Innovative Biometrics with Maxine Most of Acuity Market Intelligence

Steve interviews Maxine Most of Acuity Market Intelligence

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In this episode, I speak with Maxine Most, Founder, Principal Analyst, & Chief Strategist of Acuity Market Intelligence.

Maxine is a thought leader and market visionary in the field of biometrics. We discuss her company's origin story, the evolution of the biometrics market, and how her new initiative, The Prism Project, is helping solution providers accelerate the mainstream adoption of enterprise-scale, biometric-centric digital identity technology.


Connecting with Maxine Most

Maxine Most’s LinkedIn:

Acuity Market Intelligence:

Companies & Resources Discussed

Acuity Market Intelligence helps technology companies thrive, transforming tech innovators into market leaders, and market leaders into business legends.

Amadeus is building a connected, sustainable and traveler-centric ecosystem. It acquired Vision-Box, a leading provider of biometrics solutions for airports, airlines, and border control, in January 2024.

Find Biometrics is an industry resource for all information on biometric identification and identity verification systems and solutions.

The IDV Market Rogue Wave (Referenced as ‘The Rogue Wave’ in the podcast) is a blog post by Maxine Most, dated November, 17, 2021.

Jay Meier the PKI Fallacy - A FaceTec YouTube presentation in which Jay Meier was keynote speaker 

ROC Curves is a graph showing the performance of a classification model at all classification thresholds.

Delta’s Sky Priority program provides faster check-in and accelerated security processing. 

Whole Foods palm recognition is a plan to deploy palm recognition technology at 500 stores, announced in July of 2023.

Identity Theft Resource Center is a non-profit organization established to minimize risk and mitigate the impact of identity compromise.

Gartner is an American technological research and consulting firm based in Stamford, Connecticut, that conducts research on technology and shares this research both through private consulting as well as executive programs and conferences.

The Prism Project  is a new paradigm for understanding the emerging digital identity ecosystem. Peter Counter is the former editor in chief for Find Biometrics and a collaborator on The Prism Project.

Capgemini is a leading strategic partner to companies around the world, we have leveraged technology to enable business transformation for more than 50 years.

McKinsey is a global consulting firm partner with clients to help its clients innovate more sustainably, achieve lasting gains in performance, and build workforces that will thrive for this generation and the next.

Wicket, a facial authentication platform, is a privacy-first solution that enables sensational event experiences for fans, guests, and employees with frictionless touchpoints that delight users and strengthen security for sports and credentialed venues.


Steve Craig: Welcome to the PEAK IDV EXECUTIVE SERIES video podcast, where I speak with executives, leaders, founders, and change makers in the digital identity space. I'm your host, Steve Craig, Founder and Chief Enablement Officer of PEAK IDV. For our audience, this is a video first series, so if you're enjoying this video version, please check out the full recording on, where you can read the transcript and access any of the resources or links discussed in today's conversation. In this week's episode, I'm really excited to speak with Maxine Most, Principal Analyst, Chief Strategist, and the driving force behind Acuity Market Intelligence. Acuity offers intelligent strategy and marketing for innovative technology companies.

Her firm empowers emerging technology companies, especially in biometrics and digital identity to make market informed strategic and tactical decisions. Maxine's 30-plus year career spans software engineering, marketing, business development, strategy, consulting, and thought leadership. I've personally been following Maxine's thought leadership for almost my entire time in identity.

Welcome Maxine. Thank you for being on the podcast. 

Maxine Most: Thanks for having me. I'm really excited to be here and have this conversation today. 

Steve: Excellent. Well, let's dive right in and get started. Can you share more about Acuity Market Intelligence? 

Maxine: So Acuity Market Intelligence was founded in [2001] and I had sort of taken a break from the tech sector. I traveled around the world for a year. I went, worked at a resort and I spent my 40th birthday in Mexico and flew home on September 9, and woke up late, or sorry, September 10 and woke up late the morning of September 11 to an unbelievable catastrophe. I, you know, again, I had taken this time off. I didn't really know what I was going to do.

And I, you know, when I kind of got over absorbing what had happened. I started looking around for my next opportunity, and I thought, you know, I've been in tech for years. I came out of Silicon Valley, and I thought, you know, emerging technology is going to play a really critical role in this country as we recover from this incredible tragedy. And there's going to be a lot of investment in security. And I looked around, and I discovered the biometrics marketplace. And I thought, wow, this is really interesting because I had come out of the computer graphics marketplace. And so because biometrics was a visual based or an image based technology, I found some real synergy there.

And so I basically printed some business cards, created a one pager and got myself into a conference that was happening over Halloween and drove to Vegas, road trip to Vegas from Colorado to show up at this conference. And I sat and I listened and I was like, fascinated. And the question that kept arising from people was: “When is this market going to take off? “When is this market going to take off?” And I thought to myself from my years of emerging technology development in Silicon Valley. Markets don't take off. You have to make them. And I stood up and said that, and everyone looked, turned around, I was sitting in the back of the room and looked at me and said, who is this woman? Where did she come from? And what is she talking about? And that's kind of how I launched my- my-entree into this business. And I basically came up with the name Acuity Market Intelligence on the way home in the car. 

Steve: Yeah, that's an amazing origin story. And I think back to, I'm old enough to have experienced the time around 9/11 and travel before 9/11. And it was a big shift. I remember you could go right up to the gate. You didn't need security. You could say goodbye to your family members, right as they went down the jet way. And then after that event it was like, hmm, we probably need to be a lot more structured in how we protect people in the air. So it's safe to say, you know, post 9/11, you've been covering the industry for more than two- two-decades. It's taken a long time for momentum to pick up. We saw the Real ID Act come out of the events of September 11 as well. How have you seen it change over the last 20, almost 30 years? 

