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How Cloud Adoption Is Shaping Secure Credentials

Cloud computing — the use of massive shared digital resources and infrastructure — continues to be a driving force in the technology landscape. Across a wide range of industries, cloud computing is empowering technological innovation. But how is cloud adoption shaping secure credentials and the process to issue these credentials? Let’s take a closer look.

Secure Credentials Start With a Physical ID

Everything begins with a trusted identity that is made up of a unique set of characteristics identifying a person, place or thing in a specified setting. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll be focusing on trusted identities for people, such as birth dates, driver’s license numbers, or biometric data and relational data such as a name or address. A secure credential is issued to a person using a set of these attributes to grant the user privileges or access as assigned by the issuer. Whether it’s an employee badge or a passport, this credential is likely physical.

The Changing Landscape of Secure Credentials

What do secure credentials look like today? In one word: mixed. Digital transformation is a force that has been at play for many years, touching every sector of the economy. COVID-19 accelerated those initiatives, especially in areas of business that were slower to adapt. Digital technologies and processes are changing how we connect and how we operate from day-to-day, including new forms of identity verification and authentication. However, physical forms of identification are still very much a part of our world, from passports to employee badges, they continue to play a valued role in verification and authentication of identity.

A person using a smartphone

Physical identities underpin digital ones in today’s world.

The Cloud Is Bridging Gaps in Secure Credentials

By 2025, more than half of all enterprise IT spending will shift to the cloud across a variety of market segments in response to rapidly changing dynamics, according to Gartner researchers. How is the cloud influencing secure credentials?  While digital identities are on the rise and expected to hit a tipping point this year, physical credentials still underpin digital ones. What’s changing dramatically is the issuance process and the ability of the cloud to bridge the gap between physical and digital IDs.

Issuance of Secure Credentials

The cloud brings scalability and flexibility to the issuance of physical and digital identities. From private organizations to educational institutions and governments, cloud-based card issuance offers a powerful model to create a seamless experience for both the issuer and the recipient. A cloud-based issuance model contains everything required for the secure issuance of a physical ID card accessed via any internet-connected device, whether that is a laptop, tablet or mobile phone. This provides a distributed issuance process in a centralized way, allowing administrators to create a new card, issue a replacement card and manage print queues from any location to any print location near or far.

Converged Credential Ecosystems and Embedded Technology

Blending physical and digital security is a compelling model that provides a layered security approach with greater convenience and security. Converged credentials replace multiple credentials with a single, smart card that performs multiple functions through an embedded secure operating system and biometric and RFID readers. The credential stores important data with security protections for a variety of applications like voter ID cards, eIDs and ePassports, and empowers issuers and administrators to manage the entire lifecycle across a range of both physical locations and digital resources.

Secure Credentials and the User Experience

There’s a rising expectation among users that authentication and verification should be smooth, seamless and simple. Secure credentialing via cloud-based solutions integrates applications and supports emerging use cases for biometrics and mobile applications to address challenges and pain points across industries. Here are some examples of this technology in action.

Financial Services

Digital self-service experiences were popular among consumers well before the pandemic. In fact, as financial institutions looked to innovative technologies to outperform competitors, financial instant issuance became a transformative trend. A PYMNTS.com article noted that as the pandemic — and consumer sentiment — accelerated the need for an end-to-end contactless experience, the banking industry focused more on smart ATMs and enhanced mobile apps. But due to high cost and low consumer awareness, only about 25 percent of banking institutions had invested in such solutions.

By contrast, financial instant issuance and activation is in use at 63 percent of the top 50 banks according to FIS Global. Despite the evolving technology landscape, branch banking has proved its importance to both consumers and financial services providers. Financial instant issuance and activation, in fact, is expected to grow as it meets consumer demand for fast, convenient and secure banking services that complement fully digital capabilities.

Higher Education

Today’s college students are digital natives. In fact, Gen Z was born and raised during the current digital era and their lifelong access to technology means they are focused on speed, convenience and accessibility. Cloud-based secure credential programs are helping colleges and universities meet expectations and provide a competitive student experience.

Inherent scalability, distributed issuance, and centralized management mean more options and less waiting during busy periods, such as new student orientation or the start of a new semester. For example, North Carolina State University is one such institution offering a fast, efficient, one-card solution that, once issued, provides access to buildings, dorms and other university services like libraries, gyms, meal plans and on-campus purchases.

Students holding books

A better student experience starts with a converged, secure credential.

Enterprise and Corporate

Identity verification is different today than it was just a few years ago. As organizations adopt different models of remote and hybrid work, there is a new urgency from both IT and security teams to confirm employee identity as a tool to protect the business from fraud and to keep employees safe from identity theft. But secure credential programs can also enable seamless experiences when accessing the digital or physical workplace.

Issuing converged, secure credentials through the cloud enables organizations to streamline and expand capabilities. The same card that opens the front door to the office building also works for time and attendance, vending or printer access. It can support secure network access both within and outside of the office setting, along with the issuance of digital credentials for a seamless experience across digital and physical environments.


A secure, trusted identity is critical for individuals to access government services, to seek out legal protections and to exercise their rights. The implementation of remote enrollment and scalable ID printing programs represents a major step forward in enabling citizens to verify their identity and to participate in all aspects of society.

Cloud-based enrollment and issuance enables fewer roadblocks and faster issuance for people. For governments, it means greater reach to deliver much needed services to citizens. One case study with the Angolan government shows the benefit of modernizing voter ID programs while another offers a look into how governments can optimize the issuance and management of secure credentials in a fast-paced environment.

Secure Credentials Matter

Cloud technology is reshaping the tech landscape, driving everything from the rise in cybercurrency to the ubiquity of mobile digital services. As digital transformation continues reshaping service models around identity and security, it will also create new, exciting ways to deploy secure credentials to an increasingly remote body of stakeholders. In the context of secure credentials, we anticipate that the cloud will deliver on emerging opportunities to manage identities, applications and data, while at the same time driving adoption of new form factors such as mobile devices — not to mention new protocols such as biometric authentication — to enable seamless, trusted authentication.

Nils Wahlander is a seasoned product marketing professional with more than 17 years of experience in the card personalization space with the last 10+ years focused on software solutions. He is responsible for coordinating product roadmaps and business strategy to deliver customer-demanded solutions at HID Global. Nils has a keen interest for all things cloud and voice of customer.