Peter O’Neill of findBIOMETRICS interviews Toby Rush, CEO, EyeVerify


Peter O’Neill, President, findBIOMETRICS (fB): Can you please provide our readers with a brief background on your company?

Toby Rush, CEO, EyeVerify (EV): EyeVerify as a company was founded in January of 2012. We are based on a technology that was developed back in 2006.  A confluence of more powerful devices, information sensitive use cases and improved Eyeprint algorithms made it the right technology at the right time. I came across the technology at University of Missouri Kansas City in 2011. We launched EyeVerify in 2012 and licensed all the IP and technology from the University. We’ve raised two rounds of funding and are doing great.

fB: Can you please explain the differences between iris recognition and your Eyeprint technology please?

EV: Sure. EyeVerify can turn a picture of your eye into a key that protects your digital life, so that you can have a password free mobile experience. We do that through the Eyeprint, which is a map of blood vessels in the whites of the eye. The eye has given us three different biometrics: the first is the retina, which is looking at the back of the eye, the second is iris, which is the colored portion of the eye around the pupil, and third is the Eyeprint found in the whites of the eye. So we are an eye based modality. What is interesting is that we are also a vein based modality, like finger veins or palm veins. What is unique for the Eyeprint is that we are looking at the only visible vasculature on your body.

fB: Very interesting and you have had quite a year. We have spoken at some of the conferences, the BCC etc., but in November EyeVerify won the international investment competition, “Get in the Ring” in the Netherlands with 1000 other start-up companies from 32 countries participating for the $1.3 million prize. Wow that is just amazing, it looks pretty intense and I understand that the song, “Eye of the Tiger” played a part. Can you please tell us about this event which is fantastic news?

EV: You can’t do a boxing theme pitched competition without having, “Eye of a Tiger” associated with EyeVerify as your theme song!! That was really fun and a very different format than a lot of the other pitch competitions that I have seen or been a part of. They had over a thousand different start-ups from across 32 countries apply. It started with paper based applications, then the next round was a video. In the US, the final 8 then pitched in person at the national finals. You actually got into the ring with another participant, a combatant I should say, and you had four rounds of 25 seconds each to pitch your company. So you have 25 seconds which is incredibly tight, very condensed and you had to convey what is your business, who is the team, what are the accomplishments, how do we make money. We were fortunate enough to be able to win the national competition. We won that on a Monday night and then the very next day I was on a 3 o’clock flight to Rotterdam. That Friday I competed in the international version of the same thing and was fortunate to be able to have won the international competition.

fB: Well I saw a picture of the ring you were describing and the crowds that were involved and it does look very intense so congratulations on that! That is a huge win for your company.

EV: Yes it was a lot of fun, a great honor with phenomenal people and a great experience. It was pretty cool to represent the entire country. I almost felt like an Olympian.

fB: Just last month, you won two awards at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. Can you tell us about those?

EV: Yes they were “Rookie of the Year” and “Technology Innovation” awards. Once again it is great to be recognized for our early innovation work. The math and science involved is very deep, we are really pushing the envelope on what we can squeeze out of these devices that we carry around with us all of the time. We can use a 1MP camera to achieve better than 99.99% accuracy and do the image processing in 500 milliseconds on the device itself.  So being recognized on the innovation side as well as the accomplishment and progress that we have made as Rookie of the Year is also great recognition for the team and the progress we have made.

fB: Can you explain the patent situation regarding Eyeprints? I understand you have a couple of patents secured, is that correct?

EV: We currently have five patents issued, six patents pending and we will file many more in 2014. We are the only company in the world that is able to do the Eyeprint. So there are really no competitors today with the Eyeprint. So it is not like we are arguing about whose patents are better, we literally have all the patents surrounding the Eyeprint biometric. We feel very confident in our IP position. So we are going have good control over the modality and be able to shepherd it in these early days of commercialization.

fB: What market segments are you focusing on?

EV: Our focus is mobile centric biometrics. The idea of killing the password has become very popular and that applies across so many different sectors. The markets that will move first are regulated industries such as finance, insurance, public sector and healthcare. Immediate use cases are around bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and mobile banking. We are also seeing healthcare both for the BYOD space but also for trying to get patients more and more access to their own medical information on their own device. In general, we see users demanding security and convenience when accessing information about: your money, your medical data and your company’s data. We are also seeing some really strong international interest. We have customers launching in Q1 in China and as well as in Australia.

fB: Can you please describe your enrollment and matching process?

EV: Sure, before I jump into that, I want to talk about a very unique and powerful capability EyeVerify has: the ability to generate key material. When we enroll a user, the Eyeprint genuine template is stored on the device itself and we never send any biometric data across the wire. The template is transformed and encrypted using unique device characteristics. We are able to do the matching in the transformed space, which is another layer of security. So we are able to keep the biometric very private and secure. When we successfully verify, we calculate the Eyeprint key from the biometric matching process. We then send that key to the server or the host application; establishing a very high degree of trust since we are exchanging keys and not just a true or false. An additional benefit to the user is that the host application is not creating a database of biometrics in the cloud. And we can do all the image processing, feature extraction and matching locally on the device in 500 milliseconds.

fB: Well after such an amazing 12 months what is next for EyeVerify?

EV: We will have a strong focus on execution. We need continued focus on user experience, acquiring new users and scaling across our target markets. We get asked the question, “now that you have won these awards, what are you going to do?” The answer is that we are going to do the exact same things we have been doing for the past two years. So really the strategy and focus hasn’t changed. We will deliver an amazing user experience, make the system secure, protect privacy and put convenience at the top of the list.

fB: Well congratulations again Toby on just a great year for your company, it is always nice to see a company that comes up with a technology such as yours which is recognized globally, internationally and then be able to take the concept to the market so quickly. I really look forward to hearing more about EyeVerify as the year unfolds.

EV: Thank you Peter, for the interest you have shown in our technology.