Dan Farber was at Digital ID World and has written up a great article for ZDNet's TechUpdate. I didn't get to meet Dan at DIDW, I wish I had. Dan highlights three things from DIDW: Tony Scott's keynote, the discussions of federation, and PingID, and manages to tie them together nicely in a discussion of PingID and its mission (disclosure: I'm on the PingID advisory board).
One of Tony Scott's main points was that the technology to federate is the easy part, the hard part is issues like organizational trust, scenario planning, regulations, changing usage patterns, and how to split up costs. These are the kinds of issues that PingID tries to tackle: those above the basic pipes and protocols. Quoting Dan:
The company has developed the PingID Network, a member-owned, technology-neutral identity network that provides businesses with a legal and business framework to smooth the process of developing contracts between partners. While all the promises of transparent access, legal safety zones and privacy protection from the various standards and practices aspirants sound a bit idealistic, PingID takes its cue from a well-known and successful networked partner infrastructure: the ATM banking system. As ATMs grew more popular, banks interconnected systems regionally to provide customer convenience. The next step was to extend the partner network more globally. It became unmanageable for banks to individually or even regionally negotiate ATM partner relationships. The problem was resolved by creating a third-party network of national and international ATMs guided by a set of common operating rules and legal covenants, such as standardized procedures, risk management, dispute resolution and mutual confidence parameters. According to Durand, Ping Identity has defined shared services as well as common legal agreements, liability shifts and limits, participation requirements and dispute resolution procedures. Basically it's a template for creating a trust network based on the emerging Web services standards.
People have a tough time getting their arms around what PingID is doing at first. The best way I can describe it is to think of the world of credit cards before Visa and Mastercard. You pretty much could only use a credit card at that set of merchants who used the same bank you did. Visa and Mastercard, hook up various banks in a network and deal with the interorganizational issues (at this point by fiat). The end result is I can use a credit card from one bank at a merchant who uses another and Visa and Mastercard take care of bringing them together for a real time transaction. These same issues and islands of identity federation will exist in the world of digital identity and someone needs to hook them together in a network. Can PingID succeed at this? Andre likes to say this is a 5-10 year process and I think he's right. Even so, I see the need and PingID has some good momentum and, as of last week, funding.