As we move further into our information-rich age of multiple sales and service channels, social media and surveillance, identity is becoming a hot topic. First, there’s identity theft: According to a recent study by the Ponemon Institute (sponsored by Experian’s ProtectMyID.com and reported by The Medical News), “nearly 1.5 million Americans have been victims of medical identity theft.” Credit fraud, reputation fraud and more are additional negative results of having sensitive information about ourselves spread across the information ecosphere.
Then, there’s identity surveillance. Law enforcement and intelligence services must deal every day with identity confusion as they try to work within legal constraints to find wanted criminals and potential terrorists. Adding complexity, law enforcement will need to determine identity not just from traditional data but multimedia as well; an example is this current caper reported by the Tallahassee (Florida) Democrat.
Identity surveillance and watch lists are rising as political and policy challenges. Canada and the United States are in the news here and here, tussling over implementation of Secure Flight, the plan to collect more passenger data for watch lists that will be implemented by the Transportation Security Administration of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. See this Intelligent Enterprise blog from last June by Rajan Chandras for some background.
In the middle of all of this are software providers, primarily IBM InfoSphere Identity Insight Solutions, Infoglide (which is providing software for the DHS) and Informatica. In February, I attended the Informatica Analyst Conference and had a chance to talk to execs there about the Informatica Identity Resolution (IIR) solution and how it fits with other solutions and technologies such as master data management (MDM). I came away with a strong sense of how IIR is opening doors to new business opportunities for Informatica in government, but also potentially in areas where Informatica has greater market strength but where identity recognition and resolution software has not traditionally been applied.
Identity recognition and resolution systems enable organizations to use data matches to gain a better understanding of identity across multiple systems. This could include not just individual identities but also networks and relationships: that is, who people know and how they are connected. The tools generally apply algorithms and rules engines to automate and systematize steps that would obviously take gumshoe detectives far longer as they seek clues, patterns and a risk assessment about possible terrorists, fraudsters, money launderers and regulatory violators.
When Informatica acquired Identity Systems from Nokia in the spring of 2008, it looked like simply a smart addition to the company’s data quality toolbox. However, it is clear now that the acquisition was one of a series of decisive steps that have turned Informatica into a more broadly relevant information management (IM) solutions provider. The Identity Systems deal was followed in 2009 by the acquisition of AddressDoctor GmbH, a tool for postal address cleansing and verification. And of course, Informatica recently made its biggest move early this year by acquiring Siperian, a provider of MDM tools.
IIR is an important component of Informatica’s complete MDM solution, and will help organizations implementing MDM gain the much-sought single view of identities (customers, patients, criminals and more) across multiple data sources. A key capability to look for in identity recognition and resolution tools is functionality in multiple languages and countries. Combined with AddressDoctor, Informatica has tools for locating and matching identities around the world. And thinking beyond law enforcement uses, global corporations with diverse markets need better tools for identity network analysis to improve marketing, billing, service and more, especially in this age of social media.
IIR can also help internally, given that data is often hidden in applications and obscure databases. A healthcare firm at the Analyst conference described how it is using IIR for operations between its mainframes and users’ 30,000 Microsoft Access databases. Finally, one of the more interesting technology pairings I learned about at the conference was the real-time application of IIR for “identity-aware” event processing using Informatica’s CEP engine Agent Logic. Watch lists and other espionage uses are an obvious application of this combination, but it could also be applied in systems for financial services, healthcare, retail and other industries.
In the olden days, identity might have seemed a simpler, more innocent matter, although viewing film noir and reading detective novels from the ‘40s and ‘50s might make you wonder. Today, however, there’s no question that identity is a complex topic that includes sensitive political and privacy ramifications. Software providers such as Informatica should be in for a wild ride.