About Face: Facial Recognition Trends in 2019


Today's State of Facial Recognition Technology

In a summary, facial recognition works by scanning a facial image or image that has face and creates a map of the face resulting in something like a fingerprint. For instance, it may create points out of certain features, and then map the distances between them.

Theoretically, this results in a map that’s unique to each face. While the concept is simple enough, the applications for it are varied and complex. To give you an idea of how this technology is being used, here’s a look at four current applications including intelligent shopping systems, smartphone features, air travel and law enforcement.


> Intelligent Shopping

Data analysts and marketers might want to hold on to their hats since facial recognition takes market data to a whole new level by providing intelligent shopping capabilities. When it’s combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI), other data systems, or Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) technology, retailers can use facial recognition to serve up highly customized in-store experiences.

As brick-and-mortar stores work to transform into destinations that will still entice customers, facial recognition can do even more than create a better experience for shoppers. It can also provide a treasure trove of data for marketers, who can use that information to make continual improvements.


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> Smartphone Security and Convenience Features

In our world of smartphones and personal technology use, Snapchat selfie addicts and the like have long been comfortable with face scanning technology. Although this isn’t exactly the same as the type of facial recognition we’ve been talking about, that acceptance has made it easier to introduce new personal uses for this technology into our everyday lives.

Facial recognition seems to have passed a personal litmus test in this regard. Apple was the first major carrier to implement the use of facial recognition as a way to unlock a smartphone screen and then later to activate Apple Pay. While this may seem like old news now, it was a key step towards acceptance of the technology.

Less than a year out from widespread release, Apple Face ID (along with most other major smartphone models and operating systems) has gotten people quite comfortable with using their faces to unlock phone features with a simple glance.


> Air Travel

China has an estimated 200 million surveillance cameras and was quick to embrace the power of facial recognition in public spaces. The United States, however, has just recently begun to implement this technology in places such as airports.

Most recently, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Biometric Exit Program is now used in 17 airports. It’s projected to soon partner with more airlines, in order to be able to scan 97 percent of departing commercial passengers by 2023. 

Aside from implementation in the name of security and protection, facial recognition in airports also works to streamline the check-in experience. Some travelers clearly appreciate the convenience of not having to scramble for tickets, passports or driver’s licenses when herding a family and luggage through airport security.


> Law Enforcement

We’ll expand upon the ethical concerns surrounding the use of facial recognition in law enforcement in a moment. In terms of actual implementation, however, the American Bar Association has outlined several current uses of the technology. These include general surveillance, targeted photo comparisons, active criminal case investigations, and trial evidence. 

Where innovation is concerned, Amazon Rekognition is a recent development that has opened up new opportunities for clients who have already amassed a large facial image database, such as for mug shots or driver’s license photos. The Rekognition API enables users to add a layer of machine learning and AI to any stored images. What’s more, it powerfully combines both still images and capability for video scanning.


> Ethical Concerns in Law Enforcement

Facial recognition undisputedly adds to law enforcement resources that are already brimming with video and still photo databases. However, the conflict between public safety and individual rights to privacy may slow down advancement of the technology in this area. 

Most recently, a major body camera manufacturer chose to eliminate facial recognition software from its product in response to privacy concerns. In the U.S., California is considering a statewide ban on the technology as cities like San Francisco lead the charge on disallowing it. While the technology behind facial recognition is not likely to stagnate, instances of inaccuracy are too frequent to ignore at present.


> Where Facial Recognition Is Headed in the Near Future

Facial recognition in the public realm is not new, but the pace of adoption and use varies based on region and industry. Regardless, it’s clear that there is still plenty of growth and opportunity in the market. Future trends to watch include the use of facial recognition technology in hospitality management, healthcare, school safety, and the automotive industry.

Hotel marketers and travel services see an opportunity to use facial recognition to improve concierge experiences and provide customized and personal engagement with guests. When surveyed, 72 percent of hotel operators said they expect to use biometric technology in the next five years to enhance customer service. This means you might be greeted by name without handing over your rewards card or ID the next time you go on vacation.

Healthcare technology developers are looking to advance protection for patients in assisted living situations, aid in dementia care, and even improve the information available to first responders. All of this can be made easier with facial recognition technology.

As for school safety, this continues to be an unfortunate hot topic in the U.S. and worldwide. While a majority percentage of American high schools use surveillance cameras, the endless hours of footage prove cumbersome without the kind of algorithms that facial recognition and AI provide. Schools, like law enforcement, continue to wrestle with the privacy question as well.

Finally, there are some intriguing applications for the auto industry. Subaru’s latest Forester will feature facial recognition that recognizes the driver and adjusts the seat settings accordingly. Not only can this feature enhance comfort, it will also scan the driver’s face for fatigue and distraction, and sound a warning if collisions are imminent.



Given its many use cases and growing acceptance rates, facial recognition doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. The technologies we’ve discussed demonstrate how the marriage of biometric technology, AI, and other forms of programming can create powerful and diverse intelligent systems with endless potential.


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