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HID Connects Podcast Episode 4: Have Mobile IDs Reached Their Tipping Point?

 

Transcript below:

Matt (Host):
Hello everyone. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening — whatever time it is, and wherever in the world you may be. My name is Matt Winn, your podcast host and resident secure identities nerd. Thank you for joining us for this episode of HID Connects. We're very excited to have you back.

Today, you are in for a real treat, and that's because we've got a super special, supersized episode for your listening pleasure. Today's guests include a panel of, not one, not two, but three experts on a game-changing topic with wide impact on the industry as we know it.

So to help set the stage, allow me to first establish some context. As you've likely noticed, our lives are becoming more and more digital. Smartphones have some form of impact on every aspect of our lives. For me personally, it permeates everything from exercise to education to entertainment, and my screen time is pretty embarrassing to admit. That said, the omnipresence of mobile extends well into our industry in security and identity, including access control, government-issued IDs, network access and everything in between as the use cases continue to grow. That said, we've been talking about the impact of mobile IDs and digital wallets for years now, and that's why, for today's episode, we will be discussing the burning question of... drum roll, please: Have mobile IDs finally reached their tipping point?

Let's now start by introducing our panel.

Joining me in person from our studio here in Austin, Texas is Sanjit Bardhan, HID's Vice President and Head of Mobile. Sanjit, mind saying hello to our listeners?

Sanjit:
Hello everyone. Matt, thanks for having me on this podcast. Looking forward to our discussion.

Matt:
Likewise, thank you.

And dialing in from sunny California, or maybe not so sunny, depending on the weather today, is our resident digital wallet expert, Deb Spitler, our VP of Business Development. Deb, welcome to the podcast.

Deb:
Hi everyone. Nice to be here.

Matt:
And last but most certainly not least, beaming in from the Florida peninsula is Jean-Baptiste Milan, HID's Director of Pre-Sales, Mobile Identity Solutions, and knower of all things digital government IDs. JB, thanks for joining.

Jean-Baptiste:
Hi, thank you very much Matt, and thank you, everyone.

Matt:
Wonderful. Okay, so now that you've got an intro to our panel, I don't know about you, but I'm excited to get started, so let's get to it.

Okay, so first question up — it's a pretty elementary one, but I think it's an important discussion for us to have. Sanjit, I'll start with you. How do you define a mobile ID? What is it?

Sanjit:
Yeah, it's pretty elementary actually. A mobile identity is a virtual identity that's unique to you and it's on your mobile device, which could be a phone, a tablet or a wearable. It gives you access to properties, premises, and very recently it's also started giving you access to equipment and services. So essentially, it's your physical credential now on your mobile device.

Matt:
Excellent. And Deb, what's your take on that definition? Do you agree? Have a similar or different flavor of that?

Deb:
Very similar to what Sanjit said. I do think that it's a very broad term and depending on the industry you're in, it will have different meanings to different people and may at some point include how your identity is also managed as well as used.

Matt:
Very nice. And JB, not to leave you out of the conversation, what is your thought on the definition of a mobile ID?

Jean-Baptiste:
Well, of course my vision will be very similar to those of Deb and Sanjit, but as my daily interlocutors are governments around the world, I will have a different flavor when talking about it. For me, it's using a mobile device instead of a physical identity document to prove your identity or to share some part of your identity in your daily life. What it means for us the most is that it has to be issued by a trusted party, and what can be more trusted than a government for anything related to your legal identity, right?

Matt:
Absolutely. What's really interesting about this is there are lots of different flavors of what a mobile ID is, but with one common theme — and that is the smart device. I want to take a step back in time though, because we've seen the mobile ID landscape evolve pretty heavily over the years.

The example I like to use is a visual one. If you think about your purse or your wallet — a physical one, not a digital one — you've got potentially a driver's license and/or a national ID and/or a passport and/or an access card to get into your office, and/or a hotel room key to get into the Marriott or into the Hyatt or into any other type of hotel in the world. You've also got your gym card; you have your favorite smoothie place loyalty cardand you've got all of these physical IDs that you are carrying around, and now they're beginning to converge into this idea of the digital wallet. But that has been a step-by-step incremental progression of technology.

