INTERVIEW: Salil Prabhakar, CEO, Delta ID

INTERVIEW: Salil Prabhakar, CEO, Delta IDMobile ID World president Peter O’Neill recently spoke with Salil Prabhakar, CEO of Delta ID. The conversation begins with a short history of the iris biometrics company and their major contributions to the biometrics industry. The interview then delves into the world of iris authentication on mobile devices, FinTech applications, and what to expect from Delta ID at next week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.


Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics: Can you please provide our readers with a brief background of your company? I think you started Delta ID in 2011, is that correct?

Salil Prabhakar, CEO, Delta ID: Yes. The company was founded in 2011, since then we have been singularly focused on bringing iris recognition technology to consumer devices such as, smartphones, tablets, laptops and cars. My previous background is in biometrics; I used to work in the fingerprint space. People in the biometrics industry and academia always talked very highly of iris because the modality has a couple of very strong properties–  first, it has a very high amount of information content which means higher entropy and stronger security; and second, iris is an internal organ protected by the cornea, and it is not affected by weather or other external conditions, and works better across wider demographics. The two areas in iris recognition that needed improvement, particularly for making it a technology fit for consumer usage scenarios, were usability and cost. We founded Delta ID to address these two areas of iris recognition, and we believe we have successfully addressed both, as you can perhaps now see in the smartphones available in the market with our ActiveIRIS technology.

FB: Well your timing was very good because just shortly after 2011 the mobile side of the biometric industry really exploded. Can you tell us about ActiveIRIS Technology specifically please?

Delta ID: Sure. As you mentioned, in 2011 there wasn’t much of a market for biometrics on mobile devices but we saw the need through two observations: firstly we saw that the smartphone screens especially touch screens, are very small and you have to enter your password for e-commerce or banking websites with a small touch keyboard. Secondly, for passwords to be really secure for web login they need to contain uppercase, lower case letters, special characters etc. and they took too long to enter. So ActiveIRIS was developed for mobile devices from the ground up assuming that we will need to rely on iris scanning hardware that must fit in mobile devices– which means the camera, illumination and all of those hardware components cannot be very large or expensive. As a result, most of the challenging physics problems of iris recognition such as motion blur, defocus, occlusion, we had to solve in software and keep the requirement for hardware relatively inexpensive and small. This software is what we call ActiveIRIS Technology and it was developed from scratch, from the ground up for suitability in mobile phones, tablets and mobile devices. Now we are taking our success in achieving consumer grade usability and low cost to other consumer devices such as cars.

FB: I first saw your solution at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona last year, about a year ago, and a lot has happened to your company since then, can you please tell us about some of the recent news with Fujitsu for example?

Delta ID: Last year at the MWC, Fujitsu demonstrated a prototype device with our iris recognition technology and received two awards. In June of 2015 Fujitsu’s customer DoCoMo introduced their flagship smartphone model NX F-04G which was very well received by the media, it had a lot of positive reviews and the users liked it. Based on the market response and consumer acceptance Fujitsu added a new model NX F-02H in December of 2015. We had another OEM launch us later in the year. So now we have multiple global OEMs shipping our technology today and our pipeline looks quite strong.

FB: At the Money 20/20 conference the FinTech show in Vegas in November, a record breaking crowd came out to hear about biometrics and payments. Is this an area of focus for your products?

Delta ID: Yes it is an area of focus for our products due to the fact that iris recognition is more secure than most other biometrics. This is because of the very low false acceptance rate. So a false acceptance rate of 1 in a 1,000,000 for example is equivalent to a six digit PIN versus a false acceptance rate of 1 in 10,000 is equivalent to a 4 digit PIN and obviously a 6 digit PIN is more secure. Delta ID ActiveIRIS technology is able to deliver much lower false acceptance rate than most other biometrics including fingerprints. Similarly iris has other properties which make it hard to fool or deceive a system and those things make Delta ID’s ActiveIRIS technology more secure, which in turn makes it desirable for payment applications on the web, in-store, or from connected cars. We at Delta ID are dedicated to finding the right balance between usability and security so that a single biometric that the OEM makes an investment into, is able to satisfy both the need for unlocking a device for device security as well as payments and enterprise applications. It must be easy enough to use tens or hundreds of times a day and yet secure enough for payments.

FB: Very good and once that is solved I’m sure the enterprise market would be a focus as well because that seems to be another one of those hot growth areas.

Delta ID: Absolutely.  DoCoMo introduced an e-commerce payment service in conjunction with the launching of their phone featuring our product. This is a trend that we are seeing in pretty much all of our pipelines; there will be payment applications, enterprise applications enabled through biometrics.

FB: What an exciting time, this has been quite a year for your company. Will you be at Mobile World Congress again this year?

Delta ID: Yes I will be at MWC 2016 and looking forward to it. Our partner VISA will be demonstrating a biometric proof of concept using Delta ID’s ActiveIRIS technology to authenticate Visa Checkout, an easy and secure payment product that simplifies online payments and eliminates need to share credit card details with the merchant. You should check it out at the VISA booth at MWC.

FB: I look forward to seeing you there and getting another demonstration of your wonderful technology. Thank you again for taking the time to speak with us today.

Delta ID: Absolutely, my pleasure Peter.