Pangiam, CLEAR, and others make a “sporting” effort to deny (or allow) stadium access

Back when I initially entered the automated fingerprint identification systems industry in the last millennium, I primarily dealt with two markets: the law enforcement market that seeks to solve crimes and identify criminals, and the welfare benefits market that seeks to make sure that the right people receive benefits (and the wrong people don’t).

Other markets simply didn’t exist. If I pulled out my 1994-era mobile telephone and looked at it, nothing would happen. Today, I need to look at my 2020-era mobile telephone to obtain access to its features.

And there are other biometric markets also.

Pangiam and stadium bans

Back in 1994 I couldn’t envision a biometrics story in Sports Illustrated magazine. But SI just ran a story on how facial recognition can be used to keep fans out of stadiums who shouldn’t be there.

Some fans (“fanatics”) perform acts in stadiums that cause the sports teams and/or stadium authorities to officially ban them from the stadium, sometimes for life.

John Green is the man in the blue shirt and white baseball cap to Artest’s left. By Copyright 2004 National Basketball Association. – Television broadcast of the Pacers-Pistons brawl on ESPN., Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6824157

But in the past, these measures were ineffective.

For a long time, those “measures” were limited at best. Fans do not have to show ID upon entering arenas. Teams could run checks on all the credit cards to purchase tickets to see whether any belonged to banned fans, but those fans could easily have a friend buy the tickets. 

But there are other ways to enforce stadium bans, and Sports Illustrated quoted an expert on the matter.

“They’ve kicked the fan out; they’ve taken a picture—that fan they know,” says Shaun Moore, CEO of a facial-recognition company called Trueface. “The old way of doing things was, you give that picture to the security staff and say, ‘Don’t let this person back in.’ It’s not really realistic. So the new way of doing it is, if we do have entry-level cameras, we can run that person against everyone that’s coming in. And if there’s a hit, you know then; then there’s a notification to engage with that person.”

This, incidentally, is an example of a “deny list,” or the use of a security system to deny a person access. We’ll get to that later.

But did you notice the company that was mentioned in the last quote? I’ve mentioned that company before, because Trueface was the most recent acquisition by the company Pangiam, a company that has also acquired airport security technology.

But Pangiam/Trueface isn’t the only company serving stadium (and entertainment) venues.

CLEAR and stadium entry

Most of the time, sports stadiums aren’t concentrating on the practice of DENYING people entry to a stadium. They make a lot more money by ALLOWING people entry to a stadium…and allowing them to enter as quickly as possible so they can spend money on concessions.

One such company that supports this is CLEAR, which was recently in the news because of its Initial Public Offering. Coincidentally, CLEAR also provides airport security technology, but it has branched out from that core market and is also active in other areas.

For example, let’s say you’re a die-hard New York Mets fan, and you head to Citi Field to watch a game.

By Chris6d – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=101751795

The Mets don’t just let anyone into the stadium; you have to purchase a ticket. So you need to take your ticket out of your pocket and show it to the gate staff, or you need to take your smartphone out of your pocket and show your digital ticket to the gate staff.

What if you could get into the stadium without taking ANYTHING out of your pocket? Well, you can.

In the CLEAR Lane, your fingerprint is all you need to use tickets in your MLB Ballpark app – no need to pull out your phone or printed ticket as you enter the game.

Now that is really easy.

Pangiam and CLEAR aren’t the only companies in this space, as I well know. But there’s the possibility that biometrics will be used more often for access to sports games, concerts, and similar events.

How livescan fingerprinting enrollment service providers win business

One of the tasks that I used to perform as an employee of IDEMIA was to track the state-by-state status of livescan fingerprinting enrollment services. And I soon discovered that enrollment services differed substantially from IDEMIA’s other major product lines.

This post describes the nuances in livescan fingerprinting enrollment services, the many players that are involved, the livescan technology, and (most importantly) how enrollment service providers win business.

Why enrollment services differ from driver’s license and AFIS services

At IDEMIA, I tracked the company’s presence in three major product lines (and a slew of others). And IDEMIA’s presence in each market differed depending upon the nuances of the markets.

