Editorial

The future of identity

Microsoft UK’s National Technology Officer, Glen Robinson gives insight on some of his discussion points for this Thursdays conference

Posted 23 November 2021 by Matt Stanley


In the physical world, the ability to authoritatively identify yourself and get access to services is a key component of most societies. It allows you to access financial support such as a mortgage, provides access to services such as healthcare, and allows you to travel internationally. 

Glen Robinson, NTO Microsoft UK

In the digital world, with the fact that everything is interconnected, there is a need for a boundaryless trust fabric that operates in real time. At Microsoft we are building this identity system of the future using the foundations that we already have with solutions such as Azure Active Directory, but now extending this beyond organisational boundaries. Being able to collaborate with third parties on demand, bring them into conversations, allow access to resources, and then just as quickly remove them, is essential for our customers operating in digital ecosystems. Individuals should no longer be constrained by the organisation they work for in their ability to collaborate with others. This is equally important not only in the Enterprise, but in offering consumer or citizen services. 

The future is where digital identity moves beyond these organisational boundaries and becomes more decentralised. Individuals will have more ownership over their identity and rather than every organisation they want to engage with needing to hold all of that individual’s information, now a very small number of trusted organisations will hold that information, but be able to provide access to others who need to validate certain aspects of that information with an authoritative resource. 

This trust fabric can be applied to many scenarios and not just people, which for us is where this gets more exciting. The ability to apply this to assets and animals will have a massive effect on global trade, supply chains and logistics, food and resources. The ability to verify the provenance of ‘things’, who did what with it, what has it been in contact with, what materials does it contain, where did it come from and where is it going, are just a few examples of the sorts of information that can be associated with an asset throughout its lifecycle and this information be provided by verifiable and trusted sources. For example, livestock that is set for export and overseas sales, throughout its lifecycle would have its identity linked to records showing vaccination records, any potential exposure to disease in the farms it’s been located in, as well as any genealogy and hereditary information. All this information would be supplied by multiple trusted 3rd parties and made available at the point of export and sale to those needing to check the provenance of the livestock for import or change of ownership purposes. 

What’s most important at Microsoft is when creating this trust fabric, we do so with a principled approach, which is why we recently published our 5 guiding principles for decentralised identities, which are 

  1. Secure, reliable and trustworthy. 
  2. Privacy protecting and in my control.
  3. Inclusive, fair and easy to use.
  4. Supervisable.
  5. Environmentally responsible. 

With the combination of these guiding principles and our innovation in technology solutions, we are very excited about enabling the sorts of use cases I have described and what this means to empower every person and organisation on Earth to achieve more. 

Glen is one of the panellists on the Future of Identity panel at this Thursdays, Think Digital Identity virtual conference. You can view the full agenda and register here.