BIL Launch Advances a Future of Self-Sovereign Identity

October 2018
Work that has been carried out over the past 6 months came to a head last week as Blockpass and Edinburgh Napier University officially launched the Blockpass Identity Lab (BIL) on the 26th of September. The lab represents the first dedicated blockchain research facility in Europe, and the first blockchain identity research lab in the world. The event was celebrated at the university's Merchiston campus in the ‘Glassroom’. Besides members of Blockpass and the BIL, attendees included a number of academics, students, politicians, including two of the five PhD students that will be carrying out research in the facility.

The lab itself is dedicated to finding solutions for the issues that have been brought to light too many times in recent years with data hacks, security breaches and the gradual loss of control of personal identity from the end user. Blockchain technology has the potential to provide security, transparency and efficiency, amongst other benefits; therefore, Blockpass and the BIL are investigating how to apply it to benefit identity and verification, determining how blockchain technology can protect personal data from online hackers and scammers whilst giving data control to the user rather than to companies. Some initial areas of research for the lab include ‘Zero Knowledge Proofs’ and ‘Homomorphic Encryption’ - both designed to enable greater data privacy whilst maintaining its usability.

Over the course of the evening, attendees heard from speakers including Adam Vaziri, Blockpass CEO; Professor Bill Buchanan, who is the BIL Lab Director; Kate Forbes, MSP, Minister for the Digital Economy; Professor Sally Smith, Dean of Computing; Joanna Cherry, SNP MP for Edinburgh South West; Liam Bell, BIL Lead Research; and Hans Lombardo, Blockpass CMO.

Talks highlighted the suitability of the BIL being locate in Scotland - a country with a long history of innovation, and specifically being set up at Edinburgh Napier University, named after the famous Scottish mathematician, physicist and astronomer. As Vaziri noted, the university is an internationally award-winning institution and has a history of excellence in the fields of technology, science, business, health and social care - an excellent fit for blockchain and Blockpass.

As a smaller country, Scotland has the agility to adapt to new opportunities and leverage new technology more quickly than others. In her speech, Kate Forbes described the Scottish Government’s Cyber Resilience Economic Opportunity Action Plan, which sets out the key steps that the government and its partners will take to ‘grow Scotland’s cyber security industry, encourage the development of innovative cyber security research, and deliver world-leading cyber security goods and services over the period to 2021’. The Blockpass Identity Lab is a perfect match for this vision of a secure and equitable future.

Professor Buchanan, who is a Professor in the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University, and a Fellow of the BCS and the IET, spoke on how blockchain and cryptography could impact multiple industries and how the BIL can support this future. The work that will be carried out in the BIL, he stated, could provide a foundation for a future with the citizen as the focus.

Part of the £600,000 BIL collaboration between Blockpass and Edinburgh Napier University was investment in the lab area, and throughout the evening the lab itself was open to viewings, with tours given to show people where the research - due to start this week - will be carried out.

After the speeches and tours concluded, the evening continued with entertainment in the form of live music from a harpist and fiddler which accompanied Scottish themed canapes and drinks, including a very popular whiskey tasting. The evening was a huge success and marks an important step not only for Blockpass and the BIL but also for a world where the individual has more power and control. This importance was noticed by others - with the event itself being covered in a number of national papers such as The Scotsman. For more information about the BIL, contact @BlockpassIDLab.