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NSF awards MATTR and partners grant to develop solution for verifying digital trust signals

Nader Helmy • Dec 15, 2021 • 3 min read

Widespread and accessible communication is perhaps one of the greatest innovations we’ve seen thanks to ubiquitous internet access and adoption of devices such as smartphones and computers. However, establishing trustworthy relationships online and identifying the context and accuracy of information has become more difficult than ever before. While communication systems are critical for keeping people connected with the world around them, people lack the tools to establish trust and authenticity when interacting with these systems at scale. To help address this issue and other complex problems, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Convergence Accelerator has awarded $21 million to 28 multidisciplinary teams for Phase 1 of their 2021 program cohort.

Started in 2019, the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator program brings together teams of multi-disciplinary experts from industry, nonprofit, academia, government to solve critical challenges that tangibly impact society. The federal agency hopes to build upon innovative processes like human-centered design, user discovery, and team science to accelerate solutions in two critical areas: the “Networked Blue Economy” and “Trust and Authenticity in Communications”. As part of the latter track, MATTR along with its partners, iProov and the University of Washington, have been selected as one of 12 teams working cooperatively and competitively to develop solutions to mitigate the effects of misinformation and create more trustworthy digital systems.

MATTR’s joint Project Proposal, entitled “Verified Information Exchange”, aims to address these issues by creating tools to allow people and businesses to create and verify trust signals in information exchange environments. Working across a variety of different industries and use cases, MATTR intends to combine their digital trust and verifiable data infrastructure along with iProov‘s genuine presence assurance capabilities to create a general-purpose set of rules and requirements that can be used to establish a verified information environment in any domain or industry. This will be used to verify the authenticity not only of the individuals involved in these systems, but also of the origin and context of information that flows through them.

As part of this project, MATTR and its partners will participate in NSF’s Convergence Accelerator guided curriculum to develop their proposal from idea to proof of concept, to prototype and then solution. They’ll also engage in facilitated collaboration with other teams within their convergent research cohort. At the end of phase 1, each team participates in a formal pitch and proposal evaluation. Selected teams from phase 1 will proceed to phase 2, with potential funding up to $5 million for 24 months.

Although the definition of success may vary for each team participating in the Convergence Accelerator program, by the end of the project MATTR hopes to create a solution that can not only integrate into existing systems but expand into new markets and build a public knowledge base that can be expanded upon for many years to come.

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