Maxine: Yeah, it's- it's-the longest thing I've done in my life, this- this-industry. In fact, I became a mother very late in life at the age of 44, and after I was in the industry. So even, even being in the biometrics industry predates my being a mom and that's, you know, probably the biggest commitment of my life, but this is the longest one. So I think what's happened, interestingly, is there have been sort of peaks and valleys, there have been some, some places where we really started to get momentum and then it kind of backed off. One of the most significant events, I mean, 9/11 was definitely significant and that has driven an entire industry around border control and passenger facilitation. And we've had some really interesting news lately in that area with a company called Amadeus buying a company called Vision Box. But, you know, that's kind of been on a consistent, growth path, you know, and that has been since 9/11 and it's had some- some-fits and starts, but the other really critical event, I think, was the introduction of the iPhone and that was the first time I saw an iPhone. It was 2007, I was flying actually to London for a biometrics conference and somebody on the plane had one, this was short - it was October - it was shortly after the, or maybe December, was shortly after the announcement in May, I hadn't really seen one of these things. And I looked at this I looked at it and I said, oh my god I have to have one and the reason why I said that is because my flip phone had all the same functionality. I just wasn't using it because it was too hard to get to. And that's the thing that Apple has always done over and over and over again. They have taken technology that they may or may not have invented, created capabilities or used capabilities that other companies invented, but made it easier. Right? They made it accessible. They made it user friendly. And so when I looked at that iPhone, I have slides that go back to 2007 that show like a little stick figure holding up an iPhone with connections to all kinds of different services and saying, this is going to be your personal authentication device. And people laughed at me.

Steve: Well, they're not laughing at that scene 

Maxine: Yeah, nobody’s laughing now. And then, then it did really interesting in 2000 - 2013, I guess, when the iPhone 5S came out, Find Biometrics and Acuity collaborated to create a- a-kind of executive summit in September of 2013 called… around mobile biometrics, right? It was all about biometrics and mobility the weekend before our event, Apple very kindly announced the 5s, which was the first, mobile phone with a fingerprint sensor. So we were like, right on the money. And so that was another huge event. And so that really changed the dynamics. And then I would say, like, the next, you know, the other, the next sort of big- big-event in terms of, like, thrusting our industry into the forefront, because what happened with Apple putting that on the phone and then everyone else putting, you know, biometrics on phones. And for a while, I was like, tracking the phones that had it because there were so few of them. And then eventually I gave up because like, it was just every phone had it. So that wasn't really worth tracking anymore. But, so that really made change biometrics from being creepy to cool. That's kind of what Apple did, and then spread everywhere.

And then the next big thread is really what happened with COVID where. You know, we've begun to have this universal platform, consumer platform for biometrics, which was everybody's phone. And then all of a sudden, you know, COVID happened, and it was this huge black swan that no one could have predicted, and- and-everybody needed remote onboarding and authentication. And so we had this huge explosion, in 2020 and 2021.  

Steve: Can we talk about that time period because I- I-was really enjoying your- your-coverage of the excitement in the biometrics and identity space? And it seemed like every week you were updating, it was a diagram that had new funding, new announcements new formation. How was that time period? And then, like, how do we look today, in post pandemic world in 2024?

Maxine: So what's really interesting is, you know, what we saw was this incredible infusion of cash. Because everybody understood that, wow, that the world had just changed overnight and here was this problem and no one really knew how long it was going to last. And so we saw massive infusions of cash. It was great. I had these charts and then I kind of made little videos and you could see the numbers going up, and it was really exciting. And we saw billions of dollars invested into the industry. And then late in 2021, I believe it was, I wrote a piece called “The Rogue Wave” and what I said was, you know, what we saw was this black swan event where we had massive investment in the marketplace. And so we had this phenomenon, which I like to call ‘two guys in an app’. I should say ‘two engineers in an app.’ So I'm not being gender biased where, like, everybody and their brother was like, oh, yeah, we can do this. Right? Because, developing facial algorithms by that point had become relatively easy. You know, we, as an industry, we spent years and years and years and years figuring out how to do this. And then it kind of got to the point where, oh, if you have some decent engineers, you can build a facial recognition and so there were companies sprouting up everywhere and anybody, you know, at any ‘two engineers in an app’ could get somebody to fund them. And so what I said was, we had this sort of unnatural phenomenon, which- which-I characterize as a rogue wave.

So anybody playing in the space was getting lifted up. It didn't matter what they were doing. It didn't matter how good they were. Everybody thought they were brilliant and they had fantastic strategies because they were growing like crazy and that they had all this investor interest and the world was their oyster. And, you know, I said, what's going to happen is that the wave is going to crash eventually. And there's really a funny, kind of, piece on my website. A blog post that I wrote, I think it's on LinkedIn too, where I use a lot of really interesting metaphors about the wave crashing, but, and I said, what's going to happen when that wave crashes is that all these guys, you know, these companies that really thought they were brilliant, but were really only rising because they were sitting on top of this wave, were going to crash and be destroyed.

And we've started to see some of that. We've also started to see a lot of mergers and acquisitions. And so what we have is an industry in a way that's facing maturity where we have, we're starting to think about regulations and privacy rules and standards and testing bodies and all these things that grown up technology markets need. As I- as I-just wrote recently, like you don't plug a lamp into the wall unless it's been tested, right? Like we have to figure out ways to make this work. And I think the industry is really embracing that now, but there are going to be a lot of companies that, you know, there's really no there there. And so I think we're going to start to see that some of these may be gobbled up because they have a piece of technology that's good, but I think right now we have so many players in the space and we're going to start to see a lot of consolidation. Which is a good thing. 

Steve: Your analogy of a rogue wave, as you were describing that, I think I remember when you published that, think about like a tsunami, like right before a tsunami, the- the-water goes out and it reveals all of the treasures of the ocean floor and people run for it. It's like, wait a second, the rogue wave, the tsunami waves coming, [Maxine: Boom] you need to be positioned to ride that. Otherwise you, you will, unfortunately, get destroyed it in some scenarios. Where are you seeing now in, coming out 2023 and 2024? Investments in use cases and the types of projects, because that was all about transformation rapidly. Where now that it's maybe settled, maybe it's not settled, but it's- it's-less, turbulent where- where-do you think people are investing now? 

