Interview with Jim Miller, CEO, ImageWare

IWSLogoEarlier this week in Las Vegas at the Super Mobility Week trade show, mobile and cloud-based identity management company ImageWare Systems received the Emerging Technology (E-Tech) Award from CTIA – The Wireless Association. The honor was granted for ImageWare’s GoMobile Interactive (GMI) product, which scored first place in the category of Mobile Money, Payments, Banking & Commerce.

Mobile ID World president Peter O’Neill had the chance to interview ImageWare’s chairman and CEO Jim Miller on the company’s latest industry accomplishment. The conversation starts with talk of the CTIA award, goes on to the topic of moving past passwords and finally comments on the growing mobile payments industry.

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Peter O’Neill (MIDW): Let’s start off with the award you just won from CTIA at Super Mobility Week in Las Vegas. Can you please tell us about this?

Jim Miller, CEO and chaiman of ImageWare Systems (JM): Well first of all it is extremely gratifying to be recognized by your peers in the industry.  So it is just a terrific recognition of the technology, the product, and of course the people that built it on our engineering group. The GoMobile Interactive platform, which was the award winner, is the underpinning of our products in the mobile space and it is the combination of the templated messaging with our Biometric Engine. So it allows mobile phones to hit new levels of secure sharing of sensitive information, whether it is a mobile wallet or you are authenticating your identity for obtaining products, goods, services, or information via your mobile device. So we think it is a very significant achievement and obviously, as I said, we are gratified by the recognition that CTIA gave us.

MIDW: Could you just summarize the key features or benefits of your new GoMobile solution are?

JM: Yes, absolutely. GoMobile Interactive is essentially an API- driven mobile platform that combines our patented dynamic template-based messaging with our patented multi-modal biometric platform, Biometric Engine, for end user authentication via any mobile device. It has the ability to agnostically support a dozen different biometric modalities all running seamlessly integrated on the same platform. The way that comes together in a real world use case is, for example, I get a message saying: “Did you buy $500 worth of goods and services in Barcelona, Spain?” that pops up on my mobile phone. I say, “Yes”, there is the templated push messaging at work. The next message comes back and says, “Please authenticate your identity.” Then using whatever biometrics the client wishes to use, we support them all, I can put a face, a finger, a voice down ,and then again, using the templated messaging, that biometric is sent back up to the cloud where I am authenticated against the information that was pre-enrolled and then the transaction is good to go.

It actually takes a lot longer to explain it than it does to do it. You are doing verifications in literally in a second or a second and a half so it is a very, very efficient way to secure transactions from mobile devices across the street or across the ocean. Another key differentiation for GMI is that it brings in the capability of “secure matching in the cloud”. As Gartner discussed in their recent Catalyst Conference in San Diego, if security is your top concern, doing all the matching on device, is the worst nightmare you can have. Based on our decades of services in the law enforcement sector, we all know what a cloud-based and encrypted user record is much more secure than an on-device authentication model because the on-board device can be stolen, hacked, and then replaced with another identity therefore compromising the device and the users identity. With this, we believe GMI also brings mobile security, esp. for banking and financial services, to the next level.

MIDW: You and I have discussed the need to replace the password many times over the past few years, was this a key driver in developing this solution?

JM: Yes, no question. We think there is a need for something better to secure our transactions, our data, our identities. PINs and passwords served a purpose but let’s face it is a thirty plus year old technology still securing a modern world. We think that biometrics are an answer or certainly a key part of the answer going forward and it can be used alongside a PIN and a password, or I think it could replace the PIN and the password entirely. Your identity is uniquely yours and the information that you are securing can only be accessed by you upon proof that it is really you and not me trying to be you. So as we redesigned the product offering a couple of years ago to point towards mobile, cloud, and biometrics, the idea that biometrics promise, which was always to use those unique characteristics to authenticate in a better way than PINs and passwords, was a really key element of what drove us to build the product.

MIDW: You mentioned in your press release that mobile payments are expected to become a $400 billion market by 2015, what are some of the other challenges when trying to manage that kind of growth?

JM: Well you know for us the product scales very, very nicely and I will say somewhat easily so for us that number is not daunting in terms of implementing our solution on mobile products that would use it to verify that kind of transaction volume.  We’re really excited about that. As you know ImageWare’s Biometric Engine was built to purposely scale down, not up. It was always built for huge volumes of users. So that piece has been there and in existence for some time and it has been demonstrated on tens of millions of populations throughout our work in the government sector. The templated messaging scales up beautifully and really there is no challenge there.  The marriage of them is just a perfect way to simply address users and offer them increased security in biometrics on their handsets, because packaging all this in a templated messaging form, is the kind of thing that most users do every single day. I’m sure you, me, and all of your readers send a dozen text messages every day, so putting biometrics alongside something that you are using every day anyway, there is really no learning curve, it is very simple. You can register once and be done with it, your identity can then follow you as you move along, and you know it is always secure by those unique human characteristics you have. So for us it is an exciting market and that size is what we built the product for.

MIDW: Well congratulations on the award! It certainly is an exciting time in this industry and well done. We look forward to talking more about what your company is planning in the future.

JM: Thank you Peter. We will look forward to talking to you along the trail.