CVC Open Day 2018

CVC celebrated its Open Day last Friday 25th of May in a three turn visit. More than 60 students from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona visited our center and had the opportunity to know, first hand, the research we are developing in Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence.

ICAR: automatically verifying identity

Everyone of us has a digital identity. This identity is configured in a compilation of all a person’s shared information on the web: personal data, images, news, comments, hobbies, contacts and friendships, among others. However, identity can be easily stolen and used in order to gain financial advantages or obtain benefits in another person’s name.

Although identity theft has been happening now for many years, even before the digital era, it is a fact that this crime has increased its rates considerably with the proliferation of the Internet, becoming one of the fastest spreading crimes. According to a study made by the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat), 7% of Spanish internet-users were victims of identity theft in 2017, almost doubling  the European Community average (4%). Moreover, this means annual losses of 1.600 million euros in Spain and 80.000 million euros all over the world.

Accessing bank accounts, obtaining loans, hiring products and services or denigrating someone’s image are the main reasons that lead cyber-delinquents to forge identity. In order to curb this type of crimes, several entrepreneurs founded Icar, a CVC spin-off, providing solutions for identity validation and user verification.

The beginnings

Icar’s name comes from the ‘Identity Card Access Reading’. Established in 2002, its very first client was a familiar business, the Peralada Group, active in several sectors such as leisure, culture, viticulture and industry. They needed a system that could control access to their casinos. Icar designed a solution that provided the lecture and the interpretation of identity documents by means of computer vision with which the family business could automatically identify its customers. “The good news was that it worked very well and thanks to that, Icar was making a niche in the market”, as explained by Manolo López, Icar’s Marketing Director.

Different solutions for different sectors

Currently, Icar’s solutions are mainly focused on the hospitality sector. For security reasons, receptionists must compile personal information of guests at check ins. Icar provides a scanner that automatically extracts the information contained in an identity document and transferring it immediately into the hotel’s internal database.  It’s this solution which has given Icar the lead within the travel sector, its technology being used in almost every hotel in Spain.

Fintechs and online banks are also part of their target public and one of the most affected sector by identity fraud. To mitigate this problem, Icar provides them with a document authenticity validation, verifying identity in financial documents in a very agile, effortless and secure process.

Validation can happen at any place and at any time, with the use of a smartphone, tablet or computer. This is highly useful in tasks that are usually done from their phone and can be easily forged:  a hotel or a flight check-in, opening a bank account, making online payments, asking for credits or contracting products and services. For this reason, telecommunication, insurance and energy companies are also common consumers of this solution.

And so came Mitek

Today Icar is now part of Mitek. Mitek Systems, with its headquarters in San Diego, California, acquired Icar in October 2017 by 12,75 million euros. Mitek is one of the pioneers worldwide in mobile capture and identity verification.

As Manolo Lopez explained, Icar had already been a world reference in identity validation before Mitek’s purchase in 2017 with presence in international markets such as Spain, France, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, Portugal and Poland: “Icar’s advantage was that there wasn’t any competitor offering the same services and it was the most powerful in terms of positioning and market share. This was one of the main reasons Mitek became interested in Icar; they knew that we were a consolidated company, not only for the number of clients but also for the quality of the technology”.

Since then, both companies have changed a considerably. Mitek was operating mainly in the US, Canada, Holland and the United Kingdom, and has now opened a whole new geographic scope. In addition, Manolo Lopez explains that the purchase and Mitek’s growth strategy has meant an increase in its personnel for Icar. In fact, Icar started as a team of five people; today they are over 30.

Future steps

The current aim of the company is to expand through Latin America, where they don’t have presence yet. Manolo Lopez puts it: “the demand still exists. There are many countries, especially in Latin America, in which we have not entered yet, but that have the need and are looking for this technology.”.

Nevertheless, between this halo of growth and expansion, there are also great challenges that Icar has to face. First of all, they have to ensure that customers don’t lose the trust they had with Icar after Mitek’s purchase: “Icar was already a leader in many countries where Mitek was not so renowned. Our challenge now is to maintain that confidence and also transfer it to Mitek”, Manolo Lopez affirmed.  

Another challenge is what to do to integrate all solutions adequately. Icar and Mitek have very similar solutions, but it is inefficient to maintain them all: “Both companies are still selling their own solutions but we are working in an integration plan to solve this. The idea is to take the best of each one in order to create a technology capable of taking advantage of the experience, the information and the benefits of both”.

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