  • For IDEMIA’s driver’s license services, there was only one provider for each state. Let’s face it, you can’t have two agencies issuing state driver’s licenses. (Although I guess this would satisfy someone’s libertarian fantasy.)
  • For IDEMIA’s automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS), there was only one provider of law enforcement AFIS in each state. However, there were other statewide fingerprinting systems back in the days when fingerprints were used for welfare benefits, and a number of county and city law enforcement agencies had their own AFIS systems.
  • But for IDEMIA’s enrollment services, there could potentially be dozens or hundreds of small businesses that provided the service. All of this depended upon how the state authorized enrollment. In some states, only one private entity could provide enrollment services, while in some other states multiple private entities could do so.

Why we have enrollment services

So what are “enrollment services”? I’ll defer to my former employer IDEMIA and use the description from its IdentoGO website.

IdentoGO by IDEMIA provides a wide range of identity-related services with our primary service being the secure capture and transmission of electronic fingerprints for employment, certification, licensing and other verification purposes – in professional and convenient locations.

Of course IdentoGO isn’t the only “channeler” in town. A number of these small businesses that provide enrollment services are allied with Certifix Livescan, others with Thales (Gemalto), others with Fieldprint, others with Biometrics4All, and others with many other FBI-approved channelers.

And in some cases, you can go to your local police agency and have the police capture your fingerprints for enrollment purposes.

The Ripon (California) Police Department provides LiveScan fingerprinting service to the public. https://riponpd.org/?page_id=1226

The channelers, and the hundreds upon hundreds of local businesses that are supported by them, handle some or all of a variety of fingerprint verification tasks, including (depending upon the individual state or Federal regulations) banking, education, firearm permits, health care, insurance, legal services, real estate, social services, state employment, transportation, and many others.

  • The basic theory is that if you are, for example, applying for a banking position, your fingerprints are searched against the FBI’s fingerprint database to make sure you don’t have a prior fraud conviction.
  • Or if you’re applying for an education position, you weren’t previously convicted of committing a crime at a school or with children.
  • Or if you’re applying for a transportation position, those multiple drunk driving convictions may cause a problem.

You get the idea.

Who are the end enrollment service providers?

So who are these small business owners who offer these livescan fingerprinting enrollment services?

In most cases, enrollment services are an add-on to a small firm’s existing business.

  • Maybe the business is a travel agency, and it offers fingerprinting along with other travel-related services (such as passport photos).
  • Maybe the business is a tax preparation service.
  • Maybe it’s an insurance agency.

So the business buys or leases a desktop livescan station, aligns with one of the major channelers, gets the necessary state approvals (in California, from the Office of the Attorney General), and waits for the applicants to…well, apply.

Livescan fingerprint capture isn’t idiot-proof, but if I can do it, you probably can also

“But wait,” you may say. “Isn’t the capture of fingerprints a specialized process requiring substantial forensic knowledge?”

She’s not a CSI, but she played one on TV. By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17752707

While you do need to take care to capture fingerprints correctly, livescan systems have dramatically improved in quality, allowing a travel agent or insurance agent to capture high-quality prints.

(I’ll let you in on a little secret: even the law enforcement officers who capture livescan prints from criminals don’t necessarily have years of experience in fingerprint capture.)

As someone who has worked with livescan systems since the mid 1990s, I can attest to the dramatic improvements in livescan technology. I wasn’t around in the early 1990s when Printrak and Digital Biometrics partnered to provide an AFIS-compatible livescan, but I was certainly around when Printrak introduced its own livescan, the LiveScan Station 2000 (LSS 2000), that competed with Digital Biometrics, Identix, and other livescan providers. (Today, former competitors Digital Biometrics, Identix, and Printrak are all part of a single company, IDEMIA.) The LSS 2000 used a Printrak-manufactured capture device attached to a computer running Digital UNIX.

By the time I became a product manager (not for livescans, but for AFIS servers), Motorola introduced two new livescan devices, the LiveScan Station 3000U and the LiveScan Station 3000N. (The “U” stood for Unix, the “N” for the Windows NT family.) The capture device for these two workstations was manufactured by Heimann Biometric Systems, which through a series of subsequent mergers is now part of HID Global.

