Inside Onfido’s plans for world domination
Onfido’s identification technology is being used by some of the world’s best-known FinTech firms to allow their users to set up an account in minutes.
But the current applications of its face and ID scanning tech are just the beginning, according to the firm’s co-founder and CEO Husayn Kassai.
“Even voting [in elections] will one day be predicated on consumers being able to easily and securely prove their legal identity,” he explains to BusinessCloud.
The firm uses machine learning to scan a passport, driving licence or government ID for authenticity, before matching a user’s face to a photo on that ID.
The seemingly simple task requires its tech to learn voice recognition, lip movements and lighting as well as being able to authenticate the many different types of ID which exist across the world through a single photo.
“What we’re ultimately doing is replicating what the neurons in the human mind typically does when it tries to recognise faces or recognise patterns,” he said.
Thanks to the data set it has collected over seven years and across 195 countries, its machine learning technology is now better than a human at detecting fraud and is able to detect 4,500 different forms of ID.
The tech might be more convenient and quicker than being verified by another human, but Kassai see its improved reliability as the fuel behind loftier goals.
“Over the last seven years it’s not necessarily a coincidence that we’re powering almost every single one of the FinTech community,” said Kassai of his firm’s technology.
“Facebook is for social identity, LinkedIn for professional identity. We’re standardising the way that everyone proves their legal identity.”
It’s an industry which is certainly ready for some disruption. Kassai points to credit bureaus – the defacto method for identifying people – and their data breaches as a place to start.
“Experian and Equifax are underpinning the global economic system, but are built on a 150-year-old method,” he said.
“Since the breaches, all that data is also on the dark web and that’s why fraud is such a problem.”
The United Nations estimates the amount of money laundered globally in one year is between two and five per cent of global GDP, or between $800 million and $2 billion.
“Less than one per cent of that is seized by authorities, so 99 per cent of that essentially goes through unchecked or undetected, which is a terrible statistic by any measure,” he said.
Kassai is an advocate for a ‘decentralised identity world’; in which the consumer owns their identity and can store it on their own device.
The method, which Onfido is ready to facilitate, would stop another Equifax breach from ever happening.
But more than that, Kassai thinks that the decentralised model could also give an entirely new section of the globe access to modern services, by bringing billions of new people with access to smartphone online.
Kassai has plans in future versions to bring online the two billion people without a bank account by requiring only a camera phone and a government ID to verify themselves for a range of digital products.
“The more businesses and clients we have, the more data that we get, and the more machine learning models are trained. The more they learn, the more effective they become at stopping bad actors,” he said.
On the company’s recent $50m funding round from Softbank, Kassai said the focus remains on building the ultimate identification platform for a wider range of uses.
“For us it’s a question of investing in all the right places, given that’s for us the more clients that we have the better our algorithms and models become.
“There’s a lot left to do, and that’s going to continue to be the focus. On the partnership side we’re partnering with more and more increasingly interesting use cases.”