INTERVIEW: Philip Beck, CEO, Ipsidy

INTERVIEW: Philip Beck, CEO, Ipsidy

FindBiometrics president Peter O’Neill recently spoke with Philip Beck, CEO of Ipsidy – a leading provider of mobile biometric security solutions. The conversation begins with an overview of the company’s history and a rundown of its product lineup. Beck and O’Neill proceed to discuss some of the big biometric trends of 2019 as outlined by the FindBiometrics Year in Review, namely the shift towards frictionless authentication and the increasing popularity of multimodal biometrics.

Speaking of 2019, Phillip Beck comments on some of Ipsidy’s highlights from the first months of this year, and discusses the opportunities and challenges facing the biometrics industry as a whole, offering his expert thoughts on identity technologies in faith-based institutions. The interview concludes with a preview of what Ipsidy has in store for this year’s ISC West security conference (April 9-12 in Las Vegas). Ipsidy will be amongst security innovators in the Emerging Technology Zone, demonstrating their platform of enterprise identity solutions in booth 40828.

Read the full FindBiometrics interview with Philip Beck, CEO, Ipsidy:

Peter O’Neill, President, Find Biometrics: Can you please review the background of Ipsidy for our readers? When did it start and what was its genesis?

Philip Beck, CEO, Ipsidy: The company has a rich history in biometrics. It originally started as ID Global Solutions which grew out of our CTO’s former life at Motorola, where he was involved with hardware identity biometric solutions. But the business in its current form was really established in 2015, and we rebranded shortly after as Ipsidy, which is derived from Latin for self-authentication. So, we are very focused around identity and biometrics.

FB: Can you walk us through your product lineup? I know Ipsidy offers many different solutions, can you walk us through some of them?

Ipsidy: We  are an Identity as a Service platform (IDaaS), and because we’re a platform, it’s about being able to service customers who are enterprises engaged in any use case you can imagine. Fundamentally, it’s either a digital use case, or a physical use case. Unlike many of the players in the identity space, we can provide our services and our solutions in the physical and digital realm. We run the gamut from boarding customers who want to deploy our services and solutions so they know with biometric certainty who they’re engaging with and the solutions include things like identifying a user, remote identity proofing, and transaction and device authentication for both digital and physical use cases, all digitally signed by the user with their identity.

It’s a different approach to what many of our competitors are doing. Our solutions aren’t hardware centric; they use inexpensive and widely available mobile devices that customers deploy, and their users authenticate from their own devices, normally smartphones, to verify what they’re doing with biometrics.

One of the single overriding issues here is that the platform can be configured according to the unique  needs of an individual customer. They can set the level of identity assurance and amount of friction depending on their business need. They might want a high level of assurance, with the lowest friction possible; or higher assurance with a little more friction. So, our platform is very flexible. It all depends on customer needs, and the experience they want to provide for their end users.

FB: Can I follow up on the friction comment for a second? We just completed our 16th Annual Year in Review for the biometrics industry and it’s fascinating to see what comes out of that, but frictionless appears to be the new “F” word. Can you tell us about your partnership with Ayonix and your focus on that frictionless environment for us?

Ipsidy: There isn’t a lot of friction to start with when you’re using smartphones and beacons, or smartphones and tablets emulating beacons, right? You come within range of a device, and you can set the system to not require physical authentication, because you’ve already authenticated using your device. So, you show up; they know you’ve arrived; they can see who you are; and obviously you can stop and greet people if you want; but when you start moving towards IP cameras, and the ability to match people facially in the cloud, and then stream the results to a tablet a concierge or a security guard can use, that’s where I think you introduce a very low level of friction.

In our basic Access solution, a visitor management system that can easily be deployed with minimal hardware investment to protect any physical perimeter, the choices are: you can show up with a QR code and scan it at a tablet; you can show up and use your mobile phone to biometrically authenticate with the Ipsidy app; you can show-up uninvited, get biometrically scanned, identified and authenticated  by a tablet; or the camera will just recognize you because you’ve been enrolled and your profile is matched in the gallery. In all cases, there’s the same experience: you’ll appear on the concierge tablet. So, your face shows up in the Ipsidy Concierge app, which indicates whether or not you’ve been biometrically identified and authenticated. It’s an indispensable tool for security guards, receptionists, greeters, and more. 

