INTERVIEW: Håkan Persson, CEO, Precise Biometrics

INTERVIEW: Håkan Persson, CEO, Precise BiometricsMobile ID World President Peter O’Neill recently spoke with Håkan Persson, CEO of Precise Biometrics. The conversation details the transformative period the company has navigated in 2017, beginning with discussion of how it is addressing last year’s announcement that its long-time hardware partner, Fingerprint Cards (FPC), will be replacing Precise’s algorithm solutions with its own biometric software. The discussion then turns to a wide variety of topics, including Precise’s acquisition of liveness detection specialist NexID, the major interest in biometric smart cards, how Apple’s Face ID solution is affecting the fingerprint biometrics market, and much more.

Read our full interview with Håkan Persson, CEO, Precise Biometrics:

Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics (FB): Has this been a good year for Precise Biometrics and what are some of the highlights?

Håkan Persson, CEO, Precise Biometrics: This year has been what we like to call a year of transition where we have been replacing FPC (Fingerprint Cards) revenues with revenues from our other customers. You might recall in 2016 they announced that they were going to replace our fingerprint software with their own algorithm, and that revenues would eventually dry out in 2017. Which has happened, and we are fighting a constant battle to help our customers get new projects, to keep up with the performance requirements and to support the constantly decreasing sensor sizes that are being introduced to the market. We spend a lot of energy and resources on our algorithm development to cater for the standards of today, but also to prepare for upcoming standards, such as 80×64 mm type of sensors, which I think will be predominant in the capacitive space in 2018.

At the same time we have expanded our customer base within both mobile and the embedded space. Now we have about 30 customers that are licensing our fingerprint software for mobile devices, Precise BioMatch Mobile and about half of them also license our solution for embedded systems, Precise BioMatch Embedded.

FB: One of the areas that we have noticed tremendous growth is the smart card market for biometrics, what is driving the growth, what are some of the challenges and what are you doing in this area?

Precise: Consumer acceptance of fingerprint technology in mobile devices is a driving factor for growth in other product areas such as smart cards. The growth is also driven by the fact that there are so many smart payment cards out there – about 2 billion – with a replenishment factor of about 25 percent on a year-over-year basis. We see traction in this area with several projects announced so far during this year; the latest one being the biometric payment card for AirPlus, which is basically the first contactless payment card that has been announced officially.

There is a lot of interest in the payment industry to introduce sensors for smart cards. We have seen that in announcements from MasterCard and we receive feedback from more or less all of the sensor vendors that they would like to participate in this market. We have also been involved in a biometric smart card for physical access as well as time and attendance recording, which is another interesting application area for biometric smart cards.

During the year we have increased R&D to accelerate development of our software solutions for biometric smart cards. The challenge in this area is to support decreasing sensor sizes and constrained MCUs in order to reduce costs, while the high performance requirements still remain. In this field we have a very focused approach, and just in time for Money 20/20 we announced our new powerful solution for biometric smart cards. It supports the growth of biometric payment cards by significantly lowering the production costs while still meeting the performance requirements set by the payment card industry.

FB: So, this is obviously a big development for your company targeting this particular market segment. When will this product be available generally?

Precise: We expect it to be available at the end of Q4 this year.

FB: Anti-spoofing and liveness detection is another very hot topic right now and it is often a question that is raised from the floor to the panels that I moderate globally. What are you doing in this area?

Precise: Last year we acquired NexID Biometrics, who had more than 10 years of experience within spoof & liveness detection and fingerprint technology. This summer we launched a security suite containing our fingerprint recognition software for mobile devices, Precise BioMatch Mobile with spoof and liveness detection capability as well as stand-alone anti-spoof products. Adding spoof and liveness detection to our fingerprint recognition software enhances the security level of fingerprint technology and enables secure and trustworthy mobile payments. As you said, there is a great interest in this technology and it will further grow, especially within payments. Liveness detection will eventually become a requirement for fingerprint technology. An interesting example of such development is seen in South Korea, who has imposed requirements for liveness detection for certain use cases.

FB: September was a month with several big news announcements from the industry, the two that come to mind are the big Apple announcement of starting to incorporate 3D facial recognition technology, and of course the very large Equifax data breach that is affecting not only North America but, as we learn now, many other areas globally. What is your take on these two big announcements?

Precise: The Apple announcement clearly visualizes that there will be other modalities used on the devices apart from fingerprint technology. Fingerprint technology will always remain the key technology in terms of unlocking the device and getting access, because it is the most convenient way of doing it. But, other types of modalities depending on the use case will complement it, for example when a higher level of security is needed. I think we will see more of facial and voice technology but also behavioral technology being put into play.

I believe biometrics will be a key element for authenticating the individual going forward because of the convenience and security it brings to the user. There are a lot of other use cases where biometrics could be used. Card Not Present, for example, is a strong use case with respect to fraud but also from the perspective of operating a transaction. In this case biometrics can reduce friction and increase transaction volumes, I think everyone in the industry would appreciate that.

FB: When I look at the marketplace it used to be government led. It used to be defense, FBI, et cetera. My how things have changed. It almost seems like the enterprise and consumer markets are driving biometrics now, with things like door locks and wearables. How do you see the consumer side growing?

Precise: As biometrics is now in everyone’s hands, it has not only been accepted, it has become the preferred authentication method for several use cases which is driving the expansion of fingerprint technology and other biometric modalities in mobile devices. Biometric technology is here to stay and over time it will be more or less a part of every device.

FB: Well congratulations on some of the good news coming out of Precise and I look forward to getting a chance to meet with you at some of the upcoming conferences, Money20/20 and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, etc. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today.

Precise: Thank you Peter.