May 30, 2019
The Sovrin Foundation is dedicated to building a global, decentralized identity platform that provides ‘Identity for All’, whether that be for people, organizations, or things. Our global network of Sovrin Stewards includes more than 60 organizations that have joined us in our mission to transform the digital identity landscape through emerging technologies.
One such Steward is Fetch.ai. Converging the capabilities of AI, blockchain, and multi-agent systems, Fetch.ai works to create a decentralized digital world where autonomous agents perform transactions on their own behalf or on behalf of their owners. Fetch.ai uses Sovrin verifiable credentials to establish a stronger layer of trust between interacting agents.
We took a deep dive into this decentralized, intelligent economy with Fetch.ai CTO Toby Simpson.
Sovrin Foundation: Can you tell me a little bit about Fetch.ai? What problem(s) is it aiming to solve?
Toby Simpson: Fetch.ai is building an intelligent blockchain for solving complex multi-stakeholder problems. Our decentralized economic network powers autonomous decision-making in an interconnected machine-to-machine digital world of agents representing people, businesses, and things. Agents work on Fetch.ai’s agnostic platform to make decisions based on data insights and predictions.
To do this, we are developing the largest decentralized environment ever constructed—designed to enable billions of agents to work independently of human intervention to solve complex problems. Using unique collective intelligence, Fetch.ai breaks down the data silos that currently exist solely in the hands of large multinational companies. By granting everyone access to this data, Fetch.ai can drive the new digital economy to reach its full potential. From planning travel itineraries, to enabling smart mobility and efficient energy, our autonomous agents proactively identify opportunities and improve efficiency.
SF: Why did Fetch.ai become a Steward of the Sovrin Network?
TS: Fetch.ai and Sovrin share a common ambition to return control of identity, the credentials associated with it, and the claims made against it to the individual. We believe everyone should be able to choose which data they share and who they share it with. By becoming a trusted operator of a node on the Sovrin Network, we demonstrate our commitment to responsible data stewardship and have the opportunity to further integrate machine identity into the Fetch.ai digital world.
SF: What is ANVIL? What is so unique about it?
TS: Outlier Ventures, in conjunction with Fetch.ai and Sovrin, recently unveiled ANVIL—software that shows the synergy between Fetch.ai and Sovrin. Currently, Fetch.ai delivers trust and reputation information based on an agent’s activity over time. ANVIL allows us to take this one step further by using the verifiable claims and credentials provided by Sovrin. This enables Fetch.ai autonomous agents to work in a trusted environment by delivering machine-readable credentials to prove they have the qualifications that they claim to have but without unnecessarily leaking information that is not needed. This, for example, allows an agent representing a vehicle to prove it is authorized by the local authority to carry paying passengers and that it is insured and serviced. It allows agents representing a human to filter a list of restaurants by hygiene ratings and for people to prove they are at least 18 but without disclosing their date of birth. To do this, the construction, delivery, and use of verifiable credentials are essential to allow people and things to prove they are who they say they are, they possess what they say they possess, and they are qualified to do what they seek.
We provide high-level command APIs through our Open Economic Framework (the gateway to the network for autonomous agents) that deliver this information. Agents that wish to operate in a more trusted environment can refine their view on the digital world not just semantically, economically, temporally, or geographically but by risk—effectively making poorly behaving nodes and agents invisible to them.
ANVIL demonstrates how identity and verifiable credentials can transform the way that machines are able to interact with each other. With just a handful of lines of code, agents are able to deliver and verify such claims, and this removes friction and increases the overall efficiency (and reliability) of interactions in the digital economy.
SF: Can you explain in more detail how Fetch.ai works with the Sovrin Network?
TS: Fetch.ai agents are able to find each other and transact. This search-and-discovery is provided by the Fetch Open Economic Framework, and it allows semantic, location-based, and economic factors to filter the list of other agents that are returned by a search. From this perspective, the Open Economic Framework acts as a constantly learning mechanism that is able to optimally connect a value provider with another agent that wishes to purchase that value. Agents have a reputation—this is established over time by many factors, including the actions they take and those who they take them with. This information is available to agents to allow them to search based on risk profile. Integrating Sovrin provides another layer to this trust environment—two agents are able to transact based on a verifiable credential. One, the value provider (or seller), is able to prove they have the credential to back the service that they sell, and the other, the buyer, is able to verify this credential. Additionally, there is an issuer of the credential (who may revoke it, e.g., driving licence authority, insurance provider, etc.) and a Steward (part of the Sovrin Network) that establishes the network of trust. ANVIL demonstrates how Sovrin can be integrated into the transaction process by connecting the two systems together so that the prover, the agent verifying the credential, the issuer of the credentials, and Sovrin Stewards (the core maintainers of the Sovrin Network) are able to work together.
SF: Why is self-sovereign identity (SSI) so important?
TS: Self-sovereign identity allows people to interact in the digital world with the same freedom and capacity for trust as they do in the offline world. By allowing individuals to manage the elements that make up their identity and control access to those credentials, they retain power over the use of their personal data.
SSI enables individuals to use their digital wallet to authenticate their identity using their credentials. This means they no longer have to cede control of personal information to dozens of databases each time they want to access goods and services. Their digital existence becomes independent of any organization, and no one can take it away.
Self-sovereign identity represents a monumental shift in how identity functions online. The number of IoT devices is estimated to reach 75 billion by 2025, and as the amount of data that is exchanged grows, it becomes ever more important that individuals and organizations are able to exchange their credentials as securely, flexibly, and cheaply as possible.
SF: Where do you see Fetch.ai in five years?
TS: Fetch.ai moves control and power from the center of the network to those at the outside, giving ownership of our data and identity back to us. Our autonomous agents also allow solutions to complex problems to emerge. We’re creating a world where an endless population of digital assistants exist, delivering what you need directly to you.
###Use case spotlight: Verifiable credentials from Mattr Sovrin Technology: Zero Knowledge Proofs for All »