The pandemic ushered in a surplus of touchless options for ticketing, ordering, and queuing at attractions in an effort to reduce contact among guests and staff members. One of these growing technologies is facial recognition. Is recognition technology still of value and here to stay post-pandemic?
Yas Theme Parks in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), believes going contactless is the wave of the future. In April 2021, Yas Theme Parks adopted FacePass technology at all its parks and attractions.
“Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld, and Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi became the first theme parks in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to adopt contactless technology, which was an incredible milestone for us,” says Ali Nimer, executive director, digital and technology at Miral, the Abu Dhabi-based developer of the three attractions.
Yas Theme Parks began using FacePass facial recognition tech in July. This innovation works by capturing visitors’ faces and linking them to a unique ID to use for future transactions, Nimer explains. By adding credit card details to their FacePass account, guests have access to contactless payments at points of entry and across select retail and dining outlets.
“The FacePass technology was very well received by park visitors,” Nimer says. “We achieved over 1,100 contactless enrollments in the first month.” He says he believes facial recognition technology saves time, provides convenience, and enhances guest safety and well-being because their interactions are touchless.
To help save the pachyderm population, Dr. Daniella Chusyd, a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University Bloomington, came up with the idea to use facial recognition of these mammals to make research easier and faster.
She reached out to eight zoos across the United States and asked them to take at least 100 photos each of their resident Asian elephants. Point De-fiance Zoo & Aquarium (PDZA) in Tacoma, Washington, was one of the selected zoos. Zookeepers took pictures of their Asian elephant, Suki, who recently celebrated her 57th birthday.
“This facial recognition project will help researchers quickly identify individual elephants and track their movement and ranges,” explains Shannon Smith, assistant curator at the zoo and one of the photographers on the project. “It will also give safari tourists and zoo guests the ability to identify elephants and their backstories, which will lead to greater empathy and conservation.”
Smith says when any person recognizes that an animal isn’t an object, but rather a living thing, they become more invested.
The growing implementation of recognition technology in daily life has led to concerns about privacy and its regulation.
“How personal information is gathered, used, and shared is always a concern,” says Rudie Baldwin, founding partner at Amaro Baldwin LLP.
For example, biometric data—such as an individual’s “faceprint” (a digital scan or image of a person’s face)—could be connected to credit cards, bank accounts, smartphones (using Face ID to unlock an iPhone), or other personal information, he says. If an attraction collects such personal details and the park’s information and technology systems get hacked, there are some worries that arise.
Baldwin offers some suggestions on how best to follow U.S. laws when collecting, using, and storing the biometric data of guests:
- First, research what individual states require and follow those guidelines.
- As a general rule, obtain consent from visitors to collect their biometric data and clearly communicate to patrons what occurs when collecting information and how it is used.
- Make a guest’s ability to retract consent as easy as providing it.
- A state may provide patrons with the right to obtain a copy of their data; review state requirements.
- Properly secure sensitive personal information to prevent it from being compromised. Consult with a data security firm or professional.
Pending federal legislation, the National Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2020 (NBIPA) says informed consent is required prior to capturing an individual’s biometrics. This includes eye scans, fingerprints, voiceprints, and faceprints.
The European Union took action on the use of biometric data in 2018 when it implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This regulation covers consent for using sensitive customer information, how to protect it, what to do in case of a breach, the customer’s right to access, and their right to be forgotten.
A More Personalized Experience
Tricia Rodriguez, CEO and president of Mad Systems, an audiovisual manufacturing company, says its patented recognition-based media delivery technology checks all the right boxes when it comes to safety and security. This tech is used to create a personalized experience through media deliv-ery of information or stories that are traditionally mounted on plaques at a museum or exhibit. “This can mean your selected audio or subtitle lan-guage, or the science- or history-based version of the story,” Rodriguez specifies. “It can also provide specific versions of the media to be delivered according to the guest’s age or experience level.”
How does this recognition technology work? The easiest example, says Rodriguez, is a scenario in which potential visitors log into an attraction’s system to buy tickets. When they indicate they want a personalized experience, they consent to having their image taken. Then, they enter their name, level of expertise on the subject, preferred language for consuming content, and interests, like science or history.
“This image is converted to a small amount of data that describes your face in terms of vectors. That includes the length of your nose, if your nose is straight, the distance and angle from the tip of your nose to the corners of your eyes,” Rodriguez explains. “That data is heavily encrypted, so the data can’t be used anywhere else.”
Besides using the technology to give guests a customized experience as they go through an attraction, facilities have access to a variety of analyt-ics they can use to improve the guest experience. In a museum, for example, they know the dwell time for visitors at each exhibit, she says.
After guests leave an attraction, all their data is deleted unless they request it be saved, says Rodriguez. This normally either means the guests plan to return or they have a membership with the attraction and decided to opt in for longer term data storage.
- Heather Larson is a freelance writer in Tacoma, Washington, who frequently writes about small-business issues.
Coming to IAAPA Expo 2021:
I Can’t Steal My Face:
Recognition Software and Risk Management
Thursday, Nov. 18, 4 – 5 p.m.
Facial recognition technology and biometric data are being utilized more and more at attractions, but such technology also has the potential to create serious risk management and security issues. Learn from Rudie Baldwin, founding partner, Amaro Baldwin LLP, about planning and adapting future operations for these developments, as well as current and developing U.S. legislation on emerging technologies and consumer privacy. For more information, visit IAAPA.org/IAAPAExpo.