IBM's Privacy-Friendly Identity Mixer Meets the Internet of Things

Prof. Gomez Skarmeta 
When IBM scientist Dr. Jan Camenisch co-invented Identity Mixer, a cryptographic algorithm to protect personal data, his goal was to help people take back control of their data, like date of birth, age, and address.

After more than a decade of research and development, Identity Mixer is now available as an easy to use cloud service. And while Dr. Camenisch’s original goal was protecting people, the Internet of Things (IoT) is presenting another opportunity for his invention protecting the privacy of sensor data.

Sensors are collecting all kinds of data, some of it public, like the amount of rainfall or highway traffic; some of it personal, like a heart beat. This data should also be kept anonymous, yet still be sharable in some form, if the user allows it.

While not originally envisioned by Dr. Camenisch, the IoT is a perfectly suitable application for Identity Mixer. Thanks to a new IBM academic grant awarded to Prof. Antonio F. Gómez Skarmeta at the Universidadde Murcia we will soon find how it can be applied.

Before breaking for the holidays I spoke with Prof. Skarmeta Gómez about his plans.

Q. How do you envision using Identity Mixer for the Internet of Things?

Prof. Skarmeta Gómez:The university is involved in several IoT projects, and I am supporting them by contributing security and privacy, particularly, what data is being disclosed and to whom. Essentially, similar to people using Identity Mixer, we want to empower the sensors, and by extension the owners, to control what and who can access the data, which can be a service to another device or a person. This can all be provided based on the Identity Mixer credentials schemes, similar to how we would use the technology to protect their own private data.

Facade of the Arts Faculty (La Merced campus)
viewed from Plaza de la Universidad
tion (credit Wikipedia)
Q. How do you plan on testing Identity Mixer for IoT?

ASG: We have two scenarios. The first is here at the Universidad de Murcia within our Smart Campus project as part of the EU project SMARTIE. We have around 30 different buildings on our campus and we are using sensors to monitor energy efficiency.

By the end of 2016 we should be using Identity Mixer to control who has access to the infrastructure data. For example, a user with a manager role will have access to the number of people in the building and the room temperature, two pieces of data which shouldn’t be disclosed to everyone.

The second project is with the municipality of Murcia which has a Smart Murcia project. Again, we will use Identity Mixer to help with access control to the sensor data. In particular, the project calls for sharing some data with the citizens of Murcia, so Identity Mixer will manage what can be shared.

Q. The IBM academic grant includes funding. What are your plans?

ASG: Yes, I am grateful to IBM for this recognition. I plan to use the grant to fund a student to help us with the implementation of Identity Mixer on the IoT platform. In fact, we are currently accepting applications. Students interesting in applying should contact me directly.

28 January is Data Privacy Day and IBM scientists, including Dr. Camenisch, will be hosting a live webinar doing a demonstration of Identity Mixer in the Bluemix cloud. They will also show their upcoming Identity Mixer app.

For details visit the event page.