Applications of Facial Recognition Technology
Facial recognition is exactly what it sounds like. It refers to technology that can identify an individual using only their face. This can occur via photo or video. But it’s worth noting that the technology is not always accurate, particularly towards people of color.
You’re probably most familiar with facial recognition applications in law enforcement. Depending on the person, this can be a good or bad thing. Controversies around facial recognition often stem from privacy rights.
Still, it’s worth looking into just what facial recognition is capable of. Like any modern technology, time will always bring improvement.
The Growth of Facial Recognition Technology
One of the top tech trends in 2019 has been facial recognition, an intriguing technology that is starting to attract more business from various industries.
Its wide array of potential applications has made it easier for different industry verticals to adopt as the technology has become more mature. Typically associated with immigration and the security sector, today it's winning over healthcare, retail, and marketing many other markets.
Facial recognition software uses a mix of artificial intelligence (AI) and biometric technology to identify human faces through measuring nodal points, the distances between certain facial features. The software analyzes and compares patterns of a person's facial features to provide accurate verification of their identity.
The data from facial recognition has found its most practical use in security. Tech giants like Apple or Google utilize facial recognition in their mobile devices to verify their users’ identity, providing secure logins for devices.
Some other case uses involve government organizations who utilize the technology in places like airports to reduce identity theft, find missing people, and identify criminals.
The growth potential of face recognition technology is astonishing. By 2042, the global facial recognition technology market is projected to generate an estimated $15.4 billion – demonstrating a growth rate of 21.4% since 2016.
How Facial Recognition Technology Works
Biometric facial recognition applications are frequently used in consumer technology nowadays. For example, millions of users take part in the facial recognition capabilities of the iPhone X. The user’s face is identified by 30,000 separate infrared dots and adds an extra layer of security to the traditional identification methods.
The technology behind facial recognition varies from one application to another, but the basic mechanics of it, when used by the government for immigration and security, include four basic steps:
1. An image of your face is captured from a photo or video. To ensure more accurate matching, your face should be facing the camera, though the technology does allow some turns and can even pick out singular faces from crowds.
2. The software reads the geometry of your face. Key factors are the distance between your eyes and the distance from forehead to chin. The software identifies these facial features then creates your facial signature based on the profile they created.
3. Your facial signature is compared to a database of known faces. This data is powered by police databases and government security services.
4. If your facial signature is found to match one flagged in the database, it can be used to investigate and apprehend you.
Why Is Facial Recognition Important?
Facial recognition technology is most helpful to law enforcement officials trying to find criminals. Ironically, this is a controversial topic given the greater focus on privacy in the last 6-8 years.
But when facial recognition has relatively positive outcomes, it’s been known to find suspects in a matter of hours. And of course, when officers find the right guy for the crime, this is usually a good thing.
Similarly, many small businesses have taken to using the same technology in order to empower themselves when faced with theft.
For personal use, you can shave off a few seconds unlocking your phone if you go with facial recognition technology rather than a fingerprint, pin, or password. Although experts have said that facial recognition is less secure than other security methods.
In general, the benefit of facial recognition technology is a sense of security and safety. And this is achieved through an ever-evolving technology.
What Are the Applications of Facial Recognition?
The advantages of security and safety have prompted many industries to implement facial recognition technology into their daily operations. Take a look at how and where this technology can be applied.
Although you probably don’t spend too much time thinking about them, every now and then you’ve probably seen an armored truck cruising around town. These trucks often carry important items, whether that’s intel or cash, and rely on facial recognition technology to prevent theft or even ensure that the driver’s eyes are on the road.
In another capacity, facial recognition technology is sometimes used by ride-sharing apps to confirm that a given passenger is who they say they are. Or alternatively, the same technology can guarantee that the passenger is approaching the right driver.
Outside of cars and smartphones, facial recognition can be used in the home to grant access to certain IoT devices in addition to entry into the home itself. As this technology becomes more and more advanced, people will feel better protected against home invasions and robberies.
