The Travel Pass could be a killer SSI app

Well scoped requirements can demonstrate the readiness of SSI based solutions

The IATA recently announced that the “Travel Pass” was key to safe reopening of borders. In terms of being the “killer app” for the widespread adoption of verifiable digital credentials, this could very well be it.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unfortunate situation for airlines worldwide. With most airlines tottering towards financial ruin and closure, there is an increased need to open up air travel and raise the trust and confidence of the everyday traveler. Combining digitally verifiable credentials with all that is part of the travel industry logistics is just the perfect opportunity to see adoption. The possibility of the pivot from proof-of-concepts to real, production-ready situations is very plausible. Whether it will come about depends on the willingness of all parties in the trust network to collaborate on a working model.

In addition to the obvious need for a governance framework, adoption of open standards based verifiable credentials (VCs) will require extensive work in creation of verifiable registries of organizations involved across all workflows in this system; standardization of credentials to be created and issued; harmonization of terms required to exist in the trust network and availability of interoperable systems - especially digital wallets which can interact with contact-less kiosks across various borders. Over the past decade or so, there has been explosive growth in the ecosystem of VCs and technology designs which are designed to enable Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI). While common elements do exist, interpretation of the requirements of SSI as well as implementation detail leading to those outcomes are often on a wide range of possibilities.

There continues to exist the risks and threat to abuse of identity through the implementation of poorly designed systems. Two recent posts highlight how adoption of digital credentials which do little by way of securing privacy and are poorly resistant to coercion can encourage the tendencies of autocratic regimes. This point has come up multiple times in the debate around the deployment of digital identities which are tightly coupled with a foundational ID and do not contain elements which enable self-management of the identity data.

Providing a piece of identification to someone who didn’t have official documents to begin with is one thing; it’s an entirely different matter when the concept is expanded to including connecting every person on the planet with a digital identity that keeps a tamper-proof record of their behavior.

The CommonPass from The Commons Project is already in trials and integrates various existing Health systems APIs in Android/Google and Apple systems to receive and share health information status data. This status is then parsed by machines to provide a decision around access. This also brings up the need to have fair, equitable and explainable systems which remove the concept of “machines as a blackbox” and depend completely on opaque algorithms to determine the fate of an individual.

Systems integration working on SSI benefit from well-scoped use cases. The Travel Pass meets the criteria along with extensive partnerships to be established globally for deployment, testing and adoption. As the world economy transitions over to a “new normal” which includes elevated awareness around health status, the Travel Pass is no longer just an ‘immunity passport’. Rather it is the digital twin of the Carte Jaune that most global travelers are quite familiar with.