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SuperComm 2009: From The Floor

SuperComm 2009 is here in Chicago and it's a pretty quiet show. I didn't get much time to cruise the floor, but I did see two items that piqued my interest: an identity management product set from Nokie Siemens and Delorme, the digital mapping folks, showing advanced GIS overlay features on a handheld GPS unit.

Nokia Siemens
When I think of identity management, Nokia Siemens doesn't jump to mind, which is how I started the conversation with Doug Daberius, Head of Solutions Management, Identity Subscriber Data Management. Daberius and team are working on centralized identity data base that carriers can use to centralize identity and rights information so that can more easily integrate services across their product portfolio to their broadband and cellular customers. It's "under the hood" stuff that consumers don't need to know about as long as it works.

Centralizing user and rights data makes sense for carriers. They have a bunch of data sources, a large customer base to manage, and like all vendors, they want to minimize capital and operational expenses while rolling out and managing services. But where Nokia Siemens's vision gets interesting is extending identity management out to other services using open protocols like OpenID and OAuth. According to Daberius, this is a win-win for carriers and consumers. Carriers get simplified user management and they can sell trusted services to third party.

For example, a Swedish gambling site spends $22 per user to validate they are legal age to gamble. What they really need to know is that the subscriber is legal age, they don't need to know the actual age. Using a carrier's identity management system, the gambling site could ask "Is this legal age to gamble" and the carrier can respond with a yes or no. OpenID and OAuth work similarly, where a trusted authentication service vouches for a user by telling the requesting site if the user authenticated properly. The service is still in development, but it could have a number of interesting use cases.

Of course, there are two large problems. The first is getting the external services that users connect to so use OpenID and OAuth. That is no small feat. The second is making it easy for the user to move their identities if they change carriers. The second hurdle is a bit harder to solve because the whole point of identity management is to make life simpler, but having to maintain and synchronize multiple identity stores is a real burden on the end user. Daberius is confident that those issues can be solved. I am not so sure, but it's worth keeping an eye on Nokia Siemens and the carriers.

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