Clearly, we have never seen anything like this: whole industries have been shut-down and large sections of society are adapting to a new (temporary?) way of living. Personally, I think that Covid-19 will be the trigger for many long-lasting changes in our ways of life.
Whilst there are many negatives there are also signs for good and I hope that we, as a whole, reconsider some our behaviours and “wants” and place more emphasis and effort into being more considerate and mindful with less focus on pure commercialism for commercialism’s sake. I also believe that there will be a shift from wanting the best or the cheapest to thinking how brands and companies (re)acted in this unprecedented situation. Who took a hit for the sake of their employees? Who supported their suppliers and customers? Who worked for the greater good of their communities? These things will be remembered and will come into play in the future, not for all but certainly for some.
Looking at the areas in which we provide market intelligence, insight and opinion I certainly think there will be changes. At a high-level, this relates to secure technologies and many have either been under-going change or are prime for disruption. We will be publishing another blog shortly looking at the level of impact that Covid-19 and the lockdown of large parts of society will have in terms of our forecasts; here we consider some of the more general trends and likely outcomes.
Pandemic will Accelerate the Adoption of Secure Digital Solutions
In many respects the virus is accelerating what we were already seeing, in terms of digitalisation and adoption of new technologies. Clearly there are areas where this is happening (e.g. payments and retail) although there are sectors which were in the middle of transformation and will now need to rethink if the paths they were on are still suitable or need revising (e.g. aviation).
Not specific to our coverage but “tele-X” will certainly be boosted by people working and socialising remotely. Many schools have been quick to adopt more online teaching and healthcare is increasingly being done remotely in many countries where possible. Much has been made of Zoom and Microsoft Teams usage rocketing in the past three months. Whilst many companies/sectors have been slow to evolve before now there will be a recognition that employees are able to operate effectively remotely. Much more is being done online.
This change in behaviour and remote/digital way of living brings with it its own challenges and there are additional knock-on effects to be considered. Once things start to settle down again, we will be able to determine what is temporary, what is transitional and what may be the long-lasting effects of the pandemic.
Payments and mobile banking are a clear example of an area that will be accelerated and altered in several ways. Mastercard, Visa and other networks have increased contactless limits as people have shunned cash payments for cards, contactless and digital wallets (although, interestingly there have been mass cash withdrawals reported in some countries as people want to hold their money at home rather than leave it in the bank – a worry harking back to the global credit crunch over 10 years ago). Myself, I am in complete isolation due to the need to shield a vulnerable member of our family. As a result, I have started using old and new wallets for payments and transfers to retailers and friends who are helping us out and I am not the only one with ecommerce booming to record levels as a share of transaction volumes.
My father has started using mobile banking (having been the only person who still wrote me a cheque and continued to use telephone banking) although it took him several hours to register and activate with his app, complicated by the fact that he had to register for online banking as part of the process – clearly highlighting that banks and other service providers need to start considering a broader user demographic who may be less familiar with smartphones and apps.
Challenges as “Late-Followers” + “Laggards” Start to Use Mobile + Digital Services
These examples highlight how important it is to provide clear and simple guidance for new users. I am pleased that the wallets I have started to use again have improved the user experience and are much more user-friendly than a couple of years ago (which is why I stopped using them). The addition of mobile biometrics and two-factor authentication adds to the level of security and reduces the need for passwords and security tokens and makes it much quicker and less obtrusive. However, the mobile banking app (from a traditional bank) was found to be wanting for someone of an older generation. It needed to be simpler and clearer, instead it required online banking to be activated first and added more passwords and codes within a procedure he found to be complicated. Eventually he got there but only after several calls to customer support, which is exactly what businesses should be trying to avoid at a time of crisis. This bank could learn a lot from the example of the digital banks who have largely cracked the on-boarding and activation process.
We are seeing further responses to Covid-19 looking to change the payment and retail space. LG CNS is reported to be launching a digital currency with payments enabled and authorised by facial recognition. The Chinese state is trialling a new digital payment system tied to the Renminbi. Google and Huawei are in the process of launching payment cards (physical and virtual) as part of their respective OEM Pay services (with Google reported to be utilising biometrics on the card and online) and others are highlighting their ability to improve bill payments, reward programs and customer loyalty all tied into digital payments. Mastercard has increased its marketing efforts around its intelligent authentication capabilities for multi-layered security for shopping, payments and travel too.
