Some of the country’s most innovative technology startups and emerging growth companies aren’t in Silicon Valley – they’re right here in the National Capital region. And that entrepreneurial spirit and innovation will be on full display December 5, 2019 when ACG National Capital and MITRE cosponsor the Washington Technology Showcase.

This half-day event will serve as a platform for a number of truly inventive companies with solutions in three growing and exciting technologies: the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G and artificial intelligence (AI). These three technology areas will be the focus of multiple panel discussions and keynote addresses. However, there will also be a number of exciting technology startups present to demonstrate their solutions and discuss the potential for them in the marketplace.

One of those emerging technology companies has a solution that is incredibly prescient and important in today’s Internet Wild West – IoT devices that can create a global “Trust Infrastructure” capable of making online interactions and transactions between people and companies trusted and secure. The company is called Hushmesh, and its CEO – Manu Fontaine – envisions a world where a simple IoT device that plugs into a wall outlet could take away the fear and insecurity of going about our digital lives.

We recently sat down with Manu to talk about Hushmesh’s product, why it’s so important in today’s Internet age and what attendees can expect from Hushmesh at the upcoming Washington Technology Showcase (WTS).

Here is what he had to say:

Corporate Growth, Capital Style (CGCS): Can you tell our readers a bit about the company and what it’s looking to do?

Manu Fontaine: Hushmesh is about enabling digital trust for everyone. We figured out a unique approach to solving universal identity, strong authentication, cryptographic data security and constitutional privacy at Internet scale. Most importantly, we were able to wrap the whole thing in a user experience that truly anyone can use: if you can take a selfie or scan groceries, you already know how to “mesh in”.

We plan to build a neutral and global trust network that transcends corporate and national boundaries. The Mesh, as we call it, has native end-to-end cryptographic security and is operated as a neutral “trust infrastructure” for all participating organizations to build their own services. You can think of us as a utility offering “trust as a service” to everyone.

CGCS: You say that a lack of “trust infrastructure” is hurting businesses and Internet users. What is “trust infrastructure” and why do we need it?

Manu Fontaine: When we turn on the faucet, we have come to assume that the water is safe to drink. Obviously, the same cannot be said about the Internet. By “trust infrastructure”, we mean the global identity, authentication and data security “plumbing” necessary to enable digital trust as a public benefit for everyone.

We plan to enable the same seamless convenience over the Internet as what we enjoy in the physical world with people we trust. This can only happen once we solve “cybersecurity for the rest of us,” i.e. for the benefit of people, organizations and society at large.

CGCS: How does Hushmesh’s “digital Trustee” work? What will it do and what benefits will it deliver to users? How could its increased adoption help fight the trust issues on the Internet today?

Manu Fontaine: End-to-end cryptography is the known solution to enabling globally trustworthy identities, strong authentication and pervasive data security. The challenge, however, has always been that cryptography is completely unforgiving, while humans are hopelessly unreliable. People cannot manage passwords, so we should not expect them to manage cryptographic keys on their own.

Our “digital Trustee” solves this conundrum. It is a small, trusted computing IoT device that automates cryptography on behalf of its owner.

It’s super simple: you plug in your Trustee at home, you connect it to WiFi, and you link your phone with it. Now you can use your phone to establish trust with any other entity on the Mesh, from anywhere in the world. Your phone remotely directs your Trustee to complete cryptographic transactions on your behalf.

By encapsulating all cryptography in the Trustee, we effectively remove the “human factor” from the security loop itself, while giving each human physical control over their own Trustee. Our central service then acts as a trust broker between any two Trustees. We can do so because the trustworthiness of each Trustee can be remotely verified thanks to trusted computing technology.

CGCS: For those that may be unfamiliar with the term, what is end-to-end cryptography? Why isn’t it in use widely today? How does the Hushmesh digital “Trustee” make it more accessible to average consumers?

Manu Fontaine: End-to-end cryptography is when both parties in a connection or transaction have full and exclusive control over their own cryptographic keys. It has been popularized recently with the rise of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology in general.

