The touchless experience - making life simpler and safer

16/12/20, 2:53 pm

With the near perfect accuracy of facial recognition, combined with desirable customer engagement experiences, touchless user journeys are beginning to burgeon. A great example is the Star Alliance’s global commitment to seamless and contactless travel. This airline scenario was gaining adoption pre-pandemic, however with COVID-19 the case ostensibly becomes stronger. Perhaps it’s time to explore the exciting opportunities of the contactless experience.

We are in an era of "opt-in" and the creation of delightful customer experiences. If these customer experiences safeguard privacy and the contactless use-case is mindful of the law, can we begin to explore desirable touchless pathways? Does a passenger want to walk into an airport and interact with a touch screen kiosk, that spits out a physical ticket akin to a petri dish of the myriad of prior users? According to the World Health Organization, "Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose, or mouth." The convenience and value of touchless interactions are, unsurprisingly, now trending.

Even countries that prefer cash payments, like Germany, have become enthusiastic adopters of contactless transactions. Before the pandemic, Germany had hit a plateau of 35% of transaction being contactless. Now more than half of overall purchases are touchless. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using touchless payments whenever possible to minimise the potential spread of the virus.

The ability to provide seamless, touchless customer experiences are predicated upon the ability to overcome the dystopian Big Brother narrative of facial surveillance. A modern touchless experience is less threatening and invasive than a roaming digital eye mounted in the corner of a convenience store, surreptitiously capturing your movements. We are not talking about capturing facial images from a CCTV camera and automatically comparing the biometric data from film footage with images from a watchlist. A fundamental difference of the touchless customer experience is the ability to choose. The ability to willingly opt-in and enroll in a system that provides value and adds convenience.

Like most rapidly evolving technology, facial recognition algorithms have improved exponentially over the last few years. According to the NIST report, recognition errors were caused mainly by image quality variations. In 2018, the software was at least 20 times more accurate than it was in 2014. In 2019, it was finding “close to perfect” performance by high-performing algorithms. The NEC NeoFace recognition algorithms have been ranked #1 by NIST for nine years.

These improvements have significantly enhanced the accuracy and plausibility of using facial recognition to validate identity and allow for touchless customer experience solutions. A few market examples are:

Pay by face

Enabling people to complete an in-person transaction in a contactless fashion, without using NFC [link: . For additional security and peace of mind we use two factor authentication that utilises both your face and mobile phone, that remains in your purse/pocket, while the transaction is completed. There is no need to touch a terminal, just smile.

Biometric ticketing platforms

A promising application is the biometric ticketing platform where your face validates your identity and confirms that you may attend an event. The system enables rapid check-ins and the seamless processing of thousands of attendees. In addition to allowing attendees to access personalised experiences, participants can also pay with a smile.


A quarantining application that uses secure facial recognition to validate you are who you say you are, combined with geolocation to verify your location for tracking those with COVID19 symptoms and identifying compliance with location restrictions. Push notification prompt self-check-ins to make sure you are well.

Creating touchless experiences that safeguard privacy and security while making life a little bit simpler and safer is what we do best - orchestrating a brighter world.

Mark Chadwick - NEC Australia Head of Safer Cities

Steven Graham
General Manager, Innovation