Building the Personal Data Locker: Using Digital Identity in Your Daily Life

Building the Personal Data Locker: Using Digital Identity in Your Daily Life

Written by

Savannah Lee

December 12, 2019

Let’s think about your physical wallet for a moment. We at Pillar envision an experience for a digital wallet similar to what you currently carry in your pocket or purse.

This is Part Four of my series on personal data and digital identity. Parts OneTwo and Three of the series discussed the concepts of digital, Self-Sovereign Identity, Verifiable Credentials, Proofs and Consent Receipts.

I promised that in part three I’d discuss how to use these things in your everyday life, but I realize that fell a bit short.

While having verifiable credentials for your passport, driver’s license, university degree and bank account is great, they likely won’t be used every day.

Digitizing your physical wallet

Let’s think about your physical wallet for a moment. We at Pillar envision an experience for a digital wallet similar to what you currently carry in your pocket or purse.

Not only is there money (paper and plastic) and government identification cards, but other things such as insurance identification, loyalty cards and other membership cards. Maybe if you’re like me, you’ve tried to eliminate some of the bulk in your physical wallet by storing some of these other pieces of information into your phone. Such apps do exist, but typically your data resides on a server controlled by the company providing the app.

The provider of that app may also sell the information about your loyalty programs to a competing merchant, who then displays advertisements to you through the app. This goes against the concepts of self-sovereign and decentralized identity, as well as privacy.

Pick a card, any card…

Thinking further along this path, much of the personal data in your wallet does not need to be verified in your digital wallet. For example, how many times has your grocery store asked to see identification to prove that you are the holder of a loyalty card? In most cases, in everyday use, merely being able to display the identifier is sufficient.

The loyalty card use case is where we’ll begin our development effort. You will be able to store and display those pieces of identifiable personal data that you frequently use directly in your digital wallet.

That information will be stored securely and privately, and will be available while offline. We envision the user experience being as fast as finding and pulling a card from your physical wallet.

Once you’ve scanned all of your loyalty cards into your Pillar Wallet, and hopefully made your physical wallet a lot lighter, let’s see what other documents we can scan.

How about insurance cards, membership cards and your driver’s license?

While some of these documents may not be valid for use with a government authority in electronic form, there is still a possibility to use them in other situations.

However, in countries and regions with progressive regulations, an electronic version of your driver’s license, for example, can be scanned and accepted by a government authority.

Australian NSW motorists can now ditch their physical driver’s licence for a digital alternative and use it as a form of ID after the state government finally pressed go on its statewide rollout.

Just last week, Gov. Jared Polis announced the Colorado Digital ID, signing an executive order authorizing this new technology as a legal form of personal identification in Colorado beginning Dec. 1.

Verifiable Credential Issuer Services

For some of these documents, you’ll be able to use the scanned images as the basis for applying for a verifiable credential.

For example, you’ve scanned your national ID card. Your wallet will have a list of credential issuers for that document, and you choose to select one of them. The service providers can either be government agencies or private businesses certified by the government.

Any fees charged by the service provider can be paid using the Pillar Payment Network within the wallet. Upon selecting a service, you may be asked to take a selfie photo and a liveness check, along with any other proof necessary. This example is close to what Pillar demonstrated for the Dutch government at their hackathon last year. See the video of our presentation below.

Where can your identity (or new bike) take you?

This “documents first” approach to credentials gives each individual the ability to have documents available in their digital wallet sooner, and then to have credentials issued against those documents as service providers become available, as well as when services to use those credentials become more widely available.

Once this infrastructure is in place, it will be easier to expand the Pillar platform to store additional types of personal data and to expand the types of service providers that are available.

In the near future, you’ll be able to pay a few pillars for a bicycle finder assistant — yes, I realize that we’ve used the bicycle use case a lot — and it will be able to gather data, with your consent, such as height, weight, location and sporting goods store loyalty programs, to suggest the best offers for a new bicycle. Then the assistant can buy it and have it delivered to you. Our personal data management, Offers Engine and payment network make all of this possible.


The Pillar Wallet will soon be able to store digital versions of all kinds of documents from your physical wallet. We’re always keen to hear your feedback on our approach as we move forward in the development cycle.