FindBiometrics president Peter O’Neill recently interviewed Joe Rosenkrantz, CEO, FaceFirst. The conversation begins with a brief recap of the company’s origins and ambitions before reviewing the company’s powerful facial recognition solutions, the markets they serve, and how innovations in mobility have affected the evolution of the FaceFirst system. Because privacy is at the forefront of face biometrics in the news, the discussion turns to digital rights and how FaceFirst enables privacy while still offering substantial ROI in its surveillance deployments. The interview ends with a look back on how FaceFirst has grown in 2016.
Read the full interview with FaceFirst CEO Joe Rosenkrantz:
Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics (FB): With the huge growth in biometrics we have a lot of new readers coming to our site, so to start off can you please provide our readers with a brief background of your company?
Joe Rosenkrantz, CEO, FaceFirst (FF): Sure. I started FaceFirst in 2008 with an ambition to build a biometric platform for deploying facial recognition systems at national or even planetary scales. We have since been able to provide our customers the ability to manage these large networks from a simple, cloud-based web portal in a way that has been very affordable.
FB: Can you please review your product lineup for us?
FF: Our biometric information platform is the heart of our system and it is a series of software components that are built to treat biometric facial recognition algorithms as a commodity so that we can employ the best technology for our customer depending on their particular needs. We have a mobile capability for Android and iOS that allows our customers to operate the system from a handheld. For law enforcement that means that a user can take a photo of somebody from up to 12 ft. away and compare faces against very large databases within a number of seconds. For our surveillance customers it means that they can deploy a network of live high-definition facial recognition IP cameras throughout single facilities, campuses, or even nationally using our cloud service offering.
FB: That mobile aspect must be a huge advantage, especially for law enforcement. I’m also thinking it would be useful in large enterprise, airports— places where you do need mobile activity.
FF: Yes, it is a force multiplier in that fixed live cameras are not practical for covering every area of a facility, airport, or campus. By having that mobile unit that is integrated into the same FaceFirst system, they can photograph people from a stand-off position, and still be able to obtain an identification in a safe way.
FB: You mentioned law enforcement, what other vertical markets are you focusing on?
FF: Our primary focus today is law enforcement, gaming, transportation, commercial security and retail. We are having a nice spread of business across all verticals now.
FB: When you think of your system versus others in the marketplace what are some of the special features versus the competition?
FF: So, historically facial recognition systems for surveillance purposes have been designed to identify people that are placed on a watch list. The system is then only as good as the data which have already been placed into it. Those types of systems are powerful, but their value is limited by the lack of data. Our system has evolved to the point now that it can index the face of every person appearing on camera and allow searching indefinitely back in time. For instance, you can take a picture of somebody today and then interrogate the system for a report of every time that person has ever been seen, plotted on a map with location data. Another example is that you can use the historical face log to find specific people and use those faces to create new watch-list enrollments. We have found that this use case tremendously increases the ROI of the systems we install.
Another example is law enforcement agencies that provide our customers a BOLO or “be on the lookout” notice. This BOLO can be entered into the system in order to search the historical face logs in order to find all the incidences of that person having been seen by the system in the past, with locations. This forensic capability is very powerful.
Finally, it is helping our customers because they can now look back after having an incident. Let’s imagine somebody was shoplifting in a store and they ran out of a store without being approached and photographed for a store’s watch list. In the past you would have had no way of capturing a useable image of that person’s face, and would have a hard time enrolling them into the system so that this information could be shared across the enterprise to trigger notifications the next time that person visited one of the stores. With FaceFirst today, you can go back and look at the last hour, for instance, find the person in the log with the photo of them that was taken when they entered the store and simply drag and drop them into a watch list which will then allow the entire enterprise to be able to identify that person when they return.
What we see now is that the watch list is now building itself and the data is now growing at an exponential rate for our customers, which means that their ROI is increasing.
FB: Yes, that has a direct impact on the ROI.
FF: The face is a fuel to the system. The more you can enter into the system, the more money you can make with the system and this visitor log, as we call it, is the key to growing that data very quickly.
FB: Facial recognition has been in the news recently with the regard to privacy and we have spoken with you in the past about this. Convenience, security, and privacy are all very important, how does one deal best with privacy moving forward, especially now as consumers are getting more used to facial recognition in payment apps, for example, like MasterCard Selfie pay?
FF: Our company stance is that digital rights management is the key to ensuring privacy from end to end. We are now building solutions which enable complete DRM capabilities throughout our system so that this data can be controlled. A great example is that if a person can be identified via face recognition and that generates some other type of data such as an email notification, once you have transmitted information about an event you have lost control of the data. So by properly employing digital rights management you can control that data end to end. It is a very sophisticated data management architecture that protects our customers’ data.
FB: Has this been a good year for your company?
FF: Yes, it has. We’ve experienced continued growth since last year.
FB: I think you mentioned to me earlier that your company has almost doubled in size, is that correct?
FF: That is right, we have doubled the number of employees in the last year and we have done significant expansion in terms of our sales team as well.
FB: Do you think that this is going to continue due to the major growth and acceptance of biometrics broadly, or is there some other driver behind this?
FF: I think companies like FaceFirst are creating a market and I think we have been a lot more successful in the past couple of years in terms of educating the public and helping enterprise customers understand how to model their ROI based on our historical data. What we are starting to see now is a facial recognition being written into budgets and the budgets actually coming into fruition, so it is becoming a much healthier market.
FB: We are certainly seeing the same thing. We have always looked at FaceFirst as a leader in facial recognition so congratulations on that and all the hard work you’ve put into getting the marketplace where it is. Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us today.
FF: Always a pleasure speaking with you Peter. Thank you.