INTERVIEW: Gemalto‘s Xavier Larduinat on the future of borders and digital identities

09/01/18

Debate around digital identity often focuses on the likelihood that it could “replace” the physical document solutions developed with much care, cost and passion by so many vendors over the past 100 years.

Gemalto, which made its name in the early years through physical security and identity solutions, such as SIM and ID cards, could have lost ground if it had stood still as this scenario, to some extent, plays out.

But in recent years the firm has had a strong focus on emerging identity trends, and managed to take a leading position in the newly emerging digital identity world, while continuing to augment its focus on physical document production.

Xavier Larduinat, Marketing & Communication manager for Innovation at Gemalto, explores this and other trends in an exclusive interview with Security Document World.

What advances do you expect to shape the future of the digital identity arena?

There is already a complete ecosystem around borders that is being led by biometric usage, but one area which we are focusing on is helping this process evolve from being a simple physical gate to an “eJourney”. We are working on solutions that can optimise the tools available at the border, helping the ecosystem develop so that a customer’s journey can begin even before they get to the gate.

We are doing this through solutions that will aid aspects such as visa issuance, KYC – or know your passenger – using a smartphone before users get to the airport. The issuance of digital identities – linked to physical documents - in this way will enable us to complete actions on our own, without the need for additional interactions with authorities.

This is the new frontier that will sit on top of biometric readers and gates that simply allow access.

We come from the world of identity management and are a world leader in ePassports – we contribute to over 30 ePassport programmes around the world [IA1] and are uniquely placed to add services to an eJourney. It took 10 years to build this ecosystem but now we are ready to go much further than just opening up a gate automatically.

What will this mean for the future of the ePassport?

In addition to border control, we are placing a lot of attention in government and banking towards creating a digital ID from your physical document. This will involve ID verification from a physical passport, both optical and electronic, using NFC.

We extract pictures that can verify an API for a government body, and the net result is to create a digital token in my phone, and then use that to prove my identity. Using this, we can enrol for all kinds of services – border control, visa issuance, but also connecting to eGovernment or banking services.

The whole industry is looking at KYC and digital ID, not just for borders but also commercial markets such as banking and telecoms.

There is a misconception that a digital ID means the replacement of a physical document – there will always be a “companion” document such as a ePassport or ID or driving licence. The document is critical as the digital aspect will leverage this – extracting enough information for secure identification with convenience.

Will Gemalto have a unique advantage in this market?

We work with government issuers, and we “get” the data and technology that is involved in the usage of eIDs and ePassports - this is why Gemalto is in such a strong position for this. Having played such a large role in implementations around the world, we are also very well positioned after issuance to perform identification of government-issued documents.

Will the main authentication take place in the cloud?

Every secure identification solution we are building is a mixture of security at “the edge” meaning on the physical device, and security in the cloud, meaning the server where we have some critical data.

In the past, Gemalto was essentially working on identities solely using the edge, now we are seeing a clear migration for all markets towards a mix of these features – particularly for ID cards, passports. This is why we acquired a key company, called SafeNet in the US, because it has mastered this technology. This was a revolution for us at the time because our authentication model was almost exclusively smartcard at the time – you can see that most applications today will use a blend of the technologies. It is a clear trend for the user experience that strengthens the edge aspect.

Do you see any particular biometric modality emerging as the “victor” next year, or will we see a blend of solutions based on convenience for that application?

We can see that 2017 has been a year of revolutions – previously the market was focusing only on fingerprint – but now there has been an explosion of modalities. If we look at Cogent, a company we bought recently they made face a focus for 2017, and this is expected to be the trend this year. But next year we will see many more options proliferate in mobiles and wearables. In the past fingerprint ruled and everything else was marginal. The jury is out on the future of face recognition, of course we have the iPhone X taking this line. There are indeed breakthroughs being made with face and liveness detection but I expect more breakthroughs on wearables that will impact on the market.

Will the Thales acquisition of Gemalto impact on your identity plans?

Yes, very positively.

Thales will combine its digital businesses into Gemalto, which will continue to operate under its own Brand as one of the seven Thales global business units. The Group will have more than 28,000 engineers, 3,000 researchers, and invests more than €1bn in self-funded R&D.

These new combined resources will accelerate the innovation capabilities of the new business unit and provide new technologies and solutions to the identity market.

 

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