What’s “More Personal” Than Your Face?

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 key  enables 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.

Removing Bottlenecks at Large Events

A game day experience can be exciting and fun. However, you may have to navigate through a few long lines before you can get to your seat to cheer on your team. Sports arenas handle large crowds on a regular basis. In fact, in 2017, the NFL alone had more than 17 million spectators attend its regular season games, while the NBA averaged 17,830 visitors per game in 2017 and 2018. With large crowds, come inevitable “pinch points” as fans move through the venue. What if advanced facial recognition technology could eliminate some of those stress points and create a more pleasurable and hassle-free fan experience?

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.

Free eBook on Facial Recognition Systems for Aviation and 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.

Facial Recognition from NEC

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.

Learn why NEC is a leading facial recognition provider, and find out more about our biometric solutions by visiting https://www.necam.com/AdvancedRecognitionSystems/

NEC Corporation of America

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Knott’s Berry Farm – How Does a World-Famous Theme Park Make a Great First Impression?

Upon entering the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park in Buena Park, California, you’re immediately immersed in another time. My first impression was of the charm of the place, its friendly “olden days” feel with a sense of Old West adventure. Even with the drama of live-action shows, the addition of its famous wooden roller coaster, exciting rides, shops, and dining choices, Knott’s Berry Farm has managed to retain its historical feel. But is all this history and charm really typical of a customer’s very first impression?

Actually, my first experience with Knott’s Berry Farm began online, followed by a phone call for more information. Just as most people these days would go online to purchase tickets, or book a full vacation package.

The Knott’s Berry Farm theme park is just one part of a larger brand experience. The company also offers the convenient on-property Knott’s Hotel lodging for guests, and the nearby “Soak City” Water Park. As a potential customer, my first impressions could well have been formed by speaking with a contact center representative who assists with guests’ vacation arrangements.

I dare say we’ve all experienced long hold times, and struggled to navigate prompts on an older phone system, trying to reach a live agent just so that we can solve a problem or simply make arrangements to pay for goods or services. Knott’s Berry Farm sought to solve this exact challenge for its customers.

With three distinct Knott’s entities to consider, all struggling with older systems that had long since passed end-of-life and support, Knott’s Berry Farm was faced with some big decisions. Decisions about how to make essential and long overdue changes in their communications system without incurring critical downtime, or disrupting their daily operations, or causing staff re-training headaches—and, since it would impact thousands of end-points, what is the most dependable yet flexible solution with the most efficient network?

Basically, how do you select the right new technology and then transition over from the old, while still maintaining ongoing operations of a giant multi-faceted entertainment enterprise?

Our Knott’s Berry Farm story will share with you the challenges, solutions, and successes of their recent strategic migration to two (2) UNIVERGE SV9500 communications platforms, complete with NEC’s UC for Enterprise (UCE) suite of unified communications (UC) and contact center applications. They chose this flexible, comprehensive UC solution that is fully networked, highly intuitive for staff, provides critical operations information, simplifies administration, has built-in disaster recovery–and was actually cost effective. In their own words, “It was a seamless transition”.

By providing routing assistance and delivering effective toolsets for the newly networked call centers–as well as basic features such as Caller ID, Collaboration, and Mobility for other Knott’s personnel, the upgrading from their existing NEC systems that have served them well, not only helped to enhance customer service between the hotel and park operations, it effectively improved the operation’s internal communications as well, simply by enabling much-increased functionality.

First impressions are important for this kind of Entertainment/ Retail/ Hospitality industry, and are really all about a happy workplace, providing a worry-free environment that can create great memories, for guests and staff alike. Knott’s Berry Farm can now deliver an improved guest experience, from the very first “Thank you for calling Knott’s Berry Farm”, to the last fond farewell.

If you’d like to learn more about this historical venue’s modern day move to state of-the-art communication solutions just let us know, and we can provide you with a free consultation with one of our hospitality experts.

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A New Vision for NEC’s Smart Enterprise

As the enterprise environment changes, it’s up to technology partners to provide tools and stay adaptable to help support those businesses. NEC has a wide breadth of core UC and IT products and each stands on its own to help solve common technology dilemmas. Our NEC Smart Enterprise encapsulates those multiple solutions into one powerful enterprise approach to meet the demands and complex needs of today’s end users and IT executives.

With Paul Kievit expanding his role to SVP of Enterprise and a new Frost & Sullivan report, we’re building out a new vision for NEC’s Smart Enterprise.
Paul Kievit’s New Vision for the Smart Enterprise

In an effort to respond to market forces and transform Enterprise operations across both the Americas and EMEA, I am pleased to announce that Mr. Paul Kievit, Head of EMEA Enterprise Solutions, will assume the additional role of Senior Vice President of Enterprise for NEC Corporation of America.

