5 Applications of Facial Recognition Technology

Facial recognition is being used in many businesses

You’re used to unlocking your door with a key, but maybe not with your face. As strange as it sounds, our physical appearances can now verify payments, grant access and improve existing security systems. Protecting physical and digital possessions is a universal concern which benefits everyone, unless you’re a cybercriminal or a kleptomaniac of course. Facial biometrics are gradually being applied to more industries, disrupting design, manufacturing, construction, law enforcement and healthcare. How is facial recognition software affecting these different sectors, and who are the companies and organisations behind its development?

1. Payments

It doesn’t take a genius to work out why businesses want payments to be easy. Online shopping and contactless cards are just two examples that demonstrate the seamlessness of postmodern purchases. With FaceTech, however, customers wouldn’t even need their cards. In 2016, MasterCard launched a new selfie pay app called MasterCard Identity Check. Customers open the app to confirm a payment using their camera, and that’s that. Facial recognition is already used in store and at ATMs, but the next step is to do the same for online payments. Chinese ecommerce firm Alibaba and affiliate payment software Alipay are planning to apply the software to purchases made over the Internet.

2. Access and security

As well as verifying a payment, facial biometrics can be integrated with physical devices and objects. Instead of using passcodes, mobile phones and other consumer electronics will be accessed via owners’ facial features. Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi Corp. have all installed FaceTech in their phones. This is only a small scale example, though. In future, it looks like consumers will be able to get into their cars, houses, and other secure physical locations simply by looking at them. Jaguar is already working on walking gait ID – a potential parallel to facial recognition technology. Other corporations are likely to take advantage of this, too. Innovative facial security could be especially useful for a company or organisation that handles sensitive data and needs to keep tight controls on who enters their facilities.

3. Criminal identification

If FaceTech can be used to keep unauthorised people out of facilities, surely it can be used to help put them firmly inside them. This is exactly what the US Federal Bureau of Investigation is attempting to do by using a machine learning algorithm to identify suspects from their driver’s licences. The FBI currently have a database which includes half of the national population’s faces. This is as useful as it is creepy, giving law enforcers another way of tracking criminals across the country. AI equipped cameras have also been trialled in the UK to identify those smuggling contraband into prisons.

4. Advertising

The ability to collect and collate masses of personal data has given marketers and advertisers the chance to get closer than ever to their target markets. FaceTech could do much the same, by allowing companies to recognise certain demographics – for instance, if the customer is a male between the ages of 12 and 21, the screen might show an ad for the latest FIFA game. Grocery giant Tesco plans to install OptimEyes screens at 450 petrol stations in the UK to deliver targeted ads to customers. According to company CEO Simon Sugar, the cameras could change the face of British retail. Perhaps he’s right – but only if the cameras can correctly identify customers. Being classified as the wrong age or gender is far less amusing than having your name spelt wrong on a Starbucks cup.

5. Healthcare

Instead of recognising an individual via FaceTech, medical professionals could identify illnesses by looking at a patient’s features. This would alleviate the ongoing strain on medical centres by slashing waiting lists and streamlining the appointment process. The question is, would you really want to find out you had a serious illness from a screen? If it’s a choice between a virtual consultation or a month long wait for an appointment, then maybe so. Another application of facial biometrics within healthcare is to secure patient data by using a unique patient photo instead of passwords and usernames.

With a predicted worth of $15 billion by 2025, biometrics is an industry worth watching. It’s clear that facial biometrics are a helpful tool for finance, law enforcement, advertising and healthcare, as well as a solution to hacking and identity theft. Of course, FaceTech is by no means foolproof. Gaining access to possessions using physical traits could even be counterintuitive for security. A face, as social robots like Nadine have shown us, is easily replicated. And when it comes to public adoption, some people are reluctant to switch to contactless cards, let alone abandon them completely. For the most part, though, facial recognition technology seems to be encouraging a more seamless relationship between people, payments and possessions.