Softbank-backed biometrics unicorn sets up shop in Australia – The Australian Financial Review

A Softbank-backed US unicorn pledging to help corporations prevent identity fraud using biometric data is expanding to Australia, targeting financial institutions, retailers and tourism operators.
Founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneur Ricardo Amper, Incode started life as a platform that shared photos automatically with the people in them using facial recognition. But, quickly the start-up realised there was a better application for its technology in security, and re-trained its algorithms for this purpose.
Incode has appointed Martin Lazarevic to lead its Australia and New Zealand operations. 
Today, Incode offers an “omnichannel” biometric identity platform, which integrates with a company’s existing software systems and can verify someone’s identity quickly using biometrics via their mobile phone and automated document verification, checking information with government sources.
The company does not store photos of faces, rather it converts the image to alphanumeric data which cannot be linked to an individual person. This hashed data cannot be unscrambled to form a face, even if there was to be a data breach.
On average, it can identify a person looking into a mobile phone camera within five seconds, thanks to its use of artificial intelligence.
Incode has appointed former National Crime Check general manager Martin Lazarevic to lead its Australia and New Zealand operations.
He said the business would be able to leverage the current momentum in corporate Australia to reassess what customer data is necessary to keep, following the Optus and Medibank breaches.
If there is widespread adoption of Incode’s technology, Mr Lazarevic said things like license numbers and passport numbers would be rendered futile to cyber criminals because they could no longer be used as a means of committing identity theft.
“With Incode, we can verify that your identity is real, and not just with a piece of plastic. [It provides] irrefutable evidence that you are that person,” he said.
“You shouldn’t just be verifying an ID, [you should be verifying] that the phone number and email address [a person supplies] belongs to that person using some form of biometrics in real-time.
“The biggest thing we’re promoting across all industries is raising the bar in terms of how a transaction is processed.”
Mr Lazarevic took on the role at Incode after his own personal experience with identity theft.
In 2019, his wife showed him a phone bill for $364 from a different provider, and asked him if he had another phone. The bill had his name and address, but the phone was not his.
“The only time I’d provided my ID was when I’d checked into a hotel, and they’d taken a photocopy of it,” he said.
“I had to report it to [a credit bureau], the local police, get a statutory declaration signed by a solicitor, and then I could get my licence changed.
“With our process of identity verification… the data never leaves your device. It’s all processed on the phone.”
It is yet to secure any major customers in Australia, but Mr Lazarevic said it has conversations underway with 40 prospective clients.
Internationally, it’s used by companies such as Citi, Volkswagen, Revolut and HSBC.
Locally, it’s pursuing accreditation under the government’s Trusted Digital Identity Framework.
Mr Amper, who previously founded social network La Burbuja Networks and beverage start-up Amco Foods, said there was a major opportunity in Australia to replaced traditional security methods with biometrics.
“By using biometrics as ‘proof of verification’ there is no need to keep copies of data, let alone the actual data. This reduces the amount of data held and acts as a deterrent against cyber criminals looking to hack vulnerable systems – why bother if there’s less or even no valuable data that can be resold or held ransom,” he said.
“[The Optus and Medibank] breaches showed consumers just how much data companies keep on them and have highlighted the demand for a new way forward. We need to move away from obsolete systems that leave us vulnerable to cyberattacks and begin critically examining where we can improve.”
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