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What is the future of facial recognition technology in 2022 and beyond?

Facial recognition is a topic that divides opinion. If you were to believe everything you read in the media, you would think that facial recognition technology is universally mistrusted and disliked. This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Like most technology, facial recognition has its detractors. Most of the dislike and mistrust comes from a fear that facial recognition technology is an infringement on our personal privacy. Fueled by misinformation in the media, many have jumped on the bandwagon, fearing that once your face has been recognised and identified by facial recognition technology, that hackers can simply break into a database, steal your identity and you can never get it back again. 

This is simply not true. 

Facial recognition and other biometric technologies are some of the safest ways to authenticate that you are who you say you are. Much safer than a traditional password and much less likely to be stolen. You also can’t lose your biometric indicators – your face, your fingerprints and your irises are always with you, making them more practical than passwords for many people. 

The truth is, that more and more industries are investing in facial recognition technology as a way of improving security, creating a better user experience and reducing costs. From airlines to automobiles, law enforcement to border control, the practical applications for facial recognition technology, coupled with the enhanced security that biometric authentication offers means that we are all going to become more familiar with facial recognition in 2022 and beyond. 

How facial recognition is changing the world in which we live 

Earlier this year, we wrote a post Why should we care about facial recognition in 2021 and in that post, we wrote about the potential uses for facial recognition in 2021. The post focussed on three key industries that are adopting facial recognition technology: travel, retail, and public safety. 

These industries will be leading the advancement of facial recognition in 2022 and beyond. However, we can expect facial recognition to be more prominent across a wide range of other sectors as we head into the New Year. 

Healthcare is one sector where we expect to see more countries adopting facial recognition to improve overall safety standards, reduce identification errors and improve the overall customer experience in environments such as hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. 

Smart cities are also helping to drive the advancement of facial recognition, bringing together multiple technologies including 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), edge technologies, and the internet of things (IoT). 

Facial recognition in smart cities is not only used for public safety. The same technology principle can be used as “object recognition” to recognise things that are out of place – identifying things like rubbish overflowing out of a bin, or a broken bus shelter for example, and alerting the relevant agency that action is required. 

Consumer applications are also increasingly incorporating facial recognition technology. Smartphones are the most frequently used personal device that uses facial recognition, and more and more smartphones use “face” as and unlocking and authentication option.  

Juniper Research shows that facial recognition hardware grows by 50% each year. Facial recognition solutions are expected to be present in 1.3 billion devices by 2024. Powered by AI, facial recognition software in mobile phones is already being used by companies like iProov and Mastercard to authenticate payments and other high-end authentication tasks. Such uses will increase as we move into 2022 and beyond. 

Around the home, security systems are also turning to facial recognition to both improve security in and around the home and also to improve access and create a more seamless experience. Especially when deployed in smart home or building developments. 

Companies like Netatmo, Netgear, Honeywell and Ooma have home security systems with facial recognition incorporated, helping to identify people when they arrive at your home as well as detecting potential intruders when you are away from the home. 

Honeywell has partnered with Amazon’s Alexa to offer a great solution for those looking to create a smarter home. 

Taking things one step further, Google Nest Cam IQ watches over your property 24/7 and can detect people from a distance of 50m away. The system can recognise familiar faces and you can pre-set actions for those visitors such as opening a gate or front door. 

While facial recognition is undoubtedly changing the world in which we live, that world is also changing the way facial recognition is being deployed around the world. 

The impact of COVID-19 and facial recognition 

COVID-19 has been one of the greatest accelerators of facial recognition technology with the adoption by companies throughout the world as a method of reducing the contact points for customers and staff. 

Healthcare providers around the world have had to turn to digital healthcare solutions in light of lockdowns imposed on citizens and many of these solutions incorporate facial recognition and other biometric technology in order to authenticate that people are who they say they are. 

Facial recognition technology is helping to reduce the spread of viruses like coronavirus by reducing the number of touchpoints in clinical environments and while this technology is being used to tackle the pandemic, moving into 2022 and beyond, the overall benefit of reducing the spread of viruses and pathogens means that digital healthcare and facial recognition are here to stay. 

Facial recognition technology is also having to adapt to a changing COVID-19 world. One change is that many people now wear a mask, both indoors and outdoors, which poses a number of challenges for facial recognition software, given only part of the face is now visible. 

