Kicking of at 2am on the morning of Saturday 6th April was the Lightning Bolt-a-thon, a hackathon and online conference focusing on building software utilising the Lightning Payments Network.  Blockstack also offered a prize for developing on their platform, which brings decenralization to the internet.  Blockstack are veterans in the the area of Decentralised IDentities (DID) which is a major area of research for Runcrypto.

A hackathon is a competition where teams develop a piece of software over a short timeframe, a mashup of Hacking (to hack at a keyboard) and Marathon (an endurance event).

Whats a DID and why do I need them?

Identities are everywhere, your email/bank login for example, but these are not owned by you, they are owner by the service provider that provides you access to their services.  There is a community growing around developing self sovereign, decentralised identities that you own and control.

Just like with your existing identities, you’ll have many DID’s: for work, your gym, bank, … anywhere that you need to identify yourself.  They are replacements for your drivers license, passport, gym membership card, username and password on websites.

There are a number of advantages to DID’s:

  • avoid third party authentication (login with…google/facebook/twitter) that can then track your web activity
  • remove the need for companies to store private customer data in centralised databases, creating a target for identity thieves.
  • allow individuals to take control of their identities and how much they want to disclose

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Boltathon Project

Runcrypto teamed up with the developer behind, based in Thailand, to work on a project over 32hrs and deliver a presentation on it at the end. During the hackathon, the hosts also arrange a series of talks from key figures working on lightning implementations and projects.  I only managed to make the talk on c-lightning, a lightning payment network gateway, by Rusty Russell.  As the boltathon was coordinated from San Francisco, the talks were at unsocial hours for the UK (the c-lightning one started at 2am on Sunday) so will be catching up with the others over the next couple of weeks.

The project we worked on was to build a solution to extend the Blockstack Decentralised IDentity documents and allow another person or company to vouch for the data contained in it.  They provide a proof in the form of a digital signature which can be embedded in the document and our project allowed a link between the two parties to be binded to a lightning payment channel.  As long as the channel exists, the proof in the DID Document can be determined to be valid.  If the channel is closed, the link is destroyed and the proof in the DID document becomes invalid.

Use Cases

An employer needs to provide an employee with proof that they work for them.  The employer opens a payment channel with the employee and provides a document containing the channel id what will be used to verify the employee works for them.  The employee can then produce the document when challenged for proof that they work for the employer – when supporting customer systems for example.  When the employment is terminated then the employer closes the payment channel and the document is invalid.

DID Documents with proofs are especially beneficial when looked at from a healthcare point of view.  Many elderly and vulnerable people rely on care providers to visit them at home to administer medication or support them living.  The carers visiting the home are not consistent and so new faces come and go all the time, this system would help protect those already in a vulnerable position to be confident that they are letting carers into their homes and not thieves who target them.

Project Status

It was an ambitious goal to get the project finished in the timeframe and there were a few issues that we ran into that forced a change of direction (and underlying software) but we managed to build a sound foundation to continue on.  Plans are over the next couple of weeks to publish the software on the Blockstack platform and continue active development alongside our payment gateways so watch this space!