Scenario: People interacting with other people on the basis of a token-based identifier or authenticator

Traditionally, this has mostly been relevant for professional interactions, when we present our business card to a new person. Another, more current example of people interacting with each other using a ‘smart’ token comes from the apps for smart phones, through which you can cruise your physical surroundings to see whether there are interesting people around: Grindr is, for instance, an app to find available gay men, Girls around Me is an app to find girls, and has already been called Stalker app. A particular variety of token based interaction between individuals is when QR codes with personalised information are put on on tomb stones giving visitors access to a personalised website with information about the deceased.

What is expected or explored for the future

  • Visions for the future include remotely controlled androids, robots or avatars are premediated as ‘tokens’ that make it possible to interact with others in distant space. Predictably this has been a standard ingredient of pop culture and science fiction, as for instance in the film Surrogates. As in almost all forms of pop culture that deal with identity management the stories present dark visions of the future and totalitarian abuse of IM technologies.
  • In real life, experiments with remotely controlled tokens are usually part of research into innovations that would make interaction and communication easier and more effective. A EU funded project Beaming’, for instance, explores ‘embodied’ teleconferences with robots as the source of long-distance communication rather than phones or screens. Such experiments also raise problems of authentication (is the avatar representing her original person, or has it been hijacked), and issues of criminal responsibility of the android/avatar. The problems usually form the main angle for news reports.
  • Other tokens that are being explored widely as carriers of authenticating information, are smart textile and jewellery, especially in the context keeping track of vulnerable family members, like children and Alzheimer patients. There are, for instance, GPS enabled smart shoes that warn the primary carer when the patient moves out of his or her ‘safe zone’. While current usage is for such tracking purposes rather than for identity management, health applications have been seen to function as trailblazers for new technologies of identity management.

Click here for further examples

Click on one of the concentric circles to find out what the future has in hold