Interview: CEO Stephen Thies on Integrated Biometrics’ Border Control, Law Enforcement Success

Interview: CEO Stephen Thies on Integrated Biometrics' Border Control, Law Enforcement Success

Over the last several years, Integrated Biometrics has established itself as one of the leading providers of biometric fingerprint readers, thanks in large part to its patented Light Emitting Sensor technology and its use in products like the Watson, Sherlock, and FIVE-0 devices that have proven so popular among law enforcement and border control authorities in particular. On the latter note, Integrated Biometrics has also just announced a big contract win, with the US Customs and Border Protection agency selecting its Kojak 10-fingerprint scanner for use in border control across America’s ports of entry.

This naturally proved to be a major point of discussion in a new interview between Integrated Biometrics CEO Stephen Thies and FindBiometrics Director of Digital Content Susan Stover, as was the success of the FIVE-0 handheld scanner. Thies also offered his thoughts on where the mobile biometrics industry is headed, and what his own company has in store – most notably a “groundbreaking new device” that is slated to launch in the third quarter of this year. “We’re not sitting still,” Thies asserted.

The company is clearly on a roll, and the market for these kinds of biometric solutions is only heating up.

Read the full interview with Stephen Thies, CEO, Integrated Biometrics:

Susan Stover, Director of Digital Content, FindBiometrics: Thank you so much for joining us today Stephen. To begin, would you be so kind and provide our readers a brief overview of Integrated Biometrics and its genesis?

Stephen Thies, CEO, Integrated Biometrics: Thanks, Susan. You and the folks at FindBiometrics do such a great job of reporting on and promoting the growth of biometrics in our world. Keep up the good work! I’m very pleased to be with you today.

FindBiometrics: We’re very happy to have you!

Interview: CEO Stephen Thies on Integrated Biometrics' Border Control, Law Enforcement Success

Steve Thies, CEO, Integrated Biometrics: Integrated Biometrics was founded in 2009 to develop products based on our patented Light Emitting Sensor (LES) technology, which came out of South Korea a few years earlier. We spent the first two or three years analyzing the market and doing some work in the access control space. In 2010 we presented LES technology to the US government, and they thought we had something very special. Soon after that, we made the decision to focus solely on the certified fingerprint space and launched our first FBI-certified sensor a little over five years ago. We called it Watson.

We started out with just three employees and have grown rapidly since. We launched Sherlock in 2013, then Columbo, then Kojak, and introduced the FIVE-0 just last year. Our customers really love our product names. They’re extremely memorable and conjure up vivid images of icons from the past.

We’ve grown rapidly from those very humble beginnings – at four or five times the industry average rate – and now serve governments and integrators in more than 50 countries. We’ve been named to the Inc. 5000 “fastest growing” list three years in a row and are optimistic about making it again this year. We’ve also been on the list of South Carolina’s fastest growing companies for several years and expect to appear there again this year.

Our customers come to Integrated Biometrics because our products enable mobility, are easy to use and affordable. They tell us we’re the most responsive, customer-focused company in the industry. We’ve built a stable leadership team; I’ve been with the company since day one and our CTO has been with us for ten years. We’ve brought in seasoned executives from around the industry and grown our manufacturing arm in South Korea. We have a solid, experienced team at the helm, a strong group of investors and advisors, wonderful employees and great suppliers.

The biometrics industry has seen a great deal of turnover and ownership change – – it seems like there’s another big takeover every year. But IB customers know there’s no uncertainty about who’s going to be on the other end of the phone. We’re accountable, resourceful, customer focused, and work every day to develop, build and deliver quality products every time, on time.

There are a growing group of IB enthusiasts all over the world, and we’re proud to call them our customers. It’s an exciting story to tell.

FindBiometrics: That’s amazing. We’re especially excited to talk with you today as we understand there is a new announcement from Integrated Biometrics that you would like to share with us?

Integrated Biometrics: We’re very excited to announce that the Customs Border Protection (CBP) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are now deploying Integrated Biometrics’ Kojak 10-print scanners throughout their network of more than 5,000 workstations and at hundreds of ports of entry into the United States. The project began last November and is expected to be completed in Q2 of this year. Kojaks are installed now at the busiest airports in the country; Atlanta, Chicago, LAX, Dulles, Miami, and several other major US cities. It’s a really exciting project for us because United States immigration programs are closely observed all over the world and serve as a model for governments everywhere. Those organizations also understand what a demanding and thorough technical analysis CBP conducted on our Kojak 10-print sensor prior to making their selection.

In addition to CBP, IB’s government relationships include the Department of Defense, the FBI, Department of State, Army, Navy and the Coast Guard, the Department of Justice, several divisions of DHS, CIS (Citizen Immigration Services), ICE – the Immigration and Customs Enforcement body – all using IB’s products. I should also mention that the FBI was one of the first groups to pick up our product. They were an early user of our Watson Mini and have since moved up to the FIVE-0.

FindBiometrics: I also understand the mobile FAP FIVE-0 fingerprint sensor has seen wide adoption and success. Can you share more about that with us?

Integrated Biometrics: I’d love to. When CBP began to look at our product line as part of this recent project, they quickly saw the value our products bring. Their endorsement solidifies our position as the premier fingerprint sensor provider in the world. The fantastic reception of the FIVE-0 goes back to three important elements. We could talk about why our products are technologically superior, but in the real world it comes down to the simple fact that we deliver a number of key benefits no one else in the world can. Quite frankly, the legacy-based optical prism scanners are moving quickly toward obsolescence.

