A longstanding and prominent name in the biometrics industry, Aware, Inc. was among the industry leaders to rapidly adapt its offerings to the ‘new normal’ of the COVID-19 pandemic era, enhancing its facial recognition technology to perform on masked faces. At the same time, the company carried on with general platform upgrades, such as the addition of voice recognition to its Knomi authentication solution.
More recently, the company has celebrated some big wins during the first weeks of 2021, including the achievement of MINEX Level 1 and 2 compliance, and winning the 2020 IT Cybersecurity Excellence Award from Internet Telephony Magazine.
As these developments suggest, there is much to discuss with respect to Aware’s business activities and achievements, which CEO Bob Eckel was happy to do in a recent interview with FindBiometrics. But he also delved into broader issues, offering his views on the biggest challenges facing the biometrics industry this year, before offering a glimpse at what Aware has in store for 2021.
Read the full FindBiometrics interview with Bob Eckel, CEO, Aware:
FindBiometrics: Last year, many existing trends in the biometrics industry accelerated, with COVID-19 spurring digital transformation, remote work, and increase in online and mobile transactions . How did Aware respond to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020?
Bob Eckel, CEO, Aware: Like with everyone else, the COVID pandemic certainly caused Aware to make some dramatic adjustments in 2020. Not least of which was transitioning our workforce to a fully remote capacity, a challenge I’m happy to say we handled quickly, confidently and effectively.
Once we were able to settle into and establish our “new normal” we turned our focus to the pandemic’s effect on the biometric industry, particularly in regard to contactless technology. We had been investing in developing our contactless biometrics software products for years, but we had to address the sudden uptick in public demand.
Our solution was to focus and emphasize face and voice biometrics specifically, as found in our Knomi solution. Face and voice enable our customers to maintain high security and mobile convenience, while staying as safe as possible during these challenging times. We also addressed the sudden increase in facial masks in our facial recognition algorithms and are happy to say our offerings can accurately identify individuals regardless of whether a mask is in use.
FindBiometrics: What were Aware’s biggest achievements in 2020?
Bob Eckel, CEO, Aware: As mentioned above, one of our greatest achievements in 2020 was incorporating pandemic safety measures into our offerings, such as the ability to accommodate face masks into our facial recognition solutions such as Knomi. As you can probably imagine, this took a concerted effort to do quickly, and I am very proud of our team’s ability to ensure the integrity of our facial recognition performance regardless of whether face masks are in use.
Another great achievement for Aware was the incorporation of voice, or speaker recognition, into our Knomi framework offering. Knomi had always been primarily a facial recognition solution, but with the addition of voice, our customers can now choose between the two modalities depending on their specific needs. They can also combine face and voice into a super secure authentication solution should they desire to do so. Aware is always striving to give our customers as much flexibility as possible and do so without a decrease in security or convenience.
This past year also saw the acquisition of the AFIX suite of biometric products from Maxar Technologies. The addition of AFIX to our lineup provides turnkey face and fingerprint biometric matching and forensic analysis software for our law enforcement and government agency customers and extends our Aware ABIS product family. We are very excited to see where our family of ABIS solutions take us in 2021 and beyond.
Lastly, I would like to point out that Aware, despite the challenges the COVID pandemic brought us, managed to perform an overhaul of our brand in 2020, releasing a new logo, website and more. Additionally, we managed to hire a significant number of key individuals to our organization with an optimistic eye toward the future. While the pandemic certainly managed to provide some significant roadblocks to our progress, I am thrilled with everything we were able to accomplish and remain very excited about our future.
FindBiometrics: 2020 saw Aware’s Knomi improve in many ways, including the ability to combine face and speaker recognition. What makes a multimodal biometrics solution like Knomi stand out in the market?
Bob Eckel, CEO, Aware: We truly believe that Knomi’s combination of face plus voice biometrics, combined with our anti-spoofing “liveness” algorithms, make it a one-of-a-kind offering in the marketplace. And with our improvements to handle the proliferation of face masks, it’s only getting more attractive to our customers.
While that speaks to our ongoing commitment to innovative solutions and ideas, our offerings also benefit from our long-held belief that managing security should not compromise privacy, convenience or ease of use. We want every customer of ours to know that they not only have industry-leading security features, but also a solution that is easy to use, doesn’t add any unnecessary friction to the process, and provides a rich suite of options for virtually any use case.
FindBiometrics: From your perspective, what is the biggest challenge facing the biometrics industry at the outset of 2021, and what opportunities does it present?
Bob Eckel, CEO, Aware: As we head into 2021, the biometrics industry will continue to face a number of challenges, not least of which is the ongoing increase in identity fraud and data breaches. While we feel that biometric solutions directly address this trend in an effective manner, it’s the hesitancy amongst many industries to adopt biometrics that we must continue to overcome.
By and large we see that many organizations are hesitant to be a first mover when it comes to deploying biometric solutions, particularly if they—or their competitors—have not leveraged a similar solution previously. Some industries, such as financial services, have shown themselves to be more willing to incorporate biometrics into their authentication solutions, and we are seeing adoption of biometrics use increase as a result. Other industries, such as healthcare, have thus far been less willing to do so.
Another challenge our industry faces involves education around biometrics, particularly as it pertains to facial recognition and surveillance. Unfortunately, many conflate the two concepts, assuming that facial recognition equates to an unwanted invasion of their privacy. Putting the ethical use of surveillance to the side, we think it’s clear that our industry must do more to educate the public on the difference between the two and demonstrate the benefits of consent-based facial recognition in keeping people’s assets and identities safe and secure.
FindBiometrics: What can we expect from Aware in the coming 12 months?
Bob Eckel, CEO, Aware: Aware is poised to have an exciting 2021, with the recently announced launch of our modular automated biometric identification system, AwareABIS in January, and the subsequent launches we have planned in the coming months. We will continue to enhance our existing solutions to stay ahead of fraudsters and trends in the market. Our commitment to innovation will not rest.
Neither will our vision of being the company that “Brings Biometrics to Life” by positively impacting life through biometrics. Our trusted family of offerings will continue to empower users to own and control their identity while minimizing friction, ensuring security, maximizing convenience and knowing your customer. I am very excited about what the next year holds and can’t wait to share more details on our latest innovations and products.
This interview is part of the 18th Annual FindBiometrics Year in Review. Find a list of all our Year in Review content, including industry analysis, podcast episodes, and more expert interviews in our ongoing roundup.