IdentityNORTH’s Annual Summit was held at Toronto’s Mattamy Athletic Centre on June 19 and 20. The two-day event brought together 300 digital identity experts and enthusiasts to discuss ideas that are driving Canada’s digital future. The IdentityNORTH community grew significantly, with twice as many attendees as the previous year. Delegates from more than 100 organizations attended sessions about hot-button topics such as blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT) and GDPR.

Keynote speaker Pamela Dingle, Director of Identity Standards at Microsoft, kicked off the conference with a call for action. Many of us tend to use and reuse predictable passwords, which are creating a significant security risk and can lead to security breaches. People also tend to click to give ‘consent’ without reading or fully understanding a request. She cited the 2017 scam in which a bogus email that appeared to come from Google Office asked people to give consent for access to their email.

“People said yes,” Dingle said. “Lots said no, but enough people said yes … You just gave an application an ability to read and use your email, to send phishing emails to every single one of your contacts!”

Privacy and security issues were reiterated throughout the conference. In another panel, Suzan Denoncourt of Ingenico Group Canada, and Pierre Roberge of Prodigy Ventures, explored the convergence of digital identity and payments. They used the example of a stand-alone donations kiosk that helped raise money for SickKids. After making a donation with a mobile phone, the technology allowed users to verify their identities to receive a tax receipt, without displaying personal information on the large screen. Rather than the notion of “tap to pay,” they explained, users are tapping for identity, which could allow for secure and trustworthy transactions for consumers.

Leaders from government bodies of New Brunswick, British Columbia and Ontario shared updates on innovative projects in their provinces. Such success stories demonstrate interoperability, and how governments are working to create a ‘citizen-first’ digital experience.

Jeff Borsato of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Ontario discussed how the ministry collects data that tracks and monitors how human activity is impacting climate.

Recruiting talent is one of the challenges in transforming digital identity. Panelists who took part in a discussion about women in technology and digital identity pointed out that inclusion can help solve the problem.  “It’s important that we’re welcoming for women, but also for all types of diversity,” said DIACC president Joni Brennan. “Diversity is not inclusion,” explained Ria Lupton, Head of Marketing at GrowthGenius. “Diversity is inviting someone to the dance. Inclusion is asking them to dance with you.”

speakers at IdentityNORTH

Attendees heard from a number of speakers and panelists on Day 1 of IdentityNORTH

Attendees enjoyed watching use cases and live demos, where the community had the opportunity to move beyond identifying or talking about the problems and push toward use cases and actionable solutions. 2Keys offered a demo of a new prototype, displaying how biometrics could be used for identification. Users create an identity profile using a passport photo, then take a photo of themselves to prove their identity.

Much of the spotlight was on the shifting global landscape, and how recent changes to privacy and trade laws can impact cross-border business. “GDPR is actually an incredible opportunity right now, especially with NAFTA and what’s happening south of the border,” said David Broad, Information Security and Audit Lead at Echoworx.

A startup panel looked at what’s on the horizon for start-ups in the digital identity space.   Among the breakthroughs smaller companies are building, Applied Recognition highlighted their authentication system that allows people to sign in using facial recognition rather than a password. Attendees were given the chance to download a trial of Ver-ID, the solution which is meant to help “solve the password problem.”

IdentityNORTH 2018 attracted over 300 attendees

Many attendees were in strong agreement that the unconference portion of the event was among the most memorable. During this collaborative part of the conference, which took place on Day 2, the community-led programming sparked discussions on the topics that are most important to industry professionals. Topics included informed consent, customer experience and liability models.

With so many innovations in the works, Canada is poised to become an international leader in the digital identity space. The conversation will continue this October, as IdentityNORTH will hold its Eastern Workshop in Halifax. The Western Workshop will be held in Vancouver in January 2019.