Digital Identity to the Fore for Businesses + Consumers
Online security and use of digital identity are in the news for different reasons. Zoom has boomed and has come under much greater scrutiny with increased use amongst government departments and we are already seeing improvements being made to its security processes. It is increasingly important for businesses to be sure that their services and data remain secure for their customers and internal usage. Already boosted by greater use of Microsoft’s Teams, Windows Hello for Business is likely to be a well-timed forthcoming release for many organisations and we expect that members of the FIDO Alliance will be in-demand to help businesses secure their on-site and remote employee processes. Both include strong multi-factor authentication for users/employees that can work on-site and remotely. Companies are working together to deliver improved screening of employees and access (via VPNs) to data and files; Acuant has been providing various digital identity services to different sectors and is now working with Trustopia for this specific reason.
It is also important from a user/citizen point of view that we can access the right services and support safely and securely, both physically and digitally. Derived identity credentials for use via digital wallets will be used more in the future for healthcare, welfare and other government services. Providers active in helping respond to challenges with Covid-19 include AUTHADA, Intercede and Thales whilst KDDI, the Royal Bank of Canada and Vodafone have launched new identity services for their customers. However, these will not be able to address all use cases and meet all needs so we expect to see increased activity from ID Service Providers, working independently, with partners and in conjunction with governments and banks to ensure that people can verify and authenticate themselves online.
eSIM is a Perfect Remedy to Counter Covid-19 Challenges
Use of digital identity verification for on-boarding is something that can be replicated in the telco space. With many retail outlets closed the issuing of new SIM cards has become even more drawn out than it already was. Many countries require SIMs to be registered with a proven form of ID, which is a greater challenge at this time. I have previously written about how eSIM is a digital solution and operators need to modernise their customer-facing procedures for on-boarding and activation of eSIM profiles. Now is the perfect time and clearly illustrates how eSIM can serve customers without the need for visiting a store or waiting for a SIM to be delivered in the post. eSIM is an excellent remedy to counter the fall in smartphone sales and new contracts being sold. In addition to the better than expected numbers sold of the Samsung Galaxy S20 range, we expect Apple’s new iPhone SE to be a huge seller, introducing eSIM into mid-range handsets. This will be a driver for more operators to adopt/improve their customer-facing processes and will also be an incentive for them to push OEMs to implement eSIM in a wider range of smartphone models.
The ecosystem is already responding to promote eSIM and make it easier and simpler to activate and provision new devices. Thales already has its Out-Of-the-Box Cellular Connectivity eSIM solution and Infineon has a new partnership with Tata Communications offering that equips its OPTIGA Connect eSIM for IoT with pre-integrated, carrier agnostic cellular coverage in more than 200 countries as part of Tata’s MOVE mobility and IoT platform. Looking to offer additional revenues with travel and roaming currently restricted, eSIM.net Group is an MVNO offering a PAYG voice, SMS and data plan for home-workers looking to improve their coverage with roaming across available networks. Improving and ensuring supply-chain visibility, Bayer has adopted low-cost smart labels featuring an iSIM for its healthcare and agricultural products shipped. Supported by Vodafone Business, Arm, Altair and Murata the smart labels enable products to be connected to mobile networks with both supplier and customer able to monitor location, temperature and condition of the products.
More Automated Approach Required for “Contactless” + Seamless Travel
Current solutions are helping many but they are not able to address every issue. Under-going early transformation over the past two years, we are seeing a pause in the aviation sector which has been clearly hard hit by Covid-19. It is not possible to be sure when airports and airlines will again be open for business but it is in no doubt that they will have to change drastically to cope with the financial hardships that they will face. Employee headcounts are going to be greatly reduced and they will rely on secure identity and processing solutions even more as part of increased automation that will be necessary in airports. However, will the current solutions being adopted be the best ones for the new environment that will exist post- Covid-19? Many self-service stations being employed for bag-drop, check-in and boarding gates require “touch”. The same applies to ticketing kiosks in train and bus stations and similar applications. Clearly, people are going to concerned about touching devices, screens and buttons that hundreds or thousands of other people have used that day. Will current solutions need to change their related processes to become more contactless? Options exist with mobile and biometrics for more seamless passenger-flow, ticketing and passes and it is likely that these will become more in-demand in response to Covid-19 as part of wider mobility and travel programs.
Overall, the Covid-19 pandemic will provide a boost to the adoption of secure solutions, since they are positioned to enable remote, digital services. However, it is important that their implementation is done in a manner to make life easier and simpler for end-users, considering new behaviours and preferences. Service providers and their suppliers will need to ensure that it does not exclude any demographics or sections of society, whether this is based on eligibility, accessibility or familiarity and understanding. If they do this correctly, secure solutions will enable people to work, shop and travel as they wish to in the “new normal”, better positioned to continue their daily lives post- Covid-19, minimising the impact of any such future event.