Mike Morrell, Managing Director, JAZZMATRIX, discusses how the IoT empowers users to exercise their democratic rights

When embarking upon a national registration program in African countries there are several challenges that must be overcome: electricity is a luxury, identification of people out in the field, theft of laptops and the fuel that is used in generators to power the mobile devices, and the logistics of distributing registration kits in difficult to reach terrain, to name but a few.

At JAZZMATRIX, we’re committed to producing a fully integrated and field tested system providing voter registration in remote locations overcoming these challenges, and today at Microsoft’s Internet of Your Things event I was pleased to present Genie ID; a low-power, solar powered device running over 3G networks that captures biometric data such as signatures, fingerprints and photos.

 Genie ID & PVC Card Printer

We’ve seen first-hand the profound impact technological advances, such as those happening today with the Internet of Things, are having on African Governments and their people. Previously, Polaroid ID solutions were the most popular choice for Governments conducting registrations, but connected devices have taken programs to the next level.

The Genie ID is a core component of our voter registration solution, and is the only end-to-end custom purpose built biometric registration device on the market. Each component, such as document scanners, cameras, and displays – and potentially in the future facial recognition software – is custom designed to make for the seamless mass production of units. Running Genie ID on Windows Embedded prevents the operator from using the device for personal use, making it less attractive to thieves compared to regular laptops, while it also stops any data from being deleted or the system being altered.

The security features of Windows Embedded were one, but not the only reason why we selected the technology for Genie ID. It allows us to design our custom user interface and use our proprietary database, which ensures the device is simple and effective to use. Furthermore, Genie ID delivers a price advantage, supports all our customised hardware drivers, and we’ve received unbelievable support from Microsoft’s technical engineering division in the configuration of the software into the embedded license.  

 

Capturing Fingerprints & Signature

One African country in particular which is benefitting from using our end-to-end solutions is Malawi. In 2008, the country undertook a registration process using digital printers and our solar-powered technologies, which were able to give each registered citizen a voter ID card on the spot, which became their default ID card. The value this simple form of identification cannot be overstated, with it being accepted by local banks as proof of ID, empowering tens of thousands of Malawians to be granted bank loans aimed at purchasing property or setting up their own business.

As part of the program we trained local staff and provided them with the tools to handle any technical issues with the kits, who have since gone on to open their own businesses repairing TVs, mobile phones and other electronic equipment. 

Such was the success of our initial rollout in 2008, we were asked to provide additional kits for similar registration drives in 2010 and 2013/14, the latter of which resulted in Malawi’s best registration numbers to date. As a result of the device’s success in Malawi we’ve many exciting opportunities in the pipeline across Africa.

 

Genie ID being used

When people talk about the Internet of Things, it’s easy to immediately think of the benefits a truly connected network delivers to businesses. However, it can – and is already – having a positive impact on developing nations as our offerings have shown. Such devices are empowering citizens to exercise their democratic right on voting day that could support changes in their countries rule, and which ensure that new governments who are voted in are truly the people’s choice.