Maxine: What's interesting to me now is there's a couple of dynamics. One is, as I said, like we're starting to see, and I think this is also really critical that mainstream enterprises are saying, okay, we get it, we have to use this technology now. So I have a tier one bank client. You know, one of the things that I'm seeing in that relationship, and this is being validated by a lot of the vendors I'm talking to in the industry, is that particularly if you're thinking about financial services, for example, right? The people who understand risk and deal with risk have understood biometrics forever, because it's a threshold based technology and they're used to that, right? They're used to not having precision. They're used to looking at a lot of different signals and trying to figure out what the heck's going on. The pushback has been sort of in the IT security space and the cyber security space. And what I, this is like something new, that I just started talking about and I actually stole, part of the notion from a friend of mine, Jay Mayer, who's been talking about the PKI fallacy for years and years. And I- I-call it the ‘zero one fallacy’, right? We have people in cybersecurity and it security that were addicted to the zero one fallacy because they grew up in a world where either something matched or it didn't match. And it was really easy. If it didn't match, it didn't match. Like it wasn't the right password. It wasn't the right code. Great, we don't have to let you in. And they- they-for the first time now, what we're seeing is those organizations within these larger enterprise infrastructures are beginning to understand, wait, this threshold based biometric stuff, which we hate because it doesn't fit into our view of the world, which is it has to be an exact match or it doesn't, we're going to have to adopt this technology because guess what our zero one technology, our passwords, our tokens, our- our-SMS, you know, what I call passwords and all their spawn aren't working. They're failing. If you look at the numbers that are coming out on the- on the-increased level of fraud and identity theft, it is through the roof, right? So the system we have is not working. And so what's happened now is people are like, okay, we actually have to figure out how to use this technology because really, the problem that we have is not like, is it a 0 or is it a 1? It's an exact match or not. It's who is this person and what are they trying to do? Do they have the right to do it? And so the only way to connect human beings. Actual human actors with digital data is biometrics. There's just no other way. So we have to figure out how to use this technology, how to apply it, how to make it work, how to have it operate correctly, technologically, and in terms of privacy frameworks and data protection and all of those things.

So- so-we now have this shift in the enterprise where its people and cybersecurity people are saying, okay. I get it. We have to use this stuff. And that's- that-is a huge shift. And that is going to change the dynamics going forward. 

Steve: I've seen that shift. And sometimes it's the thinking around that- that-result being deterministic, right? The 1 or the 0, does the password match or doesn't? Is this device the right device or not? But a lot of the AI-based companies and a lot of biometrics ends up being probabilistic, right? There are all ROC curves and their operating points and all of that, which brings me to another thought I had when I look at the landscape. A lot of the companies that emerged during the pandemic, some of them have gone on to get beyond seed into series A. They're trucking along, but it's hard as a buyer or practitioner to know the difference of these companies, and a lot of them use the same jargon and language. And one of the things I know you do with Acuity is you wear, of course, many hats. You act as a fractional CMO at times for these early stage companies. What advice do you give them, or for the podcast audience, on differentiating in the market and how to create awareness for the company? Or, any insights you can share on that. 

Maxine: That's a great question. I love that question. I'm, you know, it's so funny, I- I-one of the things that is just sort of mind numbing for me, particularly from startup companies, right, is when you see in their -  on their - websites and their marketing material when they're talking in public: “Oh, you know, we're the best. We do this better than anybody else. We've figured out how to solve this problem that no one else has ever solved.” Right? “We are, our, our performance is better than anybody else's are...” You know, they- they- they-hold themselves up to these impossible standards because they think that's what it is. That's what's going to help them sell. And the truth is, what I always say, don't say anything to the world or your customers that somebody can prove is wrong. Because as soon as you do that, you've lost credibility with your audience. Right? To me, when I think about what- what-works particularly in emerging technology markets, and that's where I've spent my professional career, is you have to really get inside the heads of the end users. And when you're a small company, you need to do that in a very narrow way. When I see companies, you say, “Oh, we, we're, we're providing solutions for financial services and for government and for health care and for transportation.” I'm like, you're 6 people. How are you doing that? Right? So, to me, what's really important is to is to narrow it down, narrow it down into vertical markets, narrow it down into market sector, narrow it down into a problem that- that-you can really get into the heads of your end users around and understand how they see it and talk to them about solving that problem because that is something that you can actually do, you can say, you know, we have, we've devoted our expertise into focusing on this particular issue. And we understand these are the three things that really matter. And we have, we've figured out a way to solve that problem for you, right? Like that, that is something that first of all is believable. second of all is doable. And third of all allows you to focus because I think one of the biggest issues, and this is, you know, when I've acted, been an acting CMO with companies or provided strategic advice, you know, there's this weird sense that, you know, we can't mess up on any opportunities. And what happens is you have a small organization that's being pulled in 16 different directions. The truth is, if you want to be effective, and if you want to be successful, and if you want to rapidly increase your revenue, you do that by focusing on a limited number of opportunities and not getting, you know, drawn- drawn-into quote big potential opportunities because they look like really shiny objects. It's shiny object syndrome, right? You've got to be clear and sometimes you're going to be clear on a path and then something's going to shift in the market or on the user base or whatever and you're going to have to change that direction, but you have to do that thoughtfully. You can't just let yourself be pulled in 16 different directions because somebody came up to you with some really interesting idea that you think intellectually, wow, it'd be really fun to solve, without understanding whether or not there's- there's-an opportunity for that. Yeah. Unless of course you have access to unlimited funds and you're just playing around and you're, you know, you're trying to satisfy your intellectual curiosity, then, then, okay, fine. 

