Identity as Currency in the Metaverse (S1:E17)
Lee Odess, GM of New Markets at Latch, one of the 2020 IFSEC Global influencers in Security, and labeled an uber-networker by the Washington Post, joins us to talk about web 3, the metaverse, NFTs, AR, and the emerging phygital experience. We cover brands building trust into the metaverse, discuss identity as currency, and get deep talking about the creativity, curiosity, and sense of exploration that might come to fruition, including the ability to be your authentic self.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
You are listening to Humans in Tech, our podcast explores today’s most transformative technology and the trends of tomorrow, bringing together the brightest minds in and outside of our industry. We unpack what’s new in physical access, identity verification, cybersecurity and IOT ecosystems. We reach beyond the physical world, discuss our digital transformation as a species and dive into the emerging fidgetal experience. Join us on our journey as we discover just how connected the future will be and how we will fit into that picture. Your host is Leigh Dow, VP of global marketing at Identiv.
Leigh Dow (00:43):
Thanks for tuning in. I’m joined by Lee Odess, GM of New Markets at Latch. One of the 2020, IFSEC global influencers in security and labeled an Uber Networker by the Washington post. So glad to connect with you today, Lee.
Lee Odess (00:58):
You too. It’s been a while, but it’s always great to catch up.
Leigh Dow (00:59):
For sure. Today, we’re talking about Web 3 and the metaverse, it’s a topic that I know both you and I are super interested in. The internet has really evolved in three phases over time. You know, we had Web 1, Web 2 and Web 3, where Web 1 was really all about the information economy. A lot of just desktop reading of information and Web 2 really gave rise to the platform economy. So you’ve got social media, cloud computing, smartphones, and that really kickstarted the whole creator economy. So platforms like Facebook, Google, and Spotify became really massive and made people in their data, the product.
And I think what I find and I’m sure you do too about Web 3 is that we’re really moving into the token economy. So it’s driven by AI and blockchain and the internet is becoming more and more owned by the users and builders and orchestrated by tokens like FIDO and NFTs. So obviously we’re in the token business, tokens give creators property rights, they give them the ability to own a piece of the internet. So in your opinion, Lee, how likely is it that decentralized infrastructure and application platforms will put centralized tech giants out of place and will users really be able to fairly own their own information?
Lee Odess (02:14):
It’s a really good question. And yeah, I mean, my thoughts around that are a couple things. First of all, I think the large companies themselves are going to be able to continue to more often grow. So I’m not sure if it’ll put them at a place more than force them to reimagine their businesses. And I think Facebook’s a good example of them moving to meta and looking at the metaverse and what they’re doing there. At a lot of places, people call that a pivot in a way. So I think we’ll continue to do that. I do think it’ll introduce some new people as well into the center of power, if you would, of that may not exist now. And what’s interesting to me is lot of times we like to talk about the direct hits to things like that.
I’m actually interested in a lot of the indirect. So a good for instance would be MrBeast, all of a sudden becomes one of the largest hamburger restaurants in the world and literally doesn’t own a restaurant, right? So he’s taking on other places like Uber Eats and McDonald’s and whatnot. And it’s came from nowhere or a friend of mine recently ordered coffee instead of going to the grocery store or just going online and buying it, he bought with an NFT.
And as part of that, the exchanges around how commerce is done in products are discovered and brought, that to me is pretty fascinating on that side. And that does shift the power structures in some ways, not overnight. I think it’ll take some more time and we’ll probably have a handful of two truths if you would, the old and the new, just like we’re seeing in our business currently now, but what’s exciting about it is all the things that it’s going to unlock and the creativity and the people being involved. I like to believe maybe opportunistically and positively, it just gets me excited to think about all the positive impacts that that’s going to bring in new ideas.
Leigh Dow (04:11):
I was laughing a little bit right before we hopped on here together, because I saw the tweet that you responded to from Blake Miller, who said most new IOT companies think it’s enough to just connect to all the things. And if you’ve been doing this for a while, you realize that things don’t matter at all, it’s the experiences and the software that creates because of the connection. So I liked your response where you’re like, I don’t know what’s worse, this or the thing companies who think all they need is an app to control the thing.
Lee Odess (04:39):
Yeah, pretty much. I mean, it just shows the lack of imagination in some areas where they still haven’t moved out of the world of, “Hey, we’re going to do,” they look at apps or they look at the technology and the software as we’re just going to mimic what the people were doing before and just put an app on it and it doesn’t create any value. And in a lot of cases, a lot of the products that are still in the marketplace when they put some technology on top of it, they haven’t really created a great experience outside of the ability of put a key in the lock is almost easier and still to than using the mobile device for a lot of the companies that are in that space.
