The future of digital identity and Internet of Things


The future of digital identity and Internet of Things

We need to move from traditional to seamless authentication

Think about your home for a second. You unlock the front door with a regular key. To check your e-mail you have to use a username and password. Your list of groceries is attached to the fridge and to measure the temperature in the house you actually have to use a thermostat. However through the development of the Internet of Things and digital identities our homes will be very soon transformed to smart homes, full with devices connected to the Internet.

Jan Jaap van Donselaar, Marcel van Kleef & Dominika Rusek - 19 February 2016

Username and password authentication is outdated

It is estimated that there will be 50 billion IoT connected devices by 2020. Every Internet of Things device will be managed with an application. The most popular way of authentication today is using usernames and password. This means that we all need to authenticate with username and password several times a day. Not very efficient and user-friendly, right?

The authentication methods impact the adoption of the Internet of Things

Authentication impacts the adoption of the Internet of Things, as shown in recent thesis research done by Dominika Rusek for the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam. Rusek discovered that user-friendly authentication will be a big driver for adoption. So for the Internet of Things to achieve full potential, authentication needs to evolve from traditional means to seamless authentication – a combination of attribute-based authentication together with advanced biometrics, like iris or vein scans. Having a large number of devices connected to the Internet of Things won’t be a problem if authentication is easy and secure.

The vision of smart home and what is an inevitable part of it – digital identity and Internet of Things devices - was the topic of a roundtable, organized by Deloitte in February 2016 to further develop and spread our point-of-view on digital identities. The event gathered identity experts from banks, telecommunication operators, governments and entrepreneurs. Experts debated over possible scenarios for the future and one of the statements that triggered the discussion was that attribute-based authentication cannot exist without biometrics. There was difference in opinions between experts, making this an interesting topic for further research and discussion.

The digital identity evolution

Identity experts also shared their thoughts on the future of digital identities, inspired by the vision on the digital identity evolution as we presented. The journey towards the future of digital identities sparked great discussions. Some experts claimed that biometrics will be the most important method of authentication – “It all starts with biometrics”, one of the experts said. The possible end state of digital identity was also a subject of great discussion.
The participants together came to the conclusion that this will likely involve a combination of both attribute-based authentication and biometrics. Not to give out too many details, the point of view will be officially launched this year.

Digital identity platform

What the most dominant method of authentication will be remains a subject of interest. What we do know is that it is vital for the further development of the Internet of Things. Now, imagine your home of the future once more. The door will open automatically as soon as you are near it. The way you look and move and the devices you carry provide all the information needed to seamlessly authenticate and unlock the door. Everything inside your house including your heating system, fridge or a lightbulb will be connected to the Internet.

The roundtable about the future of digital identity started discussions about authentication and the Internet of Things. It was just the first of many to come. Deloitte is building a platform for innovative thinkers and plans to organize these events on a regular basis. We encourage both professionals and students to contribute to our efforts in determining the journey towards the future of digital identities. If you want to participate in the next roundtable sessions or have inspiring ideas about digital identities you want to discuss, feel free to reach out to us.

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