Steve: Got an unlimited money hack and you're able to produce lots of money, that's- that's-great. [Maxine: Right] I had a guest in the last season of the podcast who mentioned a lot of startups aren't failing because of starvation that they fail because of indigestion. They take on too much. They're so much at [Maxine: That’s it] the buffet of opportunities that they want to do it all, of course, but you really need to be focused on that. And as you're talking through the- the-thought around the end user, I've had a lot of scenarios where I explain to an end user IDV technology and the use case I provide is, well, think about the extremes. Like if you're going to a bar, you might have a bouncer that checks your ID real quick. And then, okay, you're good to pass through. Probably not a high level of scrutiny there versus you go through the TSA and this is a high-risk scenario. They're going to apply more scrutiny to that. And I love that you focused a lot on that, on use cases in your work, and you focus a lot specifically on the use case within the airport environment and border control, [Maxine: Yeah] passenger facilitation, because most of us experienced that firsthand. As we go through that, we all get frustrated sometimes if we're running late, but then we do realize this is all about safety.

How do you think the balance between security and convenience and safety? And then wearing the end user lens, how do we balance that going forward in the industry? 

Maxine: Well, I think one of the things that really has to happen and you know, we've seen this over the years is there, you know, a lot of the security measures that get put in place don't actually work. And that really makes people upset if you're putting people through this whole rigmarole and then we find out that people, you know, that people are getting guns through or that, you know, all kinds of stuff is happening that shouldn't be happening. So that, but that's a whole other conversation. But, you know, there has been this through line again, because I got into the industry after 9/11 in terms of air travel and what started out as border control, right? Which was, you know, we have to scrutinize these people and we have to push them through a choke point and we can't all spend seven hours in line at the airport. Like, how do we, how do we manage border control? Because that's really the biggest issue, particularly internationally. It's funny, in the United States, we think about airports, and India is in the same situation, China to some extent, to some extent to our airports tend to be, you know, a lot of domestic travel. You know, if you go to Europe, airports aren't for domestic travel, they're for international travel. Every airport's an international airport, right? We kind of have a weird, this weird hybrid in the United States. And that's, you know, part of the whole issue with TSA. But- but-what's happened is it started out with border control, right? And then it was like, okay, how do we actually facilitate passengers through the airport, like, how do we do this in a way that is more convenient that does provide more security and that people are happier with right? And the airports are happier with because then they get people to a place in the airport where they're spending money, you know, instead of spending an hour and a half in line, you're spending 10 minutes in line and then you have an hour and 20 minutes to go buy stuff, right? Which helps the airport. So, you know, and also makes for a more pleasant experience, obviously.

So, yeah, I, you know, got into this after 9/11 because of border control. And, you know, again, I had, you know, I was very- very-ambitious, let's say, in my projections about how fast I thought that was going to get adopted. And it's kind of been a slow roll. It hasn't really been, like, we haven't seen the typical hockey stick. It's been much more of a continual growth in the industry and what's happened in the last few years is it really has shifted much more to passenger facilitation and Acuity has tracked this market, for years and we have deployment lists in terms of, you know, where people are using border control and passenger facilitation, that sort of thing.

I think what we're going to see more and more of, and we're starting to see this now, is that the journey actually starting on your couch at home with your phone. And we're seeing that more and more where people can actually enroll, put their travel documents in, like start that journey where you, you know, get all that stuff done upfront and then you can get to the airport and then you can be validated, right? The thing about traveling, which is different than a lot of other types of things that we do, right? For example, accessing our bank accounts is when you, when you buy a ticket on a flight, then, it's clear where you're going to be, when you're going to be there, how long, you know, what days you're going to be there. This is not data that has to sit there forever, right? They can, you can load that data up in your mobile phone and go. Okay, on Tuesday, Maxine's flying from Denver to London. And so, you know, we need to understand, you know, that she's going to move to the airport - okay, fine. We can have her picture on available from her passport, which, you know, we have, which she's just loaded up or which we have access to through the Department of State. And we can download that image for some period of time so that she can move to the airport, right? Without having to do all this other like, okay, check my documents and scan this. And what we're seeing is this movement from kind of moving away from- from-what was really face and finger or iris, plus a travel credential to like, yeah, let me just enroll on my mobile phone at home with my face. And then we'll do all that matching in the background. And then when you show up at the airport, you can just kind of walk through these spaces, right? This is, that's where we're going and I think it's really interesting. Like Delta, for example, has pushed this in domestic flights, where you can get through the TSA checkpoint and board your flight without having to produce a document. Because the back, the checks already been done in the background, right? And that's really, that's the kind of thing that speeds up the process that people are happy about. And there, you know, there are concerns about privacy concerns and data concerns and all the rest of that. And those are genuine and real. But as I said, when I, back to that first conference I attended in, on, Halloween, in 2001, I said, you know, give someone 3,000 frequent flyer miles, and they'll tell you anything right. If people can get through the airport quicker, like, you know, the threshold of where their privacy concerns - are - tends to dissipate really, really quickly when it's like, okay, can I get to the airport in 20 minutes instead of two and a half hours?

Steve: Well, I want to go a little bit deeper on privacy concerns. When I think about progress in the market, I- I-think about end user adoption, right? These technologies get used by people. One of the, call it headwinds, I've seen is just this worry about facial biometrics and surveillance and databases and how that can be used. I often see articles in the press that are written about, you know, anytime someone's using biometrics that it's all about facial recognition and they're just tracking people. But a lot of what we do in this industry is more around like the face verification. And it's- it's-an active process with the user. Can- can-you talk through those differences? And is that a common occurrence for you? 

