Carrying Your COVID-19 Credentials in a Physical “Wallet”

Tangem, a CCI participating company extended the use of their NFC-enabled cards from storing digital currencies to verifiable credentials

James Loperfido, Director of Business Development @Tangem

Edited by Celia Yeung, Chief Marketing Officer @ID Lynx; Coordination & Comms @CCI

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Photo from shop.tangem.com

We are all painfully aware of the economic and social restrictions imparted on us as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to reopen offices, restaurants, local private and public facilities — and most importantly, international borders — will likely require a flexible, interoperable, and ubiquitous system that preserves individual agency and privacy. The COVID-19 Credentials Initiative (CCI) focuses its efforts on supporting technology projects that work to meet these requirements through the utilization of W3C compliant ‘Verifiable Credentials (VCs)’, a tamper-evident credential that has authorship that can be cryptographically verified.

To contain further spread of the virus and restart the economy effectively, broad access and participation in contact tracing, testing, and other programs are necessary, and a reliable system for managing vaccination records is critical when vaccines become available. Many countries or health institutions are still using traditional approaches like paper certificates, email, and websites to communicate proofs of COVID-19 status of their citizens. However, new digital alternatives, which are cryptographically secure and privacy-preserving — that ensure veracity, portability and interoperability — are emerging.

As always, new technologies come with new challenges. One of the key success factors of implementing mass verifiable health credentials for targeted groups or the general public, like COVID-19 testing or vaccination results, is the availability and accessibility of the technologies. This means the issuing parties of the credentials, i.e. government authorities or health institutions, should consider and provide solutions to individuals who are less tech-savvy, don’t have constant internet access, or simply do not own a smartphone. Otherwise, their rights and needs to re-engage in society will be limited. Ideally, from a public safety and disease control perspective, someone with a digital or physical wallet that contains their verifiable COVID-19 test results or vaccination credentials could potentially grant them access to private and public facilities or places, such as hospitals, stadiums, nursing homes, train stations, airports, etc, without worries of spreading the virus further. This could be a crucial solution for people to resume their lives socially and for the government to restart the economy locally and globally.

To that end, Tangem, a Swiss company that enables universal access to digital assets, has been working diligently to expand the capabilities of its NFC-enabled card. Originally intended for personal custody and payments, the card can be used as a physical wallet/storage of digital ID in the form of Verifiable Credentials.

Tangem has a vertically integrated technology stack that is a unique combination of card-based hardware, firmware, and mobile applications capable of signing transactions directly to almost any database. It presents a physical solution for Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) that is conformant to FIDO and W3C standards. With respect to COVID-19 mitigation, this inexpensive hardware wallet enables anyone to physically take ownership of their own testing history, vaccination records, and other credentials to ensure no one is excluded by this new technology.

This video demonstration shows a reference UX flow with Tangem’s own ID application. However, the functionality of the Tangem cards can be embedded in any mobile app through open source SDKs. Tangem continuously seeks enterprise partnerships to bring innovative solutions to the market and has considered the needs for interoperability and flexibility in its products’ deployment. Its involvement in the CCI is no exception.

Tangem participates in CCI for a few reasons. Firstly, Tangem believes in the foundation of SSI as a precursor to irrevocable civil rights and liberties. Its potential to create interoperability through global standards allows for flexibility and portability among systems and solutions by which all will benefit. Most importantly, CCI is seeking to solve a critical issue that can potentially result in reopening borders, offices and public facilities more quickly and spurring economic activities in a way that respects individual privacy. Thus, Tangem seeks to partner with software providers and solutions that need a physical component capable of offline issuance/verification/presentation of VCs.

Storing VCs in a hardware wallet controlled by the holder has invaluable implications. Agency, control, selective disclosure, and portability are critical factors in the issuance, verification, maintenance, and presentation of digital identity credentials. Like a physical ID card, these qualities can now be imparted to anyone in the world, even if they do not have a smartphone or constant internet access. Ubiquitous distribution, as we now know, is a prerequisite for solving supranational problems like COVID-19 credentialing given the important role SSI plays in making these credentials universally acceptable. Presenting a COVID-19, or any credential, is as simple as tapping a Tangem card to any smartphone with relevant applications. Physical entry and secure access controls are solved with a powerful and simple UX because of the affordable price point.

The convergence of identity and payments is a foreseen phenomenon in the digital asset space and Tangem aims to enable self-sovereignty, privacy, and utility to individuals around the world. The unique value proposition of the hardware-based wallet is that the keys or DID can be self-generated within the chip using only the passive power of NFC contact. Therefore, no trusted manufacturing environment is required and dependents can rest assured that the DID or keys are unique and cannot be extracted. By doing so, Tangem hopes to leverage trustless attestations and uniqueness such that identity at a global scale can be easily solved. Currently, Tangem has several public use cases including the National Bank of Cambodia on Hyperledger, Aurus (tokenized gold), New Balance Real Chain (product authenticity).

To learn more about Tangem through a live demo and Q&A, please join the upcoming CCI use case group call at 10 am ET on Tuesday, November 10. If you are not an existing member of the group, you can sign up by sending an email (no subject line or body text) to main+subscribe@usecaseimplementationCCI.groups.io, or you can register only for the bi-weekly calls by filling out this form to receive a calendar invite.

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Supporting projects that use privacy-preserving Verifiable Credentials (VCs) to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and strengthen our societies and economies.

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