It’s a pretty unique offering, and Ayonix is providing the extractors,  the tracking, and a unique way of rapidly matching three-dimensional biometric thumbnail images that get streamed to our cloud.

FB: Very impressive! One other area that came out in our Year in Review that I know that you’re an expert in is the fact that multimodal solutions continue to gain and grow in importance. Why is this so important right now and what are you seeing in the marketplace around multimodality?

Ipsidy: Well, that’s a very good question. I would look at it little differently. If you’re leveraging a user’s smartphone to replace expensive hardware, then most people have gravitated towards some sort of facial biometric, and if not facial, then PIN or some other mode that makes sense on a phone. That’s what’s happened in practice. Ipsidy uses different modes of biometrics, but we don’t use fingerprints on phones because we just don’t think it’s practical today. We don’t want our customers to incur the expense of using fingerprint fobs. We standardize on fingerprints when we do identification. For example, when we don’t know who somebody is and we need to identify them. We do that for governments; we do that for the U.S. Government, TSA, Department of Homeland Security, and for the enrollment for the CatCard, and we do it for elections – most recently in Zimbabwe and the Electoral Commission there.

When it comes to the concept of having a single identity platform and high adoption, or appealing to the greatest number of people, and you’re using their phones, then facial biometrics is the way to go, and obviously it doesn’t have to be biometrics either. Our platform allows customers to define security experiences that are appropriate, based on their preferences.

FB: You know Philip, it’s remarkable on how quickly that change from fingerprints to facial occurred when Apple made the decision a couple of years back to move to face, the whole industry just pivoted right there on the spot. We also reviewed that in our Year in Review and sure enough face has really taken over as the leading modality but second is multimodal. It just shows the importance of multimodal in there.

Let me ask you a question generally about the company, has this been a good year for your company and could you tell us some of the highlights please?

Ipsidy: I think it’s been a great year for the company. We are a technology company, so building new innovative services and solutions and continuously enhancing them is where we live and breathe. In February, we managed to  pack an array of valuable new features and updates to our range of products into production and into App stores for use on mobile devices, and we’re now in a very good position for jumping off with that.

We started the year focused on the election in Zimbabwe; we had a very aggressive product roadmap; our sales team has been focused effectively on fintech companies, principally banks, and we started to get a lot of sales traction with account access and transaction verification. More recently, there’s been a lot of interest around remote identity proofing, which we recently launched a solution for. We’ll see where that goes over the coming quarters, but it’s certainly setting up well from that perspective.

FB: What would you say are some of the greatest challenges that we as an identity industry are facing today and how can your company help solve some of those?

Ipsidy: It’s important to remember we’re in a digital transformation, right? And we’re all moving towards this state of competency, using new technologies in our everyday lives, and in order to do that, identity needs to be ubiquitous. So, just as you can use a credit card anywhere in the world, in any vertical, on any device- we see identity being that way. If you’re going to use your identity everywhere, then it has to be easy for that to happen.

An IDaaS approach definitely needs to be low cost; and that’s our plan and how we see the industry. Not just who you are, what you are, and how we are going to convey to other people who you are, but how do we protect the data as well. So, there is a lot going on.

FB: We think you are right in the sweet spot of what is happening right now. You mentioned a couple of vertical markets that we think are critically important – you mentioned enterprise, you mentioned financial services, elections my goodness, there’s a growth industry for you with all that’s going on with the elections around the globe – are there other vertical markets that you are concentrating on?

