The potential of biometrics

When asked ten years ago, I probably couldn’t imagine why the financial services sector would have any interest in a subject as biometrics. But now, with my smartphone always near and always on and a digital key ring with probably a hundred userids and passwords, it didn’t take long for me to understand the potential of biometrics for the financial industry when listening to three Israeli companies that are visiting the Netherlands at the moment. The Amsterdam Economic Board hosted the visit and we, from Holland FinTech, were asked to moderate and to help the companies with introductions to Dutch companies and investors.

But what is biometrics? Biometrics refers to technologies that measures and analysis human body characteristics such as DNA, fingerprints, eye retinas and irises. The visiting companies Nemesysco, IsItYou and Biocatch focus on respectively voice patterns, facial patterns and hand movements. Recognition by voice and facial patterns is what we do as humans since the beginning of our species. It is how a baby recognizes its parents. We use the capability of voice and facial recognition all the time. But computers do it better than humans nowadays. Recognition by hand movements is very much related to the digital age. When using our electronic devices we use a mouse or a trackpad to scroll pages, type on keyboards and swipe on our tablets. Each person has its own typical way in using the devices and with the right software a user can be easily identified.

When listening to the visiting companies it became clear to me that the potential of biometrics methods is related to four aspects, namely more user convenience, reduction of fraud, more consumer satisfaction and more cost efficiency. The hassle of passwords required to login on online services is a daily annoyance for users. People are very sloppy with their pincodes and passwords and biometrics offer far more convenient and considerably more reliable methods of identification.

Benjamin Levy, CEO of IsItYou, demonstrated how we can use the photo camera on our smartphone to identify ourselves instead of for example using a separate random reader and pincode to authorize a payment transaction. Since we wear our smartphone everywhere and mobile payment transaction are growing exponentially, it is needless to say that Is It You is attractive for consumers. Don’t you worry, the software of IsItYou is very sophisticated. It will know when you put a flat picture instead of a real face in front of your camera by the way light bounces. And there are many more ways how the software detects if it is a real person in front of the camera. But this of course can’t be revealed as it is the ‘secret sauce’.

Fraud recognition, next to user convenience, is in the heart of the business of Biocatch. By using the software of Biocatch in for example the online banking application, is can easily be determined if it is a real person pushing the buttons or if it is a cyberattack. But it is not only the determination of non human activity, Biocatch can also tell the difference between an authorized person logged into the account and a fraudster. There are almost 500 attributes that can be used in this determination, explained Richard Perry, VP Sales EMEA of Biocatch..

In his presentation about Nemesysco, its founder Amir Liberman, focused mainly on the aspect of consumer satisfaction of voice analysis technologies. We often raise our voice to look angry or the other way around: control our anger and keep on using polite words. However, there are 115 unique tiny indicators that reveal if our emotions are real or not. Very handy for those operating a call center, customers that don’t seem dissatisfied at the surface but in fact are, can be better served. Liberman also explained how the technology of Nemesysco can be applied for discovering fraud in claims summited to insurance companies. The way people answer on certain questions reveals if they are lying or not. Since 30% of all summited claims are fraud, there is a sound business case in using voice analysis.

It is not only fraud reduction that leads to lower costs. Most biometric methods reduce the time that is needed for customer care, because instead of going down the list of questions like what is your birthday, your postal code and the birth name of your mother, identification is done instantly. In Europe every minute of customer care costs € 7, so need I say more?