When you’re an employee of a fingerprinting company, you’re often asked to participate in fingerprint scanner tests. (At least you were in the days before GDPR and CCPA.) So the livescan engineers decided to compare the capture quality of the LSS 2000, the LSS 3000U, and the LSS 3000N. I joined several others in participating in the scanner tests.

But I ran into a problem.

At the time that I participated in this scanner test, I had been working with paper for about two decades, and as a result of this and other things I have very light fingerprints. This isn’t an issue if you’re using a subdermal fingerprint capture system (Lumidigm, one manufacturer of such systems, was also acquired by HID Global), but it’s definitely an issue with the average optical system.

Oh, and did I mention that we were capturing our OWN fingerprints as part of this test? Rather than getting a trainer or someone with law enforcement experience to take our prints, this motley assemblage of marketers and engineers was following the DIY route.

With the result that the fingerprints that I captured on the LSS 2000 were pretty much unusuable.

But the later generation LSS 3000 prints looked a lot better. (I believe that the LSS 3000N prints were the best, which heralded the last hurrah for UNIX workstations in the AFIS world, as Windows computers proved their ability to perform AFIS work.)

And of course time has not stood still since those experiments in the early 2000s. (Although you can still buy a LiveScan 3000N today, for the price of $1.00.)

Today you can buy livescan stations that capture prints at 1000 pixels per inch (ppi), 4 times the resolution of the 500 ppi stations that were prevalent in the 1990s and early 2000s. And frankly, that are still prevalent today; most law enforcement agencies see no need to buy the more expensive 1000 ppi stations, so 500 ppi stations still prevail.

So how does a customer select a livescan fingerprinting enrollment service provider?

So let’s say a customer is applying for a position at a bank or at a school or somewhere else that asks for a fingerprint check. In the state of California, there’s not just one place that you can go to get this service. For example, there are probably a dozen or more enrollment service providers within a few miles of Bredemarket’s corporate headquarters in Ontario.

So how does a customer select a livescan fingerprinting enrollment service provider?

Well, customers do so just like they do with any other business.

IdentoGO Mobile Enrollment RV. https://www.identogo.com/mobile-enrollment-rv
  • Maybe they saw a picture of the IdentoGO RV and that caused “IdentoGO” to stick in their mind when searching for an enrollment service provider.
  • Or maybe they’re driving down a street in the neighborhood and they see a sign that mentions “livescan fingerprinting.”
  • Or maybe they’re on Facebook and see a page that promotes a specific livescan fingerprint enrollment service provider.

The key for the enrollment service provider, of course, is to make sure that your message stays top of customer’s mind when the time comes for the customer to need your service.

  • Your message needs to appear where the customer will see it.
  • Your message has to speak to the customer’s needs.
  • And your message must explain how to obtain the service. Does the customer have to make an appointment? If so, how does the customer make the appointment?

If the customer never sees your message, it’s going to be a lot harder for the customer to use your business. While the California Office of the Attorney General does include a list of all of the authorized livescan fingerprinting providers in California, and all of the various channelers maintain their own lists, neither the Attorney General nor your friendly channeler is going to necessarily direct someone to YOUR business.

You need to let your customers know of your existence, and WHY your service BENEFITS them as opposed to the service down the street.

Bredemarket can help.

If you provide livescan fingerprinting enrollment services and need experienced and knowledgeable help in getting your message out to your customers, contact me:

Read Mike French’s “Why agencies should conduct their own AFIS benchmarks rather than relying on others.”

Today my content calendar says that I’m supposed to be posting about social media, so I’m going to discuss a LinkedIn article. That fits, doesn’t it?

Seriously, Mike French has posted his long-awaited (by me, anyway) article on the need for automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS) benchmarks. And his perspective is valuable.

People enter the AFIS industry in different ways. I entered the industry as a writer, and therefore needed some time to master the forensic and technical concepts. Mike came from the forensic disciplines, having worked in the Latent Print Unit at the King County Sheriff’s Office before joining Sagem Morpho, which became MorphoTrak, which became IDEMIA Identity & Security N.A.

Because of this background, Mike obviously has an appreciation for a law enforcement agency’s forensic requirements, and why it is important for the agency to conduct its own benchmark of AFIS vendors. As Mike notes, more and more agencies are choosing to rely on independent measurements based on test data. This may not be the best course for an agency.

