The Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), a multinational bank headquartered in Spain, has announced a partnership with Madrid-based research center IMDEA Software Institution to explore zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) alongside other “advanced cryptographic techniques.”

Both entities will freely utilize each other's technologies and research to drive innovation as quickly as possible. 

BBVA plans to offer products based on cryptography

The partnership will see the institutions research a number of applications for cryptography in the context of the financial sector, including ways to ensure that data shared within a network is not vulnerable to exposure to third parties.

A May 4 press release reveals that the research will also look at “the development of viable prototypes that can be incorporated in the digital products and services offered to BBVA customers.”

Until recently, these cryptographic techniques were only of interest on a theoretical level,” said IMDEA’s Antonio Faonio. “In recent years, we have seen enormous advances that could make them applicable to some practical scenarios.”

Zero-knowledge proofs comprise major area of research

The institutions describe technologies like ZKPs as “key to the creation of data-based digital solutions that protect the privacy and security of users’ data.”

The project’s first stage of research will focus on the current barriers to greater adoption of ZKPs, including the challenges of integrating zero-knowledge proofs into existing communications systems and the lack of common standards for the use of cryptographic protocols.

Both organizations claim to have conducted extensive research and possess considerable expertise in the area of ZKPs.

COVID-19 highlights needs for cryptographic solutions

BBVA asserts that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the benefits of technologies that protect data privacy, both in the form solutions addressing specific challenges relating to the crisis — such as contact tracing apps, and as a means of protection against the increased incidents of cyber attacks. 

“There is a growing need to develop technological solutions that allow us to protect the information we share when consuming digital services in our everyday lives,” stated BBVA’s head of research and patents, Carlos Kuchkovsky.

“This need has become even more tangible as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, which is demonstrating the need for robust data protection systems given the growing number of cyber attacks and the use of apps that register users’ data to track the disease, which have emerged in some countries,” he added.

Enterprise platforms embrace ZKPs

Initially manifested as the protocol underpinning privacy coins, zero-knowledge proofs have been embraced by the enterprise community as a means to preserve sensitive data while interacting with other entities on a network or blockchain.

Enterprise-facing blockchain platforms include Microsoft, EY and ConsenSys’ Baseline Protocol, the Royal Dutch Shell-backed Applied Blockchain, and recent exploration from major Chinese tech firm Tencent.

Cointelegraph reached out to BBVA for comment and did not receive a response as of press time. The article will be updated accordingly.