UT Center for Identity partners with industry leader for identity management research

Thanvi Thodati

The era of memorizing passwords, carrying plastic driver’s licenses and shuffling passports may soon come to a close, thanks to a new collaboration at UT-Austin.

The UT Center for Identity, an institution that explores identity management, privacy and security issues, partnered with Gemalto, an industry leader in digital security, to develop more reliable and convenient methods for verifying and managing identity.

“Gemalto is excited about this partnership with the University of Texas,” said Paul Beverly, Gemalto’s head of government business. “We hope our collaboration will make Austin a nerve center for research and development of the new secure identity management techniques and tools.”

According to a press release published by Gemalto, biometric technologies will constitute a significant portion of the partnership’s research goals. Biometrics use physical characteristics, such as fingerprints or retinal scans, to identify and authenticate individuals. According to Beverly, biometrics can also use behavioral markers — how someone holds their phone, for example — to identify an individual.

“The technology is very promising,” said Ryan Anderson, the Center for Identity’s director of outreach and strategic partners. “It’s already being applied in many industries and sectors.”

Unlike passwords, biometric systems are harder to crack and more convenient to use, according to Beverly. However, innovation in biometric technologies comes with a new set of research questions and parameters.

“It needs to balance the needs of security on the part of the agency or organization or individual doing the authenticating (with) convenience and privacy on the side of the individual who’s giving up their biometric information,” Anderson said.

As one of the largest companies in the digital security industry, Gemalto has valuable experience in developing, marketing and implementing biometric technologies, Anderson added.

“Our talented engineers can share things they’ve learned through field testing of our solutions and can benefit from the research expertise of the UT Center for Identity,” Beverly said. “In addition to new joint research into identity management and security, we’ll also be supporting some of the Center for Identity’s ongoing and legacy research projects.”

According to Anderson, the Center for Identity hopes to bring a multidisciplinary research perspective to the partnership and shed light on consumer adoption and security.

“We want to be very sure that we bake in privacy concerns and that people understand the impact of this technology on their lives,” Anderson said. “We hope to be a partner (to) Gemalto in making this technology benefit everybody equally.”

According to the Gemalto press release, the research will focus on four specific areas. In addition to everyday applications of biometric technologies, Gemalto and the Center for Identity will explore identification methods used in airports and travel services, secure verification for online and mobile banking and the application of digital driver’s licenses.

“Those digital driver’s licenses are already being field tested around the country, and we’ve gotten very positive feedback in part because we’re giving people a level of control over their identity and personal information that they haven’t had before,” Beverly said.

The technology that is being researched will soon have widespread commercial and consumer applications, according to Anderson.

“We have an opportunity to conduct research that makes its way into the marketplace very quickly,” Anderson said. “We’re fortunate and grateful for the opportunity to support Gemalto’s initiatives in that sense (while) always looking out for protecting consumers’ rights.”