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

Touchless Transformation – Creating a New, Safer and Seamless Customer Experience, Post COVID-19

I live and work in New York City, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. As a matter of fact, the first reported case of COVID-19 in the city was a relative of someone in the same grade as my own child, so this crisis hit home very early on with me.

I immediately began to think how to bring 25+ years of experience in biometrics to help address some of the challenges that have emerged in this pandemic. Fortunately, I did not have to look very far. The fact is, NEC has a wide range of cutting-edge biometric solutions that support a touchless transformation already deployed to help protect employees and consumers. In fact, we are already working with our customers to help reopen airports, airlines, hospitals, casinos, restaurants, stadiums, entertainment establishments and other customer-facing venues.

NEC’s mission is to enable touchless customer experiences. We do this via our new digital service platform, NEC I:Delight, that allows our customers to provide more hygienic and secure customer interactions.

Our customer experience platform provides the ability to validate an individual’s identity using pre-enrolled or opted-in identity information, for example, from a driver’s license or a passport. Once their identity is validated, they have the option to leverage their digital identity by accessing their personal profiles, which is fully encrypted and under the user’s control, for contactless permission-based interactions.

NEC’s proven identity management technology and expertise creates new, safe customer experiences.

Our face-based identification platform can be leveraged during travel, while attending events or shopping. Customers can simply use their faces as proof of identity at point of sale and access points  ̶  without physically touching other devices or surfaces, reducing transmission risk to them and the people around them.

Now, more than ever, we need to rebuild confidence in returning to public spaces, for employees and consumers alike. At NEC, we have the experience and proficiency to help support you moving forward.

Reduce Risk When Reopening or Returning to Work

As states start to reopen public areas and businesses begin opening their doors, retailers, restaurants, airlines, casinos, hotels and other businesses must take precautions to ensure a safe environment for their employees and customers. NEC can play a big role in reducing health risks when reopening or returning to work.

Touchless Access Management is a key challenge in responding to COVID-19 to maintain business continuity. NEC’s access management solution uses face-based biometric authentication to enable employees to enter secured buildings or restricted areas without requiring identification cards or touchscreens.

Contactless Facial Payment uses NEC’s award-winning biometrics technology to simultaneously verify the identity of individuals, without contact in-store or online. Additionally, customer loyalty is improved with personalized offers that are suggested to an individual based on their preferences or previous purchase history.

Elevated Body Temperature screening provides rapid, touchless, hygienic physical access in congested high throughput environments. Built with industry-leading thermal sensors and top-ranked face recognition software, NEC’s NeoFace® Thermal Express achieves fast results with exceptional accuracy. Powered by NEC’s artificial intelligence (AI)-driven video, thermal sensing and analytics, we can deliver a secure experience that does not involve physical contact.

NEC’s NeoFace® Thermal Express:

  • Detects elevated body temperatures (EBT) that may indicate a fever and alerts operators
  • Identifies personal protective equipment (PPE), including face masks
  • Leverages advanced analytics to enhance performance and throughput
  • Equipped with the most accurate and proven face recognition technology*
  • Improves customer experience and decreases or eliminates lengthy queues

Scene Processing using AI analyzes and extracts data to identify people, objects and events. For example, it can ensure employees and customers are maintaining appropriate social distancing, capacity limits are being monitored and masks are being worn in mandatory areas.

NEC: Committed to Innovation and Touchless Transformation

NEC I:Delight, combined with our AI-driven analytics and identity management solutions, help create experiences that are seamless and safe. For decades, NEC has been delivering scalable, end-to-end solutions that enable safety and security.

NEC - Fresh

We are proud to work with Fresh Consulting, our strategic partner known for designing innovative experiences for top global brands. Using a comprehensive collaborative discovery process, we will work together with your organization to determine how to:

  1. Design your biometric customer journey
  2. Align key stakeholders and customer personas
  3. Capture technical and operational constraints
  4. Create a prioritized roadmap and ROI determination

Our commitment to innovation and touchless transformation is paramount!

*NEC NeoFace face recognition algorithms have been ranked #1 by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for nine years – https://www.necam.com/AdvancedRecognitionSystems/NISTValidation/FingerprintFacial

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A Solid Platform for a Touchless World

In a matter of months, the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, fundamentally altering social paradigms and prompting governments, businesses, and the public to seek new ways of interacting. Even after the current crisis passes, it will take time to recover, and many aspects of daily life may never be the same.

