When a security team looks at an ID, how can they tell whether the credentials are genuine? Mobile ID wanted to build a mobile app that could check documents and verify identities in real time.
Mobile ID used IBM Cloud platform to develop its portID solution in just seven months. portID turns a regular iPhone into a scanner that can recognize and verify over 4,000 types of ID in under 30 seconds.
7 monthsto turn an innovative idea into a business-ready mobile app
50%faster development cycle with IBM Cloud platform
75%less programming effort to integrate new services
Business challenge story
Transforming identity verificationDuring many years working with public and private sector organizations in the UK and worldwide, Mobile ID’s founders saw the same problems arising again and again. When you are operating a large facility—whether it is a hospital, a hotel, a bank, or even a construction site—how do you know whether the people on site are really who they say they are?
For example, a bank manager may ask to see a customer’s passport and proof-of-address when they take out a loan, but how can the manager tell whether this documentation is genuine, whether the person really lives where they claim to live, or even whether their credit history is good enough to offer them the loan? The lack of a coordinated method of checking this data creates an attack surface which a skilled fraudster can use to their advantage.
Joseph Remesar, CEO of Mobile ID, comments: “At airports we now have scanners that are far superior to the human eye in terms of verifying that a document is genuine and checking the person against a variety of databases, such as no-fly lists and so on. However, these scanners are large, expensive pieces of equipment, and would be much too cumbersome for use in other industries.
“Our vision was to bring a similar type of technology to a much wider user-base by leveraging smarter and more cost-effective hardware: Apple iPhones and iPads. We wanted to build an app that would use the iPhone camera as a document scanner and coordinate with web services to validate the integrity of the document and the identity of the person being scanned. This would open up opportunities for organizations in many industries to create a much more watertight security process which fraudsters and criminals will struggle to exploit.
“The second thing that differentiated our idea was that we wouldn’t store any of the data—we would simply match it against records in existing third-party identity databases and return a result. This meant there would be no data privacy issues, and we would be fully compliant with the UK Data Protection Act and EU Data Protection Directive—something that few of our competitors could claim.”
To turn this vision into a reality, Mobile ID needed both a technology platform and a development partner.
“Like most startups, it was critical for us to get our product to market quickly, while also keeping the development costs low and making the best use of our limited funding,” says Joseph Remesar. “Most of the partners we approached told us that a traditional development process would cost up to GBP300,000, and could take two years to reach a production-ready state. We knew that we needed to find a better way.”
Accelerating the development process
After reviewing cloud application development platforms from a number of leading vendors, Mobile ID finally found the platform it was looking for in IBM Cloud.
Joseph Remesar comments: “IBM Cloud was the only platform we found that could provide what we needed—a way to develop innovative applications quickly by integrating and coordinating existing services, rather than programming everything from scratch by ourselves. It means we don’t need to hire a team of brilliant programmers who can’t see the wood for the trees—instead, our team can focus on the business problems, and leverage the best available web services to solve them.”
He adds: “Although I worked for IBM myself many years ago, IBM was the last place my partners and I expected to find the right solution for Mobile ID. We had the perception that IBM was only really prepared to work with larger enterprises—but in the last few years, that has completely changed.
“With its new focus on cloud solutions and initiatives like the Global Entrepreneur Program, IBM has become a wonderful partner for startups—not only from a technology perspective, but also as a commercial organization that can leverage its global reputation and resources to help bring your solution to a wider market.”
To help develop the solution itself, Mobile ID decided to work with KnowNow Information, an IBM Business Partner that specializes in solving data-related business challenges.
“KnowNow was the first partner we spoke to that really grasped what we were trying to do,” says Joseph Remesar. “They instantly saw that the solution would require some very complex logic to capture, read and standardize data from thousands of different types of passports, driving licenses and identity cards—and they relished the challenge.
“Moreover, their knowledge of the web services available to help us with the task was a real game-changer—for example, using the Google Places API to standardize address data was a huge time-saver compared to building an address normalizer ourselves. And they have brought a lot of good ideas to the table, such as a ‘geo-lock’ feature that prevents thieves from using a stolen device to scan IDs at another location.”
David Patterson, Founder and Director at KnowNow Information, comments: “The ease of integrating services and technologies with IBM Cloud not only makes it easy to build new functionalities into the app—it also gives us a lot of flexibility during the development process. For example, we’ve been able to switch database platforms twice during this project.
“This kind of flexibility is crucial for startups—when you’re in production with tens of thousands of paying customers using your service, you probably want a highly scalable enterprise class database. But while you’re in the development and proof of concept stage, you don’t need that kind of capability, and you certainly don’t want to pay for it! We’re currently using an open source relational database for portID, but it’s great to be confident that when we go into production, we could move to IBM DB2® or even a NoSQL option like IBM Cloudant® almost seamlessly.”
Getting to market fast
By harnessing the power and flexibility of IBM Cloud platform, Mobile ID has been able to complete the development of the portID iPhone app in just seven months, and is now working on a browser-based desktop version too.
Joseph Remesar comments: “The first time I saw IBM Cloud I thought it seemed too good to be true, but it has delivered on all its promises. Within seven months we have a production-ready app that we are ready to market. It is by far the fastest development platform I have used in my 24 years in the technology sector, and it’s getting better and better all the time.
“The tools that are now available mean that when you want to integrate a new service into your platform, about 75 percent of the coding effort has been done for you already. Practically anyone, even someone with fairly basic programming skills, can work in IBM Cloud, so you don’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds hiring Java developers.”
He adds: “I honestly believe that without IBM Cloud platform, the launch of our first product would still be a year away. The whole project has run at least 50 percent faster than a traditional development project.”
With the technology in place, Mobile ID’s next challenge is to switch focus from development to sales and marketing. It is now launching a pilot that allows potential customers to trial the portID app by offering a limited number of free searches. IBM is also helping the company expand its network by introducing the Mobile ID team to potential clients and systems integrators who are likely to see the potential of the product.
Joseph Remesar concludes: “When you’re founding a startup today, the key question is usually: ‘How do we develop this in a year with a team of four people and a very limited budget?’ My advice would be to choose a platform that minimizes the time and resources you spend on coding, and lets you focus instead on the business challenges you’re trying to solve. And I have never seen a platform that does this better than IBM Cloud.”
Founded in 2014, Mobile ID aims to revolutionize workplace security across many industries with its portID solution. portID is an iPhone-based mobile app that can recognize and validate over 4,000 types of ID document and check them against online databases to confirm a person’s ID, address, and other details – supporting use cases such as financial compliance for anti-money laundering purposes. The cloud-based portID solution complies with DPA and EU data regulations, and is available on a pay-per-search basis, enabling clients to adopt it with no up-front investment.
- IBM Bluemix
Take the next step
To learn more about Mobile ID, please visit www.mobileid.co.uk
To learn more about KnowNow Information, please visit www.kn-i.com
To learn more about IBM Cloud platform, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit ibm.com/cloud-computing
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