INTERVIEW: Kevin Alan Tussy, CEO, FaceTec

Mobile ID World President Peter O’Neill recently spoke with Kevin Alan Tussy, facetec-logo-boxCEO, FaceTec. ZoOm, FaceTec’s software-based facial recognition solution, stands out for its combination of identity matching and robust liveness detection. The following interview details how ZoOm’s liveness feature works, how the solution fits into the current mobile biometrics landscape, the innovative B2B, Free2C business model that stands to take full advantage of the massive number of mobile devices currently on the market, and more.

Read our full interview with Kevin Alan Tussy, CEO, FaceTec


Peter O’Neill, President, Mobile ID World: FaceTec is announcing a breakthrough in mobile biometric face authentication. Your new product, ZoOm, is in an established biometric category, face recognition, but you are saying it transcends mere identification and is a true authentication solution. Can you elaborate for us?

Kevin Alan Tussy, CEO, FaceTec: Definitely, and thank you Peter for having me back. It’s great to chat with you again.

So, to really understand authentication you must break it into two parts. First you need an identity match and most biometrics, including fingerprint and iris scanners, are capable of doing this fairly well. But the second part, and the one that hasn’t been solved until now, is liveness. You need to prove that the individual you are matching is really there; not just a photo, video or some other facsimile. So, for true authentication you must have identification plus liveness, and ZoOm has them both.

MIDW: It’s a very hot topic right now and at a lot of the conferences where I’m moderating, this liveness issue comes up again and again, so it is obviously quite a important. You seem to have “cracked the code” with what you are calling TrueLiveness. Please tell us about this.

FaceTec: With ZoOm, you move the phone in from 12” to 6” from the face. It only takes about a second, but as it happens we collect around 50 video frames.  Our TrueLiveness verification process then uses our proprietary algorithms to determine the face is three dimensional.  We analyze how the face changes to measure 3D perspective distortion, which in layman’s terms is the fisheye effect, and we have multiple patents filed on this process. We also measure details like skin texture, and we track the user’s unique motion.  When these visual and behavioral factors come together we are able to determine liveness, and we internally measure the accuracy with a false liveness rate, or FLR.

MIDW: What is actually required of the end user? Are there any special hardware, software, or new procedural requirements?

FaceTec: ZoOm is 100 percent software, so essentially we can take the 5 billion modern smartphones already out in the wild and turn them into secure biometric authenticators with just an app download, no special hardware required. So if your phone uses Android or iOS and has a front facing camera, you can use ZoOm-enabled apps, and since the authentication experience utilizes the familiar selfie UI, there’s no learning curve. 

MIDW: What vertical markets do you feel are best suited for ZoOm?

FaceTec: Well, of course the obvious examples; mobile banking, mobile payments, apps that are storing valuable personal information like health care data, insurance policies, and apps that store credit card information or have in-app purchases. Users don’t want to open an app and be required to tap a complex password, but a simple and quick ZoOm can authenticate them instantly without the fear of credit card fraud or identity theft.

MIDW:  Another hot topic is multimodal. How does ZoOm fit into the current biometric landscape, and can it coexist with other methods of biometric authentication?

FaceTec: Multi-modal, not to be confused with multi-factor, is actually less secure than a single factor in many cases. This might come as a surprise to the industry, but we don’t think that multi-modal or even multi-factor will be necessary because of ZoOm. While ZoOm can be used in a multi-factor environment quite easily, ZoOm is secure enough to be the only factor, and to stand alone in very high security scenarios like mobile banking and payments.  

MIDW: As you were describing your solution, you mentioned behavioral biometrics, ZoOm does have a behavioral element, doesn’t it?

FaceTec: It definitely does, in a subtle, yet very important way. People move uniquely and that allows us to create a digital motion signature; plus the user’s motion path dictates the angle of the face the camera sees.  Analyzing 3D human characteristics allows ZoOm to determine if the user is indeed the authorized individual and verify that they are alive.

MIDW: You talked about the requirements for phones but what about migrating to desktops or other access points?

FaceTec: Our TrueLiveness also works with stationary webcams, so we could provide a desktop and IoT solution, or even put ZoOm into vehicles. We will probably deploy to ATMs, as well, but for sure the largest market for ZoOm is the existing 5 billion smartphones and tablets.

MIDW: Kevin, how will ZoOm become available? What does the roll out look like? What business model are you anticipating?

FaceTec: ZoOm, for the first time, enables a complete move away from passwords stored on servers to encrypted biometric data distributed across billions of devices worldwide. We want to be sure that ZoOm gets to everyone that needs it, so right now our plan is to allow any business with under 10 million USD in annual, worldwide revenue to provide ZoOm to their users for free. So to all small businesses, nonprofits and educational institutions worldwide, ZoOm will be free.

For enterprise clients, the business model is what we refer to as B2B, Free2C. The enterprise-level app publisher will be billed per active user, and their end users get the security and convenience of ZoOm for free. That’s why we say Free2C, free to the end customer.

MIDW: Well, I wish you the best. It sounds like, given the fact that liveness is such a hot topic these days, it certainly will be desired. How can someone learn more about ZoOm?

FaceTec: I think at least as important as liveness, Peter, is to have an authenticator that people can actually use today with their existing phones. Users want it for convenience and app publishers want it for security. These two drivers are generating tremendous of traffic to our website, zoomauth.com, where you can find much more information.

MIDW: Is the product available right now?

FaceTec: Yes it is, and everyone will be able to try the “ZoOm Auth” demo app when we release it on the App stores in late March.

MIDW: Thank you again for taking the time to talk with us today.

FaceTec: My pleasure, Peter. I look forward to chatting with you again soon.