TECH5 Approach for an Opportunistic Future in the Global Biometrics Market


TECH5 is a Geneva-based international technology company, dedicated to design, develop, and distribute biometrics-driven Identity Management solutions. Their team is seasoned with industry professionals, focused on innovating scalable products built on the experience gained by the implementation of large deployments. Rob Haslam is TECH’5 Strategic Adviser, and an expert with 30 years’ experience, briefly elaborates the company’s key strategies and customer-focused business plan.

The market is filled with major players such as Precise Biometrics, Gemalto N.V. (3M Cogent), Aware, Fulcrum Biometrics, amongst others. How does TECH5 differentiate itself from its competitors?

Rob Haslam: Founded by biometrics industry veterans who have played major roles in implementing some of the world’s largest biometric identity management programs, including Indian Aadhar and Indonesian National ID, TECH5 is one of the few companies that have developed intellectual property (IP) across all three key biometric modalities – face, fingerprint and iris recognition. Based on our core technologies, we design biometrics-driven registration and matching solutions that are open, scalable, and inclusive.  Today, TECH5 implementations successfully manage hundreds of millions of identities.

We combine world-class R&D and engineering with our experience in making large-scale projects work in the field. TECH5 continuously invests in technologies, driving innovation, leveraging our AI and machine learning expertise to improve the accuracy and performance of our biometric technologies. TECH5 achieved top tier rankings in NIST (The National Institute of Standards and Technology) for all its algorithms. NIST is recognized as an independent benchmarking authority in the industry.

Our market approach is unique. We aim to establish true partnerships with our customers and partners in a consultative approach, jointly developing solutions that provide the intended benefits in the short and long term. We aim to integrate with existing realities, looking for the right balance between cost-efficiency and effectiveness of the proposed technology, giving customers a choice by designing an open architecture that includes proven solution components coupled with integration hooks designed for a multi-vendor approach.

COVID-19 has made a significant impact on the biometrics industry. Covid-19 has resulted in increased physical distancing and contactless credentials, which has shifted the market towards touchless/contactless biometric. What are your thoughts on this?

Rob Haslam: We believe that touchless biometrics will be in high demand during and after the pandemic. Banks, insurers, government departments, and other institutions have had to adjust very quickly to interact and communicate with their customers, and get new customers onboard, in online ways some of them had never done before. Implementing touchless biometric solutions, for example, digital onboarding using a smartphone or tablet, is a fast and efficient way to remove the need to visit an office and add an option to prove one’s identity from the comfort of your own home.

We have seen increased interest in our onboarding technologies since the pandemic began and received more requests for touchless biometrics from different industries every day. We are also receiving more and more inquiries relating to the provisioning of identity credentials on a mobile phone, which allow people to prove their identity, and facets of it (age, address, vaccinations status, for example) in a totally offline manner, biometrically and in a contactless way, where the verifying (relying) party simply needs an authorized device (for example, a smartphone) equipped with the right software. The verifying device accesses, via its camera, the credential on the ID holder’s smartphone, and then verifies it, again using the camera, against the holder’s face or even fingerprints (no touch required). This is set to revolutionize the ID credential world where no physical document will be needed in the future, removing all the physical infrastructure and need for contact or proximity, and significant cost. And this is not science fiction. It is available today with current smartphone technology with even mid-range devices.

Touchless biometrics are being widely touted to become the preferred choice in future biometric security systems. However, they are offered at much higher prices as compared to the prevailing fingerprinting and similar technologies. Do you think the high cost of these devices can become a roadblock in the market progression?

Rob Haslam: What if I say that for some use cases, there is no need for expensive purpose-built devices to offer efficient touchless biometric solutions to the government and businesses? And that any stationary or mobile device with a camera can be used for face and fingerprint capture? The latest software-based biometric solutions will become a game-changer in the world of security systems.

