TR35 Spain: Elías Pérez, 33


Caller Identification Security

  • por Elena Zafra | traducido por
  • 16 Noviembre, 2012

“These are your daughter’s confidential results”. This phrase, said by the pediatrician of a newborn baby to the mother draws a mental picture of a face-to-face conversation, where the doctor and the woman speak in the same room. The delicate information that is to be said requires absolute certainty of the speakers’ identities, and a physical encounter can almost entirely guarantee that.

However, the situation is very different from what we had imagined. In fact these two people are miles away from each other and communicate through IdentityCall, the voice over IP authentication system created by TR35 winner, Elías Pérez. This technology offers the recipient nearly the same level of certainty about the caller’s identity as if they were both standing face to face.

Pérez, a telecommunications engineer who studied in the University of Vigo (Spain) and in the School of Engineering ESIEE of Paris (France), cofounded the technology consulting firm Quobis in 2004 while he was working on his doctorate. Today, the company has more than twenty people on staff, but the one who conceived the project IdentityCall was this 33-year-old entrepreneur. His objective was to create a product for institutions and large companies, as well as for telecommunications operators interested in offering their clients high levels of security in voice calls.

According to what the TR35 winner explains, the advantage of his system against other competitors is its capacity to combine an element that the caller possesses (a digital certificate or a smartcard, like the electronic ID) and an element he or she knows (PIN number). “This guarantees the caller’s identity and the ‘non-repudiation’ in the area of new generation telecommunication networks”, states Pérez.

Using IdentityCall is simple: through the device where the service is installed, the user dials the phone number of whomever he or she wants to call. The system will ask the caller to input his electronic ID in the smartcard reader and type his PIN number. When the recipient answers, the call starts and the transmission is encrypted (to avoid call interceptions) and registered through a central server. The clients can make a call using the application from a computer (with smartcard or digital certificate) or from a tablet or smartphone (in this case, only using the certificate).

With this method both the content and the authenticity of the call are secured and a new field of applications is opened in areas that require absolute certainty that whoever is on the other side of the call is who he claims to be. In this sense, IdentityCall offers, for instance, the possibility to carry out phone banking through the authentication of a client who wants to buy shares or make a transfer. It also allows ensuring a patient’s identity during conversations about medical tests or file consulting, and speeding up administration procedures, now that the citizens can identify themselves by phone and avoid a trip to the counter.

“Competitors are securing identification by biometric solutions or other context information, such as IP address or geolocation, which can be easily distorted”, says Pérez. “We consider that the need for something tangible, a certificate or smartcard, will remain on the market for many years and will be the paradigm of digital identity ", he adds.

The TR35 winner considers that promising advances have been made in the field of voice biometrics and that this technology could “possibly be complementary” to the system that his company offers. However, he notes that this technology, contrary to his proposal, still has to overcome several challenges like “the recognizer training, the elimination of background noise, and the segmentation of the caller”, aspects that distinguish IdentityCall as a more attractive product, especially for their target markets. “Quobis is working directly with banks, health organizations, insurance companies and the Defense department to show them this product”, says Perez. “Moreover, we are in touch with eight global telecommunication companies, including Vodafone, Telenor, Telefónica, Verizon and AT&T, and we hope to announce the first contracts in short time”, concludes the innovator.

The mobile bandwidth boom and the generalization of Over the Top services (OTT) like WhatsApp or Viber, is causing a strong decline in call and messaging services. In Spain, voice call revenue has gone down more than 20 percent in the last five years, and at a global scale telecommunication companies are also facing the dilemma of competing with these services or fighting against them. “Ovum estimates that phone call revenue will decrease from 750 billion euros in 2012 to 620 billion in 2020”, points out Pérez. “Some telecommunications companies have sat idle, others have decided to compete, join forces, or come out with their own OTT services, like Telefónica’s Tu.me”, explains the TR35 winner.

While large corporations carry out their strategies, Quobis opens a new road: to provide the added value of the authentication and the encryption of voice calls to clients who really need it. “IdentityCall is a OTT service of corporate value that today is the bet telecommunication companies can make to continue to have market share in large firms”, he concludes.

In Leonardo Pineda’s opinion, director of the research line in Technological Change and Strategic Innovation at University of Rosario (Colombia) and member of the TR35 Spain Awards’ jury, the business model is the “innovative strength” of Pérez and his firm Quobis, which have come to understand that “innovation is dynamic, complex, global, and non-linear”. - Translated by Alfredo Corral


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