This week, we publicly launched Proxy from a long yet incredibly busy stealth period to announce the general availability of our mobile access and identity products. Why have we been so quiet? Well, 2.5 years ago, we cast a small blip on the radar by announcing a seed funding round in TechCrunch following our time in Y Combinator. We did not expect that our idea of using your smartphone to access the office and interact with devices in the physical world would strike such a chord. Following that article, we received thousands of inquiries for a smartphone centric access and identity solution to be applied to a myriad of applications in many verticals. Rather than boil the ocean, we selected a handful of customers (from large Fortune 100s to small businesses) that were representative of the broader market, and we focused on solving their problems and making them massively successful as we went from zero-to-1.
We took the time to truly understand their problems and focused on developing our solutions on their doorsteps using first principles -- i.e by having each of them install our prototypes at their doors and throughout their buildings while being used everyday by their employees and others to give us feedback in real time, so we can learn and iterate quickly as we build the necessary hardware, firmware, software, and APIs needed to reach the point we are at now. We have not only solved their problems with the products we’re making available to the public today, but we have opened the door (pun intended :) into a future beyond access and into a new world of personalized experiences and magically responsive environments that was never before possible in the physical world.
The last two years have offered the opportunity for our team to work with and learn from some of the brightest and most forward leaning experts and professionals in the industry we could have ever hoped for, from companies like Uber, Dropbox, WeWork, WSP and Boston Properties and many more. With their help, we’ve created a killer mobile access and responsive workplace solution that users genuinely love, that exceeds the security and privacy requirements of the most stringent enterprise security teams, and that scales globally to support even our largest customers.
Now, with a great deal of excitement, we want to offer this solution to the rest of the world. But first, what exactly does Proxy provide?
Today, people have to use a ton of passwords, apps, keycards, keys, badges and QR codes every day to access and interact with everything in the physical world (e.g. offices, cars, gyms, TVs, IoT devices, buildings, computers, etc.). We have created a new, privacy-driven technology called a Universal Identity Signal that acts as your digital proxy in the physical world, and provides a wireless medium for any device in proximity to passively:
detect and authenticate who you are (think single sign-on for the physical world), and
query for relevant information needed to serve you (think universal remote for the physical world)
Your identity signal is passively emitted from a smartphone using Bluetooth Low Energy so that very little battery is used, and it digitally augments you in the physical world by empowering you to securely authenticate to any device or service, removing friction from everyday things.
To make the signal universal, we’ve invented what we call a universal access tokenization engine that makes every interaction uniquely encapsulated into a one-time encrypted token that contains within it a relevant payload that the receiving device (if granted permission) uses to serve or do something useful for you. All within milliseconds. And it doesn’t stop with authentication – Proxy is built to enable you to passively command and interact with objects around you, for example telling a conference system to load your meeting when you walk into a room, or customizing a workstation to your preferences when you check in at a remote office.
Why we started the company
Before we share more about what Proxy does, we want to provide the context for why we started Proxy to begin with. We founded the company with a simple concept - what if we could give every person on the planet their own identity signal, one that they controlled, and could use to interact with the physical world around them, what useful things could come of it? Fairly quickly, it became crystal clear to us that if such a thing existed it could fundamentally transform the way we experience everything we do in our lives and could have a significant and lasting positive impact on society. We imagined a world that we would want for ourselves and our children to live in, where humans are empowered to own their identity and control the world around them through magical experiences, be they personalized or anonymous.
We saw two trends that convinced us this was a useful, and even important, endeavor. The first was that technology was making things more complex and adding more friction to everything we did. People need a different password to log into every website, app, or service, a different key card for every office, house or car, even a different app for every connected device that’s popping up in ever increasing numbers around us – what if all of these things were accessed with a single, universal identity and signal, but allowed the flexibility of unique identities for each?
Along with that, we saw that much of the technology that was created in the last decade spends most of its time vying for our attention and scouring for our personal data to be able to garner more of our attention and/or (at worst) manipulate our intent. With digital technology making its way into the physical world, we felt very strongly that if we allow this pattern of technology tracking us, distracting us, manipulating us, and controlling us to spill over into the physical world, we will end up in a dystopian surveillance-state. What if technology respected our privacy and genuinely worked to make our human experience better?
We believe that it is possible, and we created Proxy (and called it as such) to be the technology that works for you and empowers you to create magical experiences in the physical world without sacrificing our privacy and control. We are determined to do everything we can to put us on a better path forward, by empowering each of us with our digital identity and making it universally accessible, private, and secure.
Why we are starting with the workplace
Our technology is as applicable to the individual as it is in the enterprise, but we decided to begin our journey by serving the enterprise market for a very pragmatic reason – enterprises pay good money for technology solutions that make their employees more productive and make their company more secure. By serving large enterprises and commercial real estate owners, we are able to develop our technology to pass their requirements for reliability, security, and privacy, while generating significant revenue, which is really useful when we are 100% committed to never selling personal data, or displaying advertising that seeks users’ attention, which is how many consumer companies generate revenue.
We target the billions of badges/cards/fobs/tickets/passes that people use every day to get into their buildings, offices, apartments, and more. Our (not so) secret weapon is combining mobile access with the ability to sense the physical presence of occupants within buildings or workplaces, which enables customers to build responsive environments that serve employees and occupants and create a more productive, enjoyable workplace. The immediate reaction we hear from people using Proxy for the first time is: “Wow! This is the future.” We totally agree.
One of the reasons Proxy has been so successful in the workplace is that we make the mobile access upgrade path affordable and non-disruptive. We have developed our readers to enable seamless mobile access but also support existing keycards and fobs, providing full backwards compatibility. And we focus exclusively on identity, so our solution is designed to represent the human and work with all existing access control system, rather than trying to drive costly replacements of the entire installation.
What is the future vision for the company?
Simply stated, we are creating a world where you can walk up to anything and it will automatically detect your presence and have the relevant information, at just the right time, needed to serve you without you having to do anything. It’s a simple vision, but a big one, and we’re thankful to have the opportunity to work towards it.
We are only just getting started, and there is a lot more to do. If you’re interested in joining our mission, either as an employee, partner, or customer, we’d love to hear from you!