Q&A with Stephen Thies, CEO of Integrated Biometrics

Dan Blacharski, Editor, C-Suite Times: Tell us a little something about Integrated Biometrics

Steve Thies, CEO, Integrated Biometrics: Thanks, Dan. Ten years ago, Integrated Biometrics (“IB”) developed a Light Emitting Sensor (LES) film technology for scanning high-resolution fingerprint images in a completely new way. It didn’t require an internal light source, a glass platen to put the finger on, a box to house all the optics, any of it. It was a real leap forward. When we first demonstrated it for the US government, they immediately realized we had something very special.  We knew it, too, and so our team went into product development-mode, introducing the market to our first FBI-certified sensor a little over than 5 years ago. We named it Watson.

Back then, Integrated Biometrics was very small – just three people. During that 5-year period of development, we grew quickly – at a rate four or five times the industry average. That growth has continued. In fact, we’ve been named to the Inc. 5000 “fastest growing” list three years in a row. Much of this can be attributed to our steady output of biometric fingerprint scanners: Sherlock in 2013, then Columbo, then Kojak, and the FIVE-0 just last year.

We wouldn’t have experienced that kind of growth without great people and products, but great customers have really been the key to our success. They remain loyal and enthusiastic because our devices allow them mobility, are easy to use and highly affordable. They also recognize that our focus is entirely on serving them quickly and efficiently. To maintain that level of satisfaction, we’ve assembled a team of seasoned executives, a strong group of investors and advisors, wonderful employees and suppliers.

And so, ten years later, thanks to our customers, our team’s diligent productivity and ingenuity, and the devices they’ve produced, we can proudly say we work with governments, industries and integrators in more than 50 countries. It’s an exciting story to tell.

C-Suite Times: We hear you’re introducing a new product this week. What can you tell us?

Integrated Biometrics: We’re announcing the world’s smallest FAP-30 biometric fingerprint scanner – Danno, an announcement we’ll officially make at the ID4Africa 2019 Conference in Johannesburg

Africa is experiencing the fastest growth in demand for biometric technology on the planet. One of the reasons is that government and banking officials of African nations have realized that, to experience the kind of economic growth they are planning for, they must know who their citizens are. People can’t safely and effectively engage with the banking system unless their identity is established. In many countries, we take identity for granted; we’re issued a birth certificate as soon as we’re born, we get a driver license at 16, a passport, and on and on. Identity is woven into every aspect of our daily experience. But some countries are just now beginning to address this issue. The UN and World Bank are convinced that a secure system of individual identity is the key to Africa’s future, and are committed to helping make it happen.

And it goes beyond banking; healthcare, welfare, voter registration—to name a few. Accurate identification is of paramount importance across the board.

This is what makes the arrival of Danno so timely. In regions where infrastructure may be lacking, identity can’t be developed without mobile biometrics, and Danno is the smallest and lightest FAP 30 device on the market, while still meeting the FBI’s global standard for image accuracy and image quality  and the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) size recommendations for single finger applications.

Our partners are already designing Danno into a range of mobile devices to be used in any number of applications; tablets for immigration and border control, healthcare program enrollment devices, devices for identifying people at the point-of-service for all kinds of things. Danno requires very little power and weighs only 25 grams, so it can be powered all day by something as small as a cell phone, yet it is unaffected by environmental conditions that bedevil market-adjacent products – bright lights, dry or wet fingers, dust, and on and on. It’s extremely rugged and requires almost no maintenance or upkeep.

Another exciting development has been the recent selection and adoption of our Kojak device by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP). Our Kojaks are now installed in the busiest airports in the country; Atlanta, Chicago, LAX, Dulles, Miami International – and more. It’s a very important project for us because United States immigration programs are closely observed all over the world.

In addition to CBP, IB’s extensive USA customer list includes the Department of Defense, the FBI, Department of State, Army, Navy and the Coast Guard, the Department of Justice, several divisions of DHS, CIS (Citizen Immigration Services), ICE – the Immigration and Customs Enforcement body. The FBI was one of our very earliest customers. They were an early user of our Watson Mini and have since moved to the FIVE-0 – the smallest, lightest FAP-50 (capable of capturing all 10 prints) in the world.

Dan: Where you see biometric fingerprinting technology heading in the future?

Integrated Biometrics:  Danno is a prime example of what’s driving the future for our industry; It’s simple, affordable, and supremely mobile.

Simplicity is crucial for any device used in high-volume situations – customs, law enforcement, healthcare, voting. It’s impossible to rely on technology that is difficult to learn, complex or requires regular or extensive maintenance or repair. All our products are based on our patented LES technology, making them extremely simple to use. Set up is virtually “plug and play” and they work – with no added effort – in environmental conditions that are hostile to competing technologies; bright natural and artificial lights, cold temperatures, hot temperatures, dirty and dusty conditions and more. Wherever you need them, they simply work.

Mobility means the integrator can develop products that bring sophisticated biometric capabilities to the exact point of need, whether that’s a border, a train station or airport, a point of sale, or use by a public safety or law enforcement officer in the field. Mobility also means the end user can leverage the smartphone or tablet they already have into a multi-purpose operational platform.

Finally, affordability; cost is something that has cut off many regions of the world from the benefits of identity. Low Initial and total cost of ownership means our products can be put to work – as we’ve discussed – in healthcare, social programs, voting and national identification – in places where price would have made that impossible only a few years ago.

We all know how technology has changed our lives; things come to us instead of us having to go somewhere. Food comes right to us, packages come to our doorstep. Biometrics will be no different.  That’s where devices like Danno will shake things up. The benefits of secure identity will come right to our fingerprints.

Most of us had our first biometric experience on a smartphone; it helped us access and secure them, which made our lives easier and more convenient. Now, governments and commercial enterprises worldwide are deploying biometrics to enable the same convenience while simultaneously achieving security and identity. Bulky “jump kits” are disappearing, replaced by tablets and smartphones. Mobile biometric devices such as Danno and Five-0 bring identity to the people instead of forcing people to travel to an identity solution.

Dan: What’s next for Integrated Biometrics?

Integrated Biometrics: We’re not sitting still. By the end of this year we will have deployed more than a quarter-million certified fingerprint sensors around the world. Today, airline passengers, ballpark attendees, the banking industry, the healthcare industry – all secured by our sensors. And that list is growing rapidly.

We’re adding some great new features to further enhance the user experience across our entire product line and have a major project well underway to introduce some new value-added services.  We’ve increased manufacturing capacity, are expanding our supply chain, and are building our staff in every area. I’ll also tell you have more products in our pipeline – so stay tuned!

Our successes have created the kind of growth that’s challenging for any organization, but our team is dedicated and determined. We’re having fun while focusing squarely on the identity business. It’s our mission to deliver the many important benefits of convenient identification to individuals and organizations around the world.

Dan: This has been extremely interesting. Thanks so much for giving our readers your perspective on such a fascinating, growing sector.

Integrated Biometrics: Thank you, Dan. I look forward to speaking with you again.

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Integrated Biometrics is in Spartanburg, SC.

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