The role of secure identities in the digital transformation

Rolle Sicherer Identitäten

State-of-the-art technologies and internetworking in the Internet of Things are essential for the digital transformation.

Industry 4.0 requires secure identity management

It is not just people who communicate electronically today. Workpieces, materials and machines are being digitised and connected: robots steer production, products 'talk' to machines, and models are produced on 3D printers. Everything that can be connected to each other or interconnected with the Internet will be connected, from cars, to escalators, heaters, tractors and washing machines, right down to toothbrushes. But for these communication processes to run smoothly, everything involved must have its own unambiguous identity. 

Internetworking in the Internet of Things brings with it a huge market, even for small and medium-sized enterprises. With the emergence of the 'smart home', for instance, manufacturers of traditional technical building systems are increasingly offering products that are connected to the Internet and can be controlled, for example, using a smart phone app. According to estimates by digital association Bitkom, smart and interconnected sensors and devices will be used in one million German households by 2020. Cloud computing is also contributing to the further interconnection of the economy. Bitkom estimates that 2015 was the first year in which a majority of German companies (54 percent) used cloud computing. Now that small and medium-sized enterprises have opened up to this concept, cloud computing has become a significant application in digitisation, according to the association.

2020: 50 billion connected devices on the Internet

And yet it is still early days for a truly connected world. According to Bitkom, almost every second company in the producing sector (46 percent) uses Industry 4.0 applications, while another 19 percent are already planning on using them too. Almost two thirds (65 percent) of industrial companies in Germany are now active in the field of Industry 4.0. Just under a quarter (23 percent) of those polled did not have any precise Industry 4.0 approach, but could imagine using such applications in the future. Estimates by market researchers show that more than six billion objects will already be connected to the Internet in the current year. By 2020, it is said that this figure could even rise to 50 billion.

But there is another side to this story. Growing digitisation and internetworking mean that data is stored mostly in electronic form – whether on internal or external storage media. These developments also mean that company networks are permanently connected to the Internet, so that there is a higher risk of falling prey to cyber attacks. Successful attacks can quickly threaten a company's entire existence. This means that companies have to protect themselves. In a video statement on her website in March 2016, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "We are all called on to ensure data security; the government must act, but companies themselves must also be on their guard. That's why the issue of data security in the economy is so very important."

Internetworking calls for secure identities

Secure identities are the key to greater security for data, processes, electronic communications and connected systems. In a world of connected systems, it must be ensured that all the process participants are in fact who or what they claim to be, especially if the party at the other end is not physically visible or if machines are involved in the process. Secure identities can do just that.

A secure identity cannot be manipulated or forged, nor can it be misused. It guarantees that somebody is actually who they claim to be.

Secure digital identities are used whenever processes are electronically controlled and data processed. They are important when it comes to reliable visitor or access management, or when internal and external communications are to be protected. They are also used in production areas where individual process steps are secured. Reliable identity management at a company warrants security, compliance with rules and efficiency. This begins with a secure log-in on the website and also applies in the same way to checking customer identities at the point of sale. It also includes the many workflows at a company that are used to record and check the identities of staff, visitors and business partners in a manner that complies with law.

Secure identities as part of the digitisation strategy

Secure identities are hence a central part of the digital transformation. Companies would do well to take a close look at which workflows can be digitised and to draw up a corresponding digitisation strategy. The use of secure identities should play a central role in this strategy, i.e. just to be truly safe.  

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