Vision-Box at the Web Summit: Pioneering tech SME prepares for global take-off
Anticipating change to deliver solutions that address future needs; this is how innovative SMEs become global technology trend setters. Lisbon-based SME Vision-Box, which has pioneered automated passport control gates, is expanding biometric ID to cover the entire airport experience with the support of the Enterprise Europe Network.
The tech company, which launched in 2001, was one of the first businesses to see the potential in using biometric information to make life easier for travellers. The eGate concept, which takes advantage of biometric information contained in passports to automate border control, was trialled in Portugal before being rolled out across the world.
More than 80 airports now use Vision-Box eGate technology, with some 700 million passengers processed every year. This means that every five seconds, one person uses a Vision-Box solution. For example, the deployment of eGate at Brazil’s Viracopos International Airport has reduced the processing time from about three minutes per person to an average of 15 seconds.
“This got us thinking about how we could open up the entire airport to biometrics”, says Pedro Torres, Innovation Director at Vision-Box. “We came up with a solution called Happy Flow that allows you to go through the entire airport in a paperless, contactless and hands-free manner, ensuring no queues or long waits.” Biometric-enabled cameras capture passengers’ facial images, unlocking transactions, access and services.
While many high-tech start-ups seek venture capital to expand in anticipation of success, Vision-Box has instead opted for organic growth based on sales of its applied technology. EU SME Instrument funding has therefore played a key role in enabling the business to plan and anticipate future demands within the airport sector. Unlike some larger high-tech competitors, Vision-Box is a pioneer in a specific field and is focused on remaining at the cutting edge.
“SME Instrument funding – together with Enterprise Europe Network support – has allowed us to strategically focus resources on a longer-term innovation roadmap while keeping momentum on running daily operations", explains Torres. “For example, we have been to events organised by national Network contact points where various issues – such as international expansion and the possibility of collaboration – were presented and explained.”
Being made aware of opportunities to participate in EU-financed programmes led to the launch of an EU-funded project entitled Smart Trust which runs until the end of 2019. The Happy Flow concept is currently being installed throughout Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, leading, Torres believes, to roll-outs across the globe.
“Our goal – and indeed the purpose of this EU funding – is for our technology to be used around the world”, he says. “We have no doubt that smart biometric IDs will be the future of passports. We are already deep into discussions with major airports on how to deploy this technology.”
Headquartered in the Portuguese capital Lisbon, the company now has eight offices around the world and operates in 150 countries.
According to the latest data from the Enterprise Europe Network – based on survey data from businesses using the Network's services in Portugal – in the coming year, 69% of SMEs who internationalise expect to increase their turnover, 31% expect to create jobs and 70% expect to increase their market share.
The Enterprise Europe Network is the world’s largest support network for small and medium-sized businesses with international ambitions.