NEC’s I:Delight platform is taking flight with SITA partnership

When airport checkpoints move smoothly, travelers have more time to shop, dine and relax before their flight. NEC’s biometric facial recognition technology is the quickest and simplest way to authenticate a passenger’s identity, letting them fast-track through every process from bag check to boarding.

NEC has developed a unique partnership with SITA, a global provider of IT and communication infrastructure for 80% of the world’s airports. NEC’s Advanced Identity Matcher – Edge Source (AIM-ES) technology uses the most accurate face matching algorithms as validated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), along with our NeoFace® algorithm, to deliver an all-in-one solution capable of creating recognition galleries and templates as well as providing identity matching and scoring. It easily integrates with the SITA Smart Path whole-journey identity management solution, which creates a specialized application for airport travelers.

Using the application, travelers can choose to use their digital identity for paperless boarding passes. A simple facial scan validates their identity at check-in and continues to authenticate passengers throughout the airport experience.

Implemented fully, a traveler can enable facial recognition in NEC’s I:Delight identity management platform to approve purchases in airport shops, on airlines, for hotels and transportation. Because it uses an individual’s unique ID, it is more secure than other online money transfer services.

No explanation required—in any language

Facial recognition is intuitive and transcends language barriers: Everyone knows how to take a selfie, so it’s natural to look at a screen for a snapshot. The results are also extremely quick. The photo hits the cloud, finds a match, then flashes a red light or green light—a universal signal for a person to stop or go ahead.

By comparison, other forms of biometric identification require the individual be at an exact distance and use a precise gesture—both of which involve an explanation and require more time. In addition, face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic raise a new challenge, but NEC’s NeoFace biometric algorithms gather enough data from the visible part of the face to verify a traveler in the database.

Travelers simply opt-in to the platform to access the application. If they want touchless fast-tracking, they download an app to their phone, save an image of their face on the day of travel, and their image and secure travel documents are linked in a database for travel checkpoints. Travelers maintain self-sovereign identity, meaning each traveler selects who they will share their information with, such as an airline, hotel or retail service.

Customized for airlines, compliant with security

The partnership also streamlines adoption of the technology for airlines and airports. SITA Flex enables airports and airlines to build their own mobile applications for passengers, and NEC’s digital identity management software enables developers to overlay their interface with the NEC I:Delight platform.

Biometric verification can also be used for security and customs checkpoints. Each country has distinct requirements for security screening, and SITA has both the relationships and the extensive local workforce to customize our platform for compliance and scale at each location. All systems adhere to country and local policies, and NEC is completely transparent about how data is used. For example, data for international travelers in the U.S. is stored for six hours, then expunged.

Delta Air Lines is already using the NEC facial recognition platform in Atlanta to fast-track passengers. The hygienic, touchless system is ideal during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Delta will expand this streamlined process to other U.S. airport hubs.

Internationally, NEC and SITA have a project in Thailand, at multiple airports in India, and Star Alliance is rolling out NEC I:Delight in Europe. Star Alliance plans to enable travelers to use their travel reward points system as a purchasing method—in flight as well as at the airport, hotel and transportation.

The NEC-SITA partnership creates an opportunity to scale NEC biometrics technology to more than 460 airports running on SITA’s infrastructure around the world.

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Compassion and innovation can be a positive force for the social justice movement

As a technology industry leader with deep research and development roots, NEC is guided both by strong principles around scientific exploration, as well as the ethical implications of our projects.

I wrote recently that a brighter world “will never exist while systemic racism and other forms of social injustice continue to oppress the Black and other marginalized communities.”

Globally, NEC Corporation President & CEO Takashi Niino has stated previously that as a supplier of public safety technologies, we are committed to maintaining an open and broad dialogue with employees, customers, partners, citizens, civic leaders and our colleagues in government.

NEC is a company with developed core values, including AI & Human Rights Principles, and we are committed to helping to end racial injustice in our society. Our efforts to operationalize our values and AI & Human Rights Principles help us responsibly develop and sell biometric technologies, including face, iris, fingerprint, palm print, finger vein, and others.

