BIO-key International CEO discusses advanced fingerprint authentication solutions
Biometrics firm BIO-key International offers a range of fingerprint authentication solutions, including a platform that seamlessly interoperates with more than 50 fingerprint readers from over 35 manufacturers.
The fingerprint authentication software integrates with specialized industry software and identity and access management (IAM) platforms.
In November, the company showcased the platform and its fingerprint readers at the Microsoft Ignite your Business with Windows 10 and Office 2016 launch events held in 12 cities across the U.S.
As Microsoft’s exclusive biometrics solution partner, BIO-key demonstrated its latest series of Windows Hello-compatible compact fingerprint readers, SideSwipe and EcoID, which allows customers to replace passwords with secure fingerprint biometric data.
BIO-key’s line of products recently garnered the attention of Frost & Sullivan and was recognized with the 2015 Global Frost & Sullivan Award for ‘Product Line Strategy Leadership’.
In an interview with BiometricUpdate.com, BIO-key International chairman and CEO Mike DePasquale discussed the company’s product developments and projects throughout 2015, growth in the OEM and mobility business segment, and how Windows 10 and its Hello security feature are helping to change the perception of biometrics among the general public.
What were some key product developments and projects for BIO-key in 2015?
In 2015 BIO-key accomplished several key advances in the area of product development. The company’s entry into the hardware business has been a significant catalyst. Upon introducing a new series of compact fingerprint readers, including SideSwipe and EcoID, the company witnessed an immediate uptick in business. The new readers captured the interest of companies and individuals seeking a secure yet convenient replacement to passwords. SideSwipe in particular is generating significant interest across all markets, including the Fortune 100. By introducing affordable, easy-to-use and easy-to-install fingerprint readers, we deliver a full and complete solution for our customers. Additionally, wha t once started as a strategic vendor relationship, has now evolved into a strategic product development and investment relationship.
China GoldJoy Group (CGG) (formerly World Wide Touch) served as our vendor supporting the development of BIO-key fingerprint readers; since then the relationship has grown into a much more sophisticated partnership including joint representation, development and investment. Therefore entering the fingerprint reader device market certainly had a measurable impact on our business and our business model. We also developed ID Director for Windows in 2015, which delivers secure and convenient fingerprint biometric authentication on any Windows device. With ID Director, Windows customers can access applications with one-touch instant authentication. BIO-key’s SideSwipe and EcoID compact readers, integrate seamlessly with Windows 10 and upgraded versions of Windows 8.1, 8 and 7. Customers can use these readers out of the box, to replace their password and then upgrade to ID Director to access secured applications.
The launch of BIO-key’s devices and direct integration into Windows Biometric Framework (WBF) was timely, as BIO-key was invited to participate and present, as the exclusive biometric vendor during the Microsoft Windows 10 Ignite your Business 12 city tour. The BIO-key R&D team also advanced our core product WEB-key 3.5 in 2015. Today WEB-key 3.5 is much more than the fingerprint biometric authentication infrastructure engine it started as. WEB-key 3.5 is flexible, supporting multiple modes of authentication. The development team recognized the need for a biometric centric authentication solution that could work side by side supporting other authentication methods such as proximity cards, OTP tokens, knowledge based – challenge response question and yes, even other modalities of biometric authentication.
BIO-key recently raised a $7.45 million investment, which it said would be used primarily to fund operations and expand its sales, marketing and product development efforts. Can you elaborate on these efforts?
Our recent Funding/Strategic License agreement with CGG and affiliated investors will provide the necessary working capital to rapidly expand our business around the globe in particular in the Asia Pacific Region. We have opened offices in Hong Kong as well as China and will be pursuing opportunities in the payment industry in the region first then extend to Africa, Europe and the US. BIO-key will add resources around the world to develop, market and sell advanced authentication solutions that will include biometrics for both the enterprise and consumer markets.
Last year, BIO-key saw a significant growth in revenue from advanced fingerprint authentication solutions within the OEM and mobility business segment. Do you see this growth continuing throughout 2016?
The OEM model has been very successful for BIO-key and our customers. Consider that once a manufacturer decides to embed our solution, such as we have witnessed in healthcare, education and retail, we find that there is significant recurring revenue. Once the initial development is completed and tested, the OEM customer has a plug and play biometric authentication process that works time after time. We can also forecast our OEM customers future requirements which is beneficial from a production – inventory and revenue standpoint. We intend on aggressively growing our OEM customer base with a number of prospects conducting proof of concepts and proof of technology tests. As an OEM it’s vital that a security solution is high performance – high quality, therefore the testing / inspection period can be lengthy. The good news is once you pass the test you become part of a long-term recurring solution. To date, we can report that all of our OEM customers are growing at a rate higher than blended company growth, thus we expect to leverage this success going forward.
