Digital identity: Driving towards a connected future

By Ashley Stevenson, senior director, applied innovation, ForgeRock

Credit: ID 113447668 © Krulua |

In Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner, the “future” is set in 2019. In this version, the grey skies are littered with flying cars called “spinners”. Flying cars may not yet be a reality yet but there have been groundbreaking developments in the field of connected vehicles in recent years. 

In the words of Peter Schwarzenbauer, board member of BMW AG, “We are currently experiencing the biggest change the automotive industry has ever seen. It all comes down to whether we believe we can earn as much money in the future from mobility services as we can from selling cars.” This concept of new mobility which has seen ridesharing platforms and connected vehicles emerge is challenging the traditional assumptions of automakers. If they are to deliver on their vision of new mobility they first must convince consumers to get on board, and digital identity will play a key role.

The wheels are turning

The global connected car market is expected to reach US $225 billion by 2025. Growth is being driven by the convenience that solutions can deliver, however, it’s a double-edged sword. The heightened level of connectivity also creates additional points of exposure, with additional market growth being hindered by privacy and security concerns. New mobility providers will have to recognise, serve, and safeguard the individual identity and preferences of every user.

 For automotive OEMs, perfecting the in-vehicle personalisation experience will be critical to long-term business success. Case in point; in-vehicle personalisation will allow OEMs to sell services through the vehicle, creating a critical new ‘services’ revenue stream. Through this evolution, the vehicle itself and the screens within it become a new system of customer engagement. In this brave new world of connectivity, seamless user experiences must be delivered with a greater level of security, privacy and performance than consumers have come to expect from any other digital services. After all, these services are delivered through, and integrated with, a high speed 2-tonne IoT ecosystem on wheels, sometimes also known as a vehicle.

Let’s get personal

In this paradigm of new mobility, vehicle ownership will transform from sole ownership to a sharing platform. Cloud-based profile management will enable users to go online, update their profile and preferences and get into many different shared vehicles that provide better personalised experiences than a vehicle they’ve owned for 10 years. How does it all come together? 

Users will be able to approach a vehicle on the side of the road and request access. Once the vehicle identifies them, it’ll adjust to their preferences, play their favourite music and know where they want to go and how best to get there--all delivered in the customer’s preferred language. Digital identity is not only key to enabling this experience but also protecting the privacy and security of user information.

Smart car, smart city

Beyond interactions inside the vehicle, the vehicle and the user need to securely interact with the infrastructure outside. No longer is the smart city concept a far-off, futuristic idea. The technology to identify the car and payment at the charging station to autonomous parking, tolls and so on is accessible today. Here, digital identity extends beyond the relationship between the vehicle and the user to manage the interaction of the car and user with the world around them based on secure authentication. 

From a security perspective, it is equally important that every connected device within the smart city infrastructure, be it a vehicle, a street lamp or a beacon, has a validated identity and is correctly attached to the network. If a device can be identified and trusted, it is that much easier to confirm that the data it is generating is genuine.

As you can see, digital identity is more than just a mechanism to secure and authenticate vehicles and devices; it’s also a foundational tool for bringing to life a vision around new mobility and establishing a smart city ecosystem. A vehicle that knows you well enough to adjust your seat, cue up your favourite music, map your destination and unlock the door for you, even if you’ve never driven it before, isn’t in the realms of science fiction. The technology is available today.

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