[Dave Birch] At NFC conferences these days (I’ve just got back from NFC World Asia) there tends to be a focus on using the NFC-equipped mobile phone for payments of one form or another, but I am convinced that identity management should be getting just as much attention. The idea that you could leave home with only your phone and no wallet depends on the phone replacing all of things in your wallet, not just a couple of cards.

The point was made that to focus only on speed of transaction though was to miss the areas of convenience, security and the concept that people will leave home without their wallet but not without their phone. I think the latter point is a stretch to think that “mobile commerce will be driven by people without their wallets” – after all they still need their driver’s license to commute in their cars and office badge to get into many buildings. This is cash replacement and not a card or wallet replacement strategy.

[From Glenbrook Partners: Report from CTIA – Mobile Payments Eventually]

Absolutely. But that’s not to say that a wallet replacement strategy is not plausible, if we use the mobile phone as the platform for digital identity infrastructure as well as digital money infrastructure.

Here’s an example of a bit of innovative thinking, bringing identity and NFC together in a useful way. In Slovenia, one of the mobile operators (Tusmobil) is selling a “time and attendance” service based on handsets. It’s a super case study of explotiing new technology in a flexioble way. They originally set out to create a system that would enable workers to “clock in” (as we say in the U.K.) using their mobule phone. You come to work, you wave your phone over a reader at the door. Unfortunately, this didn’t take off, largely because there was only one handset available (the Nokia 6131) and no-one had it. Rather ingenously, they then inverted the operation. They sell Nokia 6131s with time and attendance software on them and then they sell NFC tags for workers. Small employers (eg, in the construction industry) give the tags to their eomployees and subcontractors. Then, when the workers show up, the foreman uses his phone to clock them in and out, getting rid of on-site paperwork. The data collected by the 6131 is uploaded direcetly into a management system that can be connected with other enterprise systems.

Using phones to validate other people’s entitlements is a much more disruptive use of technology than simply using phones as wallets, partly because it makes it more difficult for people to masquerade as government officials, legal migrants and so forth but also because it provides a more sophisticated platform for identity that would enable partial disclosure and other privacy-enhancing functionality to be implemented as a matter of course. Mobile phones are the foreseeable future of identity management.

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

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