Energy Web
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Energy Web

Unlocking the Potential of Self-Sovereign Identity for Enterprise with Energy Web Switchboard

Switchboard provides companies with simple tools to administer decentralized identifiers and verifiable credentials for organizations, users, and assets.

At Energy Web we believe self-sovereign identity (SSI) will become a fundamental pillar of the energy transition, enhancing interoperability and strengthening security for billions of assets, organizations, and customers.

Zug, Switzerland — 30 August 2022 — Today we’re pleased to announce a major step forward in making this vision a reality with the production deployment of Switchboard on the Energy Web Chain. This release includes major updates to the front-end Switchboard web application as well as the back-end libraries and components, giving companies access to the full suite features offered by legacy identity access management solutions in a decentralized architecture.

Why we built Switchboard
Digital identity is integral to every facet of the energy sector, from basic administrative procedures (processing customer rebates for smart thermostats, or registering new solar systems) to high-stakes operational tasks (granting access to customer data, or sending control signals to generators). Given the importance of keeping identity data accurate and secure, as well as the risks and limitations of centralized management approaches as energy systems become increasingly diverse and distributed, SSI has emerged as one of the fastest-growing segments of the enterprise IT landscape in recent years.

We began developing what is now Switchboard in 2019 to address two gaps in the market that were hindering SSI adoption in the energy sector and beyond:

  • Most SSI solutions are focused narrowly on end-users (individual identity wallets to store credentials) or organizations (platforms to issue credentials to internal users). We saw a need for a harmonized solution that not only addressed both of these requirements but also provided sophisticated features like role-based access control and identity management for non-human actors (i.e. hardware and software systems).
  • The end-to-end solutions that do exist align with open standards, but are based on proprietary technology, costly contracts, or permissioned back-ends (either private blockchains or centrally-administered databases). We saw a need for a fully open-source, low-cost solution built on a public network and tightly integrated with the Ethereum ecosystem to improve interoperability (e.g. support for multiple wallets) and usability.

The alpha version of Switchboard was launched on the Volta test network in late 2020 with basic tools for users to manage identities and credentials, and for application, developers to define roles and implement simple role-based access control for users. Since then the Energy Web team has overhauled both the user interface and back-end components to turn Switchboard into a comprehensive, enterprise-grade solution.

What’s new in production?
The production release of Switchboard incorporates several exciting new features that are critical for enterprise adoption:

  • Credential Revocation: Identity and access management is a dynamic process, and when circumstances change they need to be reflected in user credentials. For example, when an employee resigns from the company, access rights need to be revoked in order to keep confidential information secure. Switchboard now offers tools for administrators to manually or programmatically revoke credentials based on customized business logic.
  • Credential Expiration: To maximize security credentials should never grant indefinite or permanent access to a given system. Just like driver’s licenses and passports, credentials should carry expiration dates and require ongoing renewal processes. Switchboard now allows role definers (e.g. organization administrators) to set default validity periods for credentials, which can be optionally overridden by issuers.
  • Full Support for Role-authorized Issuance: This feature allows administrators to delegate responsibility for the issuance of certain credentials to other entities based on their role within or relationship to the organization. For example, a user within a utility company who holds credentials to acquire the role of “IT Manager” may then inherit the ability to issue credentials to other internal users, or an external contractor with credentials granting the role of “Solar Hardware Installer” may inherit the ability to issue credentials to new photovoltaic systems. Multi-level hierarchies are now supported (for example, “Solar Hardware Installer” may be issued by “Installation Coordinator”) and the full hierarchy is verified upon each credential presentation.
  • Credential Issuance Based on Email Verification: Switchboard is currently used to support Energy Web’s staking system, which issues a verified email role credential based on email verification. This role credential is then used to authorize users to stake. (If you have participated in any Energy Web staking pools, you already have a DID with this credential and you can view its status in Switchboard under the “My Enrolments” page.) This functionality is now available for any other credential issuance and authorization use case that requires email verification.
  • Better Alignment with Verifiable Credentials Standards: We’ve made significant improvements to Switchboard’s underlying libraries and components to better align with new W3C Verifiable Credential Standards. Switchboard now supports the issuance of JSON-LD format Verifiable Credentials using an EIP-712 signature.
  • Asset Administration: Switchboard allows asset owners to assign identities to individual assets so they can be enrolled in applications and services, or managed throughout their lifecycle. These tools make it easy for owners to prove attributes to external parties and transfer ownership (including tracking ownership history).

What’s next?
We’re proud to celebrate the launch of Switchboard as a milestone in Energy Web’s long-term technology roadmap. You can learn more about how it works, and start using it today.

However, there are many steps ahead in the journey to unlock the full potential of SSI in support of the energy transition. While Switchboard currently offers all the tools necessary to implement SSI in enterprise environments, we will continue to develop additional tools and features across our broader identity and access management stack, including a decentralized universal resolver service for both credential holders and issuers that makes it possible to resolve identity data from any blockchain or database.

Stay tuned for more announcements, and be sure to follow us for the latest updates.

About Energy Web
Energy Web is a global non-profit accelerating the clean energy transition by developing open-source technology solutions for energy systems. Our enterprise-grade solutions improve coordination across complex energy markets, unlocking the full potential of clean, distributed energy resources for businesses, grid operators, and customers.

Our solutions for enterprise asset management, data exchange, and Green Proofs, our tool for registering and tracking low-carbon products, are underpinned by the Energy Web Chain, the world’s first public blockchain tailored to the energy sector. The Energy Web ecosystem comprises leading utilities, renewable energy developers, grid operators, corporate energy buyers, automotive, IoT, telecommunications leaders, and more.

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Energy Web

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EW is a global, member-driven nonprofit accelerating a low-carbon electricity system through open-source, decentralized, digital technologies.