Proof of concept to develop an electronic identification (eID) for Switzerland

The startup Notakey tackled the issue of electronic identification (eID) at last year’s Kickstart Accelerator and secured proof of concept with Credit Suisse, Swisscom and UBS. This issue is currently of interest to many companies, as it can be used in a number of applications to add considerable value for clients.

The benefits of digital identity can be illustrated by one simple example. Nowadays, every company identifies its clients independently, forcing the client to memorize a vast array of different user names and passwords and provide the same information – address, age, date of birth, etc. – over and over again. This requires significant time and effort from all parties, taking up valuable time for the user and resulting in inefficient processes, higher costs and sometimes lower conversion rates for companies. With a system based on a common platform, online businesses and administrative processes can be designed and developed much more efficiently to bring important benefits to both companies and, most importantly, clients. Customers will eventually be able to register at online shops and public offices with their bank login details or take out a mobile phone contract or insurance policy online.

Notakey has developed a mobile software application offering authentication that is both extremely secure and user-friendly, and gathered its first experiences from the issue of digital identity in Latvia – a combination that attracted the attention of renowned companies Credit Suisse, Swisscom and UBS. After initial discussions at the Kickstart Accelerator, it quickly became clear that the parties wished to create a joint proof of concept. They ultimately opted for a four-month PoC with the aim of proving functionality to show that it is possible to operate a cross-sector system with several different parties, while at the same time demonstrating a high degree of user-friendliness.

This evidence was obtained during the PoC. Under laboratory conditions, it was demonstrated that a registered bank customer could take out a mobile phone contract with their existing client data without needing to provide additional identification.

For a startup, however, securing proof of concept is about much more than obtaining technical evidence, as Notakey’s Co-Founder Janis Graubins explains: “This process has brought us closer to the companies, enabling us to build a network of contacts with their internal specialists and learn much more about the needs of their clients.” Acquiring this kind of important knowledge is vital in allowing startups to target their products appropriately, expand their portfolio and enhance their credibility in the market. “We had great experiences at the Kickstart Accelerator and during the PoC that will certainly help to drive us forward. Last but not least, our trip to Switzerland enabled us to attract the attention of investors.”

The PoC was also invaluable for the three companies involved, who not only improved their understanding of the technical aspects involved but also enjoyed a positive experience with a young, dedicated team who understood how to advance projects in an agile way. It was also useful to have an ‘independent’ company within their own organization to offer new ideas and challenge existing processes and procedures. The companies report that the collaboration was extremely constructive, with only the startup phase – in which several parties were required to choose an efficient path for cooperation – proving to be a challenge. In particular, collaborating across borders required a high degree of flexibility.

Looking to the future
All of the project’s participants agree that companies like Credit Suisse, Swisscom and UBS can contribute a considerable amount of expertise to a national eID system in the areas of security and data protection. They are also highly likely to participate in such a system. They already manage large amounts of client data in digital form, are trusted by clients, process secure transactions (payments) every day and use advanced means of identification. They also comply with strict requirements regarding Know Your Customer (KYC) processes, money laundering and other due diligence obligations.

The project participants believe that a common, open eID system tied to the companies’ existing infrastructure should be established in Switzerland. The same platform would therefore include several different identity providers. Interoperability between providers would be guaranteed and the end consumer could choose their preferred provider. While partners are now being sought to participate in the next stages of this project to establish a common national eID, the Kickstart Accelerator and the contribution of Notakey mean significant progress has already been made.