What we learned from #MWC17 about the future of digital identity

Thursday, March 2 of this year was the last day of the MWC17 Congress, perhaps one the most future-looking ever held, where we learned about the latest trends in virtual and augmented reality, robotics, IoT, nanotechnology, connectivity, and of course all things mobile.

At ICAR, we were most fortunate to have four experts in the Fintech and Telecom sector join us on our expert panel to discuss the latest trends in digital onboarding and client identity verification.

Xavier Codó (CEO of ICAR), Josep Grau (Digital Innovation at CaixaBank), Xavier Anglada (CEO of CashCredit), Fernando García-Quismondo (Corporate Technology in the Santander Group) and Óscar Mancebo (Senior Product Manager and Head of ‘Mobile Connect’ in the Telefónica Group) provided us with some answers about the future of digital identity.

From the physical “me” to the digital “me”

The need to connect our physical and digital identities is becoming clearer every day, both to improve user experience and to increase security in digital relationships. But what is digital identity? The fact is, we probably have more than one! And so the challenge is not to unify multiple digital identities into a single one in order to better identify the user, but rather to connect the whole digital context that represents a user on the Internet.

The next step is to understand what this identity actually involves. In this regard, companies can help the user to better understand the true scope of the digital world, a world that already has its own identity, one that goes beyond being a mere reflection of the offline world.

The role of companies in regulation

One of the major challenges that companies face is to comply with current standards and regulations governing technology.

The questions that arose during the panel discussion centered around whether companies should merely adapt to the regulations, or contribute to their evolution. Some of the panel members believed that companies need to go further, explaining and communicating the actual scope and implications of new technologies, with the specific aim of improving user understanding.

For example, current technology allows companies to provide access to financial services to underbanked or unbanked segments of the population, that is, to people with little or no access to banking services. This is a role that goes beyond merely submitting to regulation.

But in no case should regulation hold back innovation.

Improvement of user experience

The goal of simplicity is also in the crosshairs of many companies; the challenge is to continuously make technology easier to use. In this respect, we need to keep in mind the user’s learning process, one that involves the need to see clear benefits to change before proactively accepting it.

In the view of many, user experience is the main challenge, since in the end the user will go where he finds the best experience. Technology must be secure enough to comply with regulations and with the company’s internal standards, but most of all it must be usable.

The key is to find a balance between usability, convenience, and security, a complex but ever-more achievable goal thanks to technological advances.

The inexorable rise of biometrics

The overall view is that biometrics will continue to gain ground in identity verification technologies, but it is yet to be seen which specific processes will be the most efficient and secure: voice recognition, retina or fingerprint reading, or facial recognition.

The balance will shift to whatever biometric technology is the most comfortable for the user while also simplifying the process and improving security.

Data sharing, unfinished business for today’s companies

The rise of blockchain technologies has also brought to the forefront the debate about the sharing of user data. On the one hand, there is a clear perception of the need to collaborate and share this information, but on the other hand there are emerging doubts about who is ultimately responsible for the data, especially if a problem occurs.

Another persistent question is what information to share: whether it should be every trace that a user leaves in his path on the web, or only what is necessary for the immediate transaction to be performed. This point also brings in the matter of privacy considerations: Should every bit of information be recorded and shared? Where do we draw the line?

Regarding the ownership of the information itself, the general opinion is that it should be property of the user, and that technology should grant him or her access to change and restrict access to personal information at any time.

Another factor to take into account is whether companies are really prepared to undertake this kind of collaboration, in terms of their corporate culture. There is still some reluctance to share information, out of fear of loss of competitiveness.

The conclusion was that users are more and more aware that everything has its price, and that the price to be paid in the digital world is personal data.

Trust is the key

In order for all of these technologies and processes to be implemented satisfactorily, both for the user and for companies, there must be a strong element of trust.

Users must trust in the technology and in the security that it offers them. And companies can generate that trust through communication, information, and user education.

To sum it up, the discussion left us with a lot of interesting ideas which, once we are able to fully gauge them, paint a picture of the future of digital identity and user verification technologies.