The future of identity

By Jacques VAN ZIJP, Senior Vice President, Digital ID, Public Security & Identity, and General Manager of Netherlands BV

Read time: 6 minutes
  • New digital IDs redefine the concept and usability of identity
  • While innovations change the face of the identity industry, traditional physical identity documents will continue to be relevant
  • Growing expectations for a standout user-experience and increasing cases of identity fraud and security breaches keep the industry on its toes

Influenced by our changing times, advancements in technology, the growth of digital and new consumer behaviors, the concept of identity continues to adapt and evolve.

Identity is one of those rare topics that concerns literally every human being on the planet – from newborn babies to their great grandparents, from city dwellers to small-town folk, from the planet’s most developed nations to those that are just beginning to flourish. Being able to prove one’s identity and use it with complete confidence and total ease is what ensures that we can travel, shop, work, access education and healthcare, and play – it’s what keeps our world moving forward.

Many consider identity as a government issue – and while governments are indeed responsible for issuing identities, in reality, a unique and secure identity is the key to just about every aspect of our personal lives as well. The challenges ahead require key industry players to stay ahead of these trends and lead the way forward. Indeed, the technological and digital advancements shaping our world push the industry to adapt and evolve the concept of identity. This constant evolution ensures the continuity between the physical and digital worlds and guarantees that we can conveniently use our identities, regardless of what form it takes.

On average, we check our smartphones 80 times a day – 150 times among millennials*. This figure may surprise you, until you consider all that we do with our phones. Our dependency on these little pieces of technology has spurred our expectation to be able to do everything on our mobile phones. This will also become true for proving our identity.

With technology comes another key trend: speed. Tomorrow’s 5G network, for example, will make a few seconds feel like an eternity. Faster is now the motto of our lives! As such, users are no longer willing to wait a couple of minutes to verify their identity – instead, they demand instant and seamless identity checks.

We’re also experiencing the rise of biometrics. With phone manufacturers demonstrating their power and convenience, biometrics is now more widely accepted. Biometrics offers a solution to our need for both convenience and security. In fact, Changi International airport already uses biometrics to guarantee curb-to-gate access in under 10 minutes.

With this growing expectation for convenience and a stellar user experience, comes the demand for higher levels of security to ensure the safety of our on-the-go identities. This seems only natural, given the times we live in, with terrorism and organized crime on the rise. Thanks to advancements in more sophisticated documents, simplistic document fraud is currently on the decline; thus, fraudsters have shifted their schemes to exploit potential weaknesses in other parts of the process for their benefit and remain highly motivated and well-resourced to achieve their aims. This requires government and industry to remain vigilant and ensure their designs and processes are secure through the entire chain and not vulnerable to fraud or misuse.

Identity for a mobile generation

In this context, it is natural that the industry is offering up mobile solutions to prove your identity. And combining the trends we mentioned earlier, the way we think about identity is changing. As you already board a plane with a pass on your phone, you’ll be able to prove your identity at the same time with your phone. As you are used to sending messages, photos and data through your mobile phone, you will be able to share your identity data with your stakeholders, be it at the reception desk of a hotel or at the entrance of a venue with your phone.

This will not only provide greater convenience, it will also ease the flow of travelers at the world’s busiest airports, ports and borders; it will enhance the fan experience with fast track entry at concert venues or stadiums; provide seamless building access in the workplace, etc. Most of all, it will change the way we claim our rights. In a privacy focused society, we will be able to answer only the question asked: prove that we are of age without disclosing our birthdate, confirm our passport number without handing it over, confirm our country of residence without providing our entire address.

Physical ID documents also adapt to our modern societies

Flashy use cases in a world where wallets no longer exist inspire us as we look ahead to the future; but for a large part of the world, they remain exactly that: futuristic. Major advancements in identity technology will take time to spread to the four corners of the world and for the foreseeable time being, physical documents are still very relevant. They are the answer to various challenges in the field, for instance when there is no connectivity or no battery! Your physical document is always on hand to confirm your identity.

However, before passports become solely digital, interoperability across the globe will have to be ensured. After all, regardless of where you travel, the destination country always needs to be able to check your passport – making interoperability essential. So for the years to come, while the mobile ID offers more convenience in various use cases, it will remain the digital companion of the physical document (think of it as the master copy you keep safely locked up at home).

We are still in the nascent stage of digital identity solutions, making the industry all the more exciting. In both digital and physical realms, IDEMIA has its sights set on giving end-users the ability to use their identity credentials in new and innovative ways – while ensuring the highest standards in security and usability.



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