Mitek: How mobile imaging could power a wave of engaging app experiences

with Mitek

James DeBello (left), Ann Reichert (center) and Mike Nelson (right)

with Mitek executives

When most of us get paid, we like to put the money in the bank as quickly as possible, and Mobile Deposit--whereby you can take a picture of a check with your smartphone--allows you to make transactions wherever you are. 

The company behind Mobile Deposit, San Diego-based Mitek Systems, is now seeing its technology get extended into a range of mobile apps to help count calories, exchange business cards or rent cars more quickly by using mobile imaging. Its developer program includes its SDK, a set of APIs and seed investments of up to $1 million. 

FierceDeveloper recently spoke with Mitek's executive team to get more details about the potential of mobile imaging apps. The following interview has been edited and condensed. 

FierceDeveloper: What does your technology offer to app developers and why did it make sense to create a program around it?

James DeBello, CEO, Mitek: I began with Qualcomm a decade ago in the smartphone area. At that time, the camera was a novel idea. In fact, if you remember, they were called "camera phones," not smartphones. We stuck with that concept, but as I left to join Mitek the camera had become ubiquitous. As you know, now every segment of the population is using the camera to do something besides taking a photograph at a party. We were the first at Mitek to introduce the transactional-based solution, using mobile imaging, for check deposits.

Today we have nearly 47 million people using our Mobile Deposit product, and it's being deployed by more than 3,300 banks and financial institutions and insurance companies. So it is a well-proven, enterprise-class and very scalable solution. The technology turns the camera into a scanning device. We like to say, "make the camera the keyboard," and our value proposition is all about reducing consumer friction. Now every enterprise wants to engage their next generation of consumers to do something--that something could be a financial transaction, it could be enrollment or verification that someone behind an image is using an accurate document. We were inundated with requests from developers and corporations to do this or that, and of course the answer was "yes," but we are focused on financial transactions. Two years ago, we started to think about how we could offer our technology as an open API, basically becoming the stripe of mobile imaging to a developer community. 

FierceDeveloper: What activities are you doing to attract the right kind of developers and make them loyal members of this program? 

DeBello: We're doing localized outreach to developer meetups and different organizations, mostly in the Bay area down in L.A. and San Diego. They're looking for a way to simplify their consumer experience, and often they're mobile deposit users. That's actually one of the best leads for finding developers--actual users of our products. It's all inbound, primarily. 

FierceDeveloper: What are some of the more compelling use cases you're seeing with developers who are part of the program today? 

Ann Reichert, director of marketing, Mitek: There's been a reality app that allows you to do a deposit of your escrow funds in to an escrow account as part of a real estate transaction. We're seeing some really interesting use cases. There's also one where a ticket company is building an app for reselling seats. You take a picture of a ticket that you may have for a football game or baseball game and then resell it to someone else. That app is still in development. 

FierceDeveloper: How would you describe the balance between the level of interest around consumer-facing apps versus business or enterprise apps? 

Reichert: Right now we see a lot of consumer-facing apps but there are some companies testing enterprise apps as well. There are field service use cases, for example, where there's reasons to take pictures of things. For example--and I'm not saying they're in the program -- but you could have a Geek Squad-like firm that would take pictures of numbers of different devices to authorize services. 

FierceDeveloper: Besides discoverability, developers often struggle with engagement and monetization. To what extent do you see your technology and program helping them to address those challenges? 

Reichert: Well, they're using our technology to get a great user experience. By reducing the data entry, making their apps very user-friendly, they are better able to market them and better able to gain adoption and usage, because they have some "cool factors" associated with them. Every time I talk about where I work, I never meet someone who doesn't know mobile deposit, so it's a great way for developers to market their apps. 

DeBello: We allow our developers to use our brand and our name and the fact that we're the technology behind the mobile deposit product. The second thing is they typically piggyback with established companies who have a market position who want to extend their reach to a different segment of consumers perhaps, or provide an easier way for consumers to enter data. 

FierceDeveloper: As we see the introduction of wearable devices, they are obviously companions to smartphones. How might that change the nature of these kinds of transactions?

Mike Nelson, CTO Mitek: We get asked quite a bit by both developers and our regular business customers about support for new platforms. If there's a camera on the device--whether it's a smartphone, a watch or whatever the device is--our technology is going to be able to support that. This is one of the primary reasons we have the developer program. We want to be challenged ourselves with new use cases, and we want to be out in front of the market.