Identity management in the future: imagining 2025

24 Apr 2013

We spoke to experts from a number of fields – including art and design, government, journalism, industry – about the future of identity management technologies (IMT), and specifically what kind of world they imagined in 2025. The treemap below should give you an idea of the topics that were mentioned most frequently by these experts, and the consensus seemed to be that 2025 would be smart. The majority of our interviewees said that phones (or similar handheld devices) would be the key IMT, connecting to spaces and objects in order to identify their owners. In many cases, they would automatically enable or deny access. “Your smartphone will be your passport to everything,” said one expert.

Figure 1: A treemap showing the most prominent ideas in our interviews. The stronger the colour and the larger the box, the more frequently an idea came up

Figure 1: A treemap showing the most prominent ideas in our interviews. The stronger the colour and the larger the box, the more frequently an idea came up (click to enlarge)

Our interviewees differentiated between personal space and public space, however, with around half of them saying that there would be some kind of biometric system in place to identify citizens in public or commercial spaces, while most believed that in 2025, homes would be “smart”, recognising their owners/residents and enabling seamless authentication and personalisation. In homes with powerful operating systems, several people predicted that remote working would be the norm, though there was some suggestion of a possible lag between urban and rural areas (due to differences in connectivity/capacity). This caution ties in with the idea, raised by several of our interviewees, that technology – rather than social and personal needs – would be the driver of change.  

Most of our interviewees imagined a world in which connectivity was pervasive: surfaces, spaces, and objects all able to speak to one another. The smartphone that identifies you to the world would enable personalised billboards (think Minority Report) and service, but also limitless surveillance opportunities. As a consequence, several experts wondered about the security of our data and whether we would retain ownership of it (especially since handheld devices would rely on cloud storage). This may be why some people spoke of a lack of trust delaying the development of the kind of society that they envisaged, and why around half of those interviewed said with some certainty that the government and commercial partners would face resistance, off-grid activism or some kind of public backlash.

Views on the possibility of getting “off-grid” in 2025 were mixed, but just over half of those interviewed felt that escape would be impossible or very difficult, available only to those who made it a cause. Around a quarter of the interviewees were more optimistic, however, and suggested that there would always be a way to get away from things, even if only temporarily.

So what do you think? Is there anything you would add to this list? Anything you would disagree with? How does 2025 look to you? (You don't need to log in to respond to the questions below.)