Innovate UK has rewarded the Polish-British Billon Group a £50,000 grant with the aim of creating blockchain certificates to keep the economy open while protecting personal data.
The Fast Start Competition by Innovate UK was launched by the government to build a distributed ledger platform to store COVID-19 related certificates to support workers’ safe return to the workplace.
By the end of August, Billon says they will provide a fully functioning prototype for publishing, sharing and verifying a wide array of workplace training or medical test documents as a back-end system for any company or governmental issuer of certificates.
Chief Growth Officer of Billon David Putts commented:
“Billon wants to do its part to get employees back to work safely and for the economy to stay open. With this project, we want to encourage companies and health organisations to provide proper training and testing and to take advantage of new blockchain and identity management technology to equip people to prove they have an authentic certificate — while hiding private data from those that would exploit it. We need solutions that protect people and their data. This project will deliver such a solution.”
With businesses and governments around the world struggling to limit the health and economic impact of the pandemic, the solution addresses three key challenges:
- How to prove who has completed training or has a test result (including linking multiple certificates to an identity),
- How to ensure the privacy of individual’s personal health and work records, and
- How to provide proof in a hands-free or reduced contact manner.
The team aims to build a plug-and-play solution that augments any existing issuer of a certificate by providing the distributed ledger innovation behind the scenes. Companies will be able to connect their existing systems via APIs, so there would be minimal integration. Users would be able to control their certificates on their mobile phones and show them, when needed, in a user-friendly way.
Dr. Ian Campbell, Executive Chair, Innovate UK, stated:
“Businesses from all over the UK have answered our call rapidly to meet the challenges we face today and in the future through the power of innovation. The ideas we have seen can truly make a significant impact on society, improve the lives of individuals and enable businesses to prosper in challenging circumstances.”
Public bodies, such as health organizations, could certify essential standards for returning to work — for example, that a worker has completed specialized training or has medically established COVID-19 immunity. Companies who train their workers, such as airlines, can issue certificates. Issuers of other professional, vocational or education certificates, diplomas, licenses, certified statements and other documents can also make use of Billon’s distributed ledger technology to ensure workplace safety. The goal is to allow certificate holders to safely go back to work while businesses have certainty that employees undertook required training or tests.
“It’s an approach similar to that taken by other Billon clients, including the Polish credit reporting bureau BIK, energy company Tauron, and the Polish chapter of IEEE, which all use Billon’s trusted document management system to store and publish high-value documents on-chain,” added Putts.
While the global debate continues over the privacy implications of many other approaches to pandemic tracking, the Billon team says their solution uniquely applies distributed ledger (blockchain) technology to deliver immutable, tamper-free solutions designed to comply with GDPR and other privacy regulations.
“Certificates are linked to the identity of the user, encrypted with keys that only the user and the issuer can use so that other companies using the platform, or even the network administrator, cannot see any private data.”
Document validity can be programmed for a specific duration or other guidelines. The ledger ensures that each certificate will be automatically updated as the pandemic situation evolves.
Against the backdrop of ongoing social distancing, Billon’s ability to make documents available for trusted verification without the need for personal contact could reduce administrative burdens and overcome obstacles to re-employment. The ability to ensure quick and trusted verification is also key to providing a safe environment for everyone, limiting the spread of the virus.
Billon is one of 800 projects selected from more than 8,600 applications to the Fast Start Competition launched in April by Innovate UK. Grants provide technology and research-focused businesses resources to develop new ways to work; to build resilience in industries such as delivery services, food manufacturing, retail and transport; and to support people at home during the coronavirus outbreak. Other projects to benefit from the funding include virtual reality training platforms for surgeons, virtual farmers’ markets and other innovations born of the coronavirus pandemic.
Billon created the first enterprise DLT system which unifies national currency transactions, document management, and identity management into a single architecture. We solved the challenge to allow banks to use blockchain for national currency applications, and we also encrypt documents and data on-chain, unleashing the transformational capacities of blockchain technologies in the regulated world. Billon’s underlying protocol was designed for high-performance and to support tangible business results in the areas of Accounts & Transactions, Trusted Documents, and Identity & Data Sharing.
Billon Group Ltd. was founded in the UK in 2015, following several years of R&D in Poland. Its unique DLT protocol has been supported by many R&D grants, including the EU Horizon 2020 program. Billon is licensed to issue electronic money by regulators in the UK and Poland.
Billon recently completed its Series A financing, and its growing client list includes leading companies such as FIS, Raiffeisen Bank International and BIK (the Polish credit office). Billon has offices in London and Warsaw. For more information, visit www.billongroup.com.
About Innovate UK
Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. We connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth. We fund business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D. Our support is available to businesses across all economic sectors, value chains and UK regions. Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation. For more information visit www.innovateuk.ukri.org.