We spoke to Chris Field (Chief Marketing Officer at YOTI) about how to leverage current behavioural trends to build trust on your sharing economy platform.
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Chaz: I’m certainly pretty excited today, only because it sits right in the middle of the sharing economy space, with an absolute expert. Welcome, Chris, from YOTI.
Chaz: How are you today?
Chris: I’m very good, thank you. Excited to be here.
Chaz: Thanks very much. It’s always pretty exciting in this very cold cellar in Westland Coffee & Wine. To kick things off first, I thought it would be quite nice for the listeners to, first of all, introduce yourself, your background and then what the business does and sort of what stage you’re at as well.
Chris: So my name’s Chris Field. I’m Chief Marketing Officer at YOTI. I’ve been at YOTI now for a couple of years. That’s about as long as we’ve spent building it and getting it ready. Prior to that, working for a couple of other technology companies and then not-for-profits where I’ve led on the marketing and taking stuff out and reaching out to people and getting people excited about new brands and things. So I’m looking forward to doing the [interrogating 0:01:04].
Chaz: So when we say ID verification, talk to me about YOTI specifically.
Chris: YOTI is effectively your ID on your phone. There are three different things you can do with it. You can use it to check the ID of people that you meet online. So let’s say you meet somebody on a dating site or on a sharing economy site and you kind of think, ‘Okay, user123 isn’t that useful to me. It would be awesome if I knew what your actual name was and what you look like.’ So it allows you to do that kind of peer-to-peer verification. You can also use YOTI on a night out to prove your ID. So rather than take your passport or your driving licence, you can just use your phone and prove your age, so that’s kind of cool. Rather than sharing the address and your inside leg measurement and all the other details that are on your ID documents, YOTI lets you just share your name, the fact that you’re over 18 and what you look like, so kind of keeping your data secure.
Chaz: I get it. It absolutely makes sense. It seems a bit strange that we’ve got drones making deliveries yet people are still carrying around these pieces of plastic. So how does it actually work? Talk me through the process. So I’m a consumer user rather than a business user and I’ve decided that I don’t want to carry around my ID necessarily all the time. What do I do?
Chris: First thing you do is you download the free YOTI app from the app stores. Once you’ve done that, you get started, you take a picture of yourself, this is something we’re all familiar with, increasingly these days.
Chaz: The notorious ‘selfie’.
Chris: The legendary ‘selfie’, yes. In fact, you take a few so that you get one that you’re really happy with, which is interesting to watch in user testing, I can assure you. Then what you do is you get people to verify their phone number. So you may be familiar with the one-time PIN that’s used across a number of different systems. Then at that point, you enter your own five-digit PIN that you’re going to use to control the app. That means that we now know that you’re a unique person because that face is unique and that phone number is unique. We then ask you to do what’s called a ‘liveness test’, so that you can’t spoof it in any way. So you can’t hold up a photo of somebody or a video of somebody or anything like that.
Chaz: This is the interesting part. Bringing it almost back to a little bit about what Fat Lama does. There is this thing about well actually an ID or a picture and connected a picture and an ID is pretty useless. You can print out a picture that’s good enough these days. So talk me through that in just a little bit more detail. So you’ve taken a selfie and then you go through this phase that you call..?
Chris: We call it ‘liveness testing’. Download the app, see what you think yourselves, but ultimately what you do is we ask you to say a few words, and we change the colours on the screen, the words are all random, and you’ve got to look around the screen. So it’s not possible for you to spoof it because you couldn’t hold up a video of somebody doing that because they wouldn’t know which words were going to be coming out.
Chaz: So does it detect micro movements then?
Chris: I’m not going to tell you all the secrets about it.
Chaz: That’s the exciting bit about it. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, to be honest with you. Obviously, I’ve had a look at your guys’ tech, the app is absolutely fantastic, very user-friendly, and leveraging off the current behaviours of the selfie, very funny what you said, by the way, because we actually had one of our guys test it and not being happy with your selfie. It’s like when you do passport pictures. Not being happy with the selfie that you’re taking to give an app to verify your ID is just absolutely hilarious to watch.