Today in the United States, many law enforcement agencies use our technology as a tool for investigative decision-making and determining possible leads in a case. As noted by numerous legal experts and scholars, a match using facial recognition alone is not a means for positive identification. Additional police work is required.

police in the communityAlthough current events have brought the topics of social justice, law enforcement and technology to the forefront of national discourse, NEC, through continued research and development, has long thought about the ways in which facial recognition algorithms can affect people of color. We have gone to great lengths to ensure our facial recognition algorithms are accurate across racial and other demographic groups.

For over a decade, our algorithms have ranked highest in accuracy in tests by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), widely considered a global authority on testing of biometric algorithms. Unlike many facial recognition algorithms that in last year’s NIST report, showed a pervasive problem with demographic disparity, NEC’s high-performing algorithm did not demonstrate this issue. As the matter of fact, our algorithm was singled out for being “on many measures, the most accurate algorithm we have ever tested.” This holds true across the diverse array of races and genders represented in the image test database.

This brings me to what NEC believes on the issues.

We believe it is possible to have compassion and actively work to improve conditions for America’s vibrant communities of color, while supporting our law enforcement customers and supporting reforms that encourage responsible use of our technology by law enforcement.

Furthermore, we believe that public safety agencies should responsibly use advanced facial recognition and other innovative technologies to help correct inherent biases, protect privacy and civil rights, and fairly and effectively conduct investigations for social justice.

On the topic of policy and regulation, we have and shall continue to support the development of legislation that provides and enhances existing guidelines for the responsible use of facial recognition technology.

We are dedicated to working with our law enforcement customers, the diverse communities they serve, and the policymakers who represent those diverse communities to find the best possible path forward. As we continue to work toward a brighter world, we plan to find ways to participate in ending systemic racism in America, and to use the best technology to do so.

Sincerely,
Mark Ikeno
President & CEO
NEC Corporation of America

A Message from the Office of Mark Ikeno, President and CEO of NEC Corporation of America

As events have unfolded this past week, many of us have gone through a spectrum of emotions. Sadness, anger, grief, frustration, and a strong desire for change all come to mind.

George Floyd’s death is unfortunately just one recent event in a long history of similarly tragic incidents across the country, and we recognize that the current increased focus on systemic racial justice issues is long overdue. We stand with those who are grieving and hurting and support those working to eradicate racial injustice in our society.

We understand that the brighter world we strive to orchestrate will never exist while systemic racism and other forms of social injustice continue to oppress the Black and other marginalized communities.

To those of you powerfully explicating and combatting these complex problems, we appreciate your work, we are paying attention, and we are committed to being part of the solutions.  Although we do not yet know exactly what those solutions will entail, we are listening, we are watching, and we are broadening and deepening our ongoing dialogue about the multifaceted issues at the intersection of racial justice, human rights, and technology.

To our law enforcement, first responder, and public safety customers who are dedicated to protecting and serving individuals of all races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations, we recognize the challenges you face and how difficult it must be to see so many of our communities so divided. We are committed to continuing to partner with you and the communities you serve to cooperatively ensure that our efforts to make society safer equally make society more just and inclusive.

We are here to support our employees, our customers, and all those taking a stand against injustice as we all band together, the way we must, to employ our individual and collective skills and resources to shape a better future for the world.

Sincerely,
Mark Ikeno
President & CEO
NEC Corporation of America

COVID-19 / Coronavirus Update

Disclaimer: This blog post reflects the latest available information regarding NEC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. We will periodically update this post as new information becomes available.

Updated March 25, 2020

Like all companies, NEC Corporation of America has been closely monitoring the COVID-19 / novel coronavirus outbreak. The health of our customers, partners, employees and their families are of paramount importance, and we are actively aligning our response based on guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

While COVID-19 has not had a direct impact on NEC’s operations, we are taking the necessary precautions to help promote the health and wellbeing of our employees while maintaining the highest level of satisfaction and support for our customers and partners.

