Trend radar for digital identities

In autumn, we’ll all be voting on a new E-ID law. Will we need more digital identities in future? Or can we look forward to a time when passwords are a thing of the past? Read on to find out how SWITCH is working to make SWITCH edu-ID future-proof.

Text: Christoph Graf, published on 19.05.2020

We’re not psychic, and we don’t have a magic crystal ball. At SWITCH, looking towards the future means getting by without magic and relying instead on what we’ve got at our disposal – our combined expertise. That’s what powers our ‘trend radar’. But how exactly? 

Identifying trends

In our line of work, we’re confronted with many aspects of digital identities on a daily basis. We recognise trends and learn about new projects, technologies and activities – often as a result of conferences or discussions with people from our community, and frequently by chance. Anything that doesn’t gain relevance for our personal everyday lives quickly enough can soon be forgotten again, which is why we collate this potentially valuable information in our trend radar, or update the details in existing entries.

Evaluating trends

We periodically sift through these entries to see how relevant they might be for SWITCH, and gauge their current state of development. In an internal crowdsourcing process, we tap into the collective expertise of everyone involved in the topic at hand, and get a consolidated snapshot. For any issues deemed controversial, we discuss them beforehand and then reassess; anything that isn’t all that relevant is discarded, and issues of moderate relevance set aside for the next periodic review. We propose measures for any issues we consider particularly relevant. 

While the trend radar doesn’t tell us specifically what’s going to happen, it does open our eyes to the issues that deserve our attention. And what might they be?

Exploiting trends

The SWITCH edu-ID roadmap considers technical trends, such as protocol extensions. The main focal point here is enhancing the service to make it fit for the future.

When it comes to trends in the political and regulatory environment, SWITCH has been involved in the development of the E-ID law in a variety of ways – through consulting, presentation to the National Council’s Legal Commission and, since then, our participation in a Federal Office of Justice monitoring group (link to materials through the Identity Blog). The interim conclusion is that we recognise substantial benefits in the availability of state-certified user data, but at the same time we see little benefit in linking this with a universal login.

As for the identity services of other organisations that we’re keeping a watchful eye on, we can offer clear statements on two cases: Microsoft’s cloud products are highly significant for the world of academia, and we believe there is considerable added value in linking them with the SWITCH edu-ID. And for Edulog, the identity solution for primary schools that’s currently being set up, SWITCH is focusing on interoperability with the SWITCH edu-ID and is therefore in close contact with the Edulog operator,

Looking towards the future

New protocols and products are bringing a password-free future closer than ever and will allow users to further consolidate their electronic identities and manage them independently. We see the SWITCH edu-ID as being a key enabler in both these areas. As always, you can find more about this on our Identity Blog.

About the author
Christoph   Graf

Christoph Graf

Christoph Graf has been dealing with digital identities at SWITCH for over 20 years. He was one of the architects of the SWITCH edu-ID, the universal login for lifelong learning in the education, research and innovation community, and a member of the Federal Office of Justice advisory group ‘Technical and Organisational Introduction of the E-ID’, 2018-2020. He is now a programme leader, supporting SWITCH’s activities around user focus and self-sovereignty.


SWITCH Journal

This article is part of the SWITCH Journal, May 2020 edition.


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