Company Spotlight: Next Biometrics
04 June 2018 14:32 GMT

Company spotlights have been created to give firms operating in the biometrics and identity industry an opportunity to discuss trends, product innovations and achievements.

These interviews also offer readers insight into a company's outlook, history and future directions.

Planet Biometrics talks to Next Biometrics CEO Ritu Favre:

Tell us a bit about NEXT Biometrics and how it fits into the identity ecosystem?

NEXT Biometrics provides secure, easy-to-use fingerprint sensor technology for authentication in the smart card, government ID, access control and notebook markets. NEXT technology is designed to meet the rigorous demands of what we call the quality critical segment of the market for fingerprint sensors. Our large size flexible and rigid sensors are ideal for use across a wide range of environmental conditions.

What do you see as most important drivers and detractors for the identity industry over the coming year?

The most important drivers for the identity industry are really the same as they’ve always been. The need for secure, accurate and easy-to-use authentication technologies has been with us for a long time. The difference is that the need for accurate authentication has accelerated tremendously in recent years due to advances in technology. With improvements in technology we also see an increased ability to misuse the way these advances are deployed.

The identity industry plays an essential role in ensuring new technologies used by business, governments, law enforcement and individuals are secured and used in the way they’re intended. Again, this hasn’t changed. It’s the rate of change that we see in our daily lives and the need to protect our identity in more areas more often, that has changed.

In terms of things that detract from the growth of the identity industry, I would say that many of us have been disappointed in the rate of adoption of smart card technology. Some of the slow progress has to do with a lack of clear standards, changes that would be required to things like the payments infrastructure, enrollment issues and ease-of-use challenges. I hope that if I’m asked this question a year from now, the industry will have made great progress. However, I’m impatient and we need to do all we can to accelerate smart card adoption.

At NEXT, we believe we have a good handle on addressing these issues so I’m optimistic we will turn these “detractors” as you put it, into advantages for us over the next year because we see smart cards as a market with huge growth potential.

What are some of the biggest challenges NEXT Biometrics faces each quarter?

I tend to take a longer-term view than just seeing things on a quarter-to-quarter basis. In my experience, it’s always paid off to have a strategic long-term plan. The important challenges we face tend to have a life of more than just one quarter. Having said that, it’s good to review our challenges and opportunities on a consistent basis over time to ensure we’re executing to our plan. Ensuring we execute successfully on our plans is essential.

In the last year we’ve honed our focus on our key market segments, improved gross margins and have a more clearly defined product roadmap. Moving forward, we’ll not only need to continue driving increased sales of our current products but also ensure that we’re able to differentiate our products in a way that allows gross margins to increase as well.  The roadmap we’ve now locked down for our government ID and smart card segments, are credible and will allow us to intercept these growing markets in a profitable way. I have tremendous confidence in the team we’ve assembled at NEXT. I’m very excited for what the future holds.

Can you tell us something unique about NEXT Biometrics that not many people know?

For such a relatively small startup, we are as globally diverse as any large company. We’re headquartered in Oslo but about half our team is based outside of Seattle and benefits from the strong engineering talent in that area. We also have operations in Prague, Taipei and Shanghai, as well as a small team based in Silicon Valley.

In addition to our global presence, the thing that surprises many people about NEXT is our extreme focus on the importance of large sensor size. For many of us in the technology industry, the goal has always been to create products that are smaller.

Small size usually equates to products that are faster and more powerful. However, this conventional wisdom about small size doesn’t work in the world of fingerprint sensors and it’s counter-intuitive for a lot of people.

In developing the world’s most advanced fingerprint sensors, having a large surface area is essential for ease-of-use, accuracy, security and the ability to deal with real-world conditions involving dirt, temperature and less than perfect fingerprints. The ideal sensor size is going to roughly match the size of a fingerprint and needs to be able to withstand all of the environmental challenges that can be thrown at it.

Scientific studies have shown that our approach to creating large sensors is the best one for dealing with these issues. But explaining to people that large sensors are better than smaller ones is always going to be a challenge.