Wallets in the wild: Building digital trust that scales
Luke McIntyre • Feb 8, 2023 • 4 min read
A digital wallet is a critical component of any verifiable credential ecosystem. Whether you want to issue, hold or verify credentials, a digital wallet provides a central place to store and share data.
The idea of digital wallets often conjures up images of payments, crypto or NFTs. But, they can be so much more than that. If you’re just beginning your verifiable data journey, read our introduction to digital wallets, Wallets for humans: Digital wallets 101.
Digital wallets are essential for end users to manage their information. As the world shifts from paper-based systems and legacy solutions for sharing and verifying data, you might be wondering how to equip users with a wallet that works for them. And you might, rightly, be concerned about the privacy and security of their data.
At MATTR we have seen all manner of customer needs for digital wallets, scaling up from basic, proof-of-concept requirements to full-fledged custom wallet experiences built into existing channels. Each of these requirements is unique depending on the type of ecosystem the wallet is operating in, what level of end user authentication is required for the wallet to be ‘accredited’, what assurances are needed and even what commercial models need to be supported.
While each situation is unique, we’ve put together this introductory guide to wallet implementation to give you more information on:
- Key considerations when it comes to digital wallets
- Designing a wallet for long-term success in your ecosystem
- Implementing a digital wallet in your verifiable data ecosystem, with varying levels of flexibility to meet evolving needs
Ecosystems of trust
Before getting into wallet-specific considerations, any organisation looking to get started with verifiable credentials first needs to consider the who, what and how of their ecosystem. Defining these is extremely important in order to make sense of the context in which the digital wallet will operate.
Once you know more about what kind of trust ecosystem you want to build and who will be involved in it, you can begin to think about the digital wallet solution you need. You will have more clarity on critical details like the level of assurances needed for credentials, the authentication and binding requirements in each interaction, and what journeys you want to support for the users of your wallet.
Key considerations for digital wallets in the wild
Any digital wallet solution will need to take into consideration a number of factors. These will necessarily include requirements for those wanting to issue and verify credentials in the ecosystem and requirements for those who will need to receive, hold and share those credentials.
Common requirements for issuers and verifiers include the consideration of:
- The assurance levels (levels of confidence) that are needed for each credential, depending on how that credential is presented. For example, presenting a customer loyalty card usually requires less assurance than presenting a digital passport or driver’s licence.
- Accessibility concerns, including whether there is a need to accommodate offline parties, paper-based credentials or lower-feature smartphones.
- Any user privacy concerns or features that could constrain how the credential could be shared.
- Data sovereignty and storage concerns, which have the potential to impact where and how the data must be stored.
- The transferability of credentials between wallets/devices.
Common requirements for holders include the consideration of the user’s ability to:
- recover (or upgrade) their wallet from a synchronised copy or backup.
- transfer the credential to another device.
- have agency and authenticate the credential to the relying party in different ways. For example, could the user show a photo ID alongside a digital credential if biometrics aren’t used.
Considering these factors creates a pretty complex equation when it comes to creating the wallet that is right for your ecosystem. Usually, the more complex the wallet requirements, the more flexibility you need from the tools you use to build your solution.
Designing your wallet for long-term success
When we collaborate with customers to help design their wallet experiences, we are typically building a roadmap focused on adoption and building trust over time. Building trust is not just about the technology or the app; it can often mean transferring accreditation from already trusted, real-world organisations and brands into a digital context.
Trust can be hard to build and easy to break. For this reason, it can work well to start with a first-party wallet (a wallet deployed by the ecosystem operator or an already-established provider), which can lead to the gradual acceptance of new, third-party wallets (wallets developed by another company) over time.
For example, the government of the imaginary Kingdom of Kākāpō wanting to issue digital passports might start by creating their own Kākāpō Wallet in order to empower citizens to hold these digital passports on their devices.
This allows the citizens to have confidence that the credentials they store in their wallet are legitimate and issued from a trusted source (the government). It also gives the government of Kākāpō peace of mind that passports stored and shared through the official government wallet are securely held and can’t be tampered with.
Over time, new capabilities like syncing to other devices and cloud backup can be added to meet increasing user needs.
This approach allows trust ecosystems that are being established for the first time to start simple and move towards mutual confidence over time.
Implementing a digital wallet that works with you
Beyond the technical requirements of the digital wallet itself, there are, of course, business constraints to consider. How much technical capability and resource do you have? How quickly do you need to get into the market?
We’ve designed MATTR’s wallet solutions with these considerations and many, many more in mind.
Our wallet solutions meet you where you are, designed to put trust at the heart of your ecosystem. They include:
- Our MATTR Pi ("pi") Wallet Toolkit represents a superset of functionalities as a result of our on-the-ground experience with customers. It is our most flexible set of tools, to enable you to design the user experience the way you want. Find out more about MATTR Pi.
- Selected projects qualify to utilise our own MATTR Getting Started Wallet, built on MATTR Pi, which lets you get up and running quickly without having to code your own application.
- For customers who are keen for a custom-branded, out-of-the-box option, our white-label solution could be right for you.
Standards, regulations and decentralised identity: Further reading
The world of digital wallets is clearly one with many moving parts – and government regulations, technological standards and cyber-security practices continue to evolve and change.
We’ll be bringing you more insights on the state of wallets today, including eiDAS requirements in the EU, wallets from leading tech companies and more very soon, so watch this space.
With so many players in the game, it is important to have a trusted partner to help navigate this new world of digital trust. At MATTR, we put trust at the heart of all we do. Get in touch with us today to discuss your unique digital wallet needs and how we can help you create your own ecosystem of trust.