In our increasingly digitized world, the manner in which we exchange information has evolved from traditional pen and paper to the utilization of digital data, facilitated by the internet.
While these advancements offer efficiency, speed, and accessibility, digital interactions are typically hindered by a lack of trust. To preserve data integrity, verification is required, usually through methods involving multiple parties, and this can result in inefficiencies.
When Zheng Wei Quah, co-founder and CEO of Accredify, recognized this challenge, he decided to embark on a journey to transform the landscape of digital interactions.
Implementing blockchain technology for real-world cases
Quah’s first blockchain venture, Ceito, aimed at aiding businesses in leveraging blockchain technology for optimizing supply chain management and commodities trading. In 2017, he ventured into a new chapter together with his co-founders, taking the strategic step of establishing Accredify, in response to the evolving landscape that witnessed a transition from service-centric to product-centric enterprises.
According to Quah, one of the significant challenges they encountered was the scarcity of available information and resources about blockchain technology at that time.
“We’re accustomed to leveraging resources like Stack Overflow and other tools to search for solutions to our challenges. However, back then, the situation was quite different. Tasks such as customizing specific Ethereum components to align with our use case posed significant challenges. The answers to these questions weren’t readily available, leading us to recognize the need to invent our own solutions,” Quah said.
Furthermore, the concept of blockchain was relatively new, and Quah found himself needing to explain granular technical details. Controversies such as the crash of the Terra Luna cryptocurrency and the FTX centralized exchange did not deter their efforts.
Support from government entities, universities, and its clients helped people learn to distinguish between firms offering real-world applications like Accredify, and cryptocurrencies. This provided strong evidence that the company is here for the long haul.
How the technology works
Accredify utilizes blockchain technology to generate and issue verifiable documents using a model described as centralized issuance and decentralized verification. Accredify collaborates with enterprises to facilitate the issuance process of such documents, which are then released as hashes on the blockchain where anyone can independently validate their authenticity.
“Anyone possessing access to the original document can verify its authenticity on the public block explorer, to ensure that the document exists and has not been tampered with. This approach fosters transparency and empowers individuals to distinguish between genuine and counterfeit copies,” Quah said.
The verification process is carried out through either a QR code scan or Accredify’s verification portal, enabling immediate confirmation of the document’s legitimacy and validity status. Moreover, even if documents are subsequently taken offline, their data remains on the blockchain, ensuring their verifiability.
Quah and his team prioritize three guiding principles: versatility, configurability, and customization. While Accredify initially focused on providing verification for educational institutions, it was able to adapt its technology to assist the Ministry of Health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Quah regards Accredify’s collaboration with the ministry as a pivotal moment in its development journey. The ministry had approached Accredify to address the challenges faced by foreign workers who had contracted COVID-19. Due to the close proximity of foreign workers while in their dormitories, they were relocated to facilities without well-established digital infrastructure. This made it hard for healthcare providers to assess a worker’s health status.
“This scenario deeply resonated with us, highlighting the recurring dilemma between security and accessibility. In the digital realm, it often feels like a choice between the two— prioritize security at the expense of accessibility, or vice versa. We realized that [Accredify’s] technology had the potential to break this dichotomy by offering both aspects,” Quah said.
Accredify facilitated the centralized issuance of digital discharge memos, enabling the immediate verification of the workers’ health status. Moreover, this set the foundation for Accredify to expand its services in the healthcare sector to encompass the verification of COVID-19 vaccination records and test results, subsequently working with hospitals and clinics to verify electronic prescriptions and referrals as well.
Accredify’s next frontier: AI-generated content
Looking ahead, Accredify plans to utilize its digital trust solutions to verify the authenticity of content, amidst the rise of artificial intelligence-powered content generation tools.
“The inflection point that prompted us to step in and contribute to this domain arises from the stark shift in accessibility. The democratization of this capability has made it widely available, reaching a broader audience that includes both laypeople and the general public,” Quah said.
Media and multimedia items such as images and videos are not as straightforward to verify when compared to text-based documents.
“There is a significant disparity between the source of truth and the generated media, as many enterprises don’t have control over the medium of creation. Often, when they capture videos or images, they aren’t the originators but recipients of such media. For example, let’s say we are securing CCTV footage or camera recordings to prevent fraudulent insurance claims. This requires engagement not only with clients but also with the service and platform providers of dash cameras. This multi-layered approach is essential, and our efforts need to extend beyond client interactions to encompass the infrastructure layer providers as well,” Quah said.
The core challenge lies in effectively addressing the discrepancy between content creation and its subsequent distribution. To tackle this, Accredify plans to expand its focus and collaborate with video platform providers, aiming to explore the integration of its technology.
As AI-generated content continues to proliferate, Quah envisions a blurring of the lines between what is authentic and what is fabricated. While he believes that innovation in this space should be encouraged and explored, concerns arise when enterprises begin integrating AI generation tools into their operational processes.
“In today’s context, the utilization of AI-based applications might be treated casually, but future scenarios could involve hedge funds utilizing AI to analyze images, videos, and documents, and then employing AI to generate rapid trading decisions. In these automated scenarios, the need to distinguish between authentic and potentially manipulated content becomes paramount,” Quah said.
While not every instance of AI-generated content needs to be inherently true and secure, the future convergence of transformative technology such as blockchain and generative AI will bring about significant changes. Ultimately, digital interactions need to be grounded in trust.
“Imagine a future where applying for an overseas visa doesn’t take weeks and the submission of your physical passport. Instead, it should be an instantaneous process where all necessary data points can be instantly validated and proven to be genuine and tamper-proof. Such data-backed decisions can be made seamlessly. This vision drives our focus on making verifiable data the default standard for interactions between individuals and enterprises,” Quah said.