INTERVIEW: Rob Douglas, CEO, BioConnect

Rob Douglas, CEO, BioConnect (left) and Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics (Right) at the BioConnect booth at ISC West 2017.

In April we brought you live coverage form ISC West 2017 in Las Vegas, where biometrics technology was proving itself as the key to the future of physical access control. BioConnect was there, showcasing new biometric innovations on the exhibition floor. With the conference behind us, FindBiometrics President Peter O’Neill sat down with Rob Douglas, CEO of BioConnect, to reflect on the evolution of ISC West as well as BioConnect’s new mobile, enterprise, and collocation solutions. The conversation then turns to the physical access control market, biometric FinTech, a major new release form the company coming this fall, and much more.

Read our full interview with RobDouglas, CEO, BioConnect:

Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics: We have both just returned from the ISC West show. I have seen you there at this show for the past 15 years and biometrics just keep growing there. What was your impression of this year’s event?

Rob Douglas, CEO, BioConnect: I think it is actually remarkable to witness the transformation that is going on at ISC West specifically around biometrics. When I look at time stamp over of the market industry was five years ago and where it is today, there is no question that there is a significant increase in the amount of supply. Biometric-based solutions have come into the marketplace and the supply of vendors keeps coming. That lines up very well with a lot of market research that we see both in terms of physical biometric devices as well as on mobile, where we are witnessing now some 8 million people worldwide using biometrics every day. The consumption is there and the supply that we see through ISC West is definitely very noticeable.

FB: What were you highlighting at this year’s show?

BioConnect: We were highlighting five main elements.

The first element is BioConnect ID Enterprise 4.0 – the next generation of what was called our BioConnect identity platform for biometrics where we curate all biometric information into a single platform. It is now integrated into 80 percent of the worlds’ access control software systems. This particular announcement was a big one for us because it is the fourth generation; it is now in its seventh year of development and it has been really simplified from a user experience point of view. The other fascinating part is that we have now just crossed over 1,000 customers that are using BioConnect ID Enterprise in now 20 countries around the world. It is a recognition of our development as a platform and also the market acceptance.

The second area which is very exciting for us is BioConnect ID Mobile where we are now taking our platform approach to biometrics into mobile. At ISC West we showed how you can use a mobile phone to authenticate using four different biometric modalities to gain access to both digital and physical world. The market reaction to that was extraordinary. We see lots of activity that we are working on with our partners such as AMAG and HID to bring mobile authentication to physical security.

The third area is Suprema’s next generation FaceStation 2. This is a really strong facial recognition product. It has an HID multiCLASS reader head, which means you can use any frequency of card with the device on top of face verification. Facial recognition devices typically struggle with environments that have a lot of light because of the infrared camera technology, but with FaceStation 2 you can have virtually no light in order to authenticate, or the reverse, be in an environment with a lot of light like a glass-walled corridor (it has been tested in up to 25,000 lux). It also has an adjustable bracket on the back which makes it so you can tilt the reader to help meet the specifications of ADA, the American Disability Act, so that people of various heights can make use of facial recognition.

Additionally, we introduced BioConnect ID CyberShield, which is based off of BioConnect ID Enterprise and came out of the demands of a very large tech company. The product speaks to the changing cybersecurity landscape and was created to protect both their data centers as well as their enterprise office buildings. These environments required very stringent network security protocols put into place, such as 802.1x and built in way that ensures future scalability, such as support for IPv6.

And then lastly, we introduced another new product, BioConnect ID CabinetShield which we think will be a great solution for data center collocation customers. It makes it possible to provide assurance of identity right down to an individual server cabinet. This is a first of its kind, there is no other solution where you can actually use dual-factor authentication with biometrics to get into a building, then into a room and right down to a cage or an individual cabinet to partition and protect data.

FB: Thank you very much for that overview. You have a lot on the go and it leads well into my next question. With physical, logical, digital and mobile access security all crashing together in every enterprise, what would you say are some of the challenges this represents?

BioConnect: This challenge is one I have had personal experience. In the year 2007, as the then CEO of BioScrypt, we acquired a company to make our first attempt into the integration of physical and logical connections. Here we are now in 2017 and the technology is in place so that we can provide one person with one identity for all of their physical transactions, in and out of buildings, as well as all of their digital transactions. In fact, frankly IoT applications as well. It is a long time coming but it is now very possible with BioConnect ID infrastructure in the marketplace.

