NEC’s Hitoshi Imaoka awarded with prestigious “Medal with Purple Ribbon”

TOKYO, Apr 28, 2023 – (JCN Newswire via – NEC Fellow Hitoshi Imaoka has received Japan’s prestigious “Medal with Purple Ribbon” award, which is presented by the Cabinet Office to persons who have made outstanding achievements in science and technology, academia, and the field of sports and culture. The award recognizes Imaoka’s contributions to safety and security around the world through the development and commercialization of high accuracy face recognition technology.

Hitoshi Imaoka
The stages of NEC’s face recognition development

NEC has pioneered the development and commercialization of face recognition technology with an effective feature extraction method for highly accurate identification of individuals. This was achieved by developing a method that incorporates machine learning and deep learning in order to distinguish between individuals using just a small amount of facial feature information.

As a result of enabling high-speed, high-accuracy identification under a variety of conditions, in 2018, an evaluation of NEC’s technology by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) found an error rate of 0.4% on a database of 1.6 million people. Moreover, the system achieved a search rate of 230 million cases per second, and was evaluated as highly effective in terms of practical application, such as robustness against environmental changes and aging(1).

Following 2018, NEC’s face recognition technology has received top ratings from the NIST several times, and continues to maintain and improve its world-class performance. Accordingly, the technology has been adopted in 45 countries, some of the world’s busiest airports and by India’s national ID system, as it contributes to the safety and security of communities worldwide.

“I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to friends, family and colleagues who have supported me on the way to receiving this medal,” said Imaoka. “Face recognition is a particularly complex technology among biometrics, as there are numerous variables to consider, such as face orientation and lighting. We have faced many challenges along the way, but with the support of our face recognition research teams, business divisions and customers throughout the world, we have been able to develop into a global business that contributes to society across a wide range of fields. With this award in mind, we will continue working earnestly so that biometric authentication, including face recognition, will be useful in the daily lives of people everywhere.”

Face recognition is at the core of NEC’s portfolio of biometric technologies “Bio-Idiom”(2). The company began its development in 1989 by applying the pattern recognition technology established in the study of printed character recognition. In 2002, it was commercialized under the name “NeoFace”(3), and since then a wide range of products and services have been developed internationally. In 2009, under the initiative of Imaoka, NEC began participating in face recognition benchmark tests sponsored by the NIST, and has received the No.1 evaluation multiple times.

In addition, in 2020 and 2022(4), the global research company Frost and Sullivan evaluated NEC as a “Market Leader,” and the company has earned a strong reputation from third parties in terms of business.

In recent years, biometrics, including face recognition, have begun to be used not only for authenticating individuals, but also for a variety of daily activities(5), such as entry and exit features and payment solutions. In addition, it is expected to be a key technology for the safe utilization of digital advancements in new areas such as web3 and the metaverse, which are expected to develop in the near future.

In response to these demands for a wide variety of systems that require even higher accuracy, in 2022, NEC launched sales of a new high accuracy “multimodal biometric authentication solution”(6) with a false acceptance rate of one in 10 billion that combined NEC’s face recognition and iris recognition for the first time, each of which have been recognized as the world’s No. 1 in benchmark tests implemented by the NIST(7).

Going forward, NEC will continue to contribute to the realization of a society where everyone can use digital technologies with a sense of security by further improving biometric authentication technologies, including face recognition, and by providing higher-quality, user-friendly products and services.

(1) NEC ranked No.1 several times as the world’s most accurate face recognition technology in vendor tests conducted by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The evaluation results do not represent recommendations by the US government for specific products.
(2) “Bio-IDiom” is NEC’s portfolio of biometric identification solutions, including face, iris, fingerprint, palm print, finger vein, voice, and ear acoustic solutions.
(3) NEC’s face recognition AI “NeoFace”
(4) Frost Radar: Biometric Solutions within the Security Industry, 2020
Frost Radar: Biometric Authentication Solutions, 2022
(5) NEC I:Delight
(6) NEC launches multimodal biometric authentication solution featuring the world’s No.1 face recognition and iris recognition
(7) NEC iris recognition technology ranks first in NIST accuracy testing

About NEC Corporation

NEC Corporation has established itself as a leader in the integration of IT and network technologies while promoting the brand statement of “Orchestrating a brighter world.” NEC enables businesses and communities to adapt to rapid changes taking place in both society and the market as it provides for the social values of safety, security, fairness and efficiency to promote a more sustainable world where everyone has the chance to reach their full potential. For more information, visit NEC at

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