Last month, I delivered the keynote address at the first-ever ID Innovate conference in Cambridge, Mass. (See the Memorandum version of my presentation.) My mission was to highlight issues of identity that have a national security element and the role of technology in supporting security. While I was there to educate, however, I was the one who ended up being educated. I now have a more profound sense that our security needs are being answered with the most cutting-edge technologies from small businesses and American ingenuity.
The technology providers presented defined solutions with huge ramifications. These small business solutions include:
- Encrypted, secure communications on the Internet that may finally secure defense systems while enabling the consumer to take back the privacy controls from Facebook, e-mail servers, and the tens of thousands of online services that use Facebook as their only means of "signing up" to be released later this month;
- Seamless government customer service solutions that are easier to use, customizable, less expensive, accurate, assure against identity theft, and enable compliance with federal driver's license laws in a manner that is simply better than solutions that ignore federal law;
- Facial recognition solutions allowing law enforcement to identify bad guys accurately and in real time, even without full face photos or good resolution; and
- A mobile queuing solution that disperses queues and saves time and stress and, while not yet marketed in this manner, has tremendous potential to eliminate some soft targets from terrorists, whether at a theme park, a DMV line, or a U.S. embassy visa application line overseas,
This conference highlighted one of my core principles: that not only does policy drive technology solutions, but cutting-edge technology informs policy. For those who believe that the only policies worth pursuing have a practical operational impact, policy is only as good as technology's capabilities. Now that I have had a small glimpse into the future of technology, I see the ability to shift the "undoable" — truly securing our border, for example — into infinitely doable.
In terms of full disclosure, I am on the board of advisors of ZSquare Technology, the conference sponsor. ZSquare is a start-up that has developed a user-friendly driver's license management system designed to be fully compliant with the secure driver's license law, REAL ID. A win-win-win for states, their customers, and the feds, ZSquare is off and running with a strong start in its short existence.
So what does this have to do with border security? For those unaware, during my investigatory time as a border counsel to the 9/11 Commission, two of the biggest questions that emerged were: How could we have identified the hijackers as hijackers? and What actions did the hijackers take that allowed them to not only enter the United States, but stay, embed, and board the planes on the morning of 9/11 unimpeded? The answers quickly came down to issues pertaining to identity. We were also concerned about physical security and how to facilitate travel and communications while protecting ourselves as a nation. From a policy perspective, all these issues play into the border context.
Not only that, but these technologies are simply interesting. So if you want to consider yourself on the cutting-edge, read on. A little thought will quickly help you understand how each of these technologies can help secure our country better, faster, and more efficiently.
Animetrics. A turned head, a partial face in a surveillance camera, bad light, or a blurred image all make identifying suspects difficult. Animetrics is being used by the government in a cloud-based architecture that can not only conduct "one-to-many" identity searches, but also takes a flat 2D image and converts it to a 3D geometric image. It does not matter if the image is incomplete; the software will compensate. The most incredible thing about the software is that a turned head in a 2D photo can be turned into a forward-facing 3D image for identification purposes, taking much of the guesswork out of law enforcement and intelligence activities. These "3D facial 'signatures' are then made available to credentialed users via any mobile or fixed digital device with Internet connectivity", making Animetrics perhaps the most advanced company in today's biometric solutions.
QLess. Perhaps the most intuitive solution no one ever thought of, QLess dubs itself "The world's first and only mobile queuing solution". So fast is the company growing, it received the American Business Award Silver Medal for "Fastest-Growing Company of the Year - Up to 100 Employees".
Requiring only a mobile phone, hand-held PC, or touch screen kiosk and a web browser — no software — the solution enables a customer to sign up with a cell number, for example, and receive a text as to the length of the line and then simply leave the venue and return close to when the "queue" delivers a message that the customer's time in the queue has elapsed. The solution also provides online tickets. The DMV in Wichita, Kan., traditionally not so keen on federal driver's license laws, has embraced QLess with vigor. Less time waiting in line — hours less — means fewer folks recalcitrant about what they have to do at the DMV to begin with, eliminating some of the stress associated with attending to DMV requirements.
How does it work? According to the company website,
When a queue is first started, it is seeded with an "initial wait" duration, which can be configured to whatever is appropriate. As your customers move through the queue, QLess watches, learns, and forecasts future wait times using a variety of statistical analysis techniques. If your employees ever disagree with our calculated forecasts, they have the option of manually overriding them at any time, so you'll never be any less accurate than any human forecasting you may be doing today. To date, QLess is beating our customers' human experts' manual forecast overrides by 36 percent, so you may want to think twice before you hit that override button.
Social Fortress. Ever wish you could take back your privacy and personal information from your e-mail servers, Google+, or Facebook? Ever wonder how the heck the Pentagon can seal itself from constant hacking from around the world? Well the answer comes in the form of a young entrepreneur who started his first video gaming business at 12, sold it at 19, and now has $2 million from Atlanta investors. Adam Ghetti founded Social Fortress to enable enterprises with sensitive data to leverage the cloud by eliminating the traditional cloud security risks. The way Ghetti described Social Fortress in a private demo, the dynamic security enables privacy from hackers, identity thieves, predators, spam, and government and private virtual entities in public Internet venues — the very thing all of us thought we had no choice to give up for the convenience of the Internet. Best of all, any of us can use it now that it has been released publicly; Ghetti has made a product that protects us all without even knowing it is there after initial sign-up. And his privacy terms make clear he is not a hypocrite about customer privacy.
ZSquare Technology. For those states thinking REAL ID compliance is hard and expensive, ZSquare's impressive suite of enrollment, administrative, and management tools combines these tasks into an efficient bundle that can be customized by the end-user in a plethora of circumstances, including biometric intake, driver's license content, and identity document content and storage. For me, the most important thing about seeing a full demo of the ZSquare product is that it is not only user-friendly for DMV employees, so customer lines at DMVs using ZSquare should see a decrease in time serving customers, but that it makes securing a driver's license system easy. If both the DMV and customers find the DMV a better experience, a major hurdle in securing driver's license issuance is increasingly in focus.