But go read Mike’s words yourself.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-agencies-should-conduct-own-afis-benchmarks-rather-mike-french/

(Bredemarket Premium) I can’t TELL you the law enforcement AFIS vendors in each state, but…

Well, it’s time for another post in the Bredemarket Premium series, in which posts are only viewable by paying subscribers.

I thought about this topic when I was asked by someone NOT in the automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS) industry to explain the industry. And I told him some things that would benefit people who ARE in the AFIS industry. Some people already know these things, while some people don’t. One example: which AFIS vendors service which customers?

For purposes of this post I will concentrate on state-level law enforcement AFIS in the United States, although AFIS are available at many government (and enterprise) levels for many markets in many countries.

As I detail in the post, I actually know all of this information myself, but I can’t share it. So this post is intended to tell you how to obtain this information yourself, from publicly available sources. And I’ll even give you a few pointers to get you started.

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What is an “antimicrobial” contact fingerprint reader? And what is it NOT?

In the COVID and (soon) post-COVID area, people don’t want to touch things. That impacts how identity products are marketed, including biometric readers.

Why contactless biometrics are “better” than contact biometrics

In the biometric world, this reluctance to touch things has served to promote CONTACTLESS biometric technologies, such as facial recognition, other other technologies. The loser in this has been fingerprint-based technologies, as several facial and iris vendors have made the claim that face/iris biometrics are contactless, while fingerprint biometrics are NOT contactless.

Well, my friends at my former employer IDEMIA might take issue with that claim, since you literally do NOT touch the fingerprint reader in IDEMIA’s MorphoWave product. IDEMIA does not (to my knowledge) make any medical claims about MorphoWave, but the company does emphasize that its contactless fingerprint reader allows for fast capture of four-finger slaps.

To protect their premises, organizations need access control solutions that are efficient, fast, and convenient. A contactless fingerprint scanner provides an optimum answer high throughput workplaces. IDEMIA’s MorphoWave contactless fingerprint solution scans and verifies 4 fingerprints in less than 1 second, through a fully touchless hand wave gesture. Thanks to the simplicity of this gesture, the throughput can reach up to 50 people per minute.

An antimicrobial contact fingerprint reader?

But what if there were a CONTACT solution that allowed you to capture prints with a reduced fear of “bad things”?

That’s what Integrated Biometrics appears to be claiming.

Integrated Biometrics (IB), the world leader in mobile, FBI-certified biometric fingerprint scanners, and NBD Nanotechnologies (NBD Nano), the surface coating experts, today announced the inclusion of NBD’s RepelFlex MBED transparent coating on IB’s entire line of fingerprint scanners.

An ultra-thin, transparent coating, RepelFlex MBED is designed to provide outstanding antimicrobial, anti-scratch, and anti-stain protection to devices. Long-lasting and multi-functional, RepelFlex MBED is ideal for surfaces that must stand up to high throughput and harsh conditions without compromising accuracy.

So what exactly does “antimicrobial” mean?

cluster of Escherichia coli bacteria magnified 10,000 times. By Photo by Eric Erbe, digital colorization by Christopher Pooley, both of USDA, ARS, EMU. – This image was released by the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, with the ID K11077-1 (next)., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=958857

Let’s see how NBD Nano describes it.

Preventing the presence and growth of microbials on surfaces is becoming increasingly important. Antimicrobial performance is especially critical on surfaces that are accessible to the public in order to prevent the spread of stain and odor causing bacteria and microbes.

And if you drill further down in NBD Nano’s website, you find this information in a technical data sheet (PDF).

Antimicrobial Performance: Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) Z 2801 – PASS*
*as tested by Microchem Laboratory, Round Rock, TX

Now since I’m not up to date on my Japanese Industrial Standards, I had to rely on the good folks at the aforementioned Microchem Laboratory to explain what the standard actually means.

The JIS Z 2801 method tests the ability of plastics, metals, ceramics and other antimicrobial surfaces to inhibit the growth of microorganisms or kill them. The procedure is very sensitive to antimicrobial activity and has a number of real world applications anywhere from the hospital/clinical environment to a household consumer company concerned with the ability of a material they have to allow bacterial growth.

