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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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.”

Five Themes from connect:ID 2019

Originally co-founded just six short years ago by the International Biometrics + Identity Association (IBIA) and Science Media Partners, connect:ID aimed to create the world’s preeminent identity technology conference and exposition. This year’s show proves that connect:ID still has mass appeal!

The connect:ID 2019 event, held from April 29 to May 1 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., brought together more than 1,500 attendees and 150 speakers from government, commercial and technical arenas to discuss a wide variety of topics related to identity and related technologies used for recognition, authentication, customer experience, and digital transformation.

A number of overarching themes and topics emerged this year, and I’ve decided to outline the top five or so that I observed.

  1. Collaboration at the federal level was apparent. A fireside chat hosted by IBIA Executive Director Tovah LaDier with two senior program leaders from within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – John Wagner from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Stacey Fitzmaurice from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) – outlined how they are using facial recognition to create a secure, seamless and consistent experience for travelers moving through our country’s ports of entry and exit. CBP operates the Traveler Verification Service (TVS), a database used to match and authenticate travelers’ facial images as they enter or exit the country, to which TSA will have access for future expansion of facial recognition at security lines for expedited screening. CBP’s Wagner now reports having caught more than 100 imposters attempting to illegally enter the country at U.S. land and air borders. And why shouldn’t TSA have access to this technology that is already proving itself so valuable?
  2. Sensor fusion is the future of customer experience. In his keynote address, NEC Vice President of Technology and Solutions Kris Ranganath discussed the combination of IoT, AI and analytics technologies that will come together to enable digital transformation and create seamless, reliable, more enjoyable, yet still solidly secure customer experiences as we move between two worlds – the cyber realm and the physical realm. This concept of sensor fusion already exists in certain cutting-edge retail and entertainment use case examples, and Mr. Ranganath expects we’ll only see more of this in the future.
  3. Customer journeys are a key theme for driving innovation for international travel and border protection. The vision for this experience is to create a seamless or contactless journey from reservation to destination. Mr. Wagner from CBP referenced in more than one instance the importance of a frictionless traveler journey in solving the border security issue. In a panel on the future of seamless travel, I outlined several customer journeys related to border entry – via air, land and sea – all enabled by facial recognition and sensor fusion. These journeys are not just a dream, they’re becoming reality. Mr. Wagner at one point in the fireside chat posited that someday kiosks may become unnecessary for Global Entry.
  4. Personal data privacy was discussed in more than one session. Nobody disagrees that privacy is paramount, and more than one multi-disciplinary panel of experts at connect:ID agreed. However, how we achieve it at a policy level is still up for broad discussion and debate. In the government panel titled “Perspectives on Privacy: The Rashomon Effect,” panelists including NEC’s Director of Government Relations Brent Bombach offered varying takes on the issue. Our take and hope is that federal legislation will eventually create a consistent regulatory environment so that travelers can move safely and seamlessly through their journeys without fear of their personal data being stolen.  So, as NEC Corporation CEO Takashi Niino previously wrote, NEC will always favor legislation that both protects personal privacy and allows for innovation in the public and commercial sectors. But a variety of state laws currently on the books or in varying stages of proposal promise to ensure a complex regulatory environment where biometrics and data privacy is concerned. Furthermore, a panel of congressional staffers on the main stage seemed to conclude that a federal preemption, or federal legislation that would render state privacy laws related to biometrics moot or unnecessary, is not likely to succeed in 2019.
  5. Innovation was on full display across the connect:ID 2019 expo floor. I’d like to be able to say that it was all in NEC’s booth. Evidence of innovation was actually scattered all across the expo floor. My favorite, however, is a solution based on NEC’s own research and development in optical networks. Intelligent Perimeter Intrusion Detection (iPIDS) works to detect physical border and facility breaches through the use of highly adaptive and responsive fiber-optic sensing and self-modifying machine learning based artificial intelligence. Deployed along a border or around a secure facility, iPIDS can not only tell when something is there, it uses AI to understand the location and source of the vibrations. Deployed as part of a sensor fusion network, iPIDS is one more way that people can feel safe and secure as they go about their daily journeys.

NEC was proud, as always to participate in this year’s connect:ID, and we certainly look forward to the 2020 event and to see where the industry will be in less than a year’s time.

For additional information and to stay up on the latest, follow us on Twitter and check out our NEC Advanced Recognition Systems page online.

Showcasing a More Personalized In-store Experience

NEC to Highlight Facial Recognition, Data Analytics at Retail’s Big Show Jan. 13-15

On Jan. 13-15, the world’s largest retail conference and expo kicks off at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. NEC retail experts are putting the final touches on demonstrating how its leading-edge video analytics technologies transform the in-store experience for shoppers.

Visitors to NEC’s booth #1936 will tour a virtual store to see first-hand how these innovations bring better engagement with customers, while also delivering tangible business benefits for retailers. Video analytics solutions powered by the NEC Enterprise Video Analytics (EVA) platform enable retailers to garner extensive insights into shoppers:

  • Presence, including heatmaps and dwell times
  • Behavior, including gaze detection, traffic patterns and responses to targeted content
  • Security analytics, including automated detection and response
  • Interactive experiences, including loyalty engagement and checkout

This deeper understanding of shopper behavior can then be used to enable the ultimate, frictionless personalized shopping experience and make checkout and other in-store processes more efficient and effective—for retailers and shoppers alike.

