In late August, NEC’s annual RESOLVE Plus Conference took place at NEC Corporation of America’s (NEC) headquarters in Irving, TX. NEC’s RESOLVE Plus (Remote Engineering Support of Large Volume End-users) is a subscription program for end users with at least 20,000 end points which provides direct access to NEC’s National Technical Assistance Center (NTAC) for engineering support plus complete software support coverage for NEC platform software and applications through Software Assurance (SWA). The conference brings together members of the program to discuss their existing solutions and NEC’s overall technology offerings portfolio.
RESOLVE Plus members from Vanderbilt University, Tift Regional Health System, JPS Health Network, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, and the Department of Veteran Affairs attended the two-day gathering. The conference agenda emphasized administration of various NEC applications currently running at customer sites in an effort to demonstrate how to increase efficiency. Members were provided expert technical insights on the latest software releases and enhancements leveraging NEC’s application technology to increase work productivity. Additional presentations of particular interest included: NEC Product Roadmaps, an overview of the UNIVERGE SV9500, and NEC’s IT offerings.
The RESOLVE Plus Conference is also an opportunity for members to network, exchange and share new ideas around product implementation and use. Marcus Newman, Manager of Network Services at Vanderbilt University, who values the networking opportunity that the RESOLVE Plus Conference offers, commented, “It is always good to get in a face-to-face setting to hear about challenges experienced by other large customers and how they were resolved, plus discuss our own.” Discussing NEC solutions and the design implementation at other sites provides insights on how to better utilize NEC’s technology and make it more efficient. Marcus added, “The direct interaction with the SWA team, NTAC managers and staff, and product managers helps build relationships that have been very beneficial to us in the past.”
This sentiment was echoed by Walter Niedhammer, Voice Network Team Lead at JPS Health Network, when he affirmed, “The NEC RESOLVE Plus conference provides an opportunity for us to communicate directly with NEC and other top level customers. But more importantly, NEC RESOLVE is a unique relationship that allows us to give and receive direct information and feedback on current solutions, to hear about new products and offerings, and to provide our input on what the group feels would be beneficial to all.”
While NEC strives to make the two-day conference informative and worthwhile to the RESOLVE Community, we also like to have a little fun! Watching the Texas Rangers take on the LA Dodgers Global Life Park in Arlington was the perfect way to relax and network. To learn more about the value NEC offers with RESOLVE Plus Program, fill out the form below.
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Personalizing the Customer Experience with a Unified Biometric Key
The path to a frictionless, personalized customer experience begins with something unique and individual—your face. Using facial recognition technology, a single unified biometric keyenables a seamless experience as you move through an environment, whether it’s a sports stadium, entertainment facility, airport, hotel or casino. Facial recognition technology is the key that unlocks a contactless customer experience in a wide range of venues and situations. What could be more convenient or more secure?
Recent developments in facial recognition solutions are not only enhancing security in airports, stadiums or hospitality locations, but also making access to public spaces more convenient, effortless and personal for patrons. Today, consumers are enjoying the speed and security of unlocking their phones using facial recognition, without the bother of passcodes. These demonstrable user benefits have made face-driven technology more common and acceptable as a secure and time-saving part of our day.
Increasingly, consumers are looking for this same easy, contactless and convenient experience in other areas of their daily lives. Benefits of biometric technology are applicable to other situations that require secure access and easy transactions. Here are a just few ways NEC, a leading global provider of Advance Recognition Systems technology, is changing today’s customer experience through facial recognition.
Everything from dropping your car off in a parking garage, entering the gate, purchasing concessions or swooping into a VIP suite is made easier by using a unified biometric key as a virtual parking pass, wallet and secure entry ticket. Guests no longer need to juggle parking permits, paper tickets, cash or credit cards. They don’t even have to remember where they stored their electronic tickets or try to recall app passcodes or loyalty numbers. Best of all, no more waiting in long, annoying lines. Let’s be honest, who wants to wait 20 minutes just to buy a water at the concessions?
Personalizing the Customer Experience Yields Positive Results
From the point of view of a sports venue, hotel or theme park, facial recognition solutions enhance the customer experience and can have a positive impact on the bottom line as well. Some examples include:
Providing concierge alerts when a VIP enters a facility
Enhancing guest services protocols
Providing crowd density estimates to allocate staff more efficiently
Offering opportunities for personalized sales and services on site
A single unified biometric key triggers concierge alerts when a VIP enters a hotel or casino, prompting enhanced guest services and special offers to the valued patron. Front-desk staff can greet returning loyalty guests by name, further personalizing the check-in experience.