So Deb, starting with you, I would love to get your take on how you have seen the mobile ID landscape grow and mature over the years.

Deb:
I think that's a great question, Matt. For me, I was involved in HID's first mobile access pilot, which was well over 10 years ago at Arizona State University. If you think about how ironic it is — we did that pilot over 10 years ago there with about 20–30 students to test out what we thought a mobile ID was and how it was going to be used. And now here we sit 10 years later, and Arizona State is just going to start rolling out mobile IDs with wallet to over 60,000 students and employees at the university. Thinking about it in that respect, that's been close to a 10-year process.

Quite a lot has, I think, changed in that time, and we've seen how the technology has changed. We've seen a greater emphasis on the end-to-end solution. We've seen a bigger emphasis on how to make the experience better for the actual phone holder or the wearable holder. So lots of different elements have changed over that time. To me, having been involved in this for a very long time, it's quite a dramatic shift.

Matt:
Very nice.

JB, I want to shift gears over to you. Same question, different layer, and that is on the government ID perspective, which I know that you have had a lot of experience in. What's your take on this evolution over the years, decades or anything in between?

Jean-Baptiste:
Well, just to start, before dedicating my life to mobile identity, I was working on electronic passports. Back in the early 2000s, I was just traveling around trying to convince governments that the chip was the future of their passport. At the time, most of the police officers in many countries — the police are in charge of making sure that the passport follows certain standards — they were just looking at this microchip as just a technology gadget. It took them a while to understand the value that we were bringing with that.

To be honest, when I shifted to mobile identity back in 2016, I had the same level of disdain and distrust by many government entities that said, "What? Mobile phone? Come on. This is not a toy; we're talking about serious stuff here." It took them a while to get there, but now I get the feeling that we have been explaining enough, that technology has proven enough, that governments are starting to really look at that in a very, very serious way.

After the 2016 period, I noticed that around 2020 — you remember the beginning of the pandemic — there was a certain need for more secure and socially distant identification. At the time, for me, it was a messy overexcitement. Tons of new players emerged who did not constantly keep in mind the value proposition of mobile identity, and that is for me: security, convenience and universality. After that overexcitement, what I see now in 2023 is that we’re getting a much more rational and steady consolidation. There is expertise that is coming from a values ecosystem, but it's not messy anymore. All of that is driven by publication of internationally recognized standards like the ISO 18135 — sorry for the jargon, but that's one you’ll want to remember for sure. It has driven a lot of people to work in the same direction. So we are finally getting somewhere.

Matt:
Excellent. It seems like there's a snowball effect taking place, and the technology has been there. Then there have been advances in the technology — yes — but enthusiasm for the adoption curve continues to advance in that regard too.

Sanjit, what's your take? How have you seen things change over the years? Are we finally to a point where we're going to see this more mainstream?

Sanjit:
Yeah, it's interesting what both JB and Deb commented on. I'll just add some color to their commentary.

If you look at the evolution of mobile devices, just mobile phones, with the first mobile device that came out in the early seventies, we were making phone calls, which had a talk time of — or the phone charge allowed people to have a talk time of up to 30 minutes, and that was it. You potentially had a couple of people carrying the handset and the briefcase along with that device to make that call happen. The first smartphone came out in the late nineties — that was a 20-year period until when the evolution actually started.

From the late nineties until today, there's been an explosion of applications. People buy mobile devices not just for the mobile device, but also for the applications that surround the actual device.

So you can see that the needs and the wants of consumers and people have shifted from just the mobile device to the applications and the ecosystem that surround that. With that evolution, there is the HID mobile access — or not only HID's mobile access, but mobile access in general, which starts getting exponentially adopted by customers and partners all over the world. Over the last few years, adoption has been quick. But over the next decade or so, the adoption is going to be absolutely exponential. We see a very bright future ahead, and we see more and more customers getting interested — to some of JB's points that he spoke about. And Deb, I will agree with this: 10 years ago — in fact, slightly over 10 years ago — customers were talking to us about mobile ID. Now they are getting into the phase of adoption because they understand that the ecosystem that surrounds it allows them a better use case of the available technology today.

