Monday, July 12, 2010

Enole - A New Identity Linking Startup

The other day, via Venture Beat, I learn about a new start up called Enole. Since the company is in Identity domain I was naturally interested and start looking around. The idea is as interesting as it is old: to unify all identities online and offline and to carry it with you with your cell phone. (use your fav search engine to look for products, ideas and patent on storing all sorts of identity information on cell phones ranging from credit card to login name and passwords to codes that unlock cars and doors etc.)
However it is often not the novelty of an idea that sets a company apart but the strength in execution and market strategy. So with a bit of healthy skepticism I looked at the site.
There is the usual marketing and hype in the web site – which I completely understand. Beyond the hype Enole is a service that allows a developer/application (identified by a pre-issued token) to link up a user and a device. A user simply means an identifier string (email or any other string). So effectively there is a link among three entities Application that creates a link, user and device.
The rest of the API is about the basic create, update, query of link, users and devices. However there a few key questions that are not answered in the documentation:
- Can an application that has not created a user or device query them?
- How does the system deals with duplicate email addresses and identifiers across multiple applications?
- If another application picks up my devices unique id, can they query Enole DB? If they can and get my information, do I need to authorize (OAuth style) the
information before application can use it?
- How would a user remove his/her account.
- How the "sign-up" tokens are stored and what happens if they are compromised

In essence, the API document describes the CRUD operation of user, device and link entity but does not describe a formal authentication protocol between users, devices etc. As such it can not really be evaluated in details.

Additionally, it is not very clear how end users (not developers) are in control of their own identity and information. This is really big for any company that has ambitions in the identity area.

Also, if you have been reading my blog regularly you know that I give a LOT of significance to the language and terminology one uses to describe either her problem or solution. The language used in Enole site is not that of identity, authentication or communication protocol domains. This, to me, is not the most positive sign.

Having said that, I think Enole is an early stage start up and like any other early stage start up their original idea will evolve, I will keep an eye them to see how they evolve and how their technology be used.


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