Snapwallet: A Safe Photo Service for Smart Phone

Snapwallet is a free smart phone application that offers a safe place for storing important documents and passwords. Snapwallet has military-level information security and privacy protection.

The Snapwallet application for Android phones is based on the Secure Selfie Camera application developed by DF-Data Ltd. DF-Data is F-Secure’s separate company for test marketing. Test marketing is done in an agile fashion with a small team. A small team has more liberties than a normal product team. It could open up entirely new opportunities.

The Secure Selfie Camera app

The Secure Selfie Camera app

For example, the inspiration for the Secure Selfie Camera application came from the scandal in August 2014 where personal photos taken by movie stars on their cell phones got hacked. Apple’s iCloud accounts had been compromised, and over 500 private photos got released to the public. A similar incident had taken place three years earlier, when nude photos Scarlett Johansson had taken of herself began to spread over the Internet.

Photo: Kimmo Lehtonen
Teenagers taking photos of each other

Smart phones mostly store all photos taken with them to cloud services, which isn’t always safe, as the Johansson case so harshly demonstrated. Secure Selfie and Snapwallet don’t store photos in a cloud at all. The photo stays on the camera, and it may be sent to persons of your choice through a secure Bluetooth connection or NFC (Near Field Communication). The application locks the photo on the phone, making it readable only to whoever took it. Outsiders won’t be able to open the photos, because they are password-protected and because the encryption is very strong.

“The application tackles three significant problems. First, we don’t know what information Google collects about our photos, even those we don’t store in a cloud. Second, some photos are quite simply and undeniably private. And third, smart phones also weaken the security of the confidential photos of companies, if employees take photos of some confidential company matters,” says F-Secure’s Senior Manager Marko Komssi.

Repositioning: application changes name and purpose

The technical work for Secure Selfie Camera was done as part of the ITEA Accelerate project. Accelerate is a European platform for ICT applications, whose aim is to create new ideas and innovations in the software industry. The project was joined by an existing two-person “man-and-dog” team. Marko Komssi is the dog, whose task is to sniff up new ideas and so-called ground-up innovations. This includes growth hacking, a kind of crowdsourced marketing experiment where participants adopt each other’s technologies and improve them.

Photo: Kimmo Lehtonen
Photo of a woman struggling to remember her password

Passwords lost? Snapwallet stores important documents safely with your smart phone's camera.

This experiment has been continued in the N4S program. In the program, real-time business models are tested in practice. The program is implemented by leading Finnish software companies and research institutions. In the N4S program, research partners can test product concepts of the Accelerate program in practice and develop them further.

The program’s Mercury Business work package offered a suitable environment for further development. The aim of the work package is to get companies to find new ways of managing and creating new business in an agile way.

The experiment by F-Secure and the University of Jyväskylä studied how the existing Secure Selfie application can be repositioned for changing consumer habits and new target groups. Snapwallet was born out of fast but intensive work.

”Together with F-Secure, we thought about situations where safe storage of photos would be needed in practice. Snapwallet was produced in the spring of 2015 based on our shared ideas. So basically, we have two separate applications that share the same technological heart,” says research professor Lauri Frank from the University of Jyväskylä.

The Snapwallet app

The Snapwallet app

“One of the basic ideas of this application is that it can be used to safely store all of the most important documents, such as hotel reservations or airplane tickets. All you need is a photo. You could store passport information, for example, in the photo and share it with a friend who is going on the same trip. If the phone is stolen, the photos can’t be accessed, but the friend still has a safe copy of the document,” Frank explains.

The applications, Secure Selfie Camera and Snapwallet, are available at the Google Play store under these two names.

Quick and agile test marketing

The man-and-dog team (Juha Käki and Marko Komssi) are actively looking for new products whose functionality can be tested in a quick and agile fashion. Resources are very limited, and the small team’s job description is almost masochistic, as their work is radically different from the parent company’s mode of operation.

“In this project, you’re on your own during the planning stage. You try to find bottom-up ideas from within the company and interest from the outside. All of this is done without fear of losing the brand. In other words, new applications are created, but they are published without the parent organization. The idea is to do some light test marketing, try out new means of accelerating product ideas and get a confirmation from the market,” says Komssi.

Man and dog

The man-and-dog team are actively looking for new products whose functionality can be tested in a quick and agile fashion.

Since this is an experiment, the application was published by DF-Data, rather than F-Secure.

“Under the DF-Data brand, the small team has more liberties than a regular product team under the F-Secure brand. Another product developed and test marketed by the team, ‘Funny Hat Sticker`s’, is a good example of this. There has been marketing collaboration with rising heavy metal bands. All collaboration has been initiated through Twitter”.

“Smart phones mostly store all photos taken with them to cloud services, which isn’t always safe, as the Johansson case so harshly demonstrated. Secure Selfie and Snapwallet don’t store photos in a cloud at all.”

Studying consumer behavior after critical events

Lauri Frank has spent a lot of time studying consumer behavior, such as how experiences related to critical events affect people’s ways of using digital services.

Frank and Markus Salo studied 605 different instances of using a mobile application. They discovered that interactions, the physical location where the service is used, social aspects and the type of application affected consumer behavior. This was manifested in the form of either continued use, word-of-mouth communication or complaining. The researchers discovered that if the negative user experience took place outside or in public transportation, consumers were less inclined towards negative reactions. This is because consumers consider indoor areas to be safe and familiar. People also unconsciously expect the user experience to be good and functional.

“Today, consumer behavior is very difficult to study. There are lots of applications, and if consumers aren’t satisfied with one application, they will quickly switch to another one, but won’t necessarily give feedback about the poorly functioning application”.

Because of this, Snapwallet is an interesting potential subject for future consumer studies.

“Our study emphasizes the emotional and utility aspects of a service or solution rather than a technical product, and these are the elements we seek to incorporate into Snapwallet”.

Ari Turunen
May 28, 2015