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Imagine a world where you don’t need passwords, wallets, or credit cards anymore; all you need is your smile.
Biometrics is still a highly controversial topic. While some people spent fortunes to get the iPhone X specifically for this feature, human rights activists are protesting against other uses of facial recognition technology. They claim that more CCTV cameras with facial recognition violate their right to privacy.
The truth is that face recognition technology, which has been around since the sixties, is here to stay, and it will increasingly be a part of new economy sectors. The market is estimated at $3.2 billion this year and will double by 2024.
How Does Facial Recognition Work?
The computer tries to mimic the way humans recognize each other.
First, it makes sure there is a face in the 2D or 3D capture it analyzes, and that the face is human. This step is called face detection, and it is a feature that we can find in cameras and self-driving cars. At this stage, we don’t care about the person’s identity.
Next, depending on the goal of the software, it tries to match the face with an existing one from a vast library, which is the actual stage of face recognition. It’s what Facebook does every time you upload a new picture, or what is used at airports for passenger identification.
The way the computer “reads” the face is also similar to what we do as humans. It looks at the distances between key points as well as the angles and tries to create a pattern. The difference is that the computer doesn’t process this information in an emotional way but as a matrix of numbers, which includes position, color, and more parameters.
How Can Facial Recognition Change the World as We Know It?
Face recognition can feel like Big Brother is watching you. But it can also offer you protection from terrorists. It can help you check into a hospital or a hotel by just walking in. It can allow you to shop at smart stores and pay just by greeting the camera.
It sounds like science fiction, but the technology to do all this is already available. It just needs a little tweaking.
Public Safety and Law Enforcement
No matter if it is a busy airport, a crowded stadium, or a concert hall, using face recognition technology can keep offenders off premises. This is one of the first and most straightforward uses of facial recognition, made possible by comparing data from multiple sources.
Further improvements will lead to facial identification even when the suspect is trying to conceal his or her features by wearing makeup, glasses, beards, or masks. This feature, called ‘hallucinating faces’, is currently being studied T Carnegie Mellon University.
HoReCa, Travel, and Services
The hospitality and services industry is focusing on experience personalization. The more businesses in these sectors know about a client, the better they can cater to their specific needs. In this context, facial recognition is a simple way to provide a customized experience without too much hassle.
For example, after ta client’s identification, services can be rendered entirely in this client’s native language, offering the person’s favorite room or drink. This has the potential to eliminate misunderstandings, cut costs and offer better service overall.
Introducing biometric check-in could reduce waiting lines at airports and simplify the security procedures while also making them more accurate. This can be applied to every step of the journey, from baggage drop-off to baggage collection at the destination, including personal scanning and transfers.
Another safety enhancement comes from using face identification instead of your key to start the engine in your car. This could have additional features like detecting the mood, the fatigue level, or even an attempt at drunk driving.
Apart from checking into a hospital like you would check into a hotel, facial recognition could help patients track their use of drugs, evaluate their response to treatment, and alert medical staff about sudden changes.
There are projects using face scanning to help diagnose diseases, such as DiGeorge syndrome.
Banking and Voting
It’s not only leisure industries that can adopt facial recognition. Banking can make use of it at multiple stages. Facial recognition can replace or reinforce traditional security consisting only of passwords. It can become part of two-factor authentication. Using biometrics instead of a PIN could soon become the norm, both at ATMs and in mobile banking apps. The advantage is that you don’t need any extra security measures apart from looking like yourself.
Voting is another area where fraud constitutes a significant concern. Biometrics could help prevent multiple voting. Some steps already have been taken, allowing people to register and vote through the Voatz app that’s based on blockchain technology.
Retail and Advertising
Using facial recognition in stores, both online and brick-and-mortar, opens up significant opportunities. Clothing brands and cosmetics producers can use client-specific information to make highly targeted recommendations, sometimes helped by augmented reality. For example, clients could scan their faces to log into their store accounts and also try on clothes in a virtual mirror.
AR is also a way to make advertising feel more alive and creative. Transforming bus stops into portals to another world is just one of the example where this technology can lead. Couple that with facial recognition and you can have an instant personalized advertising panel anywhere.
Possible Challenges and Future Developments
Facial recognition technology is already mainstream and will continue to grow, but there are still substantial obstacles. For example, its accuracy needs to be improved to overcome ethical issues such as confusing individuals of color with criminals. Exponential progress has already been made, plunging to 0.2 percent errors in 2018 compared to 4 percent in 2013, and we can only hope that public perception will become more positive.