INTERVIEW: Phil Tusa, COO, CMITechPeter O’Neill, president of FindBiometrics, recently interviewed Phil Tusa, COO of the iris biometric company CMITech. The conversation begins with a look into what’s driving iris biometrics and how CMITech is addressing some of the central challenges facing the modality. It goes on to detail the company’s history, the verticals CMITech is finding success in, and ends with the inside scoop on the company’s recent series B investment round. CMITech will be showcasing its products at connect:ID next week in Washington, DC.


Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics (FB): Iris recognition is gaining tremendous momentum across many vertical markets, what are some of the key drivers behind this growth?

Phil Tusa, COO, CMITech: Peter, I think there are two essential factors. One is the inherent accuracy of iris recognition due to the information content of the iris itself, which is supported by the fact that the better iris recognition cameras are simultaneous dual iris imagers, so you are taking advantage of being able to utilize the unique information in both irises to achieve very high accuracy. And the second key factor is the hands-free or non-contact nature of iris recognition, which for some applications is highly desirable. Also, in some cultures, there is a strong preference for a non-contact biometric, and therefore the fingerprint modality is to be avoided if possible.

FB: Just to follow up on that Phil, ease of use has become a growing area of importance for all biometrics, as you just referenced. What else does CMITech do to address this area?

CMITech:  We fully agree that one of the impediments to the adoption of iris recognition has been ease of use, sometimes called usability or subject convenience.  We have been engaged in a new product development program for well over a year to take what we think is a major step forward in ease of use.  What we are going to deliver in our next generation system is to make the user experience faster, simpler, and more repeatable for all subjects, especially new and non-acclimated ones.  

The new user concept is to display the subject’s face image in real time on a large 5.2 inch touchscreen display, with instructions to simply position their face inside a box within the display. Subjects will find centering their face on the screen natural and intuitive, much like positioning themselves in a smartphone “selfie”.  Our new product will also have an extended depth of capture of 35 to 45 cm, which also contributes to the ease of positioning. We are confident that this user interface innovation is going to be eagerly adopted by integration partners and end customers with an interest in iris recognition. There is no doubt that this new product will be a game changer for our industry.

FB: That sounds very exciting. What’s the timing on this announcement?

CMITech: We are going to show a preview of this new imager at the connect:ID show with a full product launch in about May of this year.

FB: Can you also provide our readers with a brief background of the company for those not familiar with who is involved etc.?

CMITech: CMITech was founded in 2009 by Dr. JJ Chae, who spent most of his career as the senior scientist and chief design architect at LG Iris from the inception of LG Iris in 1997. He started our company with a focus to bring advanced iris imager technology to market while at the same time lowering the cost point of our products. In addition to improving ease of use or convenience, we believe that lowering the cost and price points to the marketplace will enhance market adoption of iris recognition.

We introduced our first line of iris cameras back in 2010, which utilized the conventional mirror and LED positioning feedback approach that has been in use within our industry for about 15 years.  Since launching our first products, we have gained a great deal of experience about the higher expectations in both commercial and governmental sectors for improved ease of use and subject convenience.  Hence, our emphasis is to take a significant step forward in the user positioning feedback concept with our new product.

FB: What vertical markets are you focusing on currently?

CMITech: There are many. Within the commercial sector we see a tremendous amount of interest in physical access control, time & attendance, financial authentication and healthcare, principally for patient registration. On the government side, we see strong interest in civil ID programs and immigration and border control.

FB: These are booming market segments these days. In many of these, ease of integration is also critical—how does CMITech address this issue?

CMITech: Going forward, our designs will be described as, “iris recognition terminals”, which means they are embedded.  Our products will have a powerful internal CPU with abundant memory so all processing is done onboard. Therefore the interface to the host application on a server or workstation will be done over ethernet using high level SDK’s, such as a fully featured “REST” type web services API that is now highly preferred by software and solution engineers.

FB: You just recently completed a funding round. Can you tell us about this?

CMITech: We completed a fully subscribed series B round in January from three prominent institutional investors in Korea for a total amount of US$2.1 million. These funds are intended to support the completion of our new product development efforts and the subsequent marketing and sales launch into the various application verticals we are targeting.

FB: Well it has been quite a year for CMITech. I wish you all the best with your new product launch and look forward to seeing it in person.

CMITech: Thank you, Peter. We are very excited about this product and we think it’s going to make a big impact on not only the iris imager marketplace but the biometrics market in general.  We are actively working with several integrations partners as we speak; we are looking for more integration partners to serve not only the vertical markets that I have mentioned, but the many geographies around the world that are interested in iris recognition.

FB: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today.

CMITech: Thanks Peter.