The agency is funding research that uses blockchain to make sure people are who they claim to be.
The Homeland Security Department is kicking off a new research initiative exploring ways blockchain can help prevent fraud, counterfeiting and forgery.
The agency’s Science and Technology Directorate on Tuesday announced the Preventing Forgery and Counterfeiting of Certificates and Licenses program, which aims to strengthen the digital documentation process using blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies. The initiative is housed under the Silicon Valley Innovation Program, the department’s in-house startup accelerator.
Blockchain allows users to store information on an encrypted ledger that permanently records every exchange. It’s distributed nature makes it useful for securing sensitive data and ensuring data isn’t altered or corrupted.
As such, the tech “holds the potential for enhanced transparency and auditing of public service operations, greater visibility into multi-party business operations, and automation of paper-based processes,” officials wrote in the solicitation.
The department is particularly interested in how to use the tech to issue and track the validity of documents related to travel, identity, citizenship, immigration and employment. Officials also intend to explore potential use cases for tracking oil imports and determining the origin of other raw materials.
While the first batch of awards will target issues facing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the initiative will eventually fund proposals related to Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration.
“The broad Homeland Security mission includes the need to issue entitlements, licenses and certifications for a variety of purposes including travel, citizenship, employment eligibility, immigration status and supply chain security,” SVIP Technical Director Anil John said in a statement. “Understanding the feasibility and utility of using blockchain and distributive ledger technology for the digital issuance of what are currently paper-based credentials is critical to preventing their loss, destruction, forgery and counterfeiting.”
The program is open to all businesses with less than 200 employees that haven’t received a federal contract exceeding $1 million within the last year. Selected groups will be eligible for up to $800,000 in funding over the course of the four-part program.
The agency will host an industry day in Menlo Park on Dec. 11. Applications will be judged on a rolling bases, with the final deadline set for May 23.