The Linux Foundation’s European branch has officially launched the OpenWallet Foundation (OWF), a new partnership designed to support interoperability between digital wallets through open source software.
The launch comes about five months after the Linux Foundation first revealed plans to create the OWF, shortly before spawning a region-specific entity called the Linux Foundation Europe, where the OWF will now officially reside.
While PayPal, Google, and Apple are among the most recognized providers of digital wallets, allowing consumers to make financial transactions in-store or online, digital wallets are increasingly being used to store a variety of virtual goods, from student IDs to driver’s licenses. . In addition, burgeoning technologies such as the metaverse and crypto are driving more use cases for digital wallets.
But one thing all these different environments have in common is that, for the most part, the established digital wallets don’t play well with each other: An Apple Pay die-hard can’t send money to their Google Pay brethren. And that’s why the OWF plans to create an “open source engine” that can power interoperable digital wallets for myriad use cases, including identity, payments, and storing personal credentials, such as work and education certifications.
In addition to today’s launch, the OWF and Linux Foundation have also released a new report to highlight the importance of a more open digital wallet ecosystem, noting that the total value of all Digital wallet transactions will reach $15.9 trillion in 2021. The market is significant, as is the need to help businesses avoid vendor lock-in, which is one of the OWF’s key selling points.
It’s worth emphasizing that the OWF won’t build a digital wallet itself or develop new standards – it wants to create the technology core that any other third party can use to power their own digital wallet.
The OWF was the brainchild of Daniel Goldscheider, CEO of open banking startup Yes.com, who led the initial development of the project when it was incorporated into the Linux Foundation.
So what we’re talking about here are multiple different projects, running one after the other and containing different languages designed for different digital wallet use cases.
That the OWF has chosen to establish itself under the auspices of the Linux Foundation’s European operation is remarkable. Indeed, Europe is at the forefront of a broader fight against the “walled garden” ethos of big tech, and is currently working on new rules to enforce interoperability between messaging platforms, while the US is developing similar plans through the ACCESS Act.
However, specific to the objectives of the OWF, Europe also wants to include digital wallets in its existing eIDAS (Electronic Identification, Authentication and Trust Services) regulation, effectively providing all EU citizens with a single digital identity to perform transactions and verification at all companies and public authorities. The European Commission has also recently set out the specifications needed to develop an interoperable European digital identity wallet based on common standards.
And it is against that background that the OWF has been launched with the support of a large number of parties with a vested interest in a more open infrastructure for digital wallets.
Initial OWF sponsors and “premier” members include Visa, Avast’s parent company Gen Digital, Accenture and Huawei’s US R&D subsidiary Futurewei Technologies, who apparently pay an annual fee of €200,000 ($213,000) that grants them voting rights in the technical advisory committee and the outreach committee — rights not accorded to those with lower membership levels. Indeed, “general” members pay up to €50,000 per year depending on how many employees they have, with initial participants including American Express, Deutsche Telecom, Swisscom, Thoma Bravo-owned Ping Identity, Spruce, Esatus, Fynbos, IDnow, IndyKite, and Intesi.
Elsewhere, the OWF also offers associate and government levels, with initial members including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Connection Science, OpenID Foundation, DIDAS, Hyperledger Foundation, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Identity 2020 Systems, IDunion SCE, MOSIP, Open Identity Exchange, Secure Identity Alliance, The Digital Dollar Project, Universitat Rovira i Virgili and the Trust Over IP Foundation.
There are a few notable member omissions from today’s official launch – in September, Okta and CVS Health were name-checked as likely founders, but it appears they won’t be joining after all. AapkaDost has reached out to all parties for comment, but we have yet to hear anything at time of publication.
The OWF is the latest in a series of similar initiatives launched by the Linux Foundation to bring interoperability to various industries. In December, it teamed up with Meta, Microsoft, AWS and TomTom to counter Google’s map dominance via the Overture Cards Foundation. And Linux Foundation Europe also recently launched Project Sylva in collaboration with TelefónicaOrange, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia, Ericsson and Nokia, to build an interoperable, open source cloud framework for European telcos and suppliers.