Matt:
Absolutely. I also think — and I say this as a 'digital native' and also a geriatric millennial, but we can save that for another day — the expectation as an end user is that your device is essentially attached to your hand or your hip at all times.

Sanjit:
Sure.

Matt:
So going back to the example of why do I need 12 different cards to do 12 different things when I can just consolidate it into one? I think you're seeing some generational differences.

Sanjit Bardhan:
Absolutely.

Matt:
Differences in expectations. Going back to the point around UX and user experience, that's critical in helping to drive adoption too. So lots going on psychologically, technologically and systemically as it relates to this landscape moving over the years.

That said, we have been talking about this for a while and things are catching up. Sanjit, I do want to start with you on this question, and that is: what are some of the biggest opportunities to increase mobile ID adoption? At the same time, what are some of the obstacles you see on this adoption curve?

Sanjit:
Yeah, I'll touch on a couple because I'll let my colleagues speak as well.

What's important out here is not just to identify the opportunity that exists, but also to create the opportunity. We see a lot of end users and partners who request information, who want to understand what is the best use case of mobile identities and how they can use it to drive efficiencies and other factors.

We've started seeing various industries adopting to mobile and fairly quickly, right? Verticals that have large employees and/or customer bases see mobile as a tremendous opportunity to drive efficiency in their respective businesses.

Mobile provides a tremendous value for our customers, not only from opening the door, which used to be the use case back in the day, but now also to using elevators, turnstiles, secure printing and other use cases that totally drive the value proposition of the utilization of mobile.

Now as systems and technologies converge, mobile becomes essentially the glue — to your point that you spoke about previously.

Mobile also contributes significantly to many of our end customers' ESG goals. People are talking about how ESG is becoming a very, very important factor in a lot of large enterprises driving their corporate social responsibility strategy across the global market. More enterprises are leaning towards mobile as these solutions offer a far greener alternative to the plastic credentials that are in place.

I can talk about a use case aside from this. Let's talk about identity positioning, for example, which is another value-added service that we offer. It's an opportunity for customers to analyze proof of presence. This is a unique use case which has a growing demand across all global markets. When you start looking at the proliferation of use cases globally, these are the biggest areas of opportunity, and the utilization, the expansion or the explosion of use cases will continue to happen. As and when these use cases continue to explode and you have more use cases coming up in the market, mobile access will be the glue. That's why we see a tremendous opportunity across various verticals and across various markets.

Matt:
Very good. Deb, I want to take that to you, to get you to add on to the opportunities. I'd also love to get your take on: what obstacles are we running into as it relates to mobile ID adoption, and maybe what do we need to do to overcome those?

Deb:
Sure. I think that from an opportunity perspective, Sanjit hit a lot of those right on the head. But I also think to your point, Matt, about the younger generation. As the younger generation is coming along, they have much more expectation about doing everything with their wearable or their phone than, say, people that have been in the workforce for 20 years and are used to using a card to get into the building. I think that there's some mind-shift changing taking place as the younger generation enters the workforce and has a very different idea about what it means to be productive.

We also, I think, saw a lot of mobile adoption being pushed along by the pandemic, where people didn't come to an office for so long that by the time they were ready to come back, they couldn't even find their card, but they knew right where their phone was. So if their credential had been on their phone, they would've been able to easily get back into the office space and become productive again, as opposed to having to have a new plastic card issued to them. I think the pandemic in that respect, and supply chain woes as well, probably helped us out because if you don't have plastic cards, issuing a digital credential is obviously something that's available at any time. So I think we did have some wins there.

In terms of obstacles, I think that there are still some challenges around interoperability in terms of things being interoperable between either the devices themselves and/or the readers that read those credentials from devices. When you look at success factors, we find that the companies that seem to be the most successful with mobile identities are companies that require them for use for every application within their environment. It's very confusing to employees to say, "Well, you use your phone to get into the building or for access, but you need to use your plastic card to do secure print release or to clock in at a time clock," or whatever the application. So we find that the more things that the credential can be used for, it helps to phase that plastic out, meaning that it's an easier and better experience for the employee overall. As we make strides in making that happen, to where that use of mobile credential becomes ubiquitous within a facility, I think that will help to improve the user experience and move people along further and faster.

