Cybersecurity

DHS turns to small businesses to tap blockchain tech

Shutterstock image (by NREY): digital fingerprint identification.

The Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate has awarded $100,000 each in preliminary funding to four small companies tasked with using blockchain technology to support identity management.

Blockchain is the decentralized global public ledger system that underpins bitcoin transactions. Each successive block contains a cryptographic hash of the prior blocks. Nothing is ever erased.

DHS is looking to small innovators to help extend those secure capabilities beyond cryptocurrency. In an Aug. 12 statement, S&T said it had awarded the funding through its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

S&T Program Manager Anil John told FCW via email that the awards were S&T's first grants for blockchain technology research.

"A technology such as the blockchain, if it can be validated to be able to support the appropriate level of security and privacy, has potential applicability to multiple information sharing use cases within the homeland security enterprise," John said.

Beyond the initial $100,000 per-company SBIR award, each of the businesses could get further funding based on initial project results and the projects' scientific and commercialization potential, S&T said.

The directorate has been pursuing blockchain technology in innovative ways in the past few months. In June, it awarded a $199,000 contract to Factom to explore using blockchain to secure digital identities for Internet of Things devices.

The "Blockchain Software to Prove Integrity of Captured Data From Border Devices" project was awarded through the first solicitation under the agency's Silicon Valley Innovation Program. S&T launched the program last December to get innovative companies involved in helping solve its biggest technology issues.

The companies that received the latest blockchain funding awards are:

  • Digital Bazaar, for development of a linked data ledger format and architecture to demonstrate how to publish identity credentials.
  • Respect Network, to develop a decentralized registry and discovery service that integrates with the public blockchain.
  • Narf Industries, to work on an identity management solution built on a permission-less blockchain.
  • Celerity Government Solutions, to research blockchain solutions that enable users to establish and maintain trusted transactions with public and private organizations.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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