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Expert opinion

No more 'papers please' - KNOW 2019 conference takeaways from David Birch

Tuesday 2 April 2019 | 01:51 PM CET

“I’ve said many times that we need an identity infrastructure that deals with the realities of this modern world”David Birch, keynote address to KnowID, Las Vegas, March 2019

Having attended the One World Identity (OWI) “KnowID” conferences in Washington DC for the last couple of years, and having enjoyed them very much, I did wonder whether the event would translate into a much larger space in Las Vegas. As it happens, I needn't have worried because the conference itself and the accompanying exhibition were both very good indeed. Frankly, because the event is tightly focused, it is a great place to get business done if you are in the digital identity world.

One aspect of the event that I particularly enjoyed was the idea of having an “Education Day” on the Sunday preceding the main event (March 23rd) around the main topic of the event: Digital Identity. Consult Hyperion ran a couple of the sessions and I was genuinely surprised as to the attendance. The room was so packed there was only room standing during the session discussing the digital identity of people, companies and things - a session which we presented together with Mastercard and PaymentWorks (the hotel staff had to bring in three stacks of chairs during the talk!). And, while I would like to think that this is solely a reflection of Consult Hyperion's leading position in the industry, I took it be a reflection of the increasing importance of digital identity across corporate strategies in a range of sectors.

As most of our clients are in the financial services sector, I naturally paid most attention to the presentations and discussions around digital identity in banking and finance. Mastercard chose the event to drive a stake into the ground around digital identity, with the launch of their paper on the topic, “Restoring Trust in a Digital World”. This presented a framework of how digital identity will work, putting the individual at the heart of every digital interaction. Mastercard’s commitment to the sector reinforced many peoples' view that digital identity has gone up the priority list to become a matter of immediate concern for financial institutions, regulators and customers. The scale of identity theft and fraud, on the one hand, and the costs of patchwork digitised identity solutions, on the other hand, suggest the growth of an industry pressure/demand for real change.

Outside the financial sector, I particularly enjoyed the keynote on the third day from Colleen Manaher from the US Customs and Border Control. She was talking about the use of biometrics, and spent some of the time talking about the specific use of biometrics in airports as an interesting example of how to use biometric technologies for security, but at the same time deliver convenience into the mass market.

The point of her talk, I thought anyway, was partnerships around identity. In this case, she was talking about quite complex public-private partnerships in travel. The investments made in biometrics to allow paperless travel have obvious benefits in terms of security but, as we have found in our other work about the cross-sector exploitation of digital identity, intelligent use of these new capabilities can also transform the customer experience. The same biometric system that scans your passport picture on entry to the airport and then checks you in for your flight, can also be used to direct you through the airport and implement smart departure boards that as you approach them switch from displaying a list of all flights to displaying your flight only.

The use of digital identity as a means to provide what looks like convenience to the man in the street, but under the hood provides much higher levels of security than are currently obtained through the use of physical documents and manual checking, opens up new possibilities and set me thinking about how to replicate this dynamic in other sectors. An obvious example of this back in financial services is for the kind of digital ID called for by Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, which would result in significant cost savings around the KYC and AML for the banks, but should at the same time mean that customers can connect securely and quickly to their financial services providers.

In summary, all I can say is that Consult Hyperion had a stand at this event to provide a convenient place for customers and potential customers and, if this is any measure of the value of an event, we are already planning to do the same again next year. Well done to OWI team!

About David Birch

David G.W Birch is an author, advisor and commentator on digital financial services. He is a Global Ambassador at Consult Hyperion, Technology Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation (the London-based think tank), a Visiting Professor at the University of Surrey Business School and holds a number of board-level advisory roles. Before helping to found Consult Hyperion (one of the very first companies on the Surrey University Business Park) in 1986, he spent several years working as a consultant in Europe, the Far East and North America.

About Consult Hyperion

Consult Hyperion is an independent strategic and technical consultancy, based in the UK and US, specialising in secure electronic transactions. With over 30 years’ experience, we help organisations around the world exploit new technologies to secure electronic payments and identity transaction services. We offer advisory services and technical consultancy using a practical approach and expert knowledge of relevant technologies. Hyperlab, our inhouse software development and testing team, further supports our globally recognised expertise at every step in the electronic transaction value chain, from authentication, access and networks, to databases and applications..

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