Interview: John Hinmon, SVP Marketing, Cross Match Technologies

November 29, 2012 - 

John Hinmon is a man that takes great pride in his work. A self-proclaimed “steward,” “protector” and “promoter” of the Cross Match brand, Hinmon serves as SVP Marketing of the biometric applications and services provider.

A GE Six Sigma Quality Green Belt and recipient of the GE Equipment Services Leadership Summit Award, Hinmon holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the E.C. Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond.

Before coming to Cross Match in 2011, Hinmon was Vice-President of Sales and Marketing for Vectronix, Inc., a Safran Group company and leader in multi-function handheld electro-optic and positioning systems designed for defense and security applications. He’s also held various product management, business development and commercial leadership positions with GE Capital Services and HD Supply.

Founded in 1996, Cross Match is a leading provider of high-quality multi-modal biometric identity management systems, applications and services. With more than 10,000 customers around the world in a variety of vertical markets including national and local governments, law enforcement, transportation, critical infrastructure, financial services, education, healthcare and other commercial enterprises, Cross Match products are installed in over 80 countries.

Hinmon recently spoke with BiometricUpdate.com about his own career that’s led him to biometrics, as well as how Cross Match fits into the international landscape and what the company is planning next.

BiometricUpdate.com: First of all, what led you to biometrics and to Cross Match?

John Hinmon: It’s an interesting path. Vectronix is a business that also served the defense and security communities. We did a lot of work with the U.S. government and law enforcement agencies in the United States. It was an easy leap: Cross Match is a technology business and so was Vectronix, and they are both global in nature, servicing similar markets.

BiometricUpdate.com: Can you tell me why Cross Match is relevant in today’s market?

John Hinmon: From a 50,000-foot view, Cross Match is important in today’s environment because there is such a need for security and identity management, to really understand who you’re dealing with. Whether it be a roadside stop by law enforcement, a military exercise in a foreign land where you’re trying to determine friend or foe, managing immigration and visitors to your country, or even dispersing benefits to your citizens; making sure the right people are getting the benefits they deserve and aren’t abusing the system or being left out.

Over the last couple of years, there’s been some consolidation in the industry, with the acquisition of Cogent by 3M and the acquisition of L-1 by Safran. In the North American context, we really are the last player of size servicing the U.S. federal government and its agencies. We are a U.S. privately-held business and we produce in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Our competitors do not, and we feel that is a special position to be in.

BiometricUpdate.com: Can you give me a sense of the internal size of Cross Match?

John Hinmon: Cross Match has a total of just under 300 global employees; about 200 of those are U.S. employees and the other 100 are based in Germany.

For a company like Cross Match, we don’t divulge our sales, but I’ll tell you they’re north of $100M for sure.

BiometricUpdate.com: I understand Cross Match has played a role in the UIDAI and Aadhaar number program. Can you explain the company’s role?

John Hinmon: We provide ten-print scanners as well as iris scanners to a partner in India who supports the program and quite frankly it’s interesting – not many people know this – but Cross Match consulted with the STQC as they developed standards. The STQC is the Indian testing agency that tests all of the biometric equipment. We supported them on the development of those standards.

The product that’s being sold into India for the UIDAI program is a version of our older Guardian and a product that’s specifically designed for that type of application: It’s called the Patrol ID. It’s like the Guardian, but it’s a slimmed-down version for that marketplace because there are significant cost and pricing pressures in that market.

We like to think, and I think they’ve experienced for sure, quality matters when you’re doing such a massive enrollment and you’re trying to process so many people. You want to get it right the first time and the enrollment is the opportunity to get it right the first time because you’re creating the benchmark record, and you want a quality capture. Cross Match has been known in the industry as the quality leader in terms of hardware and so using the Patrol ID or using the Guardian really gives them that ability.

Plus, I would say, not having issues with capture, our devices and the way they’re set with auto-capture capabilities really speeds up the process at the end of the day. You don’t ever need to go back and re-print somebody or have trouble capturing a good quality print.

BiometricUpdate.com: That’s a good segue into my next question. I keep reading that the new Guardian can capture both wet and dry fingerprints. Can you describe why that is, and why that’s often so difficult?

John Hinmon: There are competitors out there that do wet fingerprints well using different technology, but that only does well in a wet environment. And then there’s companies like Cross Match — we have some of the best capabilities for dry and wet fingers in the industry. We use a proprietary silicon membrane with the Guardian device that allows you to capture very high quality, very dry fingers. But there’s nobody out there, up until today, that’s done both extremely well with the same high quality in a single device where you wouldn’t have to make changes to the device or have to re-calibrate it based on skin condition. The cool thing about the Guardian is that it does all of that. Not only does it capture dry fingers, but it captures moist fingers without ever having to change anything on the device.

BiometricUpdate.com: So what are you working on now? What’s next for Cross Match?

John Hinmon: There’s some exciting stuff in the pipeline for us. We’re thrilled about the new Guardian and we’ve had some great initial feedback on that device from some of our large customers who are looking at that for border patrol applications.

We’ll also be launching a next-generation Seek product. The Seek is a handheld device, deployed with the U.S. military as well as other militaries around the world. It’s a multi-modal biometric identification tool that does face, iris, finger, and you can also enter biographical data that transmits to different databases. That product was launched a couple of years ago, and has had great success in the field – primarily in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The new product is called the Seek Avenger and will be a smaller and lighter full-function device. Launching towards the end of the first quarter in 2013, it runs the same software that runs on the Seek, and we’ve made some improvements to it and scaled down the size by about 50%, which is significant. Everything in the technology world is getting smaller, faster lighter, cheaper. Size is important as a soldier or a security professional. You don’t want to be lugging all of this stuff around.

This device is single-unit, easy to operate, highly ergonomic, and it’s going to have great reception in the market.

Cross Match has a reputation of listening to the customer and we`re small enough yet big enough that we can listen and actually execute on what we hear. The Seek Avenger was a direct result of those kinds of discussions with a customer.

BiometricUpdate.com: Where do you see Cross Match in 5 years?

John Hinmon: We were acquired by Francisco Partners in July, a technology-focused private equity outfit out of San Francisco. They have big plans for us, as do we to grow the business. I anticipate that in 5 years Cross Match will continue to maintain its position in the industry as a quality leader but to branch further into the supporting applications and services that our customers have been asking us to provide.

They’re looking at us not just to provide the hardware and middleware, and some of the applications around it – they’re asking us to do the implementation, or to get involved in projects early and provide some architecture support as they build out what their biometrics program is going to be.

I would expect to see a Cross Match that has filled in a number of the gaps on the end-to-end solutions, within each spectrum and is playing much more significantly in the international marketplace.

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About Adam Vrankulj

Adam Vrankulj is an editor for BiometricUpdate.com. His background consists of online news writing, editing and content marketing. Adam has written for CBCNews.ca, BlogTO and was the editor and curator for the nextMEDIA and CIX Source publications. He has a degree in journalism and is passionate about science, technology and social innovation. Contact Adam, or follow him at @adamvrankulj