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Waldo

Waldo, a facial recognition tool, wants to track your kids this summer

The A.I. is already in use at 120 camps in North America

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For parents who send their kids to camp each summer, the empty house can feel both refreshing and lonely. Some often wonder what their kids are up to when they're not with them.

While camps may have a website or social media platform where they post photos, sifting through them can take time. Waldo wants to change that by using facial recognition technology to sift and find photos of each camper. They are sent by text message to their families as soon as the photos are uploaded to the camp album.

The use of facial recognition is widening from smartphones like the iPhone X to Disneyland, which takes a photo of every person — children included — who comes to its park, linking that image to the entry ticket in its database.

With Waldo already in use in more than 120 camps across North America, GearBrain spoke with Lindsay Nash, director of content at Waldo Photos, by email to ask how parents can access this new system on smartphones and the Web, and how it works from scanning to security.

How do camps use Waldo?

Camps are using the technology to more easily share all the photos that they were previously posting on Facebook or other online albums. It works like this: their camp photographers take the photos and upload them to the Waldo platform. Waldo then matches those photos to reference images submitted by parents who enroll in the service and finds all the matches, notifying parents whenever a new photo of their camper is found. The camp parents can use the Waldo app to see just their camper's photos, all the camp photos, or even photo highlights (chosen by the camp for each day).

How are you scanning children? And what measures are put in place in regard to a minor's right to privacy since their biometric information is being taken?

The technology scans the reference image, submitted by the parent who must agree to our privacy and usage policy.

How do you secure the data from the facial recognition scans?

As a product focused on sharing images with families, we take privacy and data protection very seriously. All of our facial recognition data is collected, transmitted, and stored using industry standard SSL encryption and stored fully encrypted as well. Through our authentication system, only intended users are able to see the photos our customers upload to our system.

Parents opt-in and tag their children so they can see and find when photos including them are uploaded.Waldo

How do parents lock in on only their camper(s) and not on other people's children?

Parents have the ability to tag or untag a photo. If they receive a photo that is not their child, they can simply untag it. Every time they take an action like this, it helps improve the matching technology and machine learning going on in the background.

What happens if other parents want to opt out from Waldo but their child is standing near someone else's child who uses the platform?

Their child will not be matched unless we have a reference image for that child. This is an opt-in service only.

How many people and how many camps are using Waldo currently?

We are now servicing 100,000 campers in 120 camps across North America using our summer camp product.

Besides camps where else is the technology being used and where do you hope it will be used in the future?

Our summer camp product is just one piece of the Waldo ecosystem. Our technology started in the events industry and is still being used at events big and small across the country. We've partnered with Fortune 500 companies for big corporate events and we've partnered with smaller, more intimate events like birthday parties, fundraisers, and small music venues.

We're now powering the photo delivery for schools, youth sports leagues, resorts, and pro photographers. Our mission is to remove all the friction between the photographer and the photographed.

The Waldo app can be used on iOS and Android phones, with a web app tooWaldo

What security measures are you using to protect against hacking?

We use SSL encryption paired with 2-factor authentication in order to protect against hacking. All of our backend systems are kept behind firewalls and our web servers are equipped with industry standard protection against common threats.

What devices and technology do parents need to use Waldo?

A mobile phone — our app is built for both iOS and Android devices. We also have a web app that is used for events where they can view and purchase their photos without having to download the app.

How is a camp wired to participate?

All they need is an internet connection. They simply upload their photos to the Waldo platform. We provide a dynamic admin dashboard for them, where they can upload photos, add branding if they desire, and — a huge boon for these camps — even see statistics on how many photos each parent was delivered. This helps them even out their photo coverage and cut down on worried parent phone calls and emails.

Is there a fee to use Waldo?

It averages about $1-$2/day per child. We have several different payment models. Some camps choose to purchase the service outright for their campers and offer it to parents as an added value to the camp experience. And some camps choose a parent-pay plan where they can actually use the proceeds for extra revenues. And one of our most popular plans is a scholarship model, where if the camp uses the revenues to go toward camper scholarships, Waldo will match their revenues, sending a total of 50 percent to camper scholarships to help more kids experience the joy of summer camp.

What was the inspiration behind the creation of Waldo?

The Waldo CEO, Rodney Rice, is a parent himself. And he remembers his own camp days in the Texas Hill Country like they were just yesterday. And, now, years later, he's sending his own three children off to camp every summer. His worries were the same as other parents: Would they make friends? Would they have fun? Each night, Rodney and his wife would weed through the thousands of photos searching for a clue. "I remember waiting for the first pictures to post and just hope to see a photo of them smiling," he says. Of course, there were plenty of smiles. And now, today, he's making sure those smiles are being delivered to other parents with speed and ease.

Parents can buy the images uploaded to WaldoWaldo

Any backlash from parents?

No, they love it! It saves them so much time and headache. In the past, these parents were sifting through 1000s (seriously, 1000s!) of photos every night when the camp uploaded them. They'd scroll and scroll, searching for pics of their child having fun at camp. Now, they get a text or app notification as soon as photos of their child appears. They love the convenience of it. And it helps them enjoy their week as well. They can sit back and relax and enjoy some kid-free time without worry.

Can parents see other kids if their parents give them access?

Yes, these camps always share all camp photos with all camp parents, whether they were posting on Facebook or other online albums. It is just that type of photo environment. We're just making it easier to pull "the needles out of the haystack" and more easily deliver the photos of their children. With the Waldo subscription, these parents also get 5 free invites to their camper's photo stream. And it's a super popular feature. They're usually inviting the grandparents, so they can be a part of the camp fun as well.

Anything else we should know?

We also use our technology to help protect children who should not be published, essentially running the technology a bit in reverse. Instead of finding all images and delivering them, we can run a reference image of a "do-not-publish" child and remove all photos of that child - in group photos, etc., and make sure they are pulled from the albums. It's a very popular feature for some of our camps and schools.

So, in a nutshell, it's been tempting for folks to compare our software with the facial recognition services of Amazon or Facebook. But Waldo is a whole different product, aimed at providing a more secure environment for families to view and share photos than the more public sphere of Facebook and other public online albums.

Waldo is winning as the new "camp camera." We've been asking "Where's Waldo" all these years, but now it's Waldo showing parents where they can find their own kids.


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