At TECH5, we aim for software-driven digital solutions that do not rely only on devices. Identity management and biometric security systems that strictly require purpose-built devices to limit the potential scope of implementation. On the other hand, mobile devices like smartphones are ubiquitous, providing a basis for ‘inclusiveness,’ ensuring that the largest possible group of beneficiaries is served in a particular use case. Today’s smartphones enable the capture of high-quality face images and, using the same integrated camera, touchless capture of fingerprints. Couple this with document reading capabilities, and you have all that is needed for digital KYC transactions as well as user authentication in use cases that require online and offline identity verification.

For meeting requirements in biometric access control and visitor management, we partner with hardware providers like device manufacturers of access control devices, where our biometric capabilities are designed into existing devices, doing away with the need to manufacture new and expensive ones. Thus, reducing the cost of implementation and distribution of biometric security systems based on touchless biometrics.

Is Behavioral Biometrics the next buzz word in the industry? Has the integration of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Deep learning with biometrics disrupted the industry?

Rob Haslam: Behavioral Biometrics is a form of touchless biometrics, and an industry segment that is growing rapidly. As the science of behavioral biometrics develops, one of the things the industry should ensure is that contextual data collected in addition to behavioral markers, like time and location, will not adversely affect acceptance of such technology. Behavior is strongly related to cognitive function, and, therefore, collecting behavioral observations, in some events, can lead to privacy violations, which may uncover undesirable aspects for public disclosure information, such as, illnesses. Surely, however, behavioral biometrics has great potential.

At TECH5, we opted to work with modalities that we can implement today. The core biometrics on which we focus – fingerprint, face, and iris recognition – are the ones around which current infrastructure, data sets, and identity management processes are built, in government as well as private sectors. We believe that in further developing and integrating these modalities, we can achieve the highest customer benefits.

Companies around the world, including ours, are applying the power of AI and deep learning to increase robustness in biometrics by reducing errors, reduce dependency on costly infrastructures. This will provide a frictionless user experience and increase trust. Neural networks have the potential to rapidly increase the accuracy and performance of biometrics. As a result, we are now able to recognize people independent of lighting conditions, facial masks, cooperativeness with the camera, etc.

TECH5 applies AI across all biometric modalities, and we witness an immediate return, such as being able to offer touchless fingerprint without the need for purpose-built hardware – just using the camera of a mobile phone, as well as matching face images even when covered with masks. With AI, we have managed to develop algorithms that work significantly faster and more accurately.

What will be the role of Biometrics in a Post COVID-19 World?? How have you adapted your product/service offerings during the Covid-19 crisis?

Rob Haslam: If COVID-19 has one lasting legacy in this area, it will likely be an increased acceptance, and understanding, of biometrics in general society. The pandemic has forced organizations to do things differently and without face-to-face interaction.

From onboarding/know-your-customer type activities using smartphones (for example, opening a bank account or registering for benefits), to the migration of identity credentials onto smartphones which can be verified in a contactless manner using another smartphone, the public will have yet another attribute of their lives which has made the migration to their phone, following all those other things which have gone before: from maps, to photography, to music and video, to payment and so on.

Raising people’s awareness and acceptance of biometric technologies, if done correctly, can increase people’s feeling of security in the online environment, as well as removing perceptions of “big brother” and invasions of privacy, which can sometimes be part of the conversation about biometrics.

Additional facets, such as the creation of biometric credentials, which people can carry but which, when verified, don’t mean exchanging sensitive data or forcing an inquiry on a central database, should all lead to better adoption when it comes to enhanced privacy.

From the organization’s point of view, the need to provide ID credentials or get customers on to their systems, technologies verifying that there is a real person on the other end will be essential: these “liveness detection” systems ensure that you are not dealing with someone using a photo, video, or even a mask, to access privileges illegally.

Something we have not changed but are seeing as a positive facet in the marketplace is the fact that as a small, agile company, we are able to share technology components rapidly with partners and customers in response to changing events to get proofs of concept out and quickly and efficiently, and from there quickly adapt them into larger deployments.