UK scaleup pioneers new ID verification technique: turning heads


A UK scale-up this week unveiled an industry-first approach to identity verification: asking users to turn their heads.

Onfido, an Oxford University spin-out, launched the software amid surging identity fraud. Growing economic pressures, increasing digitization, and pandemic-fuelled upheaval recently led politicians to warn that a “fraud epidemic”  is sweeping across Onfido’s home country of the UK.

Similar developments have been observed around the world. In the US, for instance, around 49 million consumers fell victim to identity fraud in 2020 costing them a total of around $56 billion.

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These trends have triggered a boom in the ID verification market. Increasingly sophisticated fraudsters are also forcing providers to develop more advanced detection methods.

Onfido gave TNW an exclusive demo of their new entry to the field: a head-turn capture experience dubbed Motion.

This was the sweet spot.

The uptake of biometric onboarding has been curbed by two key problems. “Active” detection methods, which ask users to perform a sequence of gestures in front of a camera, are notorious for high abandonment rates.

“Passive” approaches, meanwhile, remove this friction as they don’t require specific user actions, but this often creates uncertainty about the process. A little bit of friction can reassure customers — but too much scares them away.

Motion attempts to resolve both these issues. Giulia Di Nola, an Onfido product manager, told TNW the company tested more than 50 prototypes before deciding that head-turn capture provides the best balance.

“We experimented with device movements, different pattern movements, feedback from end users, and work with our research team,” she said. “This was the sweet spot that we found was easy to use, secure enough, and gives us all the signals we needed.”

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