In the best interest of the health of NEC customers, partners and employees, NEC has implemented two measures regarding business travel and teleworking for our employees. These measures are designed to curtail the spread of the virus, while remaining as responsive as possible to our customers’ and partners’ needs.

  • Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, all domestic and international business travel by NEC employees must be deemed mission-critical before it will be approved.
  • Through at least April 3, NEC is instituting voluntary teleworking for all employees that are able to do so, except for those who live in areas affected by “stay at home” orders where teleworking is mandatory.
  • For employees working in critical on-site functions, such as those in our distribution warehouse, no non-essential visitors will be admitted for the safety of our employees.
  • For any NEC employees who must work on a customer’s location, we will continue to provide the level of support that they’ve come to rely upon from us. In some cases, employees who fall into the category of high-risk as defined by the CDC will be given the option to work remotely.
  • NEC office locations currently impacted by “stay at home” orders have been closed to outside visitors and are only open to mission-critical staff. All other NEC office locations will remain open and accessible unless otherwise required to close. To date we have had no employees impacted and no contamination issues. We will continue to follow CDC guidelines for regular cleaning and disinfecting of these locations.

We very much appreciate your trust and partnership with NEC and hope that you are taking similar precautions to keep your employees healthy and safe. If you have any concerns, requests or needs that NEC can address for you during this time, we are here to listen and help. Please do not hesitate to reach out to your NEC contacts.

Meanwhile, we will update this blog post as needed on the COVID-19 situation, and as any new decisions are made.

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Tech Advancements in 2019 and Looking Ahead to 2020

Cloud computing, security and collaboration top the list of enterprise technology trends in 2019. Gartner estimated early in the year that cloud services would grow 17.5 percent over 2019 and infrastructure services would be the fastest growing segment. In 2019 and 2020, business leaders must consider the cost of scalability, communications adaptability and how to help increase efficiency for IT staff.

NEC led the charge with a banner year of new releases, updates and development in the cloud computing and unified communications market.

As we close out the year, let’s review technology trends firmly established in 2019 and what to expect from NEC in 2020.

Reduce the Complexity of Data Center Management

A 2019 Spiceworks survey found that 46% of enterprise organizations planned to adopt hyperconverged infrastructure solutions by 2020. With the complexity of datacenter applications, virtualization and other cloud-based services, IT staff is challenged with managing it all. Each application or service typically involves installing its own server, requiring more storage, networking and skill requirements. Inefficient resource utilization and disorganization leads to unnecessary purchases, the inability to innovate and increased downtime.

In 2019, NEC released a new HCI solution powered by Scale Computing’s HC3 software. HCI consolidates and streamlines IT processes, bringing the hardware costs down and making management easier through one virtualized system and interface. A more stable and simplified environment means that IT staff can be proactive, with far less downtime, and the ability to scale easier.

Solve Communications and Collaboration Challenges

Unified communications helps businesses of all sizes to collaborate from across the globe. As more employees work from remote locations, team communications must be adaptable and easily accessible for reliable availability and a better employee experience. Unified communications requires technology that is easily integrated into current IT environments, cost effective, flexible and scalable.

NEC continues to be a world leader in UC research and development. In 2019, NEC was proud to announce the latest evolution of UNIVERGE-SV9000 series for communications and collaboration.

Securely Prioritize UC Network Traffic

When enterprises rely on unified communications, they are challenged with delivering cost-effective bandwidth while helping critical applications coexist securely and efficiently. In 2019, NEC announced a partnership with Infovista that combines Infovista’s Software defined WAN (SDWAN) capabilities with NEC’s software defined unified communications services. This partnership helps to reduce WAN operating costs while delivering optimal voice quality and dynamic routing of voice traffic based on real-time network traffic and conditions. By leveraging multiple WAN links and centralizing management, application performance is safeguarded and operational efficiency is improved.

