When we talk about blockchain technology, for a lot of people, bitcoin is the first thought in their mind. That's because bitcoin presented us with the first use-case application, where the value of the blockchain technology was evident. For many who became intrigued with blockchain and jumped into the choppy waters, they've followed the financial end of this market for a long time. The same was true for Katherine Noall, CEO of Sphere Identity, until she saw a huge gap - maybe the largest of them all - and decided to pivot.

Let's Talk Identity

Sphere Identity aims to provide privacy, security and freedom for individuals and businesses across the globe, a seemingly impossible feat, until now. Without the streamlined technology blockchain is now offering, we've seen globalization is so many arenas, but not the ones where we stand to benefit the most. So Sphere focused on research and development, to start figuring out digital identity and distribution technology. They founded all of this development on three simple beliefs: 

  1. Online forms are a thing of the past.

  2. Technology should be international and borderless.

  3. Individuals should be able to control and share their data and be rewarded for it.

Identity is the foundation for everything we do online and globally, whether it's shopping, storing data, traveling, working, sharing data, and so on. And the fact that we have this jumbled array of exposed and specific data lingering in so many places is a big problem. Even worse, sometimes that data follows you, sometimes it sticks where it originally formulated; sometimes it's accurate, and sometimes it absolutely is not. 

Self Sovereign Identity 

Self sovereign identity is a term Sphere uses to explain how users should be controlling and using their own identity how and when and why they choose. It isn't about secrets. It's really about deciding who you want to share with, and for how long, and under what circumstances. While the internet empowers us to extend ourselves in our digital lives, technology has not dutifully followed behind, making sure the trail we leave is secure. Because when it isn't, we are giving away our data. That trail is our identity that we are handing to whomever might happen along behind us- a terrifying thought really. Initially, we were told to trust "the keepers", the ones who manage the data, but that hasn't fared well and even for those keepers, data has become a burden they no longer want the responsibility of. 

Streamlined Solutions

For businesses, Sphere is working to solve the data burden, by using blockchain technology to get rid of forms, make sign-up simple, and to change the onboarding process wholly. Their "frictionless alternative to online forms and multi-step sign-ups" is also putting the privacy back in the rightful hands of the data owner, not the keeper. Here's a few of the changes we can expect to see more regularly as use grows: 

  • The Sphere app is free and empowers users to own their information and to have the ability to share it with anyone they need to, at their own discretion.

  • Sphere relies on blockchain's secure technology along with encrypted distributed storage so users can both store and share identity information with worrying about breaches of privacy. 

  • Sphere technology allows businesses to sign customers up without them ever having typed a single word into a form, thus lowering abandonment rates and increasing revenue. 

Crisis Mode

While I often make the case for the retail crisis we are experiencing (and this type of technology in retail would be the glow-up we're all waiting for), there are real crises happening around the world that technology can be applied to. In fact, every time there is a global or country-wide crisis, there are displaced humans, vulnerable, and often without any form of identity. Refugees who have been forced to leave at a moments notice cannot be expected to show proof of identification - yet if they cannot - the solutions available now quickly fall off. Worldwide, we've been witness to more than sixty-eight million people displaced, and without identity systems in place that are portable, global, responsive in real-time, and protected, we may as well put our wading boots on. When applied use of a technology is what's standing between a refugee and the aid they need, the need for solutions seems much more pressing. 

Data, Data, Data

Regardless if we're international travelers  or forced to flee our countries, we're going to need to transfer information about our identity across borders, and it needs to be secure. Because some situations are comfortable and some require more protection. There are so many applications, and they all have the same problem: it's taking too long. Sphere Identity has recognized that the time is now for us to get smarter about our identities, and blockchain has the potential to globalize our data.

Published on: Jul 1, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.