European Commission and Member States organised an event bringing together the private sector to consider how best to benefit from the new Regulation on Electronic Identification and Trust Services (eIDAS). The "Gatsby" style Metropole Hotel provided a great backdrop for an open discussion about how to work together.

A key to business growth and innovation

It was interesting to meet with senior level decision makers from a wide range of important business sectors like telecoms, airlines and banks across the EU. I believe the  the broad involvment of industry clearly demonstrated the importance of the event. Industry representatives spoke in clear support of the need to work closely together on the cross-border use of electronic identities not only in the EU, but also beyond. As one panelist pointed out: "This is truly a unique opportunity where we are finally all behind the same table and we are not sitting back to back".

In a nutshell, the most important issues I noted during the day were that:

  • A deciding factor for the success of eID will be focusing on the customer and his experience.

  • Convenience will play a big role. For example, data should be provided on a 'once only' principle: a customer should not have to provide data again which is already known to the service provider;

  • Users must have trust in their eIDs and its security, and remain in control of their own data.

I very much agreed with the words of the speaker from Barclays who pointed out that today we have 1 person and (too?) many IDs. In the future however, we may move to 1 ID for many purposes instead. This could really improve usability, and paves the way for concepts such as 'bring your own ID' (see an example here). Much like bring your own device!

Similar applications could exist in the airline industry. Why carry around a passport which may be stolen or falsified, when you always have your biometrical data with you? Still, business interests and supplier-convenience should be balanced against data protection and privacy legislation.

So even if the use of biometrics seems to be out of reach for the moment, mobile solutions look like the way forward. There are lots of ways to do this. Identification by smartphone seems most convenient to me: you will only have to remember one password for many different services. Or use your phone for proximity services like flight check in, or access to buildings and even cars (with the help of NFC technology).

Next steps

The many positive reactions after the event only reconfirmed the need for further debate and cooperation between the public and private sector. I agreed with some of the audience that the public sector should lead by example, and offer as many services as possible. Citizens are still unaccustomed to using eID, as they only have few online interactions per year with the government, for example when filling out their tax reports. But when the number of services for eID increases, so will its marginal use and up-take. Also the private sector has to innovate, integrate eID in their business models, and convince end-users and public administrations of the gains and stakes involved.

Until the cross-border use of eID becomes a daily reality for citizens and consumers, the Commission will continue its role as an enabler. On the one hand through the process for secondary legislation, but also by funding opportunities for the private sector through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).

For more details explore the presentations of the day or read the full new Regulation on Electronic Identification and Trust Services (eIDAS).