A Post-COVID Touchless World for Federal Agencies

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect the United States, the private and public sectors have started working remotely and have moved their operations almost completely online. Federal agencies began to accelerate the adoption of remote and work-from-home strategies to stay connected to employees and stakeholders while ensuring the health and safety of everyone. Even the Supreme Court hosted teleconference hearings for the first time in history to maintain social distancing.

One positive outcome that will last well beyond the pandemic is the wide-spread adoption of new technologies. Digital Transformation (DX) is occurring faster than ever and will continue to accelerate as we look for ways to reopen our country, establish a new normal, maintain a healthy society, and stimulate economic activities.

NEC’s proven touchless technology and expertise support the ongoing mission of a new, safer and hygienic experience.

DX is inevitable in the ever-evolving landscape of keeping citizens informed and safe. As the country begins to reopen and employees head back to work, federal agencies need a partner to make their DX journey easier, discovering paths forward to using the cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), and automation. Challenges lie ahead for federal agencies as they seek to ensure ongoing delivery of essential public services while minimizing potential impact to its workforce.

With over 50 years of successfully supporting a diverse range of U.S. federal missions, NEC offers proven touchless services and expertise to support a DX mission for federal agencies that will improve processes, deliver touchless experiences, and make interactions seamlessly safe.

Reduce Risk When Returning to Work

One example of how NEC can help address post-COVID challenges is our secure access management solutions. Gaining physical access to public sector facilities in a contactless and hygienic manner is challenging. Federal agencies, government buildings, military installations, and border ports of entry/exit, just to name a few, are troubled with cumbersome keypads or equipment for ID card scanning, both of which require users to touch several surfaces to gain access. These chokepoints also slow the traffic flow. All these increase the risks of infectious diseases.

Elevated Body Temperature (EBT) Screening

thermal scan exampleBuilt on NEC’s Digital Services Platform with industry-leading sensors and top-ranked NEC biometrics algorithm, the NEC NeoFace® Thermal Express delivers elevated body temperature (EBT) screening that can simultaneously verify identities with face recognition while detecting body temperature – even with face masks on.

When offered standalone and without built-in facial recognition, NEC’s NeoFace Thermal Express simply provides rapid, contactless and hygienic physical access and temperature screening across demanding, high-throughput environments. The solution can help federal agencies hygienically monitor employees and civilians for possible elevated body temperatures, mitigating the potential spread of disease.

Secure, Hygienic Access Management

thermal scan exampleAccess management helps ensure federal employees and private citizens have the appropriate access to secure buildings or other restricted environments.

Our technology can identify whether someone is not wearing a mask in a mandatory area, thereby ensuring federal employees are safeguarded. Combined with elevated body temperature screening, the system identifies not only the individual, but also determines potential health risks before the individual enters a facility.

NEC is Committed to Innovation and Transformation

NEC’s award-winning solutions are backed by rigorous research and development including more than $2.6B invested in R&D annually. NEC’s touchless services powered by our Digital Services Platform can address many issues in a variety of environments, helping government entities adopt DX faster while minimizing the health risk of its employees and private citizens they serve. Ranked #1 for our biometrics algorithms five times in a row by NIST, NEC has the top-notch solutions that make touchpoints touchless in response to the post-COVID world.

To see how our touchless solutions can transform operations for federal agencies, click here to learn more.

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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

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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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.”