Chris: It’s really funny. People are like, ‘This is my photo. I’m going to have to use this to show to everyone.’ It’s, like, ‘Just like your passport, mate.’ It’s exactly the same. It’s just we let you take loads and loads.
Chaz: So they go through this piece of technology that basically makes sure that it’s a real person and it’s moving and then how does that then connect with the ID?
Chris: So then at that point, we now know that you’re a real-life person so that’s awesome. Now what we do is we ask you to add an identity document. So at this stage, you can add either your driving license, UK driving licenses only at the moment or your passport and we can accept passports from around the world. The way that happens is for the user, all they’re really doing is taking a picture. That’s what they think they’re doing. What you’re actually doing is what’s called an OCR read of the text on the passport. So that checks a few features. Again, I’m not going to give you all of the juicy details because there’s some secret squirrel stuff inside there.
That allows us to know that the document is verified and legitimate. What we then do is if you have an Android phone, we allow you to read the biochip in the passport, and that’s where it gets really clever, because we can now match the selfie that you’ve taken of yourself to the image that everybody can see in your passport, then to the image which is inside the biochip. We match those three ways and we say, ‘Super. That is definitely you.’
Chaz: I didn’t have a clue that’s how it worked. That’s fantastic.
Chris: So that gives us real confidence. Unfortunately, Apple haven’t unlocked their NFC, which is what’s needed to read that biochip, so with the Apple phones what we do is we do some other kind of work, which I can’t tell you about, but where we’re looking at the document to work out whether or not it’s a fake, and there are a few little bits and pieces which give us that confidence.
Chaz: Fantastic. I suppose the big question with the ID as a whole is cyber security around people’s documentation. ID is the most important piece of information that people own, in terms of their identity. So what do you guys do or how do you go about making that secure, and also making our users feel secure, which actually is two very different things, right?
Chris: Absolutely right. So security is our number one priority, as it has to be when you’re dealing with other people’s data. so the way it works is once you’ve created your ID, it’s then effectively sharded. So we take each little piece of information about you that we’ve verified and we encrypt each one separately and store them separately in a non-relational database. So what that means is your name will go over here, your image will go over here, your date of birth will go over there, your nationality over there, all encrypted. So if anyone were to somehow get into the YOTI database and decrypt a piece of information, which would be nigh on impossible, due to the levels of encryption we’ve used, all they’d be able to know is that your name was ‘Chris Fields’. That’s all they would know.
Chaz: Really, it’s encompassing all that information.
Chris: They wouldn’t know what your name was. They would just a name. So it’s totally useless to them. So the only person who can access that data is the person that created the YOTI and the person they want to share it with. I don’t know how much you all know about encryption but effectively what it is, is it stores the encryption keys on your device. So you go to it, you can’t even see it. So there isn’t one central honey pot of data that anybody could get into. So it’s completely dark to us.
Chaz: Fantastic. It’s interesting as well because it’s very sophisticated and very technical but it’s making that consumer-facing, making people understand that certainly again I suppose Fat Lama, what we’ve done is we have very clear visions of where the platform can go, moving into Internet of Things, using technology like blockchain and all that sort of stuff, but actually users don’t really care about that sort of stuff. They need things that they understand. The worst thing you can do is confuse them.
Chris: That’s right.
Chaz: Moving that towards your customer base, and I appreciate at the moment you’re running prototypes and you’ve got a few people that you don’t want to mention, and that’s great. What does your customer base look like? Who is your ideal customer right now?
Chris: Interesting question.
Chaz: Apart from Fat Lama, of course.
Chris: Yes, of course. So our customers are two-fold. It’s both the consumer and the business. So we are fundamentally a consumer brand. So what we’re trying to do is appeal to consumers that want to take control of their identity and use this digital identity to prove themselves either in person or online. So we’ve been pretty much in stealth mode until now. We’ve not been going out and shouting about what we’re doing, but we’ve done some little tests and seeded some stuff out there and we’ve got 40,000 pre-registered users who have expressed an interest in using YOTI to prove their age on nights out and also to do a peer-to-peer verification, so check the ID of people they meet online. So we’re buoyed by that initial traction. That’s cool.
