Digital Identity: Peeling back the onion…..

Sachin Mahajan, (TELUS & MobileLive)

Five months of heading the portfolio and it is becoming glaringly evident that “Digital Identity” has dramatically different affect on people. For a large majority it seems to be the code word for “now the eyes glaze over and I read emails” but every now and then I run into a handful of others whose ears perk up and a warm smile engulfs their face saying, “about time someone did something about it”.

What is Digital Identity?

There are way too many definitions & perceptions about digital identity, which partly is the problem.  For me, it is as simple as “a mechanism for an individual or a business entity to identify themselves on the internet with some level of assurance (trust).”

Some of the others include:

  • Digital Footprint left behind when one surfs the internet

Companies such as Google and Facebook create online profiles of people to provide a focused, relevant and contextual experience. For e.g. if I searched google images for the key word “Jaguar”, I would instantly be shown images of a car whereas my wife would be shown images of the almost extinct Panther species.

  •  Online persona adopted or claimed by an individual.

I came across a company from the UK, whose tag line is, “When your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting’”.  It is somewhat of a controversial app that updates an individual’s Twitter feed in the same style as they would normally tweet. In essence ones digital persona would continue to live even beyond the grave. A very interesting thought indeed.

  • It comprises of characteristics, or data attributes, such as Username and password, Date of birth, Social security number etc.
  • And a million other BORING definitions

Why should one care about it?

Two simple reasons: Economics and superior quality of experience!

  • Did you know that MasterCard and Visa charge anywhere between 1.5-3.5% of the transaction value in the physical world vis-à-vis 6-9% in the online world!!! The reason for the disparity is as simple as the inability of companies to authenticate people digitally in a secure, reliable & robust manner!
  • Did you know that between Google, Facebook and other online giants, they collectively make an average of $200-250/North American broadband user annually? What that means is that “Digital Identity” has let them unlock $50+ Billion of annual revenue….and growing!
  • Did you know in 2012, the average cost of recovering from identity fraud was upwards of $20,000 with almost 50% people admitting that if their identity was stolen they would not have the means to manage the recovery process

What are the different levels of assurance of digital identity?

The following chart helps provide a framework to begin to better understand and categorize the various levels of assurance & Strength of Authentication across multiple digital channels:


Source: Consult Hyperion/Telus

Levels of assurance:

  • Level 1 – Little or no confidence in the asserted identity’s validity an example of it would be registration requests on a news website
  • Level 2 – Some confidence in the asserted identity’s validity
  • Level 3 – High confidence in the asserted identity’s validity to enable accessing sensitive personal data online
  • Level 4 – Very high confidence in the asserted identity’s validity. A typical use case would be providing remote access to a law enforcement database

Digital identity is evolving quickly and is becoming a key enabler across multiple portfolios; be it IoT, Security, mobile wallets or e-commerce.  Consumers are being presented with a greater variety of low assurance authentication methods as the competition to become the de facto identity provider among some of the world’s biggest companies is heating up (Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon etc.). On the other hand Telcos(AT&T, TELUS, Vodafone, O2), Banks and Governments are focusing on higher assurance authentication methods, where its imperative to know the identity of the person on the other end (Medical Insurance, Drivers license renewal, Access to medical reports, Registry services etc.)  It clearly is a fascinating space right now and I can’t wait to see how we help it evolve over the next few years!



Who among today’s front-runners is most likely to dominate the Consumer IoT ecosystem? (Part 2)

AmazonGoogleApple-300x185Sachin Mahajan, TELUS & MobileLive

Twenty eight months of being immersed in the IoT domain has had me convinced that it is no different than a typical Bollywood potboiler. It has tragedy (Wink’s untimely demise), drama (Apple-Google-Amazon cold war), thrills (Multi-billion dollar acquisitions), romance (Homekit & Weave partner programs) and much much more. I seem to be watching the story unfold from the front row, with popcorn and 3D glasses in tow, and it has been a riot!

