Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Identity enabled appliances from Hitachi?

Hitachi just made an acquisition in the Identity space (actually it was not a full acquisition, just majority shares - weird). Yes, the same Hitachi that makes consumer products including some of the appliances you use around your home.

They bought M-Tech Information Technology, Inc and renamed it Hitachi ID Systems, Inc. Welcome to single sign-on to everything once you step into the house and your fridge not allowing you that extra snack at midnight because it knows you're on a diet.

Ok, seriously...

I'm not completely sure how this makes a lot of sense...but there may be logic to the madness and only the executives in Japan know the real reason and strategy moving forward. However, it doesn't stop the rest of us from speculating.

I don't actually think Hitachi is out to become an Identity Management vendor in the traditional sense. If they try to go toe-to-toe with the likes of IBM, Oracle, Sun and CA they will lose. M-Tech's product set at a high level only includes password synchronisation and provisioning capabilities. They are missing all the other things in the standard Enterprise Identity and Access Management suite, the most obvious being Access Management. Maybe Hitachi have a few other acquisitions up their sleeves to fill the gaps. If they really want to play this game, they are going to have to do it to make people stand up and take them seriously.

As the Burton Group have already alluded to in their analysis, Hitachi bring with it the sales and marketing clout that M-Tech did not have (which is pretty much always the case when a large corporation acquires a much smaller one). It also brings 2 technologies to the table that are the most obvious candidates to integrate with the M-Tech solution. Their RFID and Finger Vein technologies. I would assume they want to use the provisioning aspects to manage the identities flowing around and also integrate these approaches with password management for a more complete, automated physical/digital authentication solution.

Hitachi will do well to lead with the areas where they are strong and provide the software capabilities as a differentiator. They can use the additional capabilities and management efficiencies as a competitive advantage over their current competitors. As I already said, they will lose if they lead with the M-Tech technology in the hope of selling RFID and Finger Vein readers because very few large organisations will bite due to the incomplete solution they'll end up with from an Enterprise Identity and Access Management standpoint.

Perhaps Hitachi are positioning themselves to be a player in the software space (they already have bits and pieces of software that do various things) or even to get into doing IT related services. If so, then their strategy moving forward could be to look a little more like Fujitsu.

I'm just guessing of course. In the short to medium term, they've probably just acquired M-Tech to shore up their capabilities and provide a competitive advantage. Or maybe an identity aware household is part of the grand plan. All I can say is, my fridge better not stop me from getting my midnight snack or there's going to be trouble!

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