FindBiometrics President Peter O’Neill recently spoke with Raffie Beroukhim, Senior Vice President – Advanced Recognition Systems Division at NEC Corporation of America. The interview begins with talk on the recent re-branding for NEC’s Biometrics Solutions Division to the Advanced Recognition Systems Division, and the industry change that necessitated it. The conversation goes on to talk about the exciting technologies NEC is developing, including Artificial Intelligence and new applications fro facial recognition enabled by the Internet of Things. O’Neill and Beroukhim then look at the big picture, discussing the highlights from NEC’s successful 2016 and speculating on what the future might hold for the Advanced Recognition Systems Division.
Read our full interview with Raffie Beroukhim, Senior Vice President – Advanced Recognition Systems Division at NEC Corporation of America:
Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics (FB): Raffie, last time we spoke you were Vice President in charge of Biometrics Solutions Division and now you are Senior VP, and in charge of Advanced Recognition System Division. What is this new Division and what are the solutions you are offering in this market?
Raffie Beroukhim, Senior Vice President – Advanced Recognition Systems Division at NEC Corporation of America: Good afternoon Peter. It is a pleasure to talk with you and thank you again for providing me and NEC an opportunity to provide an update on our business and our view of the industry. Thank you also for the recognition.
As you know, there is rapid change in our industry and biometrics is gaining attention beyond its conventional audience. Since we last talked, my organization has evolved to meet these emerging market dynamics by aligning our solutions to growing adoption of biometric technology across new vertical industries like retail, hospitality and entertainment, to mention just a few. That is in large measure the reasoning behind our recent re-branding of our NEC biometric solutions under the divisional name of Advanced Recognition Systems.
Nearly five years after the creation of the Biometrics Solutions Division here at NEC Corporation of America, we are witnessing a greater opportunity to offer safety, security and convenience to a number of markets. Such offerings transcend our core biometrics technology and thus the name change in our division. Advanced Recognition Systems details our intention to couple of our most advanced recognition and analytics platform, both for biometrics and beyond, with our systems integration experience and offer a differentiated value to our clients. With these assets we expand our core public safety market to intelligence communities, fusion centers, airports, transportation hubs, stadiums, theme parks, and retail stores.
Among the technologies that NEC and this new division can bring is data analytics, video analytics, real time video surveillance, and our IoT platform. And as our conversation goes on I hope to share a little bit more about each of these technologies and platforms.
FB: That is very exciting for you to have that new area of responsibility. NEC is always at the forefront of connectivity and innovation, and right now it really seems like Artificial Intelligence falls under that category. Do you see other applications of facial recognition and AI in NEC’s future? Is this a space you’re actively exploring?
NEC: Absolutely and yes. NEC has been investing and promoting AI technology for many years. As a matter of fact, in our international show and conference that we hosted at our headquarters this past summer our key themes were AI and cybersecurity. NEC is currently investing in three domains within AI. The first is Visualization which includes facial recognition, crowd and behavioral analysis, self-learning super resolution, and speech and emotion recognition among many others. The second domain we are providing is Analysis which is invariant analysis, rapid machine learning among others and finally, there is the final part of our AI which is Control and Guidance which is: what do you do with the information? And there we have a predictive framework.
All of these things these technologies can be offered individually but the opportunity that I see for NEC is to provide an entire IoT and AI platform. The subsystem that I am most interested in is the predictive framework. Coupled with our core facial recognition technology our platform can offer point of contact pattern analysis and highly accurate identification, such capabilities have opened a number of new opportunities for us and while some are more advanced than others, we are extremely pleased and optimistic about the future. Balancing safety concerns with the need for real time, accurate result even in light of incomplete data against the sheer volume of work requires AI, deep learning, analytics, and predictive framework and I am very excited that we are leading in that portfolio globally with NEC.
FB: One of the technologies you showed at the NRF show was NeoFace Watch. But that solution offers more than just marketing applications. Can you tell me a bit more about this solution?
NEC: Powered by our facial recognition technology, NeoFace Watch is our flagship real time surveillance solution. Since its introduction less than two years ago, NeoFace Watch is currently operational in more than 40 countries supporting a varying number of applications both in public safety and enterprise markets including retail. NeoFace Watch, as the names suggests, supports a watch list identifying individuals of interest. These can either be known targets or VIPs. In an airport environment NeoFace Watch can accurately determine travel time (from one terminal to the other) and queue length providing key statistics and intelligence in operations of the airport. In the retail environment and even public safety markets, NeoFace Watch provides data to our NeoFace Video Analytics platform for in-store analytics including age and gender demographics, behavioral analytics and object detection.
What is common among all of these products is our NeoFace which is our core facial recognition technology and we are proud to have been selected by NIST as the most accurate technology for the past three or four years running. As the matter of fact we are anxiously waiting for the next set of results from NIST.
FB: Well congratulations on that!
We just completed our 14th annual Year in Review, highlighting the tremendous growth in our industry. I can’t believe it’s been 14 years. I think I have known you for those entire 14 years.