The JIS Z 2801 method is the most commonly chosen test and has become the industry standard for antimicrobial hard surface performance in the United States.

It may be antimicrobial, but what about preventing the “C” word?

Now you may have noticed that Microchem Laboratory, NBD Nano, and Integrated Biometrics did not make any medical claims regarding their products. None of them, for example, used the “C” word in any of their materials.

There’s a very, very good reason for that.

If any of these product providers were to make specific MEDICAL claims, then any sales in the United States would come under the purview of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

This is something that temperature scanner manufacturers learned the hard way.

Digression: if fever scanners are fever scanners, does that mean they are fever scanners?

Remember “fever scanners”? Those devices that were (and in some cases still are) pointed at your forehead as you enter a building or another secure area? I won’t get into the issues with these devices (what happens when the scanner is placed next to a building’s front entrance on a hot day?), but I will look at some of the claims about those scanners.

About a year ago, John Honovich of IPVM began asking some uncomfortable questions about the marketing of those devices, especially after the FDA clarified what thermal imaging systems could and could not do.

When used correctly, thermal imaging systems generally have been shown to accurately measure someone’s surface skin temperature without being physically close to the person being evaluated….

Thermal imaging systems have not been shown to be accurate when used to take the temperature of multiple people at the same time. The accuracy of these systems depends on careful set-up and operation, as well as proper preparation of the person being evaluated….

Room temperature should be 68-76 °F (20-24 °C) and relative humidity 10-50 percent….

The person handling the system should make sure the person being evaluated…(h)as waited at least 15 minutes in the measurement room or 30 minutes after exercising, strenuous physical activity, bathing, or using hot or cold compresses on the face.

Let’s stop right there. For any of you who have undergone a temperature scan in the last year: how many of you have waited in a measurement room for at least 15 minutes BEFORE your temperature was taken?

Last summer I had a dentist appointment. My dentist is in Ontario, California, where the summers can get kind of hot. The protocol at this dentist’s office was to have you call the office from your car when you arrived in the parking lot, then wait for someone from the office to come outside and take your temperature before you could enter the building.

I was no dummy. I left my car and its air conditioner running while waiting for my temperature to be taken. Otherwise, who knows what my temperature reading would have been? (I also chose NOT to walk to the dentist’s office that day for the same reason.)

Back to John Honovich. He had read the FDA advice on the medical nature of thermal imaging systems, and then noted that some of the manufacturers of said systems were sort of getting around this by stating that their devices were not medical devices.

Even though the manufacturers still referred to them as “fever cameras.”

For example, one vendor (who has since changed its advertising) declared at the time that “thermal temperature-monitoring technology assists in reducing the spread of viral diseases,” even though that vendor’s device “is not a medical device and is not designed or intended for diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of any disease or condition.”

Fever scanners, testosterone supplements…and fingerprint readers

Yes, that language is similar to the language used by providers of natural supplements that, according to anecdotal evidence, work wonders. The FDA really polices this stuff.

So you really don’t want to make medical claims about ANY product unless you can back them up with the FDA. You can say that a particular product passed a particular antimicrobial standard…but you’d better not say anything else.

In fact, Integrated Biometrics only mentions the “antimicrobial” claim in passing, but spends some time discussing other benefits of the NBD Nano technology:

The inclusion of RepelFlex MBED coatings enable IB’s scanners to deliver an even higher level of performance. Surfaces are tougher and more difficult to scratch or stain, increasing their longevity while maintaining print quality even when regular cleaning is not possible due to conditions or times of heavy use.

So the treated Integrated Biometrics products are tough…like those famous 1970s crime fighters Kojak, Columbo, and Danno and the other people from Five-O. (Not that Sherlock and Watson were slouches.)

Book ’em, Danno! By CBS Television – eBay item photo front photo back, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19674714

When biometric readers are “magic” (it’s a small face after all)

The news coming across the wire is that Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Florida is testing facial recognition. (H/T International Biometrics + Identity Association.)

