What you need to know
Tired of typing and trying to remember password after password?
Taiwanese start-up AirSig is here to change the way you log in to accounts and devices. With their pattern recognition technology, you can sign your name in the air with your phone instead of typing a password on-screen. You can also give simple commands, for example, writing the letter "c" to open the Clock app. The phone recognizes not only the "trail" of your signature but also your strength, speed and the angle you use, making it difficult for others to copy your signature. Not only does it make authentication convenient and fun, it also strengthens the security of your password. Pokai Chen, the CEO of AirSig, has plans to expand the technology to a range of other areas, including gaming and virtual reality (VR).
The News Lens International(TNLI): Can you briefly describe what the company does and how it makes money?
Pokai Chen: The company specializes in writing-authentication technology, which allows people to use their phones as pens; to write down your signature for authentication or identification instead of typing a pass word. The technology can also work on other devices if they have sensors embedded, such as a smart watch. We make money from licensing the software to vendors.
TNLI: Who is your target market?
Chen: Applications and businesses that require personal authentication or control, such as banking, privacy protection, commanding or gaming.
TNLI: Do you focus more on the local or the global market?
Chen: When we received our funding, we were estimated to be a very high-valued company and companies from around the world have contacted us. We believe that is because the world thinks our technology to be important, which is why we set our eyes on the global market. However, we have recently found the Taiwanese financial market very attractive with its proper regulation, appropriate scale, and the growing trend of fintech (financial technology). We felt comfortable with the market, so it became one of our main areas of focus as well.
TNLI: What is the current company status, including scale, employees, customer numbers, etc.?
Chen: We have 13 employees currently, and around 10 clients, including banks, mobile application companies and game companies.
TNLI: How did you come up with the idea for AirSig?
Chen: It was about five years ago. I was still a PhD student studying computer science, when smartphones became popular. Information security was my expertise during that time, and I wondered if I could use smartphones to solve information security issues. I noticed how smartphones are all embedded with a variety of sensors and I tried to find a way to utilize them on identification. I came up with the idea for the sensors to “sense” your signature to identify who you are and that was how the idea for AirSig started.
TNLI: What is the significance of AirSig technology and how does it change people’s daily life?
Chen: On high level applications, AirSig changes the way authentication and control works. People log in and take actions on a daily basis. Take online banking, for example. AirSig allows you to pay by a swing of your hands, instead of typing your passwords or typing your card info. More common applications such as privacy protection and simple commands (such as opening apps) are also ways the technology changes people’s daily mobile interactions.
TNLI: What have been the biggest challenges, both personally and professionally, of founding the company?
Chen: Personally, I found managing and keeping the team together the most challenging. People often have different views and feel differently about certain actions. It’s hard to keep everyone on the same page and when members become emotional during a discussion it sometimes brings negativity to the team. For the company, the most difficult part was to find a scenario where our technology is “absolutely required.” Why should companies choose us? What experience can we provide that makes it unforgettable? We are still searching and trying to create the perfect field for application, where the users consider our technology irreplaceable.
TNLI: What have been the biggest success stories to-date?
Chen: A bank has decided to pay for our service. It was quite significant for us because having a paying customer means our technology has certain value. Also, banks are known to be most demanding and critical, for security purposes; approval from them gives us better reference when promoting our service. We have won several awards and advanced in the final rounds in global competitions, and major companies such as Google, LG, and Huawei have contacted us and expressed their interests in us.
TNLI: What are the company's most exciting upcoming plans or products?
Chen: We are exploring the gaming market, specifically mobile app games, VR, and smartband, and have plans to collaborate. We believe we can bring gamers a unique experience through our technology. We also have plans with online payments, and can be used in many stores in Taiwan if all goes well.
TNLI: What does AirSig hope to achieve in the next five years?
Chen: Our plan is to keep providing the best user experience, a new interaction with smartphones and devices, and make it popular among people.
First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole