DLT is your passport to work

COVID-19 is accelerating Self-sovereign Identity (SSI) initiatives

Oliver Johnston-Watt
BTP Works
Published in
4 min readApr 15, 2020


Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

As we adapt to the new reality of living in a world of national lockdowns, closed borders and distressed supply chains, particularly in health care, the inherent inefficiencies of the centralised infrastructure our globalised economies rely on are laid bare. At the same time, there is a risk that this pandemic will embolden centralised and authoritarian regimes who can deploy mass surveillance to track their populations and extract health data in preparation for them to re-enter the workforce.

There are clear advantages to being able to gather and aggregate data at scale to tackle the crisis but this need not come at the unacceptable cost of infringing the rights of individuals to privacy. At present, healthcare, particularly in the United States, is still fragmented. While Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems are an improvement on the sprawling paper trails that have traditionally characterised the workflows of medical practice, in many cases data is still siloed.

These inefficiencies result in a range of critical issues to misdiagnosis, inappropriate medication and, in the case of COVID-19, an inability to harness health data at scale to accelerate the development of a vaccine, as well as a model to fairly separate the immunised from the vulnerable.

The good news is that the technology to enable the sharing of clinical and genomic data for health researchers to access and analyse without infringing personal privacy exists today and can be applied to this problem.

Self-sovereign Identity (SSI)

Self-sovereign identity (SSI) systems enable an individual to manage the data that makes up their identity and control access to that data. Leveraging distributed ledger technology instead of relying on centralised infrastructure, the data is transacted via a decentralised network of independent nodes which an individual accesses via their digital wallet. A digital wallet can be accessed via a mobile device which, like a physical wallet organising credit cards, organises your data categorically. As no central entity controls the data, the individual no longer is forced to relinquish control of their sensitive information to various proprietary databases whenever they wish to access different services that require identity authentication. Additionally, as this data is not centralised, transacting organisations are unburdened by the liability of ensuring the security of data against being leaked or, worse, hacked. This is far more effective than existing universal identities such as a Social Security Number which is a compilation of information which, when hacked, can lead to full-scale identity theft.

There is a well established open source community which has been championing this technology as a solution to some of the world’s pressing humanitarian issues, such as providing reliable identities to stateless refugees and enabling swathes of the ‘unbanked’ population to develop credit and access the global capital markets. In the case of COVID-19, blockchain-based self-sovereign identity (SSI) tools can enable the flow of essential healthcare data to accelerate the development of a vaccination and assist with remobilising the global workforce by providing secure and ethical records to prove immunisation treatments.

QDX™ HealthID platform

We are delighted that our partner Quantum Materials Corp is joining the global effort to remobilise the workforce by releasing their QDX™ HealthID platform — a service that leverages this technology to provide end-to-end visibility to support testing and immunisation for infectious diseases, including COVID-19, at scale. The platform enables multiple methods of authenticating the individuals being tested, those who are administering the test, as well as the test kits themselves, whether to detect the presence of the virus itself or associated antibodies. Crucially, this technology facilitates federal, state, county and local governments in their efforts to coordinate treatment programs and enable eligible individuals to rejoin the workforce.

The QDX™ HealthID service provides custom workflows that guide an individual through a HIPAA-compliant process that allow for an expedited return to work. Available globally via Microsoft’s Azure cloud, QDX™ HealthID implements open APIs and data standards, including FHIR/HL-7, for ready integration with existing EMR and analytics systems and distributed ledger applications via the Digital Asset Modelling Language (DAML). The platform leverages BTP’s LTS distribution of Hyperledger Sawtooth and its management platform, Sextant.

This is just one example where COVID-19 is accelerating the adoption of an SSI tool. Other notable initiatives include the COVID-19 Credentials Initiative (CCI) from Evernym, and the multiple efforts of the Sovrin Foundation. We welcome these collaborative approaches to ensure knowledge and responses are pooled to help build the foundations of a post-COVID-19 world.

To find out more about our partnership with QMC please checkout our recent Global Blockchain Business Council Virtual Members Forum presentation.