Global populations are not only growing, they are concentrating in ever-larger urban conglomerations. These large concentrations of people create many challenges, many of which can only be solved with the help of new and flexible ways to establish identity securely.

“The obvious challenge is the need to police these large and heterogeneous populations effectively,” says Nick Perkins, divisional director of Bytes System Integration Identity Management. “Law enforcement agencies need a way to establish rapidly who a particular individual is, and what pertinent information their systems have on that person.”

Perkins notes that law enforcement is just one instance of the role that identity-management solutions play in today’s world. The need to provide security at public events, especially given the threat of terrorism, is also a real challenge for authorities.

“When you’re dealing with large groups of people, often perhaps in situations where there is little time available, portable and rugged devices that can offer a range of functionality are coming into their own,” he says.

“Biometrics, photographs and cards are all inputs that can be used to identify an individual with a high degree of certainty, and thus the appropriate action can be chosen. The point is that the identification has to occur where the people are in realtime.”

The need to establish identity securely is also a key requirement in a range of the services that citizens, employees and customers have come to expect. “Depending on context, people have different expectations and needs and, again, mobile and secure identity management solutions are vital,” explains Perkins.

For example, a citizen might need to be identified as the correct person to receive a government grant, or to vote – something that’s very much on people’s minds as elections tick closer.

In the health care sector, the ability to link a specific individual with database records has the potential to revolutionise the quality of care that patients receive, particularly in primary care or rural facilities where access to records could be problematic.

In this instance, dedicated portable identity-management devices offer a way to provide patient care that is more consistent, and gives patients access to all the benefits to which they are entitled.

This type of identity management is obviously also vital when it comes to any financial transaction, Perkins adds.

“Identity management frequently doesn’t take place in a controlled environment – what many clients need is a solution that is both robust and mobile so it can be used out there, on the ground, where the people are,” Perkins says.

“Having understood the requirements of this type of identity management, Bytes has gone out to find the right partners to provide the enabling technology. In this area, one of the best is the Pradotec range of rugged handheld devices.”

The Pradotec HRT 500, for example, has fingerprint and barcode scanners, as well as a contact and contactless card readers and a 5 megapixel camera. This means that it can handle all the main types of identity input, while 3.5G connectivity gives it powerful connectivity back to source databases.

Perhaps as important, it’s designed to withstand tough conditions and is both water and dust resistant. There’s also a developers’ toolkit to enable the creation of a customised solution that integrates with the organisation’s back-end systems and business processes.

“Identity management is one of the key enablers for so much of today’s emerging global society – but it’s not possible without the right device at the point of contact,” concludes Perkins.