May 15, 2017 -
Suprema has a long and established track record in Africa, even relative to the standards of biometric companies participating in ID4Africa 2017. As a participant in all three annual ID4Africa events, and as a major supplier of fingerprint hardware and solutions to the African market since taking on huge projects beginning in 2009, the company has gained a deep perspective into the continental market for digital identity systems.
Suprema Head of Sales John Lee sat down for an exclusive interview with Biometric Update at the expo hall of ID4Africa 2017 in Windhoek, Namibia, to discuss the development of the market, the impact of the conference on the continent’s identity ecosystem, and trends in fingerprint technology.
The main product showcased by Suprema at ID4Africa was the new BioMini Slim 2, which Lee says is the world’s slimmest optical scanner, making it ideal for use in the mobile devices necessary to registering and verifying African citizens living in remote locations.
“There is increasing demand on mobile devices, everybody wants mobile devices with fingerprint sensors,” Lee told Biometric Update. “BioMini Slim is the world’s slimmest optical sensor at 13.5 mm in height, so our customers can experience a real benefit with the BioMini Slim 2 in their mobile devices.”
The BioMini Slim 2 packs FBI PIV, FIPS 201 and Mobile ID FAP20 compliant fingerprint scanning capabilities into that slim form factor. It also features Suprema’s proprietary Multi-Dynamic Range (MDR) technology, IP65 waterproof and weatherproof durability for outside use, and advanced software-powered Live Finger Detection (LFD). By delivering anti-spoofing technology with software, rather than the hardware approaches used by many other fingerprint technology companies, Suprema is able to maintain the mobile-friendly form factor of the BioMini Slim 2, as well as its low cost.
Suprema also showcased its new prototype BioMini Slim S at ID4Africa 2017. The BioMini Slim S is a standalone device with a 1.0GHz CPU, which performs high-speed PIV-certified FAP20 capture and matching on the device, and connects to a mobile phone for wireless transmission of encrypted fingerprint templates. It features human interface device (HID) protocol for plug-n-play capability, and is ready to build government databases from remote locations with no additional installation.
To encourage visitors to its booth to interact with the sensors, Suprema loaded a machine with jelly beans, which dispensed them when a fingerprint was captured on a BioMini Slim S.
For connect:ID 2017 in Washington, D.C., Suprema also exhibited the BioMini Slim 2, but focused more on its larger sensors for use by law enforcement, border control, and other areas of use by government agencies.
An issue repeatedly raised in ID4Africa 2017 sessions was the role of companies in supporting identity projects as partners, rather than simply vendors who “drop off some boxes,” as one presenter put it. When asked Suprema’s approach to project support, Lee emphasizes the need for companies to share information with clients and end-users throughout the process.
In addition to developing and manufacturing hardware “from A to Z,” Suprema provides the SDKs and APIs to make them work within the project of the digital identity system. “We can provide everything they want. Basically we provide full solutions to our integration partners.”
Those integration partners include Gemalto, HSB Identification, Zetes, HID Global, and others among ID4Africa 2017 exhibitors. Suprema keeps in regular contact with those partners for feedback and continued support, providing information and help when requested. It also is contacted directly by African government agencies and other customers to provide project-specific assistance, such as by building a new API or providing RMA.
African government customers have also come directly to Suprema during the procurement process, however Lee says sales directly to them are uncommon, and occur only in particular circumstances. Because of the importance of local support, Lee says, being a responsible partner to government customers typically means helping them to understand the often vast set of requirements for a project, and redirecting them to one of Suprema’s system integrator partners.
These partners can leverage the experience they have gained in actively exploring and developing the market, beyond individual projects, as long-term stakeholders.
Another issue which has recently received greater attention from African government customers is data protection.
“We have seen an increase in demand on data protection, even from the fingerprint scanner, in the whole verification process starting at the capture point,” Lee says. “From the beginning until two or three years ago, nobody was that concerned about your fingerprint image being transferred to the server or a third party PC without any security. A certain country has passed a new regulation forcing encryption of fingerprint templates in the device, in case the image has to be used in a third-party system.”
Lee believes it is too early to consider the regulatory change part of a trend, but Suprema sees value in the future for system integrator partners and end-users, so is continuing to pursue this angle with products like BioMini Slim 2 and BioMini Slim S which provide enhanced security.
Suprema’s fingerprint sensor technology and market experience enable it to provide leading hardware and digital identity solutions for the African market, such as the new scanners it showcased at ID4Africa 2017. The breadth of the company’s product range is shown by its focus on a different mix of solutions for regional markets with different context, as seen at connect:ID.