Canada’s First Commercial Blockchain Service Might Become the ‘Interac’ for Digital Transactions

    Apr 11, 2017

    Canada’s major banks are collaborating on a new shared service that’s designed to give Canadians better control over their private information when they need to prove their identify for a transaction. Using a mobile app, the consumers can choose to share specific attributes that their banks or cell phone carriers know about them. This is done by using a digital ledger, IBM’s Blockchain platform, that SecureKey Technologies used to construct its attribute-sharing network.

    Greg Wolfond, CEO of SecureKey, has put the situation into an historical context:

    “Banks haven’t done something like this since the formation of Interac in 1984,” he said, referring to the non-profit debit card issuing body that most Canadians are familiar with.

    Now the same banks that formed Interac – RBC, Scotiabank, TD, CIBC, and Desjardins, plus now BMO – are getting ready to launch a new brand that’s centered around enabling privacy-protected digital transactions. According to, you can expect to see the new brand’s logo plastered across bank branches and websites later this year.

    The new brand will be powered by the same technology that gave rise to Bitcoin.

    “Canada needs this,” Wolfond said. “This is as much about social good as anything else.”

    SecureKey already collaborates with banks for its Concierge service, which helps users authenticate their identity to receive government services. That put it in a position to raise $27 million from Canada’s top six banks last fall to build a similar service with a wider footprint. It also has the commitment of Canada’s big three incumbent carriers – Bell, Rogers, and Telus – to provide identity attributes on the network.

    This first blockchain project with a wide commercial launch in Canada will signal that the digital ledger technology has moved firmly into the establishment.

    “This is a major step forward for the Canadian banks and a harbinger of more exciting things to come as blockchain transforms the financial service industry,” said Alex Tapscott, CEO of Northwest Passage Ventures and executive director of the Blockchain Research Institute. “By focusing on digital identity, a core foundation of trust and security in business and a major source of friction and cost in the economy, the Big Five are clearly thinking strategically about the long-term impact of blockchain.”

    According to Chuck Hounsell, an executive from TD Bank, SecureKey’s service will help customers live digitally more easily because the system creates trust around an individual’s identity. Tasks that take an hour could be reduced to minutes.

    The bottom line, believes Hounsell, is that customers will have more control over their privacy than they do today. When renting an apartment, for example, customers can forego completing volumes of employment and credit information that a landlord will store in a file cabinet forever; instead, the renters can share their attributes until they’re approved. 

     This monthly advisory contains brief summaries of recent legislative and regulatory issues that may affect the management of records and information in Canada.

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