During the event, NEC will focus on four areas of the retail experience—Customer, Operations, Analytics and Marketing, all powered by the NEC video analytics platform services. An in-booth tour starts with self-registration using NEC facial recognition software, which in turn enables multiple touchpoints and experiences throughout the booth.

Looking Customer Loyalty Right in the Face Improving Store Operations

Big Show visitors also will get a glimpse of how facial recognition and data analytics assist retailers behind the scenes as well through improved business operations. NeoFace Watch uses real-time face recognition to provide retailers with an effective, transparent loss-prevention system. NEC will show how retailers can use this same technology to manage employees’ time and attendance as well. Additionally, booth visitors will get a first-hand look at NEC’s industry-leading point-of-sale hardware devices.

Check out NEC Retail solutions to learn more. Up-to-the-minute sales data analytics helps retailers survive and thrive in this competitive marketplace. Reliable sales data and reporting enable tailored in-store offers to customers, plus aids in managing inventory and staffing. While in NEC’s booth discover ways analytics can be used to track demographic and traffic data related to in-store shoppers. Using facial recognition systems retailers are able to track repeat customers at a location without collecting any personally identifiable information. This information in turn helps drive marketing content and analyze purchase patterns.

Experience Fast, Frictionless Transactions

NRF expo attendees will also have the opportunity to interact with NEC customer Cali Group’s face-based kiosk when visiting NEC’s booth. The facial-recognition kiosk, now being rolled out at CaliBurger locations, shows how easy it is to deliver fast and truly frictionless transactions. Guests will peruse a menu, choose items and then pay for their virtual purchases without pulling out their wallets or personal devices. Face-based payments someday may replace credit cards as customers look for a more personalized experience like face-based kiosks without the long lines and wait times.

Representatives from the Cali Group will be on hand in the booth to answer questions about the innovative use of facial recognition technology in the Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR) industry.

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With Stadium Facial Recognition, The Fan Experience is #1

Fans crowd into stadiums to enjoy their favorites – from music to theatre to sports. The venue is expected to provide a secure, positive experience. If not, the damage to the tour, the sports club or the venue can be undeniable. According to the 2017 J.D. Power Fan Experience survey, fans are looking for the venues and teams that will offer them the best fan experience for their dollar.

The study has identified 10 key performance indicators (KPIs) that drive fan loyalty and satisfaction. When stadiums and teams rank well and all 10 KPIs are met, spending is directly impacted, often increasing as much as 90%.

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Fans are asked to evaluate their experience based on:

  • Ticket purchase
  • Arriving and departing the stadium
  • Security and ushers
  • Game experience
  • Souvenirs and merchandise

Venues and teams want to give their fans a positive, memorable experience, exceptional customer service and security, even among thousands of other fans. Facial recognition could create a more effortless and exciting fan experience.

With facial recognition and a unified biometric key, a frictionless and personalized fan experience can increase loyalty and spending.

Unified Biometric Key Personalizes the Fan Experience

Retail is not the only market that seeks to build customer loyalty. Advanced recognition technology allows each individual to use their face as a unified biometric key to build a frictionless and personalized fan experience. A unified biometric key can help stadium staff provide better customer service through:

Cut Down on Line Times

Fans judge their stadium and team experience by the amount of time waiting in line at an arena. When an individual has to stand in line to enter the venue, purchase concessions or merchandise, they become frustrated while missing out on the event they came to see. With advanced recognition systems, a fan’s face is the unified biometric key to unlocking the door to a more positive experience.

Facial recognition creates frictionless event entry, reduces queues and allows fans to “pay with their face.” Intelligent customized displays can make suggestions in the concession or souvenir area dependent on previous fan activity. “Facial loyalty” through self-ordering kiosks can also make recommendations based on past food orders for faster decision-making. Guests can then pick up the item and pay for it, often without pulling out a wallet, in one quick encounter.

Watch: Benefits of Face-Based Loyalty Program in Restaurants

Get VIP Treatment

After loyal fans have been identified in the facial recognition system and created their own unified biometric key, stadium sales staff and ushers will be able to provide true VIP treatment. The season-ticket holder, for example, can be welcomed at the season ticket door, allowed entrance into VIP clubs, provided with birthday or anniversary greetings or otherwise treated with familiarity. Guest services will be able to quickly locate a dedicated fan who spends thousands of dollars at the venue and offer them a preferential personalized experience.

Fans can also include their family in the VIP experience. Paying by face, for example, can be extended to family members who wish to be included on the same credit card. With a unified biometric key, guest services can create differentiation in the fan experience.

See how Your Face Makes the Food Ordering Experience Easier

Build Loyalty with 5 Star Service… Even When the Team is Losing

Because the fan experience matters, the unique unified biometric key can be used to build fan loyalty— even when their favorite team is losing. Some stadiums are already experimenting with facial recognition as a unified biometric key, creating a positive, frictionless fan experience. Analytics captured by the advanced recognition technology allows the stadium to target marketing messages and raise alerts based upon previous encounters with the fan.

As an award-winning leading facial recognition provider for four consecutive years, NEC’s facial recognition technology has achieved the highest performance evaluation from the U.S. National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) by:

NEC’s NeoFace® Express is the industry standard for using facial recognition to transform any hospitality experience that involves large groups of people. Adding NEC’s Advanced Recognition Systems to the existing venue security system allows fans a #1 secure, positive and personalized experience.

For more information on NEC’s Advanced Recognition Systems, such as NeoFace® Express, click here.

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