Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Numbers to last a lifetime

At one point in your life you'll receive a social security number, which will stay with you until you die. It's used for your taxes, social benefits and other related issues. It defines who you are with all kinds of government agencies and whenever you use that number when you contact them, they'll recognize you. It's the only number you have to remember to get all the governmental services and (regrettably) pay your taxes. So why can't this be the case for more services?

Number portability on mobile phones is becoming mainstream and companies like GrandCentral offer you a single phone number for all your phones. So it's not uncommon for certain businesses. See it as an OpenID. You get one ID or policy number and with that particular number you can receive all kinds of services from companies who make use of that program for as long as you live.

Certainly for insurance companies this could work. As a consumer you get an overall policy number (for instance issued by the branch organization) which serves as your overall insurance number. Whatever insurance you want to have will be filed under that number, no matter which insurer you use. So you can get your house insured at insurer A, while you get life insurance at insurer B and car insurance at insurer C. You don't have to worry about the internal policy numbers of those companies, all you have to remember is that one insurance number, whenever the need arises. As a consumer you have the choice to get the products you want at whatever insurer without having to change your entire administration.

Same can be the case for other businesses. Telecom is another obvious example with one ID/Policy-number for your mobile, landline and internet connection. But for this to work companies would have to change the way they operate, be more transparant and give away part of the control they have over processes. It remains to be seen if they're willing to do this, but it'll be a great service for customers.

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