The proliferation of IoT means that there are now more machines with a digital ID than there are people on the planet. From smartwatches to digital assistants, the number of online accounts and their resulting data rapidly increases every day. The IDC forecasts that by 2025, the global datasphere will grow to 175 zettabytes (one ZB is a trillion gigabytes), a 32% increase from what it is measured at today.
It’s safe to assume that in the future, there won’t be a single industry where machines aren’t connected to our identity as a user or owner. And while more data means more opportunities for personalization and convenience, it also means more exposure to breaches and security risks.
But digital ID offers a solution. An opportunity to “get our cake and eat it too” by offering a secure and seamless way to organize and access our ever-growing digital footprint. With digital ID implementation, governments and businesses can strip away complexity from our interactions, creating greater value and accessibility across every digital touchpoint and connected device.
Digital ID is more affordable than ever before making it prime for roll out in the US. But despite its potential, questions loom around what it will take to encourage wide adoption. In this article, we’ll explore various considerations for digital ID implementation including drivers for adoption, use cases across the private and public sector, and potential challenges that lie ahead.
Our identity as social beings and employees has blended, but security hasn’t caught up
Digital ID and cybersecurity are often seen as distant cousins but ever since the surge in flexible working the two issues have become entwined. Pre-pandemic when office work dominated, security and identity were centered around the office. Now, many of us work from home, making the individual, not the location, the most vulnerable point in the chain. Work and home personas have merged with many of us already owning an online identity that makes it easy to tap into personal information in just a few clicks.
We all have a digital twin of some form, and that footprint grows as we leave traces through our interactions; payments on Venmo, posting on Instagram, leaving product reviews on Amazon, etc. Because of this there’s a growing need to tighten security and build a firewall around the individual rather than the location.
With governments now going digital too, our identities as social beings and employees are increasingly blending with our identities as citizens. This shifting dynamic of identity presents an opportunity for private and public institutions to understand how digital acceleration can pave the way to more efficient interactions, especially those that rely on obsolete paper-based processes. Imagine the convenience of storing and accessing all of your important personal documentation in one central portal; welfare benefits, tax records, various forms of identification like licenses and passports, health records and more.
Early use cases for digital ID in business are promising
On the business front, digital ID can streamline the process of authentication across employees and suppliers. As employees, we use a combination of badges and passwords to protect against hackers, but a digital ID could offer a more secure alternative. On the supplier side, authentication usually involves carrying out manual verification processes, while with digital ID, relevant documentation could be passed along in one transaction, offering significant cost and time savings.
In particular, industries like healthcare and payments stand to benefit the most from digital ID at the start. For healthtech, the switch to digital ID could have lifesaving significance. What if physicians could leverage medical records and biomarkers in tandem with artificial intelligence and machine learning? The capability to diagnose people quicker and support pharmaceutical trials with extensive patient data would improve exponentially. In digital payments, using digital ID to develop a consistent identification experience across channels would prove powerful in facilitating increasingly agile and secure interactions, all of which would only continue to grow as organizations iterate on the experience.
Barriers to the adoption of digital ID
Societies that are more trusting of the public sector are finding it easier to adopt digital ID in the private sector. Whereas countries with lower trust of public authority, like the US, are likely to see private sector organizations taking small steps to build buy-in. Thankfully, even setbacks in these attempts will keep moving digital ID adoption forward, even if it is at a slower pace.
In countries like Singapore, Estonia and Ukraine, digital ID is embraced as a collective benefit. As a result, users are reaping the rewards of a seamless, secure and user-centric digital experience and continuing to refine the technology. Citizens are also formally educated on responsible data ownership and accountability over their own data which is an important public benefit.
For digital ID to flourish here in the same way, there must be a collective desire to educate people on what it means to become a digital citizen. But the idea that such a large amount of personal information would lie behind a password is controversial. The concern is warranted, but then again, a lot of citizen data is currently stored in legacy systems that lack robust protection to begin with. In contrast, digital ID offers vigorous security measures like multi-factor authentication, biometrics, and strong encryption.
However, organizations must be careful not to get carried away by the hype of digital ID without considering possible consequences. Yes, there’s excitement around the potential to unite people’s personal and social data via large platforms, but with this comes the danger of crossing a line of privacy. This is a hugely complex topic to standardize, especially with changing legislations and privacy laws globally. As such, mapping out a recovery is critical to avoiding backlash and championing responsible digital acceleration. Ultimately, digital ID is here to stay and organizations will need to proactively assess how we can realize the benefits while tackling complex security and data considerations.
- Digital ID is The Future of User-Centric Experiences in IoT - September 21, 2023