The Future Looks a Lot Like You and Me

The Future Looks a Lot Like You and Me

The rise of facial recognition is making us safer

Security and its technologies are, of course, ever-evolving. From simple photo IDs of the past to 2D barcodes and the now ubiquitous use of video cameras, businesses, schools and venues are constantly looking for better ways to protect people and property.

As with most things in life, the more sophisticated the systems, the greater the cost, which can keep better security beyond the reach of many organizations. That’s why new evolutions in facial recognition technology offer so much promise in allowing a wider range of businesses and institutions to simply and easily enhance security with the most unique identifier this side of our fingerprints—the human face.

Today, I’m proud to say facial recognition is becoming increasingly accessible to organizations of all sizes, requiring only a video camera and a few lines of code. Through computer vision and machine learning, the technology can recognize and measure people in any video, image, or photo. Its uses are both practical and game-changing, allowing organizations to scan the faces of those on or near their properties to spot potential threats and to verify individuals’ identities. The benefits of facial recognition to highly-secure facilities are fairly obvious, but now that it’s more accessible, this technology has far reaching, practical uses for virtually any type of business, like retailers, clubs, hotels, entertainment venues, and casinos.

We all know fraud and identity theft are major problems responsible for millions of dollars lost and countless horror stories. Lexis- Nexis’ 2017 True Cost of Fraud report estimates the total amount of loss a merchant incurs, based on the actual dollar value of a fraudulent transaction, is up to $2.77 from the previous year’s figure of $2.40. Furthermore, the report notes that the volume of fraud has been on the rise in both successful and prevented fraudulent transactions. Also noted in the report is limited merchant access to fraudfighting solutions.

I’ve spent my entire career pioneering solutions to prevent identity fraud, and have been inspired to make facial recognition more widely accessible to businesses and organizations of all types. Facial recognition means more secure environments in the places where we live, work, shop, and visit. Now, more than ever, facial recognition technology is being used for access control and visitor management. A camera reads visitors’ faces as they approach an access control point, such as an automated door or reception desk. The person’s facial features are then validated against biometric data previously loaded into the system to ensure the person has authorization to enter.

This same system can also streamline visitor check in at office buildings, public events and schools. The true power and potential of facial recognition in these kinds of venues is showcased when we consider just what these systems can accomplish in regards to real time watch-list detection. In this use, a camera (much like those we currently see in any number of public spaces) scans crowds to read faces, verify identities and run this information against watch lists, such as sex offender registries or internal “banned” lists.

Facial recognition is also a great tool for retailers and other businesses to greatly enhance customer experiences. Anytime a VIP customer enters a venue, they can be instantly identified so that experiences can be maximized and their preferences available to staff to help them better serve the customer. Casinos are using this technology to identify VIP guests at the door, and they are pairing it with added layers of identity verification, running individual’s identities against internal banned lists and watch lists, such as Self-Exclusion, OFAC, and more.

Similarly, Delta recently unveiled facial recognition technology to allow passengers to check in at self-service kiosks, drop checked baggage, and serve as identification at the TSA checkpoint. Facial recognition is marrying security with customer experience and improving both.

These uses of facial recognition technology clearly offer benefits to business and consumers alike. Yet too often in the news media, however, we get only the more sensational or “hot button” approaches to reporting on new technologies as opposed to more sober analysis of why these technologies are being developed in the first place.

Recently, the pop singer Taylor Swift was in the news because of a facial recognition kiosk that was placed outside her concert venues. The screens on the kiosks played film clips of her videos and some of her concert footage. Those who stopped to watch the footage had their faces scanned and run against a database of known Taylor Swift stalkers.

The ACLU raised concerns over this use of facial recognition without the knowledge of those interacting with the kiosk screens and this, was, of course what made the headlines in the reporting. But cameras in public spaces have long been a part of everyday life in the name of crime prevention and security. It could be argued whether the use of facial recognition technology at a concert was really that much different. Given recent terrorist events at concerts worldwide, would a majority of concert-goers be against a technology that could potentially alert security personnel to violent or unstable individuals?

The possibilities for facial recognition are endless and can enhance security across a broad range of industries and applications.

Certainly recent events have placed school security foremost in the minds of all of us. Here again, more accessible, more affordable and simple-to-implement facial recognition technology can give our schools a potentially life-saving security tool. Facial recognition can ensure unauthorized individuals do not have access to the campus— a key factor in the spate of recent school shootings. Similarly, violence by disgruntled former employees could potentially be thwarted if flagged individuals were not allowed access to the workplace and security were alerted, through facial recognition, that a flagged individual was nearing the property.

On a more everyday level, for example, the technology can also be utilized to ensure parents who may have lost custody are prevented from illegally taking children from the school. It could also be used to help reduce and discourage drug activity around school campuses and to keep sex offenders away.

Financial institutions could greatly reduce fraudulent transactions on premises by simply matching the face in front of the teller window to that on file. Clubs could immediately identify VIP customers as they approach the door as well as those who may have been placed on banned lists.

And all of this can be accomplished seamlessly, simply and affordably, with no inconvenience to customers and many potential benefits. Most of all, the security of the businesses and public spaces we regularly utilize will be greatly enhanced. I like to think of facial recognition as a better answer to the office ID badge or key card you have to swipe to enter a building.

A better answer that is staring back at us in the mirror.

This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Security Today.

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