It used to be the stuff of sci-fi movies.
But facial recognition technology is becoming a reality by the day and already transforming the way we live.
A phone can be unlocked by just looking at it, this is just one of the many ways that facial recognition is changing lives.
As the technology becomes mainstream, it will change the way we make mobile money transactions, access bank accounts, open and lock homes, pass through airport security, record class attendance and so much more!
The technology is already rolling out. On March 19, German airline Lufthansa announced the launch of biometric boarding (using facial scans). The airline successfully tested the tool and boarded about 350 passengers on an A380 in only 20 minutes using facial recognition!
When iPhone X launched, it became the first smartphone to fully utilise facial recognition abilities, bringing developers a wealthy platform on which to integrate their user based applications.
Phone maker OPPO launched OPPO F5 into the Kenyan market promising unique facial recognition fronts. OPPO Kenya brand manager Jesse Wu said the phone comes with 200 facial recognition spots that can distinguish users’ facial features from skin tone, type, gender and age with a pinpoint accuracy.
Christine Ngechu, a security systems analyst reckons the proliferation of hackathons has led to an increase in production of corruptible systems and the best way to increase security is by use of facial recognition and Blockchain.
“We are moving from an era of anti-viruses, triple passwords and double encryptions to secure data to a world where personalised apps link your personal scanned features to systems,” she says. “Soon, I won’t need a fingerprint and a four letter pin, all I will need is for my iris or whole face to be scanned.”
To re-imagine the future of security would of course include regulators jumping on board. Smart cities are already springing up worldwide, and recently, tech company Nvidia announced it had partnered with Artificial Intelligence developer, Any Vision to bring a new type of surveillance technology to smart cities. The company, through a rep said they are working on bringing automatic facial recognition into closed-circuit television surveillance cameras.
The technology can continuously scan faces 24/7 while identifying and tracking individuals with 99% accuracy. With the help of algorithms, the scanned faces can then be compared to a database, including prints of criminal databases. The technology is also meant to be scalable across platforms, from smartphones to computers.
The Chinese city of Guiyang is already using facial-recognition software which allows police to identify and arrest suspects in as little as two minutes!
David Ng’ang’a, a former recce squad team leader and currently a private security analyst says most of the identity problems in society today can be solved by smart technology.
“All it would take for the U.S is to make facial recognition compulsory in schools and only those identified go through to reduce the bizarre number of gun violence incidences currently crippling learning,” he says, adding that sometimes, fighting the system requires more than just legislation.
“Yes, legislation plays a crucial part, and I admit, in Kenya, we are far from serious regulation, but the tangible positive of tech is that, it is a process in motion. It needs to be implemented before any meaningful regulation is effected,” he adds.
“You can imagine if we had faces of say, traffic offenders on a blockchain grid, and all traffic cops need to do is install high resolution cameras. In the long run it would be faster and cost effective in nabbing these persons,” he says.
The motor industry is touted as coming closest to mass consumption of facial recognition. The Byton car which was unveiled early this year and is set for global shipping in a year and a half, uses facial recognition to unlock its doors and adapt and offers a range of other ways for the driver to interact with it, including voice control with Amazon Alexa, touch and gesture.
But, maybe, lost in all the hype of facial recognition is the small but very important issue of privacy. Who has custody of all these stored images? Who gets permission and from whom to use certain images? Will they be stored in the cloud or internally? Privacy questions always end up being the defining moment of any new innovation.
Christine cites the example of Apple, which when launching the iPhone X facial recognition features revealed that images of individual users will not be stored on the cloud. During the launch, Apple senior vice-president Craig Federighi revealed that iPhone X stores representations of one’s face in a “secure enclave,” a hardware-based enclosure designed to be resistant to spying and tampering. The phone-based neural net processing means the image representations never have to go anywhere.
Other players in this space will have to offer trusted solutions to the consuming public to bring the benefits of facial recognition into full effect around the world.