Microblink is an artificial intelligence (AI) company with products in identity and commerce. The company’s products and customers span six continents, with hundreds of millions of end users. The focus of Microblink is on simplicity of experience. Catherine was joined by two of Microblink’s customers to discuss their experience in building these simple experiences: Ela Mezhiborsky CPO and co-founder of Autohost and Tony Machin, the CEO of TrustID.
Tony introduced himself by explaining that UK-based TrustID has been operational since 2013 and is a leading identity validation technology company with clients in both the private and public sectors. That includes counter-fraud initiatives for the financial sector or government departments. He is also chairman of the Association of Document Validation Professionals (ADVP), which is the body tasked to look after those validation services in the UK.
Ela introduced Autohost as a identity verification and fraud detection platform with a primary focus for now on the hospitality industry. They work with operators in their efforts to mitigate the risks of verifying guests, or what she called “guest vetting activities”. Ela described Autohost as “that piece of the puzzle” that helped vet guests while helping them enjoy their stay.
Catherine outline a few key issues that would be tackled during the course of the discussion, including:
- how users view identity verification versus how businesses view the technology.
- best practices for automating identity verification and making users happy
- the challenges of creating trust between customers and businesses
- the future of this technology, particularly in light of how customers and businesses may be interacting chiefly or maybe even only in this digital environment, i.e. what role will digital identity play in the future
After the introductions, Catherine moved onto the next part of the webinar, which were the audience polls. The first question posed was: “What is the most important aspect of identity verification for your organisation?” The four choices provided (including the results of the poll in parentheses) were:
Not surprisingly, it was fraud prevention and regulatory compliance that came out tops in this poll.
The second poll question gave audience members the opportunity to vote for multiple options, which posed the question: “How do you describe your current identity verification process?” The results were:
It was noted by Catherine how the second poll showed that relatively few of those polled are still using traditional methods for login verification purposes.
Catherine then kicked off the panel discussion by describing how she had recently attended a conference and her experience registering for the conference on a mobile app to get her digital badge. The online verification process was a must-have to attend the conference. Unfortunately, Catherine described it as a very negative experience. She had to submit a selfie for comparison with her identity document at least ten, even 15 times. Her selfie kept failing the validation needed. Worse still, no other information was provided to her on how to ‘improve’ her selfie.
This highlighted to Catherine how a quick and simple process such as identity verification can in reality be very frustrating. Catherine then noted how she would have opted out of the process had she been doing verification for something for which she had a choice, such as opening a bank account. Catherine then posed to Ela and Tony how they believed the identity verification process could be generally simplified, beyond the mere taking of a selfie.
Ela commenced by explaining how her clients have clients who are the ones using the guest verification platform. Her clients being happy to implement the platform therefore depended on the experience of their guests. Ela’s tip is to remember the user’s journey.
The onus is therefore on operators to ensure that information is gathered for the right reasons, fairly and ethically, and communicated as such to users. That results in legitimacy.
As for Tony, he too has clients who have customers as end-users. Every TrustID client uses the same identity verification software, irrespective of industry, so as to ensure consistency. He states how the verification process needs to be aligned to the user’s expectation prior to them commencing the verification process. He believes that TrustID spends the most time considering how the customer can easily ‘wrap their head’ around the verification process.
Tony continued that another key aspect that needs to be considered is what is available around the technical aspect of the verification, e.g. what additional information or help is provided regarding how a selfie can be taken. So, unlike what Catherine went through with her endless selfies for her conference registration, he explained that TrustID’s photo ID would only provide two chances for image matching to occur. Failing that, falling back on human verification would be needed. The question that developers should ask: what should you do if the user is not in a ‘perfect environment’ and provide solutions for those likely scenarios.
Catherine asked if there were any significant occurrences of users ‘dropping out’ of the verification process. Tony discussed how TrustID has four different verification levels to counter that unwanted occurrence and how, for example, insisting that users download apps was a sure way to get them to shut off. Ela concurred with this, stating how an overly complicated process that relied too much on users being ‘tech savvy’ was not desirable. She detailed how there could be so many technical glitches that could arise, ranging from issues with the end user’s phone to connection problems, and how good human-centred communication was essential in keeping the experience positive.
Tony made the point that operators need to just keep it simple. Yes, obviously chip opening and other high-tech solutions would be needed when wanting to prevent serious fraud, but simpler options such as selfies and straightforward photo verification remain viable for many identity-related functions.
The issue of friction was raised by Catherine, to which Ela responded that Autohost used friction quite strategically, especially for higher-risk reservations. Clients don’t want to have to reject risky reservations outright, so verification layered with friction can help to fine-tune acceptance of said reservations by flagging rules and expected types of guest behaviour. Tony concurred with Catherine’s point that his clients in the higher-risk finance sector would often require step-up verification that had in-built friction. Ela piped in by adding that we already live in a digital age and so the flip-side of friction is simple efficiency and professionalism on the part of operators.
Catherine then asked about the issue of trust, and how often that enters conversations for their companies, either internally or with clients. Ela stated that, “Trust is huge for us,” citing it as one of the five core values at Autohost. Professional and moral accountability for guests and clients alike was very important. When asked the same about trust, Tony replied that, “It’s such a big thing. It’s difficult to break down into little details” but is undoubtedly a critical aspect of the verification journey. In finance, that trust is key between the applicant and the client, i.e. bank or financial institution. He did note how there continues to be “huge hesitancy” in the general population about doing verification online, which needed to be addressed by operators.
Based on a question in the viewer-led Q&A, Catherine asked the panel their views on the potential for a ‘reusable digital identity’ as owned by an individual and capable of being used multiple times for verification. Was this specific type of identity inevitable? Would it be a good thing or a bad thing? Ela stated how Autohost felt this trend would be inevitable, although caution would be needed, particularly regarding (a) it being implemented correctly and (b) identifying those scenarios where it wouldn’t apply.Tony concurred with Ela’s emphasis on caution. He also agreed that reusable identities were definitely coming and would present many challenges, stating, “Let’s embrace it but tread very, very carefully…
Catherine concluded the webinar by stating that there are clearly no easy answers regarding optimizing the end-user’s identity verification process but “that there are definitely plenty of solutions.” Each business should be able to get the solution required for their specific needs, whilst ensuring factors such as security against fraud or compliance with relevant regulations.
The webinar was probably best encapsulated by the description for the webinar’s topic: