20-year Anniversary Report: IrisGuard

IrisGuard: The role of iris recognition in increasing financial inclusion and stretching funding further

Partnerships help deliver accountability, efficiency and preparedness  

The Covid-19 pandemic pushed an additional 97 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, there are 1.1b people with no ID and 1.7b people already unbanked.  Some of the challenges relating to delivering assistance include having a robust digital identity infrastructure to support the disbursement of assistance and services to large populations.

Distribution of cash aid is expected to increase by approximately 17% -20% per annum and proof-of-life is increasingly more in demand by donors who want to make sure that assistance is delivered to the right people.

This is where iris recognition technology adds value, providing a real-time verification of identities for the purpose of a faster, easier and targeted assistance or services to those who are entitled to it.

Implementation of that does pose a number of challenges including negotiating of service points, verified onboarding, data protection and security, resistance to disease and compatibility of different systems.

Private-public partnerships play a key role here because NGOs and Government agencies have the understanding of what’s required to fulfil the task on the ground, whilst the private sector is able to innovate and quickly deliver solutions which are fit for that specific purpose or one that can be applied across a variety of use cases.

When it comes to digital identity, the value is clear in a number of sectors including healthcare, where a correct identification of a patient is paramount for the provision of the correct treatment, stopping insurance fraud, managing audit trail for payments and health screening programmes. It is crucial to remember that when using iris as the human identifier, which removes the need for any other ID credentials, the individuals themselves are in control of their information as it is protected by their iris because it is unique to them.

If we apply that to social welfare support for example, accurate proof-of-life will stop identity fraud and double-dipping, ensuring that funding value can be distributed accurately including pensions and other G2C services.

In the payments sector, building a verified onboarding process and replacing private keys, cards and PIN numbers with a robust biometric programme will secure the last mile in financial transactions, providing an additional security layer, and streamlining efficiencies.

Examples of most recent use cases:

  • Iris recognition technology provided a lifeline during Covid-19 in locations restricted during lockdown. We enabled door-to-door deliveries of cash within refugee camps in Iraq.
  • We enabled mobile ATMs built into CAB vans, which were then able to dispense aid cash to the community in locations restricted due to the lockdown.
  • Fixed locations such as supermarkets within refugee camps as well as post offices providing cash payments and verification services remaining operational, thanks to the contact-free nature of the technology.
  • Integrated with WFP’s blockchain Building Blocks, we helped to authorise food deliveries to 2,500 refugees isolating due to Covid-19 with mobile devices held on socially, distancing sticks are helping refugees in Jordan pay for their groceries with a biometric iris scan, unaffected by face masks.

Iris recognition for KYC assurance

World remittance is not affordable for many vulnerable, displaced and poor populations and they are excluded from participating in the economy. Whether we are seeking a solution for an emergency or post emergency situation, there is a real need to rethink KYC criteria, with minimum information available to the unbanked people to open wallets and transact within the regulated financial eco-system.

This is directly linked to having a verified ID. By enabling digital inclusion, we will enable financial inclusion, increase international remittances and provision of salary assurance. Ultimately it would give the unbanked population an opportunity to build up a credit history, savings and pensions. They’ll be able to contribute to the local community they reside in.

Although, whether the project is large or small, whether it’s a one off or a long-term commitment or software, implementation includes hard costs such as licenses, hardware and servers. There is also the cost of on-going authentication, ensuring the integrity of KYC, handling complex beneficiary payment lists.

When we were founded in 2001, our technology was utilised at border security, and our systems at UAE airports across 3,273 days prevented over 650,000 offenders from entering. Now, we are very engaged in providing solutions to payments, blockchain and microfinance which help bring assistance to millions on a daily basis.

Empowering global financial inclusion and restoring dignity

There are 82.4 million displaced people globally and children make up an estimated 42% of that. The Clarkson University conducted a recent study on Biometrics, Behaviour, and Identity Science (Iris Recognition Performance in Children: A Longitudinal Study). This showed no evidence that irises age over time in children.

By providing a universal and portable UN identity to refugees and IDPs, beneficiaries are provided with mobility and freedom to move with a strong identity that is their eyes with no one depriving them of who they are.

Biometrics has enabled us to provide assistance to millions on a daily basis, who are now able to receive cash faster and contact-free from ATMs and mobile cash-out agents, buy their food in supermarkets and receive their regular pension payments using solely their eyes as a proof of life. This enables beneficiaries to receive their assistance with increased privacy, security and dignity. 

IrisGuard UK Ltd
Eva Mowbray, Director of Marketing

Joined in 2021

Applications and use cases | Privacy and policy | Research and development | Technology innovation

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