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Facial recognition

Waiting half an hour in a queue to collect your delegate badge is a bit of a faff – and not the best way to start a conference or exhibition. But thanks to facial recognition (FR) the wait might be over…Corbin Ball reports.

Face recognition (FR) is becoming part of our daily lives.

iPhone X users open their phone using FR as their passwords. Airlines are starting to use FR as a faster and more secure way of check-in and boarding flights. Apple, Facebook, Google and Snapchat have made significant investments to build their FR capabilities. It is likely, in the next few years, that FR will help to eliminate passwords and provide easier and more secure ways of protecting our online identities and data.

And now, FR is coming to events. Powered by Zenus, onsite registration providers are in the early stages of using FR to reduce badge-pickup time. Companies such as Fielddrive in Europe and ExpoLogic in North America are making the most headway.

How the System Works:

FR is in its start-up phase and best practices are actively being worked out.

The steps in a recent pilot study were as follows:

  1. One week prior to the event, registered attendees were emailed the option to speed up their onsite registration by uploading their photo to use the FR Fast Lane. They could use their LinkedIn profile picture, a selfie or upload another digital portrait. In the email, privacy issues were explained including the fact that their actual photo is not retained in the system. Instead, the photo is converted to a geometric profile (linked to a customer ID number) and not identifiable as a human image. No one was forced to use FR, with alternatives such as email look up and barcode scanning available as alternative check-in options.
  2. On site, those registrants who opted in, were directed to the FR fast-lane. At the entrance of this lane, they encountered a camera/monitor system which recognized them within a second (test case recognition accuracy rates exceed 99%). They then proceeded down the aisle to the badge printing kiosk where the badge was printing out and waiting for them — in the time it takes to walk the aisle (about 7 seconds). This is more than twice as fast at the through-put from a standard registration kiosk.
  3. Registrants then proceeded to a separate lanyard/conference materials pickup station (so as not to clog the badge pickup station) and then were on their way.

Current Test Cases:

  • Pilot programs in Europe of groups from 500 to 3,000 have shown that about 12-15% of the registrants will upload their photo in order to use the FR fast lane.
  • Of those who did not upload their picture, privacy concerns were expressed by some of them.
  • However, significant interest in this new technology was shown. Several of those who did not opt-in to the picture upload expressed an interest in how they could get into the FR fast lane.
  • There are a number of options used for approval for the 1% that the system does not recognize. An operator or the registrant can access a touch screen with the four most likely faces to select.
  • The system currently is somewhat more expensive than a standard kiosk registration system due to additional hardware and a separate FR lane. However, if the adoption rate increases to a majority of registrants, ultimately, the system would require less equipment, fewer staff and substantially reduce the registration check-in time for everyone. It is estimated if 90% of registrants used the system, the equipment costs and registration check-in time could be cut in half!
  • Local access to event data is preferred as limited bandwidth in a crowed Wi-Fi zone can slow the system.

Benefits:

  • FR is a faster system
  • FR is cool, high-tech and memorable – it creates a good first-impression.
  • FR can use less equipment and be less expensive (if there is a high adoption rate).
  • FR is more secure and reduces badge swapping options.

The Future:

There are many options that become available as FR develops:

  • If augmented reality glasses (a cooler, less obtrusive form of Google Glass or Hololens) become more wide spread, registration staff or even exhibitors, could use FR in a heads-up display to recognize registrants by name (privacy issues to be resolved). Lead retrieval information could be incorporated for exhibitors.
  • FR could be used for access control to secure meeting rooms.
  • FR camera could be used with existing gender/age/sentiment face analysis systems to determine additional demographic detail about event attendees.

FR in new, exciting technology. We are just starting to realize its potential for improving events. This trend will be an exciting one to watch as it develops.

*Corbin Ball is a speaker and independent third-party consultant focusing on meetings technology. www.corbinball.com and www.twitter.com/corbinball