DHS exploring 5 additional blockchain use cases
The Department of Homeland Security’s research arm needs to extend its recent testing of blockchain technology to deter forgery and counterfeiting of certificates and licenses.
The Science and Technology Directorate published a five-year other transaction solicitation (OTS) by its Silicon Valley Innovation Program for recommendations from blockchain startups in 2018. Still, agencies have since recognized five additional uses.
The directorate reissued the OTS on June 9, this time for solutions particular to the requirements of the DHS Privacy Office (PRIV), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). “After Phase 1 awards on the first release of this call, DHS operational components provided additional scenarios where these technologies could be used to enhance their operations,” said Melissa Oh, managing director of SVIP, in a statement. “This second release underscores the tremendous benefit of the department’s strategic investments in new commercial technologies — for both DHS and innovation communities.”
Desired blockchain programs
PRIV, CBP, and USCIS emphasized five new areas where blockchain — also acknowledged as distributed ledger technology (DLT) — could be of use:
The Privacy Office needs to expand its “reduction initiative” for Social Security numbers, which will utilize blockchain technology to recognize employees and contractors. Such technology could guarantee the identifier is insignificant alone but globally unique, protective of sensitive or personally identifiable information, shareable across agencies, and interoperable with future commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products.
CBP produced three potential blockchain use cases, including one to help the agency verify data from food importer documentation to assure illegal or harmful products don’t enter the country. Blockchain could make the process paperless, expediting up inspections, so food doesn’t rot while still applying appropriate duties.
A second CBP scenario would recognize blockchain streamline the complex process of tracking and tracing natural gas purchases by providing for paperless identification of industry and government transactors, combining import and export documents such as purchase orders and bills of lading, simplifying in-bond processing, and standardizing port reporting.
The final CBP use case proposes utilizing blockchain to help the agency with the processing of 1.8 million express consignment and international mail shipments a day. Increasing low-value shipments requires innovation to catch illegal items like drugs and unsafe beauty products entering the U.S., so CBP wants to introduce supply chain data earlier in the process while automating duty payments.
USCIS also offered a scenario for blockchain to improve essential workers self-identify while performing emergency response or supply chain duties remotely through the coronavirus pandemic. The use case could enlarge to applicants for citizenship, asylum, or immigration benefits who require access to DHS offices. Blockchain could digitize vaccination records or validate travel eligibility.
Winning proposals will get awards between $50,000 and $200,000, covering six to nine months of work with successful projects moving on by five subsequent phases with similar funding — $800,000 maximum. Phase 1 is rapid prototyping to meet the challenge, two further development to demonstrate viability, three demonstration and functional and red team testing, four operational testing and evaluation in multiple user scenarios, and five additional operational testing possibly in new environments.
“Industry is leading the way in the development of these technologies, as many see implementing blockchains and DLTs as a key competitive advantage,” reads the solicitation. “The private sector’s significant investments and the ability to adopt technologies and processes faster than the public sector has presented the government with a key decision point on how to best participate in this growing field.”