Consider some of the services you probably rely on your bank to provide: safekeeping, payments processing, and the occasional credit. Your bank also likely facilitates certain intangibles: your sense of financial inclusion, job market participation, and household security. Without these you would easily be vulnerable to potential exclusion and economic prejudice.
Access to basic financial services is so critical to security and development that it is listed as the top target set forth in the UN Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty. For more than 2 billion people banking services still remain out of reach (source: World Bank). Traditional banking services may be complex, expensive, and difficult to access. Barriers include lack of local banking infrastructure within reasonable distance and high expenses to open accounts. In addition, some 1.5 billion people lack the necessary personal identification documents to open a bank account (source: World Bank) – preventing them from taking even the most basic steps to integration.
Humaniq, a London-based fintech startup, is a next-generation bank offering solutions for the world’s unbanked population. Combining its vision for economic empowerment and community building with the latest innovations in blockchain technology, mobile, biometrics, and artificial intelligence, Humaniq aims to provide a technology platform for financial inclusion services for those who lack practical, affordable banking solutions.
Dinis Guarda, CEO of Humaniq, is a vocal proponent of global sustainability initiatives. In founding Humaniq, he joined with fellow co-founders Alex Fork and Dimitry Kaminsky to seek a way to use advanced technologies to solve humanity’s most pressing challenges. “The biggest challenge at the moment is that a big proportion of the world’s population is filtered-out from the technology around them. They don’t see the future of work and all the disruption that is going on,” explains Guarda. “At the same time, we have new disruptive technologies, a lot of them foundational technologies, like blockchain, as well as IoT and AI. These technologies are creating a fast transformation in the way we consume information, the way we deal with our economic and social models, and the way we deal with economics.”
Integrating Mobile, Biometrics, and Blockchain Technology
While almost half of the world’s population lacks basic financial services, a sizable portion owns a mobile phone. Humaniq’s specialty – which distinguishes it from simply being yet another mobile wallet app – is its innovative combination of mobile technology, biometrics, and blockchain technology. To access Humaniq’s app, all that will be required of a user is a mobile phone with a camera.
The use of biometric identification offers a twofold advantage. On the one hand, it simplifies the user experience, so that even a novice can use the service. One the other, biometrics provide a sophisticated layer of security through facial recognition algorithms and neural networks that can verify user identity upon each login. This concept, known as proof of face, is based on a series of photos, video recordings of facial gestures, and the user’s speech. “Biometric, because from the UI and UX we want to make sure it is possible for anyone to use it,” says Guarda. “Especially in India, there is a study showing approximately 1 billion people who do not exist in terms of documentation; so we want to make sure through biometrics that we can integrate people in the digital economy.”
Priority on Building a Solid Community
Established in July 2016, Humaniq has moved swiftly to build a sustainable business model as well as a technology model that supports expansion of its platform and ecosystem. In April, the startup achieved a major milestone with the initial coin offering (ICO) of its HMQ token. The sale attracted 12,000 investors and netted close to USD$5.2 million. “With this, we are now building the beta version of our app,” says Guarda. “We did our first pilot project in India. With these pilot projects, we are testing the technology, and as we get a much bigger capacity to understand [users’] needs, we are going to scale these and take things to the next level.”
Users of the Humaniq app will hold HMQ tokens as the chief value denomination within the community. These tokens will be exchangeable into bitcoins, and then into dollars, euros, or other standard currencies. Two crypto-exchanges already accept HMQ tokens. As the community grows and becomes more sustainable, it is expected that it will become much easier to exchange tokens than to go through currencies and traditional exchanges. Community is an integral part of Humaniq’s mission. “The challenge of building a solid community is essential, because if we don’t build a solid community, it won’t scale,” says Guarda.
In July, Humaniq plans to make its service available via pilot projects in Africa, Asia, and South America. Ultimately, the service will be available to anyone anywhere, facilitating an exchange between the developed world and developing countries; so that, for example, someone working in Germany will be able to send money back to her family in Africa. Guarda says, “We want to make sure that Humaniq is not merely an app, but a social-good ecosystem for humanity.”
This story originally appeared on the SAP News Center.