Matt:
Very nice. JB, anything you want to add?

Jean-Baptiste:
Yeah, just quickly on my side, meeting governments around the world, the usual verticals that they have in mind with mobile identity are finance and banking, insurance, healthcare (which is very big), travel and public notary. Basically, governments want to put mobile identity in place to facilitate the interaction within the country to push toward modernity and improve the value for everyone. This is really the area of opportunity that they see.

In terms of obstacles, usually what we observe is showing the value to the people — making sure that beyond knowing that it's a mobile identity, they understand what to do with it. The technology is still a bit of a limitation despite the tremendous progress we have done in the last 20 years, as Sanjit, Deb and I have already explained.

We are still lacking certain aspects or, put it in a better way, some things could be improved around the line of biometrics and also cryptographic elements in the devices, to really reach the maximum level of value. I must also say that in the ecosystem, in terms of the values, actors are still dancing around one another, looking at who is doing what. What I would like to see is a bit more goodwill and cooperation between value sectors to really bring forward mobile identity rather than trying to fight just for your own little square, like we say in French.

Matt:
That's really interesting. Bridging some of these ideas together, you have very complex technology — very complex technological ecosystems — but you have this requirement of an extremely simple user interface — an extremely convenient user experience — and that's really the expectation the consumer has. So there's all the stuff behind the scenes, but then how do you make sure that it's flawless and seamless as humanly possible on the front end of things — which is probably a different podcast for another day, so more to come on that. 

But Deb, I want to take things back to you. I really want to focus more on this topic around digital wallets, no pun intended. It's the holder of the various mobile IDs, and "What's in your digital wallet?" as some people like to say.

What's the role of digital wallets and what's the impact on mobile IDs in terms of volume and use cases, and what does this mean for adoption of this technology?

Deb:
Great question, Matt. I think that the wallet providers — particularly those who are associated with a specific device or an operating system — think big. They think about changing the world and changing status quo. They're all about, "We have something new and we're big enough to drive something new and exciting." From their perspective, they really view mobile IDs as having the ability to increase the value of the wallet simply by increasing the number of taps that you make each and every day. The more times that they can get you tapping your phone for the more use cases or more applications that you have, the more sticky they become with you as a customer of their hardware.

For them, it's really about developing a relationship with you through the device that you hold in your hand each and every day. The more times that you use that device, whether it be your phone or your watch, the more likely they are to be sticky with you, and that when it comes time to replace your device, you're going to replace that device with that same brand.

They're looking at this as how to increase the value of their wallet to increase that stickiness with you, as a customer. I think that they're all starting to have to try to find their way, because if you think about it, there are a lot of wallet providers out in the world. There are wallets that are coming not only from device providers or device OS manufacturers, but also from banks, financial institutions and governments. I'm sure that JB sees with governments, they want to have wallets. There are a lot of choices of wallets, and again, it comes back to that stickiness. The more things that you can get your wallet being used for, contained within that device, the more sticky that you will be, and the more likely that you are to keep that person using your hardware.

Matt:
Sanjit, I want to take things over to you. Deb was mentioning stickiness and achieving that in the form of new and interesting use cases for mobile IDs being held in digital wallets. Tell me more about the various types of use cases that you're seeing. It's proliferating, but what are some of the more common types that you're seeing, and how have you seen that evolve over the years as well?

Sanjit:
Yeah, back in the day, as I previously indicated, you'd use your mobile device to enter a building, enter a property and that was it.

I also spoke about the use case explosion — we are in this era of a use case explosion. We are talking about multiple use cases where mobile devices could be used. So now today, you can open the door using your mobile device, walk into your office, log into your computer using your mobile device potentially, print a document, go over to your printer and get a secure print-out using your mobile device. You tap the phone on your printer, and the printer knows that that particular document is for you. You then move into a particular elevator using your mobile, you walk through a turnstile using a mobile, and then after a hard day's work when you want to sign out of your building, you use your mobile.

