Why we need to decentralize authentication?


#1

Hi everyone,

I’d really like to know why it’s better to have an authentication like the one between the drone and the smart windows (that happen through ethereum), with respect to classic authentication with PKI.

I know that the blockchain has a lot of potential, but I don’t get completely why it’s better than current solutions.
Some use cases would be perfect :slight_smile:

Thanks, enjoy your time
A


#2

Hi Alessandro,

Your question is great and gives me the opportunity to explain more about the drone video.

While authentication per se can be achieved via X.509 certificates, the blockchain extends their functionality with its properties of immutable ledger. Chronicled mission is to connect physical devices with strong cryptographic identities to the blockchain to support use cases where an immutable ledger is critical. A drone ecosystem is still in its early stage and it is difficult to predict how it will play out. Nevertheless, I will try to describe few concrete areas and examples which a drone ecosystem can benefit from a blockchain-based solution:

  • Compliance - In 10 year a lot of drones will be out in the sky. Regulators might want to make sure that these drones are operating according to appropriate rules. Compliance firms can install equipment to track drones. If the identity of the drone is confirmed, a mutually signed event can be written on the blockchain to certify that the drone was actually at that location at that time. With the immutability properties of the blockchain and a timestamp assigned by the consensus algorithm, we can prove that the event happened.
  • Automatic payments - With the blockchain we can tie the payment to a proven delivery event. When the delivery transaction is signed by both parties and registered on the blockchain, the credit card company can automatically confirm the payment that was previously booked on the credit card. Without mentioning the even more obvious case based on cryptocurrency and escrow executed by a smart contract working in conjunction with the registered drone and smart window.
  • Liability - Let’s imagine that the drone in the video was delivering a critical, maybe life-safer, drug to a patient. We want to record on an immutable ledger that the delivery actually happened. This is a strong use case for the blockchain: the drone is registered, a drug pickup transaction signed by the pharmacy and the drone is registered on the blockchain, the delivery transaction signed by the drone and the smart window is again registered on the blockchain. Again time-stamping and immutability are great properties that the blockchain can offer.
  • Interoperability - Smart contracts can help reducing friction while establishing drone delivery services across businesses. If each smart window needs to recognize drones from different companies, we are quickly building an integration nightmare. If transactions are happening on the blockchain, we can use smart contracts as an integration hub for drone operations.
  • Multipart authorizations - The business operating the drone that is delivering the drug might be different from the pharmacy. And pharmacies might be using multiple drone delivery services based on price and availability. How can the drone be authorized to enter? If the drone is registered on the blockchain, it is also ‘known’ to smart contracts. The smart contract is the control agent that can help the customer to authorize the pharmacy to deliver and allow the pharmacy to authorize an actual third-party drone to carry out the delivery. This is another case of interoperability but within the same ‘business transaction’.
  • Machine-to-machine (M2M) transactions - It is reasonable to assume that there will be a whole economy based on drone services. Startups might build charging station to allow drones to operate at a longer range. A drone with a blockchain identity can now have a ‘wallet’ or have access to its operating company wallet (access limited by smart contract logic). The drone can make automatic payments to the charging stations.
  • Secure identity enhanced by provenance - While X.509 certificates are a great authentication method, their stateless, peer-to-peer function might not provide the ultimate security. Drones can be sold, stolen or compromised with their signed identity on board. How do I know that the drone identity is still legit. If the change of ownership of a drone is tracked on the blockchain, if I can check that the drone is still in ‘good state’ on the blockchain, I have now augmented X.509 certificates with provenance. Before authorizing the drone I can run a ‘background check’.

Above examples are difficult to render on a short video and honestly not that fun to watch. We decided to keep it simple and pleasant. I hope that my answer provides more context and better ties a more classic X.509-based authentication with the blockchain. We see the blockchain as an extension of it and we are focused to build the platform that can help to leverage its benefits.

Maurizio


#4

Hi Maurizio,

I forgot to thank you for the detailed reply! You’ve highlighted a lot of interesting points :slight_smile: