The ultimate overview of Factom’s DHS Silicon Valley Innovation Program

Factom’s work with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over the last two years has been widely published, however much of the information is fragmented and somewhat hard to follow. This article attempts to bring some clarity to the topic and shed more light on what exactly this program is, and what it entails.

The DHS Silicon Valley Innovation Program was launched in 2015, and one of its primary goals is to find new technologies that improve national security in government. DHS reached out to private industry with an open-minded to technology that can help them fulfill their mission and naturally stumbled upon blockchain. In this innovation program a total of 23 companies have been awarded contracts in the following areas:

  • Internet of things(IOT) security (Factom was awarded in this category)
  • Enhancing CBP Airport Passenger Processing
  • Financial Services Cyber Security
  • K9 Wearable Technologies
  • Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
  • Enhancements to Global Travel Assessment System (GTAS)

How the Silicon Valley Innovation Program works

There are four Phases:

Phase 1: Proof of Concept, Award between 50-200k USD, 3-6 Month Duration
Phase 2: Demo Pilot Ready Prototype, Award between 50-200k USD, 3-6 Month Duration
Phase 3: Pilot Test Prototype in Operation, Award between 50-200k USD, 3-6 Month Duration
Phase 4: Test in Various Operational Scenarios, Award between 50-200k USD, 3-6 Month Duration

Factom’s involvement and progress

Under this initiative, Factom was the second company to be awarded, and their contract was issued in June 2016. They were awarded to:

“create an identity log that captures the identification of a device, who manufactured it, lists of available updates, known security issues and granted authorities while adding the dimension of time for added security”.

The Department of Homeland Security is hoping to use Factom’s technology to secure IoT devices, like surveillance cameras, to prevent anyone from spoofing or tampering with them – which has been a known issue. An article on ethnews.com states:

“This would make the spoofing of a device much more difficult, meaning a criminal couldn’t hijack a security camera and loop the footage. A looped camera feed, like you may have seen in movies, can make it appear as if there’s no one standing in front of a bank vault, when in reality there are several men drilling into the vault and removing all the money. Not only would the blockchain let you know if a security camera is legitimate, it would also prevent tampering with any footage or captured data from a secured device.”

Current status of the project

Factom was awarded Phase one, two, three and recently began work on the fourth and final phase on June 15, 2018. The fourth phase involves testing the technology in various operational scenarios and is scheduled to last until December 22, 2018 – although the government has the right to extend a project and this has previously happened in Factom’s case. This makes Factom the second company to enter the final phase under the DHS Silicon Valley Innovation Program – each award was for six months and $200k, with the fourth phase $192k, thereby awarding Factom the maximum time and monetary amount for each of the phases.

The Future of the project

What happens if this program is a success?

“With such potential, proving the security and privacy aspects is precisely where S&T currently is focusing its resources. It is doing so via Small Business Innovation Research projects to investigate the various capabilities of blockchain. This includes security and privacy characteristics as well as exploring its immutability, data integrity and anti-spoofing aspects via a Silicon Valley Innovation Program project.

If these research projects bear fruit, S&T will begin developing ways to implement blockchain technology to better safeguard the American people, our homeland and our values”, DHS Snapshot said

The final phase is an important milestone that will see Factom’s technology used in an environment with limited internet connectivity and varied weather conditions to replicate the environment in which U.S. border patrol agents operate. According to DHS press release, the end objective is to produce a commercially viable product ready to enter the market.

“Operational testing in a realistic U.S. border patrol environment will greatly benefit the development of this technology. SVIP’s goal is to partner with companies to produce the best possible market-ready products that address homeland security needs and we feel this project could reach that point.”, Melissa Ho, SVIP Managing Director said.

Implications and the road ahead

Factom is in a leading position to be one of the first companies in the world to implement blockchain-based solutions for the U.S. Government. They are creating a plugin that can be used to secure devices that can potentially be used outside of DHS. In fact, this type of technology will become invaluable.

In the not too distant future, a video will not be proof. Doubtful? Check out this video of Barack Obama that the University of Washington created out of ai audio files only.

As a society, we will have no choice but to implement Factom, or technology like it, to preserve the very concept of reality.