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Innovation in Identity and Biometrics – Extracts from presentations at the Gemalto Identity Conference 2019

By July 16, 2019

I was recently invited by Gemalto, a Thales company, to join them and their customers at their annual Identity Conference, this year held in Prague.

Over the two days, I gave two presentations that covered innovation in identity and biometrics, and the role of government in consumer digital identity and document verification services – areas that I cover in my role as Chief Analyst at Goode Intelligence.

Drawing from our latest research into digital identity and biometrics, the presentations explored some of the key trends that we’ve identified in these areas. We are seeing unparalleled levels of innovation in this sector as the ability to prove a person’s identity across both physical and digital worlds is one of the most fundamental ones of our time. The use of biometrics for identity and authentication has gone from zero to being one of the most widely used alternatives to PINs and passwords – mainly as a result of mobile based biometric systems.

User Experience – a key criteria for identity design

Mobile has changed everything. In becoming the most popular personal computer on the planet, it has fundamentally changed the way that we design and deliver identity solutions. This always-on and mega-connected computer is in the hands of billions of people across the globe and provides an ideal companion for identity and authentication systems.

The main reason why biometrics is a popular identity technology on mobile is because it is so easy to use on a mobile device. Before Apple Touch-ID was introduced to Apple iPhones in 2013, identifying people on mobile devices was clunky – typing long alphanumeric passwords into a small box on a touchscreen is not easy. Touch-ID provided a very easy way for people to unlock their devices and started the trend of replacing PINs and Passwords on mobile devices. It also introduced the concept of ‘user experience’ (UX) to identity and authentication. Through various roles before founding Goode Intelligence, I have been designing and deploying identity and authentication systems since the 1990s and in most of that time I never really thought (or cared) about UX. The prime consideration was did the system meet NIST FIPS 140 standards? ( Most definitely.) But was it easy for the user to use? Probably not – but no-one was asking.

Now, digital identity and biometric systems will live and die on whether their UX has been designed well – and this doesn’t just apply to identity on mobile. If we look at some of the innovation in travel with the use of biometrics to make it easier for passengers to get from the door to the gate and with smart home devices and identity design for connected cars, UX is critical for these systems and I believe it is all connected to the decision to put a fingerprint sensor on a flagship smart mobile device.

Make it easy and seamless to prove our identities then people will feel more engaged and use that service more. Recently my bank in the UK started to support mobile fingerprint authentication, replacing a token-based OTP technology and I couldn’t be happier. I am using their service more, probably by a factor of 10x. I can now even use it when I travel because unlike my token, I travel with my finger all the time – it doesn’t get left locked away in my office.

Customer/employee/citizen satisfaction is so important now. This example is an indication on how far the industry has come. I did a study for a biometric authentication company last year and one of the criteria for measuring the system was NPS – Net Promoter Score. NPS measures customer experience and organisations are increasingly using it to measure how well a technology has been designed and will people actually want to use it. For this biometric vendor it was crucial for their success that their solution had a high NPS score – thankfully they did.

Yes, an identity system has to be secure and comply with relevant regulations and technology standards, but user experience is now critical when designing and deploying these solutions. I believe that this is the single most important megatrend that is shaping our industry at the moment.

Digital Identity & Document Verification

Digital (Electronic) Identity and document verification services solve an immediate problem in how to prove a person’s identity for access to online (remote) services.

In the absence of universal digital identities that can be used across services and cross-border digital identity, document verification services remedy the issue of trust between service providers and organisations and their users.

Right now we are in a state of transition where we will have a combination of old and new identity – physical ID documents and digital identity. This is where digital identity and document verification is solving an immediate problem together.

The ability to onboard new customers to services through remote digital channels, web and mobile, is a pressing need for many organisations looking to reduce their physical footprint and support digital transformation projects while reducing the risk of fraud. With fraud levels rising and the threat from synthetic identity and account take-overs rising each year, it is imperative that organisations know who their customers are.

Digital identity and document verification services support digital onboarding and meet the latest AML, KYC and Customer Due Diligence (CDD) regulations.

Digital identity and document verification services solve an immediate problem in proving an individual’s identity. Specifically, digital identity and document verification answer the questions:

  1. Is it a real user?
  2. Is the user authorised to use the data they presented?
  3. Can the service provider conduct business with the user?
  4. What is the risk of doing business with the user?

A combination of ever-more accurate facial recognition, document verification and a wider variety of verifiable identity sources (data and signals) increasingly powered by machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) are enabling service providers to adopt digital identity and document verification services in ever-increasing numbers.

The role of government

There has never been a more pressing time for governments, who own much of the world’s secure identity, to help businesses identify people for them to be able to use digital services in a secure way.

The negative effect on GDP for not helping is significant. As our world becomes an increasingly digital world, the ability to safely undertake business is an imperative and not a ‘nice to have’.

My challenge to governments who issue identity credentials is to develop products and tools that make it easier for businesses to identify people.

This can include:

  • Creating identity documents that make it easier for organisations to validate and authenticate – thus reducing false positives and negatives and improving current levels of accuracy
  • Providing APIs that allow third parties to access identity data for corroboration purposes
  • Start or speed up eID initiatives – there are standards that are available

We explore the opportunity for digital identity and document verification services in our latest analyst report – https://www.goodeintelligence.com/report/digital-identity-document-verification-market-technology-analysis-adoption-strategies-forecasts-2019-2024/ and will continue these discussions at our next event – Biometric Summit London 2019 – https://www.goodeintelligence.com/london-2019/.