Your entire movement across your building, so to speak, and all the various activities, are all various examples of use cases that you're now using your mobile device for. So with this, now we are seeing customers talking to us about location. They want proof of presence. Did people access the property after a certain period of time or at non-permissible hours? Did people move around in a certain area that they were not allowed to move in? All of that is an application that's possible via mobile. So lots of use cases, and of course, as Deb rightly pointed out, wallets allow OEMs and phone manufacturers to provide more stickiness to your customers because of the utilization of various cases.

Matt:
JB, I want to take it over to you — use cases as it relates to government. Extrapolating on Sanjit's example, you use your phone, your mobile ID, to walk into the building, to release the print job, to log out. And then for me, maybe I go to Whole Foods or a grocer and use my phone to pay, and then maybe I need to go to the airport or, who knows? If it was a bad day, the liquor store, to show my ID to get some bottle of relief. So what's the state of government IDs as it ties back to mobile technology?

Jean-Baptiste:
Interestingly, what we observe are regional trends. These trends, for some reason, probably follow the geopolitical trends that we see in the world. We see North America following some trends, the European Union, and then there was another one with Australia and New Zealand. But what we see is all of them having the desire to be globally interpretable at some point. What we also observe globally is that governments understand that the wallet is the last mile to the user. Whoever owns the wallet will guide the usage. Governments are globally looking at how to leverage big technology, with its capability, and at the same time ensure that they can provide public goods to their citizens, so that the wallet will not only help them as consumers, but also help them as citizens, as individuals.

This gives some shape to the trends that we see. For example, if we look at the European Union, there has been a decision to put into those wallets many items that are not directly related to the hosting of the documents in the wallet, but offer other values that governments can bring to their citizens. That's a way to ensure that governments within the European Union will always keep the interest of their citizens at heart when they make a technology-based decision.

Matt:
Knowing that that's the current state of affairs, JB, sticking with you, keep going down that timeline chronologically.

What do you see as the future of mobile IDs in that space?

Jean-Baptiste:
Oh my God. So first, what I see in the future is that at some point there will be a resolution in that big battle between government and big tech, and that government will understand how to work along with companies to bring the best public services, best experiences, but at the right level of security, of course. I also see that at some point, there’s a clarification over the business models, a better balance between the issuance and the verification events. Historically speaking, the government sector for identity documents has been paying for this document because it’s of value to themMore recently, what we see is a desire to switch that balance to, "Oh, don't worry about the document itself. For the mobile identity, you will just be charged on its verification" — which is also not a perfect situation.

I think in the future there will be a much more balanced situation regarding the value of the issuance, so the document issued by the government will be recognized along with the value of the verification. My dream for tomorrow is very close to what we were describing a bit before. I wake up in my home in Florida, I lock my door with my smart key, then I pass TSA. I use my phone to buy my plane ticket to Paris, I enter the space with my digital travel credential and other government-issued document that replaces my passport. I Uber to my hotel, where I can skip the front desk because I did the online check-in using my mobile identity issued by my government, and then I can open the door to my room with my digital key — an all-around easy experience. And tomorrow, I won't get hacked — because that's super important that people know they can use it, it's easy, but also that they won't get a bad situation because of it. And as you have seen, the HID technology has been with me the whole way.

Matt:
Very nice, JB. All right, Deb, same crystal ball question to you. From your perspective, what do you see for the future of mobile IDs?

Deb:
That's a great question, Matt. I think that the use of mobile IDs is going to continue to grow and evolve. I think that we're going to find new use cases — there are going to be new ways to make these IDs more interoperable, more cost-effective for the organizations who are issuing them, and that just the overall experience will continue to grow. I think Sanjit mentioned earlier in the call about how the mobile phone industry has grown and evolved and how we all were so excited that we could make phone calls from a mobile phone that lasted up to 30 minutes before our battery died. We just thought that was the best thing to ever happen to us. And now we're much less accepting of those kinds of things — we expect continually more and more from that device that we hold in our hands. I think that that kind of mentality will continue to push us along as to what is possible with a mobile ID on a device.

Matt:
Very good. Sanjit, what's your perspective? What do you see for the future?

Sanjit:
Well, my colleagues nailed pretty much…

Matt:
Pretty good, right?

