March 11, 2019 By Milan Patel 6 min read

IBM recently wrapped up a very bustling week in San Francisco at THINK 2019 full of client conversations — through sessions and in the expo hall — and how technology will transform enterprises with data, AI, cloud, blockchain and more.

In my blog post prior to THINK, I wrote about how blockchain is becoming more prevalent in client conversations. It is refreshing to see how, in a span of one year, clients are starting to understand what blockchain is, instead of the question being, “What is blockchain?” This year the question was, “What are applicable use cases for blockchain?” In some cases, clients already had a use case in mind.

THINK 2019 was no exception. Decentralized identity continues to become a use case many clients understand and see as a transformative way in leveraging blockchain technology as an enabler to build for the missing layer of identity on the internet.

I wanted to take some time and reflect on some key points from THINK 2019 as it relates to decentralized identity.

Your education on trusted identity starts here

Decentralized Identity is here today, and clients are talking about it

This year was a very unique take on decentralized identity and the emergence of the technology into mainstream conversations. All of the sessions on the topic were client-led, with supporting use cases and work already kicked off, either in technology implementation or design thinking. When we think about emerging tech, a lot of what we see is very theoretical — at THINK we bridged theory with reality.

CULedger, Credly, and MyCelia, were three clients that formally shared their decentralized identity journey through sessions which were among many more informal client journey conversations throughout the conference.


CULedger provided their take on how decentralized identity will disrupt financial industries like credit unions.

CULedger is developing a cross-border, global distrusted ledger platform to enable digital exchange for financial cooperatives and their members. As part of the platform CULedger is building out, an important foundation to that is establishing trust.

To enable that, CULedger is implementing MyCUID, working with Evernym and built on Sovrin. MyCUID leverages a peer to peer identity exchange model to protect from financial fraud and identity theft. CULedger described how credit unions are, to an extent, decentralized in nature. Members are owners and the business challenge unique, which necessitated a need to find a technology to enable trust. MyCUID brings exactly that, levering distributed ledger technology to exchange credentials peer-to-peer.

Evernym’s Chief Trust Officer pointed out how these new peer-to-peer connections enable a new way of communicating and sustaining relationships that has not previously existed on the internet – removing any intermediaries that exist today. CULedger sees this as a way to modernize how credit unions do business today — digitizing and transforming our day to day

experiences, bringing them from the physical world into the digital world, and all built on this new direct peer-to-peer connection to unlock better member experiences.

The CULedger team also described some of the challenges their team faces. The technology is being proved out and has come a long way, but people still need to get comfortable with a decentralized approach to identity. CULedger indicates there is still a lot of education that needs to be done, but their members are starting to realize blockchain goes beyond Bitcoin.


Credly also joined us during the panel session with CULedger and Evernym to talk about how digital credentials are transforming how we connect, based on talent and capabilities.

As mentioned in the video below, 85 percent of employers have found misrepresentations on resumes, professional profiles, or job applications. Establishing trust is paramount, especially when companies are making long-term investments and decisions in their employees. Credley is seeing and addressing an opportunity to take “human capital attributes” — resumes, education, employer history and other information — making them into standardized digital credentials to prove who an individual is and provide additional levels of trust.

Both parties (employer and employee) benefit because employers now have additional levels of trust and potential employees can provide granularity by permissioning data employers see, while having full transparency in what is being shared. In Hyperledger Indy, zero knowledge proofs provide the ability for a potential employee to share that granular information without having to disclose the details of that attribute — this is implemented into the protocol.

The Credly team realizes the value of being able to create this new point to point talent exchange market — through vocational training, employers can find potential employees that have higher success rates and are quicker to learn through the presentment of talent attributes. Trusted connections also enable sharing only granular parts of a credential to pinpoint where talent’s path to success can lead through continued learning.

<a href="Watch video from this great conversation.
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Imogen Heap, an award-winning Grammy artist, capped off the week with an extraordinary performance and insight into how decentralized identity can help build a musician reputation economy. She discussed how the music industry is riddled with digital rights management challenges where independent musicians are not supported or don’t have the “trust” to promote themselves amongst the bigger record labels. Challenges extend to lack of standards and interoperability across the various music platforms, and others.

Imogen is addressing these and many other challenges the music industry faces with MyCelia. As a small but necessary step to making this a reality, IBM Blockchain Trusted Identity collaborated with MyCelia to showcase how musicians can interact with their artist profile through a passwordless experience using a MyCelia-issued decentralized identity.

Be sure to watch that full conversation as well.


On Friday, Didier Serra, EVP Sales and Marketing at SecureKey, talked about the progress they are making in Canada with decentralized identity. SecureKey has built a platform on IBM Blockchain and is working with a consortium of banks in Canada to help enable Canadian citizens to gain control over the personal information and help eliminate honeypots of personal data. You can read more about the application. SecureKey is also a member of the Decentralized Identity Foundation.

IBM Blockchain Trusted Identity product experience

At the Expo hall, in collaboration with IBM Security team, early views of the product we are developing were showcased. We received very positive feedback from the interactive demo. This dialog was very fruitful in demystifying decentralized identity and catalyzed use case conversations with clients.

If you weren’t at the conference, try out the interactive demo and get your own decentralized identity Cloud Agent.

Here are my three main take-a-ways from THINK 2019 as it relates to decentralized identity and the maturation of the space:

  1. The technology is evolving from open source into “servicified” product components built on open standards and interoperability to help clients participate in decentralized identity networks.
  2. Clients have real use cases now and are building real solutions that are tangible with an eye on how the technology can shape new interaction experiences.
  3. We still need to provide additional levels of education, using the real work being done in the industry to show the broader market of how blockchain can be used for good, especially in the decentralized identity space.

As you can see, THINK 2019 was jam-packed with client conversations. There is still a tremendous amount of work to do, but it is very exciting to see how clients are starting to think about use cases and become more educated in the space.

I want to see what you or others are doing in blockchain and decentralized identity — connect with me on twitter to continue the conversation.

Transforming digital identity into trusted identity

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