Under Paul’s leadership and passion, his team helped develop the NEC Smart Enterprise go-to-market message and approach, which has been adopted by NEC businesses globally. Paul’s vision for NEC Smart Enterprise is to continue to develop and sell solutions around the customer experience:

• Addressing unmet customer needs
• Implementing best practices
• Creating excellence in the customer purchase experience
• Building brand equity and adopting NEC solutions to customer demands

NEC Smart Enterprise Explained

Built on four key objectives, NEC Smart Enterprise helps executives face the complex needs of enterprise users head on:
• Architecture flexibility
Software-defined anything
• Business continuity
• Internet of things

These elements allow businesses to improve how their employees communicate and collaborate, as well as improve the security of the information that is shared throughout the organization.

Moving to the Cloud
As IT executives adopt cloud-based IT and communications services, they hope to solve the challenges of data storage and scalability, maintenance requirements and multi-vendor platform integration. Decision makers, concerned with quality control, security risks, reliability and installation challenges, need to work with a provider and cloud model that addresses their unique needs. A hybrid cloud architecture can combine the best of a public and private cloud, allowing the organization control where they need it and outsourcing other components. Customizing the cloud environment strategically adds architecture flexibility and prepares for future business needs while improving business continuity and compliance.

Meeting the Workforce Where They Are
Business agility helps a mobile workforce respond to customer and business challenges on the go. The legacy focus on hardware has given way to a more flexible architecture of software services. Users and applications expect to work together in an ecosystem that should be available everywhere at any time. Virtualizing networks, through software-defined-anything, relieves the burden of time, real estate, and manned resources and therefore decreases the cost to the enterprise. The benefits of software-defined environments are simplified management, security, ability to scale, and less staff requirements with business continuity built-in.

Preparing for the Worst
While IT departments can “pray for the best” during their primary activities of rolling out new technology or resolving end-user quandaries, business continuity is not just an option anymore. Traditional business continuity solutions involved red tape and budgetary challenges to pay for the expensive hardware requirements. We have finally reached an era of business continuity/ high availability (BCHA) affordability through nearly always-up service level agreements, and users are demanding nothing less. Today’s enterprise technology partners must provide reliable data access through a variety of elements such as virtualization, load-balancing server software, fault-tolerant servers, Software-Defined Networking (SDN), scalability, security and threat management.

Improving Security
The internet of things (IoT), while adding a layer of security through connected devices and biometrics, can also build business value through analysis of the captured data. Law enforcement, higher education, and enterprise organizations leverage video monitoring and multi-factor authentication to prevent theft, monitor crowds, and create more secure areas and access control. Retail, hospitality, and healthcare also rely on video and biometric recognition to increase customer loyalty, improve record accuracy and reduce operational costs. Executives want to invest in IoT technology and need a partner who can maximize the benefits while easily accessing the data through reliable servers with nearly unlimited storage capacity.

The NEC Approach
The Frost & Sullivan vision of a technology partnership that solves enterprise challenges is reflected in NEC’s capabilities and product solutions. Our fault-tolerant servers, the full line of general purpose storage products–including our high-end HYDRAStor product which scales to almost unlimited data, work together with NEC’s SDN and UC solutions to build a quality Smart Enterprise solution for the enterprise marketplace. By condensing the amount of data center space required to run critical applications, and including biometrics into the mix, the new vision for NEC Smart Enterprise reduces costs for organizations and continues to add value, even to existing infrastructure.

• NEC offers hybrid cloud solutions customized to best fit the need of the enterprise, even those with regulatory and compliance challenges.
• An industry leader in the SDN space, NEC’s open architecture enables a flexible and simpler approach to the network design and provides business agility to the workforce.
• Disruptions to business, planned or unplanned, can be damaging to any size business in today’s climate. NEC’s secure fault-tolerant servers–as well as Active-Active communications with multiple software instances balancing the load in real time for high availability, provide true business continuity, even in hybrid environments.
• NEC’s facial recognition, biometrics and behavioral analytics solutions create the ability to gain business intelligence and maximize IoT solutions, creating a forward-thinking smart enterprise.

With new focused guidance and leadership, our NEC solutions for Smart Enterprise and passion for improving the customer experience helps to meet and exceed the needs of technology leaders, preparing them for the future.

To learn more about NEC’s Smart Enterprise, download the Frost & Sullivan Report. (Companion Piece) or the full report here.

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Personalizing the Customer Experience at Sea with Advanced Recognition Systems

According to the Cruise Lines International Association 2018 Cruise Industry Outlook (CLIA), 27.2 million passengers are expected to cruise with 27 new ocean, river and specialty ships to launch this year. 2018 is also the year that CLIA predicts a rise in traveler-friendly technology to enhance their customers’ travel experiences.

The question on the minds of progressive cruise line market leaders is how to securely process increasingly larger numbers of passengers while adding more customer ease into the cruise experience. Many in the cruise line industry are considering the use of biometrics technology.

