9 Digital wallets and digital agents


by Darrell O'Donnell

We introduced digital wallets and agents in Chapter 2 as two of the basic building blocks of self-sovereign identity (SSI). But while the basic concepts are relatively straightforward, the details could easily fill an entire book. This chapter is based on Darrell O'Donnell’s continuously updated report on the state of digital wallets that he first wrote in the winter of 2019. Digital wallet and agent technology has been advancing so fast that Darrell has been speaking globally about the evolving industry since then. Darrell is uniquely suited to write on this subject because he advises and works with many of the startups, large corporations, and governments that are down in the trenches of SSI—establishing the basic and advanced capabilities required. He is an entrepreneur, investor, and technologist implementing and supporting SSI, digital wallets, and agents.

9.1    What is a digital wallet—and what does it typically contain?

9.2    What is a digital agent—and how does it typically work with a digital wallet?

9.3    An example scenario

9.4    Design principles for SSI digital wallets and agents

9.4.1    Portable and Open-By-Default

9.4.2    Consent-Driven

9.4.3    Privacy-by-Design

9.4.4    Security-by-Design

9.5    Basic anatomy of an SSI digital wallet and agent

9.6    Standard features of end-user digital wallets and agents

9.6.1    Notification and user experience

9.6.2    Connecting—establishing new digital trust relationships

9.6.3    Receiving, offering, and presenting digital credentials

9.6.4    Revoking and expiring digital credentials

9.6.5    Authenticating—”logging you in”

9.6.6    Applying digital signatures

9.7    Backup and recovery

9.7.1    Automatic encrypted backup

9.7.2    Offline recovery

9.7.3    Social recovery

9.7.4    Multi-device recovery

9.8    Advanced features of wallets and agents

9.8.1    Multiple device support and wallet synchronization

9.8.2    Offline operations

9.8.3    Verifying the verifier

9.8.4    Compliance and monitoring

9.8.5    Secure data storage (“vault “) support

9.8.6    Schemas and overlays

9.8.7    Emergencies

9.8.8    Insurance

9.9    Enterprise Wallets