Q4 2020 Developer Portal Release: Interview with Jan Vereecken, Chief Product Officer at Meeco

The team at Meeco is excited to announce we rolled out major releases to our sandbox environment, publicly available SDKs, and other tools at the end of October. And drumroll please: we have released the new version of the Developer Portal! Among the features we’re rolling out, some of the highlights are detailed below. But first, we wanted to chat with Meeco’s Chief Product Officer, Jan Vereecken on why we’re developing these tools, our roadmap and his longer-term vision.

Why is Meeco building developer-centric tools?

Jan: Storing, retrieving and sharing data in a secure way is not easy. Right from its inception, this has been one of the focal points for Meeco. First of all, there are technical issues to solve but as a company, we are always thinking about the user experience.
We’re always asking ourselves… “we have the technology but what are the consequences for anyone that will use our technology?”

How can we create applications that behave in a very similar way as they do today but where privacy and security are built-in from the very foundation? Where raw data is only ever visible as close to the user as possible, namely on a device or computer running the web browser. Over the years we have been active in this space, we’ve built many applications for a variety of use cases, each time expanding, improving and refining our personal data management tools and products. Last year, we had the chance to build the Digital Safe for the Belgian retail bank KBC, which was awarded the Best Bank award for the fifth consecutive time. Just last week, Meeco was awarded a Fintech Australia Finnie for Industry Collaboration and Partnerships for this solution. This focus on enabling our partners was how the idea of opening up our tools emerged. We wanted to make our internal tools available and release libraries that make it possible for other developers to build front end applications. Being able to integrate this capability with all the possibilities that come with it means more collaboration and better outcomes for people.
“We want to position Meeco as a set of components that you can use in your product and make a better value proposition.”
For me, it’s really important to eat our own dog food. Everything we release on the developer portal is used internally. The Meeco docs for example, is the first thing a developer reads when joining the company as it introduces them to the terminology and enables them experiment and develop an general understanding of what we are doing really quickly. For us as a company, it is also a really good way to understand where we are missing certain information or when something is out of date. The idea behind it is actually dead simple, what is usable for us, also is for other companies.
“For me, it is really important to eat our own dog food. Everything we release on the developer portal is used internally.”
Since launching the Developer Portal earlier this year, we have been delighted by the increasing interest from organisations and developers to build on our platform. More and more we hear that it’s the fastest way to manage the complexity of data privacy and make it simple to get started. We’re inspired by the organisation that want to tackle this problem in earnest. In the same way as a lot of people nowadays don’t start building their own database, logging infrastructure or cloud infrastructure, we want to position Meeco as a set of components that you can use in your product to make a better value proposition for people without asking them to trade their privacy for convenience. With our tools, it is possible to have both.

What does this release mean for Meeco?

“In scope, this change was truly massive. The team has been hard at work to make this possible and I believe it gives us a solid foundation to build upon.”
Jan: I think this release, which is the 4th generation of our platform, emphasises our desire to open up the platform and invite others. We have been building and improving the software for quite some time and as a consequence we have a lot of experience in this space. Now we are making it easy for others to unlock the potential of our secure data vault, encryption tools and UI components. This release opens up all of these possibilities for other developers to explore our product, read (in detail) documentation and make use of our tools. I always like to advise someone new to, at least, do the 15 minute quickstart. It allows you to create a new user account and save your first item to the vault. This seems trivial but if you read what is needed, there is actually a lot going on. The information is there, the code is there, the next step is simply to build. In scope, this change was truly massive. The team has been hard at work to make this possible and I believe it gives us a solid foundation to build upon.

What other features are on the roadmap for Meeco?

“Always, increasing security whilst focussing on usability. This combination is exactly what we are good at.”
Jan: We have a few really exciting upcoming features we are working on, but the ones I would like to point out are Delegated access, Meeco Identity Provider (Meeco IdP) and Wallet.
  • Delegated access is a feature that allows users to do certain actions in another users’ vault. The first use case which uses this feature is the upcoming mIKs-it platform, where grown-ups take control over what happens in the vault of their children. For example, how can mum and dad, both control what happens inside the vault of their child, while ensuring that all data is only every decrypted and encrypted on their respective devices. The tricky part here is the key management. You see, all encryption keys need to be shared between these users, without a middleman knowing that secret.
  • Meeco IdP is a service that we’ll extract out of existing services into a separate component. The goal here is twofold. On one hand, we are trying to simplify, where you’ll only need one access token to access all our services (vault, keystore, downloader) instead of a separate access token per service. On the other hand, we are also looking at better enterprise interoperability and tools that help us tap into standard flows (e.g. OpenID Connect). In our “lab”, we are also experimenting with the Self-Issued OpenID Connect Provider DID profile (SIOP), a new way to authenticate yourself in a new, more decentralised, world.
  • We are seeing more and more use cases that can be powered by the use Verifiable Credentials and DIDs. We are building a decentralised Wallet that stores, verifies and presents these credentials to interested parties. The accelerated adoption that we are seeing cause of what is happening in 2020 is something that we are investing in heavily. Our existing services, Vault and Keystore are also complimentary as we have observed in market that people want more possibilities, increased security but still with a focus on usability. This combination is exactly what we are good at.

What is your long term vision for the developer tools?

Our personal data platform and developer tools are a core offering in Meeco. We want to make the components available and make it easy to use and integrate our tools to enable people and organisations to collect and protect data. First and foremost, we test everything by building with it first. If it helps us create better security, enable more user control, provide privacy by default or seamless enterprise integration, then it makes sense it will also help our partners. I am confident that others will also find them as useful once they invest a few hours and see what is possible. We’ll keep improving the portal, tools and resources based on the feedback that we receive, so we would love to hear from you. We trust that these changes will bring lots of exciting possibilities for developers all over the world to enable everyone on the planet to collect, protect and permission their personal data. You can see a list of the upcoming changes for the October 2020 release here including a high-level summary of new and updated features such as:
  • On-sharing – the ability to allow other users to share an item that has been shared with you if the item’s owner allows it. This includes a verification step to make sure the on-sharer has not modified the data.
  • Organisations – you can now create an account for your organisation and add members and services.
  • Accepting of shares – we’ve identified that sometimes the terms of a share need to be reviewed and explicitly accepted or rejected before seeing the data so we’ve now made this possible.
  • More efficient file attachments – we now have the ability to encrypt and upload an attached file one chunk at a time. This allows for handling of larger files, better performance on lower end devices, and even streaming of downloaded encrypted data into video players.
  • Improved Sharing – sharing is more streamlined, comprehensible and performant than ever before.
  • Sharing of encrypted files with other users.
  • Re-encrypting of shared data to cut down on the number of Encryption Keys needed to be stored/managed indefinitely.
There are a range of other changes that will continue to be released between now and the end of the year. You will always find the latest information in our changelogs. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or queries please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@meeco.me, we look forward to hearing from you!
Cheers
Team Meeco
Simple tools to make people, developers and regulators data happy 🙌

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