Most startups that make use of smartphone self-portraits (selfies) do so for aesthetic or entertainment purposes. Mainly in connection with mobile apps, selfies are proving especially useful in the beauty and fashion sector – for virtual try-outs of makeup (as with the Augmented Reality images offered by Canadian startup Modiface, which was recently acquired by L'Oréal), hair-styling (with the Madi chatbot created by California-based Madison Reed), for trying on clothes, or even for helping to decide on acne treatment (MDacne). Meanwhile, on a much lighter note, French firms Selfie pour mamie (literally: Selfie for Granny) and even more recently Postmii specialize in turning digital selfies into on-paper printouts and postcards for sending to older loved ones.  In similar vein, Selffee enables customers to superimpose  a self-portrait on to a cookie, cake or other edibles.

The entertainment industry is also getting seriously interested in the options offered by selfies – for example online ticket vendor Ticketmaster’s idea of replacing physical tickets by a face recognition system. Also jumping on the selfie bandwagon, Chicago-based startup Pay your Selfie has come up with 'selfie surveys' – market studies or opinion polls where selfies of individual consumers serve as proof of identity and provide additional information on particular uses of a given product. Meanwhile, FinTech and InsurTech specialists are also getting interested in the selfie phenomenon.

Selfies underpinning FinTech


Biometrics: a payment authentication method for the long term

  • 27 Feb
  • 5 min

Biometric authentication is steadily gaining ground in the field of online payments. This approach promises a simpler and more secure type of proof of identity and consumers are now adopting this method in droves: nowadays 29% of all smartphone owners use the fingerprint reader on their device, whether to unlock their banking app or to authorise financial transactions. 

In 2016, Mastercard began to roll out in North America and Europe a tool called Identity Check – a payment authentication system based on face recognition – which is now available in 37 countries all over the world. Since then, the US-based credit card provider has set itself the target of making biometrics the standard authentication method for digital payments from April 2019 onwards, at which time Identity Check is due to replace the SecureCode system. This is good news for the 93% of consumers who say they prefer biometrics to passwords to authorize their online payments, and for the 92% of all bank sector staff who would like to switch to biometric solutions.


of all merchants


In fact, plenty of other players worldwide were talking about this kind of solution before Mastercard. At the CeBIT conference in Hanover in 2015, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma demonstrated how to make a payment using face recognition, then a highly innovative solution which the Chinese e-commerce giant lost no time in rolling out on a global scale. Alibaba finance subsidiary Ant Financial launched Smile to Pay in the autumn of 2017 at the KFC outlets in Hangzhou, a Chinese city which plays host to the company headquarters.  Similar initiatives have been taking place in a number of countries. In 2015, Bavarian startup Saffe brought out an app that enables transactions to be validated by means of a selfie. A face recognition-based payments platform called selfiepay has been operating in the US city of Atlanta since 2016. A collaborative arrangement between multinational credit and debit card provider VISA and Brazilian FinTech firm Banco Neon running since 2017 enables merchants and their customers to do the same. According to the two partners, this new authentification solution is the method most used by cardholders to confirm their identity and also the method of choice for 58% of all merchants.


Shutterstock - Credits: Shutterstock

Smile, you're now insured!

Not only FinTech specialists are keen to switch to the use of facial characteristics as proof of ID: insurance sector players are also thinking of doing so. Quite apart from their direct business-process application, biometrics can also help to estimate people's life expectancy and consequently a number of life insurance companies are now using face recognition as part of their application procedure. US Artificial Intelligence specialist Lapetus Solutions offers a variety of facial analysis solutions that are proving especially useful for companies whose business depends on predicting  future events, especially life expectancy – including, in addition to life insurance, financial planning, healthcare services and pension funds.

The industry will be forced to expand how they utilize technology to engage the consumer and lower their overall costs.  Biometrics will most likely play a significant role as well as other forms of technology. 

Janet Anderson

The North Carolina-based startup brought out its first program, Chronos, soon after being set up in 2014. "Since then, we've launched multiple tools and platforms that can help insurance carriers provide assessment on risk quickly and more efficiently than traditional methods", explains the company's Chief Marketing Officer Janet Anderson, pointing out: "Our Sensory Analytic tools provide an assessment on a selfie that includes BMI, gender, age and a smoking classification. Our Life Science tools provide immediate feedback on Life Expectancy based on the answers to a few simple questions." Ms Anderson also underlines that "carriers have found that the consumer is very willing to upload their selfie as part of a life insurance sales process", and predicts: "The industry will be forced to expand how they utilize technology to engage the consumer and lower their overall costs. Biometrics will most likely play a significant role as well as other forms of technology."

Regard d'expert

John Hyde

Managing Director

Legal & General America

Life insurance is one of those categories that's really difficult to get customers to engage with, in particular Millennials. They find a million reasons not to buy it. But with SelfieQuote, it's much easier for Millennials to get a quote on life insurance. 

A hackathon hosted last year by insurance firm Legal & General America came up with the concept of SelfieQuote, which is now in beta testing on the Lapetus analysis platform prior to launch in the United Kindgom. "We accelerated this agenda to get it live, and managed to go live in the US by the summer of 2017", John Hyde, Managing Director of L&G, tells us. The basic idea is to provide potential policyholders with a life insurance quote based on a selfie. He explains: "Life insurance is one of those categories that's really difficult to get customers to engage with, in particular Millennials. They find a million reasons not to buy it. But with SelfieQuote, it's much easier for Millennials to get a quote on life insurance. The technology analyses how old you are, your BMI and your gender." Given the number of applications already submitted to date, John Hyde argues that "it would seem entirely logical that biometric technology will play an ever-growing influence on the risk decisions that insurers make. That is very much the tomorrow. Today it's about using technology that fits with consumers' day-to-day behaviors and the way they want to interact with technology, and making ourselves relevant to customers by presenting things like the option to submit a selfie." The Direct Insurance expert underlines: "Rather than forcing a consumer to play by our rules, we're opening up our processes in a way that's naturally attractive to consumers." So the selfie seems to be a potentially revolutionary tool in this sector, especially when you consider that 70% of all US citizens who would consider purchasing life insurance would be interested in doing so if the sign-up procedure could be simplified. Lapetus Solutions reckons that the standard medical-physical examination could be replaced by a technology solution, which would cut the time needed to carry out the necessary formalities to just ten minutes. Who was it that said a picture is worth a thousand words?

By Marie-Eléonore Noiré