“At Walt Disney World Resort, we’re always looking for innovative and convenient ways to improve our guests’ experience—especially as we navigate the impact of COVID-19. With the future in mind and the shift in focus to more touchless experiences, we’re conducting a limited 30-day test using facial recognition technology.”

If the test is successful and facial recognition is implemented, it would be a replacement for (touch) fingerprint technology, which the Disney parks suspended last July for health reasons. (Although touchless fingerprint options are available.)

Disney’s biometric history extends back to 2006, when it used hand geometry.

I really want to know (if this song is truly related to crime scene investigation)

I was performing some website maintenance this afternoon, and decided to add a page dedicated to Bredemarket’s services for identity firms. I was trying to think of an introductory illustration to go with the page, since the town crier can only go so far. So, claiming fair use, I decided that this image made perfect sense.

“Who Are You” by The Who. Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11316153

Now while use of the “Who Are You” album cover on a Bredemarket identity page makes perfect sense to me, it may not make sense to 6.9 billion other people. So I guess I should explain my line of thinking.

The link between human identification and the song “Who Are You” was established nearly two decades ago, when the television show “C.S.I. Crime Scene Investigation” started airing on CBS. TV shows have theme songs, and this TV show adopted a (G-rated) excerpt from the Who song “Who Are You” as its theme song. After all, the fictional Las Vegas cops were often tasked with identifying dead bodies or investigating crime scene evidence, so they would be expected to ask the question “who are you” a lot.

Which reminds me of two stories:

  • I actually knew a real Las Vegas crime scene investigator (Rick Workman), but by the time I knew him he was working for the neighboring city of Henderson.
  • CSI spawned a number of spinoffs, including “CSI:Miami.” When I was a Motorola product manager, CSI:Miami contacted us to help with a storyline involving a crime scene palm print. While Motorola software was featured in the episode, the GUI was jazzed up a bit so that it would look good on TV.

So this song (and other Who songs for the CSI spinoffs) is indelibly associated with police crime scene work.

But should it be?

After all, people think that “When a Man Loves a Woman” is a love song based upon its title. But the lyrics show that it’s not a love song at all.

When a man loves a woman
Down deep in his soul
She can bring him such misery
If she is playin’ him for a fool

So are we at fault when we associate Pete Townshend’s 1970s song “Who Are You” with crime scene investigation?

Yes, and no.

While the “who are you” question has nothing to do with figuring out who committed a crime, it DOES involve a policeman.

This song is based on a day in the life of Pete Townshend….

Pete left that bar and passed out in a random doorway in Soho (a part of New York). A policeman recognized him (“A policeman knew my name”) and being kind, woke him and and told him, “You can go sleep at home tonight (instead of a jail cell), if you can get up and walk away.” Pete’s response: “Who the f–k are you?”

Because it was the 1970s, the policeman did not try to identify the drunk Townshend with a mobile fingerprint device linked to a fingerprint identification system, or a camera linked to a facial recognition system.

Instead, the drunk Townshend questioned the authority of the policeman. Which is what you would expect from the guy who wrote the line “I hope I die before I get old.”

Speaking of which, did anybody notice that on the album cover for “Who Are You,” Keith Moon is sitting on a chair that says “Not to Be Taken Away”? Actually, they did…especially since the album was released on August 18, 1978 and Moon died on September 7.

While Moon’s death was investigated, no crime scene investigators were involved.

My entry for the Spilled Coffee Story Challenge

All the cool kids are doing online social media challenges. Some of these challenges, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge, are very beneficial to society. Others, such as the Tide Pod Challenge, are not.

I believe that this challenge, the Spilled Coffee Story Challenge, falls somewhere between the two. It won’t cure any debilitating diseases, but it won’t kill you either.

Before continuing, I want to emphasize that this is the Spilled Coffee STORY Challenge, not the Spilled Coffee Challenge. The Spilled Coffee Challenge could be very dangerous, because coffee is hot. So DON’T do that.

By Julius Schorzman – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=107645

Now most of you have never heard of the Spilled Coffee Story Challenge. That’s because I just made it up based upon an online conversation. So I’ll start by explaining how the Spilled Coffee Story Challenge came to be, and then I’ll tell my spilled coffee story.