Stadium VIP patrons enter suites seamlessly using facial recognition. Enhanced services are delivered in a more personalized way. Theme parks quickly admit season pass patrons through the gates using facial recognition, with the ability to provide special offers and services geared to loyal guests. Often the technology can be integrated with and deployed using existing venue systems, making the installation an even easier, more cost effective situation.
Since customers’ purchasing during an event is faster using a single unified biometric key, this increases the number of transactions that can be processed in the finite duration of an event. Not having to bother with cash or credit cards speeds up purchases and enables staff to serve more customers more quickly.
Facial recognition technology also captures crowd estimates at venue entrances, concession areas, hotel lobbies or retail areas so additional staff can be deployed immediately where they are most needed.
On-site offers can enhance the customer experience. Facility managers don’t really know who is attending a sporting event or musical performance. They know who bought a ticket, but not much information about the purchaser. Facial recognition provides real-time demographic data about attendees or guests to enable a venue to further shape the customer experience with on-the-spot offers and services.
For instance, if a stadium has facial recognition data that shows it has a large percentage of young men ages 21-29 in attendance for an event, it can prepare by stocking more beer at the concession stands, or change the advertising on retail shop displays to appeal to this demographic, or even alter music choices in the common areas.
Marketing partners and sponsors are able to curate offers in real time to appeal to a certain type of guest—enhancing the customer experience and positively affecting brand recognition and potential sales as well.
Transforming Transportation Processes
Stadiums, theme parks and hotels are not the only facilities being transformed into more efficient and secure places. The transportation industry is also seeing new uses for NEC’s facial recognition technology, considered to be the world’s best in search speed and accuracy according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).Transportation should be about getting to your destination quickly and with as few problems as possible.
Today’s airports are busier, more congested and more stressful than ever. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, more than 821 million passengers boarded U.S. airline flights in 2016—and with the demand for air travel expected to double over the next 20 years, this will certainly make for some very crowded airports.
In the United States, facial recognition technology is being tested to permit passengers to board flights quickly, and also for fast access to airline lounges. Since the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency started testing NEC’s NeoFace® Express facial recognition solution in U.S. airports in 2016, it has registered a success rate of close to 99%. Other airport-related potential uses of a single unified biometric key include: passenger check-in counters, bag drops, in-airport entertainment, boarding, retail and monitoring baggage claim areas.
The cruise ship industry is finding that a single unified biometric key can be used for everything from terminal queue management and effortless check-in to frictionless embarkation and debarkation, and for seamless payments and onboard purchasing.
Enhancing Security Through Technology
Security concerns have invaded almost all aspects of our lives in recent years—from travel to entertainment and sporting venues to retail spaces. Unfortunately, when people gather in public places, there is automatically the awareness of an increased threat, forcing security concerns to be uppermost in our minds.
Our reality is the tension between the heightened focus on keeping public places safe while not having a negative effect on the actual customer experience. The ability to create an excellent customer experience requires balancing both efficiency and security. Authorities responsible for the safety of public places are extremely concerned, and debates over how best to address security concerns are ongoing. At the same time, increased usage of facial recognition in consumer products is making the technology more acceptable as consumers recognize the convenience it provides: frictionless, personalized and secure experiences.
Solutions that combine surveillance cameras with facial recognition software can elevate the level of public security in airports, stadiums and other public places. Also, enterprises can ensure only authorized personnel have access to their facilities, while retailers and sports and entertainment venues can secure their facilities and protect their customers.
Changing the ‘Face’ of the Customer Experience
Deploying a single unified biometric key based on facial recognition technology helps deliver a superior guest experience. Our unique face is rapidly becoming the universal key to replacing our usernames, passwords, paper tickets, parking permits, payment options and even more.
Whether at a stadium or a major transportation facility, NEC’s Advanced Recognition Systems solutions are at the forefront of reinventing the customer journey by melding the optimal combination of convenience and security.
The Gartner Magic Quadrant has long held a place of reverence in the Information and Communications Technology industry as a go-to resource for large enterprises seeking a short list of vendors to consider for technology purchases and projects.
As you may know, NEC is regularly included in a number of Gartner reports, most notably the recently updated 2018 Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications.
