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Digital Identity: The Next-Gen of Security Solutions

Walter Lee

Evangelist and Government Relations Leader
Global Safety Division, Singapore
NEC Corporation

At NEC, Walter is responsible for leading a team to disseminate NEC’s vision in driving safety solutions and enabling new collaborative projects with government agencies and private enterprises. He previously spearheaded various proof of concepts as Head of Innovation Management Office at NEC. Walter plays a key role as NEC’s representative in numerous global counterterrorism forums, including but not limited to, the United Nations and ASEAN.

Frost & Sullivan recently caught up with Walter Lee and gained key insights regarding digital identity for future societies. The conversation sheds light on emerging security trends and how that fits into NEC’s vision and strategy.

The excerpt of the interview can be found below following an intriguing and insightful discussion with Walter.

Frost & Sullivan: We have heard you speak about the 3 mega trends in security: IOT (Internet of Things / Internet of Threats), IAC (Inter-Agency Collaboration) and ICP (Integration of Cyber and Physical) in many different forums. So, first of all, can we discuss about digital identity and how it fits into NEC’s future strategy?

Walter: Security, of course, is not just confined to cybersecurity. It can extend to national security, financial security, healthcare security – that is, every element needed for a smart and safer city. Digital identity is the foundational building block for safety and security solutions for modern societies as we perceive today.

Consider IoT within devices, especially in the case of mobile phones that are now used for various micropayments, P2P transfers, presentations etc. In the near future, mobile phones will be central for a myriad of transactions. Simultaneously, we are seeing rising demands for integrated solutions, a fusion between cybersecurity and physical security. For example, the merge of an individual’s physical identity and cyber identity occurs through the use of a biometric fingerprint as a login function for a smartphone.

And in the midst of it, we are lending support to government and cross-border agencies, banks etc., in augmenting their ability to share relevant information. Within the 3 developments of IOT, IAC and ICP, we gather that currently there is a massive need for integrated visual identity in the marketplace.

Due to the influx of commercial transactions entering the cyberspace, pseudo identities and other forms of identity (e.g. passwords, PIN numbers, identity cards etc.) have weakened considerably. As a result, the integration of digital identity has become extremely crucial.

Frost & Sullivan: It is known that NEC has solid reputation for having the most accurate facial recognition technology. And needless to say, biometrics supports the functional operation of digital ID systems. In this respect, how do you portray NEC for promoting digital identity?

Walter: NEC has been particularly strong within the digital identity domain. The forefront of digital identity today lies in cross-border identity. Biometrics is deemed as the strongest and most solid border defense. With the widespread usage of biometrics in immigration systems, biometrics is now expanding into commercial applications (e.g. banking, retail etc.). We now witness a breakthrough from a very niche usage to widespread application of biometrics.

A case in example, the integration of digital identity makes seamless payments possible through biometric authentication. We recently conducted a biometric pilot with a top-tier Japanese bank, testing cashless payment services using NEC facial recognition technology. In the near future, we would be able to go cashless and cardless (e.g. using facial recognition for payments) for all sorts of transactions. To add, our advanced recognition systems have brought digital ID to mobile with NeoFace® Smart ID which features a mobile application providing multi-biometric capture ability including face, finger and voice, on smartphones and tablets. This technology is very much aligned to today’s public safety demands given the profound connectivity within devices.

NEC is, thus, poised to advance extensive application of biometrics for digital identity. NEC will continue to explore fingerprint, facial recognition, iris scanning and many other future characteristics of biometrics in this regard.

Frost & Sullivan: The broader and deeper application of biometrics now sets the futuristic direction for NEC. Is there any strategic roadmap or a plan for NEC in the next 3-5 years that NEC would like to implement?

Walter: Yes, we do have 2 developments that are in progress. We are currently looking at two dimensions of AI technology, one being big data analytics, the other, deep learning.

In fact, NEC is investing heavily into AI for big data analytics, we have Image Data Mining (which has already been announced but still in its development process). Image Data Mining generates real-time search capabilities in matching facial images via new search algorithms, effective for mega events. Imagine being able to scan through 50,000 people as they enter the stadium through the gates. In this case, NEC provides solutions that can cater to this scaled up usage of biometrics.

The second dimension of AI is deep learning. Through data analytics, we are able to understand meaning and intentions, in order to plan and optimize, as we make sense of the collected data. Digital identity is not an end by itself – it is a means to the end.

Frost & Sullivan: So, one of NEC’s biggest strength is that the company provides integrated safety solutions, a combination of both cyber and physical solutions across a large range of different product solutions. What is the core value proposition would you like to highlight?

NEC is very strong in deploying integrated solutions in order to construct a total solution for clients. And so, how does NEC compare with other vendors? While we have top players of multiple niche security markets, NEC is unique in providing multi-layered security solutions. We are able to assemble different solutions in response to complexity of the different layers. We then provide a turn-key solution to our clients.

Secondly, we drive effective solution implementation that is both complex and comprehensive. As such, customers very often engage us to provide ongoing management and support, thereby; becoming platform-as-a-service moving forward. Our services are widely prevalent across the world, including but not limited to, Australia, Japan and Singapore.

Frost & Sullivan: Finally, if you have to highlight 1 or 2 main areas that you would want the global audience to take note, what would those be?

Walter: The Internet of Things is driving the integration of the cyber and physical state today. In order to ensure that commercial transactions and government services can be further enhanced, digital identity is the cornerstone that will define the very fabric of public safety in future societies.

Frost & Sullivan: Thank you very much.