Grid project aims to move, secure digital assets just like currency

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) has unveiled a prototype for a Digital Asset Grid that would give individuals and companies privacy and secure asset exchange.
Written by John Fontana, Contributor

A member-owned financial services cooperative operating for the past forty years has unveiled a grid for securely exchanging the millennium’s emerging currency: personal data.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) last week in Japan showed off its Digital Asset Grid (DAG) prototype, a platform that provides bank-grade identity, privacy and security for the global exchange of any digital asset – structured or unstructured – among any number of people, businesses or devices.

“Data assets and social data capital, that is the new wealth of the future,” Peter Vander Auwera, project lead for SWIFT’s DAG project said in a documentary video released along with the prototype.

The DAG prototype was rolled out by SWIFT’s innovation division, Innotribe, last week at the co-op’s Sibo conference, which brings together leaders in the financial industry to collaborate on the future.

The idea is that data classified as a valuable asset should be exchanged with the same privacy and security banks rely on today to share financial dealings.

The prototype was unveiled in conjunction with Kynetx, Respect Networks, Ctrl-Shift, Xenapto, and Fidor Bank.

For example, Kynetx showed a series of personal clouds connected as part of a transaction and secured via DAG, Xenapto ran a system connecting investors and entrepreneurs , Respect Networks operated a contact management system synchronized across the grid and Fidor Bank showed off  FidorSafe, the first personal data store offered by a licensed bank.

“We need a system like DAG, not just a way to transfer docs because we have done that for years, but a way on the Internet to process digital assets between distributed players that is trustworthy and secure,” said Phil Windley, chief technology officer of Kynetx, who has been working with DAG for six months.  “Partners don’t want to have to buy off on the same provider or try to manage public key infrastructure; that hasn’t worked. So what is that way, that is what DAG is exploring.”

Windley noted it’s a big job. The current DAG prototype still has a lot of work in front of it, but the financial community is eager to learn.

Windley said Citibank executives at the DAG demo said “it’s a brand new world out there and we need to get with it or become irrelevant.”

In essence, DAG is a map to the locations where data is stored, a trust framework that governs who has access to the grid, a digital identity infrastructure to control  who has access to the framework, and privileges those identities have under the framework.

On top of that, DAG offers opportunities for third parties to add applications built around the exchange of digital assets, such as buying/selling a vehicle or interacting with a doctor.

The grid envisions tens of millions of nodes, or clouds, interacting between each other or among one another.

SWIFT is building on 40 years of knowledge gained by moving the financial messages for banks, securities institutions and corporate customers in more than 200 countries.

It is a Belgium-based, industry-owned co-operative that serves more than 10,000 financial customers and moves more than four billion messages a year within a closed environment.

Innotribe intends to create a business around providing the Internet-based DAG with the governance, liability, security, identity and policy services SWIFT is known for in financial services.

DAG was designed in collaboration with the SWIFT banking community, including Citibank, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Deutsche Bank, Erste Group, Société Générale, BNP Paribas Fortis and Crédit Agricole Cards & Payments.

The appeal for the banks is the opportunity to create new business using the transaction process with which they are familiar but moving digital assets instead of financial assets.

As personal data and privacy issues are spawning debates across the globe, DAG is positioned to take on the role of giving individuals and companies control over their sensitive personal data.

Kosta Peric, head of innovation at SWIFT and co-founder of Innotribe, said in a statement, “The Digital Asset Grid will provide ground-breaking opportunities for both customers and banks. The aim of showcasing the research project at Sibos will help to generate support from the banking industry and develop the initiative further.”

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