FB: Financial services is a hot market right now and you are going to be on a panel that I am moderating at Money 20/20 Europe show in Copenhagen in June. I look forward to that. Can you please describe your solutions for the Fintech market?

BioConnect: We see FinTech and Financial Services markets as the second generation of high uptake of consumption of biometrics. The first generation was all around physical access, the second generation is a much larger market where we are now looking to service hundreds of millions of users. FinTech and Financial Services are one of the main applications of the next generation of biometric authentication.

We have built BioConnect ID in a way that makes it easily consumed by FinTechs and Financial Services institutions as well as insurance, human capital management and healthcare institutions. As a mobile app, it can come pre-populated with support of four biometric modalities: fingerprint, voice, face, and eyeprint.

It is the same logic as BioConnect ID Enterprise, but as a mobile solution it is better served for the consumer, the customer, or the employee of a bank or FinTech, to use for digital transactions. A very simple use case is the replacement of the RSA token. We think this is a very logical replacement because it is both financially less expensive for the organization to consume and use, and secondly it has much less friction for the consumer, employees or customers to be able to authenticate when doing higher value transactions. Additionally, we see ways to absorb this technology in all facets of the bank to verify financial transactions. We have some big things up our sleeve that we’re working to introduce to the market in the Fall.

FB: Well it is interesting Rob as we continually hear that end user consumers no longer want to carry anything, convenience is critical and it certainly lends itself well to a great panel discussion that we will be having in Copenhagen.

Has this been a good year for your company?

BioConnect: It has Peter, and we are very grateful for that. We believe that it has everything to do with the need for identity and the progress that our economies are making, and we are certainly feeling it. It wasn’t long ago we were a much smaller company. We are 60 employees today and we forecast that we will be about 200 employees in less than two years.

As I mentioned earlier we are now serving customers in 20 countries around the world and we continue to build our partnerships. By the time we attend Money 20/20 in June, we will likely have announced new significant partnerships in Financial Services and FinTech as part of our continued effort to simplify and make it easier to be able to consume biometrics for authentication into their existing infrastructure. So, we are very grateful.

Although I mentioned we operate in many countries, our headquarters is based in Toronto. Toronto is also the home of a great ecosystem of talented engineers and software developers. As you may know, the city has indicated that it is seeking to become a world class marketplace in the area of artificial intelligence. This is an area that we are also very involved in and collaborating with local communities, universities and colleges to create a world of continuous authentication and trust. So, we feel like we are living in a great environment, operating in a very strong economy and addressing a market need that is quite material.

FB: I couldn’t agree more Rob, especially about Toronto’s stated focus, and where this market is heading and I know that you are heavily involved in many of the innovative activities that occur around and in Toronto. What can we expect to see next from BioConnect?

BioConnect: As I mentioned, we are working on the next generation of our platform to be officially released in the fall. It will be a significant step forward for us and mean the ability to cater to a larger user base for consumers all the way to enterprise employees.  It will address market needs in both the digital and physical world, where we already have very strong and deep capabilities in being able to provide biometric authentication.

FB: There are so many interesting things going on right now: we just had our focus on behavioral biometrics and the industry news is happening so rapidly: MasterCard announcing biometric smart cards into the marketplace, for example.

What are your thoughts on the industry in general, where are we heading?

BioConnect: You mentioned MasterCard – it is very understandable as a provider of a card wanting to bring a biometric onto a card, we witnessed that happen over the last 15 years. I think news of a large provider taking on biometrics is good for our industry moving forward, but I just don’t think the application is a viable long-term solution.

I do believe every human is seeking a future where they can be themselves to prove their identity in a way where they have privacy… but they are not having to carry around another plastic credential.

So, in the future it seems very logical for us that there are no cards, there are no keys, there are no passwords… but rather we will be using our mobile devices as our authenticators for every transaction that we are conducting – whether we are walking into the office in the morning, into our home, into our dorm, getting access to our online applications, our banking, or sitting in future autonomous vehicles and gaining access to the services that exist in the vehicle. Identity is and will continue to be very pervasive in every transaction that we conduct around the world.

FB: As always Rob, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us. I look forward to seeing you in Copenhagen at Money 20/20.

BioConnect: My pleasure, Peter. Thanks very much.