How the Spilled Coffee Story Challenge came to be

Not too long ago, Sumair Abro and Rhonda Salvestrini were on a podcast together, talking about storytelling. To illustrate the importance of storytelling, Abro proceeded to…tell a story. It’s a story that he overheard about a woman who spilled coffee. By the end of the story, we all knew that…well, I’ll let Abro tell his story. The video can be found here.

After telling the story, Abro mentioned three points:

  1. “When you tell a story from your personal experience – people are genuinely interested.”
  2. “Don’t show all your cards immediately – have an element of surprise.” (Abro’s story DEFINITELY had a surprise at the end, revealing how spilling coffee could be a wonderful event for a particular person.)
  3. “Tell your story to the right audience.”

Salvestrini then chimed in, noting how stories need to be engaging and relevant.

Before going on, the brief clip that I linked above is actually part of a longer conversation between Abro and Salvestrini, which I mentioned before in this blog post.

But in this case, we’re only talking about the short excerpt on storytelling. I shared this excerpt myself on my Bredemarket LinkedIn page, making the following comment as I did so:

But my coffee-spilling story, in which I almost spilled coffee on a customer (but thankfully didn’t), would be hard to spin into a wonderful business truth.

This prompted a response from Rhonda Salvestrini:

Coffee-spilling stories are authentic and let our audience know that we are human. I’m sure you can spin it into a wonderful business truth. Let’s try!

Sumair Abro also chimed in:

hahaha..you dont need to spin it. It’s authentic as mentioned by Rhonda

Well, Rhonda and Sumair…CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

My Spilled Coffee Story

My spilled coffee story took place a few years ago, when I was working for MorphoTrak. MorphoTrak was a merger of two former competitors that combined their operations—including their previously separate user conferences. I had been involved with the old Motorola User Conferences, so I knew the customers from that side of the company. And as time went on, I got to meet the customers from the non-Motorola side of the company (the Sagem Morpho side).

Me at a User Conference, several years after the coffee incident.

One of the ex-Sagem Morpho customers was from Hawaii. Specifically, the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center. This customer not only used MorphoTrak’s fingerprint identification technology, but also used its facial recognition technology, providing Hawaii law enforcement with the ability to use faces as an investigative lead when solving crimes.

Several years ago, the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center was represented on the Users Conference Executive Board by Liane Moriyama. Moriyama is a key figure in Hawaii criminal justice, since she was present when Hawaii established its first automated fingerprint identification system in 1990, and was also present for the establishment of Hawaii’s facial recognition system in 2013. But she is proudest of her accomplishments for vulnerable populations:

“We realized that we needed to help the non-criminal justice communities by using the technology and the biometrics (to protect) our vulnerable populations, our children, our disabled and our elderly through licensing and background checks. That really does protect the common citizen, and the culmination of all of that is when I was elected chair of the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact Council. I served two terms as the chair nationally and we have made tremendous strides in keeping the vulnerable populations safe.”

Liane Moriyama, Women in Biometrics 2017 Award recipient, quoted in Secure ID News

So Moriyama was a key customer for MorphoTrak, and a nationally recognized public security figure. Oh, and she’s a wonderful woman also (she gave away more macadamia nuts than the guy from Magnum P.I.).

All of this was very true when I was walking down the hall one fateful day. The Users Conference Executive Board was in town planning the next Users Conference. I was not involved in Users Conference planning at the time, but I would usually see Liane and the other customers when they were in the facility.

USUALLY I’d see them.

I didn’t see her one day when I went to the lunchroom to get some coffee, then exited the lunchroom and turned the corner.

Only THEN did I see her, as I turned the corner and found her right in front of me.

And disaster struck, and I spilled my coffee.

Luckily, I spilled it on MYSELF, and DIDN’T spill it on Liane.

She was extremely concerned about the fact that I had spilled coffee on myself, and I was incredibly relieved that I hadn’t spilled coffee on her.

Because if you have the choice, it’s better for you to suffer a mishap than for the client to suffer one.

So all ended well. Liane didn’t have to incur a dry cleaning bill while traveling, I took care of my own clothes, and she still gave me macadamia nuts in the future.

So now I’ll ask you: is “if you have the choice, it’s better for you to suffer a mishap than for the client to suffer one” a wonderful business truth?