IB’s products enable mobility, are easy to use and affordable. Let’s take those one at a time and you’ll see why the FIVE-0 has been such a success; we let the end user leverage the smartphone or tablet they already have as their operational platform and let them use it in almost every environmental condition you can think of; bright lights, sunlight, auditorium lights, office lights, cold temperatures, hot temperatures as well as dirty and dusty conditions. Most importantly for mobility, our devices require very little power. They are small, lightweight and enable the most extensive array of mobile applications in the industry today.

The FIVE-0 is the size of a smartphone – even smaller than some of the new, bigger phones. Nothing like it had ever been seen. We actually had to invent the platen size on the FIVE-0 for mobile biometrics. There was nothing available on the market that was 3.2 x 2.0 inches even though that was already an accredited fingerprint platen size that law enforcement and government agencies have recognized for many years. We lobbied to get the FIVE-0 accepted by NIST, got the FBI standards updated and we built it.

It’s a complete enrollment device. If you’ve ever seen 10-print devices from our competitors, they’re the size of a bread box. Ours is the only enrollment device that fits in a shirt pocket. It’s phenomenally easy to use, has no fussy silicon membrane to maintain or replace, requires no special cleaning, doesn’t hold on to latent prints that so often confuse back-end databases. And because there is no downtime for cleaning, we’re always ready, making our scanners useful in high traffic areas. In short, we’re just simpler to use and maintain.

Affordability is another important factor. The Initial cost and total costs of ownership of our products combine to provide the absolute best value to customers.

Today the Five-0 is being deployed all over the world; it’s getting lots of traction in Africa, is being used by the United Nations, by companies throughout the world for enrolment, for health and disaster relief activities and here in the US it’s very popular for things like background checks.

The FIVE-0 is also being integrated into tablets. There are currently no fewer than four different companies that have incorporated the FIVE-0 into tablets for mobile enrolment. What people once called “mobile enrolment” meant carrying around a suitcase or backpack full of heavy equipment. Now, it’s a smartphone or tablet with a FIVE-0. True mobility has arrived.

FindBiometrics:  In your opinion, where do you see the future of mobile biometrics and identity?

Integrated Biometrics: We anticipate that the future of biometrics will be similar to the evolving role technology currently plays in our everyday lives. Today, technology comes to people instead of requiring us to go somewhere to use or benefit from it. Today, of course, food comes right to us, packages come to our doorstep. Biometrics will be no different.

Most of us had our first biometric experience on a smartphone; it helped us access and secure them, which made our lives easier and more convenient. Governments and commercial enterprises worldwide are deploying biometrics to enable the same convenience while achieving the security and identity required. Mobile biometrics is the fastest growing segment of the industry today. Bulky “jump kits” are disappearing, replaced by tablets and smartphones. Mobile biometrics is bringing identity to the people instead of forcing people to travel to an identity solution.

We see the requirement for mobile biometrics as a strong industry driver and anticipate a continued, very rapid growth rate, approaching and exceeding 100 percent per year. The mobile portion of the industry is limited only by the creativity of the applications being developed. Handheld devices are being deployed with more and more applications; mobile applications include national ID programs, health care, screening for ghost workers, social services, along with immigration and border control. In addition, self-service kiosks are being deployed to where people are going to be.

FindBiometrics: What can we expect next from Integrated Biometrics?

Interview: CEO Stephen Thies on Integrated Biometrics' Border Control, Law Enforcement Success

Integrated Biometrics: We’re not sitting still. By the end of this year we will have deployed more than a quarter-million certified fingerprint sensors around the world. Millions of people touch an IB scanner every day. We’re laser-focused – we make, design and manufacture fingerprint sensors. And we see an ever-widening variety of applications for all our products. Today, airline passengers, ballpark attendees, the banking industry, the healthcare industry – all secured by our sensors. And that list is growing rapidly.

In addition, we’ll be announcing a groundbreaking new device in Q3 of this year. Watch for it – it will be a “world’s smallest” device for its category and will squarely meet significant unaddressed industry demand in the mobile market. It’s going to be big.

In the commercial space, we see a rapidly increasing need for biometric identity for things like membership or loyalty programs all over the world. We have two new commercial fingerprint sensors in development right now, both slated for release later this year.

We’re also adding some great new features to further enhance the user experience across our entire product line and have a major project well underway to introduce some new value-added services our customers have been asking for.

We’re growing rapidly. We’ve added manufacturing capacity, are expanding our supply chain and are recruiting the best people.

Our successes have created the kind of growth that’s challenging for any organization, but our team around the globe is dedicated and determined. We’re having fun and are squarely focused on the identity business. It’s our mission to deliver the many benefits of convenient identity to individuals and organizations around the world.

FindBiometrics: That is great, and we are looking forward to following you and promoting you through all of that. Thanks so much for joining me today.

Integrated Biometrics: Thank you, Susan, for giving us this chance to give your readers an update on IB. We’re grateful for the opportunity to serve the world’s identity needs and are always happy to let you and your readers know what’s happening at Integrated Biometrics. We believe the best is yet to come!