Article produced by Biometric Update / Frank Hersey
UK-based IrisGuard is now handling more than the equivalent value of US$3 million per day through its iris biometrics-based distribution systems in humanitarian settings, as it looks at how its products could be put into service in Ukraine. Satellite links could make identity systems far more effective in regions such as Africa, according to the firm’s deputy director Simon Reed, speaking at a recent Westminster eForum.
“Next steps for digital payments and digital currencies” saw speakers from across the industry put forward ideas to take payment technologies and the sector forward.
Reed stated that IrisGuard systems such as EyeCloud are now handling around $1.2 billion a year of humanitarian cash, the equivalent of ten percent of global distributed humanitarian aid. The systems, based on iris recognition, process $3 million per day in value.
Starting with iris biometrics border control for the UAE, then for ATMs in the Middle East, IrisGuard’s technology is now used in humanitarian settings such as refugee camp supermarkets where nearly a thousand cameras are in use, and for distributing pension payments. The company’s equipment is handling 25 million total interactions per day, Reed says, and new use cases and locations are on the horizon.
Reed suggests EyeCloud could be an option for distributing cash payments to refugees in and around Ukraine with biometrics. The system can easily and quickly be added to existing schemes as has happened in humanitarian settings with the UNHCR and World Food Programme.
“We were also being asked to see if our systems could help support what obviously is the next biggest developing refugee crisis since the Syrian crisis, which was nine years ago, of course, what’s happening in Ukraine,” says Reed.
“This goes very much with the regulatory part. We’re not designing, we don’t want new systems in terms of regulation or in terms of developing our own, let’s say bespoke payment environment. What we do is provide the systems that can hook into existing regulatory systems.”
National digital ID projects could be the next large-scale deployments of IrisGuard technology, particularly in combination with other technologies.
“Africa is on a huge mission to provide digital inclusion. And that’s often done through the mobile networks with SIM registration. But that can have its issues because if you are providing an identity, the World Bank call this foundational identity, and if that foundational identity is not built on absolute proof of life, then you can have a sandcastle effect.”
With solid foundations, countries developing new systems could adopt totally new approaches, achieving another potential leapfrog moment: “I’m talking to you over the Starlink system on a beta tester in the UK for the satellite system. Africa actually could potentially benefit hugely from utilizing that service, if obviously, Elon Musk and some of those other guys decided that they could make it available to at a lower cost.
“But these countries, particularly where they’re building new financial services, for the first time for citizens are starting to look, two or three steps ahead, often are going to outpace the Western world.”
For such bold possibilities, Reed asks the forum, “Can regulation actually support that rather than hinder that?”
In humanitarian settings where IrisGuard has deployed in the Middle East, fraud of humanitarian benefits has been running at around 26 percent, according to Reed.
“We continue to try and innovate as well as to stop this happening. One of those innovations is the blockchain. And so we have UN Women, we have WFP, who process around about $450 million in value through the system, purely by utilizing the blockchain and we were the very first company and it’s the first system in the world using the Ethereum Blockchain to pay and validate people without utilising a traditional banking system.”
Using a direct ledger system generates significant savings in the humanitarian sector where the cost of using cash can be up to 1.9 percent, says Reed.
One development that has emerged from working with older people for pension payments is a sense of enthusiasm for using biometrics. Reed said that not needing any documents or ID other than one’s own iris to deal with pensions “actually resonated with the older population very much.”