But anyone who created a crypto wallet can tell you that managing private keys securely is too unforgiving for most users, including honest experts. If you lose your keys, or if your keys get compromised in any way, there is nothing anyone can do to help.

In contrast, each Trustee automates the management of private and secret keys on behalf of its owner. Anyone can now get the benefit of this powerful technology without the need for a PhD in cybersecurity.

And because we rely on decentralized and verifiably trustworthy Trustees to manage your keys, we do not get exposed to them. We manage Trustees at arm’s length, and your Trustee manages your keys. All private and secret cryptographic material is managed in the decentralized Mesh, at the edge of the Internet, outside of the Web and the Cloud.

CGCS: Are trusted transactions limited to the “Mesh” global trust network? What about traditional Internet transactions – such as online banking and online purchases? How do these companies and their customers get the benefit of trusted transactions?

Manu Fontaine: Yes, the end-to-end nature of the Mesh does require that all parties be “in-network,” which is why the network will be open and easy for everyone and every organization to join.

The good news for people is that joining the Mesh is a one-time thing, and it is as simple as getting and activating your own Trustee. You may purchase one for yourself, or more likely you will get one from your employer or any other participating organizations.

Joining the Mesh is also trivial for organizations as we support the two identity federation standards for corporate and consumer use cases, namely SAML and OpenID Connect. These are standards that we have all experienced as we enjoy single sign-on at work, or when we “Log in with Facebook” or “Log in with Google” on the Web.

CGCS: Hushmesh is a “Public Benefit Corporation.” What does that mean? Why did the company choose to become a “Public Benefit Corporation?”

Manu Fontaine: A Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) is a fairly recent type of corporate structure. It is a for-profit business with a stated “public benefit” purpose set out in its certificate of incorporation. It allows for the pursuit of this purpose for all stakeholders alongside the maximization of profit for stockholders. Our stated public benefits are “neutral trust and privacy”.

The PBC structure strengthens the long-term alignment between our business goals and our “trust and privacy” promise to participating organizations and the public at large. It just makes business sense to set up the corporation in a way that maximizes long-term trust from everyone.

In recent years, we have seen too many founders promising their end-users that their trust and privacy would be respected, only to see these promises broken a few years after their startup gets acquired by less scrupulous market actors. Our corporate structure will allow future management teams to keep the company’s original promise.

Frankly, it also gives us a competitive advantage against incumbents, as we have enshrined our neutrality in our articles of incorporation.

CGCS: Hushmesh will be presenting at the upcoming Washington Technology Showcase. Why was it important for Hushmesh to attend this event? What is the organization looking to get out of its participation?

Manu Fontaine: We are far enough along in the development of our solution to begin reaching out to pilot partners and future customers. Our Trustee will soon be production-ready, and we will be featured by our large consumer electronics manufacturing partner at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

The Washington Technology Showcase is a great opportunity for us to connect with local executives interested in the latest in technology innovation. Our focus on solving such a critical cybersecurity problem is a great fit for the mixed corporate and government audience.

The stark reality is that 100% of today’s centralized authentication systems are susceptible to social engineering and insider attacks. In other words, 100% of organizations who care about cybersecurity (hopefully all of them) should plan to “get on the Mesh” sooner or later.

In fact, once our approach gets publicized, organizations that are not on the Mesh will effectively be perpetuating the problem for everyone else. And who would want to be less trustworthy than their competition?

CGCS: What do you think attendees can expect from Hushmesh at the WTS?

Manu Fontaine: We will explain why our decentralized approach to identity, authentication and data security is a necessity, and how it dramatically improves the cybersecurity posture of everyone who joins. We hope to meet both technical and business decision makers to fast-track early pilot trials, deployments and partnerships. I believe attendees will gain a completely new perspective on this fundamental problem, which is as old as the Internet itself.

Just like we moved away from a geo-centric model of our solar system a few centuries ago, it is now time to move away from domain-centric authentication on the Internet. People-centric cybersecurity is a paradigm shift that will benefit us all.

For addition information about the Washington Technology Showcase, click HERE.