Universal Log-In Might be a Feature, Not a Service

The value of many useful innovations is hard to measure. We aren’t really able to measure the value of improving computing power in consumer devices beyond its price per unit, or price per function.

We might note that a personal computer costs N units of currency now, and used to cost more than N three decades ago. But today’s appliance is vastly better, despite lower prices.

We have similar issues for many Internet apps and services. Many apps that are quite valuable are hard to quantify in terms of direct revenue, even when they indirectly create revenue opportunities.

For example, Juniper Research estimates that mobile operators will generate $700 million  annually by 2020 from new universal log-in and mobile identity services, up from $20 million in 2015.

Under other circumstances, that forecast would simply indicate a market way too small for mobile operators to bother with.

Among the likely business model issues is the fact that device and app suppliers are likely going to be competitors for biometric and other forms of security, and it is not so clear that their business models require the traditional subscription fee mobile operators and other service providers tend to lean on for the overwhelming bulk of their revenue.

Juniper Research also notes that, for such an approach to achieve widespread adoption, all mobile operators in a single market might have to collaborate.

Universal sign-in using a subscriber phone number, like all other universal sign-in methods that offer better security than passwords, is useful, no doubt. What is not clear is whether it is a revenue opportunity for mobile operators, or better approached as a “feature” with indirect revenue benefits (lower churn, higher distinctiveness and value).
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