Or how we became an experience company
The idea for SEAMLESSme first came up in 2014, when the Hasso-Plattner Institute in Potsdam revealed the extent of password fraud. Five years later, in 2019, SEAMLESSme was ready to become neXenio's third product. Patrick Hennig, one of the founders of neXenio, sat down to tell the whole story.
In 2014, the service "Identity Leak Checker" was presented by the Hasso-Plattner-Institut in Potsdam. Based on almost 10 billion leaked identity records, users can check their email address to see if their login to an account has been compromised. With this huge set of passwords, Prof. Dr. Christoph Meinel's research group showed that almost 1 per mil of these identities used "123456" as their password.
Back then, Philipp Berger and I were working as research assistants in Prof. Meinel’s research group at HPI. Based on the findings on password security, we started looking into secure, but at the same time more convenient, alternatives to passwords. Together with Dr. Maxim Schnjakin, an HPI alumnus, and Bundesdruckerei, we initiated a bachelor project for our students to demonstrate the feasibility of wearables for authentication. Wearables offer two essential features that can be used for our mission:
- With the technical progress of smartphones, most of the wearables currently in use offer the sensor and Bluetooth technology that forms the backbone of our idea.
- Wearables, especially smartphones, have become one of the most important assets in people’s lifes.
The Bachelor project’s outcome paved the way for using sensor data from mobile devices for authentication of individuals. In the meantime, Philipp and I had founded neXenio. Our goal was – and still is – to enable the business world to benefit from cutting-edge research on data security, analysis, and virtual collaboration. That’s why we formed a special unit at neXenio to build a prototype capable of enhancing a smartphone with the intelligence to know if it‘s being used by the intended person. After mastering a number of complex technical challenges regarding security and communication protocols and after exchanging information with various potential customers, neXenio 2019 was able to deliver the first proof of value.
Challenges along the way
The main challenge was our own demand for data security and privacy: All sensor data remain on the device itself, which is why the technologies used have to operate with limited computing power and low battery consumption. This places very high demands on the algorithms that analyze and detect the movement of the human body.
In addition, various data transmission technologies and protocols had to be evaluated in order to provide a reliable and secure communication channel between smartphones and counterparts such as speed gates, doors or industrial machinery.
"WeQ is better than IQ" neXenio works under this maxim and builds through partnerships. For example, the cooperation with the group of Prof. Marian Magraf at Fraunhofer AISEC fosters the security of the Bluetooth connection as it requires new ideas to overcome the Bluetooth protocol limitations. Another partner is Prof. Roland Müller from HWR who established together with neXenio a research project to make the sensor analysis more reliable.
In order to be fully convenient, authentication needed to become something that happens in the background, without the user even noticing the actual process. Along with insights we gathered around communication protocols, SEAMLESSme became truly hands-free. The unit at neXenio learned quickly that this seamless technology, sending a signal anytime anywhere, can provide a whole new level of personalized user experience to our everyday life. When it comes to smart manufacturing, documentation can be done completely automatically. While traveling, check-ins at airports or hotels can work hands-free. Or imagine a café that starts preparing your favorite coffee as soon as you enter the shop.
That's where we learned that a key benefit of our solution is that it creates an exceptional user experience. Initially, we concentrated entirely on security. Due to our research background, the steps our technology had to go through were guided by security and privacy needs. And of course, this is still the foundation of our technology. But now that we've achieved these objectives, we can focus on creating the best user experience. With the technical platform we’ve built, security and user experience can work hand in hand naturally.
It’s our goal to create a secure and convenient way to identify users. Wherever they need to authenticate themselves. 2020 will be the year where we enter the market with our first use case – access control. We start at the entrance, where employees, guests and visitors feel a border every day - while you actually want them to feel welcome.