For many, Facial Recognition is a convenience; a technology that can unlock your phone, allow you to navigate passport control, or automatically tag your photos on Facebook when you’re feeling lazy. But as it becomes more mainstream, what is the future of this technology in the events industry for what is an inherently privacy-conscious generation?
Here in the UK, most of us are still only subjected to the software in fairly limited situations, whereas countries like China are not only dominating in facial recognition software development, but are also much more open to the technology versus us Westerners. The software is already being used in China as an almost constant surveillance, helping to eliminate crime and give their government a high level of control over people’s lives. Face ID instead of house keys is fairly commonplace, and the technology is also being used in the country for bank security, cashier free stores, and even to detect bogus marriages.
Whilst the technology is yet to still fully take off within the events industry, we are seeing it being trialled for more efficient check in processes (the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will use facial recognition to streamline entry), and for improved on-site security (Sydney Cricket Ground’s security team recently trialled the use of 820 facial recognition cameras at The Ashes test, providing ‘airport-levels of security’ for the 45,000 spectator event). At the end of 2018, Dubai Airport alongside Emirates hopes to launch its virtual aquarium; a tunnel fitted with 80 cameras and interchangeable imagery designed for passengers to look around whilst its cameras scan their faces and irises, checking them through passport control. Qantas is also trialling the technology to drive a better customer experience in airports; tracking users through their faces from their pre-flight Costa coffee purchase to what handbag they were looking at in Mulberry, and using that information to deliver a more personalised airport customer experience. As an industry we’re continually striving to drive hyper-personalised experiences, but is this a step too far?
This can just as easily be applied to the events experience. With delegates being monitored from entry to exit; the software observing their movements throughout without the need for the likes of smart badging. Sentiment analysis is also becoming more commonplace. There are the more simple uses of this technology, such as how is the audience resonating with the content; are they happy, sad, bored or excited? Or the more complex use where the system recognises the facial emotion and through automation subsequently delivers the attendee relevant content or suggestions that fits with that emotion. This creates a whole new level of real-time event data gathering. When an organiser can detect patterns of emotional behaviour though facial recognition software and then combine this with data such as age and gender, this gives the organiser powerful measurements for ROI, all pinpointed to specific moments within the event. But how comfortable as an attendee do we really feel allowing organisers to have access to our emotions? And does this open up for brands to take advantage of this information?
So are consumers likely to become more accustomed to the technology in the future, and open to its many uses? The launch of the iPhone X Face ID puts facial recognition firmly on the map, but has already received widespread negative reviews around its ability to be hacked; adding fuel to the fire for the privacy debate. Whilst there may be some initial concerns with facial recognition, it is clear that this technology is likely to continue its rapid growth. Marketers and event organisers will continue to push each other on; leveraging the technology to deliver hyper-personalised experiences designed to meet our ever-changing physical and emotional needs.