Global media giant Thomson Reuters recently won a blockchain identity management patent. The company had applied for the patent in 2015, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has recently awarded them the patent.
The patent assumes importance as identity management is emerging as a key blockchain use case. Thomson Reuters is the company behind Reuters, the world-famous news outlet and their investment in identity management is important too.
“Identity and Access Management” (IAM) is a large market. Global security spending on IAM will likely reach $10.58 billion by the end of 2019, as this Statista report projects.
Implementing IAM isn’t easy, though. As experts point out, challenges to IAM are as follows:
- There is a lack of centralized, dependable identity repositories, which makes the reconciliation of identity information hard.
- IAM processes are almost entirely manual, and they require heavy intervention.
- Segregating duties, monitoring super users, etc. are challenging in the current IAM landscape.
- Identity data theft is a widespread challenge.
- Compliance concerns remain with respect to IAM, and they are more pronounced in highly regulated industries.
Blockchain can help transforming IAM. The technology offers decentralization, transparency, security, and immutable records.
Moreover, smart contracts can improve IAM transactions. Smart contracts are open-source, tamper-proof, and autonomous pieces of code. They contain “If-Then-Else” statements, and transfer cryptographic assets automatically upon fulfillment of predefined conditions. Smart contracts make it easier to administer contracts.
Blockchain identity management: The transformative potential
Experts observe that blockchain can transform IAM in the following ways:
- The technology will improve the security of IAM systems.
- IAM systems will become more transparent with blockchain.
- Users will be in control of their personal data, and they can prove their identity without disclosing sensitive personal information.
- Authentication processes will become simpler, thanks to decentralization and smart contracts.
- Identity verification will be faster.
Thomson Reuters proposes an IAM system that will be able to receive identity information from an identity provider. It will also be able to receive other associated identity-related data.
The proposed IAM system will store the information on a blockchain in the form of identity tokens. Various forms of implementation will be possible with this IAM system.
One form could use smart contracts to govern IAM transactions. Another form might store the identity data in the form cryptographic hashes, therefore, hackers can’t make sense of the data.
Yet another form could use a permissioned blockchain and implement access control. Storing the identity data in the form of biometric is possible too. There are 38 variations documented in the patent applications.
Media companies continue to embrace blockchain
Thomson Reuters isn’t the only media company exploring blockchain. NewVoiceMedia, a cloud communications company is also exploring blockchain to secure cloud communications. Security and identity management could soon improve, thanks to blockchain and the interest media companies show in it.