Maxine: Yeah, there's a- there's a-huge difference between surveillance, like you said, and active engagement in choosing to use biometrics to facilitate a process, right? And, you know, these are not, they're not, it'd be really nice if it was just like these two things and they were just on opposite sides of the world and there was nothing in between, but there's those two extremes. And then there's everything in between. And there is surveillance. There are surveillance technologies, that are being used. I mean, go- go-to London. Like, forget biometrics, your face is everywhere, like, this, you know, people are being surveilled and that is, that's a big issue as a, as different societies that we have to address and how we manage that and- and-what that means and how we use the technology. You know, for example, there have been a number of sort of prominent cases of facial recognition being used in law enforcement settings where they're misidentifying people, right? There's a whole range of issues around that. You know, you shouldn't be relying on facial recognition alone to identify somebody. You might use facial recognition to give you some hits to see, oh, maybe this person is a match, right? But you should never be using the technology alone in that kind of situation without human intervention. And that's more policy than it is technology. And that's, I think, part of what happens is there's the technology and there's the policy, but, for example, as I was saying with the airport scenarios, right? Like, generally, what happens is if you've signed up for one of these services, or you've, you know, you've decided to participate, or in some cases, you know, you may not decide to participate because, for example, with the biometric exit programs in the United States, where they are checking people's biometrics, when they're leaving the country, it's particularly for nationals, but it's everybody. Now, if you are on that flight and you have a passport registered, your face is going to get downloaded into a file that's going to sit at the gate of that flight with pictures on it and you may choose not to go through the biometric verification, but your picture is still sitting in that gallery. Now, the trick is, there's no other personal data, they just download the gallery. You're either in or you're out, right? I think people think every time this is used, there's all this other PII involved. And so it's really important to- to-first of all, for the- for the-whether it's government or businesses using this technology to be very clear about what they're doing and how it's being used and what your rights are, right? This is really, really important and that, you know, in general, there's a big difference between, okay, I have this gallery of 300 people that are going to get on this airplane that is going to exist for a period of time, and then it's going to disappear because it's not useful after that. Versus, you know, I'm running surveillance 24/7 and capturing pictures of every single person and doing something with it. Right? So there are big differences. There's legal and policy issues, and there's also really an onus on the industry to clearly educate and articulate what these different cases are, these use cases are, and what, how the technology is used and what the concerns should be. 

Steve: It's fascinating. I often think about the, the science fiction movies, and one of them, the Minority Report, the Tom Cruise character, he's walking through a mall and he's just getting all these ads and it knows him, there's recognition, and it feels like there's so much potential with today's tech to have those experiences come alive. And I don't think people necessarily want that to happen. You know, when you walk into a store and they have cameras it'll be interesting how that data is getting used. You don't know, you sort of are consenting as you walk in- in-a way, but you're not signing anything and they're using these technologies. 

Maxine: People want to have some kind of control. Like for example, I, I have to say I was highly skeptical of Whole Foods deployment of their palm recognition payment scheme. I was like, hey, you know, I love it - I love it. I walk into Whole Foods, I stick my hand up and I go like, I love it. It's so awesome and people are like, “Oh, I'm really worried about it.” Like, “I don't know what they're going to do with that.” What do they think? Amazon already knows everything about me, right? Because I buy so much stuff. Like, if you think the problem is your palm at the store, no, the problem is all the data they have on you because you buy so much stuff from Amazon, right? Like, in some ways, it's misplaced, right? And another way, like, the other thing too that's really interesting about this is like, okay, get it with your palm because that's not something that you go around sharing with the world. Your face is not private information. It's personal information, but it's not private information. And in many ways, the cat's already out of the bag. And so the question is, how do we actually roll this back? Like, for example, the level of identity theft and the impact that that is having on consumers is frightening. Like, people's lives are being ruined. I, there was, I think the new report from the, Identity Theft Resource Center says like 16% of people that have been victims of identity theft consider suicide. Right? This is, it's terrible. Right? So, ask those people if they had an option for biometric verification that would have prevented some fraudsters for emptying their bank account or selling their house or, or, you know, racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars on their credit cards. If they would have liked to have put that safeguard into place, I would say, oh, yes, they would. Right? So this is the problem. And it's funny because, you know, there's been a lot of talk recently about how well the biometrics technology can work. In fact, Gartner just published something that like, you know, 30% of enterprises are not going to trust IDV by 2026 or something. And I'm like, okay, that's just like clickbait. The reality is that the technology that we're using, the zero one fallacy, right - it doesn't work. It's not working. It's failing. We have to find something else, right? And if we don't find something else, we are setting people up for personal tragedy for business collapse for, you know, look, we just heard about the $20, $25 million that was just you know, fraudsters basically found their way to get $25 million from a- from a-company. I think it was in Japan because they sent a, they used a deep fake to get some poor employee to transfer money. I mean, like that is happening every day. The world that we're living in, the systems that we have to protect ourselves as we interact in a world that is becoming increasingly digital, don't work. And, yes, we have to worry about privacy and surveillance and all these other issues. But again, a lot of that is policy, not technology. So we- we-have a lot of work to do, but I believe that the only way we can go forward, the only way you can connect a human being to their digital data, their digital identity, is through biometrics. And if you don't have that connection, then you just have a bunch of digital data and anybody can access it. 

Steve: Well, it's- it's-really good that you're willing to admit when a prediction is off. So you just mentioned with the Whole Foods palm, you weren't very bullish on it, but, but now you love it. I love that you publish and you keep them out there, your predictions, your reports, your research. You can go back to 2007, maybe even earlier on the things that are out there. Where have you been just spot on? And where have you had other missed forecasts? In the time that you've been working?

Maxine: Spot on was on the mobility stuff, absolutely. I was first out the door on that stuff. And actually in 2011, I basically said that Apple, I was at a conference talking about the future of biometrics, and I was saying the future of biometrics was mobility. And somebody in the audience said, “Oh my God, this stuff's never going to be on mobile phones.” I said, not only is it going to be on mobile phones, I'll tell you, who's going to figure out how to solve the problem, it's going to be Apple. And, and people are like, what are you talking about? I'm like, as we talked about earlier in this conversation, Apple is really, really good at sorting out how to make technology usable. And this was in the early 2011, and later that year, Apple bought one of the leading chip manufacturers, fingerprint sensor manufacturers, I should say, in the industry. And that was the beginning of integrating fingerprints into mobile phones. So I was like way ahead of the curve on that. I think in one of the big- the big-predictions I started made early on in the market, and as you said, if you're interested, you can go to my website and you can, the reports that I wrote in 2007 that cost a lot of money are now free. You can go read them, you can go look back at all the press releases I ever put out all the numbers, you know, I'm totally transparent. I really believe that the shift from government domination of this market to commercial domination of this market was going to happen much, much earlier than it did. I was predicting that, like, in by the mid-2000s, and that is just taken much, much longer than anticipated.

