INTERVIEW: Bob Eckel, President & CEO, IDEMIA US & Canada

INTERVIEW: Bob Eckel, President & CEO, IDEMIA U.S. & CanadaOne of the most ground-shaking acquisitions in the biometrics industry in the past five years was the purchase of Safran Identity & Security (formerly Morpho) by Advent International. Initially branded under the moniker OT-Morpho, the resultant identity tech giant officially became IDEMIA earlier this autumn. The operational scope of IDEMIA is massive, covering everything from border control, to payments, to national ID, and beyond.

FindBiometrics President Peter O’Neill recently spoke with Bob Eckel, President and CEO of IDEMIA US & Canada. The conversation begins with an outline of IDEMIA’s new business structure and the North American markets the company is focusing on. Eckel then explains the Augmented Identity paradigm IDEMA operates within, delves into some major recent border control and physical access deployments of IDEMIA technology, and speaks about the company’s successful 2017 in reference to the FindBiometrics Year in Review.

Read our full interview with Bob Eckel, President & CEO, IDEMIA U.S. & Canada:

Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics: Can you please review the announced divisional structure of the new company for us?

Bob Eckel, President, President & CEO, IDEMIA U.S. & Canada: The company is structured around six business units (BU): Financial Institutions, Mobile Operators, Connected Objects, Citizen Identity, Public Security, and my business unit and organization, NORAM Identity & Security. Globally there are shared operations and services for R&D, Digital Labs, HR, Finance, IT, Branding and Communications, and Legal. Within the organization, I’m responsible for North America which encompasses the Identity & Security offerings in the United States and Canada. I lead the coordination of BU activity in North America to ensure optimum go-to-market potential and collaboration. We focus directly on the specific needs of Canada and the United States – in other words, how we can help secure and simplify people’s lives.

FB: Well that’s very exciting for you to be involved in some of those vertical markets – like financial or connected objects – here in North America, which are rapidly growing. We just got back from Money 2020 in Vegas, and compared to four years ago, the biometric presence there has increased dramatically, very exciting times. So I’m glad to hear you’re involved in those areas as well.

IDEMIA: Absolutely, it’s a great opportunity, and my objective is to make sure that we take advantage of the best of all worlds; introducing biometrics and secure system technology where it adds value, where it adds security, while creating a frictionless experience that doesn’t add extra steps. I’m very excited about it, because now we can bring together all of the markets that are highly dependent on secure, fast transactions.

FB: Augmented identity is the heart of your branding, can you please tell our readers a little bit about that philosophy?

IDEMIA: At IDEMIA, we understand the security and privacy concerns that accompany advancement. We have analyzed the world around us and are reinventing the concept of identity. We call it Augmented Identity – an identity that ensures privacy and trust and guarantees secure, authenticated, convenient, and verifiable transactions. An identity that is so enhanced, adaptable, strengthened, and self-sovereign, or controlled by the citizen, that it allows citizens to truly enjoy life – because securing our identity is key to making our world a safer place enabling only you to claim to be you.

FB: You just recently announced some interesting new deployment trials with the Royal Caribbean Cruises and the US Customs and Border Protection using facial recognition. Can you please tell us about this news?

IDEMIA: Yes, we recently completed the Sea Re-entry trial with Royal Caribbean and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The pilot used our facial capture and recognition solution at Cape Liberty Cruise Port in New Jersey to confirm the identities of individuals disembarking Royal Caribbean ships with the facial identities of ticketed passengers who boarded the ship at the start of a cruise. The trial demonstrated high quality/high speed facial matching with large passenger populations, expedited Customs egress with confirmation that individuals embarking the ship are the same as those disembarking. In Phase One, the trial saw a 40 percent reduction in passenger processing time and we predict that Phase Two will see a 70 percent reduction in processing time.

In partnership with Royal Caribbean and CBP we plan to conduct two additional pilots in 2018, working towards full scale deployment in Port Bayonne and other targeted Sea Ports.

FB: Well passengers will absolutely love the convenience around that. You also recently announced a strategic partnership with the San Francisco 49ers, one of my favourite teams. Can you tell us about IdentoGO, and how this trusted fan program will work?

IDEMIA: We have over 1400 IdentoGOTM retail locations throughout North America that offer enrollment services for a variety of uses. Certain jobs require background checks such as truck drivers that carry sensitive cargo and public school teachers that work with children. Of course, the most popular program we have is TSA PreCheck. Travelers come to our location to enroll by giving their fingerprints and some biographical information. Once enrolled, travelers receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) that they can use every time they purchase a plane ticket. TSA PreCheck allows travelers to go through an expedited security line – keeping their laptop and liquids in their bags and keeping their light jackets and shoes on.

Our partnerships with the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Jets are part of our overall stadium and arena strategy to enhance the fan experience while at the same time improving security. Taking the TSA PreCheck concept to these properties, an individual is enabled to move quickly and securely in the event and venue. In the future, fans will be able to opt-in their biometrics to receive further conveniences including tying them back to the point-of-sale systems in the stadiums so purchasing a hotdog or a jersey will be seamless.

FB: We’re just preparing for our fifteenth annual Year in Review, and there have been so many changes, and everything is happening so rapidly now. What are your views on some of the challenges that we face as an industry during this rapid high growth phase in our industry?

IDEMIA: I think the key things to watch are security and integration into secure environments. Security is an area we invest heavily in when developing our technology and we’ve spent a lot of energy ensuring that any customer information, whether it’s government or commercial, is protected from cyber attacks. So, I think it’s important that those precautions are addressed, and a clear danger could be companies that don’t follow known best practices relative to product development or don’t adopt the best in the IT industry.

In addition to really working to ensure our information is secure, the information and technology must be easy to work with. There are a lot of companies making sweeping claims about biometric applications, but if the technology is introduced in a way that makes it cumbersome, the adoption won’t be there. So that’s why I go back to key elements that I talked about earlier: convenience and security. It is so important that you don’t add in more steps to get to the same level or better security than you have today.

FB: You know Bob, it’s interesting; we do a lot of interviews with CEOs and those comments are echoed when I ask about challenges. It sort of reminds me of the days around 9/11 when the biometric industry started to move very quickly, people were very excited, and during that time a lot of things were said and promises were made from companies that weren’t able to execute on. So I agree with you, I think it’s very important that we make sure that real solutions are hitting the market in ways that will benefit the end user market.

I really enjoy the opening video you have on your site illustrating just how easy and convenient we can, for example, move through airports, make payments, etc. and of course you’ve mentioned one of my favorite biometric products ever, your MorphoWave product. What can we expect to see next from IDEMIA?

IDEMIA: One of the things I mentioned earlier is the integration of products into user experiences. Integrating Morpho and Oberthur Technologies to form IDEMIA, enables the company to bring to market identity and security solutions that are more secure, frictionless, simple and convenient. We are merging and integrating technologies together to address solutions that solve problems. We have MorphoWave, it’s a great product, it’s touchless fingerprint, but now we’re integrating that into a gate for the 49ers so that you can facilitate secure passage. We are thinking about bringing more into everyday life for both government and consumers and not just providing technology. Of course, we’ll provide technology, but we want to make sure that overall it’s adding value to the end result either in a secure way, ideally both securely and conveniently.

FB: Well Bob, thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us today. Always a pleasure to speak with somebody that has your years of experience in our industry. Congratulations on the new role and I look forward to hearing more about IDEMIA as the year unfolds.

IDEMIA: Thank you very much for your time, Peter.