Throughout the last few decades, the level of trust in the world has plummeted. Technology sits at the center of corporations selling personal information, governments spying on their citizens, and costly cybersecurity breaches. Ultimately, these threats break down people’s trust in technology, leading some to fear its rapid innovation rather than embrace it. Every time a person views their handheld supercomputer with fear instead of awe, humanity’s decades of groundbreaking innovation fall flat.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and we are determined to pursue technology that can help restore trust in our world and each other.

What it does

Bitlock stores various digital identities in a blockchain environment, then shares this data with devices across the network. The blockchain allows for secure but easy access of the registered IDs and moves away from primitive systems like physical objects. What makes this identification network stand out is its flexibility in design. Bitlock allows for any entity to create and manage their own identities, leaving it up to those checking an individual’s ID to determine whether they trust the entity granting them the ID. Perhaps most importantly, storing this information in a blockchain is one of the most secure methods in existence, and has the potential to transform areas of our society that desperately need this security. We focused heavily on tailoring our project towards some of the most pressing identity and security problems. Specifically, we see the social issues surrounding voter identification, immigration, and firearms as having the most potential to be impacted by a change in security and authentication. Laws that require government issued identification to vote take the voices away from millions of Americans at the ballot box. In theory, a system of voter identification done through digital identification like Bitlock would not only be more secure than a paper version, but would eliminate the need for cost prohibitive government identification or documentation to confirm a person’s identity. We value this potential for social change because millions of Americans deserve to make their voices heard. This same process can apply to helping other pressing social issues. If digital identification effectively replaced Passports, millions of people would be able to travel the world and immigrate with more ease. If digital identification served to confirm a person’s identity and history before a firearm transaction, their rights would be preserved while their potential to do harm would drastically diminish. Bitlock aims to model how these problems can be tackled and solved with this technology.

Challenges we ran into

One of our biggest challenges came from an unanticipated aspect of the Android Virtual Devices we attempted to use to create a Peer to Peer network. Since our team does not possess enough physical androids to create this, we turned to the emulators in Android Studio. After many hours of troubleshooting and researching, we found that the Virtual Devices simply cannot support that functionality, and were forced to accomodate for the fact that our chosen platform and resources could not support one aspect of our design plan. Luckily, we were able to still host the blockchain on a FireBase server and facilitate communication as if it were a P2P network.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

We knew from the start that our project idea was very ambitious to accomplish within the time limitations of a hackathon. Despite this, we were determined to pursue it anyways simply out of our interest in the technology and passion for its purpose. With every new goal we reached in our intricate web of tasks and technologies to develop, we all felt increasingly accomplished, and now we are most proud of our finished product and the skills and knowledge we all learned.

What we learned

Among other things, our most valuable lessons came through learning advanced Android Studio tactics, using React with Material API’s to create visually appealing software, and understanding and experiencing how blockchain works first hand.

What's next for BitLock

The most sought after goal for any blockchain application is improving scalability. Ideally Bitlock would be able to handle millions, if not billions, of active IDs. This kind of traffic however requires extremely robust and battle-tested systems, which ours is not at the moment. Beyond this however, our team was hoping to include proof-of-work system through mining newly added blocks. In Bitlock’s creation, we considered offering various different incentives for mining these ID blocks (e.g. some form of cryptocurrency).

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