Steve: Well, on the topic of predictions, you recently wrote your 2024 predictions and there was a section [Maxine: Yeah] that I enjoyed around this digital identity space is not being an either-or problem. It's a both and solution. You highlighted some purist models that are out there. Single use versus reusable, centralization versus decentralization, anonymity versus the privacy controls. What's your perspective on letting go of that deterministic, it's a one or a zero world on some of these concepts? 

Maxine: I'm a both-and person. Maybe it's because I'm in my 60s now, you know, and I've been around a long time, but it is not an either-or. When you, when people get dogmatic, this is the only way we're going to solve this problem. It's like, no, that's not how problems get solved. And generally the way there's always tension between different ways of solving problems. I mean, look, you know, when blockchain first came out, it was like, oh, yeah, blockchain is going to solve every problem in the world, right? Blockchain is useful technology, but it doesn't solve everything. And so I think we need to stop thinking about it's either totally centralized or totally decentralized. It's either, oh, single use or reusable. Like these things, we're going to build an ecosystem and the ecosystem is going to rely on different models that are appropriate in different circumstances. And that's what we have to start thinking about is how do we connect the dots? How do we build collectively build an ecosystem that is going to secure our identities? That is going to allow us to have a certain amount of control over our digital assets, whether that's our voice or face or our bank accounts or our, our personal other person - personally identifiable information. Right? We need to think in a larger way about how do we connect these models? Not this is the model we're all going to go all in on this model. And this is the only way it's going to work. Right? How do you build the alliances, the partnerships, the relationships to build an ecosystem where, depending on the solution you're trying to solve, the tools are in place. So you can solve that solution 

Steve: On the topic of both-and solutions. This is a great segue into one of your other projects. The Prism Project. Can you share more about what that is and its purpose?

Maxine: Yeah, I am so excited about The Prism Project. I, you know, I've been in this industry for a long time and there have been a number of times that I've been ready to sort of like, okay, I'm done. Like, I've been, I've been doing this for so long, I'm going to go find something else. I am so excited about The Prism Project. It is a- it's a-model that I developed with a guy named Peter Counter who was at the time was the editor in chief at Find Biometrics. He's now still with Find Biometrics, but he's moving on to do some other things. So, he's still engaged, but not sort of in the front, in the, you know, on the front end of things, you know, he's a super smart guy and multidimensional and pursuing a lot of different things. So, and we came up with this idea of creating a framework to understand digital identity, from a biometric centric perspective. There are lots of models out there for digital identity, but there are a lot of, but, but they're not biometric centric. And this goes back to the point I made earlier, which is I don't believe you can actually have digital identity without biometrics. Now I'm biased, I've been in this industry for 20 something years, but biometrics the, the definition of biometrics is literally how you take a human being and translate a human being into some digital form like that's literally what it is, right? It's a digital representation of some aspect of- of-a human being. So we came up with this model, which is biometric centric, and we're looking at the different components of what it's going to take. And this goes back to what I was just talking about. How do you build an ecosystem? How do you build a digital identity ecosystem, which has to have biometrics at the core? It can't just be something you hang on afterwards, right? You can't have this whole ecosystem and go, yeah, well, we'll just onboard you with biometrics, or we'll just, we'll just verify you on your phone on biometrics, right? It has to be part, it has to be built into the way we think about solving the digital identity problem. So we built this Prism model and people went nuts. Like it- it-has been the most viral content in my 20 years in this industry. We had 40 or 50,000 impressions on this thing within a few weeks, it was crazy.

And so we ended up creating this report and basically building The Prism Project around this PRISM model. And the intention of The Prism Project is really to, kind of, in peers, would shine a light on the evolution of digital identity and how critical biometrics is to digital identity. And so we have, we created this, this report where we're highlighting. We, you know, we- we- we-located vendors in the Prism, and then we created a report to highlight those that were interested in being highlighted. And so we have these really interesting profiles on companies that are doing super. innovative and interesting things in the marketplace and basically helping build this ecosystem. And the, you know, the, the folks in the industry love it because biometrics is always like a bastard child or an afterthought. And here we've built a model where we're saying, no, it's kind of the center of the universe. And, you know, there's a- there's a-website it's called, which you can go take a look at, and it's just, it's just been super interesting. And this year we're expanding it. We're going to do vertically focused reports where we essentially, and I talked about this earlier, what vendors need to do. We're going to contextualize what's happening in key verticals. We're looking at government services, financial services, and travel and hospitality. What's driving those industries? What are the key concerns that folks operating in those industries have? How is digital transformation impacting them? And then we're going to use that as a starting point and say, okay, this is what's happening. We understand this is what's happening. This is what's driving your industry. Right? And we're looking at like, you know, some of the big names, Capgemini, McKinsey, the companies that invest a ton of time and money and energy and really understanding what the trends and dynamics are in these industries, and then we're going to say, okay, here's how digital identity, biometric centric digital identity can actually help you solve those problems. Right? And then we're going to say, okay, and here's some use cases that are by vendors are actually happening now. Like this is not a pipe dream, right? These big problems that you're trying to solve, they can be solved with this technology. And here's how it's being done. So it's to me, it's really exciting because it's bridging that gap. It's moving the market from this sort of like, okay, we're developing technology and we're doing some really kind of interesting leading edge things too. We are now a mainstream grown up marketplace, or industry, I should say. And so we now have to reach out to the marketplace and say, look, we understand what you're trying to achieve and here's how our technology can help you solve their problems. Exactly what I was talking about earlier. 

