Friday, 9 November 2012

A Smart Mobile Identity for our smart mobile lifestyle


I must admit that I didn’t come up with the term Smart Mobile Identity. For that I have to thank Joey Pritikin at AOptix who I was lucky enough to meet at the recent Biometrics exhibition and conference in London during the last week of October 2012. I first came across the term in a presentation that Joey gave at last year’s Biometrics conference where he discussed how standard smart phones can be leveraged for biometric purposes, including user authentication and  identity verification [Presentation: Smart Mobile Identity – Beyond Single Purpose Handheld Biometric Devices].

In my opinion, the term Smart Mobile Identity really sums up the next generation of mobile-based authentication and identity verification solutions – something that I have been involved in for the best part of ten years through various roles including my current one as Managing Director of Goode Intelligence.

To me, Smart Mobile Identity is about leveraging the capabilities of a modern smart mobile device (SMD) to ensure that our identities are proven or verified when identity proof (authentication if you like) is required. Not only for proving identity when accessing digital services through a desktop computer but also for mobile initiated access and even when we present ourselves in the physical world; at a country border or when accessing health or social security services. I also include proving our identity when accessing digital services using other connected devices, such as gaming consoles, automobiles, smart TVs etc; adaptive and agile authentication and identity verification to support the Internet of things. As someone who owns an Xbox 360 Kinect device, the idea of using a voiceprint or a facial scan to access Xbox LIVE is a realistic possibility.

For mobile device-based authentication and identity verification solutions, the simplest scenario is being sent a one-time-password (OTP) via SMS when authenticating ourselves into a network-based service, e.g. Google’s Authenticator or 2-step verification process. However, this is changing rapidly and we are in the midst of an evolution in mobile-based authentication and identity verification solutions; moving away from porting existing, non-mobile centric, services to the mobile to designing solutions specifically for mobile. Using the microphone for voice biometrics, a GPS sensor for Geo-location, a combination of the accelerometer and touchscreen for continuous behavioural assessment, securely storing digital certificates in the SIM or Secure Element (SE) and the camera for facial and eye vein biometrics (take a look at start-up EyeVerify for this). All these examples work with standard SMDs now; no need for any specialist equipment.

In addition to these examples, new opportunities are being presented with the next generation of SMDs that contain new types of embedded sensors, including NFC, embedded fingerprint and voice recognition sensors. You can also adapt existing SMDs with add-on sleeves that enable fingerprint recognition (Precise Biometrics Tactivo sleeve) and can support smart cards and NFC. The need for single-purpose devices to capture and verify biometrics in the field may become obsolete as a result of these developments.

Smart mobile devices offer so many opportunities for authentication and identity verification and this blog can only scratch at the surface of what can and will be offered – some of the solutions even encroach into the realms of science fiction. I was fascinated to come across the iTravel patent from Apple detailing what the Cupertino tech giant believes to be the possibility of using a mobile wallet for travel purposes. Managing the end-to-end travel process from reservation, to ticket receipt/validation, check-in and baggage claim through to identification at border control. I think all but the last scenario achievable now but I believe that we are far off from using our mobile devices as virtual passports.

That said, perhaps we are seeing pieces of the jigsaw that tell us how Apple will integrate the recently acquired fingerprint sensor technology from AuthenTec – an agile, and very personal, way to protect our wallets or in Apple’s case our Passbook. Swiping a finger to lock and unlock our digital wallets.


Every discussion that I have with technology companies involved in this space, and this includes many of the major authentication and biometric vendors, involves how best to utilise the smart mobile device for authentication and identity verification purposes. My recent attendance at the RSA Europe conference and Biometrics Conference, both held in London, was largely occupied with meetings with clients and tech vendors that were investing serious R&D resources into this area of technology.

A number of forward looking organisations and technology vendors are already leveraging the capabilities of the smart mobile device for authentication and identity verification purposes. Through my work at Goode Intelligence I have been exploring the capabilities of mobile devices for authentication and identity verification and this includes the recent publication of two free-to-download white papers; Two-Factor Authentication Goes Mobile and The Case for Mobile MFV.

Goode Intelligence will continue to track this market and you can expect some new publications covering smart mobile identity in the coming months.

Please get in touch if you want to discuss this further or are a technology innovator working in this exciting field. 

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