Interview: Joseph Rosenkrantz, CEO of FaceFirst

FaceFirst is a facial recognition company that supplies biometric solutions to international airports, law enforcement, retail, gaming and commercial customers on a global level. Recently, FindBiometrics reported on a deployment of FaceFirst technology in Panama’s Tocumen International Airport will be spreading into the facility’s north terminal as part of a $936 million airport expansion.

FaceFirst Logo

FaceFirst’s biometric system is open and scalable. According to the company it can process millions of comparisons per second in a cloud architecture making it ideal for high population deployments.

Peter O’Neill, president of FindBiometrics, had the chance to interview Joseph Rosenkrantz, CEO of FaceFirst. The conversation begins with an examination of the big changes that the facial recognition market has faced in recent years, the increasing growth FaceFirst is seeing in the mobile markets and what we can expect from the company in the near future.

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Peter O’Neill (FB) : How has the market for facial recognition changed in the last two years?

Joseph Rosenkrantz (FaceFirst): There is a growing global acceptance of the technology and even the FTC’s (the Federal Trade Commission) examination of the technology has shown a very positive attitude from the government with regards to facial recognition falling into an existing framework of laws. The FTC and the government are finding facial recognition falls into an existing mature framework with regards to CCTV monitoring and laws and I think that that is helping because it is alleviating customers worry about implementing such technologies.

FB: Does this have to do with some of the privacy concerns about facial recognition and biometrics in general?

FaceFirst: Yes, I think that the privacy concerns are alleviating as more and more US companies are adopting facial recognition technology, it makes it easier for the subsequent companies going forward. So that is the type of the domino effect we are seeing in the market with our customers and I think globally this acceptance is getting stronger. We talk about the same thing every year but it is just getting better and better.

FB: I couldn’t agree more. Once Apple and Samsung stepped into the marketplace, biometrics has become cool and it is now being read about and people are aware of it and so it is now seen as a cool new technology that you sort of must have.

FaceFirst:  Now back to your questions about how the market is changing, I think there is a shift to real time surveillance which is of course great for companies like FaceFirst.

FB: How is the growth in mobility affecting your company?

FaceFirst: We have tremendous growth in mobility specifically in the law enforcement vertical so today we are touching ten thousand users over 71 agencies and I think that the proliferation of very powerful smart phones like iPhones and Android handsets are making it much easier now for very powerful applications to be easily developed and deployed.

FB: What are some of the advantages of your facial recognition technology?

FaceFirst: The number one advantage of FaceFirst is scalability. We have overcome tremendous hurdles with regards to large scale implementation of real time facial surveillance networks. One of the biggest challenges in real time facial surveillance is distributing a network of servers over varying types of broadbank links and levels of dependability. An example is retail customers. In the case of retail we are now touching over 500 different stores with FaceFirst live video surveillance. One store might have a very reliable broadband connection, another one might have a cellular modem, another might have DSL, and another might have a satellite uplink. The general problem that you would normall face is that you design a system for a certain expected level of stability in the network and a certain required bandwidth availability when we are talking about live video. We’ve overcome that problem by developing a system that is resilient to network outages and varying levels of speed and dependency. In the retail environment for instance you might have a network that is only up portions of the day or due to competition with point of sale data we might not be able to transmit at certain times of the day so we have built a system that will survive pretty much any broadband scenario.

FB: Can we delve a little deeper into the retailer benefits; can you describe how a large retailer might utilize your technology?

FaceFirst: Today we see the heaviest use of the system is around organized retail crime syndicates. So what that means is that we are able to detect the presence of known shoplifters when they enter stores and notify personnel in the store the moment that they enter. This has enabled our customers to really crack the organized retail crime rings by understanding the criminal’s movement within their stores and from store to store and state to state.  We’ve proven that FaceFirst not only reduces shoplifting, but increases sales. When I say increase sales what we see when we take a particular products that are high theft items within their inventory we actually see sales boost within the stores that have FaceFirst because products are on the shelf more often to be purchased and stocked properly.

FB: That is kind of a side benefit isn’t it?

FaceFirst: Yes it is something that we didn’t expect but we are now seeing due to the tremendous data set that we have access to.

FB: In terms of vertical markets, you’ve mentioned law enforcement, we talked a little bit about retail and I know that you are involved in airport and border control, where are you seeing the greatest growth in terms of vertical markets?

FaceFirst: Two markets one being retail and one being governments specifically in South America.

FB: And is that for transportation, airport or law enforcement? Which area is that for?

FaceFirst: It is for law enforcement, airports and transportation and actually prisons.

FB: Has this been a good year for your company?

FaceFirst: Yes continued tremendous growth.

FB: What can we expect to see from FaceFirst in the near future?

FaceFirst: Our most recent release brings a significant reporting capability so reporting of trends, data visualization, demographics, we have also added a geo-fencing capability to be able to set zones for where people should and shouldn’t be and reporting and alerting based on breaches of those zones and what is coming out later this year is a release of our archive search capability. That is a capability that allows historical search of all detected faces on a system. So imagine going back a year and finding people that have been in certain areas that you never knew you were looking for.

FB: That is a lot of data to manage.

FaceFirst: Yes it is but we have come up with some proprietary ways to make it increasingly manageable.

FB: Well congratulations on another good year for your company. The market really is growing quite rapidly and it seems you are positioned very well to take advantage of it.

FaceFirst: Thanks Peter, always nice talking with you.