Breaking Free — Liberating Digital Identities for an Interlinked Cyber-Physical World

The motivation and evolution of the Interlinked Protocol

When observing the nature around us, we see perfectly harmonious ecosystems. Living organisms of all shapes and sizes are working together to form a symbiosis, instinctively interwoven to reach a common goal: a well-functioning, self-sustaining ecosystem.

Ecosystem Harmony – Photo by Dan Gold

On the flip side, when we observe human ecosystems, the thought of symbiosis of systems seems to have disappeared. Especially when it comes to our modern technology infrastructure: the Internet of connected people and things.

Today, the Internet is best described as a network comprised of all interconnected entities, traditionally referring to human users and computers. And each day our world moves towards being a little more connected. If you now add in the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), the number of addressable entities in the internet is in the tens of billions with an estimate of 75 bn connected IoT devices in 2025 — 10 times more than humans on the internet.

The resulting combinatorics of possible connections between any given subgroup is an impossibly large number. Under these circumstances, the way these entities interact today — both in virtual or physical space — are posing huge security and trust issues.

At the same time, new technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain, nanotechnology, quantum computing, cryptography and IoT giving birth to disruptive forces that are driving sustainable innovations and challenging the balance of power in our world as we know it today.

This can lead to a new symbiosis of systems, orchestrated and protected by an ethical and safe fabric that interlinks the digital and physical worlds — a convoluted cyber-physical world.

Problem of Today’s Identity Systems

All over the world, a growing number of organizations from the public and private sectors are advancing systems that establish and verify digital identities for people, objects, devices and other entities.

Identity is defined by an ISO standard as “set of attributes related to an entity” (ISO/IEC 24760–1). However, a standard approach to digital identity was not designed when the internet was created and the variety of existing concepts of digital identity have several limitations.

Today, human identity is often used in ways that require personal data to be stored in multiple centralised or federated computer systems. The largest internet companies, such as Google and Facebook, are reaping most of their profits from collecting, aggregating, analysing and monetizing our data.

As our identity attributes are stored in multiple systems, digital identity consists of many fragmented, true, outdated, inconsistent, life-saving, embarrassing and fake information.

Therefore we are experiencing many downsides from wrong data stored by credit scoring providers to privacy breaches by Facebook, identity theft from Equifax or surveillance of behaviours via our personal connected devices.

Today, human and non-human entities neither have the transparency about their data nor control the data related to their identity.

Driven by the Internet of Things (IoT), cyber-physical systems evolve that communicate and cooperate with each other. Devices powered by digital identities can transact across domains and organisations with intelligent software agents, humans or non-human entities in real-time.

Cyber-physical duality and today’s fragmented identity attributes

Within modular structured value chains, cyber-physical systems can monitor physical and digital processes, create virtual copies of physical world entities (digital twinning) and enable decentralized decisions and transactions.

Digital Identity and Digital Twinning are at the foundational capability of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

With an ever-rising number of entities, the interoperability among diverse systems is lagging behind tremendously: Entities acting on the internet (whether humans, machines or software agents) need to access and control a substantially large group of such interconnected objects in order to achieve their respective goals.

This calls for an interoperable, trust verification system and associated agent-to-agent protocol, digitally interlinking any combination of given entities.

Reinventing Digital Identity

Every human, object and machine entity will have a digital identity. A digital twin. The digital twin can represent a human, an enterprise, an object or a machine and can tell its entire story. It stores data about its creation, relationships, events in life, interactions, health and death.

Digital identities or digital twins will have one or more ubiquitous, digital companions in form of agents — formed by software code. These agents must be understood, configured and controlled by humans. Humans want their digital agent companions to cooperate in a way that improves our lives and serves the greater good for society.

We need to prevent the risk of malfunctioning agents that can harm us. Humans will put a system in place to curate agents, to make sure the agent code is safe and ethical. Interlinked Protocol enables such agent code reputation and curation systems.

When the cyber and physical worlds are merging, identities will be

  • easily created, updated, verified, split, cloned, merged, grouped and aggregated
  • in a very fast way
  • by a variety of software agents along an entity’s life-cycle or value chain.
In this world, identity is not static anymore. It is extremely dynamic.

Already in 2020 the number of connected IoT devices is 10 times higher than the number of human internet users. The number of software agents will be even higher. Taking these developments into consideration, manual human user interactions will soon be marginalised — rather machines and agents will dominate the internet.

Interlinked is designing an interoperable decentralised identity and digital twinning protocol for this new internet that will soon be dominated by non-human entities.

Breaking Free and Connecting the Dots

We believe a libertarian approach towards future identity systems is required. We want to break free from centralised control of identities.

Breaking free from the Internet Giants — Photo by Miguel Bruna

Since we desire freedom, we break free the scattered mosaic pieces of identities that are captured in centralised systems and unite them on a decentralised infrastructure with an entity-centric root-of-trust. Identity will be with the people and devices, not with dominant internet companies any more.

We seek to maximize freedom, autonomy and privacy for human digital identity and non-human digital twins.

Interlinked is aiming to provide a general-purpose protocol that addresses the loopholes of the current system design. The protocol is preserving privacy, secure from tampering or hacking, offering reliable trust verification and connecting of intelligence, independent from any vendor-defined API.

Such a system should not be controlled by a small number of large companies. It has to be controlled and owned by a community. This is why Interlinked Protocol is an open source project driven by an enthusiastic core team spread all around the globe, with contributors in Singapore, Hong Kong, Berlin, New York, Hyderabad and Kiev unified in the mission:

Connecting human and non-human intelligence.

Enabling system agnostic, Interlinked Protocol is designed on a set of W3C standards that are supported by a large movement in the decentralised identity ecosystem.

What’s Next?

We are planning to release our whitepaper, action plan and partnerships in the next few weeks.

The first Interlinked Protocol whitepaper will describe the main functional and technical design, market applicability, tokenisation approach and development plan.

In the meantime, let yourself be inspired [like us] by what Leonardo DaVinci said centuries ago:

“To develop a complete mind: Study the science of art; Study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”

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