US Homeland Security’s Tech Scouts Reissue Call for Blockchain Startups


The U.S. Division of Homeland Safety’s (DHS) startup booster, the Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP), renewed its hunt for interoperable, blockchain-based anti-counterfeiting initiatives at a digital Business Day on Tuesday.

SVIP officers provided startups a recent batch of use circumstances – a substitute for Social Safety numbers; e-commerce, meals and pure fuel provide chain traceability initiatives; and an important employee license impressed by COVID-19 – plus the identical $800,000 in funding and potential to contract with the federal government that they’ve wooed first-time federal companions with previously.

Coming two years after SVIP first ventured into the realm of distributed applied sciences and forgeries and 4 years into the Division’s personal sector blockchain efforts, the renewed name highlighted the extent to which this energetic nook of DHS has courted and funded startups constructing blockchain options for a cupboard division wanting to deploy them. 

“We’re within the enterprise of discovering international expertise to resolve our native issues,” stated Anil John, SVIP’s technical director on the occasion. “We aren’t within the enterprise of doing science experiments.”

SVIP beforehand bankrolled Factom, Mavennet, SecureKey, Digital Bazaar and others’ respective efforts to construct DHS all the things from data-securing Border Patrol digicam platforms to timber credential mechanisms. A part of the Science and Know-how Directorate, this system has handed out thousands and thousands in funding.

John, who is named the “Blockchain Guru” of DHS, challenged the digital occasion’s 300 contributors to pitch deployable instruments for the Privateness Workplace, U.S. Customs and Border Safety (CBP) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Companies (USCIS), the three DHS branches posing SVIP’s 5 new use circumstances.

Revamping the Social Safety quantity

Although the Silicon Valley Innovation Program typically focuses on funding options for inner DHS issues, its name on behalf of the DHS Privateness Workplace provided startups the uncommon alternative to create a software that touches almost each particular person within the nation: a substitute for the Social Safety quantity (SSN).

“We’re not on the market to interchange SSN, we’re there to create one thing that folks can share backwards and forwards with out leaking [personally identifiable information],” stated David Linder, the senior director for Privateness Coverage and Oversight at DHS.

Such a software may handle one of the urgent however seemingly insurmountable privateness conundrums in American life. The SSN – the de-facto nationwide identification quantity and in addition a gateway to monetary providers, well being care and numerous different providers – is a extremely insecure method of demonstrating one’s identification. 

The Privateness Workplace needs startups to provide you with an interoperable different that DHS can use internally. Certainly, a 2019 directive mandates that DHS section the quantity out.

However Linder informed startups that their options may, and will, hold wider makes use of in thoughts.

“We really feel like an actual answer is that this working past DHS,” he stated. “We dont really feel that there’s a ton of worth” if it’s distinctive to DHS.

Important Employee Attestation

USCIS officers requested pitches that may let important DHS employees show their important standing. They need to make it simpler for these nonetheless touring, reporting to workplaces and doing enterprise as important employees to point out by way of credentials that they’re as important as they declare. 

John used the U.S.-Canadian border, presently closed to all the things however important journey and commerce, for example of why authorities companies wanted such an attestation system. 

“Each their border providers companies and ours are having challenges on the border when somebody reveals up and says ‘I’m an important particular person conducting commerce that’s allowed by treaty or permission,’” he stated. “How do you type of attest that?”

However John and the USCIS officers had been fast to tell apart between this important employee license and the COVID-19 immunity passports that some governments and technologists have thought of creating. 

Learn extra: COVID-19 ‘Immunity Passport’ Unites 60 Corporations on Self-Sovereign ID Mission

“We’re not trying for immunity certificates, immunity passports, COVID credentials,” stated John Goodwin of USCIS. 

Anil John, the SVIP technical director, stated the science merely doesn’t again up happening such a route.   

As COVID-19 is a kind of ailments that disproportionately targets weak populations, Black communities, our weak important employees on the frontlines, we’re very involved given the present lack of science across the immunity passport.”

Provide Chain Tracing

Startups may also pitch SVIP on provide chain traceability initiatives that handle drawback factors in meals security, e-commerce and pure fuel. 

Vincent Annunziato, director of CBP’s enterprise transformation division, informed attendees that his company needs to eradicate paper-based provide chains in favor of totally digitized techniques that auditors can belief.

“Proper now what tends to occur is the surface entities are supplying knowledge typically in paper means,” he stated. “What’s the simplest factor on the earth to physician? A chunk of paper.”

Annunziato stated that the governments and industries alike are each shifting swiftly to replace the way in which they monitor provide chains. He pointed to Walmart’s efforts tracing leafy greens and the Meals and Drug Administration’s ongoing curiosity in blockchain techniques.

If all of the disparate events to a provide chain ported their knowledge into interoperable techniques, then he stated that firms may see good points in effectivity, and governments may belief the provenance of products.   

“We have an interest within the workforce sport of knowledge,” he stated.

Annunziato framed this as an opportunity to affect a top-down redesign.

“The federal government is beginning to take a look at reinventing its processes in a method that’s by no means been achieved earlier than,” he stated. 


Whether or not or not the startup proposals depend on blockchain is probably much less essential than their proposed answer’s capability to work along with others, stated John. He repeatedly cited the necessity to comply with open requirements that enable applied sciences to work cross-platform. 

Referencing SVIP’s earlier batch of startups, which constructed interoperable asset trackers and digital identifiers throughout a current collaboration occasion, John warned the potential newcomers towards pitching a “one ring to bind all of them infrastructure.” 

“What we’re trying for is a really international interoperable and various ecosystem of options suppliers who’ve a baseline of interoperability,” he stated. 

John stated that SVIP will take into account proposals from all qualifying startups, no matter their dwelling nation or workers’ nationalities. 

“We’re the a part of the U.S. authorities that believes that expertise doesn’t cease at borders,” he stated.


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