New cluster member Mobai lands 28 million NOK-project with VIPPS, SpareBank 1 Østlandet, KU Leuven and NTNU, with R&D funding from the Research Council of Norway.
New member Mobai lands research project
With the later years’ explosion in usernames, passwords, and two-factor authentication, the need for data security and strong identification has increased significantly. Brage Strand, CEO of Mobai, believes this problem will compound in the coming years.
- The number of businesses that go online is increasing exponentially, leading to huge amounts of poor passwords, lost account information, and leakages. Identity theft is a societal problem, and the number of thefts will rise without proper security solutions.
Enter Mobai. Founded in 2019, Mobai is a spin-off company from the Department of Information Security and Communication at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Gjøvik. Having already secured a growing customer base, Mobai believes that biometrics can help reduce the wider societal problem of identity theft, forgery, and money laundering.
- You can use your face to replace the need for passwords. Your face is always with you, making it the ideal way to identify yourself, says Ole Christian Olssøn, VP Sales in Mobai.
With the recent challenges for BankID, affecting a gross majority of the population in Norway, the need for supplementing solutions has become evident. Mobai sees their solution, not as a tool to replace BankID, rather as becoming a natural part of the scheme, with biometrics as an integral and growing part of the technology that is used.
- Our solution will add security in the authentication process and may also in the future serve as a supplement for BankID. However, we believe it can serve as a simplification tool in onboarding and KYC, as well as improving services like digital signature, where adding “face” as part of the signing offer is easily understood and accepted, says Strand.
Just this week it was announced that Mobai, with partners NTNU, KU Leuven, VIPPS, and SpareBank 1 Østlandet has received funding for “Innovation in Business” from the Research Council of Norway, in a project aimed to make authentication and identification simpler and safer for users and businesses.
- This project gives us funding to commercialize technology that enables releasing facial recognition from the connection to specific units, in addition to securing privacy. We protect the personal data and give the user a unique opportunity to prove who they are, says Strand.
A key component for securing this project was the partners. SpareBank 1 Østlandet has cooperated with Mobai for some time to find better solutions to identify and legitimize customers in the local bank offices.
- We see it as very relevant to use facial recognition as a measure to strengthen security so that we can help prevent fraud and money laundering, says Dag-Arne Hoberg, President of Innovation and Business Development in SpareBank 1 Østlandet.
The project has a budget of up to 30 million NOK, and the part-funding from the Research Council of Norway is an important enabling contribution. Mobai and partners were selected among 269 applications for a total of 2.8 billion NOK, where only 750 million NOK were available for allocation.
The next step
Mobai is raising a seed funding round for the next step of their journey, which consists of verifying product-market fit for first-generation products and building second-generation products with pilot customers.
- Having already secured partnerships with key players like TietoEVRY, SpareBank1, RIG, and VIPPS, we are now looking for investors for the next stage, Olssøn says.
In cooperation with the Norwegian Police Force and as part of the MARS Horizon2020 project, Mobai will work on leveraging its machine learning models for Face Morph detection. Learnings from this project may also be applied in the KYC/AML processes, adding more security and intelligence in identity proofing, among others.
- We are looking to raise 750,000 Euros to grow in the test market, key R&D and start internationalization, Olssøn concludes.