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Canada’s big banks testing Toronto-based digital identity network powered by blockchain

Canada’s big banks testing Toronto-based digital identity network powered by blockchain
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Canadas biggest banks will be among the first to use a digital identity network powered by blockchain when Toronto-based SecureKey Technologies in partnership with IBM launches it later this year.

The network, which is in the testing phase in Canada at large institutions including Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto-Dominion Bank, will allow consumers to use a mobile app to confirm details of their identity such as age or credit scores when accessing services, said SecureKeys chief executive Greg Wolfond.

For example, a consumer on the network could apply for a new apartment or a new mobile phone plan without the friction of having to sign documents or provide identification in person, he added.

To do this in Canada, were kind of aligning an ecosystem of banks and telcos and governments to say, lets work together on a standard that makes it safer for all citizens, but also easier to get things done, Wolfond said.

Using IBMs Blockchain technology, which distributes information across a network of computers, ensures that there are no honeypots of data in any one place, making identity theft via hacking more difficult, he added.

Canadas biggest banks are already investors in SecureKey, which counts the Canadian and U.S. governments among its customers.

In 2012, the identity and authentication provider launched SecureKey Concierge service, which allows Canadians to use their bank authentication credentials to access online services from the federal government, with BMO, Bank of Nova Scotia and TD the first to sign on. It has since expanded to 12 partners, including all Big Six banks and some credit unions.

Last October, several of Canadas large banks including RBC, TD, Scotiabank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Bank of Montreal and Desjardins joined SecureKeys digital identity ecosystem and collectively invested $27-million in the company.

In February, SecureKey and the non-profit organization Digital ID and Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC) received a grant of up to US$800,000 from the Command Control and Interoperability Centre for Advanced Data Analytics (a research centre funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) to enable the development of a cloud-based identity ecosystem.

The identity verification network announced on Monday is a more robust system than Concierge, said Wolfond. Using Blockchain allows the data to be securely transmitted but not stored in a central place, he added.

We want you to keep your Royal Bank data at your bank, your telco data at your telco. And then when you want to share it, youll share the minimum that you need to with a party with your consent, he said.

The process is aimed to be easier for consumers and less costly for companies, he added.

Scotiabank is embracing digital technologies like blockchain to offer a superior customer experience and to make it easier for customers to bank with us whenever they want and wherever they are said Mike Henry, executive vice president, of retail payments, deposits and unsecured lending at Scotiabank, in a statement on Monday.

SecureKeys partner banks will be among the first to use this digital network, but the aim is to broaden out its usage both beyond banks and Canadas borders, said Wolfond.

He would not say when the digital identity network would be launched, or how many companies have signed up.

The concept has potential but the keys to its success will be much traction it gets amongst companies to join the ecosystem, and how easy it will be for consumers to use, said Martha Bennett, an analyst at Forrester Research who studies business applications of emerging technologies.

There is a lot of activity in the blockchain and identity space, but we are in quite the early stages of trying to figure out how to do this and what is appropriate to share there is no precedent for rolling it out, she said.

Its certainly a very, very interesting and promising project whether or not that can then gain further traction depends on how easy it is for other people to participate in the system, and how easy is it for it to go beyond Canada, Bennett said.
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