Move to More Cloud-Based Solutions

2019 saw the increase in use of as-a-service options including infrastructure, unified communications, collaboration and backups, and this increase will continue throughout the New Year. In 2019, NEC expanded the UNIVERGE BLUE cloud portfolio to include Team Collaboration and BaaS (backup as a service).

NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE Team Collaboration improves workforce communications and cooperation, anytime and from anywhere. By simplifying the complexity of voice, video, screen sharing and meetings, the employee experience is enhanced and employee retention improves.

BaaS solutions can reduce the likelihood of data loss and save money on the cost of backup infrastructure. Built on NEC’s powerful distributed grid platform, HYDRAstor®, and secured in Iron Mountain® data centers, this backup as a service solution securely backs up onsite data centers cost-effectively with advanced encryption and easy scalability.

NEC continues to deliver excellence in cloud computing, business continuity, infrastructure and unified communications.

Tech Trends to Look for in 2020

Research shows that IT budgets will continue to increase in 2020, much of it to be spent on new technology as well as hardware replacement. According to a survey of 1,000 North American and European companies conducted by Spiceworks, 44% of businesses plan to increase IT spending in 2020 (vs. 38% in 2019). Gartner also predicts increased worldwide IT spending in 2020 with a growth rate of 3.7% overall.

Here’s a look at some of the trends for 2020 and beyond.

Cloud Computing and Everything as a Service

Installations of cloud-based computing will continue to grow at a record pace as organizations become more familiar and comfortable with the advantages it offers to a mobile workforce. Cloud infrastructure is maturing beyond being separated into public, hosted private and on premises buckets to instead becoming more portable and mobile as well as more standardized.

Spending-wise, Spiceworks’ IT spending survey found that hosted and cloud-based services are expected to make up about 22-23% of the total IT budget in 2020 (for NA and European companies). Online backup and recovery services will represent the second largest budget allocation in cloud services, with larger companies allocating more money toward desktop-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service than smaller organizations.

Edge Computing and IoT

Another leading-edge trend that is gaining momentum is edge computing. Defined as distributed computing, edge computing moves computation and data storage closer to where these services are needed, improving latency and saving bandwidth. Spiceworks reports that 68% of large companies plan to use edge computing by the end of 2020.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are no longer part of science fiction. Spiceworks estimates that businesses using AI-powered tech is going to triple by 2021. As an example, AI/ML can be used to help reduce costs by increasing the efficiency of cloud computing. Workplace efficiency can also be improved by using AI to sort through volumes of data to find the information that is most pertinent. AI also is making its way into collaboration and communication within the enterprise. Both internal and external teams continue to become dispersed, so better and more intelligent collaboration is needed to provide information and insight for decision-making.

Facial Recognition

NEC has paved the way for the use of facial recognition in aviation, government entities and retail and in 2020, use of NEC facial recognition will continue to expand across all industries including healthcare, education and hospitality to increase security and improve the customer experience.

NEC Face Recognition Technology Ranks First in 2019 NIST Accuracy Testing

In retail, NEC facial recognition will continue to be expanded as it’s used to personalize the online and in-store experiences for shoppers. Retailers also use it to fight retail crime and shoplifting.

Several new applications for using facial recognition in healthcare are in development. For example, rather than waiting in line to be seen, a virtual assistant can scan a face and assign a patient to a doctor. In education, administrators will be able to take attendance with the help of facial recognition. Facial recognition will be used to enhance identity management and verification systems within healthcare, education and hospitality. NEC’s goal by developing cross-industry facial recognition solutions is to help businesses enhance their employee and customer experience by enabling seamless, frictionless, and more efficient environments by automating operations with this technology.

Star Alliance and NEC Sign Partnership to Enhance Passenger Experience

Technology will continue to improve in hospitality, including security and access, payment authorization and customer service. Hotels, cruises, airports and restaurants are using facial recognition to personalize the customer experience, including using their face to pay for a meal, check into a flight, get recommendations or receive special offers.

Which of these trends does your organization plan to embrace in the coming year? Talk to an NEC expert to learn more about our award-winning research and development and we can customize a solution for your technology needs.

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