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Why facial recognition isn't the way of the future...yet

Grant Hatchimonji | April 29, 2014
It's the how the future is meant to be, isn't it? The good guys need to find a bad guy in a crowd of people, so they start scanning the environment with a camera that is equipped with facial recognition technology. Seconds later, they scan a face that's a positive match with an entry in their criminal database and bam, they've smoked him out.

It's the how the future is meant to be, isn't it? The good guys need to find a bad guy in a crowd of people, so they start scanning the environment with a camera that is equipped with facial recognition technology. Seconds later, they scan a face that's a positive match with an entry in their criminal database and bam, they've smoked him out.

That future, however, is already here. Sort of.

Facial recognition's potential is substantial, even if it isn't fully realized yet; its level of accuracy isn't quite high enough to be used in the aforementioned scenario, at least not with a high rate of success. But it is good enough to already be implemented into a number of different vertical markets including commercial sectors, marketing, healthcare, and hospitality. And in many cases, says Bob Lorenz, executive video specialist at Panasonic, facial recognition is a "force multiplier and an enabler" that's being layered on top of existing systems.

"For example, in the retail space, shops will already have existing security cameras in place — to watch people for shoplifting — but now they're capturing these faces," says Lorenz. "And if they do catch someone, they will store these faces into their databases and next time [that face] is seen, a notification can be sent out to store personnel or security officers. It's a subcomponent added to the infrastructure that's already deployed."

Jay Hauhn, CTO and VP of Industry Relations for Tyco Integrated Security, breaks down the use of facial recognition into two categories: cooperative environments and non-cooperative environments. In the former, the person whose face is going to be scanned is aware of it and is opting into a process where it's serving as their credential; they're going to look straight into a camera with no attempt to obscure their face. Non-cooperative environments, however, are when the subject is not necessarily aware that their face is being scanned and is making no attempt to look directly at the camera.

"In cooperative environments, it works fairly well," says Hauhn. "It works as well as any other biometric, but that's not the 'promise' of facial recognition. [In that scenario], facial recognition is not that difficult to defeat with a picture."

While Hauhn says that in the security-based, cooperative environment — where facial recognition is in its most simplistic — the technology isn't that difficult to defeat, there's still hope. Though he could not divulge specifics, Hauhn says that Tyco is familiar with a company that is developing other factors to be implemented into facial recognition to develop a form of multi-factor authentication in the cooperative environment. For instance, instead of just recognizing a face, cameras may also soon look for eye blinking, lip movement, facial muscle movement, iris movement, or even analyze of a person's walk.

 

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