Evolving from Manual to Fully Autonomous, Instant Identity Systems

Bryan Smythe

Today, in a time where a great many of our interactions are online and digital, verifying identities instantly is a big deal. Whether you’re logging into your bank account or shopping online, making sure you’re…well, you is required to establish security and build trust. 

So let’s take a journey through time and explore how identity verification (IDV) solutions have evolved, from the old-school manual ways to the cutting-edge, fully automated, instant identity systems we have today.

The long reign of passwords

Passwords were introduced in the 1960s as a means of securing early computer systems, with origins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Computer scientist Fernando Corbató is credited with their first use to protect file access on the large computer systems he was working on at the time. 

For decades, passwords remained the primary method for identity verification and access control. Their low implementation cost kept passwords dominant despite security weaknesses like guessability, replay attacks, and phishing. 

Passwords persist today, but—as Corbató himself acknowledged later in his career—this elementary security measure is no longer adequate on its own. Improved technology now augments their security limitations.

The dawn of ID verification

At its core, having a password revolves around the concept of identity verification—you want to access information, you must know the right combination of letters, numbers, and symbols that prove you are someone authorized to have that access. Unlocking computer files is one thing, but what about obtaining a passport, bank loan, or insurance policy?

Back in the day, confirming your identity was a bit of a hassle; it involved human intervention and slow processes. Think in-person verification, digging up documents, and answering questions to prove who you were. These methods had their merits, but they were slow, error-prone, and honestly, not the smoothest experience for customers.

The rise of biometrics

In the 1990s and 2000s, biometric technology emerged to enhance identity verification. Fingerprint recognition gained prominence in the 1990s as one of the earliest biometric authentication methods, offering security based on unique biological traits rather than secret knowledge. 

Face recognition followed in the 2000s, relying on facial structure analysis for identification. Mobile devices accelerated the adoption of fingerprint and facial biometrics.

Multi-factor and decentralized identity

By the 2000s, multi-factor authentication (MFA) combined biometrics with additional factors like passwords and tokens for layered security. The 2010s saw major advancements in decentralized digital identity via blockchain and self-sovereign identity solutions to increase user control. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the use of remote identity verification and digital IDs for access to services.

In 2023, automated IDV solutions are total game-changers; they use state-of-the-art tech like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to verify identities in seconds, all without a single human involved. 

The future is Instant ID

Today’s leading identity verification techniques converge passwords, biometrics, multi-factor authentication, and integration with authoritative identity data sources into instant, seamless verification that is both highly secure and universally interoperable. 

Instant identity is the result of this convergence—made possible through advancements in the underlying technologies—and has not only simplified the user experience, but increased the overall security of identity verification. As technology advances further and society continues to digitize, Instant ID will play an even more central role in how individuals access their accounts, perform secure transactions, and verify their identities.

About the post:
Images are generative AI-created. Prompt: highly photorealistic, set in the open grasslands, millions of years ago, prehistoric, featuring homo habilis scrolling on a smartphone. Tool: Midjourney.

About the author:
Bryan Smythe serves as President of the Americas region for IDVerse. With nearly two decades of sales development experience for global SaaS companies, Smythe is responsible for building and optimizing pipeline in the US and beyond.

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