In the “new normal” to follow, we expect the current emphasis on public health and safety to continue unabated, making the ability to travel, shop, and work without the use of tangible identification or credit cards, touchscreens, or digital signature pens higher priorities. To individuals and organizations alike, technologies that support both frictionless access and social distancing measures are now more important than ever. Solutions that satisfy these emerging needs will require two components:

1

Making touchpoints “touchless” to reduce the spread of infectious diseases

2

Providing an advanced, robust, and scalable platform to support hygienic customer experiences

Combined, these components offer a new, revolutionary approach to Digital Transformation (DX), which will enable personal identification via digital technologies to interconnect people—including corporations and local and national agencies—and processes. Participants who opt in to DX technologies can benefit from enhanced digital services that securely, efficiently, and hygienically permeate all facets of life.

Through many years of work with governments and enterprise partners, NEC
has developed technologies that can eliminate the need for physical interaction
when identifying individuals. Although we began our journey toward touchless technology long before the current crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a new perspective on the importance of our solutions to essential workers who are on the frontlines to ensure our safety and security. Our commitment to support these workers is one of many factors that have driven the implementation of our biometric and AI solutions for multiple purposes, including aviation and immigration.

NEC sends its heartfelt thanks to essential workers and first responders who put their own lives on the line to keep us all safe.

An example of our touchless technology at work in aviation is NEC’s implementation of the first curb-to-gate biometric terminal in the U.S. with Delta Air Lines, in partnership with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). Our curb-to-gate solution enables rapid identification and real-time screening of passengers. Travelers flying to an international destination can choose to use face recognition technology to check in at the self-service kiosks, drop bags at the check-in counters, go through the TSA checkpoint, and board a flight without requiring a physical ID card or boarding pass. Not only are our solutions more efficient, they are more hygienic with reduced risk of contamination, and they help streamline and secure customer interactions.

While integrating thermal sensors is the first step in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, implementation of secure, touchless access requires sensor fusion. NEC’s award-winning biometrics solutions, including face and iris recognition, coupled with our cutting-edge technologies in behavior detection, body recognition, video analytics, and artificial intelligence, provide the tools to ensure successful implementation of touchless technologies.

Please see NEC’s “Vision of a Touchless World” exclusive whitepaper below.

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NEC at NRF 2020: Seamless Retail Customer Experiences with Greater Operational Efficiency

NEC was one of the early pioneers in biometrics technologies since the 1970s. Today, NEC is the world’s leading provider of biometric solutions to both governments and commercial entities, which include air travel, theme parks, stadiums, casinos and more. Next stop: retail, where we are leading new initiatives to transform the Customer Experience (CX).

Looking Customer Loyalty Right in the FaceAt NRF 2020, visitors to NEC’s booth got a glimpse of how retailers are using facial biometrics to deliver an improved CX and achieve tangible business benefits.

Several years ago, we deployed a Customer Experience initiative aimed at transforming the way consumers transact in physical spaces, from entering theme parks and stadiums, to boarding planes, accessing benefits and making payments, interactions that require security as well as streamlined convenience. Today, we see this visionary concept in several very high-profile implementations. And what we saw at NRF this year, is that the retail space is ready to embrace this trend, with facial recognition as the enabler for an item-of-interest to become an item-in-hand with minimal effort and delay. Our leading technology makes it possible to deliver on this promise.

Customer Experience Starts with Fast, Frictionless Transactions

To kick off their booth experience at NRF 2020, visitors self-registered by simply taking a picture of their face, creating a digital ID on our facial identity management platform, NEC I:Delight. This one time enrollment enabled multiple touchpoints and experiences throughout the booth, providing for faster, more secure transactions for applications such as loyalty and payment.

As customers progressed through the booth, they experienced our facial recognition enabled Self-Checkout solution. This self-checkout lane recognizes the items a customer has placed in their shopping bag via RFID, calculates payment and then activates the charge without the customer ever stopping or swiping a credit card. As they walk through the lane, the customer has the option of scanning a QR code on their device or using their face as the “method of payment." NRF attendees also had the opportunity to interact with NEC’s technology partner, POP ID, a Cali Group company. POP ID’s self-ordering kiosk makes recommendations based on past food orders for faster decision-making, reducing wait times, increasing customer loyalty and revenue opportunities. Customers simply register once on their mobile device, and then use the kiosk to choose items and pay without pulling out a wallet or device a second time. Available at numerous quick-service restaurant (QSR) locations today, POP ID’s “Face-pay” concept is enabling unique and memorable customer experiences and generating a fast return on investment.

Experience Advanced Analytics

NEC also showed how facial technology can be applied to enhance data analytics and assist retailers behind the scenes to improve business operations. By analyzing key aspects of the shopper population, either in-store or in front of a particular display, retailers are able to send offers or engage customers in real time based on their individual interests. These types of up-to-the-minute data analytics help retailers survive and thrive in this competitive marketplace. Reliable sales data enables tailored in-store offers to customers, plus aids in managing inventory and staffing.