NEC is ahead of the curve. We were already working on a recognition system capable of dealing with masks before the pandemic started. Mask wearing is common in Japan, with individuals choosing to use them when ill or suffering from allergies. 

Needs grew even more due to the coronavirus situation as the state of emergency (last year) was continuing for a long time, and so we’ve now introduced this technology to the market,” Shinya Takashima, assistant manager of NEC’s digital platform division, told Reuters. 

Touchless verification has become extremely important due to the impact of the coronavirus,” he said. “Going forward we hope to contribute to safety and peace of mind by strengthening (efforts) in that area.” 

The system determines when a person is wearing a mask and focuses on the parts of the face that are visible, such as the eyes and surrounding areas, to verify the subject’s identity. To utilize this system, users register a photo of their face in advance. 

Verification takes less than one second and with an accuracy rate of more than 99.9%. 

The world is changing, faster than ever before. Our professional and personal lives are impacted by things within and also out of our control. Technology solutions are also being impacted and are having to change, to keep pace and to provide new options for us to live our lives fruitfully and safely. 

You can read more about how NEC’s facial recognition technology is tackling the issues caused by masks in our recent post. 

Future uses of facial recognition 

Some industries have been harder hit than others by the COVID-19 pandemic and this has meant that they have had to adapt much quicker and pivot to the use of new technologies in order to prepare for the world opening up again. 

Events – both on a local and global scale – has been one of the most impacted industries as restrictions on numbers, social distancing, mandatory masks and other safety precautions have meant that organisers have had to rethink the way events are managed. Many events over the past 18 months have been conducted virtually, however, as we start to open up and international travel starts again, event organisers are turning to facial recognition as a way of managing access, check-in, visitor experience and safety. 

NEC worked with the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) at the 2017 ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club.  Credentialed media covering the LPGA major championship passed through NEC’s NeoFace Watch face recognition solution before being allowed access to the ANA Inspiration Media Center, enabling secure entry to the facility. 

Event organisers are also turning to facial recognition used in conjunction with an app to allow people to register for an event. When attending the event, facial recognition can then be used for admittance and allocation of seats without having to produce a ticket. 

The automobile industry is another that is investing in facial recognition technology. Last year, about $6 billion was lost to motor vehicle theft in the US alone. Obviously, there is a need for a new, reliable safety measure that would keep car owners at peace even when they’re not around their car. Face recognition is already helping to provide that extra layer of safety and help reduce thefts. 

Face recognition in automobiles works on a simple and non-obtrusive principle. After a driver enrols into the system, the system “remembers” them. Each time they enter the vehicle again, the system “recognises” them and gives them access to predefined functionalities such as permission to start the car. 

Car owners can also set up permissions or restrictions for other people such as family members. For example, they could set up certain restrictions on their children learning to drive such as a time or speed limit or deny access without an adult present. If an unauthorised person enters the car, the system can notify the owner or block the car from starting. This helps prevent theft and gives owners better control of their cars. 

Hyundai is one of the companies leading the way when it comes to biometric integration. In 2018, they introduced the world’s first fingerprint system that locks the doors and starts the engine, through its Chinese Santa Fe. 

Using iris recognition, their Driver State Warning System (DSW) is a feature that delivers a warning when the driver is not focusing on driving, and it takes a step forward from the current system that only recognises the direction of the face or when the eyes are closed, providing a safer driving environment. 

DSW’s facial recognition technology identifies drivers through facial features such as eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. In addition, the system analyses the pupil and facial movement, then combines with driving information such as the speed of the car and steering angle, to offer safer driving. It detects the risk of lane departure and intrusion caused by driver carelessness in advance and calls the driver’s attention with cluster warning lights, alarm sounds, and vibrations. 

Summary 

Facial recognition is here to stay and rather than seeing facial recognition as a threat to our personal privacy, we should instead be embracing the many benefits that facial recognition provides. 

Whilst there are isolated cases of facial recognition being used inappropriately, there are now thousands of use cases that show that, when deployed appropriately and with the consent of people using the software, facial recognition is helping to create a safer environment, providing outstanding security and enhancing customer experiences across a wide range of settings. 

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