Subscriber Discussion

NEC VIP Facial Recognition

NPR's All Tech Considered has an article up about facial recognition of celebrities for retailers; all but advertising the NEC Technologies VIP product.

The premise being that retail managers and owners want to know when a potential big spender is on the radar.

It seems that NEC did not respond to NPR’s inquiries, but whomever their source was made some pretty high claims:

The software works even when people are wearing sunglasses, hats and scarves. Recent tests have found that facial hair, aging, or changes in weight or hair color do not affect the accuracy of the system.

Seems like hype to me, unless they’ve come up with some groundbreaking changes; cause we all know most face recognition software can be defeated fairly easily.

Maybe some lucky celebrity doppelgangers will get some VIP treatment.

NPR correlates that NEC’s technology may work like "a more sophisticated version of Google Images." Google's Picasa and Google Glass do seem to fair decently at face recognition, even though Google doesn’t condone its use on Glass. And Facebook does enough to make most of the public think facial recognition is easy.

So has anyone done anything with NEC’s VIP product? Anyone think they have something here? Or just the same old hype?

John, thanks for sharing. NEC has been marketing facial recognition fairly prominently for a year or more. Here's their pitch at the Axis booth at IFSEC 2013:

These claims are, well, insane. Your highlighted quote above would never be uttered by anyone responsible for delivering or deploying such technology.

Equally troublesome is the validation used:

"The technology is being tested in a dozen undisclosed top stores and hotels in the U.S., the U.K., and the Far East"

I have seen this type of claim many times before. It's weak because manufacturers do free pilots and end users are open to kicking the tires if only to learn ("hey if this works great, if it doesn't we at least can tell people we tried out cutting edge stuff").

The VIP use case is especially terrible one, regardless of the technology use case. Unless Mindy Kaling (referenced in the article) comes to the store frequently, it becomes a needle in haystack. How many actors/actresses are as famous as Mindy Kaling (thousands, tens of thousands?). Now you have a huge watchlist of people who likely are wearing hats, scarves, sunglasses, etc.

This is just as fanciful as the 3VR case study from 3 years ago where they claimed to be testing out VIP identification at a Hilton. Ever hear anything more about that? :)

Instead of starting a new thread, let me post it here:

We have a requirement where client wants an integrated solution with ALPR and facial recognition with two-step identification process and then open up the gate. Do you know of any reliable facial recognition software? Appreciate any feedback,



Nirmal, I myself don't know of any, but I've seen a pretty reliable iris recognition system in action. Would that be an acceptable alternative?

Do you want the facial recongnition to be through a car window, or something where they pull up and look into the camera as well as present a badge.

@Luis - Yes iris recognition solution would also work

@Robert - Client asked through window but we can get away with person rolling down the window and looking in the camera for identification.

SRI's iris on the move seemed to be a pretty effective system, and supposedly iris is the second most reliable identification of a person. It's not cheap so I hope your not looking at a stingy budget, but if your already considering facial recognition in a two part access control, you probably already know you're going to have to spend some money.

You may have to roll down a window but if there's a canopy cover for incliment weather that shouldn't be a big deal.

Here's our update on SRI's Iris solution that Luis mentions. Here's the company's promo video for the platform:

A quick thought on SRIs iris solution. I saw a note somewhere and in the video clip that it can be used to automate gates at high security facilities. There was also mention in their website that it is very expensive at around USD 60,000 plus but the savings would be in manguards which may not be required. However, my view is that in high security facilities, each and every person needs to be identified. The SRI solution is used to identify only the driver, and not the passengers. So even when Nirmal is looking for a solution with ANPR + Biometric, it should be known that the solution is not providing 100% security, if the facility is really sensitive and there is no manned security at the Gate to check and ensure the identity of the co-passengers.

I do not know of any solution (except for X-ray which cannot be used) that can scan and show the total number of people in a vehicle, and use some means of rules and analytics to ascertain that the identity of all passengers are verified.


Maybe you could look to detect the mere presence of any passengers by using additional full spectrum/thermal/terahertz cameras.

If there are any passengers then they have to wait for the guard buzz'em in. Like a car-pool tax.