Mark G. Haley
Nov 1, 2021

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Last issue, we outlined the concepts of decentralized digital identity (DDID) and introduced the Hospitality & Travel Special Interest Group (H&T SIG) of the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF), the body actually working on making the promise of Decentralized Digital Identity a reality. See Whose Data Is It Anyway?, HU Summer 2021.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Mark G. Haley
Nov 1, 2021

Last issue, we outlined the concepts of decentralized digital identity (DDID) and introduced the Hospitality & Travel Special Interest Group (H&T SIG) of the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF), the body actually working on making the promise of Decentralized Digital Identity a reality. See Whose Data Is It Anyway?, HU Summer 2021.

Today’s article will explore actual use cases documented  by the H&T SIG. This is the exciting part. DDID’s transformative potential starts to come to life when you understand how it can change not just the hospitality and travel experience, but potentially any commercial interaction more complex than buying a cup of coffee – and maybe even that one, too!

First, however, we’ll do a quick recap of the core concepts from the previous article.

Decentralized ID Definition and Organizations  You may hear DDID called self-sovereign identity (SSI). Think of it as a collection of technologies and processes that together enable the consumer to maintain an authoritative and trusted set of credentials and claims (W3C decentralized identifiers, or DIDs) about who they are and what they do or have done.

It’s “decentralized” and “self-sovereign” because the consumer owns and controls an identity hub where their credentials and claims are stored. Also, there are attestations from trusted sources (like a hotel loyalty program, the passport office, or the department of motor vehicles) that these credentials are accurate, and the claims are true.

Underlying technologies include decentralized public key encryption infrastructure (DPKI) and blockchain, among others. Assume the consumer has a user agent, presumably a mobile phone wallet app, to manage their DIDs and control who sees them.

Key tenets and assumptions include:

  • These are peer-to-peer transactions, sending and accepting the credentials
  • They’re decentralized, with cryptographic attestations that the credentials are accurate and can be accepted without needing to go back to a central data store
  • The consumer controls who sees what credentials and when, much like you control who sees your driver’s license or credit cards in your physical wallet
  • Interoperability and open standards are essential to adoption and utilization

There’s a large, active community of companies working in this space, from household name enterprises (like Microsoft) to obscure startups. Some forge ahead largely on their own (like Apple, we think); others work in conjunction with standards bodies like W3C (also known as the World Wide Web Consortium, the standards body for how the web works) and the DIF. This non-profit houses the Hospitality & Travel SIG, among others; along with numerous working groups focused on specific technical areas rather than verticals like the SIGs. The H&T SIG is led by people well known to the readers of these pages, including Doug Rice, Nick Price, Mark Fancourt, Gillian Jones, and myself, not to mention numerous other active members.

Use Cases The H&T SIG’s initial work has been to document potential use cases illustrating how DID could serve the guest and host. These use cases have two primary purposes:

  • Provide requirements for hospitality and travel applications to DIF Working Groups
  • Motivate travel providers and their technology suppliers to adopt these tools. To date, there are four published or soon-to-be-published use cases:
  • This is Me and I’m Entitled to a Discount
  • On-Demand Profile Element Sharing
  • Verified Stay – Corporate Travel
  • Travel Disruption

Let’s take a quick look at each!

"This is Me and Iím Entitled to a Discount" The crux of this use case if that our user, Bob, is entitled to discounts on hotel room rates for various reasons:

  • His employer has a negotiated rate
  • He’s a AAA member
  • Because of his age – 66

Without DDID and a smart user agent, Bob would need to wade through numerous hotel and OTA web sites to see which privilege would give him the best rate and the best hotel in the best location for his purposes. With DID, the entire process becomes streamlined:

The user’s agent wallet app allows him to search multiple sites with complex requests. It also lets the hotel make him a dynamic, personalized offer. He is in the center of the interaction. The hotel company always has accurate, current, curated personally identifiable information (PII) about him, without the expense and risk of storing all of it. They get what they need when they need it.

On-Demand Profile Element Sharing  This universal use case applies not only to hospitality and travel, but also to banking, finance, insurance, media and almost all other B2C customers. Bob is moving! And all the firms that he does business with need to know. This includes not only hotel and airline loyalty programs, but banks, investment firms, insurance companies, healthcare providers, newspapers, magazines and more.

Without DDID, Bob would have to identify all these providers and figure out how to contact each one individually. With DDID, he opens his user agent and tells it to notify his trading partners of his new address, then goes back to reading the sports page.

Imagine a variation in which Bob only wants to notify one provider of a change. Perhaps he breaks a toe and wants to change his hotel room preference for an upcoming trip from “away from elevator” to “near elevator.” This simplifies his life immensely and allows his service providers to deliver a better experience.

Verified Stay - Corporate Travel  Alice usually stays in hotels on corporate rates. But if she can get a better rate from an OTA, she’ll book that and apply the savings to her department’s budget. She also identifies herself as an employee of Acme Corporation to get the benefits of automated expense reporting under DDID. After checkout, the hotel’s identity hub sends a verified credential to Alice’s user agent with folio detail. She can then send reimbursable expenses to her company’s system to expedite her payment.

Sometimes she goes to a new hotel that doesn’t recognize her as a frequent traveler. Her user agent can summarize her travel over the last year or so and prove to the new property that she stayed in hotels for 88 nights. They know it’s true because the verified stays are all cryptographically signed by the hotels she stayed in.

The verified credential also can serve as proof-of-stay to a DDID-enabled review site. Alice’s TripAdvisor review gets flagged as coming from a verified stayer, and thus is more reliable than non-verified reviews.

Travel Disruption Suppose Bob is going to New York City on business. He has a car arranged to take him from the airport to the hotel and a dinner reservation with an important client. His flight gets diverted for weather reasons. The airline rebooks him on another flight that arrives much later in the evening. His checked luggage doesn’t make the connection.

Bob’s user agent can solve a lot of problems for him. It can:

  • Tell the airline what hotel to send his luggage to
  • Tell the car service the new flight number and arrival time
  • Tell the hotel Bob’s new ETA
  • Cancel reservations at the hot new restaurant, re-book for the next night and notify his client of the change in plans

Can We Really Do All This? Well, no, not really. At least not yet. These use cases are admittedly aspirational. They’re intended to show what could be possible, given the adoption of DDID technologies. But once we embrace this platform, any one of these things becomes readily achievable. These possibilities are why we see decentralized digital identity as a transforming technology, like TCP/IP, web browsers, mobile telephony, or email. Don’t get left behind!

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