Online ID verification is seeing a spike in demand driven by COVID-19

Natasha Lomas

With many businesses switching staff to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic there's been a clearly chronicled surge in demand for videoconferencing and others comms tools like Zoom.

Other types of startups are also seeing a bump in usage as both consumers and businesses seek to do more online during a global health crisis. Telehealth is an obvious one. Earlier this month US president Trump waived restrictions on telehealth services for the federal health insurance program, Medicare -- opening the door to a surge in remote consultations from Americans with federal health insurance.

Europe, meanwhile, is currently seeing the fastest rates of confirmed infections of COVID-19 -- which is also driving demand for remote medical check-ups.

Sweden-based doctor-by-video startup, Kry, today reported a huge surge in demand across all of its markets (Sweden, Norway, UK, France and Germany) which it attributed to the on-going coronavirus pandemic, with consultations for viral symptoms alone up 240% since February 1.

Several online identity verification startups also told us they've seen increased demand over the past few weeks -- including from parallel growth in telemedicine where remotely verifying a patient's identity is a core requirement given the sensitivity of the data involved. 

Digital identity startup Passbase, which offers APIs to make it easy for developers to plug and integrate a range of consumer-friendly identity checks into their digital services, also told us it's seen an "unprecedented" spike in requests from European and North American companies operating in the MedTech sector over the past two+ weeks -- as more people seek out remote consultations to reduce potential spread of the virus.

One of Passbase's customers -- German telemedicine platform TeleClinic -- was directly involved in helping diagnose staff at a car plant which reported the first COVID-19 infection in the country.

"As a health and digital product trust in our service is a must have," said TeleClinic founder and CEO, Katharina Jünger, in a supporting statement on how Passbase had sped up scalable onboarding. "The fact that an individual patient can talk to a medical professional and receive trusted information instantly is very important, especially in times like these."

Passbase said it's giving priority integration support and waiving all subscription fees for any company dedicated to helping individuals get through the COVID-19 crisis. “In these unprecedented times, everyone needs to do their part as we battle this ongoing epidemic together. By fast tracking onboarding for these companies we hope we can help some people affected by the Coronavirus, added co-founder and CEO, Mathias Klenk.

Another digital identity startup, Onfido -- which pledges on its website to be able to verify a person's identity in as little as 15 seconds -- also told us it's seen a big jump in demand from the healthcare sector.

"Our clients offering remote online consultations have seen a massive 370% increase in the number of applicants since January, compared to last year," said a spokesperson. "Clearly there are advantages from not having to go into a hospital or a local physician’s waiting room for fear of contracting the virus in the waiting room."

It also said it has seen a bump around travel -- though for a very specific niche: Car rental.

Customers in the sector are onboarding 26% more applicants this month vs the same time last year, it told us. "The likely explanation is that daily commuters who don’t own a car are refraining from taking public transport for fear of picking up the virus in overcrowded trains or buses, instead electing to drive themselves to work," the spokesperson noted.

Increased demand for online banking and fintech is also driving usage of its tools at the present moment, per the spokesperson. "Early signs seem to suggest a 21% increase in signups this month. Presumably, so that people can gain access to financial services from their home without the need to go inside branches," they added.

Last week, another startup in the space -- Veriff, with an "end-to-end verification service" that combines automated and manual analyses to authenticate inputs -- reported seeing a "steady increase" in verifications, which it partly linked to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Though it said it's expecting a bigger boost going forward, after seeing a surge in inquiries about its service.

"Coronavirus does present new use-cases and needs for remote ID verifications," founder and CEO Kaarel Kotkas told us. "For example, we have been contacted by universities who are looking for remote examination options, but also large tech companies for account recovery and credentials reset to support remote work."

"As to our current clients, we have seen a steady increase in ID verifications over the last month -- globally it is around 20% increase. However, it definitely cannot all be accounted for the coronavirus. Yet, when looking at the last 2 weeks when coronavirus has really escalated in Europe and the US, it has triggered a lot of integrations connected to coronavirus like e-notaries, digital healthcare, and others. Therefore we expect a 50% jump in our volumes next month," he added.

A longer term player in the digital identity space -- Authenteq, which sells an omni-channel ID verification and KYC services -- also confirmed an uptick in demand.

"We are seeing an increase in requests from both companies that cater to the remote worker market as well as companies that want to move to increased remote work or work from home policy," said co-founder and CEO Kari Thor.

"We had a large muliti-national client that we were working on integrating our ID Verification solution, that a few weeks ago changed the focus of their use case to verify their workers remotely, not only to access company intranet and other systems but as well to allow people now working from home to electronically sign documents and contracts using the Authenteq technology.

"Although this hasn't been the main value proposition that we have had and have only dealt with employee eID on special occasions, we have started focusing more on this product offering for companies in these uncertain times."

"Obviously the US market is maybe a little behind the Asian and European clients and I think we will see more interest from the US companies this week as they realize that things might be heading in the same direction with regards to WFH [working from home] policies as we've seen in Europe in the last 10 days," he added.