Although Apple faced a major PR incident when it revealed its Face ID unlocking feature for the iPhone X, industry experts remain confident that the technology behind the feature will change the game and be here to stay. The system, infrared powered facial recognition, unlocks the phone and performs several other functions as well.
Facial recognition is increasingly popular, especially in China. Megvii Inc. is a Chinese facial recognition startup that through the Chinese and Russian governments and investors raised over $460 million to develop enhanced facial recognition for government use. In an inversion of usual trends, the technology is really still just emerging in the West even as it explodes in Asia. In the East these systems are already quite well established and are used by everything from state security forces in India and China to commercial banks, restaurants, and stores. In some stores in China, you simply take what items you want out of the store and a facial recognition system automatically debits your account for your items. The technology sees extensive use by the police, who have AR glasses which perform facial recognition and project information onto what the user sees in the physical world.
Here in the West we still hold on to the idea that to some extent privacy is a natural right, and therefore are more sensitive to infringements of that privacy. In China, face scanning has become the norm for things like accessing buildings, buying tickets, travel and more. Situations where we are still using RFID or other forms of identification are now primarily handled in this way. In fact, “a recent article in the South China Morning Post [said], the Chinese government has been working on a system since 2015 which it claims can use CCTV surveillance cameras to identify any one of China’s 1.3 billion people within three seconds — and with at least 88 percent accuracy.” (securitytoday.com)
Before this, during the 2013 Youth Games at Nanjing, police monitored 13 stadiums and their surroundings using an IoT network powered by Chinese company Huawei. This was linked to CCTV systems, drones, and cameras mounted on vehicles. Now with the added factor of AI face recognition software, experts believe that with improvement this could create a collective or collaborative security.
“As IoT connected ‘smart homes’ become more and more common, we are likely to see a number of facial recognition applications emerge. One of the most obvious will be in the field of home security. People are more concerned about security than ever before, and home security systems account for an estimated $47 billion in global sales annually.” (securitytoday.com)
As in the previous case we looked at in China, collaborative security networks can be developed throughout interconnected neighborhoods. Facial recognition can ID strangers to an area or home, alert neighbors, and signal security or law enforcement. This technology can also notify during emergencies of other types and even provide some monitoring for children and the elderly.
In a commercial setting
Like we already looked at, facial recognition is becoming the standard in the East in places such as China and India for things as commonplace as setting up bank accounts or even entering public restrooms. We are already seeing this spread West. As many as 25 percent of stores in the UK were using this kind of software as far back as 2015.
These systems were originally to catch shoplifters, but is now used increasingly to verify identity in high end stores and banks. “In Hangzhou [China], Alibaba has launched a ‘smile to pay’ function in KFC restaurants, designed to attract younger, tech-savvy customers and reduce waiting time and staff demands through automation.” (securitytoday.com) These are the kinds of things we should expect to see in the coming years in the U.S. as far as this technology goes. What’s more, this data will be amassed and used as “big data”, processed and used in algorithms to predict customer behavior based on things like body language, facial expressions, and time spent in different parts of a store. Soon we will have no real way of knowing what information is being gathered about us and what is being done with it.
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