Steve: It's phenomenal. And I've been tracking this work as you've been rolling it out. I find it to be very well thought out. And even the categories, how you think through the different companies, you have Pulsars, Catalysts, Luminaries. [Maxine: Yeah] Can you talk through just briefly about each of those what it means to be in each of those categories?

Maxine: Peter Counter, who's a word meister, or master. So we have three, we have the beam… we have an image of, you know, we're using this, this metaphor driving crazy. The Prism is basically made up of nine, well, actually, I think it's eight beams. And then we have the- the- the-center of the- the-prism, which is what we call the big three, which are kind of the big three identity players. But so we have these different beams and within each beam, we have three different levels. As you said, Pulsars, Catalysts and Luminaries.  And Pulsars are basically either like, kind of upstart companies that are getting into the business that are doing something new or sort of, like legacy vendors that are kind of pivoting now that the market is changing and moving in the direction of- of-this sort of new way of thinking about identity.

Then we have the Catalysts, which are really kind of the established, disruptors and innovators, and some of the more established companies that are kind of right in the thick of this that are like, that are doing really interesting things that are- that are-proficient in a whole series of metrics that we've established and that are really moving the industry forward.

And then there are the Luminaries. And the Luminaries are really the folks that have done something truly innovative that have established themselves through certain, you know, either achieving certain revenue or growth rates, have established significant enterprise customers and are kind of leading the market.

And in many, you know, these are- these are-companies that are like, you know, competitive. We have obviously competitive vendors within the different categories in the different markets, but right now, like this, we are just on the kind of edge of this opportunity. I saw something recently that Gartner put out again saying that, yeah, the IDV market, it's going to shrink. And I'm like, we haven't even begun. Like, we are just starting, we're scratching the surface. There is so much opportunity. And what we're seeing for the first time, at least what I'm seeing for the first time is that this industry vendor community kind of coming together and saying, you know what, yes, we're competitors, but there's certain things that we have to do together to move this industry forward. And the opportunity is so profound that there's plenty of pie for everybody. We just have to keep making the pie bigger. And so that to me is what the Prism is about is it's making that pie bigger. As I say right now, I think there's an opportunity. There's like a, an opening for- for-biometric centric identity to kind of take a leadership position in saying, this is how we're going to move forward in digital identity. And what I want to do with The Prism Project and with, you know, my, my biometric tribe is to drive a truck through that opening and say, look, we have expertise. You know, people talk about AI, the biometrics industry has been training algorithms, AI algorithms for years. Like, this is not new for us. This is something that we've been doing. So we have a place where we can provide leadership in the industry. And that's really what what. You know what the Prism is about? 

Steve: One of the points you made earlier when you were first starting your company and you were in that room and you're like, we need to make the market. I think you have to make this market. You have to be out there. [Maxine: Yeah] You need to play offensive. You- you-need to get in front of practitioners, investors, and the end users to their conversation. For the, for the… 

Maxine: It speaks their language. [Steve: Yeah] And their language in the way that they're thinking about the world. 

Steve: How does a company that's in this space, there's a lot of solution providers and vendors that watch this series, how do they get involved with the work you're doing, with The Prism Project? 

Maxine: Oh, well, that's easy. Just, you can go to The Prism Project website again. It's Or you can go to the Acuity MI website or you can find me, you can Google me. It's easy, just put Maxine Most in biometrics and you'll get way, lots of hits. But it's easy to reach out to me. You can reach out to me on LinkedIn. And, you know, it's interesting that you say this. Like, I hadn't even I hadn't even connected the dots that you just connected. This is a market making opportunity and we're looking for people to- to-join us in that process and- and-oh, by the way, right now, one of the things where people can really engage is we are, running surveys right now, as I call it, it's 12 questions to rule them all, because I'm a- a-Tolkien fan, but basically it's a 12 question survey that we developed last year.

We had a really, really long survey and then we picked the stuff out that really was impactful. So this year, we're only asking the questions around those impactful things. And if you want to do that and participate in the survey, again, you can go to The Prism Project website and the survey will pop-up, or you can go look for me on LinkedIn. I've got tons of posts around it. We're looking for vendors to participate. And then for folks in the end user community, in financial services, in government services, in travel and hospitality, right? We're really trying to take our understanding of what the key dynamics are in those industries and what the vendors are experiencing and get some data behind it that's going to be published in the- in the-reports. And as I said, we're doing vertical reports this year in addition to our flagship. So we're going to have one for travel and hospitality, one for financial services, one for government services. And one of the things that we're going to do, which is something I got into several years after being in the industry is market forecasts.

And so we've developed what we think is a pretty good model for- for-sizing the market. So part of what we're going to be doing in the Prism reports this year is actually providing market sizing data on revenues and transactions that people can freely use anywhere they want in presentations and publications. We're really tired of seeing sort of like numbers that nobody can figure out where they came from. And so that's another piece of it, which is really like connecting the dots between what's happening in these industries, what's driving them, how digital identity can help what the opportunity is in this marketplace, you know, what the, the folks who are- who are-in the market are thinking and then and then basically how the technology can be used with actual use cases. And this is like a, like for me, it's like this piece of the puzzle that needs to be created and communicated for us as an industry to take that next step.  

Steve: I will be sure to link all of those resources, surveys, the page itself, how to get involved. And as I hear you, so you've got vertical verticalization, you're doing forecasts, How do you see The Prism Project evolving beyond 2024 and into the future? 

