Creating a New Experience at Mt. Fuji with Face Recognition Technology
TOKYO – As the world moves to resuming tourism, NEC introduces IT technology that provides peace of mind during COVID and expands business opportunities for utilizing IT.
Mt Fuji was the setting for NEC to conduct a demonstration experiment to check travelers physical condition and COVID status check using its advanced facial recognition, part of NEC’s new NEC I:Delight initiative.
At a time when there is a worldwide desire to support the tourism industry, and a need to assist individuals in feeling secure to travel safely, NEC is developing technology aimed at providing a one-stop health information management, as well as individual IT solutions to enable the quick revival of the world tourism industry.
During 2020, Mt. Fuji, one of Japan’s most iconic tourism spots was closed. In 2021, when the use of mountain trails was resumed, NEC conducted a demonstration experiment using its world leading face recognition to check the physical condition of climbers and speed up the health-checking process.
As the number of travelers eager to return to sightseeing increases, the need to share and check hygiene and personal information has evolved, requiring a new kind of management.
NEC’s experiment, led by Mr. Masanori Kobayashi and Mr. Michio Kaji of NEC Corporation, showed that the technology offers fast solutions and business opportunities, through its collaboration with the Tourism Policy Division of Shizuoka Prefecture led by Mr. Shigenori Kawaguchi.
The demonstration showed how the technology can avoid crowding and queues during personal health checks at major tourist sites, even in outdoor locations like Mt Fuji. The experiment reduced the average time taken to check personal information from 60 seconds to just 10 seconds.
Until now, staff at Mt. Fuji would require visitors to fill out a health form and receive a wristband for entry. However, in the summer of 2021, due to the increase in the number of climbers, lines formed to check personal information, creating unwanted congestion during the COVID-era.
NEC implemented its face recognition technology in November 2021 to achieve a smoother physical condition check for the 2022 Mt. Fuji climbing season, cooperating with the participants of a trekking tour by the Fujinomiya City Tourism Association.
Visitors used the health support app "mySOS" ahead of the arrival, entering personal information and uploading an image of their face, their vaccination certificate, or PCR test results report, all from their smartphone.
“Face recognition can be done effectively even in the challenging environment of Mt. Fuji, where the sun and wind are strong,” says Masanori Kobayashi. “This was one of the points to be verified, and we established that even with a mask, or for small children, the high-precision facial recognition system will have the maximum time of 30 seconds to validate.”
NEC has been working on biometrics for half a century, and began researching fingerprint authentication technology in 1971. Biometric authentication is a safe and convenient technology with no risk of spoofing or loss. NEC uses biometric authentication technology for face authentication, iris, fingerprint / finger veins, voice, and ear sound (reverberation in the ear canal). Their technology for face authentication has been evaluated as No. 1* in the world by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology).
NEC's face recognition detects faces, feature points, and collates faces to perform authentication. It can respond to face orientation, backlighting, facial expressions and aging, and the AI selects the matching method according to the presence or absence of a mask, so high-precision authentication is possible even when wearing a mask.
“We conducted the experiment aimed at a world view for the brand NEC I:Delight" says Michio Kaji. “NEC I:Delight is a concept brand which provides a consistent experience to users in multiple locations and services by registering a common ID via biometric authentication. This will reduce the burden on users to create multiple verifications for different services.”
The security of the biometric personal information is vital for public assurance and requires the use of one of the most technically robust system for storage. The facial information is not stored as a photograph image, but as numerical data which is encrypted and secured such that the original image cannot be restored even if the numerical data is obtained.
“The role of IT technology will be huge in terms of improving the convenience for visitors and creating better tourism services in the future” said Kobayashi.
“We believe that it is possible to create a tourist area one step ahead of other regions by providing information based on the experience accumulated in the tourism industry, with personal tastes and preferences.”
NEC’s aim is to bring together the multiple aspects of the tourism industry to realize the benefit of digitization and data sharing, to avoid the public needing to upload or provide sensitive data to multiple organizations.
“Until now, the tourism industry has not held much customer information,” said Michio Kaji. “Although it is a prerequisite to gain the consent of the individuals, I believe that collecting and analyzing tourists’ activity data through NEC’s Digital ID technologies will contribute to improving the value of tourist services.”
Tourism is undergoing major changes, including microtourism and staycation style local tourism. NEC aims to contribute to the creation of new services, business models, and tourism in the area with its leading IT technology to give the public peace of mind.
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