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How do you know that this you are reading now, actually was written by me when I claim it was written, and that I or anyone else haven’t changed it since?
Göran Almgren had a successful career going, but felt it would be fun to try life as an entrepreneur. But for that, you need an idea - or a brother.
Göran’s brother, Hans Almgren, had an idea. To make sure of the traceability of digital information in time. Then you could be sure that I wrote this text at the time I say I did.
They joined up with a third person, Mats Stengård, and founded Enigio, a modern digital notary service.
Time stamping a text might not be super critical for this particular text, but it could be for other information. On an agreement between two companies, individuals or nations it is essential that the text can’t get manipulated. We often tend to focus on the signature and make sure it is correct, which is important. But what if the signature is correct, and the text in the deal is changed?
“Others provide a digital pen to sign documents, we provide the digital paper that is being signed,” Göran Almgren says.
Protection against deep fake manipulation
But it doesn’t have to be just papers.
Their technology could also be used for images, videos and audio. They can prove that the audio has or hasn’t been manipulated, which is already done at the creation of the media. This of course would be effective against deep fake manipulations of, for example, someone talking and saying something they didn’t say.
A great example of this is the Syrian Archive. They document human rights violations in Syria and create a digital memory that can be used as evidence. It goes without saying that it is critical that their material doesn’t get manipulated, and that is something Enigio helps them with.
Digitize global trade
Supporting the Syrian Archive is pro bono work, but as a business Enigio is focused on global trade.
Their vision is to be the solution that makes it possible to digitize global trade.
That means replacing all paper documents. Just imagine all the papers to keep track of the vast quantities of goods traveling the planet. Saving a forest or two is one benefit, but finding, tracking, sending digital documents is of course much easier and less expensive than keeping track of actual paper documents.
When employee number four, Lars Hansén, joined as a partner they acquired banking competence. Mixed with the technology expertise they already had it was now possible for them to solve one of the main pain points within banking and global trade.
“Global trade today runs on paper documents,” Göran Almgren says. “For example, in shipping there is a document called bill of lading. If someone ships a container to you from Singapore, and you are going to collect the container in Värtahamnen in Stockholm. You’ll need the original document to be able to collect the container. The original document.”
This is of course pretty ineffective and insecure.
In their solution they use blockchain, as a notary service, to verify that the information is correct. They’ve built their own blockchain, but also publish some information, a reference, on other blockchains for extra security.
“A blockchain is not primarily for transactions, it is a ledger where you can store and secure information, which is exactly what we use it for.”
Are regulations in the way?
Doesn’t this run into several legal problems? A lot less than you might expect. Many of the laws involved are based on documents, but don’t specifically state that it must be paper documents.
It could be that the politicians had remarkable foresight, but more likely it was that they couldn’t imagine digital documents when the British Parliament wrote the Bills of Exchange Act in 1882. A law that much of international law is based on in this area.
"Don't try to change the laws, build solutions that can operate within current laws"
We at Warp News always want to know how we can speed up progress to make a better future come sooner.
“Don’t build solutions that require laws to change. They are often well thought through and hastily changing them risk making them weaker. Build solutions that can operate within current laws and regulations," is Göran Almgren's advice.
As a former Member of Parliament, I think this is excellent advice. Of course, sometimes you have to change the laws, they could be outdated and slow down progress. But changing a law takes time, and if your business is dependent on it, you can head into trouble. Often there is a fully legal way around the problem, something you can build into your product or service. And if that route is possible, it is much easier.
Things like deep fake manipulations often get vast exposure in traditional media and are painted as a big threat. But for every problem there is a solution, and often many solutions. The solutions might not be as spectacular as the problem, and media with their often negative bias, often focuses only on the problem.
We think solutions, like the one Enigio has built, deserves more attention.
And as you can see in this article their products can solve not just one but several problems.
But even more important is the possibilities it creates.
If we digitize paper documents, that cuts unnecessary costs and lower entry barriers for new players with new ideas. We get more innovation and make sure a better future comes sooner.