Jumio CEO Robert Prigge explains how his company is helping build the sharing economy with its identity verification and eKYC solutions.

The Business of Mobility is a new Urban Mobility Company series highlighting some of the most successful new businesses in the mobility sector. Featuring a closer look at the way in which companies stand out, CEOs, Directors and other c-level executives elaborate on what it takes to turn a great idea into a great company.

The sharing economy

The promise of new mobility rests on the assumption that – driven by changing attitudes to environment and ownership – people want to share vehicles and share space in vehicles. Why buy something when we can simply share what we have and enjoy the same utility at a fraction the cost to pocket and planet? This is a significant part of what makes mobility as a service (MaaS) so interesting. Like Airbnb revolutionised the hospitality business by solving difficult trust conundrums with smart tech, Jumio is putting in systems that will underpin trust for the MaaS revolutionise.

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An airtight user authentication system

The challenge of user authentication can be summed up in three questions: is the ID document valid; is the person carrying the ID the same one as in the ID photo; and are they physically present at the time of the transaction?

Jumio’s timing was good. The growing ubiquity of smartphones (with their in-built cameras), plus advances in AI, machine learning, and computer vision meant ID authentication was ripe for digital disruption.

From finance to accommodation to MaaS

Initially, Jumio’s solution was used in online payments and other financial transactions. But identity verification is not just about catching fraudsters; it’s the necessary foundation of trust on which the new sharing economy is being built. Thus, Jumio had a hand in the extraordinary success of Airbnb and is now helping mobility sharing operations … like Dott.

Helping Dott

Dott – with its mission to ‘free cities with clean rides for everyone’ – operates 30,000 e-scooters across 20+ European cities. As explained here, when Dott’s French operation received a City Hall directive to limit teenagers and generally clamp down on inappropriate and risky behaviour, they turned to Jumio for help.

The point about MaaS is that the user-experience should be hassle-free and seamless, as simple as hopping into your car and turning the ignition. Therefore in providing our solution for Dott, it was important not to burden the user with layers of process and complexity.

In a European mobility industry first, Jumio and Dott piloted an ID authentication system in Lyon that enforces an age restriction.

Liveness detection

Customer verification and KYC are obviously key aspects of MaaS and hence Jumio’s involvement in the field. But identity verification is also important for ride-hailing apps. Customers need assurance that it is the registered driver in the seat and not a relative, or other stand-in. The verification challenge becomes rather complex when the legitimate driver is in on the hoax. The key is liveness detection — the ability to detect if the person creating the online account is physically present.

Jumio’s liveness checks instantly analyses a selfie, using machine learning and AI, to determine that the user is a living person and not a ‘spoof’, i.e. a bot or fraudster. Liveness detection is a moving target, as fraudsters become ever more sophisticated. But, given that we all have endless photos of ourselves on social media platforms that fraudsters can easily access, liveness detection (also known as Presentation Attack Detection) is the key to reliable identity verification.

Secret sauce

The AI environment is highly competitive, with investors backing startups to the tune of billions. Rapid innovation is part of our industry and there are plenty of competitors eager to disrupt Jumio’s leading industry position. Where we have an advantage is that we offer so much on a single API. A mobility company can access all the KYC components they need when onboarding a new customer, along with everything from database checks, address verification, anti-money laundering (AML) checks, auto-detection and so on, all on one API.

Our aim is to give clients a KYC platform that is a one-stop shop for verification and ongoing authentication. That’s one part of our secret sauce, the other is that our developers really sweat the detail on improving the UX (user experience), making it as seamless as possible. For both these strengths we were fortunate to start off in financial services: if the system is strong enough for an online bank, it’s good enough for mobility.

Minimising demographic bias

As AI continues to become more a part of our lives, the risks from demographic bias only grow larger. The problem in our industry is that machine learning is based on existing data. If that data predominantly represents one ethnic group (let’s say drivers in India, i.e. predominantly male and ethnic Indian) then the algorithms habituate to a certain type, ‘discriminating’ against other types and possibly locking them out of the system. Fortunately, Jumio is a global operation and has performed more than 300 million verifications. This experience has equipped the company with a full range of ID documents and selfie data spanning most ethnic types. Using this data, we’re able to teach our machines non-discriminatory algorithms that don’t leave anyone out based on their race or gender. Of course this also improves the effectiveness of our verification systems.

It’s thrilling working for such an innovative and pioneering company. I’m excited about how MaaS is going to change our cities and am grateful for the opportunity to be part of the solution.

To meet with Jumio and other major players in the urban mobility space, don’t forget to register for Autonomy Digital 2.0, happening May 19-20, 2021!