were you thinking?”

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