Interview with Richard Agostinelli, CEO, Crossmatch
FindBiometrics president Peter O’Neill recently spoke with Richard Agostinelli, CEO of Crossmatch. The conversation begins with an update on the company’s acquisition of Digital Persona, which was one of last year’s biggest news stories, and continues on about the interest Crossmatch is receiving in its Altus solution thanks to all the recent high profile data breaches. Readers who joined us for Time & Attendance Month in May will know the company as being prolific in that area of application as well, and the discussion touches on this too, covering Crossmatch’s recent U.are.U fingerprint reader deployment with TOGO Eateries.
Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics (FB): A lot has changed since we spoke last November about the new merger of Cross Match and Digital Persona, how has the acquisition been progressing?
Richard Agostinelli, CEO, Crossmatch (CM): It has been progressing very well Peter. When we talked last November I mentioned that one of the reasons for putting the companies together was to allow us to solve our customers’ ID management problems wherever they might arise in the cycle. There have been a few things that have happened since then. First of all in our traditional enrollment space of government solutions, enrollment solutions and live scan solutions, we are still very active and have broadened our offering to include more software and services. But in the last several months, in light of the recent and continuing data breaches in commercial and government organizations, we are getting a lot of interest in our proven trusted multifactor authentication solution called Altus, which came over from the DigitalPersona acquisition. Many people don’t realize that through long relationships that we have with leading computer OEM’s, our authentication solutions are already deployed in millions of computers securing network and application access for operations. We are seeing a lot of interest in that now as people are realizing the need for strong authentication.
FB: In addition to the traditional live scan offerings from Crossmatch you mentioned earlier you are also a significant player in the multifactor space as well. Can you tell us why this is such a hot area these days?
CM: Sure, you pretty much can’t open a newspaper without seeing another data breach whether it is on the commercial side such as with Target, or Anthem, or on the government side going all the way back to NSA and most recently with the OPM. People are realizing that passwords alone are not the answer. The need for strong authentication is coming to the forefront, and strong authentication that includes biometrics is gaining wider acceptance as well.
This is where we believe we can differentiate. As I mentioned, our solution is battle tested; it has been deployed for years and now as the market is forming we have a solution that is quite robust. Although there are a lot of players out there, many of those are new entrants. Altus is a true multifactor solution and you notice I say “multifactor” and not just “multi-biometric”. This is because when you are talking about authentication, you need to talk about other factors beyond biometrics. Altus supports passwords, PINs, OTP’s, Bluetooth phones, smart cards and biometrics. We of course believe that biometrics are an integral component because they provide what we like to call “Proof of Presence”. But it is important to note that it isn’t really required in the Altus solution; you can choose multiple factors that may or may not include biometrics.
FB: Rich, when I hear you talk about that it makes me think that it is probably very easy to fit into legacy systems, is that one of the key areas for you?
CM: It is, Peter. One of the advantages is that we seamlessly integrate with legacy and cloud based applications, so we can support the existing IT investments. What we are trying to do is not turn the organization upside down; we want to be able to leverage the investments that a company has already made and protect the entire organization. Our typical Altus implementation, of course depending on the size of the organization, should only take about a week to implement. We believe it is going to be appealing for that reason and that it is one of the key advantages that we bring to the table.
FB: It really has been a year or two or three now with data breaches continuing to grow. I heard recently that there was a data breach of the Italian company that supplies attacking software and that allows these types of breaches to occur and they got attacked. So these kinds of solutions are desperately in need right across the board. Do you see this more for large enterprise, small enterprise or for everybody?
CM: Well, really everyone. Our Altus solution is customizable but for smaller organizations it is pretty much an “out of the box solution” and then as the organization grows some customizations are necessary. But in terms of who needs it – every organization truly needs it to protect their critical data. The hacks that you have been reading about mostly are pretty straightforward password hacks. Altus addresses the human factor element in passwords. That is, the more complex a password, the more we humans tend to write it down, put it someplace “safe” or give it to a friend or colleague without thinking of the consequences. Whereas with Altus you can use a biometric as part of a multifactor solution to mitigate those risks. We have customers across the board from small banks or small commercial enterprises to organizations with many thousands of employees.
FB: I wanted to ask you about some of your time and attendance solutions. That is a space that continues to be a growth area for biometrics. Can you tell us about your latest deployment for TOGO Eateries?
CM: We are very strong in restaurant applications. Our solution there is principally the hardware component. We don’t have our own proprietary time and attendance software solution, as there are companies dedicated to that. But our hardware solution is the most widely deployed around the world in retail point of sale applications. The use of biometrics has become very well accepted there. Through many years of effort, our hardware is currently integrated into virtually every retail point of sale terminal and it is also now an acceptable token for virtually every retail point of sale software solution.
The restaurants just need to add our single finger hardware, which allows them to use that piece of hardware to avoid what is called “buddy punching” and get accurate time and attendance for their employees. That’s the application at TOGO’S, and that is the application at many of the other blue chip restaurant chains we have around the world to get accurate time and attendance. We are now starting to gain traction in the back office of those restaurant chains as well. Because we are a trusted provider for point of sale, those same restaurant chains or retail operations are looking at our Altus solution for their back office employees to secure network access.
FB: Now, on the time and attendance side, is it ROI or strictly convenience driving this?
CM: Yes to both. The ROI is very easy to calculate. Our single finger readers are at a very attractive price point. Given the fact that restaurants operate on very thin margins coupled with the fact that in the US when employees work over a certain number of hours employers are mandated to provide health care, it is critically important that the hours are accurate. We are able to produce very attractive returns on investment. But it is the convenience aspect as well, because restaurant and retail employees are just like any other employees, forgetting their passwords, all the turnover in restaurants, having to give out new passwords etc. – it is very easy to just use the biometric.
FB: What can we expect to see from Crossmatch moving forward?
CM: You’re going to see a bigger emphasis for us in the short term on the authentication side, both in the commercial and government applications, with our Altus solution. But you will also then continue to see us expand out – more software, more services – everything from enrollment in government programs such as the traditional national ID programs and benefits distribution, through authentication for commercial enterprises. Right now the market for authentication is very hot but of course the traditional market for enrollment programs continues to grow as well and we are in there not only with our hardware but also with our software solutions. 2015 and 2016 should be exciting years for Crossmatch.
FB: Well thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today.
CM: Peter – thank you, as always. Good to speak with you.