Despite the fact that NEC is the world leader in lines shipped – with a 14.3 % market share in Global Call Control Licenses Vendor over Q1 2018 according to MZA Consultants – and despite the fact that we offer a full portfolio of UC solutions for businesses small, medium and large, Gartner has decided to place us in the “niche” category.
I’d like to share a few points of fact that I think you should consider when reading this year’s updated UC Magic Quadrant.
A recent NoJitter article by Sorell Slaymaker – a former Gartner analyst who was the lead author on the Corporate Telephony (CT) magic quadrant – makes a compelling point that the Gartner UC Magic Quadrant is “reaching the end of its usefulness.”
In Slaymaker’s opinion, “the idea that an enterprise will use a single platform for all communications is dead. Business communications is increasing an embedded capability in applications, and no one vendor does all things well across all regions of the world.”
His point is valid. We live in a highly customized world. Different business processes drive unique requirements, and we in the vendor community have learned that we must be able to integrate to survive. This is what we as NEC successfully demonstrate and are widely recognized as doing with our smart and integrated solutions across many vertical market sectors such as Hospitality, Healthcare, Government and Education.
Slaymaker furthermore does not agree with the positioning given by Gartner to several major vendors, including NEC.
As he states: “It’s hard to see NEC move to a niche player this year since it arguably sells more phones than anyone else; has a full feature set; is doing some leading edge things, including incorporating facial recognition into communications; and gets decent reviews.”
Many of our largest customers run multi-vendor, multi-cloud communications environments, just as many also run only NEC. We embrace them all. And I doubt any of them would consider us “niche.”
Furthermore it is worthwhile noting that, not unlike the market overall, a significant portion of our customers are categorized as ‘midsize businesses,’ while analysts like Gartner tend to be disproportionately impressed by major firms with larger marketing budgets. The strong marketing influence of American-based vendors like Cisco, Microsoft and Avaya is another aspect to consider when evaluating Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant.
Smart Enterprise is the Future
The truth of the matter is there’s no perfect Magic Quadrant that can accurately capture the essence of NEC’s enterprise technology business. As a result, you’ll find NEC products, services and solutions captured in 11 different Gartner Magic Quadrants, at last count.
Today’s large businesses run highly customized IT and communications environments, and rather than seeking point solutions to react to specific problems, they’re becoming more strategic about their buying decisions.
NEC believes this strategic approach is best achieved by focusing on the four value pillars of the Smart Enterprise. These pillars are business agility, cloud delivery, collaborative communities and assured services.
NEC supports these four pillars by delivering the industry’s strongest and most innovative portfolio of IT and communications solutions built on 118 years of excellence and expertise.
Gartner’s library of Magic Quadrants is constantly evolving. For example, the company retired its Corporate Telephony Magic Quadrant a few years ago. Many believe the same will be true for the UC Magic Quadrant before too long.
In the meantime, NEC will continue to pursue optimal positioning with Gartner and other industry influencers with all available facts, vision and information regarding our products, solutions and implementations, as we’ve always done.
And while the era of optimal usefulness may be coming to an end for the UC Magic Quadrant, NEC maintains a healthy rating over on the Gartner Peer Insights Web portal.
If you’re not familiar, Gartner Peer Insights is where you can find customer testimonials on numerous IT vendor solutions. NEC has numerous positive reviews in numerous categories. I encourage you to check it out.
This year’s conference agenda emphasized sharing success stories of transformation—through selling and implementing Smart Enterprise solutions in businesses of all sizes. Playing off a theme of “Exchange. Transform. Experience.” keynote presentations focused on how Digital Transformation is altering today’s business landscape. Paul Kievit, head of NEC’s enterprise business for EMEA and the Americas, noted that the integration of digital technology permeates all areas of business, causing a cultural shift in which organizations increasingly challenge the status quo with technology and innovation. NEC’s success comes from delivering IT and communications to create customer solutions for digital transformation.
Opportunities for attendees to network, exchange lessons learned and share new ideas expanded this year with the addition of expanded breakout sessions and solution demos.
“We listened to feedback from our partners and transformed our conference to include more breakouts, unique sessions, customer stories and partner experiences,” said Larry Levenberg, vice president of sales.
One of the highlights this year was the “Proud to Partner” session with presentations by a panel of partners Guyette Communications Industries, ServiceMark Telecom, Matrix Communications and Magna5. Representatives from each company described their organizations’ own recent transformational experiences, sharing advice and lessons learned with partners planning to embark on a similar path.
