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5 most common uses of facial recognition

The use of facial recognition technology has increased dramatically in the last few years with new products and applications being conceived and released every day. Once science fiction, this exciting and strong area of growth is quickly becoming a real-world reality.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated the need for many industries to embrace the opportunities presented by facial recognition technology. Contactless experiences will become the norm as a way for businesses to offer customers and staff a safer experience when interacting with their business. From boarding a plane to buying a burger, we can expect facial recognition to become more integrated in our day to day lives.

Of course, many of us are already used to daily interactions using facial recognition. Many of today’s smartphones come equipped with facial recognition technology to unlock them seamlessly and without the need for contact.

At NEC, we’ve been leading the field in facial recognition technology since the late 1980s and have contributed to its many advancements throughout the years. A lot has changed in that time, so we thought we’d list the 5 most common uses of facial recognition to demonstrate just how widespread and vital this form of technology has become.

1. Smartphones and smart technology

As we have briefly mentioned, a big consumer area where facial recognition systems are being implemented is smartphones and other forms of smart technology.

The first and most well-known example came in September 2017 when Apple unveiled the iPhone X and Face ID allowing the owner to use their own face to unlock their phone. The feature captivated the crowds and quickly became a standard feature for the premium smartphones of other companies like Huawei, Samsung, LG and OnePlus.

Facial recognition has also become prevalent in other forms of smart technology such as smart TVs. These products work in conjunction with voice recognition and gesture control, allowing users to control their TVs without the need for a remote control.

Smart cities are also embracing facial recognition as a way of delivering a safer, smarter experience for citizens. Retailers, rideshare operators and event venues are all utilising facial recognition to create safer environments and improve the overall experience for citizens living in smart cities.

2. Social media and apps

Facial recognition is heavily utilised by social media companies and app developers in some clever and convenient ways.

Facebook was one of the early adopters, utilising facial recognition to identify Facebook users in photos that were uploaded and shared.

Snapchat found a lot of success using facial recognition to increase the social engagement in users’ photos by adding filters that would allow them to change their own facial features and appearance (with hairstyles, hats, dog ears etc).

The number of apps using facial recognition is growing exponentially through social apps like Bitmoji and MojiPop, facilitating the creation of stickers and avatars. Functional apps have also been created such as FaceLock and AppLock Face enabling users to secure their apps through facial recognition technology.

Banking apps are starting to make the switch to facial recognition as a way of identifying customers. As fewer people visit branches and turn to their smartphones or computers for their banking needs, banks need a quick and accurate way of identifying that people are who they say they are, and facial recognition is a solution many banks are turning to. Often used in conjunction with other identification methods such as a password or code, two-factor authentication that uses facial recognition will become more commonplace in 2022 and beyond.

3. Policing and national security

Another area where facial recognition is having a profound influence is in law enforcement agencies with policing, prevention and security.

Video surveillance systems all around the world are now being installed with face recognition systems and linked to biometrics data and criminal databases. This allows these agencies, for instance, to scan surveillance camera footage in real-time and identify if there are any known criminals or persons of interest in crowd situations.

An example of this can be found at the Atanasio Girardot Stadium in Medellin, Colombia. NEC installed the intelligent surveillance solution, NeoFace® Watch, in the stadiums existing security camera infrastructure.

This facial recognition system scanned the faces of fans entering the stadium with alerts for any known troublemakers. The system and its alerts work so quickly that such troublemakers can be stopped at the point of entry making it a crucial preventative measure.

It has allowed for a much safer and more stable environment at the Atanasio Girardot Stadium which can seat up to 40,000 spectators.

4. Retail and Advertising

There are also huge commercial opportunities being seized with respect to advertising.

A good example of this can be found in the Philippines, where a start-up, AdMov, installed tablets in taxis with facial recognition technology. Based on an individual’s appearance and mood, the software can select the most appropriate advertisements to display. Furthermore, by tracking eyeball movements of the passengers, AdMov can tell when a passenger becomes disengaged and can change its programme and strategy accordingly.

In South Africa, the coffee company Douwe Egberts delivered a great campaign with a coffee machine at Tambo International Airport. Using facial recognition technology, they programmed the machine to dispense a free cup of coffee every time someone walked by yawning. Needless to say, it was a big hit and the story got worldwide attention.

5. Border and Access Control

Another big area where facial recognition is widely being used is access control. Many people have already experienced this at border control in most international airports that have ePassport Gates.

Border agencies have programmed these gates to match biometric data and passport photos to the human faces in front of them. This allows a quick and seamless transition through passport control saving thousands of hours (if not more) of what would otherwise be manual processing.

Access control using facial recognition is also being used by an increasing number of companies all around the world for improving security as well as enhancing the customer experience.

A prime example of this can be seen in hospitality like Lemon Tree Hotels in India. Using NEC’s NeoFace® Watch, Lemon Tree Hotels have been able to utilise facial recognition technology to identify guests before they’ve even stepped into the hotel. Automatic alerts to reception, for example, tells them who is entering the hotel so that they can provide an enhanced customer experience with a personal welcome and speed up or automate the check-in process.

Similarly, alerts can be sent to hotel security when the approaching individual is matched to a watch list that may require a different course of action by the hotel. As the third-largest hotel chain in India, facial recognition has enabled Lemon Tree Hotels to add another layer of service and security for its guests in a busy and bustling environment within a market that is extremely competitive.

Facial recognition is the future

Of course, these are just five of the most common uses of facial recognition we see in society today. Over the next decade, it is likely that this list will look a lot different as facial recognition become more integrated into our day to day lives. The COVID-19 pandemic and the need to facilitate contactless solutions across a wide range of industries means that all of us will be using facial recognition across various aspects of our lives in the future.

You can discover more about the future of facial recognition in 2022 and beyond in our recent post and learn more about facial recognition in some of the most popular articles we have written on the subject over the past 12 months below.

Updated: 13 January 2022

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