IdRamp is deploying blockchain identity management solutions across a variety of industries

From the earliest days of the internet, the most common practice for accessing protected information – your bank account, your subscription to an online news source, your social media accounts, among others—has been to create a username and password. This information is gathered, batched in a database with thousands (or in the case of Facebook BILLIONS) of others, and used to validate that you are who you say you are when you log in. While it has long been the accepted practice, it has never been fool-proof in authenticating the true identity of the person entering the information. Anyone with the correct combination of username and password, whether it be a person or a bot, can gain access to even the most sensitive information. And with this sensitive information stored in a single database, sometimes referred to as a silo, it is a target for hackers looking to steal identities. “Anytime you have a honeypot of data like that, people with bad intentions are going to do everything they can to get access to it,” says Mike Vesey, founder of blockchain identity management software development firm IdRamp. “Just the fact that it all sits in a single database makes it a massive target.”

Two-factor authentication, where a user has to enter a second code sent to a device like a smartphone, has helped to reduce the likelihood that stolen credentials are used to access private information, but it still has issues. There is a recent technology, however, that looks primed to change the game when it comes to authenticating identities. Among those on the leading edge of deploying this new technology in real-world situations is IdRamp, an Iowa company with offices in the Iowa State University Research Park.

Building a Better Security Solution
IdRamp provide blockchain-based identity management solutions that do everything from certifying the authenticity of an individual’s identity online to certification of products across industries ranging from education and finance to agriculture, government and more. “Over the years we have become very good at simplifying complex solutions,” Vesey says. IdRamp was founded in Indianola and has been in business for more than a decade. “The approach we take to our work is that security is not a premium feature, it is a responsibility. That is what drives us.”
The team is focused primarily on technologies that provide “self-sovereign” identity management. These decentralized solutions deploy blockchain-based systems to verify a person is who they say they are, without requiring a username or password with each login.

This method is virtually “unhackable” because it relies on decentralized networks verifying authenticity (as opposed to matching data to a massive database), and greatly reduces the cost of the data storage and information infrastructure required of the contemporary method.
“Our goal is to provide a light and flexible solution,” Vesey says. “We offer a product that is easy to manage, less expensive, and efficient to scale. There is true power in being able to provide independent validation. Really, the sky is the limit for this technology and for us at IdRamp.” With that in mind, the team began looking at other applications of the technology. Being based in Iowa, it made sense to explore how the blockchain could be used in agriculture. It didn’t take long to identify multiple use cases.

Expanding Its Reach
The team recently launched AgID, a blockchain-based platform designed to provide identity management throughout the agriculture, farming and livestock industries. The product automates certification, quality assurance and distribution across the supply chain.

The reception to the technology has been well received. “We are seeing a large appetite for new technology in the ag space,” says Eric Vinton who is steering development of the AgID product. “Innovation is happening across ag markets right now. AgID offers an opportunity for farmers and livestock producers to automate the way they certify their products, providing value add transparency in their operations and products. “This allows producers to build trust up and down the supply chain and compete in a different way,” Vinton continues. “We hear from those in the ag space all the time that if they don’t embrace transparency and traceability, they are going to get pushed out of the industry.” Industry demand is increasing for the kinds of solutions IdRamp provides. “When we go out and talk to new producers, they are technology minded people,” Vesey says. “They have never known a world without it. They are hungry for the kind of data, validation and
security solutions we provide.”

A Valuable Experience
The IdRamp team gives credit to the ISU Startup Factory for pushing them along in development of AgID. They were accepted into Cohort VI in January 2019. “We didn’t really know what to expect going in,” Vesey says. “We felt like we would make some connections and gain some access to talent to help us with development. We had no idea how strong the connections would turn out to be. We made more important connections here in the first three months than we had in the previous three years.”

Vesey says the team has been blown away by the networking opportunities and says the coaching from the Startup Factory team has helped IdRamp develop a clear vision for what it can become. “We have a transformational blue print for blockchain certification and identity management that applies to many industries” says Chief Operating Officer Karl Kneis. “We are now putting ag specific capabilities into the platform.”

With an office in the Research Park, having access to highly skilled software engineering students at Iowa State has also proven beneficial.

“Some of the best software engineers in the Midwest are coming out of Iowa State,” Vesey says. “We have access to talent and resources. The challenge for us now is keeping them in Iowa.”

The IdRamp team includes 11 employees spread between its offices in Ames and Indianola, and other locations scattered throughout the U.S and Offshore. As they continue to extract value from the curriculum and connections afforded by the Startup Factory, Vinton says they are
focused on delivering a solution to producers that will help them stand apart in a crowded marketplace.

“In the end, it all comes down to the consumer and they are asking for more and more transparency in how a commodity is produced, how it is transported, and how it winds up on the shelves at the store,” Vinton says. “Consumers want to know the products they use are safe.”

“AgID provides a trail of information that certifies what they are buying is everything the producers says it is,” Kneis adds. “If producers can get consumers fired up and bought into this type of validation, they can change the industry.”