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Putting a Face to Digital Identity

In a post-Covid world, where in-person contact has been drastically limited or eliminated, the need for digital identity onboarding is increasing exponentially. Jason Shedden unpacks the layers of digital identity processes and its future.



putting a face to digital identity
Putting a face to digital identity (Photo by Utimaco)

We need to begin by understanding that our identity is not just our face, fingerprint, or identity number. It is more intricate than that, and often what we encounter is that too many systems focus only on the low hanging fruits like fingerprint or face biometrics as a means of understanding identity.

Jason Shedden, Chief Operating Officer at Contactable

Jason Shedden is the Chief Operating Officer at Contactable

Identity is complex and placing it into context is important because context changes as information changes.  As an analogy, imagine your daughter introduces you to her new boyfriend.

Your first impression of him, in tattered jeans, dirty T-shirt and muddled hair, would most likely be one of disdain.

He then proceeds to apologise for his bad looks and explains that he has just rescued five people from a burning car, which accounts for his appearance.

In this case, armed with new insight, your daughter’s new boyfriend is heralded a hero and the concept of disdain no longer exists despite his appearance remaining unchanged.

In a similar vein, the principle of gaining insight to better understand identity is critical because a simple facial verification might tell you this person is legitimate, but it won’t tell if they are a criminal or if they are lying about where they live.

For this reason, when considering identity, it is imperative to consider as many aspects to ensure you make informed decisions.

This principle of combining aspects of identity to make a better-informed decision is referred to as digital orchestration and its this very concept that allows one to put a real face to identity.


As a company, when we look at digital identity, we talk about identity ‘orchestration’. This is the ability to overlay as many attributes about an identity as possible, so that our clients can make the most informed decision about the true nature of the identity they are engaging with.

Similar to a philharmonic orchestra, we are able to draw on different ‘instrument’ providers to supply the necessary information so that we can make an accurate assessment.

This means that our customers do not have to run around getting different identity points from multiple suppliers – we provide the interface that seamlessly provides all the identity touch points that a contract may require.

This includes multiple attributes about a person, such as:

  • Fingerprints taken; both from mobile cameras and desktop hardware
  • Facial biometric selfie image captures; that can be tested for liveness using both passive and active liveness detection
  • Home affairs integration to conduct facial biometric matching against selfie images that have passed liveness tests
  • Forensic analysis of over 10,000 templatised national identity document types across the globe
  • Address verification in the form of geo location pin drops, distance proximity tests, fuzzy logic naming convention tests or voters roll validation
  • Credit score testing; with details consumer trace reporting
  • Bank account verification testing
  • VISA and Mastercard match fraud testing
  • Mobile number and email analysis
  • Device threat metric testing
  • Sanction / PEP / Adverse Media and Enforcement list testing
  • South African Fraud Prevention Services data checking
  • Driver’s license PDF417 decryption and reading
  • Document OCR analysis
  • Voice biometric enrollment
  • 1 – n biometric matching for both voice and face

From the above list, a client can select those attributes that are relevant to their requirements and that fulfil their KYC needs.  We then assist the clients in customising their program to enable rapid deployment of our technology.

It is a seamless journey and because it is fully cloud enabled the technology stack can run in parallel with a client’s business flow without having to disrupt their systems.

Unlike the old traditional SAP type implementations, our technology can be completely standalone and offered as a PAAS service which negates the need for massive OPEX budgets and long protracted planning

Orchestration and the future

Orchestration as a concept is starting to gain traction globally due to the benefits it delivers.  Apart from the key benefits as discussed; a secondary important benefit that is helping drive the orchestration adoption pertains to its agnostic nature when it comes to service providers.

A well-orchestrated platform is one that can provide the best that technology has to offer. Be it the latest facial liveness algorithm or forensic document analysis, it does not matter because orchestration provides a dynamic platform that updates as new technologies become available.

Additionally, given that clients are fully integrated into an orchestration layer, exposing such new technologies to a client is a simple matter of configuration.

In a fast-paced technological world where digital consumption is driving an aggressive need for a flexible identity verification protocol, orchestration is the best possible way to deliver a long-term sustainable solution to a client.

The next five years in this industry are fundamentally important for any organisation looking to compete in the digital future.

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