Transport for London’s decision not to renew ride-sharing company Uber’s licence has highlighted security concerns within the ride-sharing and broader shared economy, says Zak Doffman, CEO of UK-based Digital Barriers. How do we assure ourselves of the identity and trustworthiness of those delivering or using services organised through smartphones or cloud-based applications? How do we know that the person who underwent the background checks is the same one turning up at our doorstep?

Uber safety concerns

In its announcement, Transport for London (TFL) cites concerns around Uber’s approach and conduct in relation to reporting serious offences, obtaining medical certificates and driver background checks. TFL is a local government body responsible for the transport system in Greater London.

Digital Barriers has developed a simple and effective technology application to address safety concerns within these services, says Doffman. SmartVis Identifier, Digital Barriers’ facial recognition technology – already being provided to global defence, security and law enforcement agencies – has also been adapted for shared economy applications. For example, Careem, the largest ride-hailing service in the Middle East, with 180,000 drivers and six million customers, already uses it to strengthen security and resolve the same kind of challenges Uber is currently addressing.

Facial recognition enhances driver enrolment

SmartVis Identifier can be used in the driver enrolment process, to link the driver with their formal identification documents and to remove duplicate, false or black-listed identities. “We can then continually compare the actual driver of a vehicle with the authorised person logged into the driver application,” says Doffman. “We do this on the same smartphone being used to accept fares and provide directions; this is done in background mode to avoid any disruption.”

In addition, Digital Barriers can provide automated live video streaming from the vehicle in the event of an emergency or an accident, ensuring that control rooms or authorities are alerted immediately to an incident and can provide the appropriate response.

“As more of us use these kinds of services and applications on our smartphones, it is imperative that we include the right level of rigorous but unobtrusive security measures to keep us all safe,” says Doffman.