Facial Recognition: Facing the Future

By Dan Krumme

Seeing a face and knowing a face are very different things in the security world.

Improvements in high-resolution cameras has made it possible for surveillance video to show faces quite clearly, which is a boon to law enforcement and security personnel who can see suspects and disseminate photos that are identifiable for the public.

But without facial recognition software and a database of images against which to match these faces, the system supporting those cameras isn’t able to tell you exactly whose face you’re seeing.

Facial recognition software has made great strides in recent years, with accuracy rates for some products in the 99 percent range. Working with a good initial image, a video management system with facial recognition now can pick up and read a face easily and accurately.

In some instance, facial recognition has replaced cards, fingerprints or other identifiers as the credential of choice. While many still think of facial identification as a means to pick out criminals and terrorists, it is also an everyday tool that simplifies access control.

Consider a school that uses facial recognition in conjunction with its access system. Students, teachers and even parents’ facial images are entered into a database. Then, when they come to the school, they simply present themselves at the door and once they are recognized within the VMS, the door is opened.

Within the database, parameters can be set to control the doors based on whose image is seen at the doorway, the same as with cards that can be programmed to limit access during certain hours or for specific individuals. Unlike a card, however, a person’s face is a permanent ID that can’t be lost or stolen.

Of course, facial recognition does have a role in deterring crime. Retail establishments, for instance, can deploy facial recognition in conjunction with their surveillance systems to match a database of known shoplifters against people coming into the store. Alerted that they have a facial match, store security can now watch suspicious individuals or even approach them to let them know they have been recognized.

Although currently more costly than some other security technologies, facial recognition offers great potential within the industry because of its multi-faceted use as both a highly accurate credential and for identifying known and potential criminals.