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Digital Identity Isn’t Only For People

Forbes | David G.W. Birch | Dec 22, 2020

cartoon - Digital Identity Isn’t Only For PeopleWhy Not An Apple ID For Your Dog?

We spend a lot of time talking about digital identity for people and speculating about whether Apple ID or federated Bank ID or centralised Government ID is the best implementation. But in the new online world, there are a great many things other than people that will need to have digital identities in order to participate in a functioning post-industrial economy. Things, for example. Artificial Intelligences. Bots will need identities. In fact I'm writing a book about this at the moment. It's called "Will Robots Need Passports?" and it will be out next year sometime.

(And the answer, as I am sure you already know, is "yes". Spoiler alert: robots will need passports because they will need to have authorisation to access resources.)

What other things will need identities? Well, I read with great interest a report in the Times of India about a new smartphone app that farmers can use to check information about cattle. This was developed in response to an appeal from Prime Minister Modi for a means to reduce cattle theft. As you probably know, India already has a national identity number for people and it has worked pretty well, providing a low-cost mechanism to establish the unique identities of citizens and thereby contribute to the goal of financial inclusion which (as everyone knows) is an identity problem. Therefore, it would seem logical to give animals a number too.

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But how do you tell Napoleon from Snowball? Well, specific information "unique to each animal" like the footprint, height, weight, colour and tail hair is recorded in the software and a unique ID is generated. As one of the designers of the Indian app notes, the animal ID "is very useful when insuring cattle", which is a good point. I am slightly surprised that, all other things being equal, they didn't put the IDs on a quantum-resistant blockchain in the cloud, but that's probably version 3.

We don't spend anything like enough time thinking about the digital identity of animals. The biometric identification of animals and the association of a digital identity with individual beasts clearly has significant economic value which, in turn, means fintech opportunities.

Old MacDonald Had A Farm Supply Chain, G-I-G-I-O

I don't know how unique animal footprints are, so I cannot comment on adjusting the false accept and false reject rates for optimal barnyard efficiency, but I do know that face recognition might be a quicker and more efficient way to tell one cow from another not only for tracking but also for detecting diseases or finding lost animals. The identification can then also been used to feed into databases to offer consumers more transparent information about the origin of their food and ensure the animals have been well-treated.

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I’m not sure if I really want to scan the barcode on my rib of beef and have the system pull up a picture of the cow grazing peacefully, but if some people do then why not give it a try? There are plenty of “blockchain” startups out there right now trying to track food from source to table and perhaps animal digital identity is what they need to automate for efficient data entry (after all, garbage in, garbage that’s now immutable out: GIGIO).

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