Blockchain is most commonly associated with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, but the distributed ledger technology is useful for many other purposes. One such use case for blockchain is in the identity and credential verification space, where it can be used to validate individuals' identities and key aspects of their background.
Identity and credential verification are especially necessary in hiring new employees. How do you know their resume is genuine? Did they really attend an Ivy League school? Are they misrepresenting their experience? Of course, you could always call past employers and alma maters directly, but when you're sorting through a large pool of candidates, that can be a difficult and costly endeavor.
After facing that challenge firsthand, one team decided to do something about it.
"We were involved with an international nonprofit organization and were looking to fill staffing needs based on the parameters they set out for us," said Morty Lempel, co-founder of idInfo Corporation. "We found it was very, very difficult to establish whether an individual was telling the truth on their resume. We were faced with either having to spend a lot of money to have a firm vet these credentials, taking a lot of time to do it ourselves, or just trusting the individual."
With no good solution to their problem, Lempel and his co-founders launched idInfo Corporation, a blockchain identity and credential verification company focused on validating educational attainment and work history claims made by job candidates. The company established a blockchain platform and set out to fill it with data directly from sources with tangible, verifiable records. That data would then be used to provide identity and credential verification services to individuals, employers and other organizations in need.
Blockchain as a disruptive data storage platform
For a fee, idInfo Corporation will store an organization's data on its blockchain platform. The organization, such as a higher education institution, retains ownership of its data but passes the burden of maintenance and storage on to idInfo Corporation. This is known as a blockchain-as-a-service model, and it's making its way into a variety of industries as a disruptive force. The idInfo Corporation blockchain platform's disruptive potential comes from the significant benefits it offers compared to the conventional, centralized storage methods higher education institutions employ today.
"Every educational institution stores an enormous amount of data about their students, their grades and so on," Lempel said. "It's all stored on their servers, but we know that centralized servers are not infallible. They are subject to data breaches, lost records, fraudulent modification, you name it – anything can happen to a central storage facility."
On a blockchain platform, data is decentralized. All the data stored on the blockchain since its creation is accessible to every user through every node. Similarly, blockchain platforms rely on consensus protocols, meaning the nodes must agree that a data transaction is valid before it is added to the blockchain. This means that even if a node is compromised, data cannot be altered or forged. To manipulate the data, an attacker would need to compromise every node on the blockchain, which is extremely difficult and unlikely to the point of near impossibility.
In much the same way, idInfo Corporation gathers data used for the verification of work history. Through strategic partnerships with organizations like PEO services and payroll processors, idInfo Corporation gathers direct evidence of individuals' previous employment, which can then be used for credential verification.
However, while idInfo Corporation's blockchain platform represents a disruption to conventional data storage, the idea itself is not altogether unique. It is what idInfo does with the data it stores, and how it rewards the higher education institutions it partners with, that brings its disruptive model to the next level.
Monetizing the data stored on idInfo's blockchain
As idInfo Corporation gathers more data, the second component of its service becomes apparent: identity and credential verification. idInfo Corporation's goal is to provide employers and other inquiring parties with a simple user interface for quickly and easily validating applicants' education and job history claims. Rather than calling universities, colleges and past employers directly, hiring managers need to merely query idInfo's app to see if the records exist to corroborate an applicant's claims.
"This service will be available to anybody who needs to verify somebody's work history or credentials," Lempel said. "It could be any range of companies, service providers, job recruiters and more. It could even be used to verify claims made on social media platforms or jobs boards."
The big challenge, Lempel said, is enticing data source partners to provide their data in the first place. While the promise of a superior storage solution and outsourcing management is enough for some, it might not be a strong enough draw for others. To further incentivize data source participation, idInfo Corporation established a revenue-sharing program that pays data source partners each time their data is queried. Data storage and maintenance is no longer a drain on institutional resources, Lempel said, but instead a new revenue stream.
"It's their data being utilized for our clients' purposes, so therefore they should share in that data's value," Lempel said. "It's a win-win for everybody."
In short, idInfo Corporation generates revenue for data storage and identity and credential verification services, employers and other inquiring organizations can be certain of the veracity of applicant claims, and the data source partners get a cut of the revenue.
Global demand for education and work history verification
There are more than 5,300 institutions of higher education in the U.S. alone. Globally, the number is up for debate but is certainly in the tens of thousands. That alone makes educational attainment verification an immense task for would-be employers. Verifying an applicant's work history is even more of a moving target: Unless an applicant provides a reference for their past employers, they could be exceedingly difficult to track down.
"There's a huge need for identity and credential verification out there," Lempel said. "If you're working for an international corporation and you're trying to hire someone, you might encounter 1,000 applicants from schools you've never heard of. This is a single place where you can verify all that information and ensure it's accurate before making any decisions."
According to Lempel, educational attainment and work history verification is just the start. As the world becomes ever richer in data, the risk of fraud and misrepresentation grows. Lempel sees idInfo Corporation as a defense against it and the expansion to other verticals as a natural progression into a globalized, digital future.
"This model certainly can be scaled to verify other types of information and can form a holistic view of the individual," he said. "In today's world, data is king, so what people say about themselves is very important. We provide the tools so you don't have to just take their word for it."