Interview with Caelum Labs on innovation and self-sovereign identity

Friday 3 May 2019 09:56 CET | Interview

The Paypers interviews Alex Puig to find out more about the work of Caelum Labs on self-sovereign identity solutions

Could you please share with our readers some background on Caelum Labs? How did the Rebooting the Web of Trust project start and what was the reason behind building it?

Caelum Labs is a blockchain solutions company based in Barcelona.

We develop projects on demand, activating innovation and solving challenges posed by new businesses and social scenarios within the private and public sector. At the moment, many of our efforts are concentrated on building solutions based on the concept of self-sovereign identity; a privacy-by-design identification model that gives users back the control over their identity.

Following this commitment, we got involved, as local organisers, in the last edition of Rebooting the Web of Trust (RWoT), a three-day design workshop founded and lead by Christopher Allen to build the basis and technologies that make possible the idea of self-sovereign identities. At this moment we are also working on starting a series of meetups around the world on this topic.

RWoT is a not-for-profit event that gathers around 50 brilliant minds twice per year to produce white papers and specifications that influence the future of decentralised identity by establishing and promoting new identity technologies. At this moment, technology specifications incubated in Rebooting the Web of Trust are also moving toward acceptance in W3C and IETF as international standards.

Some of the topics on your project’s agenda include: progressive trust, blockchain identity as well as the creation of the next generation of decentralised web-of-trust based identity systems. Could you please delve more into these themes?

At Caelum, we are committed to develop not only a more ethic and decentralised internet, but also new identity models which are more respectful when it comes to privacy and citizens’ rights. Nowadays our rights and the sovereignty of our identity models are in danger, as we are leaving the power over our identity to third parties which not always respect our rights and privacy. This model is far from the original idea of the Internet.

Self-sovereign identity (SSI) is an opportunity to give back control to the people over their identity so that they can manage it by themselves. This is a big step for all of us, because the identity was always in control of governments, and businesses, not in the hands of their original owner, the people.

Self-sovereign identity is a two-party relationship model, with no third party coming between you and the organisation, now considered your “peer.” People is the sovereign owner of their SSI wallet and the credentials inside: no one can “turn the lights out” or take them away from you without your consent. SSI will revolutionise digital relationships and interactions between people, organisations, and things.

Self-sovereign has great potential to reduce the growing regulatory burden, created by the consent regimes of GDPR and other personal data regulation. How is this benefit achieved?

Developing a system which is compliant with GDPR and other regulations by default is a massive step for both citizens and organisations, and this is possible thanks to self-sovereign identity models.

SSI is the easiest way to control consent over the data, as it is based on a decentralised model, and that’s the key: decentralisation. We are focusing on putting the control of the data back in the hands of the user, making it easier to grant access to personal data and revoke it at any time.

As the future of self-sovereign identity solutions depends on the appetite and adoption of users, from your experience, do individuals actually want (or even have the capacity) to manage their personal data themselves?

We know that more and more people every day are losing their faith in the providers managing their identities and data. Nowadays, identity models have several flaws and menace the citizens’ rights and sovereignty, and people are aware. We know that not every user has the capacity to manage their data by themselves, but we believe that usability and security can be totally compatible, this is why we are developing user-friendly solutions allowing users to choose their identity providers, where to save their data, and to change it whenever they want thanks to the identity portability.

We think that user adoption can also be boosted by new incentives to make data profitable while respecting the user-privacy thanks to Zero-knowledge proofs technology.

A lack of regulatory certainty creates market uncertainty and a barrier for the adoption of self-sovereign identity, particularly for highly regulated industries such as financial services. Could this be an impediment when it comes to market adoption?

We are developing solutions based on blockchain, and the idea of self-sovereign identity fits perfectly in the last GDPR scope, as well as other regulations like eIDAS (the set of standards for electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the European Single Market). These technologies can also be the perfect companion to boost the application of directives like PSD2 in the banking sector.

At Caelum Labs, we have experts on these fields that participate in the design process of our solutions. When developing technology, it is essential to put the focus not only on the technology itself but on its implications on society, this is why we put a significant effort on making it accessible and compliant to any market.

What’s in store for Caelum Labs in 2019?

Initiatives like open data could be exciting, but it is not just the aggregation of data in itself. The blockchain technology is going further in terms of sharing data; by mixing it with other technologies and capacities like digital identity, we can make this primary data available to anyone and create new opportunities that are compliant. As a company, this year our focus is to apply self-sovereign identity in fields that can help citizens to have better lives, that’s why we are involved in a use case to improve local mobility, betting on a more rational transportation and use of vehicles. Our solution will allow implementing a shared platform of identities for citizens and objects, like a fleet of vehicles traveling through the city. In mobility-related services, we can create links (processes) between functionalities and data that until now were impossible to carry out.

Besides, we are contributing in the open source field with libraries to have better access to the Ethereum blockchain so every developer can join the blockchain revolution the easier way.

And last, but not least we are building the blockchain ecosystem in Barcelona creating a hub space and making the relations between government, businesses, and developers. Also, we are working to improve developers’ skills in blockchain development in Barcelona; we teach blockchain, solidity, and Ethereum at Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya. Caelum Labs has been the driving agent to create the first blockchain developer master in the university, and we are working to grow the tech community via our meetups, and events.

About Alex Puig

Alex is a software developer with extensive experience in blockchain and self-sovereign identity; he was always involved in R+D projects and the tech entrepreneur scene. He is Caelum Labs’ CTO and founder of Alastria, the Spanish national blockchain and the first in Europe.


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Keywords: Caelum Labs, blockchain, GDPR, consent, data privacy, self sovereign identity, Spain, Alex Puig, decentralised web, zero knowledge proofs
Countries: World

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