Dusseldorf The Identity Platform Verimi, founded in 2017, sees itself as a counterbalance to major US corporations like Google or Facebook, Among the 13 partners include the German bank. Volkswagen and Lufthansa, “Verimi was founded with the attitude of the shareholders that European digital identities must be managed in Europe,” says managing director Roland Adrian in an interview with Handelsblatt.
A dependency on US players, such as payment or log-in services, wants to prevent the German economy from digital identities. When using digital identities, the smartphone plays a central role, Adrian is certain: “It is the 'token' that almost all people always have with them and that has become indispensable for authentication.”
Verimi is also trying to establish itself in the e-government sector. For about three weeks, users of the platform can log in to the Thuringian e-government portal. The company does not publish user numbers. For that, according to Adrian, it is still too early.
Read the whole interview here:
Mr Adrian, your platform is mainly known in the banking sector. For example, customers can log into Deutsche Bank's online banking with a Verimi account. Have additional services been added since the foundation in 2017?
We're building a cross-industry platform for verified identities, and strong authentication, including log-in, is an important component. Anyone opening new bank accounts today, for example, has to register each time in a new and complicated way using a video identification or post-identification procedure. Our offer is that the user uniquely identifies with Verimi and uses that identity over and over again – in banking, insurance, telecommunications, mobility providers and e-government. This is especially important for regulated areas because they need verified identity data for the onboarding of the users. In addition, we offer the qualified electronic signature, with which the users can sign documents digitally and legally.
So you are less concerned with the log–in-process per se, but do you see your platform as a vault for the entire digital identity of a user?
Exactly. We do not know our users at all, since only they themselves can access their data with their private key. Just like the bank locker. It then contains the verified identity card, passport, driver's license and soon other identity attributes that the user can deposit. Our log-in provides easy and secure access to it.
It is all the more important that users trust your offer. How do you ensure this?
The user has with us the sovereignty over what happens to his data. And we offer it full transparency, every data transfer must be authorized by the user. Advertising tracking or hidden data usage are excluded. Added to this is the confidence that the brands of our shareholders exert on us. In addition, we have our platform inspected and certified by external institutions.
Where do you store the data of your users?
More important to us is the “how”: we live “privacy-by-design”. The data is individually encrypted and stored on clouds in data centers in Germany.
Apple has recently opened its NFC interface for the online ID function and has its own log–started in-service. The mobile payment service Apple Pay has been available in Germany since 2018. Here a big US player makes you even in regulated areas big competition.
A dependency on US players, such as payment or log-in services, wants to prevent the German economy from digital identities of citizens. Verimi is an open initiative of the German economy to keep digital identities in Europe. The market for verified digital identities is emerging. We are already live with a unique offer, so we have a head start. We must use this advantage together with business and administration.
Verimi users have also been able to log into the Thuringian eGovernment portal for around three weeks. Will the handle to the smartphone in the future replace the passage to the Bürgeramt?
Thüringen's decision makes us very happy and she certainly has a pioneering character. Digital public administration services can only succeed if the citizen has access to it in practice. Verimi offers a simple and secure way to the eIDAS levels of “substantial” and “low” – which we estimate to be around 80 percent of all benefits. Only the approximately 20 percent of benefits, which are considered to be “high” as the level of confidence in eIDAS, probably also require a personal approach to the Bürgeramt in future, for example if you apply for a new passport.
Since the beginning of the year, prominent German companies such as Deutsche Bank, Volkswagen and Lufthansa have also been included Samsung to your partners. Did Verimi get new impulses?
Samsung is a perfect partner for us, from which we receive many impulses from the global mobile world. Samsung shares our desire to promote the sovereignty of digital identity. Of course we are talking about many ideas on how the verified identity can be used on the smartphone.
Will smartphones be the central hardware for storing and verifying digital identities in the future?
The smartphone plays a central role in the use of digital identities. It is the “token” that almost all people always have with them and that has become indispensable for authentication. On which hardware the data is stored safely and in each case up-to-date, there are various solutions that complement each other perfectly. More importantly, the user can easily and intuitively retrieve all of their relevant verified identity data and use it on the addressee.
Are you also planning the integration of the new open authentication standard FIDO2, which also enables password-free logins?
Of course we'll take a look at that. The idea that the factor “knowledge” alone is unsafe for authentication is indeed behind the PSD2 regulation in the banking sector. A second factor for authentication is now required for banks, which we offer as a unified solution for the user across all bank accounts. And we want to offer our users many secure procedures for getting their verified identity from our partners. The trend towards passwordless procedures that guarantee appropriate security levels is clearly visible.
They said the digital identity market is emerging. Do you see yourself well positioned with your well-known partners?
Verimi was founded with the attitude of the shareholders that European digital identities must be managed in Europe. This attitude is important in order to develop the power to responsibly build the network of companies and users in the market. The shareholders cover a wide range of industries and bring in a high level of customer reach. Together with us, they invest a lot of energy in consistently getting Verimi involved in the user's use cases. This is very important for the success of Verimi.
Why do not you publish user numbers?
It is currently too early for that. Look, we're just getting started and something like Verimi has not existed before. It's about highly sensitive personal data in a unique security architecture, compliance with multiple regulations, and building a network of partners. User numbers increase with each new use case with partners. As soon as we reach a certain brand, we will certainly also publish user numbers.
When do you want to be profitable?
First, the focus is on building the platform. We are investing in the growth of the verified user base. This makes it attractive for many companies to work with us as a verification partner. User reach will be a critical success factor as international players enter this market, which will undoubtedly happen. We are well financed by the shareholders and in this race you need a long breath.
Which new services do you want to offer next to the electronic signature in the future?
We focus on our core verified identity, secure authentication and digital signature. Beyond today's applications, we see great potential in online payment, user-managed access solutions, enterprise IDs, e-health and e-education.
When online–You would then pay for a terrain that would pay paypal dominated.
For some partners, we will connect the verified identity of users with secure payment processing. But we are not a competitor to Paypal, identity management is always in the foreground with us.
Mr Adrian, thank you for the interview.
More: The digitization of administration in Germany needs user-friendly and secure technical solutions. NRW and Thuringia are now moving forward with pilot projects.