Jan 11, 2014

Trust in Identity

The 2014 CES show is currently generating a lot of consumer technology related press-headlines as different corporations reveal their stakes in seeking to capitalize from the emerging IoT market. IBM/Technicolor got the ball rolling with their IoT/M2M monitoring offering. They were soon followed by Google and AT&T/Ericsson with their connected car ambitions. Intel and Sony also registered on the IoT radar with their messages about miniaturized and wearable connected device offerings.

These companies and the many others that have latched on to the M2M/IoT phenomenon share a vision of a sharp rise in the total population of connected devices.

As this trend develops, users will become ever more dependent on their connected devices. This will give rise to three interesting industry developments each of which represents a potential commercial opportunity.

The rising trend in the number of connected devices will expose three promising needs:

  • Individual users in possession of multiple devices will see value in the ability to link and cross-connect their devices. This can develop into a complex situation as different devices may have been initialized for different domains e.g. personal/business devices or devices set-up across multiple service providers (mobile-operator-A/mobile-operator-B, mobile-operator-A/fixed-operator-C, fixed-operator-A/public hot spot operator-D etc.)

  • Users will exhibit an increasing dependency on personal devices as well as the devices that they have personalized (e.g. home-heating controllers). By virtue of their ‘investment’ in these devices, there will be a value proposition around the care of these devices. Specifically, users will perceive some value and eventually look for services that assist them in managing personalization-profiles, digital content and security of access to devices and their content.

  • Multiple devices means that valued, digital content will be distributed, be this in-the-cloud or on one or more devices. Services will be created around content management not just in an ownership sense but also in terms of convenience and ease of access from multiple devices.

A common denominator to each of these user needs is that of identity management and how this manifests itself in user-support and device-management functions on operational support platforms. Some of the concepts can be seen in the following assessment of key functions.

Linkage across user's devices

New complexities and service support opportunities emerge when considering a multi-provider environment
Identity mapping functionality across multiple devices and service-support environments
Device access control and security of contents

Password management and password updating. Some requirements will be specified by users and other necessitated by service provider
Permissions management management and secure access (controls) while adhering to a hierarchical system of rules
Location of content in a distributed operating environment
Consumer management of content and moving between central and local storage (because cloud-access cannot always be relied upon)
Content indexing and vault functions for digital content which can be linked to a single identity and shared or loaned to other identities
SOURCE: more-with-mobile.com (2014)

Identity management is a critical element of the connected-devices and -services jigsaw that several companies are working on, not just from a technical vantage point, but also from a commercial perspective. One such organization is Gemalto and its multi-year development plan, released in September 2013, is highly worth studying [1]. In particular, two points stood out in the company’s presentation:

  • Like other companies I have written about, Gemalto is adopting a ‘platform innovator’ strategy [2]. It is putting in place an array of building blocks that companies developing connected devices can use in creating their market offerings. In this sense, Gemalto seems to position itself as an enabler – the central ‘B’ - in a B2B2B/B2B2C style of business model. I’ll note, in passing, that its work with electronic passports is an example of a Government-Consumer (G2C) model and one that opens up many interesting business opportunities where a legally authorized, electronic identity might be required.

  • Gemalto’s development plan lays out a integrative road-map for its past acquisitions including Cinterion (M2M modules and design support) and Sensor Logic (M2M service enablement platform) in combination with those capabilities (SIM, SIM-management solutions, electronic payment cards, ePassports etc.) that are associated with the pre-acquisitions Gemalto.

For any company operating in the service enabler and identity segments of the M2M/IoT market, the functional elements discussed in the table above are important ingredients in delivering a robust service. Properly implemented, they will also help to deliver a polished user experience across one or more connected devices. This is something that users and service providers will value, thereby creating new monetization opportunities.

That being said, the area in which companies like Gemalto can build a long term strategic advantage is in emphasizing trust. Intermediaries that possess sensitive information and personal user data will at some point in time have to address public questions about the way that this data is managed and being used. Their answers need to be beyond reproach.

A good way to appreciate the value of trust in this is to learn from the long-term value destruction that today's retail banking industry is living through. Here, at least one industry leader fears that the recovery period could take as much as a decade [3].

[1] - Gemalto 2014-2017 Multi-year Development Plan (Sep. 2013) 

[2] - GSMA Connected Life - The Need for New Business Models (2011-12)

[3] - Barclays’ Antony Jenkins says it will take years to rebuild trust - Financial Times, 31 Dec 2013

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