23.07.2015

Mobile Identity: the phone as a bridge between physical and digital identity

From the moment we learn to write our name, until we develop our signature, we are creating and cultivating our own identity. Our handwriting, the tone of our voice and our body language all comprise physical signs of our identity, which now join official documentation when it comes to verifying that we are who we say we are.

Moreover, with the rise of the Internet and the Web 2.0, we now have both a physical identity and a digital one. An idiosyncrasy of the Web is that it allows us to have as many identities as we like, one for each profile on Twitter, Facebook, or any email account we want to open. The relative ease with which the user can create identities on the Web can entail negligence in the management of passwords, which can lead to identity theft.

In order to prevent this situation users could unify all their accounts and control them using a single device. The mobile telephone, as a connected, personal and multifunctional device that the individual always has with him, is the ideal tool to contain his identity. Secure, convenient and manageable, the mobile is the key element in which one’s physical and digital identities converge: mobile identity is born.

MID3

In order to delve deeper into the role of smart citizens, and to evaluate how they can establish a fluid relationship with government authorities, and define their role in the government of cities, the Mobile World Capital Foundation has drafted the ID_M, Mobile Identity report. The study, presented on 23 July 2015 at the MediaTIC/Barcelona Growth Centre, analyses smartphones’ potential as new, totally secure, reliable and private identification tools, as well as the potential for their implementation in Catalonia. The report advances the smartphone as a nexus between the user’s physical and digital identities. Based on successful cases in Europe, it presents recommendations to meet the public’s demands for mobile services and to streamline public and private institutions’ delivery of electronic services.

What recommendations does the ID_M, Mobile Identity study offer?

  1. The creation of a digital census fusing public and private identity management services. In this way the government would be established as the sole certifier of all an individual’s identities vis-a-vis all third parties.

In order to carry out this initiative different agents from private sector areas, like banking and telephone service operators, would need to forge alliances for the initial gathering of data and the acceptance of the service for all types of transactions in the private sphere (like contracting services, changing personal information, etc.).

  1. The establishment of the smartphone as a platform for access to all types of services. By expanding the scope of action of mIdentity solutions, mobiles could be used as smart cards that, among other uses, could provide access to buildings or restricted areas, or contain a user’s credentials for the official signing of documents. In the short term the telephone will also function as a ticket on public transport, within the framework of projects like T-Mobilitat, and will contain citizens’ health information, as illustrated by the Personal Health File programme that is already underway. 
  1. The smartphone’s development as an authentication device. Being able to identify yourself by means of your smartphone will also be key for the use of services like online shopping or e-banking. In these areas the sending of an SMS to customers’ phones has become a widespread practice, as has verification by means of fingerprints to authorise operations.

MID4

The standardised use of mobile identity will call for the creation of a cross-disciplinary management model that enjoys broad consensus, common to all these types of services. Along this line, the report also proposes the adoption of a standard authentication service for citizens to access all types of digital services, like the Mobile Connect system backed by GSMA, and the merging of existing services, like Val-ID, the identity validation services of the Consorci de l’ Administració Oberta de Catalunya (AOC), and mobileID, which permits authentication to access the City of Barcelona’s electronic administration services.

The report highlights the extensive culture of service digitalisation in Catalonia, depicting the region as ranking alongside international leaders like Estonia, which boasts the world’s broadest offering of mobile identity services; Finland, with a pioneering interoperable service, backed by operators; and Switzerland, which prioritises the user’s experience in this sector.

In order to further the creation of a unique model making it possible to fully develop Catalonia’s potential, MWCB, the Regional Government of Catalonia and GSMA will cooperate to face the structural challenges posed by the implementation of these types of solutions. This will also require to homogenise the devices on the market and to generate solutions that are compatible with all of them.

MWCB also points out the need to revise the current regulatory framework with regards to levels of data protection, privacy and property, and calls for the creation of associated business models allowing the private sector to adopt mobile identity solutions.

The presentation of the report will be followed by a round table at which the main points in the study will be discussed. The experts who will comment on the conclusions in the document and exchange points of view are Nacho Alamillo, Director of ASTREA and an expert in digital identity and electronic signatures; Richard Cockle, Connected Living Programme Director at GSMA; Pedro Martínez, Director of Business Development (EMEA) at NXP Semiconductors; Luis Enrique Oliveri, Security and Risk Senior Manager at Accenture; and Eduard Contijoch, Director of Mobile Solutions at T-Systems.

ID_M, Mobile Identity is an initiative by Mobile World Capital Barcelona in collaboration with GSMA, Accenture, MobileKnowledge and T-Systems, and you can download it or view it online from the Smart Living website or at mwcb.in/ID_M.