There’s others that are doing a good job and thinking about, it’s really a flip too on that end to my opinion. A lot of these locks that are in the marketplace, for instance, I’m picking on them, but it could be light switches too. They were built to be mechanical. And then they like, the old Portlandia joke, they put a bird on it, they put some tech on it and they didn’t build it actually with technology in mind, and then have the hardware support software. They have software that supports hardware and it’s just fundamentally broken.
Leigh Dow (05:49):
Yeah, definitely. I have written quite a bit and starting to speak quite a bit about the metaverse and about this new fidgetal world and how the metaverse and AR are really revolutionizing the concept of how we communicate, how we live, how we work, how we play. And for me, when I look at it, I view it almost like the evolution of the social experiment of social media, but this one’s really merging our physical and digital identities and creating that fidgetal world that allows us to not only create, but recreate ourselves as many times as we choose, because our digital personas are not really limited by our physical bodies or by siloed by social constructs, right? I can be a woman in security, but I can also maybe have a shop in the metaverse, right? That’s like completely different and separate from what my day job is and so I find that really interesting. And how do we verify and connect people’s physical identity with all of their virtual identities?
Lee Odess (06:51):
Yeah. So a couple things, number one is what I love about that, the fidgetal world, the word itself looks creative. And it actually, if you think about it, it’s hard to not smile when you say that word.
Leigh Dow (07:01):
So I know it is.
Lee Odess (07:03):
So kudos whoever came up with that. That’s good marketing and I really like that, and I hope it sticks and people run with it. When it comes to also the ability to sort of actually, it’s funny, my true thoughts on it are, in some cases, this allows you to be your authentic self in all the ways.
Leigh Dow (07:24):
I agree completely. I’ve said that to you.
Lee Odess (07:25):
Yeah. So it’s like, you talked about it. It allows creativity and exploration and curiosity. And for me, that’s what it’s opened up. And it’s almost a joke, and I don’t know if it’s Minesweeper or Zelda, whatever it is, it reminds me of when you would go into one of those dark rooms and as you touched the box, it opened up light and you found things underneath it. To me, this is that same sort of, I got to believe in some cases, exploration of how it used to be when people would go from the one area land that they had, and they would find new land somewhere else by going across the ocean. And a lot of cases to me, it feels like this. So I’m excited about that. The ability to be your authentic self is.
In some cases, you don’t have to do it necessarily anonymously. It’s just, you get to go explore and have different personas. It’s like the people that work by day and club at night and they can be who they are and test and do stuff. So yeah, the identity side to me is, I’m a big believer in attribute based identity in some cases where instead of our world where it’s been given identity to us, first it was our business cards, then it was our driver’s license and passports where those are given to us and not really necessarily your true identity of who you are.
It’s like, yeah, it’s an address and a social security number and a picture that’s on there, but it doesn’t say much about you. This gives you even a deeper opportunity to express who you are. And it’s not used maybe to get into a building, I don’t know, but maybe it’ll give you access to other things based off of online or when we get into the metaverse and some other places that the currency of that, of who your identity is, is very different. And they’ll be able to utilize it in a way that maybe we’re not even thinking about. That’s the other thing that’s interesting to me.
Leigh Dow (09:12):
Oh, I love that. That your identity is your currency and the metaverse.
Lee Odess (09:16):
Yeah. Correct. But you have this propensity to like we all want to be like identity is the same thing as the card, which is the same thing as this, which is the same thing as that, right? Like it’s why can’t it be something different?
Leigh Dow (09:29):
Yeah. I like that. I think that it’s just a really, we’ve got virtual world, we have NFTs, really emerging now and all the different ways that we can create these really immersive brand experiences where brands can reach a consumer in a completely different way or extend the brand experience right, in a completely different way and keep that customer much more connected to them, much more engaged and even learn from the customers through what their creative expression is in this new world, if you will. So do you think that every brand and company will need a metaverse strategy?
Lee Odess (10:10):
Specifically, I think every brand needs to have at least somebody within their organization thinking about it. Whether they do it or not, that’s really a strategy on their end. Now, my opinion is I would, but to what degree, right? So I believe if you take a snapshot in time, and if we’re talking about like today, I think what you need to do is you need to have a strategy to understand it and start thinking about. Do I need think you need to open up a store and start selling NFTs of your first image of the lock that you created? No. Maybe. Do we need a team up with an artist and create interesting doors that you sell, like art online? Maybe. I mean, that’s a different way to touch an audience that, I mean, let’s be real.
