The company’s latest creation, called Usher, replaces an employee’s photo badge and computer username and password with an app that verifies his or her identity and grants access to the building or network when appropriate.
The number of mobile applications designed specifically for the office has exploded in recent years as smartphones and tablets become staples of doing business. Mobile identification is merely the latest invention.
But technology for the sake of technology rarely compels companies to buy new software. It’s got to add value to the business.
“The question is mobile identity never existed before, so why is it a market now?” said Mark LaRow, senior vice president of products. “To be honest, we kind of worked our way backward into this in the sense that we kept discovering more things that identity on a mobile device could do.”
MicroStrategy isn’t the only company working its way into the market. Companies are creating similar technology to identify customers at banks or recipients of government services, and to facilitate payments using mobile phones.
“Mobile devices are practically ubiquitous therefore they serve as a perfect token for authenticating a user,” Michela Menting, a cybersecurity analyst at ABI Research, said via e-mail.
But smartphones also come with their own security risks — What happens when the device is lost or, worse, stolen? And as the line between personal and professional information blurs on mobile devices, people want assurance their identity is safe.
“The main barrier is really trust in the technology,” Menting said.
HOW IT WORKS
MicroStrategy’s Usher acts like a mobile wallet. It can hold digital versions of I.D.s, such as an employee badge, and keys that unlock doors with the tap of a finger.
The app also uses a variety of security mechanisms beyond a simple photograph to verify a user’s identity, such as voice recognition software and four-digit codes that are unique to each employee.
MicroStrategy sees applications for Usher beyond the office. Banks could use the app to identify online banking customers, for example. Governments could use the app to create mobile versions of driver’s licenses and other identification documents.
“Ultimately enterprises are going to adopt software like Usher because it’s slightly more convenient than the physical things it’s replaced, but more importantly, it’s far more secure on the cybersecurity side,” LaRow said.
Indeed, the biggest selling feature is the ability to eliminate the usernames and passwords that most workers use when they log into their computer terminals each morning, LaRow said. Instead, Usher transmits an employee’s identification information to the computer network.