Retail … the Next Facial Recognition Frontier!

Finally, visitors could see NEC’s next-generation, modular point of sale (POS) design. Our POS design includes a space-saving footprint that can transform from a manned-POS station into a self-service POS just by turning around the peripherals. The embedded facial recognition option enables seamless payment. Both single and double-display versions are available.

Which of these retail trends does your organization plan to embrace in the coming year? Talk to an NEC expert to hear more and engage in our Biometric CX Discovery & Strategic Planning Process as a first step in realizing your vision. Simply fill out the form below, and we’ll get in touch!

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Facial Recognition: How Policy Can Catch Up to the Technology

Facial recognition (FR) stands at a critical point in its development.

The technology is racing forward and improving rapidly. Adoption of FR tools as a law enforcement asset is growing. It’s now commonly accessible by police agencies nationwide.

And beyond its original applications in the military, counter-terrorism and law enforcement, the technology is improving other sectors, such as aviation and travel, hospitality, healthcare, financial services and retail.

Yet public understanding of FR lags behind. And, driven by incorrect popular perceptions, public policies that would ban or over-regulate FR’s use seem ill-informed and out of step with present realities.

This poses a challenge to those of us committed to the success and propagation of FR: How can we ensure that public perception — and policymakers’ perception — of FR is better aligned with the technology’s value to society, and, specifically, to law enforcement?

Recently I had the privilege of moderating a blue-ribbon panel of FR leaders who assembled to tackle this precise question.

The panel convened for the 33rd Annual International Biometrics Association User Conference — formerly known as the AFIS Internet User Conference – in Scottsdale AZ.

“We’ve got to get better at helping policymakers understand the value and positive outcomes of this technology,” said Ashwini Jarral, executive director of the Integrated Justice Information Systems Institute, setting the tone for the discussion. “That way, we can go and fix these policies and laws.”

It was heartening to see our panelists rapidly establish a consensus around at least three themes:

Theme #1: Educate policymakers and the public on two key points: Propelled by misapprehensions, some municipalities have banned FR in law enforcement. Leveraging public education as a basic push-back strategy, the panel recommended two areas of focus:

First, the public isn’t distinguishing between FR as an investigative tool and as a surveillance tool. People need to understand that FR doesn’t mean constant video surveillance. It’s not “Big Brother,” rather it’s used for investigatory leads.

“Investigation and surveillance are two different things completely,” said Lt. Derek Sabatini of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “Detroit and Chicago, for example, have large surveillance systems, but these systems don’t include live facial recognition. Facial recognition tools are only used for investigative purposes.”

Secondly, the public seems unaware of procedural safeguards already in place to regulate the use of FR.

“This is not the ‘Wild West,’” said Lt. Sabatini. “There are governance systems that mandate that you must have a right to know and a need to know before you can access that data. There are criminal penalties if you misuse that data.”

“People mistakenly think that sweeping and universally accessible databases are being freely shared between states and the federal government,” said Tovah LaDier, executive director of the International Biometrics + Identity Association. “In fact, states must give individual permission for the federal agencies to permit access.”

Existing federal legislation provides that states may enter into agreements with the FBI to provide state-level department of motor vehicle (DMV) database access, only for the specific purpose of assisting the FBI in fulfilling its law enforcement responsibilities.

Theme #2: Publicize FR’s positive track record: Popular fears of FR overreach are disproven by the technology’s excellent performance in law enforcement.

Lt. Sabatini told the conference that Los Angeles County has been using FR as an investigative resource since 2009, and deployed it in 11,000 cases last year alone. Yet the County has never faced a civil liberties court challenge charging abuse. He said that the New York Police Department had leveraged FR for 7,000 investigations last year, which had helped generate some 1,000 “legitimate arrests.”

Faith Contreras, the Facial Recognition Program Administrator for the Arizona Department of Transportation, pointed to successes in child trafficking and child smuggling. She said it’s also been used to investigate a range of cold cases and to identify unknown deceased individuals.
 
Theme #3: Embed governance capabilities within the technology: Panelists concurred that when it comes to protections relating to such matters as privacy and consent, the desired policy objectives have to actually be built into the technology.

“You can write policies all day long,” said Mr. Jarral. “But if you can’t demonstrate that your policies are actually embedded within the technology, you’re going to lose this battle.”


At the panel’s closing, Ms. LaDier affirmed her association’s commitment to the “transparent and secure use” of FR and related technologies. She also announced the forthcoming launch of a “responsibleid.org” site that would serve as an educational platform and a repository of “good news” about FR.

“Any technology can be used properly, and it can be abused,” she said. “Considering facial recognition’s enormous benefits, we cannot ban the technology. We have to do the hard work to regulate it so that it is used properly.”