Veridium, a leader in strong authentication using biometrics announced today its partnership with Wala, a South African-based, blockchain-powered financial services platform for the unbanked and underbanked, to bring universal and affordable financial services to emerging countries in Africa.
Currently, nearly 3.5B people worldwide are excluded from the financial system. Veridium and Wala will collaborate on a pilot program in sub-Saharan Africa to demonstrate a new digital banking model that will bring accessible, zero-fee banking to this population.
This pilot is funded by a grant awarded to Veridium from the Digital Financial Services (DFS) Innovation Lab, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to develop and field test biometric authentication technology on unmodified Android smartphones. Because Veridium’s biometric authentication technology is compatible with Android phone models up to 10 years old, it has the promise to bring this technology to developing countries as a method for accessing and enrolling in financial and government programs.
To date, efforts at solving this problem have been built on traditional banking models, often requiring physical access to branches and onerous verification of identity. This approach doesn’t work in many emerging markets, leaving billions worldwide without access to financial services. Wala is tackling this issue by deploying a totally digital model. In collaboration with microfinancing partners, Wala’s Android-based mobile platform sits between customers and banks, allowing them to sign up and transact through an app.
“Financial services are out of reach for billions of people due to high banking fees and lack of accessibility, forcing them to rely largely on cash,” said Wala CEO Tricia Martinez. “Our model leverages blockchain technology to address these problems, eliminate the high costs of banking, and bring financial services to the unbanked and underbanked through mobile devices. This allows customers to efficiently pay their bills, save money, and not only safely guard their savings, but find opportunities to grow it. Partnering with Veridium allows us to easily and securely bring this solution to the masses in a way that is both accessible and affordable.”
“Like Wala, we are building solutions that are easy to use but solve complicated problems, so we are thrilled to be partnering with them to bring access to financial services to the unbanked and underbanked,” said James Stickland, CEO, Veridium. “Using Veridium’s 4 Fingers TouchlessID to securely enroll and authenticate this population, Wala will be able to deploy their vision to scale. We’re excited to be on the ground with them through this pilot to prove out a model that can positively impact billions worldwide.”
Veridium’s technology brings the ability to enroll and authenticate customers remotely and securely, using biometrics. Wala’s platform will integrate Veridium’s proprietary biometric solution, 4 Fingers TouchlessID, which captures four fingerprints at once, contactlessly, using a phone’s rear camera and flash. Veridium is the first company to develop a multi-finger touchless biometric authentication system that works on unmodified smartphones. The quality of the prints are the equivalent to those captured on tradition flatbed scanners, making this the most reliable option for remotely enrolling and authenticating customers. Wala will also be using the VeridiumID platform to manage and store this sensitive data – a solution that uses a distributed data model to secure biometric templates.
The pilot project will roll out in January 2018 and its findings will be presented to the Gates Foundation at a conference in February 2018.