Facial Recognition: The Future of Event Tech is Here

facial recognition

It’s no longer a concept meant for sci-fi films and futuristic visions: facial recognition technology is here and it’s poised to transform the meetings and events industry as we know it.

Imagine this scenario: an attendee walks into your event late, flustered and needs their badge. However, they conveniently forgot the printout with their confirmation, the email is nowhere to be found on their phone (if they can even find that) and they are running late for an important appointment.

It becomes a race to go into the system, check their info, and print their badge to get them on their way. Sure, once in a while, this isn’t too painful; but let’s be honest: this happens more frequently than that.

What if they were able to simply look into a small camera and… BAM! Checked in, badge is printing and they’re on their way?

“We’re only scratching the surface of what this type of technology can do and the insights it can provide.”

Brian Scott

That’s one of the small examples of how we could see facial recognition technology begin to change the way we design events.

“It’s not a silver bullet that’s going to solve all your problems,” says Brian Scott, Chief Information Officer for Experient, “but it’s an exciting trend that will be very effective in specific applications..”

Scott and his team have been working to rollout facial recognition technology that will help event managers in a variety of innovative new ways, including onsite registration.

“We’ve built a simple, easy-to-use check-in process for attendees that provides them a hassle-free and secure way to get their event badge,” said Aaron Dorsey, Senior Director of Strategic Client Technology at Experient.

facial recognition

How It Works

While it may add a small step in the process, using facial recognition for registration is pretty simple.

Attendees upload a photo of themselves (whether it’s a photo saved on their computer or mobile device or one they take right then) and when they arrive onsite, they walk up, take a picture at the kiosk and the system matches the two photos to confirm their identification, prints their badge and they’re one their way.

“To ensure privacy and security concerns, we don’t store the user’s picture,” Dorsey said. “We only store a number that represents something close to a ‘fingerprint’ of their face. When guests come in, they don’t have to search for a confirmation letter or anything–they just bring their face and it’ll recognize them.”

Not only does this provide a new and unique check-in experience–perfect for a board of directors meeting or a VIP experience, according to Scott–it removes another hoop to jump through while onsite.

“Depending on what your process is onsite, this could present a simpler option,” Scott said.

Facial recognition can eliminate the need for ID checks and confirmation letters, providing guests a hands-free option to check in to your event.

While the process can scan, analyze and confirm attendees’ ID in about five seconds, Scott points out it won’t be faster than scanning a bar code.

“It is fast enough that for certain groups–like your non tech-savvy guests who don’t have everything on their phones–it will work well.”

facial recognition

It’s Not as Creepy As you Think

To some, the idea of sticking their face up to a camera as their identification method sounds amazing. To others, it can be a little unsettling.

In a time where privacy and security are top-of-mind, using facial recognition is actually more secure than you might imagine.

“You can forge an ID, but your face is your face,” Scott said. “You can’t change that.”

When attendees upload their photo to the registration system, that photo is turned into a long number that represents an algorithm of their facial features. The system doesn’t save the person’s image; it turns it into a secure code that is safely stored away in order to check them in at the event.

Not only will this help ease some of the privacy concerns of your guests, it can enhance security to ensure the person that checks into your event is who they say they are.

“You can’t fool the system,” Scott said. “You can make the craziest face possible and it will know who you are. It matches biometric data that can’t be forged.”

facial recognition

The Possibilities are Endless

Registration is only one of the countless applications of facial recognition that could change the event space forever, according to Scott.

“It has other, far-reaching applications that I think are even more exciting.”

One of these applications is session and entrance tracking: with one snapshot, you can accurately determine the number of guests in your general session or on the show floor at a given time, which could provide an interesting complement to your behavioral data program.

Speaking of behavioral data, what if you could gauge the mood or sentiment of a crowd in real-time? You could get an even more accurate picture of how guests are responding to your speakers or the content that’s being presented by capturing their physical responses and reactions.

One of the ways Scott’s team plans on testing this new technology is by setting up cameras behind the Scan-and-Go counters during onsite registration. By taking a photo every 30 seconds, they can see the mood of each attendee during the process, helping them understand what’s working and what could be tweaked.

“We’re only scratching the surface of what this type of technology can do and the insights it can provide,” Scott said. “There are so many new and exciting ways this can help us transform the way we design events.”

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