Creating New Value and Services, Together With Customers
NEC has been a driving force in the tech industry, centered on hardware such as PBX and Unified Communications. In the future, it plans to focus on solutions in currently developing fields. NEC has a substantial presence in the fingerprint and facial recognition biometrics sector and commands many different technologies in these areas across the globe. The NEC Group’s fundamental directive is to develop this field worldwide, starting with the American market.
From fingerprint recognition technology to facial recognition
NEC America already has earned a high reputation with over 40 years of history in biometric authentication, with its fingerprint recognition system for criminal investigation currently in use in 23 stateㄋ, county, city, Department of Homeland Security, and other government institutions in the United States. It also commands over 40 percent of the market share. Building on this foundation, NEC America has already started moving to the next stage — implementing facial recognition.
CEO Masahiro Ikeno remarked that “Facial recognition is just one of the countless technologies available today. What we want to do is integrate various technologies, including fingerprint recognition, to make the world more convenient. If we look to commercial and enterprise business, we can see many novel ways to use these systems. For example, in December of last year, Delta Airlines began implementing facial recognition for international arrivals and departures out of Atlanta. Now, passengers only need to show their face for check-in, baggage check, TSA security, and boarding procedures. No longer needing a boarding pass has shortened boarding time per 300 passengers by ten minutes. Our next project is a contract installing this system in twenty-nine Star Alliance partners.
A world connected by facial recognition
In an era of tech-generated change, companies are constantly aiming for ‘improving customer experience — serving their needs, giving them an emotional experience and a ‘wow’ moment.’ NEC America has been working on using its facial recognition system to solve the real necessity for customer authentication, by implementing it in places like stadiums and theme parks across the U.S. for season ticket holders. New business opportunities are blossoming in venues that attract large gatherings of people.
Ikeno noted that “We are now working toward smart travel, smart hospitality, and smart entertainment. Imagine the journey between when you leave your house for a trip and return home. Upon arriving at the airport, you pass through the gate using only your face. After reaching your destination, you can rent a car, check-in and pay for your hotel, and conduct all of your other activities and shopping during your stay with facial recognition. Ultimately, it is the unification of data that connects everything and makes this possible. Enabling seamless travel with our facial recognition technology — that is our most current challenge.”
NEC America’s existential value
Ikeno has been at NEC for over thirty years. Leading overseas business, he was an expatriate in Silicon Valley from 1993 to 2002 and has since been constantly involved in NEC’s global expansion, including managing operations in Japan, North America, Latin America, and EMEA. After serving as president of NEC Europe in 2016, Ikeno moved to the United States for the second time and assumed his current position. He remarked that “As the largest and most cutting-edge market in the world, America is undoubtedly the place to start new and interesting endeavors. My biggest mission now is to build a track record of successes in this arena.”
“NEC America outsources its technology development to India, and office for accounting and human resources to the Philippines. Of course, managerial staff in the U.S. handle various consequential decisions, but what is NEC America’s real value? The company has plenty of high-quality technology under its hood, such as its facial recognition, but tech by itself has no meaning. Adapting the technology fit customers’ environments and having them use our solutions and services is how value is first created. What’s more, the value of that same technology will change according to how customers use it. At the end of the day, NEC America’s role is to unify customers and services, to create new services and new customer value. That is all.”
The physical world, and the physical side of the cyber world
Changing times are also promoting organizational change. Now, small teams, or “pods” of five to ten employees conduct everything from sales to marketing, operation, and engineering. Putting oneself in an environment that necessitates both speed and agility bring out new ideas, just as with start-up culture. A sense of ownership and commitment is also a must in this speed-centric era, so the secret to NEC America’s creativity is bringing passion to its work and nurturing the next generation’s drive for thoroughness.
Ikeno mentioned that “In the intensely competitive American market, the key for us is finding the way to spotlight our strengths. I believe that people now live in both the physical and the cyber world. The ability to build software and simply sell copies makes the cyber world quite efficient, but although it is expanding rapidly, it is also crowded with competitors like GAFA. We see no chance of winning if we were to bring the fight there. However, there is still much room for development in the field of improving customers’ livelihood and experiences in the physical world through the use of knowledge and data from the cyber world. I believe that our strengths with hardware and authentication make us competitive in this space — using technology to create an advantage in the physical world. The playing field exists in both the physical world and the closest edge of the cyber world. This is where we want to focus on creating a variety of new value, to open up the market and expand the scope of our business.
NEC has been refining its image processing systems along with the changing times; beginning with OCR, then fingerprint recognition, followed by facial recognition. The next stage is body tracking. By detecting the complex movements of the human body, continuing R&D on optimal processing techniques, and integrating even more precise recognition systems will create even greater value. In the future, instead of humans adapting to machines as they do now, machines will adapt to human movement. NEC America continues to create an even larger and more seamless vision of the future in the interest of providing even more efficient operations and more personalized services.