During the World Economic Forum in Davos, the governments of Canada and the Netherlands, alongside Accenture, revealed to the world that they will launch the prototype of a Known Traveler Digital Identity (KTDI) system for airlines, merging blockchain technology and biometrics. Also joining the project's effort are the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the UK National Crime Agency, and US Departments of Homeland Security and Commerce, in addition to commercial participants Google, Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, and others.
In anticipation of a prospective 50 percent increase in air travel by 2030, the KTDI represents the combined efforts of participants to create a blockchain-backed identity solution that fosters security and a sense of cooperation between international agencies.
Matt Hayden, the deputy assistant secretary of the Private Sector Office at the US Department of Homeland Security, expressed the benefits of public and private sector collaboration:
"Public-private partnerships have recognized value in the continued effort to improve efficiency of border processing. These collaborative efforts provide for government to benefit from research and innovation of the private sector to further expand both the pool of trusted traveler passengers and the travel experience at large."
The KTDI system will operate on the tenets of flexible design, ease of use, real-time communication, and traveler safety. The system makes use of biometrics, is designed to be interoperable and technology-agnostic in its application, and exhibits modular scalability. It also incorporates elements of machine learning, for improved accuracy.
KTDI also allows a traveler to build up the credibility of their digital identity. By providing authenticated attestations via trusted entities, an individual can attain a certifiable "Known Traveler" status. Each time a trusted entity – such as a post office, government agency, or educational institution – provides verification, it adds to the veracity of that person's KTDI, becoming the digital identity's backbone. The system is designed to allow inter-agency collaboration; for example, when someone gets immunized, it might be an authentication attestation point, and another country might take that immunization authentication data point and use it as the basis for determining admissibility via customs.
A traveler can decide what information is released and who gets it with the KTDI platform: only authorized data transmissions are provided to specific entities along their journey. Rather than storing the data directly to the blockchain, identity pointers are stored in blocks that relate to a particular digital identity. These pointers connect to hubs which allow for secure data sharing and storage.
Such a system resolves the need for privacy while allowing agencies to verify a traveler's history and record it to an outfacing blockchain platform. Current conjecture, based on the infancy of blockchain system development, is that a permission-based public ledger best fits the needs of a KTDI system, wherein certain trusted nodes will receive permission to write to the record that is readable by each individual and each entity to ensure transparency.
Canada's Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau, pointed to technical advancements as a means of making air travel safer and more enjoyable for travelers:
"Innovation is key to enhancing global competitiveness, mobility and productivity. Technological advancements provide opportunities to make security for air travel more efficient while improving the traveler experience."
The joint efforts of Canada and the Netherlands to produce an identity solution based on blockchain technology are underscored by similar endeavors to create ID standards across the ecosystem. One such example is the ERC-725 self-sovereign identity protocol, which is currently in development and open to community comment, on the Ethereum blockchain. Other similar examples include the work of the ID2020 Alliance, which has recently expanded its membership.