The use of Verifiable Credentials will gain real traction this year – so says MEF Board Chair (and Founder & CEO iProov) Andrew Bud. He says: “As the technology converges around this issue, we will see some great solutions that will create a new layer of trust around verified credentials. This will benefit everyone, especially those in developing countries where bank accounts and documentation are less common. With trusted verified credentials, people in these regions will suddenly be able to access a whole range of services that were previously closed off to them. I think that’s going to be a real game-changer.”
That got me wondering what thoughts other MEF Board Members might have about the mobile industry in 2023.
#1: Digital Transformation
Waheed Adam, Executive Chairperson at iTouch, says that there is a joke he often hears going around: who brought digital transformation into your organization – your chief technology officer or COVID? Digital transformation accelerated rapidly in 2020 and 2021 due to the lockdowns and people working from home.
As a result of COVID, the telecom space saw this unexpected upward swing. However, Waheed thinks there has been some overinvestment because of all this growth and some of these excesses were shaved off as we emerged from lockdown in 2022. He says: “In 2022, the US lost 10,000 tech jobs, with internet giants like Twitter, Meta and Amazon dramatically reducing their workforce. And by utilizing more efficient ways of working, such as remote working and IoT, we will see more shifts in digital and workforce transformation in 2023.”
Waheed believes that the demand for tech talent has become more equalised, with shifts from very large organizations to large and medium organizations and from the global West to developing countries. The overall trend is still towards more tech transformation, and Waheed expects that we will just see a small correction in 2023.
#2: New identity services
Currently, mobile operators are really struggling to find ways to grow their revenues beyond traditional services: voice, SMS and data. Jason Lunn (Global Connectivity, CPaaS at Cisco) says that one asset mobile operators can monetize is mobile identity.
Over the coming year, Jason expects we will see a breakout of systems whereby enterprise can query mobile operators to verify a customer’s age, address, credit status, etc. This information is known and verified by mobile operators to establish a contract, and it is tied to a unique number: a phone number. So, phone numbers could become the unique identifier to verify all this information.
Jason says: “It will be interesting to see how enterprise will take all those pieces of information and use it to formulate an opinion on a customer that can be used and monetized. It would make things much easier for customers – rather than filling out forms and completing Know Your Customer (KYC) data, they could simply link their mobile number. In turn, this would also be very helpful to businesses.”
#3: Preventing fraud
Predictions by Anurag Aggarwal (VP Partnership and Alliances at Tanla) returns us to cyber security issues. He says: “Take social media, for example. There are thousands of robots creating fake accounts, with lots of SMS being sent to activate and serve those fake accounts. On the other side, mobile customers are receiving an unprecedented level of fraudulent phishing (or ‘smishing’ as we call it for SMS) messages with dangerous links.”
To help combat these issues, a lot of organizations are currently working on more holistic, 360-degree solutions which would combine multiple data sources into a data pool to analyze and come out with intelligent identification of possible fraudulent transactions as soon as they’re triggered .
Anurag says that by using artificial intelligence and machine learning for fraud prevention, organizations will be able to identify patterns immediately and flag off possible situations of fraud and phishing/smishing. They can then intercept these fraudulent or spurious links, displaying a landing page where a user is notified that it’s possibly a fraudulent page, similar to the warnings users get in the likes of Google Chrome. They will also, then, be able to track and block these fraudulent accounts more quickly, making fraud much harder to commit.
Anurag also sees blockchain taking center stage in 2023.
Blockchain is mainly known as the technology behind cryptocurrencies. However, the blockchain is actually a distributed public ledger of information and, as such, has vast potential applications beyond cryptocurrencies; healthcare and telecom have started using blockchain in a big way to help ensure the veracity and transparency of data.
“In India, there is the distributed ledger technology regulation, which remains the world’s largest blockchain use case. Over 40 billion transactions every month go through the blockchain just because of this regulation in India. So, with more regulation providing assurance for enterprise, blockchain will be increasingly used in a number of applications, such as managing end-to-end visibility of Call Detail Records (CDR) and enhancing data privacy. Over the coming year, I expect we will see a lot more blockchain technologies out there but a bit less of a focus on digital currencies.”
From a consumer level, these changes may not become obvious for a while but, for industry players, these shifts will lay the foundations for the mobile industry of the future. Those who understand and prepare for these shifts will emerge as key market players while those who don’t may be left behind.