(The following interview was originally posted 10/12/2016 on FindBiometrics. The events previewed at the end of the article have already come to pass)
One of the big showstopping events of this year’s recent Global Identity Summit was the Bratwurst, Beer and Biometrics party hosted by Germany-based JENETRIC. The festivities served as a stage for the company to launch its latest biometric technology, the LIVETOUCH quattro Compact mobile tenprint reader (pictured right). Mobile ID World President Peter O’Neill recently had the chance to interview Roberto Wolfer, CEO, JENETRIC, about the company’s latest live scan innovation. The conversation details JENETRIC’s history, the demand for mobile biometrics in government verticals, and more, before finishing with a preview of the company’s upcoming appearances at the Biometrics 2016 conference in London, England, and the second annual meeting of the European IAI in Lyon, France.
Peter O’Neill, President, Mobile ID World (MIDW): Can you please provide our readers with a brief background of your company?
Roberto Wolfer, CEO, JENETRIC: JENETRIC was founded in September 2014 and at that time most of the employees came from the German subsidiary of Crossmatch Technologies. We started with 12 people, most of which were hardware and software engineers who had been working in the biometric industry already, some of them for 20 years. It was not obvious to us that we would continue working in the industry although we do have long term expertise in scanning biometric features as well as in image processing. We had a lot of different ideas for future products that require high performance cameras and for biometric scanners saw three major areas for improvement.
The scanners that had been developed in the last 10 years weren’t really usable for the average user. It wasn’t anymore the officer or the trained operator that was using the scanners, it was people like you and me who didn’t have training or education on capturing biometrics. Our experience was that someone without proper training would not be able to use the scanners without help. Or in other words: Scanners available at this time were not suitable for self-serving applications, as they had been designed for trained officers.
Second, we recognized that these scanners were much too large, too heavy and not flexible to be used in mobile applications. So we thought it would be feasible to shrink the size, decrease the weight, and finally have something that is able to capture tenprints in forensic quality in the mobile way.
And third, there was no innovation anymore in fingerprint scanners other than lowering the costs. Because of this, no new applications could have been developed; no other market segments could be addressed. It required mobile phone manufactures to shake up the biometric industry.
So we evaluated various technologies and product strategies and finally started in March 2015 with our first product development. Today we are 25 people, still mainly engineers but now that we have products available we also do have employees in production and sales and administration.
MIDW: It is very interesting. We heard in a webinar we held recently on law enforcement that a lot of talk was on the mobile side of the business as a key driver. You are obviously seeing this as well, correct?
JENETRIC: Yes, indeed. We see the demand for “going mobile” not only in the law enforcement space but also in the commercial arena as well. For us mobile not only means that the devices work wirelessly and battery powered, but also having something portable, hence size and weight are important as well. The latter is basically the reason why there are no mobile tenprint scanners available today.
Soon we will have a tenprint scanner available that is truly mobile and you won’t need a tethered PC; you will just use your mobile phone or tablet and scanner with it and that is it.
I listened to your webinar and I totally agree for law enforcement, for refugee registration, for voter registration in the field you need mobile equipment. The stand alone desktop version is still required for many applications but my feeling is that in a couple of years there won’t be any stationary scanners to the degree that we see today because they will be replaced by mobile scanners.
MIDW: In your opening comments you mentioned design and usability aspects were a key driver when you started the company and I’ve always been impressed with your scanners; they all seem to be very easy to use. It is interesting that you thought of this in advance of even starting the company and made it one of your foundational cornerstones. I want to congratulate you on that because ease of use and user interface is such a critical component these days.
JENETRIC: Absolutely and thank you, this was indeed one of our motivations. For example, when I was in India for the UID project, I saw both the operators and the people that needed to be fingerprinted really struggle with the interface of the scanners. The result was that they had to recapture and recapture fingerprints and this took time. And the more time it took the less money the enrolment agencies were able to make because they were by transaction. Today we see more and more self-service kiosks at borders and if we think about how different travelers are with respect to language, to culture and to education, you need a system that really works automatically. If it doesn’t work automatically in the first instance and the person is rejected by the workstation, then people will not accept those systems.
For us, a high quality biometric product wasn’t anymore only a question of good image quality and security, but also of a question of convenience and user friendliness.
MIDW: I’m going to change direction here a little bit because you just held the best party I’ve ever attended at a biometric conference at the Global Identity Summit in Tampa. Well done! Your Bratwurst, Beer and Biometrics was quite a hit, but more importantly you also announced a couple of new products, can you please tell us about those?
JENETRIC: The party was a lot of fun but the products are more important. Last year we introduced our LIVETOUCH quattro which is a very low profile tenprint scanner that uses optical TFT technology and provides a completely new user interface which makes it easier to use tenprint scanners. The next step was to even further shrink the size of the device and we introduced a module that can be integrated into enrollment stations, jump kits or into mobile devices and we call it LIVETOUCH quattro Compact. It has basically the size and weight of a chocolate bar and is 60 percent smaller and lighter as our stand alone scanner LIVETOUCH quattro.
In addition to this we have been able to show for the first time our mobile tenprint scanner. LIVETOUCH quattro Mobile is able to capture tenprints completely mobile and send them wirelessly to any communication device. You can use them with a battery and without being tethered to any PC. LIVETOUCH quattro Compact will be in serious production by spring next year. LIVETOUCH quattro Mobile needs a bit more time for development and we will use the feedback we gained from the users when we introduced it at the GIS.
MIDW: So for people who would like to see these products, you will be exhibiting at the London Biometrics conference coming up. Can you give us the dates?
JENETRIC: Yes, we will exhibit at the Biometrics show in London on Oct. 18-20. At the same time we participate at the second annual meeting of the European IAI (the International Association for Identification) which will be held at Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon. The international biometric community can have a hands on experience with our product in London and the more forensic oriented community will have the chance to see our products at Interpol.
MIDW: Well thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today and congratulations on the tremendous momentum you have gained in such a short period. It was a pleasure speaking with you today.
JENETRIC: Thank you very much it is our pleasure to speak with you today.