As part of our joint celebration of the diversity of identity management that we are partaking in with our sister site findBIOMETRICS all throughout June, today we are going to take a big-picture look at what mobility means in terms of personal identity.
To call the smartphone a revolutionary device is nearly an understatement. The ability to access the Internet from nearly anywhere you happen to be is more than a simple end user convenience, it is a paradigm of thinking that affects web design, finance, marketing, healthcare, active living and even how we interact with each other on a daily basis.
An argument can be made that the success of social media is directly tied to the growing ubiquity of mobile devices, and the recent statements made by MasterCard in regards to its financial inclusion initiative points to mCommerce as a key factor in providing essential services to billions of underserved adults.
I contend that the smartphone is not simply a revolutionary gadget, it is a new and essential step in understanding human identity.
It’s Where You Are
It might sound obvious, but the implications are major: your smartphone is everywhere you are. Aside from articles of clothing or medical aids like glasses, nothing else you own can be said to share such a close relationship with you.
As an effect, your email is where you are, your Facebook is where you are and so is absolutely anything you would like to research on the fly thanks to wireless Internet. What’s more, every smartphone has a number of ways to pin-point its user’s location including GPS features.
Location is often left out of the conversation in identity management, mostly because we take it for granted, but that doesn’t make it any less integral. A fundamental truth of human identity is that a person is unique, and because of this you can only be in one place at any given time.
Without verification of your location, in a password-based digital world, someone can impersonate another person from anywhere in the world as long as they know the right digits to enter at a social media login screen. When access is tied to a device, however, and that device is constantly with you, your location becomes tied back in to your online persona.
Some of the more forward thinking marketing technologies being piloted take advantage of this fact, using geo-fencing to locate customers and send them time and place sensitive promotions, but it is also a key to the second way that mobility is changing identity.
It’s What You Are
Biometrics have entered the mobile technology zeitgeist and, if the current intentions of Samsung and Apple are any indication, they won’t be leaving anytime soon.
I don’t have to tell you that you are more than the sum of your mobile devices – you have a body, hopes, dreams, hobbies, maybe a garden or a pet – but your gadgets are increasingly becoming a part of you.
Now, with the application of the right software or the purchase of one of the current flagship smartphones on the market with embedded fingerprint sensors, your physical presence can enter the online world.
Let’s the the big obvious ones out of the way first. The universal symbol of uniqueness, the fingerprint, can be measured either by smartphone’s sensor or the rear-facing camera (when bolstered by the proper software). The “you-ness” of your face, which is used to identify you by friends and family in real life, can be verified with a front facing camera, as can your eye’s vascular patterns. Even the unique sound of your voice can be verified.
That isn’t even taking into account the physical characteristics that will belong almost exclusively to your mobile devices once wearable technology starts picking up traction. Your heart rate, glucose level, blood oxygen level and even the way you walk can be measured by smartphones and smartwatches.
If it can be said that you are the sum of your physical materials – with a bit of personality thrown in for fun – then it must also at least be said that your mobile devices can now represent those characteristics in the non-physical realm of the Internet.
Where things get cyborg-y is when we start to realize that this relationship is a two-way street.
It’s Who You Are
Text your best friend and then put your phone in your pocket. Now wait for them to respond while going about your day (ideally continuing to read this article). Changes are that unless you have your phone on silent or for some reason turned it off after texting one of two things will happen when your friend responds to you: you will hear a familiar sound or you will feel a vibration that you associate with receiving communications.
If either of these scenarios is not the case then congratulations, you have somehow made it through nearly 830 words about a subject you likely don’t care about. Everyone else: welcome to the world of being a cyborg.
The smartphone has become so integral in human communication that it allows you to be physically aware of remote interactions with your perceived identity. I keep my phone on vibrate when it’s in my pocket, which means that when someone interacts with my Twitter presence I feel it in my leg or near my arm (if I’m wearing a jacket). When people interact with me in a digital sense, that interaction is made physical through the channel of my smartphone.
The smartphone, considering the above reflections, has become a sensory organ all its own, one we don’t grow, but instead have built in a factory and upgraded to better serve our interests.
You are your smartphone, your smartphone is you. Thanks to innovations in mobile identity, soon you’ll never have to prove it.
Stick with us throughout the remainder of June as we dive deeper into this topic. Have something to contribute to this discussion? Follow us on Twitter and use the hashtag #MIDWMonthly to keep the conversation going!