INTERVIEW: Ben Ball, Government Market Director, Crossmatch

INTERVIEW: Ben Ball, Government Market Director, CrossmatchToday marks the start of the 2016 Global Identity Summit (GIS) in Tampa, Florida, and Crossmatch is there. The biometrics company is slated to unveil its latest solution, what Crossmatch’s Government Market Director Ben Ball calls “the thinnest, lightest FAP60 size TFT (thin film transistor) sensor to date… the first truly mobile 4 finger capture platform.”

Mobile ID World president Peter O’Neill recently caught up with Ball in advance of GIS to learn more about this latest innovation from Crossmatch, it’s potential form factors, and the market drivers that led to its development.

Crossmatch is manning booth number 310 at the Global Identity Summit, which runs September 19-22 in Tampa, Florida.

– Join Crossmatch and our sister site FindBiometrics on September 28, 2016, for a special Law Enforcement Biometrics Webinar: Connected Justice –

Peter O’Neill, President, Mobile ID World (MIDW): I understand that you were recently promoted to the Government Market Director position at Crossmatch. With all of the changes in our industry these days how are you finding the federal space?

Ben Ball, Government Market Director, Crossmatch (CM): I think the federal space has changed a lot even just in the last two years. If you look back a decade ago, those were really the salad days for biometrics in the government. We had two wars going on, the ramp up of US VISIT was still going on, there were a lot of opportunities out there. But I think the market has changed a lot since then. The financial crisis brought on a lot of austerity measures in governments around the world, and that has had a big impact on the industry. Also the focus of biometric solutions has changed. Before, it was all about establishing security. Now I think in a sense we take the security part for granted. The new frontier is travel facilitation, efficiency, speed of capture and that sort of thing. Those issues are much more prominent in the federal space today than they were even just a couple of years ago.

MIDW: You know I couldn’t agree more with you Ben, but it’s not just the federal space I think that goes across the board in the commercial side, in FinTech, in healthcare and I think a lot of that is due to the fact that the technology has matured so much and also new technology is coming to market. Speaking of new technology, I hear that Crossmatch is revealing some new technology at the Global Identity Summit in Tampa, can you tell us a little bit about that?

CM: Yes, we are. It is very exciting actually. I think that this is something that is going to have a big impact on the biometrics market as a whole, and specifically on the market for mobile biometrics. This is something that our customers have been asking about for a long time. What we are revealing at GIS is the thinnest, lightest FAP60 size TFT (thin film transistor) sensor to date. It’s the first truly mobile 4 finger capture platform. What do I mean by that? Many devices that are on the market in the FAP60 size fall into two categories: ones that incorporate a really bulky optical sensor with a heavy prism inside; or they are hybrid devices, where they are using some thin film transistor technology, but also legacy optical technology, which requires an offset for the camera. In either case, the end result is large FAP60 devices that are not truly mobile.

The sensor technology that we have developed is only 0.7mm thick – thinner than a dime. That is the whole capture portion of the device. That allows for a whole new range of mobile use cases that typically aren’t available right now. I think that the market has really wanted something like this for a very long time, but the industry hasn’t been able to deliver from a technological perspective. So we really see this as a breakthrough technology.

The other key value of this sensor is its wireless capability.  All of the other FAP60 devices on the market require a USB connection – something that is cumbersome to deploy and limits flexibility in the field.  Our FAP60 sensor will be able to connect to any device wirelessly, providing rapid deployment, maximum flexibility, and ease of use in fast-paced mobile use cases.

MIDW: What again is the driver here? Is it that there was a need in the marketplace for something that is truly more mobile?

CM: It comes from several directions. In terms of the size, right now the largest TFT sensor that is on the market is a FAP45, so only a two finger sensor. If you look at the FBI requirements for an enrollment submission, they prohibit “stitched” images for four finger slaps. That is what the FAP45 sensors do today: they take two fingers at a time and then they “stitch” those records together to create a four finger slap. That is actually not acceptable for submission to the FBI. A lot of agencies have done it this way for years because FAP45 is the biggest sensor that has been available up to this point.

So because the new Crossmatch sensor can capture all four fingers together at one time it allows for submission of a FBI standard record for the first time in a mobile environment. And it does it faster than with a FAP45 sensor.

MIDW: So this is new to the marketplace – nobody else is producing this kind of product out there right now, is that correct?

CM: That is correct, at least in this sort of form factor. A lot of companies have four finger devices, but they are not mobile. You can’t realistically carry them in your pocket. That mobility is what we are creating with this new sensor.

MIDW: What will the final form factor be? Will it be a stand-alone that will be integrated into a laptop or a phone and will this be a replacement for your current products: the SEEK or a Guardian, etc.?

CM: We’re still in the process of determining the final form factor. We know that mobility is a prime driver for our customers, and for that reason we’re building things like wireless capability into the technology from the ground up. But in terms of the final form factor, we are going to listen to our customers at GIS about some of the specifics. I think we are going to hear a lot from our customers about the mobile use cases that they want, and that will drive the device that we build around this sensor.

MIDW: When we talk about what the use cases might be, which vertical markets do you see this particular new technology being useful? What comes to mind is border control, law enforcement, airports. Where do you see it being utilized most?

CM: I think in general we are looking at two categories. Internally at Crossmatch we call them “uniforms” and “suits”. On the “uniform” side, the military has long been the catalyst for mobile fingerprinting and we don’t see that changing in the near future. So in terms of soldiers out in the field who are looking to do enrollments, that is going to be part of the bread and butter of this new device. On the “suits” side, we see a lot of law enforcement use cases whether it is a full enrollment, verifying someone’s identity or checking against a watch list. This device will allow for all of those scenarios, where before law enforcement has been forced to choose between the traditional, bulky ten-print devices and a smaller single finger or dual finger device which really only allows for verification.

MIDW: I look forward to having a chance to see your new product in Tampa. Thank you again for taking the time to describe it for us today. Just before we go is there anything finally that you would like to add in about this new launch?

CM: We are really excited about where this is going, and see a lot of potential in this technology. This is a product that the market has been asking about for a long time, and we are thrilled to be delivering it.  Thank you again for the opportunity Peter.