BIO-key International: Supporting identity in everyday life

BIO-key International 

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James Humphreys, Assistant Editor, Centurian Media catches up with Jim Sullivan, Senior Vice President, Strategy, BIO-key International.

Can you tell us more about what BIO-key specialises in? 

BIO-key has a strong foundation in biometric identity expertise and has some of the largest companies and government ministries as its customers, using its biometric products.  

What we’ve done in the last five years is transform the company to take that biometric expertise and make it part of PortalGuard, a general identity and access management (IAM) platform, specifically providing access management and multi-factor authentication (MFA) capability for enterprises and other potential users of general multifactor authentication that has the capability of a “higher ceiling” with biometrics. 

Unlike a lot of products in the market – which essentially use the term biometrics to describe what is just a TouchID or FaceID experience – our biometrics are differentiated because they’re centrally managed and secured, so they are available anywhere, without a particular device required to prove someone is who they say they are.

BIO-key’s solutions incorporate privacy protection by design and are compliant with all privacy laws.

BIO-key simplifies authentication by allowing a user to be their own credential, instead of requiring users to carry something in order to prove who they are.

For a lot of applications, that’s just a lot more efficient, a lot more elegant and costs a fraction of what alternative MFA options might cost. 

Each member of your leadership team brings over ten years of experience – why is that level of knowledge so important when it comes to biometrics?

As you can imagine, biometrics has got a great deal of sizzle around it. It is a better user experience. It is something that, for a lot of people, is almost magic in the way that it simplifies the process.

You must have deep expertise and experience in identity scenarios to be able to really tie the benefit of a biometric back to specific user experience scenarios such as where a user might move around in a retail, manufacturing, call centre or healthcare environment. 

These scenarios all reveal unique biometric experiences for users; our expertise and our leadership’s expertise helps tell that story.

It’s rare that security is seen as enhancing user experience as opposed to adding more layers or barriers to getting work done.

BIO-key has that blend of user and security experience because we walk both sides of the discussion. 

What steps has the company taken to gain trust from customers? 

Some of our customers have used us for over a decade and sometimes even 15 years.

That’s a testament to the biometrics – something that can be leveraged by a user without breaking and being up for replacement.

Those lasting relationships bring many opportunities to differentiate ourselves through better service. 

In many cases, we use area mission critical components of our customers’ IT environments.

The fact that we rise to the occasion when they have problems isn’t ever a decision on our part – we are always going to throw ourselves into the team and fix whatever it is that the customer is struggling with.

That sort of track record and being there for customers is one of the things that really has differentiated us and it’s why we have these customers that stay with us for so long. 

We have customers that are still identifying long-time employees who have been using the product for 15 years or more. It’s just a testimonial to the product and its staying power, that it works.

We’re a good partner in helping customers keep their systems up and running, with only the right users able to access them. 

Would you be able to tell me about the BIO-key PortalGuard IDaaS’ features and how they are useful? 

PortalGuard really is the identity provider component of our platform.

What an identity provider component does is provide ways for users to identify themselves and also connects to all of the applications and systems a user might want to be authenticated to.  

What makes PortalGuard different is that it offers more authentication choices for customers, including those such as biometrics with fingerprint, using your mobile phone to take a selfie or to scan your palm.

It has those capabilities. It also has the legacy capabilities for familiar multifactor approaches, like using tokens or FIDO keys. 

PortalGuard supports many ways for customers to be able to identify end users but, in turn, it also supports more capabilities to connect to applications.

We have started introducing the ability to make our authentication experience flow through a FIDO2 passkey architecture.

That capability – as well as a track record of being stable and solid – is what makes PortalGuard stand out in the market. 

What does BIO-key hope to achieve in the next couple of years and how do you see the future of biometrics?  

Biometrics are intertwined in our daily lives. Most people already have experienced biometrics personally by using phones that support biometric unlock.

As biometrics become more accepted, we see them also becoming part of mainstream interactions for both employee authentication as well as customer identification and authentication.   

Authentication is best when it is over with quickly. With biometrics, you don’t have to carry or remember anything to be able to prove who you are.

You’re immediately past the scenario of, ‘who are you’, and straight into the, ‘how can I help you?’ For example, one of our customers, Capitec Bank in South Africa, has grown with us and demonstrated this. 

Initially, seven million clients enrolled with a BIO-key-based fingerprint and now that number is exceeding 25 million bank clients. 

These clients use BIO-key every time they walk into a branch, immediately proving who they are. Scenarios like this are where we believe biometrics has the most potential to grow. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?  

It’s great to have a chance to talk about this technology.

I think if people are curious or have their own special, unique challenges in identity or are looking to be able to take advantage of biometrics, we encourage them to contact us.  

We’re always happy to have conversations with customers where they’ve got a challenge that they can’t solve with a legacy approach – perhaps they are facing having to buy large numbers of hardware tokens, for example, to be able to work with a large workforce that needs to switch to multifactor as part of new security regulations or to obtain cyber-insurance coverage.  

Those are the scenarios where we can help.

We can significantly lower the costs that prospects and customers are currently facing and be able to give them a very efficient and better user experience for less money, saving them money in the long run. 

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