INTERVIEW: Princeton Identity CEO Mark Clifton

Princeton Identity is a biometrics company that has recently spun off as independent from SRI International. In its first weeks of existence, the company has made major headlines, most recently confirming that it is in fact the provider of the iris biometrics technology featured on Samsung’s new Galaxy Note7 handset. INTERVIEW: Princeton Identity CEO Mark CliftonFindBiometrics President Peter O’Neill recently had a chance to speak with Mark Clifton, CEO of Princeton Identity, about the inception of the company, its relationship with Samsung, the mobile applications of its technology, and also the vertical markets targeted by the SRI spin off.


Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics (FB): You just announced the official spin off of Princeton Identity from SRI, can you please tell us about this big news?

Mark Clifton, CEO, Princeton Identity (PI): Yes, we made the decision at SRI to spin out the biometrics business to capitalize it properly so that we could grow the business. We were able to get Samsung Ventures to fund a good portion of the spin out. We have been working with Samsung a number of years in the biometrics area and so that has been a fruitful relationship for us. I think you will see more to come in that arena as we move forward.

FB: You mentioned being able to move quickly, etc. What were the main drivers behind this move?

PI: The main drivers were to get the team very focused on the product area so that we can develop products faster and more completely satisfy the market need. We needed investment for that to happen so that we could get a focused product team really, really pushing directly on developing the new products. As you know Peter, we have unique patented technology and that is one of the main reasons that Samsung has gone with us. It is the unique technology that gives us the ability to have iris recognition on the move and at a distance and in basically all lighting conditions. That has been the big feature that they saw as a unique capability in the industry.

FB: Regarding the involvement of Samsung, will this involve all the old SRI iris product lineup or is this more the mobile area? What will be included with this news?

PI: It is all of the access control products that we had before, the whole business has basically moved over as Princeton Identity. A number of employees have moved over as well to continue to pursue that line of business.

FB: In the press release you mentioned that identity management and access control will be the focus, especially in verticals like security and mobility. What other vertical markets will you be concentrating on?

PI: It is hard to describe access control or professional security as a vertical because it is really a horizontal that cuts across all of the verticals, because everybody needs to manage access to buildings, to drug cabinets, to records, to all of those kinds of things that need to be managed these days. So we see the real opportunity is managing access to just about anything! That is what is going to be in our wheelhouse. So both physical, cyber, you name it. We see obviously that professional security access control is going to be one of our main thrusts. We are heavily involved in some of the border initiatives that some of the countries are working on: a lot of these airports are introducing new capabilities to add biometrics in ticketless travel as well as immigration across borders using biometrics. We are heavily involved in those areas as well both with the US government and with foreign governments.

FB: You and I have spoken a lot in the past about enterprise wide security, and the joining and blending together of physical, logical, mobile, digital especially within the enterprise. I certainly see that your focus does cross every single vertical. Now the ones that seem to really pop for us these days are financial and healthcare. Financial especially and Samsung is one of the leaders in that area. They have been involved with us for many years with their focus on biometrics, so I think that is a very nice fit across the board.

PI: Yes, I think in the newest Note7, Samsung Pay uses some of the biometrics for that application. So you definitely see that. I know on the Note7 the secure folder, that they have a unique feature using biometrics (iris) to open the folder. I bought one recently so I know some of the great biometric features on it.

FB: Where will the company be located, Mark?

PI: It will be headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey, and we have a satellite office in Connecticut as well.

FB: How will this new company affect existing clients?

PI: It should be minimal impact on existing clients. We are working through the transition right now, of these clients and the contracts and all the legal stuff that has to happen. So they have all been informed; we informed the key clients prior to the announcement and all of the existing relationship should remain intact. They will be dealing with the same people and same contacts so it shouldn’t be a big change for the clients and customers.

FB: What will your focus as CEO be over the next twelve months?

PI: The big focus is obviously to stand the company. And as you know, starting a new company, you have done it yourself, is not a small task. So getting that done, transitioning all the assets over into the new business and then really focus the business in the areas that we talked about in the airports and borders and the access control space to really try to drive the business there. We will be coming out with a new generation of products in the not too distant future to really take advantage of some of the technology that we’ve developed with Samsung.

FB: This is great news Mark, and you are right I have been involved with a lot of start-ups and I think one of the critical factors is having good partners and you couldn’t have asked for a better one than Samsung, so I think your future looks very bright. Congratulations on this big news.

PI: Thank you. This is going to be exciting and I think you are going to see a lot more of us in the press and other places. We are going to be out there and we are going to be pushing ahead. I really do think that having a big mobile supplier like Samsung adding iris onto their phones in a global manner is really going to push the adoption very quickly. We hope to take advantage of that at Princeton Identity in the access control area.

FB: Thanks you very much for speaking with us today.

PI: Thank you Peter!