If you think that it’s just a bunch of 12, 13 year olds online, A, you’re totally wrong. B, even if it was, those 12, 13 year olds become 30 year olds and buyers at some point so long term, you may want to do that. And also some of this is not just about product, think about the impacts that this has for recruiting. If you build a brand there, I got a feeling, a lot of these people that are working in this world are computer scientists and people that are interested in it, there’s just a whole bunch of people that you may want to attract that if you act like the metaverse has cooties, it’s probably not going to be good for you. I’m hoping that’s the first time someone used cooties on your podcast.
Leigh Dow (11:38):
Lee Odess (11:39):
All right. Good. I’m first for something. No, but then the other thing I think about is, and I love exploring this, and this is the part that interests me is you got to believe that there’s a way for a brand to be built that’s within the metaverse that is in an area if you think about what part of it’s built upon is trust, right? So our industry built on trust as well, keeping people safe. And if I’m building a brand in the metaverse that is around protecting assets, people, things, even if it’s just not real, or maybe it is real, I don’t know, but you can go on and you can think that, okay, if I start to build that brand big enough, can I not convert that into the marketplace? And I don’t know, sell a bike lock. I don’t have to think very far to see how that could be. Again, I used the MrBeast thing, like who would ever think about buying a hamburger from some YouTuber.
Leigh Dow (12:31):
Right. Yeah. Instead of the drive-through.
Lee Odess (12:34):
Leigh Dow (12:34):
Lee Odess (12:35):
Right. So yes. I think everyone needs to have it. Yes.
Leigh Dow (12:38):
Well, in keeping with that too and that whole concept of being built on trust, I always like to look at new technology through the lens of what’s the impact on humanity and we’ve had a lot of experiments that have gone good and not so good in technology being introduced. Social media is a great example of that. We’ve had really great things that have happened via social media and some really terrible things that have happened. So when I think about the metaverse, I like to also think about what are the ethical policies that need to be created? What are those ethical policies and experiences that really transcend today’s current communication framework or today’s equity barriers. And I think some of it goes back to your comment earlier about being your true authentic self and how an environment like this could potentially, if the right parameters are in place, could potentially allow for that and create fewer equity barriers and fewer ethical issues or more?
Lee Odess (13:38):
Yeah, no, I hear you. And I don’t profess to be like the expert in ethics and there’s actually a great, good friend of mine works in the ethics lab at Georgetown University. And that’s a fantastic place. So I think a couple things, number one, I think that the thought needs to be there of like what bad could happen. You look at some of the companies in the social media space and it’s clear either they didn’t think about how the technology can be misused or they did and they didn’t care. I’d like to believe they just didn’t think about it and they complete ignorance at least to go fix it. But I would like to believe that we learned, right? And recently through a Zoom meeting that we did around this, it was brought up like thinking about how the impacts of Web 3 can have on somebody and we like to talk about all the good, but let’s have a conversation about the bad, at least identify it and have that conversation.
I think the other thing is shame on us if we build this entire thing, that’s based off of decentralization and the spreading of the value across everybody. But then there’s the same four people just new people that control all the power and money inside of it, then shame on us, right? So, I think there’s going to be good, there’s going to be bad. I think we need to build with an intent to do good and be aware of the bad, and we should have projects and things to help bring people to be brought in in the inclusion side. What’s interesting on that side is, and again, I haven’t thought deep into this, but I’ll just pick one, right? You talked about inclusion on that side.
One aspect of this is that, almost everybody is at least like the unconscious bias side of things when I found going into this, doesn’t exist as much as it does in the real world where I’ve got a bunch of female employees and I can tell you when they show up at ISC West, people treat them different than they do. Maybe the males that walk into the room, and that’s an unfortunate thing, but that’s because their physical being is walking into the space and there’s preconceived notions of how people live in the world. With this, when you go online, I’ve noticed, I really don’t know if I’m talking to a South African 17-year-old, if I’m talking to a 32-year-old Canadian transgender, like I have no idea, right?
Leigh Dow (13:38):
Lee Odess (16:04):
And that’s cool. I think about that. And it’s like, I don’t come in with those biases and I like that.
