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Face Detection vs Facial Recognition – what’s the difference?

In the field of biometrics, many terms are used interchangeably, especially when it comes to face detection and facial recognition. Whilst the terms may seem similar, there are some key differences and it’s important to understand these differences as they impact the way those terms should be used and applied.

What is Facial Recognition?

Here at NEC New Zealand, our primary focus is on Facial Recognition. Face recognition is a frictionless biometric that allows for the recognition and identification of human faces based on biometric indicators found within the face that are unique to an individual.

At NEC, our facial recognition technology is called NeoFace and is the fastest and most accurate facial recognition technology currently available. Facial recognition technology like NeoFace can extract faces from a range of cameras and does not require specialised equipment. NeoFace can process large numbers of faces in real-time or post-event and can provide alerts to help with access and authentication, border security and crowd control.

Facial recognition software is becoming more prevalent in our day to day lives. Many mobile phones come standard with facial recognition technology as a way of unlocking the screen as well as authenticating logins to certain applications. Many businesses are embracing facial recognition as a way of managing access to buildings and secure areas and airports are using facial recognition at border control as an additional level of security and also for a frictionless check-in and boarding experience.

What is Face Detection?

Where Face Detection differs from Facial Recognition (and is the reason why the terms should not be used interchangeably) is that Face Detection only involves the detection of a face within a digital image or video. It simply means that the face detection system can identify that there is a human face present in an image of video – it cannot identify that person.

Face detection is a component of Facial Recognition systems – the first stage of facial recognition is detecting the presence of a human face in the first place. Face detection can also be used in cameras to help with auto-focus – you will have noticed that on some digital cameras and phones, a small box will appear around the faces of people detected within the image, allowing the camera to prioritise focus on those faces.

How does Face Detection work?

Identifying the presence of a human face is done using formulas and algorithms. Typically, the first thing that a face detection system will look for will be the eyes as these are one of the easiest features to identify. It might also then search for the presence of a mouth, eyebrows, nose, and nostrils.

What is the difference between Facial Recognition and Face Detection?

As we can see, there are some fairly significant differences between Facial Recognition and Face Detection, however, the two are inextricably interlinked. The main difference and the one to be aware of if you are unsure of which term to use is that Face Detection refers to a system that can simply detect the presence of a human face. Facial Recognition on the other hand takes this to the next level and is able to recognise and identify the detected face based on a match stored in a database.

Advantages of Facial Recognition

One of the biggest advantages of Facial Recognition as a biometric system for identification is that it is frictionless. Individuals can be identified from distance without the need for physical contact, normally necessary with systems based on fingerprint or iris recognition. Face detection and facial recognition are both carried out using digital images or video footage. Facial Recognition is revolutionising a number of industries, including the travel industry, with its ability to create a seamless journey from ‘couch to coach’.

The check-in, bag drop, lounge access and border control stages of boarding a flight can all be managed using facial recognition technology, eliminating the need for boarding passes and even passports.

Why is Face Recognition so important?

Face detection is an important part of the facial recognition process, however, from a security perspective, there is no independent benefit of a face detection system – it simply recognises a face is present but has no idea about the identity of that face.

Facial recognition is playing a vital role across a huge range of industries, not least in border control and law enforcement. Accurately identifying individuals is helping to improve security and safety at airports and in towns and cities around the world, and this can only be done using market-leading facial recognition systems. At NEC, we invest heavily in R&D to ensure our facial recognition systems continue to lead the way when it comes to accuracy.

Facial Recognition is changing the world as we know it

As we can see, Facial Recognition technology is changing the world in which we live, and it feels like we are only just scratching the surface in terms of the potential applications of facial recognition software. While uses for facial recognition may seem endless, we need to ensure that this technology is used appropriately and responsibly.

While it is important to acknowledge the possibilities presented by Facial Recognition solutions, we must also acknowledge the importance of controls to minimise the impact of this technology when it comes to the privacy of individuals. NEC is working with customers to ensure that the technology is used in a way that facilitates a high-quality user experience without compromising privacy. For example, our recent partnership with Star Alliance means we are able to roll out the technology to different stages of the customer journey when boarding a flight, allowing people to become more familiar with the technology and have adopted an opt-in approach to the use of the technology as part of the airport experience.

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