FindBiometrics President Peter O’Neill recently spoke with Jeff Brown, Vice President of Sales at SecuGen. The conversation begins with with a review of SecuGen’s activities at CES earlier this month and a recap of the company’s 2017 highlights. Brown goes on to speak about SecuGen’s ambitions in the biometric software arena, the market landscape from his company’s global perspective, how fingerprint biometrics are addressing issues of corruption in developing nations, and more. The interview concludes with a preview of what’s next for SecuGen.
Read our full interview with Jeff Brown, VP Sales, SecuGen:
Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics (FB): You have just returned from the CES show in Las Vegas, can I get your take on this year’s show? There was a lot of biometric activity it seems at this year’s conference.
Jeff Brown, VP Sales, SecuGen: Yes, more and more biometrics at this giant show. One of our partners, BIO-key, was in the Sands and I spent some time with them. We’ve been going to the show for six years. I think we were perhaps the pioneers in biometrics at the CES show and we find it to be a good show for us.
FB: What was SecuGen highlighting at this year’s show?
SecuGen: We were focusing on the U10 and HU10 or Hamster Pro 10 product line, which we’re going to be releasing in the March/April time frame. This is a brand new sensor that we’ve designed, which is only a bit more than 13mm thick. It is an optical sensor and will be FAP 10 certified. We’re very excited about this because it will allow us to be embedded into devices that we couldn’t dream of being embedded in before.
FB: Has this been a good year for your company?
SecuGen: It has, although I think our best years are still in the future. I think the U10 is going to accelerate our design wins. As a matter of fact, I can’t disclose who it is, but in India we have a company already embedding us into a laptop computer, which is something that with our older sensors we couldn’t do.
FB: You mentioned you’ve been at the CES show for six years and I’ve known your company for quite a bit longer than that, at least 15 plus years. How are you finding the industry changing, is the acceptance of biometrics making everything move a lot faster for you now?
SecuGen: I think it’s obvious that fingerprint biometrics in particular are here. It’s not a future, it’s a current thing. We’re in a rapid growth phase of the industry right now; I think acceptance is growing by the day. Although, that is a parochial way of putting it, because that really reflects the US market, and we’re very much a worldwide company where the overwhelming majority of our sales are outside North America and acceptance is high in many parts of the world; it is in North America that acceptance is now gaining hold. The biometric industry is in a good place right now. The news drives biometrics. It is very unfortunate, but whenever there is a horrible incident in the world, that accelerates the growth of the biometrics industry. We are after all a solution that people adopt to help prevent these kinds of issues.
FB: We just finished our 15th annual Year in Review Jeff, and it’s fascinating what the industry thinks are the major pluses and challenges that we’re experiencing. It used to be that standards and interoperability were the big issues. But nowadays it is education. Do you see this as a critical phase that we’re entering now?
SecuGen: I’ve always marched to the beat of a different drummer, and while I think there is some merit in that, I think it’s a way of shirking responsibility in a sense. I don’t think that that’s necessarily the number one issue, I think making good products that people want is the number one issue, and that’s what we’re all trying to do. If we can do that well then, we can grow this business rapidly.
FB: Can you tell us about some of your other products, I know that you also have a web API for example? Can you elaborate a little on some of your other products?
SecuGen: Certainly. We are making a push into software this year. We had what you might call a soft opening for WebAPI, which allows our partners to quickly integrate the use of our fingerprint sensors into their web applications. We have software for Citrix on the way and we have an improved 1:N SDK called SecuSearch that now handles up to two million templates. We have another software product coming later in the year that will provide Active Directory integrated domain login. It is a client server domain login product. We’re very excited about all this and I think it’s going to change the nature of SecuGen to some extent. We’re very excited about the software that we’re going to be rolling out this year. We’ve also been shipping for several years now our Hamster Pro20, which is our number one selling product, and remains that, and in some parts of the world, as in India Aadhaar Program we sell quite a few units.
FB: You talk about the global aspect of your company, we’re also very global and increasingly so it seems, so we agree with you 100% there. Where do you find the greatest growth when you look at your global situation?
SecuGen: I would say that biometrics are most used, most accepted, and most rapidly penetrating in those parts of the world that are ironically the poorest, and with the most corruption problems. And those are the reasons that those act as the driving forces for biometrics. So, just use India as an example: they use their national ID, and the biometrics that are stored in the national ID, to authorize payment of benefits to the poor in India, whether that be wheat, or monetary benefits. In the past, middlemen would actually steal a large portion of those benefits. Now the government can be sure of who is actually receiving the benefits.
In addition, in several countries biometrics are being used, fingerprint biometrics in particular, to authenticate the purchasers of cellphones and sim-cards. This is one part of a fight against corruption, as cellphones are frequently used in the commission of fraud and other crimes. These projects drive very large purchases in several countries around the world.
FB: We hear a lot about that Jeff, at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona. It’s one of those really great success stories about biometrics, helping the under banked, helping people with no identity or identity proof, up until biometrics came along. So really, quite a wonderful scenario in many parts of the world.
SecuGen: Yes, and I’m proud to help distribute benefits to needy people. I think that’s a wonderful application also.
FB: What’s next for SecuGen? What do you see for the future of the company over the next five years?
SecuGen: We’re trying to grow as rapidly as we can. I think you’re going to see us growing the company by adding people and products, and as I said previously, we’re going to be moving more into the software end of the business. But we have plenty of hardware plans as well. We currently have some products where we integrate a single board computer with a sensor. We’re currently shipping the U20-SFR which uses the U20 sensor but it has a one gigahertz CPU on the bottom of the sensor running Linux. The U20-SFR can be used as either as a passive fingerprint sensor where you use the same protocol that we used to use on our older stand-alone sensors, or you can program it yourself. We’re going to do the same thing with the U10 sensors.
It’ll be a very small sensor with an embedded single board computer on it. As a result of that architecture, we’re able to develop a variety of products quickly. Later this year we will release some Bluetooth products based on that architecture. You’re going to see us growing our product line, and you’re going to see us adding software. I don’t want to give all of our plans away, but let me just say that I think there is a lot for us to do in the next few years before we consider expanding the business in other ways.
FB: Jeff, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today, and congratulations on another very successful year for SecuGen. I look forward to seeing you at one of the upcoming shows this year.
SecuGen: Thank you, Peter. I look forward to seeing you as I have for the last 15 plus years!