Maxine: Well, I have big plans. You know, it's funny because we're constantly brainstorming. This is like an organic, this thing happened organically. It- it- it-was like created out of conversations and- and-analysis. And so it sort of has a life of its own. So we're kind of guiding it and then also along for the ride. But I'm, what I'm hoping for next year is that we can actually basically get some events happening, and whether that's through partnerships with existing events and having, like, Prism pavilions doing some, some of our own- own-events. One of the things that I'm really interested in potentially doing is kind of an executive summit because a lot of the energy around this is how do we as an industry move forward? So I'm very interested in sort of getting together what I perceive to be some absolutely brilliant people, in a non-competitive environment where we can get together and kind of drop some of that stuff and think of ourselves as part of this biometric tribe, if you will, and think about how do we help move our industry forward. How do we communicate effectively? How do we really bring this technology into the mainstream of the way people think about securing themselves, identifying themselves, verifying themselves? So, yeah, so we'll see, that's like, that's probably 2025, but we, we got a, we have a lot on our plate for 2024 and we're really excited about that, and we'll see. We're open to relationships and partnerships with- with-organizations, with- with-vendors, with- with-events coordinators, you know, we're just trying to basically build this thing, and make it really useful. And again, going back to what you said, like, helping build this market. 

Steve: Excellent. Excellent. Well, it sounds like a lot of great plans for The Prism Project, and then I'm looking forward to 2025 events. [Maxine: Yeah]

We're coming up on time, though. And before we close out, if you've seen any of these episodes, I do like to go a little bit beyond what you focus on on work. And when I looked into your profile, I saw that you served a term on city council in your local community. Can you share just a little bit about your political career? 

Maxine: Not- not-quite a full term, believe it or not. I got recalled, yeah. Speaking truth to power, which is something that I have spent my life doing in this industry. And if you're interested in that, you know, feel free to, you know, follow me on LinkedIn and go to the website, look at some of the articles I've written on my blog posts on the website, like at one point, somebody walked, called me up, this was years ago: “And so I understand that you are the no BS at market analysts for biometrics.” And so that's who I am. And that's what I do. And I, I basically was asked to run because, someone in the community felt like I could really contribute. And I really enjoyed serving on the council, and it was really awesome being able to make a contribution and I didn't tow the party line. And, you know, this is a pretty wealthy suburban community. And I challenge some of the, you know, dogma and hierarchy in terms of how I felt that we should be spending money and who in the community we really needed to support and got me into a bit of trouble. And, you know, unfortunately, people don't pay attention to their local government. And local government has the most impact on your lives. And so a small group of disgruntled people got their friends to show up at a- at a-special election and pulled me off the council, but I'm still very active in what's happening in the community. And I would just really, it's a lesson for people, like, if you want to make a difference in your community, in your world, follow your local city council, everybody's zooming meetings. These now, these days, like, pay attention to what's happening because it's impacting you directly. And if you don't pay attention, the people that do pay attention who tend to skew, you know, much more conservative and wealthy tend to, run the show. So that's my, my word of warning. And you know, it's- it's-an election year, get involved, like pay attention to what's happening in your, in your local community, you know, make a difference, participate. Because even though, like I said, I mean, I got booted, it was, it was a great experience. I learned a ton and I feel like it was really valuable and I'm glad I did it.

Steve: It's great advice. Beyond the political scene that you jumped out of. Where do you spend your time outside of biometrics? Any hobbies or other causes that are really important to you?

Maxine: I'm an avid tennis player. I got really excited when I found out that a company called Wicket, who happens to be a Prism sponsor, was deploying their technology at the Australian Open. I was like, oh my god, it's like tennis and biometrics and The Prism Project and like all, and all these things I love wrapped up in one. So yeah, I'm an avid tennis player. I love to do that. You know, I live in Colorado, I hike, I bike, I ski. I, you know, I- I- I-walk every day in my neighborhood. I'm constantly posting pictures on my Facebook and people like, where are you? I'm like, yeah, I'm just walking around the hood. You know, this is Colorado. It's a beautiful place. And so, you know, my daughter went off to college. In September, so, you know, I'm a single mom. It was just the two of us. So, so I'm- I'm- I'm-have a little empty nest stuff going on right now, but I'm really proud of her and she's thriving in college and- and- and-far away.

And so that, that's been a big change for me. But, yeah, I- I-love to travel. I did, you know, did a lot of backpacking in my younger days and love to do sort of more budget, I mean, I really like the luxury travel too, but I do enjoy sort of that budget travel because of who you meet and how that works, and yeah…  

Steve: And yeah, you got to unplug it now and then you get back to nature, turn off your device.

Maxine: Yeah, well, I'm out. Like I said, I'm out every day like, you know, even like yesterday like, you know There's still a ton of snow on the ground, but it was sunny So I went out for a walk like it's you know it's sort of that Colorado lifestyle and I grew up in New Jersey and that was definitely not the lifestyle. So I really enjoy that and it honestly, I can't think at my computer anymore. When I have a problem to solve I go walking and I just talk into my phone and record stuff because that's where my creative juices flow. You know or even on the ski slopes or something like. It doesn't at my desk, I can't actually do any thinking I can get work done. But the thinking is all done when I'm out like doing other activities and sort of freeing my mind and, yeah, so that's, it's- it's-kind of like this interesting dynamic. The other thing that's really funny is that, you know, I used to be this person that used to sleep from midnight to 8 o'clock in the morning and then I had a kid and that changed and what's happening is I'm falling back into that pattern and I'm, I used to stay up late because that's when I would call Europe, because they're eight hours ahead. So now I'm kind of falling back into that pattern where I'm working ‘till midnight, two in the morning and then sleeping late. My cats are not happy, but it's a lot of fun. 

Steve: Well, thank you for sharing all of that personal background. I've really enjoyed this conversation, Maxine. It was an honor to speak with you in this format. I learned a ton and I look forward to seeing Acuity and The Prism Project evolve and continue [Maxine: Yeah, let’s do it again]to help make the market. Yeah, for sure

Maxine: Let's do it again in three or six months and see where we are. Like, I just, there's so much happening in this industry and I think you do a really great service by providing this kind of vehicle for communication. And, there's again, the industry is moving so fast now there's so many interesting things going on. So I look forward to, you know, staying up to speed with all the folks that you're talking to and the things that you're finding out and helping, you know, me continue to stay up to date with what's happening in the marketplace.

Steve: Sounds like a plan, I'm in for that. Thanks again, Maxine. I'll get all the resources and the links posted with this and have a great rest of your day. 

Maxine: You too.