Decoding digital onboarding and why it’s the way of the future

September 18, 2020

Sulabh Sharma
Managing Partner

Digital Onboarding and the role of latest AI/Biometrics

Customer services are becoming increasingly streamlined and digitised, with technological advancements including artificial intelligence, biometrics and more aiding in this transition. Digital onboarding, backed by powerful algorithms, is becoming a popular way to welcome new users and customers to a website or platform. It enables people to securely verify their identity entirely remotely and online, enabling them to gain access to services that require more detailed and regulated information.


So what is digital onboarding, how does it work and how is it aiding in overall customer experience? In this article we’ve explored this new approach, some key terms and shared a glimpse at a digital onboarding solution we’re currently working on with a New Zealand Government agency.


Understanding digital onboarding

Digital onboarding is the process of bringing new customers into a system or platform online, without the need for the user to visit an office or store, while still retaining the same level of security. This process is made up of key steps such as an online identity check and an active liveness check. Each step is designed to make sure the individual signing up to use the service is who they say they are, and takes the place of them guaranteeing their identity in person.


Digital onboarding is a significant shift for businesses and agencies as it’s much simpler and quicker than methods that require an in person check. In addition, it enables individuals to use services if they are unable to visit a physical location, which may be the case for people who work full time, live rurally, or are in a state of lockdown.


The recent COVID-19 related city and nationwide lockdowns have fast tracked the need for digital onboarding systems to be in place. In addition, the unprecedented and rapid move to online working and studying has resulted in consumers now expecting to be able to complete these processes and transactions entirely online. Today, if business leaders want to provide a truly holistic digital experience, they must enable people to access their platform and services entirely online.


In addition, certain industry sectors carry significant risk with the services they provide and as a result have intensive regulatory requirements to adhere to. Such organisations can spend enormous amounts of human capital in mitigating risk by running manual identity checks. Digital onboarding relieves operational overheads related to manually checking each customer against their provided documents, and ensures the documents they provided are legitimate.


Biometrics, liveness checks and verification: how it works

While digital onboarding processes vary from company to company, depending on the unique requirements of the business, there are key features and functionalities that are similar across portals. This includes using biometrics, active liveness checks, face matching, colour reflection models, and third party authentication standards such as FIDO.


Many of the first online verification and identity checks required a user to upload a certified document, most commonly a driver’s license or passport, and with face matching the photo on the document was compared to the user’s face. While this was a step forward from having to complete an identity check in person, cyber criminals are finding ways to fool the system.


Today, a liveness test is a new method that is being used to counteract fakes. It can include lightness detection and colour reflection models, which utilise a connected camera and in real time throw light and colour onto the user’s face. Looking closely at facial features, this test ensures the user logging into the system is a real person and matches the certified document.


Underlying all of these systems are powerful biometrics and artificial intelligence systems. Biometrics utilises our unique bodily features and human characteristics, in this case focusing on facial features, to authenticate who we are, while algorithms are able to log and assimilate a large amount of data in real time to ensure consistency and accuracy as well as speed.


Alongside technological advancements, these portals also often implement third party authentication or certifications. For example, FIDO Alliance provides authenticating standards and tools that help reduce reliance on passwords and encourage other methods, such as biometrics, facial recognition, interoperability testing and voice recognition. To be FIDO certified is to emphasise the integrity and safety of an onboarding system.


Another third party system growing in popularity is Daon, an international biometrics and identity assurance software company which focuses on integrating biometric identity assurance systems into login workflows.


As cyber threats become more sophisticated, face matching and liveness tests go beyond simple comparison to more adequately protect against the likes of photo or video spoofing, deepfakes, and models or 3D masks. In New Zealand, Sush Mobile is working on a system that matches a user’s photo in real time with the source, such as the photo on the actual passport stored with the Government agency. We consider this gold standard as it’s incredibly secure.


Digital onboarding in the wild

With the Department of Internal Affairs agency, we’re working to make the onboarding process entirely digital and robust. The system, which is in its final stages of completion and is backed by FIDO Authentication and Daon systems, takes users through a process of verifying themselves online.


This includes taking a selfie and doing a liveness test against an existing document, as mentioned above. Previously, to get verified and complete the onboarding setup, users would have had to visit a post office. Now every step happens in real time, vastly improving the customer experience. Once onboarded to this specific Government agency, users are able to access a range of services and information.


In our eyes, the future of onboarding lies in digitisation, supported by increasingly smart technologies. As time goes on and these portals become more common, we anticipate that the technology will continue to advance in order to meet customer’s expectations of ease of use and efficiency, while also improving security for greater peace of mind.


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