Engineering Spotlight: DUST Identity
DUST Identity is the creator of the Diamond Unclonable Security Tag (DUST), a technology utilizing nanoengineered diamonds to create an unclonable identity layer on any object.
We connected with several members of DUST Identity's team to get an inside look at the company's technology, various projects, the team's culture, and more.
Interested in joining DUST Identity? Check out the company's job openings on the list to the right!
Quick Hit Details
Year Founded: 2018
Number of employees: 16
Number of engineers: 6
Industry: Security/Supply Chain/Blockchain
Can you share a summary on what Dust Identity does?
We link objects to their digital records -- securely. We create unclonable security tags (think: physical barcodes, but way better) from nanoscale diamond particles and attach them to high value assets. As these assets travel through a supply chain, key stakeholders validate them as they are tested, assembled, or deployed. Each validation step gives the “5Ws” (who, what, where, when, why) and provides context to how the asset was used. All of this information lives with a digital record that can only be “unlocked” by the unique fingerprint of our DUST (Diamond Unclonable Security Tags).
What are some of the different technologies that the engineering team gets to work with and at what scale?
DUST Identity products span a broad range of technologies. We divide these into three main sections: materials, hardware and software. Our materials science team synthesizes nanoscopic single diamonds using mechanical, chemical and radiation techniques; they also investigate encapsulating these diamonds into industrial polymers, resins and coatings. Our hardware team focuses on the design and operation of optical and electronic scanners for reading our DUST markers in a high-throughput environment. On the software side, we also spread the spectrum of technology. Our machine vision and data scientists develop optimal algorithms for extracting the unique signatures from our markers. We also have an operations team devoted to the cloud-based authentication system (build on AWS) and to supporting customer engagements via custom data integrations.
What are some of the interesting projects that the engineering team is tackling?
In early 2018, we had a unique opportunity to work with SAP on their first blockchain product built for the enterprise. We were one of their first startups to use their Hyperledger Fabric blockchain-as-a-service and develop a smart contract that supported Proof-of-Existence for physical objects. While our DUST system contained all of the transactional data for verifying a physical article, the blockchain provided an immutable co-truth to our system. It was great to learn a new language (golang) and experiment with this technology as bitcoin was reaching its stratospheric value.
Does your engineering team have a chance to work on projects outside of their day-to-day responsibilities?
The core technology of DUST came from the founders’ interest in using diamonds for, of all things, quantum computation. The first few years of the company were actually in support of DARPA initiatives to create quantum-enhanced sensors. Thus, there is definitely a culture of pushing the envelope. At least half of the engineering team is supporting “skunk works” projects in some capacity, though this falls more on the hardware team at the moment. On the software side, we have a fair number of tool builders and have non-customer facing software tools for optimizing repetitive processes.
What is the culture like at Dust Identity for the engineering team?
Largely, we are hackers and tinkerers at heart. If something we get “just works”, that probably means we will disassemble it in short order. We are also keen at building our own tools for a job when we realize that an off-the-shelf solution is elusive. We strive for efficiency and automation and will try to “script” any repetitive task that a machine can do better than a human.
What can a potential employee expect during the interview process?
We don’t really dig the whole brainteaser thing. You should be able to walk us through a solution to a problem in your own words and explain your thinking. This might be anything from designing an imaging system to a microservices architecture, depending on the role. We’ll want to know what you did in your past jobs and what you built, be it software or hardware. If you’re really lucky, we'll ask you to derive the Law of Cosines from first principles.
Are you involved in any local tech organizations or Meetups?
DUST Identity is affiliated with TigerLabs at Princeton University and STEX25 at MIT. We have offices in the TigerLabs co-working space (where regular blockchain and Python user meetups held), and Framingham, MA. Along with those accelerators, we were sponsors at the upcoming WomenHack Boston career fair.
We also participate in the Princeton chapter of Google's Startup Grind.
Rapid Fire Q&A
What’s on tap?
The finest filtered water in both Framingham, MA and In Princeton, NJ. Jack’s Abby is always flowing next door in Framingham (we literally share a parking lot!).
Star Wars or Star Trek?
Starwars, never could get past those TNG jumpsuits.
iPhone or Android?
Coffee - hot or iced?
Favorite employee perk?
Coffee, of course.
What TV show describes the engineering team’s culture?
What music is playing in your office?
Some synthwave livestream on YouTube
Cleanest desk / Messiest desk
Chris Muto, Head of Cloud Services
Chris joined DUST Identity to oversee our application development and cloud services in June at the Framingham headquarters. Since joining, Chris has refactored our MVP React front-end code and added important customer features. He embraced our serverless application model (written in Python) and created a local development environment to reduce the cycle of pushes to the cloud. In true full-stack engineer fashion, he also implemented a complete CI/CD pipeline and keeps our aggressive development cycle on track. But don’t let Chris’ productivity lead you to think he’s all about “hands of keyboard” (his favorite phrase!). He also regularly sits in on our sales calls and aggressively recruits top engineers for his rapidly expanding team.
Sinan Karaveli, Principal R&D Engineer
Sinan joined DUST Identity full-time in our Princeton location in July after consulting with the company for six months. He’s a wizard of microscopy and imaging, comes with several years experience and high-impact publications in the diamond sensing community. Sinan is building our first 4D DUST scanners for ultrahigh security applications. Moreover, he applied his data science analysis talents to improve the algorithmic side of our matching routines adding orders of magnitude to the integrity and reducing scan times ten-fold. He enjoys spicy food and two-shot americanos.
Want to learn more about DUST Identity? Check out their BIZZPage