I just listened to a CBC Radio segment about a couple who got stranded when an app-powered smart car went out of cell phone range. Apparently, when the Gig Car car-sharing app loses a stable connection with the car, it eventually shuts the vehicle down. In this case it happened to the couple as they were taking a drive in the California wilderness. Needless to say, the convenience part of the car-sharing solution ended rather abruptly.
Offline scenarios are a part of everyday life and tech companies should be thinking through these scenarios if they actually want to provide a good solution to consumers. It takes more effort but you end up with a better solution.
A digital identity solution especially should (and in many cases must) be able to work offline. And by "work" I mean it doesn't just fall back to being a picture of a driver's licence displayed on a smartphone that has to be visually vetted by a non-expert. It needs to connect (locally) to the target system, and provide all protocols and automation necessary to cryptographically verify a digital identity.
From the day it was conceived, the eID-Me solution always supported offline scenarios. Last year Bluink implemented a car-sharing solution on the BlackBerry QNX platform and we thought about the offline scenarios. We didn't assume that you will have Internet when you're unlocking a car with your smartphone in an underground parking lot. Yes, you need to be online to book the car, and the car needs to be online to retrieve its bookings, but once that happens you're good to go. As long as you can prove to the car locally (we do it over Bluetooth) that you own the digital identity that booked it, you can unlock it, anywhere.
Car-sharing isn't the only application requiring a digital identity that works offline. Here are some others that Bluink has been developing:
- Proving your age at a liquor or cannabis store point-of-sale system.
- Unlocking a smart parcel box (with optional age verification to the box if it contains age-restricted goods).
- Purchasing age-restricted products at a self-serve kiosk.
- Checking in to a medical clinic.
- Proving your age to a bartender to purchase an alcoholic beverage.
- Presenting your driver's licence to a police officer.
Even if many scenarios might be capable of being online, one shouldn't assume that an individual has a data plan for their smartphone, or even wants to incur the cost (roaming charges for example) of being online just to prove their identity during a transaction. This is the type of thinking that Bluink has put into developing eID-Me, a digital identity that works for individuals wherever it's needed.