Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Science Fiction? ClassifEye's Biometric Authentication for Cell Phones

If you're familiar with the latest James Bond movies, this product will sound as if it came out of the MI6 laboratories.

As the mobile phone converges with our email, address book, password manager, photo album and countless more services, it is becoming a lucrative identity theft target. Various companies developed fingerprint and voice authentication technologies to solve it, but biometric solutions were typically expensive and hard to implement, as they often require expensive hardware such as fingerprint sensors, USB keys and code generators to operate.

Not anymore. With an aim on security, Israel based ClassifEye developed new fingerprint authentication technology that can be installed on any mobile phone with a camera, eliminating the need for additional hardware and therefore reducing costs and accelerating distribution.

How does it work?

In essence, ClassifEye developed a software-only solution - no biometric sensors and no extra hardware. Basically, the user installs a simple download and goes through a short setup process. During the setup, ClassifEye leverages existing technology by taking a picture of the user's fingerprint using the phone's camera. The software then authenticates the user's fingerprint and authorizes immediate access. The authentication takes about a minute to complete. If you want to learn more, see the patents filed by the CEO.

Who is the target market for this?

Not everyone needs biometric protection, so ClassifEye caters to a few niche segments.
  1. Phone carriers - their pitch: as voip becomes more mature, operators need to increase the average revenue per user (arpu). ClassifEye would be an additional revenue stream to mobile operators.
  2. Financial institutions - think about it, instead of getting asked by an operator the long list of authentication questions (what's your social security, address, pin, etc) - credit card companies would just know that it's you.
  3. Mobile Commerce Vendors - ClassifEye's pitch:
    The most prominent mobile commerce initiative to date has been the m-Wallet initiative. Using the Sony Felica (RFID) chip, NTT Docomo pioneered the m-Wallet initiative in the Far East and numerous successful pilots have now been run in Europe and the U.S. Implementation of such initiatives as the m-Wallet and others requires the full trust of consumers. ClassifEye offers greater trust to consumers, which will encourage them to load to their phones with larger amounts of money via ATM’s and make frequent macro-transactions.
Also on their radar: Healthcare, Government and Homeland Security agencies.

Barriers of Entry

The meteoric progress in mobile technology makes it easier for ClassifEye to penetrate the market.
In Japan, for example, mobile phone technology has developed to the extent that people often use them to make small payments, instead of credit cards. This makes the need for security even greater.

According to ClassifEye's CEO, a year ago there were only a couple of phones that met the requirements for their product - now there are approximately 39 models that do.
Some of the mobile devices containing fingerprint scanning for authentication include: CECT S10, Qiao Xing Mobile (CECT), Atrua ATW300, Toshiba Satellite RG4-E02 Pocket PC (FCC), ViewSonic's V38r-01, V38r-02 & V38r-02A, Advance Tech, Hitachi W51H, Fujitsu F1100 and many more.

The leading competitor is fingerprint authentication provider Authentec - a company that is "stamping out lots of growth" (motley fool).


ClassifEye was co-founded in December 2003 by CEO Rami Cohen, who previously founded Verifox, a developer of credential interoperability technology for the financial industry and CTO Asher Peretz, who previously founded PictureVision Inc that was subsequently sold to Kodak in 2000.

ClassifEye raised $1.2M from
Nobska Ventures, a Baltimore, MD based venture capital firm. Based in Jerusalem, the company has a head count of 12. Want to contact ClassifEye? Leave a comment below.


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