Peter O’Neill, President findBIOMETRICS (fB): Let’s start with the big news…Frost and Sullivan just presented the 2014 Best Practices Global Customer Value Leadership Award in strong authentication to NEC. This is one of the most prestigious awards that Frost & Sullivan presents. Can you please tell us about this honor Raffie?
Raffie Beroukhim, VP, Biometrics Division, NEC Corporation of America (NEC): Yes, thank you Peter. NEC is very proud to be the recipient of the 2014 Frost & Sullivan Customer Value Leadership Award for our facial recognition including both authentication and identification. In my acceptance speech, I suggested that technologies now a day are not necessarily just viewed by their specifications but how technology is used to solve everyday problems. Increasingly we are seeing threats of terrorism, online and cyber security threats and I believe we shall see increasing uses of facial recognition in solving such online security. Furthermore in a number of other industries including healthcare, retail and education… facial recognition will also play increasingly a larger role. This is why I believe the Frost & Sullivan award is important to us because it doesn’t simply acknowledge the technology but also the value the technology brings to our partners and customers in the industries that I just mentioned.
fB: That is very interesting because as I was reading the award press release Raffie, I noticed that Frost & Sullivan went on to state that, “ the commercial opportunity to use facial recognition biometrics for authentication has arrived. Frost & Sullivan’s independent analysis of the authentication market clearly shows that NEC is positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.” You mentioned a couple of the vertical markets that will be hot moving forward, where do you think facial recognition and marketing stands in this area? I know in healthcare and some of the other markets are already moving forward, what about the marketing implications for facial recognition?
NEC: I think marketing could perhaps be viewed in a number of industries, but perhaps facial recognition in the field of marketing per say might have its most significant growth in the retail market. I feel based on the feedback that we are getting from our partners and at the industry shows that we are attending for example, at the National Retail Federation show recently in New York, there were large Fortune 500 companies that have the data that they would like to be able to tailor their product offerings and market that to a more receptive audience. I feel facial recognition can assist retailers even with, for example, distinguishing the age and gender of individuals walking into a retails store or an individual looking at an ad or looking at a display. That level of knowledge is going to be invaluable in the retail industry. Also in the hospitality industry where hotels would like to be able to know when they would be able to market their products and services to their most valued customers. I feel that in the pure sense of marketing product and services to a valued customer perhaps retail or hospitality is where we are going to see most growth.
fB: I think that the pure marketing side will take some time to evolve but I know the retail sector is very excited about the opportunities presented here and then you have the healthcare and a whole host of other verticals. Can you please review the benefits of your NeoFace product?
NEC: NeoFace is the name of NEC’s facial recognition technology and it has demonstrated in a number of third party standard tests conducted by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and as
well as a number of other independent third party evaluations. I would dare suggest that it is the leading facial recognition technology on the market today. It has proven to work under less than desirable conditions for example, where the distance between the eyes is below 24 pixels, where the images are compressed. These characteristics of NeoFace has allowed NEC to open facial recognition into both authentication and identification in areas perhaps that were not available as early as last year. If for example you take a look at the unfortunate case of the Boston Marathon bombing, you see the explosion of smartphones and videos or video surveillance cameras. Increasingly we will be able to have poor quality facial images available to us. It is not dissimilar to perhaps leaving latent fingerprints at the scene of a crime. These photo/video surveillance poor quality images could lead into solving crimes and the NeoFace technology allows us to get greater value from it in law enforcement and solve crimes that perhaps were not able to be solved previously. So we are very excited to use this technology and offer it to law enforcement in addition to all the other advantages we talked about with the other markets and industries.
fB: Well the whole biometrics market is moving very quickly across a number of sectors and expectations are that this will increase especially when you have technology like this that is coming to mainstream markets. What are your thoughts on this?
NEC: I see this as an evolutionary expansion. The biometrics market has dealt in the past with what I would say is a number of complimentary biometric additions. A few years ago we introduced iris recognition and there are increasing talks about facial recognition. I think facial recognition with the advancement in technologies as we discussed we will see more of that. I think these are complimentary. Voice recognition is being talked about in the industry and both law enforcement and outside commercial applications are receptive to these and are prepared to accept it. Findbiometrics.com recently reported the use of fingerprint recognition on the Apple iPhone as a breakthrough for the biometrics market. Obviously Facebook and other social media sites are using facial recognition as well, so perhaps in the day to day activities users and customers are becoming more familiar with the use of biometrics and recognition which is I believe is welcome to all of us who are in this industry. On the other hand for some of us who have been around the market and have seen new advances I think this is just another step towards the advances in the technology which we will continue to see for years to come.
fB: NEC finished last year with several new contract wins, can you elaborate on this please?
NEC: Yes we are pleased to report that our advances in facial recognition are resulting in new contracts and new markets where NEC Biometric Solutions Division has entered. Two of the most significant ones are the order that we received from the Arizona Department of Transportation for a facial recognition drivers licence background check. We are also pleased to receive an order form the Calgary Police Services for NeoFace Reveal. These are significant accomplishments of the organization in the last year particularly because we have made a strategic investment into advancing facial recognition in the past year. Again we are pleased to see that the market has reacted positively towards this investment and that we have won these competitive tenders. We also hope to soon issue more positive news with regards to our multimodal identifications solution and pretty soon we will have significant news with regards to another award NEC should receive shortly. We hope to be able to share that with you.
fB: Can you also please review your mobile product lineup for us please? Mobility is quite a hot topic these days; what are your products in this area?
NEC: Last year we introduced a product called Smart ID… it is an application or an app that runs on any smart phone or tablet. The Smart ID application will support three applications or workflows. The first one is an application where multiple biometrics can be captured on an iPhone, on an Android, or iOS, or Windows device. SmartID allows the capture of flat fingerprint images as well as face and voice data and transmits that to an MBIS solution or the FBI’s RISC database for search. We have also introduced on the same Smart ID platform Latent Collection application (Smart LC) which for the first time will allow an officer to take a smartphone or a tablet to the scene of the crime and capture evidence (latent fingerprints) left at the scene of the crime and enter that into the on-board, electronic latent case database that we have created. We are very excited about demonstrating these apps at the upcoming industry shows. And finally we are working to extend our mobile applications to booking as well. It is perhaps a longer term vision of where we are intending to go, but these three applications on the mobile will complete our mobile offerings and services.
fB: NEC has had many different activities and lots going on. What can we expect to see from NEC in the coming year?
NEC: We shall continue to pursue our strategic objective which is to grow this company into new markets, new industries and to fuse all of NEC’S North American capabilities. We have a large footprint in networks, we have a large footprint in education, a large footprint in hospitality, retail not to mention, cloud expertise and know-how. Obviously we are a well-recognized brand for the use of biometrics. In our strategic objective, we want to offer biometrics on a number of NEC’s platforms and pursue the markets and industries we talked about earlier today. As far as law enforcement with our ability I think you can expect us to introduce new products with regards to facial recognition, Smart ID, mobile services and we are very excited about continuing the initiatives that we have embarked upon in the last three years.
fB: Thanks Raffie, for taking the time to speak with findBIOMETRICS.
NEC: It has been a pleasure Peter. Thank you.