IMS Therefore I Am

Here is my IMS Publisher’s Outlook – unedited for the June 2006 issue of the publication. Enjoy!

"Cogito, ergo sum" (Latin: "I am thinking, therefore I exist", or traditionally "I think, therefore I am") is a philosophical statement by René Descartes, which became a foundational element of Western rationalism. "Cogito ergo sum" is a translation of Descartes’ original French statement: "Je pense, donc je suis", which occurs in his Discourse on Method (1637).

The above entry is borrowed from Wikipedia and that smooth-looking European philosopher is responsible for helping define existence.

If we were to update this famous expression to the 21st century it would surely read IMS Therefore I am. In this case I am not arguing existence but perhaps more importantly identity. You see in today’s electronic world, your electronic identity is your existence. But how do we determine the existence of your identity as you move around the world of disparate networks that intersect with the telco networks and the Internet at various points?

The answer is simple – federated identity management. Recently I had a chance to speak with executives from Lucent about how they are working with carriers to ensure these carriers can use federated identity management in their businesses. There is a great deal of logic to doing this as subscribers are generally identifiable as such and you usually know who they are when they use a phone or Internet connection.

If you need more clearly defined identity management you can simply prompt the user as needed to ensure you know who you are dealing with. For example two people may share a phone or Internet connection. Once you have that out of the way it is on to defining the circle of trust or the companies you can share the user’s identity with. Once this is done, you enable rapid transactions without the need to have users remember passwords and user names for each content provider.

For this article we will turn the conventional terms on their head by the way. As Lucent describes things to me, they consider a service provider as a company that provides a service such as sending stock quotes. The carrier (not to be confused with service provider mind you) becomes the identity provider or the IDP. I still prefer the term carrier and will stick with that in this column.

In a perfect world the carrier and the service provider would work together and pass data and identities back and forth so that a seamless user experience can be established throughout all transactions within the trusted circle.

All of this talk of federated identity management is utopian and while I applaud companies that try to bring these sorts of solutions to market, I should point out they are tough to pull off. Still, if carriers have critical mass they can likely convince some larger service providers to hop onboard. At that point the smaller players should want to commit as well and may even pay for the privilege of being part of the circle of trust.

Although this is a new and untested concept, it goes without saying that subscribers will be thrilled to have to enter less password information every time they jump from site to site. Besides, they already trust their telecom service provider (at least most probably do) and they probably don’t mind giving their carrier access to other passwords they use.

If all this can be implemented correctly the people at Lucent tell me there are quite a few models that can be implemented to ensure service providers can increase revenue. They are as follows:

1) Enabling Targeted Advertising

The point here is that carriers have a tremendous amount of personal information pertaining to a customer. From their age to location. This information can be used to pass along to partners allowing more accurate targeting of advertising.

Don’t laugh – 10-30% of users have said they will gladly see more ads if there are some additional benefits they can take advantage of along with the increased ads they will see.

In addition the carriers know information about your preferences for music so Disney may want to flash you an ad for Disneyworld the next time you are in the Florida area. This could be especially true if you’ve recently downloaded the It’s a Small World After All ring tone.

2) Outsourced Authentication

The carrier can provide the authentication services so the service provider doesn’t need to deal with this hassle. In addition the carrier can sell a position to the highest bidder on a portal they develop. For example the sports slot can be sold to ESPN.

4) Simple Data Sharing

Carriers can provide users with customized services such as weather reports that are generated from service providers. The carrier can pass location and device information to the service provider who can use this info to target the information delivery more accurately. Or a subscriber may be interested in ski reports on their mobile phone and these reports can be customized depending on where the subscriber happens to be.

The genius here is that the carrier knows your presence information as well so they can make sure not to buzz your phone when you are in a meeting with your boss about your promotion.

5) Churn Reduction

The goal here is to lock customers up so they can’t easily leave you. Once they have stored all of their information with you it becomes challenging to consider another carrier. Who would ever want to reenter this data again?


What is exciting about this initiative is that it is actively extending IMS into the web services layer. IMS is so strong on security tokens and authentication; it makes sense to leverage this strength in the world of the Internet browser and services.

At this point it is worth explaining that these initiatives are part of the Liberty Alliance, an organization of 150 members that are working together to build a trusted ecosystem.

Furthermore, in some cases where the carrier deals with the authentication and holding onto your identity, many sites will never have to know who you are. In other words the every day sites such as those providing news may just see an anonymous carrier generated ID.

In the end the goal is to have the Internet be more personalized in order to serve your needs more efficiently. You should see more targeted ads. When you book plane tickets your meal preferences should be in the system already. When you rent a car the agency will know you prefer non smoking vehicles, etc.

For carriers this application really straddles the world of IMS and the web in such a way that ARPU and stickiness are increased. Clearly this sort of initiative is perfect allowing service providers to grow nicely into the future and recoup their IMS investments quickly.

So while the proper expression for customers may be IMS Therefore I am, for the carriers it is surely IMS Therefore I Earn.

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