The conversation in digital identification is focussing strongly on one technology: blockchain. While the potential of the distributed ledger seems infinite, few organizations have been able to make concrete moves to transform their processes.

Digital identification and authentication are a natural fit for the encrypted and secure technology, but how can we move the needle for impactful change in Canada?

IdentityNORTH teamed up with the Digital Identification and Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC) and the Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia (LTSA), as well as the University of British Columbia’s Blockchain and Distributed Research and Education Cluster (Blockchain@UBC) to run a Digital ID Design Challenge (DIDC) designed to answer that question.

The challenge was created to give students and professionals the opportunity to think through concrete use cases and contribute ideas to the digital ID ecosystem. Narrowing in on the real estate industry and public sector challenges with electronically delivered state of title certificates (eSTC), the challenge asked participants to leverage blockchain to remove digital ID friction.

Teams were asked: How can digital ID improve and simplify the process of accessing and distributing eSTCs?

Judgement criteria highlighted the importance of real-world applications for this and other new technologies. Six judgement categories were outlined to ensure the winner’s solution was viable and innovative: context and relevance; economic and social benefit; security and privacy; usability and convenience, feasibility; and creativity and presentation were defined as key areas that would ensure a successful solution.

The submissions were excellent. Fifteen teams from diverse backgrounds and entry points, one as far as China, submitted ideas for review. Two teams were selected as finalists to present at our Western Forum in Vancouver on November 7, 2017.

“Reviewing the submissions was inspiring! They really grounded the potential of digital ID in reality,” noted Joni Brennan, President of the DIACC. “We’re excited to run more Digital ID Design Challenges to nurture made-in-Canada solutions and keep expanding how we think about and approach digital identification and authentication.”

OnePair Technologies, a team of one Noah Bouma, Developer and Business Student at University of Calgary, and Alphabeta, a joint effort between Matthew Gaiser, Computer Engineering Student from Queen’s University, and Mike Brown, Director of Innovation at ATB Financial, were selected as the top teams.

Noah Bouma’s submission was voted the winner for its clear articulation of the problem, well-integrated yet expansive solution, and creative prototyping that crystallized the feasibility of his app-based, standards-driven solution.

Watch his presentation here or check out Bouma’s paper outlining the secure eSTC solution that links emerging tech with longstanding systems and accounts for the intricacies and challenges of an interoperable, easy-to-use digital ID.

As technologies emerge that can solve for many of the problems associated with secure digital identification, it is important to take a thoughtful approach. Collaboration, new ideas, and a broader perspective of interoperability are essential to ensure future digital identity solutions do not replicate past problems. Setting a strong foundation in social, economic, and equitable impact from the outset will ensure cross-sector goals are met and everyone benefits from a fully realized digital ID system.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a solution and attendees at IdentityNORTH Western Forum who helped choose the winning design. We look forward to hearing about more Canadian innovations in blockchain and global strides toward viable digital identification.