In recent years, the world has witnessed a rapid transformation in the way we identify ourselves and access various services. In the past, identity was tied to a physical document, such as presenting a driver's license when paying for age-restricted goods or services. With the rise of smartphones and mobile technology, digital IDs quickly emerged. While digital IDs offer more convenience, security, and flexibility, other complexities, such as IT readiness, authentication, and data privacy concerns, must be taken into consideration.
So, is the world ready to fully embrace digital identification and eventually replace traditional physical documents?
The answer isn't simple, as the required and coveted digital transformation isn't a level playing field—not all organisations or individuals have equal access to resources, skills, or infrastructure required for a successful digital transformation. That said, we expect that the market for traditional physical documents will continue to decline over the next few years, and digital identities will augment this space.
The Rise of Mobile Identity
More people are using their smartphones than ever before to perform online transactions, access digital services, and even open doors. According to intelligence firm Gartner, in 2022, 70% of organisations adopting biometric authentication for access in the workplace executed it via smartphone apps, regardless of the endpoint device being utilised. Considering this figure was fewer than 5% in 2018, it demonstrates how drastically these behaviours are changing.
A combination of other factors is driving digital IDs to their tipping point. The infrastructure to support digital transactions grew alongside the immediate need to offer contactless transactions driven by the pandemic. In tandem, the adoption of mobile wallet apps that house digital identities on mobile devices also grew.
Access Control in a Mobile-First World
Mobile devices have become essential components of most people's daily lives, not just for their intrinsic features but also for the invaluable, convenient benefits they provide. And because people always have their devices with them, using them to access places and move around different parts of the building makes sense.
What's more, the growing popularity of trusted ecosystems of cloud-connected access control devices, applications, and trusted mobile identities has made mobile access easier to adopt than ever. This has enabled myriad new services to be securely accessed through mobile phones and other smart devices.
If using a mobile device as a credential to access doors, networks, services, and more can significantly increase convenience, boost efficiency, and maximise security, it's no wonder that customers and partners around the world are increasingly adopting mobile access. 81% of respondents in our 2023 State of Security and Identity study say they are offering a hybrid work model, with more companies delivering identity management "as a service" rather than via on-premises infrastructure this year.
The Future of Mobile Access
Using a smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch to enter buildings or restricted areas isn't just convenient for the user; it also streamlines access control administration with a digital, cloud-based platform. Companies are increasingly executing access with mobile devices as a mechanism for the authentication and identity verification of their employees and visitors. Mobile access eliminates reliance on physical cards or badges, supports multiple security protocols, and adds layers of security on top of basic card encryption, making it substantially more secure than traditional physical access control.
Another element of mobile access that is gaining recognition is the concept of multi-application, where a single product or solution can execute multiple things. This digital experience not only increases operational efficiency but also helps reduce the number of plastic cards that users use and lose, which has a positive impact on sustainability and security. For example, universities are taking a mobile-first approach by offering mobile IDs with the ability to open doors, check out library books, make cafeteria purchases, and more.
In addition, the future generations of employees, such as Gen Z, will drive demand for mobile access as they are relatively more environmentally conscious and more engaged with the issue of climate change than previous generations. Today, Gen Z' ers are the biggest users of mobile and related applications, and they will eventually be overtaken by Gen Alpha as the "super-users" of mobile.
Digital IDs and Digital Wallets
Most recently, the integration of employee badges into digital wallets became possible. While digital wallets have been around for payment transactions for some time, they are now used for a variety of purposes. Digital wallets hold medical prescriptions, travel documents, driver's licenses, ID cards, insurance information, and employee badges.
With employee badges in digital wallets, employees can access office doors, elevators, turnstiles, multifunction printers, and much more using just their smartphones or smartwatches. Employee badges in digital wallets integrate into existing access control systems, are simple to distribute and manage and take advantage of the built-in security features of the devices.
Activation is easy, and employee badges via digital wallets seamlessly integrate into a company's existing access control systems across a variety of third-party hardware and are easily managed by internal staff. Employee badges in digital wallets also take full advantage of the privacy and security features, ensuring that user data is private to the device owner.
Challenges and Considerations
As more official IDs are digitised, solutions must be developed to protect personal data and prevent data misuse. Building a modern authorisation program with security management in the cloud, with scalability in mind, is crucial. Digital identity systems must also consider regionally and globally relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Other than enterprises, digital IDs and wallets are also prevalent in the education sector, where universities and schools are enabling students and staff to add their IDs or badges to digital wallets on mobile devices.
The Path Ahead for Mobile Access
As more organisations successfully deploy mobile access, more people will experience the convenient benefits of the technology. Additionally, the sustainability perspective is important. Deploying mobile access and virtual credentials removes the need for plastic cards and reduces the carbon footprint associated with their lifecycle. Furthermore, integrating an access control system with a building management platform allows for continuous adjustment of building resources based on occupancy, contributing to sustainability.
The future of mobile IDs will depend on widespread acceptance and regulatory-based trust. Governments, private sector entities, and citizens need to collaborate to build a robust ecosystem that supports interoperability, security, and inclusivity. Public awareness campaigns and educational initiatives are vital to promote the benefits of mobile IDs, address concerns, and ensure broad acceptance among the population.
In conclusion, mobile identities have reached a tipping point, with the convenience, security, and efficiency they offer driving their adoption. As the world continues to embrace digital transformation, mobile access is poised to play a central role in the evolving landscape of access control.
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