Mobility is also one (of) our key focal areas and has been for a while. Long before Apple placed a fingerprint reader on the iPhone, our R&D team was experimenting with snap on devices and other solutions to bring fingerprint technology to smart mobile devices. It was easy to see that the path from early utilization, which just had us using our cell phones to make – receive calls and send the “occasional” text. It was inevitable that as coverage improved, processing speed improved, applications were developed and images became more vibrant that our phones and tablets would become an appendage, serving as another body part, one we can’t live without. BIO-key developers are working on finding the ultimate balance of size and performance including both “on device” and “in the cloud” authentication options. It’s been our history to have the top performing algorithm and software and we won’t settle for any less with our mobile products. It’s clear that consumers want to use their mobile devices for everything from shopping to banking and we understand the security and performance that is necessary to maintain and manage trusted transactions locally or to a server or the cloud. BIO-key recently partnered with Microsoft to demonstrate fingerprint readers in 12 cities.
How will Windows 10 and its Hello security feature help to change the adoption rate and perception of biometrics among the general public?
The Microsoft 12 city tour is another indication that biometrics are a primary focus with both the enterprise and the consumer. As the Microsoft team said, “BIO-key was the star of the show,” and as the press release (indicated), they are very pleased to have innovative companies such as BIO-key as a partner. Each event attracted several hundred technology influencers, all in attendance to witness the new capabilities of Windows 10 and Hello. The vast majority of the participants visited our booth and took time to experience the enrollment and authentication process. More than 5,000 registered for the events. Not to our surprise the common theme was “I need a replacement for passwords” and upon seeing our demonstration most agreed that fingerprint is a far better solution. Along with the activity we witnessed during the events, we are clearly seeing an increase in inquiries across the board. There’s an identifiable and measurable groundswell of interest in genuinely understanding the capabilities and benefits of our technology. Simultaneously small – mid – large companies are reaching out to us daily. But, as we referenced earlier, we deal with security at its core and any change to a security platform can be considered disruptive. The great news is that interest continues to grow with consumers and commercial customers that have been plagued with data breaches, identity theft and the operational need to improve workflow processes and reduce costs.
What products and partnerships are BIO-key currently working on for 2016?
In 2016 we will be introducing additions to our series of compact fingerprint readers. The first new reader SideTouch will support all Android and Window’s devices. SideTouch will replace their existing password with the placement of their finger. Similar to our SideSwipe product SideTouch will include a placement sensor versus the existing swipe. Mobility remains a focus as Mobile WEB-key will support OATH-based OTP, out of band “push” authorization. We also intend on introducing broader support for TouchID – iOS via the WEB-key client. BIO-key has enhanced our offering of secure biometric authentication with the addition of FICAM CSP Level of Assurance 3 (LOA-3) identity proofing an d optional hosted authentication services in partnership with HealthIDx, a FICAM-certified LOA-3 CSP. This capability allows an integrated identity proofing step to be included in any BIO-key enrollment workflow, and dovetails to our CSP-hosted authentication service, to allow ongoing authentication to be conducted by the CSP on a subscription basis, at a fraction of the cost typically charged for such subscriptions.
BIO-key EPCS customers who lack their own credentialing organization can use our integrated CSP for Identity Proofing at registration, fully complying with the DEA EPCS regulation under CFR-21 Part 1311, and can choose to host their enrollment and authentication services in-house, or at the CSP thereafter. True to BIO-key’s history of giving customers choices among any of over 40 scanners on a variety of platforms, we offer customers more deployment options than any EPCS biometric authentication vendor: Customers are free to choose in-house or CSP ID proofing as well as in-house or CSP-hosted transactional authentication services. This represents huge potential savings in the TCO of a BIO-key EPCS authentication solution, versus expensive subscription-only options.
We’ll also launch WEB-key 4.0 in 2016, to include more security features and the ability to operate on additional platforms (Edge & Chrome). Many new features include broader modes of integration with applications and a much more dynamic and flexible user interface presentation. BIO-key is also developing diverse biometric authentication solutions for common products that consumers use today. Unfortunately, we’re not at liberty to expand on the specific products being developed, but consider this, look around you and ask, “What would be safer or easier to access if I only had to touch or swipe my finger.” You’ll be surprised just how many opportunities there are for biometric tech nologies in our lives.
BIO-key was established under the partner sales model and we will continue to remain steadfast and committed to both our existing partners and the development of new partners. With our new partnership with China Gold Joy and the opening of our Hong Kong and China offices we expect increased activity in the Asia Pacific market. In healthcare we’ll continue to nurture relationships with Epic, Allscripts, Caradigm, Aventura and HealthCast as we continue to seek new partners by attending events such as HIMSS. BIO-key maintains partnerships with IBM, CA and Oracle yet we continue to network with the resellers in the IAM space. The company will be attending Mobile World Congress and CES and will be exhibiting at IBM InterConnect, connect:ID, and CA World 2016 to support the growth of our partner network. Mobility is the future and BIO-key’s on device or cloud based authentication options are ideally suited to serve this market. Over the past several years, we have invested significant time and money developing our mobility partner channel. We expect these efforts will pay dividends in 2016 and beyond.