I’m interested to know your perspective on 2016. What were some of the big highlights of last year for NEC? I know for example that you won the North America Frost & Sullivan Company of the Year Award.
NEC: Yes, thank you but before I start I want to congratulate you Peter and findbiometrics.com. It has really been a pleasure to see how you have been committed to this market and I have just been reading your 2016 Year in Review and what a wealth of information you have in there not only in regards to the public safety but in regards to applications of biometrics including healthcare, including banking and financials. It is really a pleasure to see the wide breadth of the applications of the technology. And thank you for bringing it to one site and demonstrating it.
2016 was the end of our three-year plan that NEC put together back in 2013. NEC typically puts together three-year plans and I had the pleasure of implementing the plan. 2016 thankfully, due to the patronage of our clients and commitment and dedication of our employees, was a very successful year for us. We won the Frost & Sullivan Company of the Year Award and that is the second time we have been awarded that in the past three years. We continued our tradition of innovation with the launch of two new products; our SmartScan and our new Integrated Works Biometric Smart Station on Windows 10.
We saw significant growth in all of our markets but in particular, the US Federal Market which for the past two years has been our fastest growing market and we are excited to have opened an office in Washington DC fully staffed to handle our on-going project implementations and sales workload
NEC was selected by States of Ohio and Illinois to provide their next-generation multimodal biometrics identification solution. We also extended our wings beyond our US borders and helped NEC subsidiaries in Australia and Middle East leading to significant awards from Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and Egypt Ministry of Interior.
And finally, in 2016 we celebrated our 30th Annual User’s Conference in Atlanta demonstrating our long-term commitment. I cannot thank enough the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Atlanta PD who helped us and all the other attendees who came to that conference as well.
So, we finished those three years and we are now looking forward to the next three years
FB: Well quite a remarkable year for NEC. Last summer at the AFIS Conference you commented on the three-decade relationship between your company and the law enforcement and public safety communities. What is the state of biometrics in law enforcement today, and how do you see the market having changed in recent years?
NEC: I think in a lot of ways the market has not changed. What I feel is that the industry’s response to the market has changed. Our clients have never been satisfied with a continuous cycle of upgrades. Going to the legislature seeking significant amount of sums of money every five to seven years is something that we have always heard is the least favorable of purchase options. Clients are seeking long term contracts with assurances of both application software and third party software, operating system and relational databases, upgrades with a flat, known fee. They are looking for the technology providers to assume the responsibility of their system upkeep and offer complete services including cloud based managed services, data centers, disaster recovery sites and more. In sum, the market has been looking for more value. NEC recognized this trend nearly five years ago, and we now have a mature, proven business model that addresses these needs. Some of the successes we are currently experiencing is due to this recognition. We shall continue to refine and improve this model, offering additional services and support to our existing clients for years to come.
In parallel, the MBIS platform must be entirely aligned with other IT technology and providers. Take security patches for example. Long gone are the days that systems were not touched. Now adherence to security is a key component of any system and the ability to support such patches defines the maturity of the available products. To support this NEC recently upgraded our graphical user interface to Windows 10 taking advantage of not only the most advanced screen design but aligning ourselves with the IT roadmap ensuring continuous support.
Overall there is a continuous trend in providing systems that offer faster implementation and easier upgrades, decreased overhead, and a lower total cost of ownership. That is what the market is asking for and NEC we are prepared to offer it.
FB: Raffie, we have always looked at NEC as a market leader and this is just another indication that your innovation is leading the market. What about the future? What do you see in 2017 and beyond?
NEC: So, this is the beginning of our three-year cycle. A priority has always been to ensure the success of our clients particularly those who have recently placed their trust in us as well as those that we have had the pleasure of servicing for a long period of time. That has always been our priority and we shall continue to invest in our implementation and Customer Service and Support organizations.
As we grow in the next three years, politics aside, we are excited in the way the new Administration is placing emphasis on law enforcement, public safety and border control. I believe this is good for the industry and we look forward to learning further details.
Border control continues to be a priority for us. We will soon introduce new products and services with regards to border security. We are proud to have run a number of key proof of concepts in the last year that we are optimistic will fuel our continued growth in the government and border control space.
In addition, we already talked about Advanced Recognition Systems and the opportunities that brings for us in the near future.
Finally, as our DNA and culture is in public safety so we see continued growth and opportunity in North America as well as overseas, in Australia, Africa, Middle East, Europe and we shall continue to pursue those opportunities as well.
I think as you said earlier it is a good time to be in this market and the future looks very bright and we are excited to be a part of it.
FB: Raffie as always it is a pleasure to speak with somebody with your wealth of experience in this market and congratulations on the again the tremendous innovation NEC is bringing to the market place and we look forward to future conversations as this market rapidly unfolds.
NEC: Thank you so much. Thanks for the time, thanks for the opportunity and congratulations to you and your team and look forward to speaking with you again in the future.