Unable to control my euphoria about the big 3 (Google, Apple & Samsung) in the Consumer IoT space, I wrote a blog about them and it had me wax eloquent about their investments, strategy and product development. It was mid-2014, the race had just begun and the verdict was still not out but clearly these three were positioning themselves best to their capabilities. A quick recap of it:

  • Samsung already had tablets, phones (aka remote controls of our lives’) and appliances (washing machines, TV’s, ovens and refrigerators). With the acquisition of SmartThings they were completing their portfolio of products & services and what remained to be done was integrate the experience, UI and make them all talk to each other.
  • Apple had just then announced HomeKit & Healthkit and it seemed obvious that they were doing what they always did best- create a framework for 3rd parties to develop applications. They had a billion paying customers- generally on top of the food chain, with deep pockets and a propensity to spend on anything made or supported by Apple. Their mantra was to do more of the same and it seemed to be working.
  • Google on the other hand seemed to be trying to dig deep through acquisitions (Nest, Dropcam), active product development in its now world-famous XLabs (Glass & Driverless car) and rollout of Google Fibre

nest_weave_yale_linus_cam_thermostat_world_domination_threadSince writing the blog a lot has happened! Google has currently captured pole position by coming at the IoT domain from every possible angle!!! Integration of Nest Thermostat- Protect-Dropcam, introduction of Brillo (IoT OS), Thread (A protocol for peer to peer interaction) and Weave (a common language for all IoT products)…and if that was not enough they went on to acquire Revolv and then commercialize its hub (called On-Hub now). Just ranting off their accomplishments, in the past year, has the Bollywood junkie in me wanting to do cart-wheels, clap in jubilation and whistle with my hands in mouth.  Let me explain why. What this really means is that Google believes that in the long-term in a hub-less house, your Nest thermostat will be the central device connecting to the external world. All IoT devices using Weave, and in essence Thread as the underlying protocol, will talk to each other and act as repeaters with possibly a single application wrapper for the end customer. Not to forget they have also created Brilo (a stripped down version of Android) for developers to use as the OS of their devices and then inadvertently become a part of Google’s ecosystem. Master Stroke!

Apple is playing the long game by ensuring that their Homekit certified partners adhere to stringent security requirements, use a proprietary chip and possibly a different frequency on devices; which really translates to being expensive, adds cycle times to product development & testing and ensures most companies either choose Google or the Apple ecosystem. Google on the other hand has chosen to enable startups to GTM quickly and be a part of it’s tribe, so to speak. There is no right or wrong answer; it’s just different strategies with different intents and different product lifecycles being targeted.

amazon The one glaring omission on my part has been to not really discuss Amazon, so far. To be honest they are taking rapid strides and are leap frogging companies who have been trying to carve out a niche. Their plays, in the sequence of appearance:

  1. Home Automation Section on When I first saw this, I chuckled to myself, “Was a storefront focused on Home Automation products their IoT play?” Little did I know that they were chuckling too, they hadn’t even gotten started
  2. Launch of Amazon echo: At the heart of it, it is a device that plays music from one’s phone or the cloud. What is unique about the product is the fact that it comes with voice command services and your ability to interact with it. Inherently Microsoft’s Bing powers the intelligence through real-time search functionality. In a nutshell, I love it and so does my 3 year old son. Early in the morning, I find him talking to Alexa, asking “her” to play music! What is even more incredible is that fact that through Alexa, one could now shutdown their Philips Hue light bulbs or other Home Automation partners that Amazon has enable
  3. Amazon-Echo2Amazon acquires 2lemetry: This 4 year old startup, had capabilities to process and analyse high-volume data streams from any number of sources and in real time. The first indication that Amazon was going to come out with something much bigger in the near future
  4. Amazon offers Home Services: Amazon’s professional service play, as it offers installers and support staff to come down to your house and help with installation of home automation products and more
  5. Dash button: An extremely simple concept of having a physical button linked to a purchase of one product from a defined company. Press the button and Amazon would send you an email confirmation, charge your credit card and subsequently ship the product. No questions, no phone calls, no browser based shopping.dash button
  6. The Alexa fund: Investing $100MN in startups to fuel voice technology innovation. Essentially the fund is open to any startup with an innovative idea for how voice technology can improve lives.
  7. Amazon AWS IoT– platform to build, manage and analyze The Internet of Things: AWS IoT is a platform that enables one to connect devices to AWS Services and other devices, secure data and interactions, process and act upon device data, and enable applications to interact with devices even when they are offline.

