Maritz Travel Blog

How Facial Recognition is Disrupting the Event Industry – Why Your Face is the New Name Badge

Facial recognition technology is growing in popularity across many industries. From unlocking your car to unlocking your phone, facial recognition is becoming a very real technology having major implications for both identification and security.

In the travel and event industry, top companies are beginning to test facial recognition technology services. Delta is testing facial recognition technology for boarding passes, and TSA security and Ticketmaster are exploring replacing tickets with facial recognition.

So what is it? A facial recognition system is a technology capable of identifying or verifying a person from a digital image from a stored or captured photo at the point of service.

Maritz Travel technology expert, Neal Thompson, Director of Strategic Client Technology, joined Maritz in 1993 and was the business architect for all client-facing technologies. Today, he provides a strategic leadership role at Maritz Travel, responsible for bringing emerging technologies to market. He combines his technical depth of knowledge with his experience leading client projects while focusing on the attendee experience. Neal believes facial recognition technology has the potential to be the next big technology to disrupt and enhance both travel and event industries.

We sat down with Neal recently to get his thoughts on this new technology and how it will impact the event industry:

Neal, you’ve shared that every 5-10 years, a new technology comes along that you get really excited about and facial recognition is one of those technologies. Why is that?
What excites me about this technology is the potential to become a disrupter in how certain elements of events are delivered. For example, if we get to the point where we are able to monitor sessions by simply using a camera on the phone, or in front of the room, then it opens many more creative options for badges. Instead of RFID or barcodes dictating the format, we can move to other, creative types for identifying yourself at an event. In addition, not only do we get data about who someone is, the cognitive services that support this also allow us to get demographic as well as emotional scoring. That totally turns self-reporting surveys on their head. Your face not only becomes your name badge, but also enables us to score your reaction to the content.

How does Maritz Travel facial recognition technology work?
We have built facial recognition functionality and integrated into the onsite applications that already exist. This is an added option for our clients that gives more personalization and security.

During the registration process, we prompt the attendee to upload a profile picture. These include guidelines on how what is a good picture and what to avoid. We take that picture and create a library of persons and upload it to the cloud. The interesting thing is that the image is not stored, but an algorithm of the image itself that represents that person. Think of it as a facial fingerprint of each individual attendee. We can store up to 250 copies or versions of an algorithm of each attendee. The more an attendee interacts with the devices that recognize them, the more accurate their algorithm becomes because we have more algorithms to compare of each person.

The more times an attendee scans for a check-in or an attendee scans for a session at an event, the accuracy continues to skyrocket. After a few interactions with our devices, we know who you are, and we aren’t guessing. Our technology is proven to be very accurate.

Give us an example of how you know this really works? As we have rolled this out, we have been able to find siblings that enable us to test the accuracy. Also, glasses versus not glasses, etc. I actually have a twin brother. While not identical, we have very similar facial features. We couldn’t get it to be fooled by either of us.

How will facial recognition disrupt the industry?
Where this will be disruption is not just through the facial recognition itself, but the level of security that it adds to an event. Now, with this technology, an attendee can’t just give their name badge to somebody and have them scan it to act as if they attended. This development makes your face the new name badge. No one else can transfer this except for the attendee itself. Also, having a visual picture on file assists us in airport meet and greats, transfers, and a host of other services.

How does Maritz Travel facial recognition technology work for our clients?
Our facial recognition technology allows us to have different badge options for our clients. It’s more personal, and we can also use this at hospitality desks. This will bring help our onsite staff to interact more personally with our clients and enhance the guest experience.

What are the steps to capture facial recognition?
There are five simple steps:
1.  Using visible light attendee positions in front of a camera to take the picture
2. The picture is submitted to an online service which identifies the face(s) found in the picture
3. The found face(s) is compared to a library of faces which were uploaded by the attendees at registration
4. The highest percentage of match is returned
5. The attendee is identified

What’s your advice to a company considering using facial recognition technology instead of the traditional name badges? Is this technology a good fit for every event?
I don’t think we are there yet to replace name badges. We are getting more experience and increasing our ability to understand how best to deploy the technology. I was recently at CEMA, and the technology provider for this event used FR at check-in. It was a mixed result. We are being cautious and learning what works and does not work. We will be using this for a 600 person event coming up and will gain more expertise each time we deploy.

Click here to learn how you can build an event data strategy that drives attendee engagement and enables sales growth.

Also, check out this webinar on how leading companies are building a framework for their event data to achieve key business objectives.

Finally, click here to discover the key benefits and risks of the four most disruptive event technology trends.

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