Digital Wallet Agents Deeper Detail

State of Digital Wallets – Part 8/16


This post, “Digital Wallet Agents Deeper Detail,” is an excerpt from a report entitled The Current and Future State of Digital Wallets, which is being shared here as a 16-part series. Download a copy of the report. Read a complete summary.


We’ve discussed that a Digital Wallet combines Wallet Storage and Agents. Agents will be basic, and our Digital Wallet won’t be exciting. As the adoption of Digital Wallets grows, we will be able to deploy Agents that do more and more things for us. They will help care for the mundane, protect us from errors, and improve our lives.

But we have a lot of work ahead with Agents. This section aims to provide deeper detail on where Digital Wallet Agents can go.

Types of Digital Wallet Agents

To begin with, the general idea behind Agents is that they handle things for the Person or Organization that may be useful in many ways. Innovation will create various types of Agents in time.

Some examples are:

  • Messaging Agent. Handles messaging for us in various contexts. Ranging from the simplest credential messaging to full 2-way messaging along the lines of a peer-to-peer version of WhatsApp.
  • Privacy Agent. Safeguard the individuals’ privacy by controlling the flow of information that could invade their privacy. Including granting access to such information only when necessary or when the concerned individual has explicitly consented to it.
  • Delivery Agent. Handles delivery of packages to you while maintaining a secure perimeter so your private information doesn’t leak.
  • Health Agent. It helps you to stay on track with your chosen diet, get enough exercise, and stay safe overall. If something happens to you (e.g. you have fallen and can’t get up), it may reach out to your loved ones or medical authorities on your behalf.
  • Home Security Agent. Watches your residence and responds to threat and non-threat events for you. If your insurance company needs to know that you are meeting your obligations (e.g. is the alarm on when you’re away?). In addition, perhaps you could share that information for a reduced premium.
  • Data Use Agent. Sidewalk is building IP that will likely drive a ton of revenue for Alphabet. What if, as a resident, you could share in some of that revenue? A Data Use Agent would act on your behalf, ensuring you and your city get their fair share of the revenue.
  • Buying Agent. Issues purchases on your behalf to vendors that are part of the ecosystem.
  • Marketing Agent. Blocks or allows marketing information to flow through to you. Not a city-based approach but a key for local vendors to be aware of so they can know how to reach you, assuming you want that.
  • Reputation Manager. Handles your reputation scores on different platforms. Ranging from centralized (e.g. Uber, Yelp) to fully-decentralized systems still in development. In short, the key here is that you will own your reputation data at some point that others can use as input.

Who Is In Your Digital Wallet?

Some experts discuss removing any third parties from our lives. As a result, the consensus is that we should eliminate “middlemen” services as they don’t add value.  The reality is that where a third party is not adding value, users will remove them, but what about the third parties that add value to our lives?

There are many benefits to allowing third parties access to your digital wallet. With proper knowledge and protection, you can trust that these parties will not misuse your information.

Consider how the following scenarios can help in your day-to-day life:

  • Telco. Your smartphone is tied to your telco, so it makes sense for them to play a role in helping you use and protect your Digital Wallet. As a result, telcos will need to put deep processes in place to avoid social engineering attacks.
  • Bank. Banks have provided custodial services for information and digital assets for hundreds of years. They have a role to play today and in the future. We rarely want to carry everything we own with us due to the fact that simple mistakes could mean the loss of all assets.
  • Insurance. The contents of our Digital wallets and how we use them raise questions of liability and risk. In time, the insurance market will adapt to these new risks and provide insurance accordingly. In some cases, it may be beneficial to have insurance for essential credentials that are accurate and valid. For example, if you are signing a contract with a rich credential backed by an insurance policy, this policy can act as confirmation that you are who you say you are.
  • Family & Friends. We may want our family and friends to play various roles in our Digital Wallet. Whether that is to help recover keys or authorizations for children that aren’t of age, we can interact in many different ways. We may just be helping protect a friend from phishing scams by being part of a multiple signature approval for wire transfers over a certain amount.
  • Health/Medical/Wellness. The health information that we can store in our Wallet is incredibly valuable. Directly for our benefit and indirectly in service to society. As a result, if we share data, we need to know:
    • who we share it with;
    • what they can see and do;
    • and how we benefit.

​Emergencies – Break Glass In Case of Emergency

Some health systems compartmentalize critical information that someone can access without the individual’s express consent. We can call this capability the “break glass in case of emergency” feature. However, they are hosted in centralized systems behind controls to protect that information.

A Digital Wallet will hold crucial information that may be useful in an emergency. Various types of data can be categorized and made accessible through multiple methods under different conditions, such as:

  • medical emergency – first responders and medical personnel/institutions will need access
  • death or incapacitation – would potentially require legal intervention and consideration of legal authority

As more and more information moves to the edge of the networks and is under our direct control in our Digital Wallet, the protocols in place do not work. I hold the information in my hand that used to live only in a centralized system.

We need Agents to help us ensure that the right people get the correct information from us without revealing too much to the wrong people. The Agents running in our Digital Wallets can do many things to ensure that those requesting access to our private information have a valid need and justification for doing so. Similarly, we need to ensure that if they don’t have a Digital Wallet for ours to talk to, we may need to go fully manual.


Earlier, we hinted at the idea of an insured credential. We can use this credential for signing contracts where the insurer offsets the risk of someone posing as you. In many other cases, insurers may be deeply involved in your Wallet. These instances can range widely:

  • Insuring critical digital assets from theft. An insurer may act as a third party that helps protect you in case of theft. They can block and potentially even reverse key actions (e.g. transfer of a particular asset that goes into a 48-hour escrow account that can be interrupted in case of Wallet theft/takeover).
  • Handling your receipts. As you accumulate receipts that are covered, they can automatically reimburse you.
  • General liability. Using a Digital Wallet means trusting the Wallet provider – but what if the builder of your Wallet had nefarious motives?

​Monitor / Auditor

There are times when your Digital Wallet should actively intervene to keep you aware of activities and possibly notify authorities. A couple of simple examples can help explain this concept:

  • Age of Majority violation. Imagine you are using a digital identity credential to enter a drinking establishment. They should ask for proof that you are over a certain age and confirmation that this is you (perhaps a low-res picture of you). What if they ask to see your full Digital Identity Document – much like a law enforcement official would? A Monitor could notify the authority that the establishment is overreaching.
  • Reputation Services. Over time, Digital Wallets will allow us to look at a broader picture of a Person or Organization’s reputation. Reputation services can help us evaluate the trustworthiness of those we interact with confidentially. Additionally, we may want to participate in such services – building our reputation up actively.


This post, “Digital Wallet Agents Deeper Detail,” is an excerpt from a report entitled The Current and Future State of Digital Wallets, which is being shared here as a 16-part series. Download a copy of the report. Read a complete summary.

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