Careem, the region’s leading ride-hailing service, is integrating facial recognition into its application. It signed a contract with Digital Barriers, a security service provider traded on the London Stock Exchange, to use its biometric facial recognition technology.
The new technology uses the camera in the driver’s phone to match their identity as registered within the company’s records, which links drivers to their cars. Careem co-founder Magnus Olsson believes this will make ride-hailing safer. Ride-hailing apps like Careem rely on a network of drivers who respond to the app user's request for a ride, but safety is an issue. Careem has more than 80,000 drivers, and conducts background checks on potential drivers.
"When customers rely on a ride-hailing service or any other mode of transportation to go from point A to point B, they are also placing their trust on the service provider for their safety and security,” Olsson said in a statement.
This is the latest in the race between Careem and U.S. ride-hailing giant Uber. In September 2016, Uber announced it would use Microsoft Cognitive Services to confirm drivers’ identities. The feature, called Real-Time ID Check, has drivers take a selfie before they accept rides to match their identity to previous records.
Although Careem’s update follows Uber’s lead, Careem co-founder Mudasser Sheikha maintains the Dubai-based startup more than keeps up. “Our product is just closer to the needs of the people in this market,” he told Forbes Middle East last October. “We’re much more localized and much more integrated with the local ecosystem.”
Careem’s contract with Digital Barriers runs until 2018.
The company, which operates in more than fifty cities, hit $1 billion valuation in December following a $350 million funding round led by Japan’s Rakuten and Saudi Telecom Company.