As you can tell, there is never a dull moment when you have the awesome four-some jostling it out. To add to the drama we now are living through the cold war of them not carrying each other’s products. From Apple discontinuing the Nest line in their retail locations to Amazon doing a stop sell on Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast services. I personally am not sure who is going to be the end-winner of this fast expanding ecosystem- but this larger than life rivalry to out-do each other, rapid product development and commercialization, evolution of multiple protocols, standards and OS’ specifically for IoT can only bode well for the end customer. We are far from reaching utopia where the physical world moves away from just being “smart” or “connected” to developing a conscience and reacts to our unique needs but with these 4 companies pioneering the way has us all collectively head in the right direction!

Google, Apple, Sasmsung…who among today’s front-runners is most likely to dominate the IoT ecosystem?

Sachin Mahajan TELUS

For nearly a decade industry analysts and technology enthusiasts have been discussing IoT and the art of the possible.  Early on it seemed like a pipe dream or a luxury only the rich could afford- with the physical world around you reacting to your unique needs and preferences to provide a contextual, relevant and a very targeted experience. That all began to change over the past 3-4 years as hardware became more affordable,  wireless connectivity ubiquitous, and applications available across various industries. It also finally started becoming main stream as the big boys i.e. google, apple, intel, Samsung, IBM etc. have all started making significant bets in this space. In the past 6-12 months multi-million and in some cases multi-billion dollar acquisitions or partnerships have been announced. Google has just under $60BN and Apple a formidable $160BN of cash sitting in the bank. That’s a sizeable war chest to be used for acquisition and growth in industry verticals they truly believe in!

googlenest                               Dropcam

Anyone following the market would be quick to realize how bullish google is in this space. Over the last few months alone they have invested ~$4BN in acquisitions in the IoT ecosystem- Boston Dynamics, Nest, DeepMind, Dropcam on top of seven small to mid-sized robotic companies!!!! Not to forget their investment in Google’s futuristic X lab – which has a plethora of IoT Platforms(Glass, Driverless car) and the omnipresent android OS which is going to be powering half, if not more, of the IoT devices in the long run!!!! It’s one home run after another. The barriers to entry they are creating are mind numbing – from the consumer hardware space to focussed application platforms (Glass in the B2B space as an example), to Manufacturing plants, Killer IoT Solutions and finally the OS space. I would probably give my right arm (and possibly even other parts of my anatomy) just to be in the room with Larry Page & Co. as they discuss their IoT acquisition/expansion strategy.

download                                                     homekit-logo1

Apple on the other hand has a world domination strategy, more in line with their past escapades. Rather than dish out billions to grow inorganically- they have recently announced Homekit, Healthkit, Carplay and iBeacon plays.  HomeKit is a new framework for communicating with and controlling connected devices in a user’s home. At the outset it doesn’t seem like a novel idea in home automation, as present manufacturers (Belkin, Insteon, Lutron, etc.) have all been vying to be the “central home automation platform”. However, the critical mass of Apple products currently in use (800-900MN) and the smart developer community awaiting a standardized API kit and certified device program will provide the company a MASSIVE advantage!

Healthkit on the other hand is a framework used to store, retrieve, manipulate and present health info on apps. It helps giving the user a dashboard view of their health status by aggregating data across multiple devices and platforms. With over $9,000/person/year being spent on healthcare in the US –it is a perfect vertical to cause disruption or provide help in making sense of all the chaotic programs in place. From a consumer’s perspective Healthkit is exactly what the doctor ordered, so to speak.


Then you have the other lesser known enablers such as PTC- who first acquired ThingWorx ($120MN) and then subsequently Axeda ($170MN) for the Application Management Platform. Everyone wants a piece of the pie!!!

Clearly, most companies are realizing that IoT is poised to become a key driver of their financial and technological growth for the next few decades and are trying to position themselves best to unlock its hidden value. The race has just begun and the verdict is still out but clearly we have a few front-runners most likely to dominate the marketplace. I as a end-consumer couldn’t be happier; as I truly believe that the use cases for IoT are only limited by our imagination…and we are just beginning to realize the “art of the possible“!