Both public and private sector enterprises will be able to tap into the existing government databases for flexible, more-secure authentication.

Cloud-based facial verification technology has been selected by Singapore for its National Digital Identity (NDI) program serving four million Singapore residents.

Unlike facial recognition technology, which matches a physical face seen in a crowd to specific images on a database, face verification is done with the knowledge and collaboration of the user. The implementation uses a facial biometric scan that is highly secure, yet effortless to use.

Basically, a camera on a mobile device, computer or kiosk illuminates each user’s face with a cryptographic sequence of colours for a few seconds. This confirms that a user is the right person (the rightful holder of their national identity number); a real person (not a photograph, mask or digital spoof); and requesting authentication at that very moment (and not a prepared deep fake or injected video).

The facial verification solution will augment and replace the current device-based security solution that uses SMS one-time passcodes. The new approach is expected to provide a secure, cloud-native solution that benefits citizens, businesses and government agencies in Singapore.

The face verification solution offers the following benefits:

  • Simple to use: A brief face biometric scan requires no effort from the user. As it compares the user’s physical face to the image held in the government biometric database, the user does not have to enrol in the program.
  • Increases accessibility: With this solution, even residents with limited mobility or other impediments can use online banking and other services.
  • Does not require a smart device: This promotes inclusivity to by extending the availability of the service to government agencies’ kiosks.
  • Includes the private sector: Businesses large and small will be able to grow their digital services without needing to build their own infrastructures and biometric database.
  • Encourages use of digital services: Increased uptake and use of online services across government and private businesses can help grow the digital economy.
  • Increases security: Passwords and other credentials stolen through phishing attacks will be useless with this national program.
  • Obviates the use of passwords: Reduces the need for password and reset administration.
  • Improves convenience: Millions of residents will can use their existing national identity data for this program.

The range of benefits in expanding the NDI via the SingPass Face Verification system is expected to encourage a greater uptake of digital services, one of the aims of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative.

According to Quek Sin Kwok, Senior Director of National Digital Identity, GovTech Singapore, SingPass enables citizens and permanent residents to transact seamlessly and securely with digital services in both the public and private sectors. The addition of biometrics face verification service will allow users to log in more conveniently to digital services, whilst providing an added layer of security for government agencies and businesses.

“SingPass Face Verification will help partners enhance their customer service journeys. We will continue to extend useful and trusted NDI services to more private sector organizations to accelerate digitalization and grow Singapore’s digital economy.”

The country has already been facilitating private sector organizations to leverage the government-built identity infrastructure for SingPass. Banks and other businesses, large and small, will be able to securely integrate with SingPass Face Verification to offer online customer authentication capabilities without the cost of building their own systems.

Tech suppliers weigh in

The biometric authentication technology comes from a firm called iProov, whose founder and CEO said: “This pioneering service enables citizens to live in a world of trust online. The people of Singapore can have even greater confidence in their safety, privacy and security on the internet. This marks a tipping point for facial verification. The technology has advanced so much in recent years that it can now provide the highest levels of reliable security for the authentication of a national digital identity program in Singapore. The rest of the world will study this innovation and draw conclusions from its success.”

Another company, Toppan Ecquaria, was involved in the cloud-based implementation. Its managing director, Dr Foong Wai Keong said: “Allowing businesses to tap into the government-built digital identity infrastructure significantly reduces time and costs. And doing so using facial verification and on the cloud—that is revolutionary.”