Vision for the Future
NEC executives also shared the company’s technology vision and strategy updates during keynote presentations. NEC’s Smart Enterprise technology strategy consists of a three-pronged approach, as outlined by Ram Menghani, senior vice president, UC/IT products and support:
1. Maintain unified communications and hybrid IT at our core
2. Grow intelligent-edge solutions and business models by incorporating biometrics, artificial intelligence, IoT and dynamic workflow into our offerings
3. Create additional value for individuals, enterprises and societies
“Since we first launched our Smart Enterprise initiative in 2015, we’ve converted many of our solutions to software-based platforms and converged our IT and communications channels. We created hybrid cloud offerings, building Platform Solution Integration Centers across the globe,” said Menghani. “Moving into the future, these centers will evolve into Centers of Excellence and key competency centers that will further fuel the creation of innovative solutions based on local and global trends, as well as emerging factors in society.”
He went on to say that this past year NEC expanded its strategy by functionally combining operations in NEC America with those of NEC EMEA. This combination propels innovation and simplification of the company’s products, resulting in greater support for both partners and customers.
Advantage also provided an excellent opportunity for partners and consultants to meet directly with NEC solutions experts and the management team. The expo area featured demos of NEC’s IT and UC solutions for both SMB and enterprise, including cloud, biometrics and analytics. Valued partners who provide joint solutions with NEC also showcased their demos in the expo area.
Market disruptors are commonplace in the unified communications (UC) industry, particularly over the past decade. We’ve seen the advent of BYOD, demand for more mobility, a plethora of new apps, better efficiencies through integrated technology, as well as an ever-increasing movement to the cloud. The industry is evolving due to consolidations, mergers and acquisitions and the emergence of new niche players. The latest announcement by Mitel that it’s going private and accelerating its move to the cloud adds yet another element to the competitive landscape.
With this latest move, Mitel is signaling a focus on growing its cloud business. Though the company states that it will still offer on-premises options for now, it’s easy to assume that less R&D will be focused on that line of business going forward. Fewer choices will be available, especially for customers that are not ready or interested in moving to the cloud at this time. Channel partners selling both on-premises and cloud solutions could also be negatively impacted.
UC customers benefit more by having options, be it cloud, hybrid cloud or on-premises, depending on their current business situation. A provider that can optimize the technology already in place, while helping to create an effective ongoing UC strategy, is more important than ever.
History of Understanding Customers’ Needs
NEC has demonstrated an ability for knowing what customers need when they need it and bringing value to help improve their businesses. We pride ourselves on giving customers options. Throughout our nearly 120-year history, NEC has proven to be much more than a voice communications and UC provider. Analyst firm Frost & Sullivan noted in the 2016 Enterprise Communications Transformation Strategies Company of the Year Award , “As organizations seek business transformation, they often wish to upgrade or implement their networks and IT infrastructure for integration with business systems and processes, as well as communications systems.”
Frost & Sullivan pointed specifically to NEC’s Smart Enterprise strategy when recognizing the company for this award. The Smart Enterprise approach brings together communications, networking and IT solutions to help people work and communicate better.
NEC’s approach is not to combine disparate components. Instead, we tap into our services-based offerings of cloud UC, analytics, biometrics, IaaS and software-defined networking (SDN) technologies to design communications and IT solutions that meet on-demand requirements. Our broad portfolio brings the agility, flexibility and efficiency required for business transformation. A wide range of technologies and services helps us create solutions that address customers’ current and future business needs and challenges by driving safety, security and operational efficiency. Our competitors really can’t offer that range of capabilities.
Additionally, here in the U.S., we have NEC Financial Services which delivers extraordinarily customizable leasing structures to customers nationwide. This allows customers to enjoy the benefits of an on-premises solution while taking advantage of the OPEX financial model which is the same as a cloud solution.
It’s a Matter of Choice
Each organization has its own requirements and aren’t easily configured into a “one size fits all” mold. They want options, and NEC has a track record of offering customers more choices. When moving to new UC solutions, customers benefit from being able to re-use or add value to their existing investments in communications technology. We can assist by offering on-premises, cloud or hybrid solutions. Our vast portfolio of solutions enables us to offer broader solutions to solve both IT and communications challenges.
Technology will continue to evolve. NEC has shown throughout our history that we have the capability of understanding customers’ needs and evolving our solutions to meet those needs.
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