Leigh Dow (16:10):
Yeah. And so I think that as designers and creators really look at the metaverse and all the potential there and take some lessons from the tech industry in general and some of the mistakes that have been made just really focus on maybe not even focusing on who’s being included, but focus on, is there a balance of or we no longer omitting and how is that expected to really change the future of the platform. And I really think that the metaverse stands for humanity, a chance to really reflect on our social ethics on diversity, on inclusion and really maybe get a step that was missed in the move from Web 1 to Web 2 and really get Web 3 right. So, you look at this-
Lee Odess (16:10):
I hope so.
Leigh Dow (16:58):
Yeah. When you look at all of those things, plus disinformation architecture, I think that we have an opportunity to press the reset button and get Web 3 right, you know? So that excites me about this particular topic.
Lee Odess (17:12):
Me too, I would say on that though, it’s interesting to me, I think Moxy wrote an article about this, we’re building a lot of Web 3 on Web 2 technology. So it’s interesting to me see about how it bleeds into it, right? Is there a fundamental way for us to build differently on Web 2 to hit Web 3? Or is it all brand new Web 3, but like when you think about, “Oh I think it’s open sea,” when you’re buying some NFTs and there’s like a combination between the wallets that go into the purchasing stuff, it’s utilizing APIs and whatnot, but that again, I’m not an expert in it, but I was from reading the article, it’s an interesting thought exercise to have to what exactly are we building? How are we building it? And then like you’re saying, I’d love it is when we build with it in mind, we have the opportunity to do it right. So being careful and thoughtful, I think is a good step one.
Leigh Dow (18:07):
I feel like we should retitle the name of this segment to “Deep Thoughts with Lee and Leigh.”
Lee Odess (18:15):
I love it. But no, this is what I love about like what you’re doing and there’s a group of people and these conversations have to happen, right? Because it is, it’s right now, it’s deep thoughts because we’re thinking about it.
Leigh Dow (18:28):
Agreed. Any other closing thoughts on things that are interesting to you that are at the starting to come to fruition or anything about how humans can really continue to adapt to our technology centric more and more hyper-connected world?
Lee Odess (18:47):
I mean, high level curiosity dig in and I know you and I connect on Twitter. I’m surprised how many people don’t from our industry. And it’s like, where you discover a lot of this stuff, frankly, because you’re not going to read about it in the security magazines and in places, right? So like going out there, the other one that I would say is a lot from our industry is, and I don’t know if you were specifically talking about industry, but I’m sure this bleeds in the other ones is like, this is a great opportunity to get the younger generation and different people in your organization that are probably not and some are, but I found majority of people that aren’t necessarily heard as often, because this is an area that is different and it’s an opportunity to engage deeper and different within your organization with people that you may not on a regular basis.
So instead of trying to figure it out by sitting around the boardroom, this is a great opportunity to reach down into maybe some of the younger professionals or like I said, some of the older professionals, but people that are into this that you haven’t historically thought about engaging in business practices. Because I could promise you, they probably know a lot about this.
Leigh Dow (19:50):
Oh they definitely know a lot about this. And it’s also just far more engaging platform, right?
Lee Odess (19:58):
Yeah. No, I wholeheartedly agree. It’s a platform in order to go learn and you got to go out of your comfort zone and a lot of this to go figure it out and just frankly dig in. I’ve taken a couple courses from people just to learn and to get educated on the fundamentals of just to understand it. I don’t imagine that I’m going to quit my job and start selling NFTs, but I just want to understand it because I doubt a movement this big, it may not look like this in the end, but it’s going to have impacts and I don’t want to be somebody who’s playing ketchup when it comes to this.
Leigh Dow (20:33):
Yeah. Same for me. The one that I’m really trying to educate myself on and learn a lot more about is definitely NFTs. And of course, as a marketer, right, you want to know about any technology that’s delivering a brand experience. Well thank you so much for taking the time.
Lee Odess (20:47):
Leigh Dow (20:47):
Yeah. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today about this. Like I said, it’s a topic that I know you and I just both have a lot of curiosity and very inquisitive about, so I’m really glad I got a chance to connect with you. Hopefully, I’ll get to see you at ISC West.
Lee Odess (21:01):
Yes, we’ll be there. And actually we’re going to be doing a web three conversation on Thursday, so [crosstalk 00:21:05] take a look at that.
Leigh Dow (21:05):
Perfect. I will definitely come by. All right. Thanks so much.
Lee Odess (21:08):
Thank you for the opportunity.
Speaker 1 (21:10):
Physical security, identity verification, the IOT, the hyperconnectivity of our lives will only grow more pervasive. As technology becomes more automated and experiences more augmented, it’s up to us to preserve our humanity and use new tools and trends for good. The only question is are we up for the challenge?