DHS Silicon Valley Program Makes Two Awards for Digital Credentials Management

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The department is working to digitize the process for issuing, verifying and managing credentials like travel documents and employment authorizations.

The Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology Directorate announced two awards through its Silicon Valley Innovation Program to companies with revolutionary ideas on how to manage credentials.

The innovation hub awarded $181,392 to SICPA Product Security, of Springfield, Virginia, for a product to transition Homeland Security programs from paper-based to digital credentialing without the need to reengineer the process.

Specifically, the program will adapt SICPA’s commercial solution to “manage and verify digital credentials that are the secure digital equivalent to secure physical credentials” using existing processes and systems, according to a release announcing the award.

The company will work with Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to “build a flexible, credential-based identity solution that includes the enrollment, creation, issuance and management of secure digital credentials through interoperable, open standards, which will seamlessly coexist with current processes and systems while enabling offline credentials validation.

“The ability of credential issuers to transition from paper-based to digital credentials without reengineering current processes and systems is a critical aspect of incorporating innovative technologies with current systems.” Anil John, SVIP technical director, said in the announcement. “SIPCA’s work will allow physical and digital credentials to coexist while enabling broad interoperability based on emerging World Wide Web Consortium standards such as decentralized identifiers and verifiable credentials.”

Homeland Security also announced a second award Monday focused on the verification of those credentials. The program awarded $200,000 to SecureKey Technologies, of Toronto, Canada, to develop an “Identity Documents Proofing, Presentation and Exchange System,” based on the company’s Verified.Me product.

The SecureKey deal was made as part of S&T’s Preventing Forgery and Counterfeiting of Certificates and Licenses program, which opened solicitations last year with an eye toward using blockchain to verify and track travel, identity, citizenship, immigration and employment documents.

As with the SICPA award, SecureKey will initially work with TSA and USCIS to issue and verify travel documents and employment authorization.

“User-centric, privacy protecting approaches to credential issuance and verification that have enterprise level management features are critical to addressing the digital credentialing needs of TSA and USCIS,” John said in a second statement. “SecureKey adapting its Verified.Me architecture to support data exchange interoperability based on emerging World Wide Web Consortium standards addresses much needed enterprise scalability and interoperability requirements.”

The awards are just the beginning for both projects. As part of the innovation program, companies working with S&T get incremental funding of up to $200,000 in each of four phases, moving from initial proof-of-concept and prototyping to full production. The goal of the program is to find early-stage commercial solutions that can be adapted to meet Homeland Security missions and offer incremental funding to get them there.