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Blockchain in Biometrics Could be Used in Travel Security, US Customs Rep Says

Using blockchain for biometric tracking would be the technology’s killer app in the travel security sector, a representative from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said.

Using blockchain for biometric tracking would be the technology’s killer app in the travel security sector, according to a representative from the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. The news was reported by travel industry media outlet Skift on March 21.

Sikina Hasham, program manager at the CBP, made her remarks during a panel at the JetBlue Technology Ventures Blockchain in Travel Summit in New York City on Wednesday.

In response to a question from panel moderator David Post — managing director of IBM Blockchain Ventures — Hasham said that an area of significant promise for the government’s use of blockchain lies in its conjunction with biometrics:

“One area we’ve seen a significant amount of success in is facial comparison and biometric data. There is a service we’ve created to verify who an individual boarding an aircraft who is as they’re seeking admission into the United States. If we could have more data for the verification from another government party, that would be really great for us.”

Nonetheless, Hasham noted, a significant hurdle still needs to be overcome for the technology to gain traction and provide maximum use value: the development of standardized specifications for communication between multiple organizations’ blockchain systems.

If governments are to implement blockchain, rather than legacy databases, to share data within key security areas such as border control, robust standards for the industry would thus be a crucial enabling factor, Hasham implied. She also noted a further challenge the government is reportedly tackling, stating that:

“Our primary goal is security, but also facilitating trade and travel. Blockchain is relatively new for us […] in the travel space, we are still working on figuring out how industry stakeholders in the technology space will help us. […] Privacy and decentralized information are some of the challenges we as a government organization have a legal obligation to protect.”

As reported, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently appealed to startups who develop blockchain solutions that can help prevent forgery of digital documents, in order to serve the mission needs of various programs under its aegis, among them CBP.

The CBP has already been trialing a blockchain shipment tracking system to gauge how much the technology is able to enhance the verification process for certificates of origin from various free trade agreement partners.

The coupling of blockchain with biometrics is meanwhile being developed across diverse applications, including municipal elections, secure ATMs, and Internet of Things biometric devices in the healthcare sector.

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Ex-NATO Secretary General Bullish on Blockchain as He Partners With Swiss Startup

Anders Fogh Rasmussen will advise the Swiss platform on identity two months after it released its proof-of-concept.

Swiss blockchain identity network Concordium has hired former Danish prime minister and NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen as a strategic advisor, the company confirmed in a press release on March 20.

The Concordium Foundation, the controlling entity behind the Concordium Network that launched a proof of concept in January, aims to tackle blockchain deployment in certain fields with Rasmussen’s expertise.

The former politician currently heads Rasmussen Global, a consultancy firm active in diverse fields including democracy, transatlantic relations and security policy.

“Given the enormous scope and far-reaching potential of the Concordium Network, it is essential for the Concordium Foundation to harness the knowledge of those with invaluable in-depth strategic expertise,” Concordium’s chairman, Lars Seier Christensen, commented in the press release. He added:

“Anders will play a pivotal role in our global expansion plans to move into areas that require a blockchain solution for secure and private communications, as well as liaising with governmental departments that will benefit from its implementation.”

While Rasmussen collaboration will focus on voting identity in particular, Concordium is aiming to position itself as a more general blockchain operator, facilitating record-keeping for transactions.

Discussing his appointment, Rasmussen likewise appeared buoyant on the technology’s potential.

“We are only beginning to see the benefits that blockchain technology will bring to our societies, including in our democratic processes,” he added in the press release.

As Cointelegrpah reported, voting alone saw two decisive blockchain trials in March, with Denver’s municipal elections and, elsewhere, Russian election primaries within a political party both leveraging the technology in their procedures.

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Token 2049: Vitalik Buterin Says Non-Financial Blockchain Use Cases Are a ‘Harder Pitch’

Vitalik Buterin says that blockchain applications outside of finance face more difficulty gaining traction.

