What does it mean to be ‘Identity Native’ in a 5G world?

15 December 2017 | James Pearce


Tim Barber, VP for telecoms & media industry at ForgeRock, looks at identity native companies in the digital world

First coined by Mark Prensky in 2001, the phrase ‘digital natives’ is today commonly understood to refer to the generation of young people who have grown up surrounded by digital technologies. Alongside the population of digital native consumers however; we also have ‘digital native’ companies; organisations such as Google, eBay, Amazon and Facebook that were born in the digital age. 

The last 5-10 years have seen businesses across all sectors striving to adapt and become more like digital natives themselves. However, as the number of online services and connected devices continue to grow exponentially, acting like a digital native is no longer going to be enough. Instead, organisations need to be looking ahead to the next major transition in the digital economy and working towards becoming an identity native. 

An identity native is a company that understands that identity sits at the centre of everything in the digital world. Identity natives recognise that there is a new chapter being written on digital transformation, one that will be fuelled by the imminent launch of 5G networks. With the advent of 5G, telecoms operators will have the opportunity to become trusted identity providers; to take on the responsibility as custodians of the identity of people, their devices and the connected things in the IoT ecosystems that they underpin. 

Becoming an identity native

But how can operators undergo the transformation needed to become identity natives and seize this opportunity? Essentially, they need to focus on three strategic principles that support all aspects of their business: 

Become truly digital first - To be identity natives, telcos must embrace channel shift and channel expansion, rather than trying to control or contain it. Experimentation and innovation must become second nature, with organisations prepared to celebrate the effort of failing in their pursuit of digital market differentiation. To put digital first; companies must quickly move from ’multi-channel’ to ‘omni-channel’, eradicating the myriad of silos that prevent a company from tracking an individual customer from one channel to the next. 

Embrace customer centricity - A relentless drive to build a compelling customer experience will define the next generation of identity natives. They will listen to feedback constantly and act on it continuously to drive innovation in customer engagement. Entire business processes need to be deconstructed and re-invented with the customer journey at the centre of the design rather than the product. 

Harness the power of data - Identity natives understand that data undoubtedly is the new oil – not just superficially because of its perceived value as a raw material, but because it also both lubricates and fuels the value chain. To harness the power of data it is important to distinguish between what is useful and valuable data and what is irrelevant and spurious.

Custodians of Identity 

5G represents a new opportunity for network providers to re-invent themselves as globally trusted digital market participants. By offering trusted identity management at the network layer companies can become key enablers within digital ecosystems. 5G will power billions of different digital heartbeats for consumers. Those telecoms providers who can position themselves as the providers of secure connectivity, both in the consumer Internet of Things and also the industrial IoT, will be ideally placed to succeed in this new identity-driven era.

Tim Barber is Vice President, Telecoms & Media Industry, at ForgeRock.