This interview is part of our new Blockchain In Cybersecurity series, where we interview the world's leading thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between blockchain and cybersecurity.
In this interview we speak with Irra Ariella Khi, CEO of VChain Technology, to understand how her company is using blockchain to transform the cybersecurity business, and what the future of the industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind VChain? Why and how did you begin?
IAK: The idea for VChain began whilst I was in a cybersecurity conference in Israel. My initial interest in blockchain was born out of academic research and teaching myself about technical non-financial applications of blockchain whilst my baby daughter slept.
Upon meeting my now co-founder Alex Gorelik, we found we agreed that blockchain wasn’t being deployed to its full potential outside of cryptocurrency use case. Five years ago, blockchain was only present in the financial sector, but we both thought we could design an innovative way to make it applicable to challenges in the aviation industry.
As crossing borders while using air travel becomes more commonplace, passengers expectations for the airport experience are continuing to rise (to the extent that a queuing time above 10 minutes is now considered unacceptable by the majority of passengers). We focused on blockchain since it is a highly sophisticated tool for record keeping – with its fundamental traits that it is both decentralised and also immutable / highly secure. This, coupled with the fact that the aviation industry relies on high data integrity which is siloed, meant we could create tangible value if we were to solve this challenge. We identified a gap in the market within the aviation space, and have endeavoured to deliver on it – with three patents for our proprietary technology and client work including IAG Airlines and Emirates Group.
2. Please describe your use case and how VChain uses blockchain:
IAK: VChain is the first blockchain security solution for the aviation industry, with clients including British Airways and Emirates Airlines. VChain works by connecting the data sets that are currently siloed between airlines, governments and security agencies, thus reducing the need to check physical passenger IDs in airports. VChain helps airlines and governments to enhance security by first, signalling where passengers’ data does not match the information on their passports; and second, where it does match, confirming that it can be trusted as accurate. VChain’s technology removes the need to store copies of physical ID documents, meaning there’s less chance of it being stolen in a breach. VChain is working in collaboration with governments and airline groups to discuss how the technology could help improve the systems and security of border control and immigration, and was named by IBM Security as ‘GDPR compliant identity-as-a-service’.
3. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
IAK: VChain is a Strategic Partner of IATA (the world’s association of airlines), and is delivering the first step towards its industry vision of ONE ID – an “end-to-end passenger experience that is secure, seamless and efficient”. ONE ID is a concept that VChain Tech is helping IATA evolve, test and deliver as part of the partnership.
The solution proposed through ONE ID will improve passenger experience while allowing airlines to meet the requirements of national authorities. IATA has proposed the introduction of digital proof of identity through a token, including both the passenger’s travel documents and boarding pass. The ability to safely share tokens that contain passenger ID quickly between airlines, the airport, and government regulators via a trusted system where the quality of data is guaranteed, will allow the full realisation of ONE ID – and VChain’s blockchain powered technology is helping to make this concept a reality.
4. What other blockchain use cases in cybersecurity are you excited about?
IAK: Government services is a use case which is close to our work, and is meaningful in helping citizens and visitors access government services such as tax, immigration (visa renewals), pensions, rights to vote and so on – all through blockchain-backed identity and access management platform which VChain has already started to deliver. Our first successful project was with the UAE Government – GDRFA – federal immigration department, which we developed in partnership with Emirates Airlines at Dubai Airport.
Another government use case is in the Security space, whereby warnings and verifications about identities which are of interest to security agencies need to be streamlined from the current silo-ed data sets in which they exist into an interoperable system which would improve both border control and policing across neighbouring governments. We cannot comment on our work in this space due to the nature of our engagements, but these are very important use cases for the benefit and security of many nations.
5. Where will VChain be in 5 years?
IAK: In five years, VChain will be the gold-standard security solution when it comes to the aviation sector, and will have helped IATA successfully implement its vision of ONE ID enabling all airlines and government authorities who are members of IATA to securely verify passenger identity in a seamless identity and access management process.
According to IBM, VChain’s approach may also become instrumental in assisting corporations in reducing their risk exposure while managing sensitive data sets, and helping deliver and improve on GDPR compliance across a wide range of other industries where siloed and sensitive data needs to be managed and protected. Therefore, in this time VChain will likely have expanded beyond the aviation sector, into maritime and across governments – essentially anywhere data needs to be verified at borders.