We just got back from the giant HIMSS show so healthcare seems to be starting but it is going to be a long road. What other markets are you focusing on?Ipsidy: We have a big focus on visitor management because there are a lot of verticals that need a much better process for this. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hospital and it’s a visiting doctor, or visiting patient, or a visitor visiting a patient, right? It doesn’t fall under traditional HIPAA Health Care in terms of protecting the patient and the patient’s data, it’s very much a new way of looking at the work flows we have around physical access to any location. The same concept can be applied obviously to office buildings, residential buildings, but most recently we’ve been focused on faith-based institutions as well. Unlike enterprises and for-profit businesses,  faith-based institutions don’t generally have a CTO or an IT department. You’ve got this interaction of religion and technology, which is an interesting subject in itself, and figuring out how to provide them with a better, more secure experience has been inspiring for our team. And interestingly, there’s a marketing aspect to all of this because in many cases when you’re talking about membership organizations or religious organizations, it’s as much about encouraging attendance, increasing a sense of belonging and community, sharing information about upcoming events, and measuring engagement as much as it is about security.

There’s an angle here where there’s an overlay of knowing who your members are and being able to market to them, which is also fundamental to this concept of identity, and it crosses over into loyalty and the concept of a mobile device and mobile wallet etc. It’s an interesting interaction that I don’t hear a lot of people talking about and we’re certainly building those types of things into our product roadmap.

Very specifically, when we think about the future of digital identity in the physical realm in the context of a church, think about   encouraging people to attend service or participate in an event. They’ve got all the details they need in their handy identity wallet with details about time and location, we know whether they show up, we know that they checked in, and maybe we authenticate them frictionlessly with a camera or we make them do a selfie when they approach a beacon on the door depending on what sort of security needs to be set up for that particular event or location. It can be applied to all sorts of different industry sectors and use cases.

We think it’s a very exciting time  in the identity industry as a whole, and when you read about identity, I think you really need to read about biometrics as well, they are  actually becoming synonymous.

FB: I think you and I see the world in the same way as almost every company/church/hospital is an enterprise at one stage which leads nicely to my last question which is: I know that you and I will both be attending the ISC West show, the giant physical access, enterprise-wide security show in Las Vegas, can you tell us what you’re planning to be talking about there, and maybe let our readers know the booth number? Because I know that many of them will be in attendance there as well.

Ipsidy: Our team will be in the Emerging Technology Zone this year, at booth 40828. As we understand it, having been to the show several times on the East Coast, attendees are very focused on physical security. It’s definitely a show where we hope to reach partners and integrators, and what I think is interesting is that many of these security integrators aren’t using digital account access. They have security cameras and various technology systems in the buildings and businesses they secure, and they have a username and password to access those systems. Securing the infrastructure that these integrators are using, with biometrics, is something that should be of interest to the whole B2B market as well as expanding the breadth of services security integrators are offering their customers. Today they specialize in door controls and camera systems, but tomorrow they could be not just securing physical access, but network infrastructure too, using Ipsidy’s Identity platform to do it all.

Think about the proposition – there’s a before-and-after aspect to this – what do you do before you are breached, and what do you do given the fact that it’s highly likely you have been breached? Our platform covers all of those things. Our products provide an additional level of system security to prevent breaches; but assume that you’ve been breached – just assume that everybody has confidential information and it is out there – then you need some form of transaction verification and that’s where our Verified product comes in.

So, making sure that somebody is getting a push to their device whenever they do anything is where I think the industry needs to get to, and I think these integrators could help introduce that into the market, because it’s not readily available yet. When I was at ISC East when we met last, there was hardly anybody talking about this concept of digital access, let alone event verification. I’m sending a wire, I’m logging onto my VPN, I’m accessing my e-commerce account – those are as important security concerns, I would argue, perhaps more important in some respects.

At ISC West, we’re definitely going to be talking about the range of products that we have. Our focus is definitely going to be around the frictionless cameras and we’re pretty sure that integrators will be interested in seeing how they might showcase themselves differently in a far more technically adept way if they modernize their process of how you enter their buildings and how people can use tablets instead of making you stand in line and wearing a paper badge and all those other things that go on today which are not particularly effective.

FB: We’ve certainly seen a major change go on at ISC West especially. This will be my 16th year attending that conference and it’s all happening right now. I look forward to seeing you there. Thank you for carving out some time to speak with us today, it’s always a pleasure to speak with someone with your wealth of knowledge in our industry, so thank you very much.

Ipsidy: Thank you, Peter.