Pointer to article:
This is one of those opinion columns whose headline doesn’t do justice to its thesis, and whose thesis says nothing particularly new.
The author of the piece is talking about mobile computing, and of several undeniable trends in that area: growth in range of mobile access devices, access points, transports, roaming ranges, and collaboration and info-sharing applications. He is also talking about how identities are becoming more mobile, and how identities, attributes, roles, permissions, credentials, sessions, personalization settings need to follow users across access devices, access points, transports, ranges, and apps. And how service delivery to the mobile user always need to be tailored and localized to their precise personal “context,” however broadly or narrowly that’s defined, wherever and whyever they may roam.
All of that is applehood and mother pie, of course. Identities must be continually contextualized within the user’s environment—their human environment (office, home, etc.) and the infrastructures (directories, access management portals, etc.)—in order to support the diverse requirements of the users themselves, and of the authorities (e.g., employers) who provisioned those identities and the resources to which those identities enable access. As I noted in a recent blogpost, roles—for example—are simply identities contextualized into their governance structure of “place, process, and privileges.” “Office” and “home” are two types of “place,” and, within “office” there are usually specific hierarchies under which identities, roles, permissions, and credentials are granted and taken away.
There’s long been the assumption in the mobile computing space that users are inexorably toward single “all-in-one” portable devices that they use across all contexts—personal and business, local and wide area, data and voice, messaging and conferencing, etc—within their lives. The corollary to that cherished belief is that the mobile computing environment must be similarly all-embracing, providing the substrate to enable identities and contexts to roam far and wide.
What’s interesting about mobile computing, of late, is that purpose-built devices—hence, purpose-built mobility infrastructure—are coming into the fore. Users are more likely than ever to have diverse devices—cellphone, WiFi laptop, Blackberry, GPS, etc.—and diverse mobile apps that they associate with various personal and business uses, roles, and contexts. It’s as if the Swiss army knife were being deconstructed into blades, corkscrews, punches, and other metallic piercing devices and those devices were being evolved separately for various Swiss army missions, with little concern for re-integrating them back into the mother knife platform.
Or is that too unsettling a metaphor? Good thing they’re pacifists.