Sanjit Bardhan:
Pretty much everything. Just building on something that Deb said — ultimately, when you look into the future, what has mobile done? Mobile historically has taken away a lot of standard use cases and just transported the use cases to mobile, and we'll see a continuation of that. Three things that will become more and more important and relevant are user experience, scalability and interoperability, and security. These things were all covered by what JB and Deb said, but we'll start seeing more and more of that becoming relevant in our industry and the value that is provided. Customers want to see more value from the device. Mobile phones are going to become more powerful. They're not becoming weaker, right? As I said, 40 years ago, you could make a phone call that would last — or the device would last for 30 minutes. Today, devices could last for a couple of days without a charge. So phones will become more powerful; phones will be used for many more purposes than what they're currently being used for, and people will basically choose devices based on the applications that surround that. That's where mobile identities fit in very well, just like glue.

Matt:
A very bright future indeed. Let's bring things back to the present. So sitting where we are now, Deb, I will start with you. Our overall final thought and summary of today's podcast episode is our burning question: have mobile IDs finally reached their tipping point?

Deb:
I was giving that some thought as we were discussing this topic today, and I personally don't think that we're on the tipping point yet. I think that there's so much more that needs to happen in order to get us there. I think our ramp-up is quicker than what we've seen in the past, but I don't think that we've reached that tipping point yet.

And I'm not quite sure what it's going to take to get us to that tipping point. I think there are a lot of things converging. One thing we haven't talked about or mentioned today is digital car keys. It's not a business that we happen to be in at HID, but it's another very prolific use case that gets people thinking about using a mobile ID for something like starting your car every day or accessing your car. I think that there are other industries that are going to bring use cases to bear that are going to have interest and impact on what we do today, and that will help to move us to that tipping point. But I don't think we're there yet.

Matt:
Lovely. JB, what are your thoughts? Have mobile IDs finally hit that tipping point?

Jean-Baptiste:
Well, I agree with that — not yet. When you look at it, less than 5% of countries have implemented something that you can call mobile identity. Less than 10 percent of people around the world have something that you could call mobile identity. I put aside voluntarily everything that could be called digital identity without a mobile, like all the programs that we have seen in India and other places that are just based on biometrics — that doesn't imply any device (although they have value, that's not exactly what we're talking about today). So less than 10 percent of people. You can see we are very far from having something that is mainstream.

I believe we still need a lot of rationalization. A lot of effort has been made, but not in proper coordination among the value stakeholders. I think standardization has started and progressed a lot, but there is still some way to go with standardization to make sure that we can reach this tipping point. And then investments — too often I see the values ecosystem just waiting for someone to start investing before they invest and say, "Oh, I don't want to invest too early." But if no one starts, we will never get there. So we are not there yet, at the tipping point, but we have never been closer, right?

Matt:
That's a good perspective. Sanjit, you're stuck in the studio with me, so you get the final word. What's your take?

Sanjit:
Yeah, I guess three is a charm. Again, I agree with Deb and JB that we haven't reached the tipping point yet. I guess from a technology lifecycle perspective, we are still in the innovation phase. The industry is, I guess, in an innovation phase, which will continue to evolve, as ecosystems evolve, as technology grows. But it'll grow very fast and continue to provide more value to our customers and end users. So we haven't reached that phase yet, but I don't believe that that phase is too far away. Yes.

Matt:
Beautiful. Well, that was absolutely fascinating. I had a great time absorbing your expertise, so thank you for offering your time and expertise to me, to our listeners and to anyone else who might be interested. Absolutely great stuff. Big thanks, Sanjit, Deb and JB, for sharing your thoughts and perspectives on this very important topic which we'll hear a lot more of in the future. We know this will be shaping all facets of our lives no matter what.

As always, an even bigger thanks to you, our listeners, for joining us for this episode. We really do enjoy creating this podcast and really hope that you enjoy listening to it as well. While you're with us — shameless plug — be sure to subscribe to HID Connects. Doing so will ensure that you stay connected and not miss future episodes, and you can subscribe wherever you get your podcast. Of course, in the spirit of connection, please do send us your questions and topic ideas for future episodes. You can just drop me a line at [email protected]. Until our next episode, thanks again for listening. May your identities forever be secure.

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