With very little effort, we’ve got lots of people that are already interested. We’ve also got I guess a pipeline of around 100+ businesses across really wide sectors. So we’ve got people in the sharing economy who are interested in peer-to-peer verification. We’ve got people at buying and selling sites. We’ve got recruitment companies who want to pre-register their users. We’ve got online gambling companies. We’ve even been speaking to government departments, financial institutions as well. There’s almost no sector that we haven’t spoken to, which makes it incredibly challenging.
Chaz: What I want to touch on here is obviously how the ID verification market has evolved or has come about in some respects. Before we do that, I want to explore… when we say evolved, it’s not just the ID verification market. It’s actually people’s expectations with technology, and I think with this sort of product, the experience and the user experience has got to be absolutely seamless. It’s got to be verging on effortless for them to go through the process. What have you guys done to make that process as seamless as possible?
Chris: Huge amounts. We have an in-house UX team and they have done countless user experience sessions. So we’ve done what you’d expect, the standard usability testing where we get people into our offices, we video them, we watch them do all of that. What we’ve also done is gone to big groups, so we went down to a London university and spent some time with about 150 students and got them to go through the app as well. So literally 100s of people have gone through and tested it. One of the challenges of building an identity app is that security element. So the real challenge for us is balancing security with usability. So sometimes when people are going through the app they may think, ‘Well, there are a lot of steps here.’ There’s not really, it’s very quick to do. Those steps are all there to make sure that we can be absolutely confident that we’re secure with the data.
Chaz: The market as a whole in terms of how that’s evolved and kind of talking about, as we briefly spoke about earlier on, the Airbnb, the Uber, the Deliveroo, the Task Rabbit, the Tinders of this world, have completely changed this market. Over the past… people say five years. I think it’s as near as a year. In the past year, things have evolved again just so much. What have you seen changing in the market?
Chris: I think there are a few things I’ve seen change. One of the fundamentals is the fact that in the last few years it’s really been about connecting individuals with each other. So all of these new platforms, rather than a relationship with your Deliveroo or your Uber or your Airbnb, what they’ve actually done is empowered a new form of communicating with other people, which is what I love about it. I love the fact that when you use an Airbnb apartment, you’re hopefully going to meet somebody really awesome in another part of the world, and you’re like, ‘Cool. I thought I was going to Hong Kong to just stay in a hotel and actually I’ve met someone cool who showed me some new stuff.’ That’s what I love about them.
It’s the same with Fat Lama. What you’re doing is connecting people and I think that’s a really exciting piece of the future hopefully for us. Where ID verification comes in, which is the less sexy side of all of this, is that’s changed a lot in the last few years as well. So, five years ago, if you needed to prove your ID to somebody, pretty much the only way that you could do it was meet up with them in person and show them something. I remember probably four or five years ago people would do weird stuff where they would take a picture of themselves and hold up a picture of The Times or whatever it was and send it across. You’re like, ‘Oh, that doesn’t really work.’ Then actually businesses evolved doing that kind of thing, which was like, ‘Guys, that still doesn’t really work, but cool, we’re kind of moving there.’
Chaz: That’s so true.
Chris: So that kind of remote verification. I think where it’s getting to now, and hopefully where we hope we’re taking it is creating a nice user experience that allows someone to do that equivalent of holding up their document and the copy of today’s Times or whatever, but doing it through a seamless user journey on an app.
Chaz: Great. In our office, we talk about this all the time. You’ve made quite a boring topic so interesting. Everything from your branding, the way your onboarding process goes, the communication piece, your customer service piece, your sales piece, everything end-to-end has been absolutely outstanding. I’m actually just sitting here thinking, ‘Bloody hell, I think we need to start using you guys as soon as possible, this is just fantastic.’ So look, thanks so much for coming down. Honestly, it’s been great fun. You’re a super smart guy and just before we end, before I forget, in terms of getting in contact with you guys, both with yourself and also the broader brand of YOTI, what’s the best way to do that if people are interested?
Chris: So the best thing to do, go to YOTI.com and drop us a line via that, or alternatively you can reach out directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and of course just pop into the app stores and download it and let us know what you think. It’s an early version, so any feedback is welcome.
Chaz: Thanks very much. You’re an absolute legend. Cheers, Chris.
Chris: Thank you.