One of the top tech trends in 2019 has been facial recognition, an intriguing technology that is starting to attract more business from varied 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.
The growth potential of face recognition technology is astonishing - by 2022, the global facial recognition technology market is projected to generate an estimated $9.6 billion in revenue with a compound annual growth rate of 21.3 percent. It’s a rapidly growing market, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It’s safe to assume you will be seeing a lot more of this technology in the next few years
Facial recognition software uses a mix of AI and bio-metric 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 an 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. It also extends to government organizations and immigration authorities in places like airports using this technology to reduce identity theft, finding missing people, and identifying criminals. It is now considered to have more advantages compared to other bio-metric systems like fingerprint readers, with a much lower probability of errors only eight out of 1000 scans can be mistakenly identified.
Bio-metric facial recognition is a frequently used consumer technology nowadays. For example, the facial recognition capability of the iPhone X has been used already by millions of users that experienced the technology for the first time when it replaced the regular fingerprint scan. 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 4 main 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. These 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.
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. Some argue that legislation is not tailored enough to address concerns that our privacy and demographic freedom aren’t being protected when governments deploy this technology in public spaces.
One of the biggest concerns of facial recognition technology is privacy and the rights that individuals have to control personal information and how it’s used, including your facial signature. These concerns are raised surrounding the morality of facial recognition:
While nobody can take away your physical face, the story with the digital images is different. You can give up your right to ownership of your face when you sign a terms of service 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 one hundred percent success rate. The possibility for false-positive results and mistaken identity can lead to mistaken identities in crimes. The ability for people to be falsely accused of crimes has the potential to put basic principles of law and order at risk.
Government agencies have the capability to track individual citizens movements throughout public life. The reduction of privacy in public spaces raises a debate whether people have an expectation of privacy when outside their homes. Many argue that no law-abiding citizens in a democratic country should have to worry about their movements being tracked.
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 the technology develops further.
In recent years, facial recognition technology has found its way into new markets that aren’t catered towards government and security. The way the software is utilized can be adapted depending on the industry, but the basic principles of recognition and finding the matching facial signature in the database stays the same.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a growing amount of public high 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. For schools using this technology, the main benefit they see is tracking students attendance, as well as maintaining the security of their campus. This is one of many new tech trends that are transforming education.
Similar applications of facial recognition technology are used in hospitals, especially those working with areas of assisted living. The software serves to keep track of everything that is going on within a hospital, ensuring patents 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.
As technology and innovation develop, more markets begin to open for this technology. It will be interesting to watch how it continues to disrupt various industry verticals. Corporations and government alike will continue to invest in these technologies, it’s still yet to be seen whether individuals will accept them into their everyday life.