Immigration offices exist as an extension to more well-known government segments. Facial recognition technology is used to enforce stricter border control, particularly when it comes to criminals and persons of interest who attempt to cross the border.
Other than federal and local security, facial recognition applications may exist most prominently in the education sector.
A growing number of schools already use cameras that utilize facial recognition software to identify students, staff, unauthorized individuals, and even behavior that could present a threat to safety. This is one of many new tech trends that are transforming education.
For schools using this technology, the main benefit they see is tracking student attendance as well as maintaining the security of their campus. Unfortunately, technology can be very biased and studies have shown evidence for the software to be banned.
Though the United States is behind in regards to using facial recognition for retail other countries like Japan have been doing so for quite some time. For example, vending machines in Japan can recommend drinks for the consumer by using facial recognition technology to approximate a customer’s gender and age.
Lately, it looks as if the USA is catching up. Amazon opened its first Amazon Go store in 2018. There is no check-out and the store depends entirely on sensors to figure out what a customer picks up and buys.
Given this, it might be safe to assume that Amazon has the brainpower to start mapping shopping behaviors in the near future once online shoppers are connected to offline faces.
Applications of facial recognition technology are used in hospitals, especially those working in assisted living. The software serves to keep track of everything that is going on within a hospital, ensuring patients are safe and the premise is secure.
If a patient wanders away from the care-giving facility with no identification, facial recognition can help quickly identify and find them quickly to prevent any harm from coming to them.
Concerns of Facial Recognition Technology
Facial recognition technology dates back to the 1960s. It has often drawn a large amount of criticism regarding the legality and ethics of its use.
This technology allows others to control the personal information of individuals and determine how it’s used. From this perspective, facial recognition may seem plainly immoral in practice.
Ownership of Data
While nobody can take away your physical face, digital images are another story. You can give up your right to ownership to your face when you sign a term of service agreement on a social network. Signing away the rights to your likeness allows images of you to be collected as data and sold.
As precise as facial recognition technology is, it can’t guarantee a 100% success rate. The possibility of false-positive results can lead to mistaken identities in crimes.
As mentioned, these inaccuracies harm people of color disproportionately. When people are falsely accused of crimes, the basic principles of law and order are put at risk.
When the government has the power to enter the private lives of its constituents, problems arise. Facial recognition begs the question of whether people should be entitled to privacy outside their homes.
For public safety and security purposes, facial recognition software has a lot of potential to stop crimes and control immigration/ But without proper regulation and oversight, there is potential for it to be misused. The debate surrounding this is constant and will progress as technology develops further.
While facial recognition is finding its way into new markets besides the government, the basic principles of the technology are the same and still pose the same risk to individual privacy.
Which Companies Are Using Facial Recognition?
Since Amazon’s consumer base is largely online, they may be in unfamiliar territory where facial recognition technology is concerned. But other companies are no stranger to this phenomenon. Here are some examples of companies using facial recognition.
The rumor is that Walmart is developing facial recognition technology that can determine a shopper’s mood. If a shopper is dissatisfied, Walmart hopes to respond to the issue accordingly and improve their customer service overall.
McDonald’s uses facial recognition in a similar way but the subject of the technology is different. In Japan, for instance, the technology is used to make sure that servers are maintaining a happy exterior.
Recently, ExxonMobile launched DriverDash. The app optimizes payments for fuel by using facial recognition to authorize transactions for drivers.
The beauty industry can certainly do some damage with facial recognition technology and they haven’t neglected to take the bait. At Covergirl, clients can choose a matching shade of foundation thanks to facial recognition technology.
As technology and innovation progress linearly, more markets will begin to open for this technology. It will be interesting to watch how it continues to disrupt various industry verticals.
Corporations and governments alike will continue to invest in these technologies. But there is still some uncertainty as to whether or not individuals will accept these technologies into their everyday life.
Frequently Asked Questions
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Facial recognition is exactly what it sounds like. It refers to technology that can identify an individual using only their face.
Facial recognition technology plays a big part in modern security, both locally and federally.
Facial recognition technology can be both erroneous and intrusive, causing people to be untrustful of the technology.