DHS’s innovation program brings in 5 more blockchain startups

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Five more companies have been added to the Department of Homeland Security’s contract for developing ways that it can expand its use of blockchain and other distributed ledger technology (DLT) to modernize operations.

The awards are specifically for projects on preventing forgery and counterfeiting of certificates and licenses. The department’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) issued the solicitation earlier this year as a followup to a five-year other transaction solicitation (OTS) first presented in 2018.

DHS says the contracts will support the missions of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the DHS Privacy Office.

Interest in providing blockchain technology to governments continues to grow as agencies sort through the hype and size up available technologies. Blockchains store digital information in a distributed way that allows for full transparency about changes. The idea is that if blockchain technology can support the security of a digital currency like bitcoin, it also can serve as the backbone for a system of licenses or certificates.

The selected companies will receive $50,000 to $200,000 for Phase 1, proof-of-concept demonstrations of the requested technologies:

  • MATTR Limited, a startup based in Auckland, New Zealand, was awarded $200,000 to “help USCIS develop a capability to digitally issue and validate essential work and task licenses. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need for this capability,” SVIP says.
    Mesur IO, Inc., based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was awarded $193,612 to develop a capability to enhance CBP’s visibility of food supply chains.
  • Spherity GmbH, a Dortmund, Germany based startup, received $145,000 to develop a capability “to enhance CBP’s supply chain traceability of direct-to-consumer e-commerce shipments,” SVIP says.
  • SecureKey Technologies, a business based in Toronto, Canada, was awarded $193,000 to develop “an alternative identifier to the Social Security Number” to support the Privacy Office’s SSN Collection and Use Reduction initiative.
  • Mavennet Systems, Inc., also of Toronto, received $86,100 to support CBP by “improving the traceability of natural gas. Mavennet proposes to enhance their Neoflow platform to digitally trace natural gas supply chains between Canada and the U.S.,” SVIP says.

“The selected start-ups proposed innovative solutions to the problems, demonstrated a firm commitment to technical interoperability using global standards from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and provided concrete plans to commercialize their final solutions,” said Anil John, the SVIP’s technical director, in a news release Oct. 9. “With this, we are demonstrating the clear intersection of DHS priorities, industry needs, and public interest.”

The department’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) runs the SVIP, which was founded in 2015.