Industry Use Case

Bringing ID scanning to web browsers

December 4, 2020
Bringing ID scanning to web browsers

URL-owed to be excited — web forms are changing for good.

Years of research and development bore fruit — we’ve managed to fit BlinkID inside the world’s most popular web browsers, including Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Microsoft Edge. 

As far as we know, this is the first time anyone has done anything like this. 

And the best part is, we were able to preserve those key things that set us apart: user experience and data privacy. 

This means people can now enjoy seamless ID scanning on any website and use it to register for products and services faster than ever.

Keeping tabs on a new platform 

We’ve been toying with the idea of bringing our AI-driven technology to browsers for some time.

The potential was there. Four out of five users are flocking away from web forms, and over a quarter of respondents said it was due to the time it takes to fill one in. 

Browser-based ID scanning meant we could eliminate manual form-filling on a channel that clearly has a dislike towards it.

k, scan your ID and register with the provider; in seconds, not minutes.

But analyzing identity documents using advanced computer vision isn’t something browsers were made to do. Specifically, two things were standing in our way (and still do, to some extent): 

  • Webcams on most laptops and desktop computers are second-rate to mobile cameras (a declining trend as remote work amid the ‘new normal’ stirs up demand for higher video resolution).
  • Browsers don’t make full use of the available processing power (CPUs/cores) and are usually slowed down on purpose to remedy security weaknesses like Spectre and Meltdown.

Still, what they lack in performance, browsers make up for with their reach. The idea of sharing the entire ID scanning experience with just a single click was too good to be left unexplored. 

BlinkID In-browser SDK: Putting an end to form-filling as we know it

We’ve envisioned BlinkID In-browser SDK as a long-awaited replacement for web forms. 

The reason why so many people are giving up on their account registration online is simple.

Signing up for products and services online has hardly changed since the day web was born. You land on a site and sooner or later, you’re forced to type in your personal information into a relic of a paper-based age. A web form. 

In his 226-page book on designing them effectively, Luke Wroblewski takes a deep dive into design considerations that make form-filling less of a nuisance.

It’s been 12 years since the book was published, and the nuisance is still very much present. Sure, we now have things like autofill, multi-step design and predictive text input, but all of these techniques help us reduce the amount of typing required, when what we really want to do is get rid of it altogether. 

With BlinkID In-browser SDK, we believe personal data entry on the web will never be the same. It’s not just form-filling made exciting, it’s UX on a whole new level.

Any browser, any device, any ID

Three key things make BlinkID In-browser SDK a piece of technology unlike any other. 

  • It offers full cross-browser support. A user can scan their ID using any of the four biggest web browsers of today: Chrome, Safari, Edge and Firefox.
  • It works on any device, including mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers. When we say it works on a device, we mean it. The processing itself happens in the browser, so personal data will never leave the safety of a user’s device. This kind of security can be especially useful in industries regulated by strict data privacy laws, as well as KYC requirements.
Browser-based ID scanning on a smartphone. Mobile browsing accounts for roughly half of web traffic worldwide.
  • Since it runs several AI models under its hood, BlinkID In-browser SDK can recognize virtually any ID you put in front of it. We pride ourselves on our vast range of supported documents as well as means of extracting information from them (through the Machine Readable Zone, barcode and Visual Inspection Zone).

Finally, we’ve made integrating ID scanning with any website quick and easy. Web developers can add it in as little as ten lines of JavaScript code.  

Less code, more opportunities

Porting an SDK (Software Development Kit) that was originally intended for mobile applications to the web is no easy task. 

Our team of developers found the solution in WebAssembly, a new type of code that runs incredibly fast in modern browsers. WebAssembly (WASM for short) stepped in as an alternative to JavaScript which was, until then, the only programming language that could be used natively on the web.

But unlike JavaScript, you don’t write WebAssembly code. You use it to compile any programming language into a light binary format that is then executed by a browser.

Because it’s delivered this way, WebAssembly shines supreme to JavaScript when it comes to executing high-performance code.

This means things like video editing, 3D rendering (Google Earth Web, for example), and in our case, video stream analysis and ML-driven OCR work at near-native speeds.

Okay, near-native might be a bit of stretch since BlinkID In-browser SDK has some catching up to do before its scanning speed reaches its performance in mobile apps. 

Still, WebAssembly has proven an efficient way of porting our C++ code to the web and letting people enjoy secure ID scanning across browsers. 

We wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s going to put an end to JavaScript but we will likely see it grow in its sidekick role of a web performance booster.

Scanning outside of the box

Remember how we said webcams are far inferior to mobile cameras?

You can still find a $200 phone with a better camera than one on a $2,000 laptop.

So what do you do when you’re held back by poor hardware? You work your way around with better software, of course.

Behind the screen, BlinkID In-browser SDK analyzes the video stream from a user’s webcam in real time, searching for the clearest, most ‘scannable’ image. 

It cherry-picks a frame from the video stream and, once it finds it, guarantees a successful scan. It also crops the image of the document itself as this can later be used to prove its validity. 

From the user’s POV, the experience is one of simplicity. Real-time feedback messages guide her through the scanning flow and there’s no need to worry about things like document orientation or angle. 

Scanning documents this way marks a giant step forward in UX. 

Up until now, people had to manually upload their document image or snap a photo of it once it was fit neatly inside a viewfinder frame.

Unsurprisingly, there were retries galore.

Looking ahead

What you need to keep in mind about BlinkID In-browser SDK is that this is truly a pioneering piece of technology. 

Modern browsers have come a long way in recent years but they still have progress to make before they can seamlessly run real-time identity document scanning.

Having said that, BlinkID In-browser SDK is already fit for purpose. It supports all major browsers, works with hundreds of document types and can make life easier when we need to:

  • Check customers are old enough to access age-restricted products and services
  • Sign clients up for a bank account or a new SIM card
  • Capture accurate personal information at identity verification
  • Manage visitors at corporate offices, universities, hospitals and libraries
  • Replace data entry in pretty much any use case imaginable 

We’re bringing some of our other products to the web, too. PhotoPay, our payment slip scanner, already works in-browser and soon BlinkCard will get there, too.

Give it a year or two and we’ll be looking back in disbelief at how slow and frustrating form-filling on the web used to be.

Integrate ID document scanning into your existing application today

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