Ethereum (ETH) co-founder Vitalik Buterin says that blockchain applications outside of finance face more difficulty gaining traction, as the primary added value they offer is decentralization. Buterin made his remarks during a speech at crypto event Token 2049 in Hong Kong on March 13.

Buterin began by noting that finance is “realistically the first blockchain [application] that will probably achieve wide scale adoption,” and that even though he is a self-declared huge fan of other applications:

“The problem is that decentralization is basically their value add. With finance you’re competing with banks that take five days to do something interesting. With anything that’s not financial, chances are there is some internet thing that does what you want, that’s just centralized. So it’s a bit of a harder pitch.”

As examples of areas where blockchain can catch on beyond finance, Vitalik isolated digital identity, reputation and digital certificates in particular — all of which have use cases that are not necessarily confined to the use of cryptocurrencies or financial markets.

In his further discussion on the current state of blockchain adoption, Buterin appealed to event attendees to identify real-world applications that are developing “not just in theory, but on the ground.” Audience examples included micro-insurance, non-fungible tokens and gaming.

On the latter, Buterin said that while many people are committed to blockchain innovation from their conviction that it can tackle real-world problems with positive social impact, entertainment use cases such as gaming are valuable areas where the technology can draw high numbers of early adopters.   

Speaking of his personal commitments, Buterin highlighted decentralized applications (DApps), which allow multiple actors to share and cooperate on applications that are based on an underlying, decentralized blockchain protocol.

He proposed that the DApps use case can potentially redraw the existing technology and power landscape by leveraging a decentralized ecosystem to allow smaller players to compete with tech giants’ monopolies.

In a recent interview, Buterin stated he was trying to solve Bitcoin’s (BTC) limited functionality with the creation of Ethereum. He compared Bitcoin’s ability to do one thing and do it well, with the aspiration to make Ethereum more like a canopy for apps that can do almost anything.

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Blockchain Startup Civic Appoints Apple Veteran as Executive Director of Identity.com

Blockchain startup Civic has appointed Phillip Shoemaker as executive director of its Ethereum-based decentralized identity platform.

Blockchain startup Civic has appointed Apple veteran Phillip Shoemaker as executive director of Identity.com, its Ethereum (ETH) blockchain-based, decentralized identity platform. The news was announced in a press release published Dec. 13.

Identity.com is Civic’s open-source, decentralized and tokenized digital identity ecosystem that uses smart contracts to provide on-demand, blockchain-based identity validation.

Shoemaker joins the initiative after working over seven years as senior director of the Apple App Store Review team, which he reportedly built “from the ground up, taking his team from 4 to over 300 employees,” under the company leadership of founder Steve Jobs. Since leaving Apple in 2016, he has worked advising multiple blockchain projects and startups.

The company has said the appointment comes at a “key time” as it prepares to add external organizations to its ecosystem, “both as collaborators and participants.”

According to the press release, Shoemaker’s responsibilities will include managing identity.com’s objectives and team growth, “defining the parameters around the Civic relationship,” and taking charge of establishing a “governance structure” for the ecosystem that prioritizes “trust and transparency.”

Shoemaker’s other past experiences include a role as developer relations director at the open-source, neuroscientific software engineering firm Numenta, which has been working to reverse-engineer the neocortex to study how the brain works and evolve approaches to enhancing machine intelligence.

As previously reported, Shoemaker is not the only Apple veteran to embrace blockchain innovation; in October, the tech giant’s co-founder Steve Wozniak was announced as a co-founder of recently launched blockchain-focused venture capital fund EQUI Global, having made a solid endorsement of Bitcoin this summer, arguing that it is the only “pure digital gold.”

In October, Civic announced that credit report repair service Progrexion, along with its subbrands law firm Lexington Law and consumer advice portal Credit.com were set to use its blockchain identity solution, with the Civic (CVC) native token surging 22 percent in value following the news.

As of press time, CVC is trading at $0.050, down just over 6 percent on the day, according to CoinMarketCap.