The Growing Progress of the Open Wallet Movement
What do we mean by an “open” wallet?
In contrast to proprietary technology or a “walled garden,” an open wallet ecosystem enables individuals to move their data freely across the internet – with the ability to safely and privately share information with trusted brands, peers and devices. If an individual switches from Apple to Android, or vice versa, they should be able to take their wallet with them – just as they can transfer money between banks. If you think of digital wallets as the keys to your digital life, then an open wallet ensures that these keys can never be “locked in” to a proprietary wallet. The individual is always in control.
OpenWallet Foundation (OWF) recently published its definition of what it means to build a truly, “open” wallet community. This is an effort Gen strongly supports because, as a founding Premier member of the OWF, we believe it is critical to the growing open wallet movement.
To explain why this matters, let’s start with something more familiar: a physical wallet. If you think of the wallet, clutch or purse you use every day, you likely have a variety of paper or plastic cards that can be used to either make a purchase or prove your identity. These wallets come in all sorts of shapes and carry different brand names and security features, like RFID blocking, but ultimately, they are a vessel for carrying these payment and identity cards. If you’re at checkout, it makes no difference to the retailer what brand your wallet is, and you can move your cards from one wallet to another with no impact.
A digital wallet is much the same, except instead of being restricted to pocket-sized cards, you can now store any type of digital document, from diplomas to deeds. There is a growing movement across the public and private sectors to digitize paper records and make them easier to securely share online using digital wallet technology. Most notably, we’re seeing a new specification for mobile driver licenses available in select US states, which can already be stored in an Apple or Google Wallet. We’re also seeing a host of individual brands offering their own digital wallets to enable a variety of use cases, from omnichannel authentication to loyalty programs.
While we’re still in the early days, we believe digital wallets – and the ability they represent for individuals to be able to control their data – will be a cornerstone of the future of our digital world. They could become just as important as the browsers and smartphone apps you use every day. They could arguably be even more important because the wallet will become the primary tool through which individuals maintain their digital security, protect their digital privacy and assert their digital autonomy.
Your digital wallet will contain the “keys to your kingdom”— the cryptographic keys you will use to securely unlock everything in your digital life, from your devices and files to your accounts and services. Your wallet will also contain the set of verifiable digital credentials that you need to provide proof of your identity and permissions at all the various sites and services you use — just like you need the credentials in your physical wallet today to board a plane, rent a car and reserve a hotel room.
Forty years ago, the open internet started unlocking billions of dollars in new value for people, businesses and governments all over the world. In the 2000’s, the open web repeated the feat, unlocking trillions more in value.
The next step is the open wallet era — and it is well on its way. For example, on its six-month anniversary last week, the OpenWallet Foundation (OWF) announced two milestones: the addition of Google as the newest Premier member and the contribution of digital wallet code components from the Modular Open Source Identity Platform (MOSIP), an open-source platform for national scale digital identity systems.
Open wallet infrastructure is poised to generate tremendous value yet again for our digital world — while at the same time giving us a powerful new tool for solving many of our deepest cybersecurity, privacy and digital equity problems.
At Gen, we consider open wallets to be closely aligned with our purpose of powering Digital Freedom, and it’s why we’re so proud to support the work of the OpenWallet Foundation. Beyond the OWF, members of our Digital Trust Services group are also leading work on open standards for digital wallets and trust infrastructure at the World Wide Web Consortium, the Decentralized Identity Foundation and the Trust Over IP Foundation. We’re also a very active contributor to one of the large-scale pilots for the European Digital Identity Wallet Initiative (eIDAS 2.0), which emphasizes the importance of openness, portability, and interoperability.
We invite you to join us in building a strong and resilient open wallet community.