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G+D’s role in innovation for the digital age

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8 Mins.

“Digitalization” is a term that is used a lot. But what are the technologies that have really made a difference to the world in the last 10 years?

Digitalization has disrupted and transformed society over the past decade – probably at a faster pace than ever before. It has impacted governments, companies, and consumers in many different ways. The convergence of different technology streams has created new ways to pay, play, and do business.

Big advances have been made in digital payments, mobile technology, near-field contactless technology, the Internet of Things, and machine-to-machine communication. These digital technologies have combined in different circumstances and ways to improve the lives of businesses and consumers around the world.

Building of Giesecke+Devrient

However, despite the explosion of use cases, there is one thing that all the applications are built on – and that is trust. Trust is created when critical applications are protected with both innovative and secure engineering. It is important that transactions are secure, that data is safe, and that people are who they say they are. The world as we know it cannot function otherwise.

Trust forms the core of all of G+D’s business activity: G+D’s approximately 11,800 employees and 89 companies worldwide enable secure payment transactions in physical, electronic, and digital form; provide reliable connectivity solutions for mobile devices and the Internet of Things; safeguard the identities of people and objects; and protect digital infrastructures, systems, networks, and confidential data.

Transformation in payments

For many people, the idea that you could, or would want to, pay in a shop with a tap of your mobile phone was an outlandish notion just a decade ago. Despite the boom in electronic payments, physical cash is still the most frequently used means of payment worldwide. Although there is a lot of regional variation, over half of all payments are in cash.

Currencies need to be aesthetically appealing, robust, and secure. This means that central banks need partners who can design a culturally sensitive currency and who can provide the security features, manufacturing of banknotes, and automation of currency management. Working for central banks worldwide, G+D created approximately 25 country- and culture-specific banknote designs a year over the past decade.

Close up of a man’s hand with European banknotes in the hand

Whilst cash remains important, central banks have increasingly been exploring the options for issuing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) to supplement cash in response to the global trend towards disruptive digital payments. Within the foreseeable future, CBDCs are set to offer the same advantages as cash, to be available everywhere as legal tender issued and regulated by the state, and to be used in existing and new innovative markets. G+D deployed interdisciplinary teams from across various divisions to develop its own CBDC solution in recent years.

Despite the continuing popularity of cash, the development of other payment methods has been a feature of the last decade. In 2012, G+D provided the technology for contactless payments via smartphone. The company was even ahead of consumers at this point, and it took some years for consumers to accept and use this payment method.

However, adoption did happen and NFC protocols have made it possible for “touch-and-go” payments to be an everyday experience. Mobile wallets, one of the technologies that contactless mobile payments are built on, also enable a wide range of secure mobile banking solutions that have greatly improved consumers’ lives. G+D was also the driving force behind an important technological shift in modern payment cards over the last 10 years. For example, since 2020, G+D has been offering its customers, and specifically banks and financial service providers, metal cards. These cards combine the resilience of plastic with the toughness of metal and are enjoying increasing popularity as a lifestyle statement.

Connectivity on the rise

Mobile banking and many other aspects of our daily lives would be nothing without the connectivity and the devices on which it depends. The use of mobile phones has increased dramatically. In 2012, approximately 1.2 billion people were using mobile phones, three times the number using them in 2010. In the following years mobile phone usage would triple again. By 2017, 3.5 billion people were using smartphones, with all the capabilities these devices possess.

Just as mobile phones have evolved into smaller and more flexible tools, so SIM cards have both shrunk in size and become useful for more purposes. G+D produced the first commercial SIM card in 1991, for the Finnish mobile network operator Radiolinja (now called Elisa) – and has been innovating ever since.

Innovation is not just a question of developing new formats such as mini-, micro-, or nano-SIMs. In 2012, G+D created a reprogrammable eSIM. This technical achievement unlocked a new category of use cases. Objects can be manufactured with embedded SIMs, which can be reprogrammed to connect with different mobile networks. This is vital for the Internet of Things, which will rely on embedded SIMs. eSIMs will have a crucial role to play in many areas in the years ahead, not least in the automotive industry, where they are a key enabler of many features, including self-driving cars. In 2019, around 90% of leading automobile manufacturers, including BMW, were already customers of G+D’s eSIM management.

Physical and digital identities

Room at Giesecke+Devreint (Experience Center)

When we look at the sweep of digitalization over the last decade, from smartphones to smart payment cards, one important fact stands out: the importance of chips as a foundational technology.

Thus, it should be no surprise that chips are also behind efforts to make identity verification smoother. The ability to safely store biometric data, amongst other information, on ID cards, health cards, or passports reduces friction for consumers in many different settings where they have to prove identity. Fingerprints storage has also been an option on G+D payment cards since the late 2010s, providing another option for verification in everyday situations.

Whether at a doctor’s surgery and needing to provide proof of the right to treatment, or at a border and wanting to pass through, the marriage of encrypted data on a physical item with a secure online database makes everyone’s lives easier. G+D subsidiary Veridos has been developing holistic ID solutions, such as highly automated border control systems and electronic ID or passport documents. These enable the introduction of electronic gates (or eGates), which greatly reduce waiting times without requiring increases in staffing. Before the pandemic, global traveler numbers surpassed the 4 billion mark for the first time, and if these numbers return, then the need for more automation is clear.

Digital infrastructure

However, eGates would not work without the ability to securely transmit data online. Internet security, more broadly, is a growing concern, as it becomes ever more central not only to how governments and businesses conduct their business, but also to how individual citizens do.

The rise of disruptive cyberattacks and the theft of sensitive information is not something that only governments are victims of. Between 2015 and 2017, 70% of German companies and institutions were the targets of cyberattacks. Worldwide, the estimated cost of cybercrimes is now thought to be 1 trillion US dollars.

In recent years, public authorities and companies have had to tackle the challenge of providing secure, mobile workplaces for the increasing number of people working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, at the same time, cyberattacks increased in quality and quantity to threaten the integrity of public and private systems.

As one of the Federal Republic of Germany’s IT security partners since 2004, G+D subsidiary secunet has helped to drive digital transformation and provide digital security for public administration infrastructures with its product and consulting portfolio.

A record of digitalization

The explosion of use cases of digital technology has been built on a bedrock of secure, tested systems. G+D has been there every step of the way, from when it delivered its first SIM card back in 1991 to when it first enabled mobile phone touch payments in 2012, developed its first eSIM, and opened its first eGate. In 2018 it held 7,900 active patents in total. Even now it is pushing forward new boundaries in the field of CBDCs. Digitalization has made the world a better place, and with the right technology it can make it safer and more secure too.

G+D now celebrates its 170th year as a company. Progress and change is part of its identity, and it is continuing to shape the future. Its contribution to the digital revolution over the past decade is a sign of things to come.

 

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