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Tuesday, October 06, 2015

A new "killer app" for WebRTC? Video-identity verification / know-your-customer

I've recently come across an interesting new use-case for WebRTC, which I think could be a major driver of adoption - because it has a very clear monetisation model. It may also be a catalyst for growth of video-based contact centres, beyond the Amazon Mayday-style customer support scenario.

I'm referring to the use of video-authentication for web/mobile transaction security. This is also called “Online Legitimation” and is already widely used in Germany, especially for major financial services transactions such as opening of accounts, or setting up loan agreements, which have “know your customer” requirements.

The user is directed to a short two-way video session with a customer-service advisor, allowing verification of the user's identity against a photo on file, or by holding an ID/passport up to the camera. A code is then sent via SMS for two-factor security. (The latter approach has been approved by the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority as an alternative to conventional offline legitimation procedures). 

This is very different to a normal person-to-person videoconference or "see what I see" application. It is using a video session (not a "call", really) to compare the likeness of two things (as well as conduct other vocal checks through a Q&A process).

At least four providers have already emerged in Germany (email me for names), and a large number of banks and credit-card companies have signed up with one or other of them. One of them has a price-list suggesting prices of between €4-8 per transaction, depending on volumes expected by the client. As well as WebRTC (desktop and embedded in mobile apps), there are sometimes options for Skype, FaceTime, fallback to Flash and so on.

The regulatory approval in Germany has clearly catalysed a sudden market uptake – it will be interesting to see if this is replicated elsewhere. This has the hint of a “killer app” for video contact centres, especially in finance but potentially also for other sectors such as online casino sign-ups, contract-witnessing, notarisation or other applications where visual ID approval is needed. 

This also fits very well with the move of many services online/mobile channels. It would be ridiculous to require an in-person identity check or notarisation, to set up a new online-only bank account. 

The precise number of relevant transactions requiring "hard" identity proof is a little hard to estimate - but a rough number of a billion annually does not seem unreasonable as a potential addressable market. There is a good argument for WebRTC solution providers to consider lobbying finance regulators or other bodies, to get them to clearly accept video-based "know your customer" processes.

Disruptive Analysis is about to publish an update for its WebRTC Market Analysis & Forecasts report, including analysis of various new & emerging use-cases such as this. Please get in touch to receive details & pricing (or to arrange a private workshop or project on WebRTC) information AT disruptive-analysis DOT com


Scep said...

I don't get it. Why would this be a killer application for WeBRTC if it works equally well over any other video chat?

Scep said...

Also there is no pull in this "killer app", it's all push. The end user has no need for this service, it's just an inconvenience they have to suffer through to get an account opened. The need and the benefit is all on the banks' end.

Furthermore, it's a single use app only. The end user will use it only once and then be done with it. This is not likely to drive adoption or continued use. Even on the banks' end there are incentives to use it as little as possible since it's rather expensive. The volumes are driven only by savings from other channels (and there is a limit to how much can be saved) and the convenience factor for the end user of not having to leave their home.

... and lastly there is no benefit fromusing webRTC, so this is just another use for video chat in general.

Dean Bubley said...

Hi Scep

Three reasons for WebRTC:

- It can be embedded into mobile apps; FaceTime & Skype cannot, and the users would have to leave the app (or website on a PC) and fire up a seperate application and lose all the contextual data
- Easier to integrate on the agent side, into whatever other desktop environment / application they are using
- Cheaper & more flexible for developers, and for (most) end-users won't need a plug-in / separate app download

There will still need to be fallback options, eg for users with old versions of IE/Safari.

Yes, it's single-use for most applications, but as prices come down (or shorter calls for less-regulated purposes) it can be used for other use-cases by banks (eg ID for large credit card transactions, or even ATM withdrawals)

Scep said...

I'll concede that those three reasons are enablers for webRTC, but they do not a killer application make.

However, some of the assertions are wishful thinking. WebRTC will only work on some browsers, so developers will still be looking at separate app downloads and plugins, not to mention all the bother with fallbacks for older browsers and users who refuse to install any more (unnecessary) apps. Then there is the elephant in the room, iOS. In other words, cheaper, easier and more flexible is pretty much out the window for developers and so is no new apps for end users.

WebRTC is probably nice to have, but still no killer app in sight.

Rob Pickering said...

Came across something not identical but fairly similar a while ago where a customer asked if we could provide a signature to prove receipt of a chat message via webrtc for an application in a regulated environment where they had to be able to provide an audit trail to "prove" a user had read some specific messages. They had some weird ideas about signing using a trackpad until I pointed out we could grab a screen share of the user clicking a confirm button, synced with the webcam video of their sitting in front of the screen. I can still think of ways of defeating this but a lot less so than proving their ability to reproduce a random squiggle on a trackpad.

Dean Bubley said...

Scep - the browser-support issue is mostly irrelevant here, for this use-case. If your browser doesn't support it, it won't be offered to you as an option. Some use is better than none, and fallback options come next.

And on mobile, WebRTC generally is in-app not in-browser (& works well on iOS and Android), so it doesn't matter anyway. In fact, WebRTC is probably used more on iOS devices than any other platform today. There are plenty of new WebRTC-enabled commercial apps already in the market. (BeMyEyes is a great one, for example). Most major IT & Internet companies have serious products/services in the market already

My estimate is that there are currently about 100 million occasional/regular users, and that will probably grow to 500m+ by end-2016

Dean Bubley said...

Rob - that's a great one, thanks.

The common factor here is a new sort of 3-way interaction: the agent, the user, and a 3rd object like the "confirm" button, or a passport

Scep said...

Dean - I'm not arguing that there isn't some use to webRTC. All i'm saying that there is no killer app.