Interview with Mark Shermetaro, CEO, Lumidigm
fB: For our readers not familiar with your multispectral imaging, can you briefly describe the advantages of your technology?
L: The advantage of multispectral imaging, Lumidigm’s core technology, is that multiple images are taken with different frequencies or colors of light and combined into a composite that, in the case of fingerprints, meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards for minutia data. Because different colors of light penetrate our skin to different depths, and because the subsurface fingerprint features are related to the surface ridges and valleys, our technology is able to gather much more information about a fingerprint than what’s available at the surface. In this way, we get a better overall image than the sensors that we compete with, and thus our biometric performance is much higher.
fB: There is an anti-spoofing element to this too isn’t there?
L: Because our technology supports a direct imaging process and because we can view features of the skin at and beneath the surface, this gives us an edge in spoof detection performance. With competing optical technologies, as long as there is something placed upon the platen that has ridges and valleys, or a fingerprint-like pattern, then that sensor will pick up the pattern but not necessarily tell you whether it is coming from a live finger or a fake finger. The fact that our technology is looking through and imaging the finger, and that a person’s living skin has spectral features to it, allows us to detect those features and then tell you that that is a real finger and not another type of material.
fB: You just released some new news about the Republic of Korea using Lumidigm sensors as part of their immigration project. Can you tell us about this good news?
L: Yes, we’ve been selected and adopted by a company called SMARTCORE to integrate the Lumidigm sensors into immigration entry terminals. So when entering Korea, foreign visitors present their passport and then interact with the SMARTCORE multi-biometric station which takes a facial photograph of the person and two simultaneous fingerprints. We are excited to be facilitating yet another immigration process in this way.
fB: Lumidigm is involved in many vertical markets from banking to healthcare to government but what I’d like to talk to you about today are the commercial and industrial markets. Some commercial/Industrial applications present specific challenges for fingerprint sensors, can you talk a little bit about these challenges and how multispectral imaging can overcome them?
L: So first of all, let’s put commercial/industrial into perspective. Over the last few decades biometrics has been focused primarily on the criminal forensics space, as a number of your readers are probably well aware. The second largest space has been the government services and civil ID types of applications, like the one at Korean Immigration. In both cases, the use of biometrics is often mandated. The real focus of Lumidigm over the last few years has been in what we call the commercial/industrial space and this is where companies have a choice of if they want to use biometrics or not. This market is highly focused on a return on investment and total cost of ownership decision. Really when you get to the commercial /industrial space customers can choose what forms of authentication makes the most sense to them. Most customers need the best performance available and they make their selection accordingly.
We have been able to develop our core technology to a point where it performs so well that an ROI and TCO business case can be made. And that’s on top of other good reasons to choose biometrics, such as our customers’ need to know who is accessing their assets. So what Lumidigm has done through our multispectral imaging platform and our smart imaging capability is offer solutions to people that have tried biometrics in the past, have been frustrated by poor performance and are consequently experiencing costs above the project’s budget. We’ve been able to show that Lumidigm performance in real world conditions on a day in day out basis is high enough that they can meet their business needs by incorporating biometrics. We can offer a higher level of convenience and a higher level of security, and the commercial/industrial market is responding positively.
fB: I think you are absolutely correct about the ROI side of things but I think that your sensor is also applicable in areas where you might be dealing with rough hands, dirty hands, oily hands and things like that. So the ROI stays up there because they are getting good reads from dirty or oily fingers.
L: Yes Peter, you are pointing out one of the realities of the commercial/industrial space that the environments we are operating in can’t be controlled, and the people that are coming to these devices are, in many cases, working hard with their hands. So we’ll have high humidity conditions one day, low humidity conditions the next day, we might be deployed outdoors and so we are operating in a wet environment where it is raining or misting or something like that. Quite frankly, people in general aren’t coming to these devices ready to be biometrically measured, they may have dirty hands and are just looking for a quick way to authenticate and move forward at a convenient pace. So multispectral imaging and the core capability of our technology allows us to work in all those environments capturing images and allows us to do that authentication on a day in day out basis much better than our competitors. Our customers have run us through the gauntlet on testing, they’ve run us through the gauntlet of the type of people that will be using their devices such as their ATMs and they have proven to themselves that this makes sense to them.
fB: Can you please tell us about your work with Hong Kong Immigration?
L: I just returned from Hong Kong where I met with Hong Kong Immigration and that is probably right now the highest daily throughput of biometrics use in the world. They are doing anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 people a day through about 200 automated channels. They are looking for a very efficient process, enter, place your finger, be authenticated, move forward. If just 1% of travelers are not able to do that it is a huge number of people that have to be personally attended to. And so Hong Kong Immigration is all about performance, all about first time throughput so that they can actually move people very seamlessly across the Hong Kong and mainland China border using as minimal a staff as possible to do that operation.
fB: Again improve that ROI. Do you think that the use of biometrics for mobile identification will be one of the drivers for our industry in the future?
L: Well there is a lot of discussion around what can we do to authenticate a person who has a mobile device and who might be using that device to access sensitive information, such as medical or financial data, or to complete a financial transaction, for example. Our partner Itautec has developed a nice application whereby a bank customer can use a smartphone to generate a financial transaction at the ATM with a digital barcode. The transaction is then authenticated with our fingerprint biometric. This is one way to establish the “who” in the equation. I think what we are going to see is a combination of an authentication mode on the mobile device along with a biometric for two-factor authentication applications that will answer “who” with some degree of certainty as well as authenticate the “what I have”— make sure the mobile device is a legitimate credential and that the person holding it is authorized to use it. And you will begin to see applications with Lumidigm’s smart imaging capability that will allow multi-factor authentication using only one sensor.
fB: Thank you very much for telling us about all the very exciting things going on at Lumidigm and I look forward to hearing more in the future about some of these large scale deployments that you are involved in.
L: Thank you, Peter, I appreciate the time.