How a Single Unified Biometric Key Creates Seamless Experiences

Biometric Key

Passwords, loyalty cards and other forms of ID are used in every encounter, from shopping at the grocery store to listening to your favorite playlist to boarding a cruise ship. Enterprise leaders are recognizing the amount of information consumers have to carry, either physically or mentally, in order to access personalized experiences. Allen Ganz, Director of Advanced Recognition Solutions at NEC America offers a different take: “Your face is a unified key.”

NEC’s facial recognition solutions, ranked #1 after performance testing by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), identify individual faces of people as they move in real time, without stopping to look at a camera. This technology allows each individual to use their face as a unified biometric key, in many different situations, to create seamless and personalized experiences.

Specific to the cruise line industry, early adopters have found that a unified biometric key can be used for:

  • Biometric Passenger Manifest
  • Cruise Terminal Queue Management
  • Effortless Check-In and Bag Check
  • Frictionless Expedited Embarkation and Debarkation
  • Intelligent Customized Displays
  • Seamless Payment
  • Access Control
  • Data and Video Analytics
  • Command and Control

Cruise Terminal Queues and Check In

Embarkation day can be hectic for the traveler who is ready to get away from it all. The lines to board the ship can be excruciatingly long unless the traveling couple or family has purchased priority embarkation through the cruise line loyalty program. However, this process does not need to be time consuming. With the use of a unified biometric key, the queue to board the ship–even for those travelers who are not VIPs, can be more efficient.

Since the Customs check-in typically slows the process of boarding the ship, travelers can speed this up by self-enrolling in the ship’s system using facial recognition; they simply take a quick selfie using their smartphone, and opt in. Now, with a simple scan of their face, they have created a unique and unified biometric key to also use aboard the ship. Rapid access authentication quickly matches the traveler to the ship’s guest list, enabling the guests to come aboard faster. Onboard, baggage can also be matched to the traveler’s profile using only their face, so they can quickly access their luggage upon arrival or departure.

VIP Treatment

Once passengers have enrolled themselves and created their own unified biometric key, they can now use their face to unlock personalized VIP experiences tailored to their interests and manifest. Using intelligent customized displays, guests will be able to walk up and see their personalized itinerary and other entertainment options. Facial recognition technology can also open guest room doors, and purchase items on the ship through facial payment, creating a simple and frictionless experience. With a system that automatically matches each guest to their individual preferences, all travelers feel welcomed and recognized on a personal level.

Implementing facial recognition can also benefit cruise lines by prompting their staff to enthusiastically welcome loyalty guests and to personalize birthday, anniversary and other special occasion greetings.

Disney and Carnival ships are currently using biometrics to sell their passenger’s vacation photos taken during the cruise. Instead of presenting guests with a card or having, them review the photos on a wall, the system sorts through the photos by matching them to their face, and presents them on a personalized display or through a mobile app.

Read also: The Security Solution is Staring Us in the Face

Frictionless Embarkation and Debarkation

Cruise ships have 2,000 to 4,000 passengers and over 1,000 employees on board, which means embarkation and debarkation at ports may take hours to complete. With the use of an individual’s unified biometric key, passengers and employees are recognized for that particular cruise, which reduces passenger-processing by 40% or more, adding efficiency to the port embarkation and debarkation experience.

The process is simple. When passengers or employees disembark from the ship, their face is scanned using facial recognition, and is matched to the image from the initial enrollment process. Without the need to stop, travelers can exit and re-enter the ship in record time, giving them more time at their port of call. In fact, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, Georgia is already relying on facial recognition technology and Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport is also participating in biometric testing with NEC’s NeoFace® Express both with much success.

Improving Safety and Security

Because a unified biometric key is unique to each individual, it can be used to improve the safety and security for everyone on board, ensuring only those persons who should be on the ship are on the ship. Facial recognition can also be used for access control, to allow cruise staff to secure employee-only areas with a scan of their face. Cruise line security can track guests, color-code traveling families, and easily create different settings for particular travelers or families.

NEC: The Leading Facial Recognition Provider

Early adopters in the cruise line industry have already begun using facial recognition to create a positive, effortless experience for their guests. NEC offers the most advanced identification matching technology today. For ten consecutive years, NEC’s facial recognition technology has been awarded first place from the U.S. National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). Some of the standards met during the testing included:

  • Recognizing one individual at a time, as they walked through a crowded area without stopping
  • Detecting suspicious individuals at an indoor stadium
  • Accuracy and speed of matching to photos already in a database

NEC’s NeoFace® Express uses facial recognition to transform the travel experience–or any hospitality experience that involves large groups of people. The system interfaces with on-board video systems for easy integration. Adding facial recognition and other biometric technology allows cruise lines to offer a first-class journey with security, frictionless access, and to give passengers a personalized experience using a simple, unified biometric key.

Ready to learn more? Fill out the form below for a simple consultation with one of our biometric subject matter experts or visit us online to for more information on our biometric solutions.

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Latest Moves in UC Landscape Reinforce Need for Customer Choice

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.

Want to know more? Download this eBook for more on how NEC can help you.

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