Automatic Facial Recognition (AFR) Technology: A Step Forward For Biometrics?
28 April 2021
looked upon as the epitome of advancing futuristic civilisations in the world
of sci-fi, Automatic Facial Recognition (AFR) has now firmly earnt its place in
mainstream operations all over the world.
technology has since emerged as a welcomed solution across countless
industries. From making time efficiencies within police operations, bolstering
airport security screening to tackling fraud prevention across the financial
sector, the capability of AFR software is undeniable.
how does AFR technology work and how does it compare to other biometric
recognition technologies? Here, we explore Automatic Facial Recognition (AFR),
how it is being utilised by UK authorities and industries, and whether it is an
effective step forward from fingerprint system biometrics.
What is AFR and
how does it work?
physical characteristics are the most unique form of identity verification we
have. We recognise ourselves and each other by looking at our faces, which is
what makes AFR software such an effective tool for law enforcement and other
form of biometric security, facial recognition systems can automatically detect
a human face from a digital image, a video still frame or in real-time against
a database. These automated systems are used to identify someone in a matter of
seconds based on their unique characteristics.
facial recognition systems do differ, they tend to operate in four steps:
Step one: Face
camera either detects or locates the facial image, either in isolation or in a
Step two: Face
image of the face is captured and analysed. 2D images are more widely relied
upon than 3D ones, as 2D is more likely to match with public photographs or a
database. The geometry of the face is read by the software and key
characteristics such as cheekbone shape, lip contours, depth of the eye sockets
and the distance between the eyes are used to distinguish the face.
Converting the image to data
process of capturing the face then converts this information into a set of
digital data based on the person’s features. The code that this data becomes is
called a faceprint. Each person has their own unique faceprint, similarly to us
each having our own unique fingerprint for other biometric readers.
Step four: Finding
the faceprint is compared against a database of other known faces. If the
faceprint matches an image in the facial recognition database, a match is
Who uses AFR
software is used by countless industries, including:
- Law enforcement: Hailed as one of the most sought-after surveillance tools for UK law
enforcement, AFR has transformed police operations since its introduction in
the late 1990’s. It is used by key authorities in
law enforcement, including the Metropolitan Police, to help identify and locate suspects, find missing
persons and keep communities safe.
- Airport security and border
control: Facial recognition systems have become a
familiar sight at many airports. Automated ePassport control welcomes holders
of biometric passports. AFR helps to reduce waiting times, keep passenger
queues flowing and improve security.
- Financial sector: Banks across the world have embraced biometric
online banking. This enables customers to quickly and easily authorise
transactions using apps on-the-go, without the worry of passwords for potential
hackers to exploit.
- Social media: Any photograph tagged with a person’s name on
platforms such as Facebook become part of its extensive database and is used
for future use.
- Mobile phone unlocking: Several mobile phone manufacturers, including
Apple’s iPhone uses AFR software to enable the user to unlock the device. This
is an effective way to protect personal data from getting into the wrong hands
and prevents it from being accessible if the phone is stolen.
embracing AFR software includes healthcare, forensic science, retail,
marketing, and some educational institutions.
recognition benefits and drawbacks
brings a wealth of benefits, including:
- Increased safety and security
- Easy to deploy and implement
- Time efficient process for face
detection and face match
- Reducing/preventing crime
- Integration with other systems
- Reducing human interaction
- Increased analysis and accuracy
While this technology is being widely embraced across many sectors, it does have
potential drawbacks, including:
- Surveillance: The continuous scanning and recording with facial recognition
technology could make people feel they are being watched and under constant
- Breach of privacy: The storing of citizens’ images without consent by government
organisations has led to many discussions on ethics and breach of privacy. In
2020, the European Commission announced that it was considering a ban on AFR technology in public spaces for up to
five years to work on an ethical abuses and privacy framework.
- Scope for error: Even the most sophisticated of technology has potential to suffer a
glitch. AFR software could be affected by several factors including lighting/sunlight,
makeup, an altered camera angle or new hairstyle.
- Data storage: Small and medium-sized enterprises may not have sufficient resources
to store the required data for facial recognition software to operate
AFR technology vs
being adopted by major technology companies more than five years ago,
fingerprint biometric technology has taken countless industries by storm.
only is fingerprint biometric technology affordable and simple to use, but this
form of recognition also remains the most specific when it comes to identifying
and verifying a user’s identity. This technology is used in authentication and
access processes across several types of electronics and is simple to apply
across different sectors.
technology is highly secure and reliable, thanks to the unique characteristics
of a fingerprint. No feature varies between individuals more than a fingerprint
pattern, making it near-on impossible to recreate. The highly unique nature of
fingerprints makes touch biometric highly secure.
AFR technology is unquestionably transforming operations across the world with
its many benefits, its potential scope for error does remain a valid concern.
more about biometric access control here.
organisation’s security today with TouchStar. We’re proud to deliver reliable
and robust cutting edge biometric technology that transforms operations across
numerous industries. To find out more about our state of the art biometric
technology solutions and how they can transform your organisation, get in touch today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – LYNDEN JONES
Lynden joined Touchstar ATC (formally Feedback Data) in a sales role for Access Control in 2010. Prior to joining the company, Lynden held both Production and Account Manager roles, gaining wide technical and commercial experience within the electronics market.
In 2013 Lynden was promoted to Sales Director and in 2017 he took overall responsibility of the business as Managing Director.As well as running Touchstar ATC, Lynden still remains extremely active in the sales and key account management aspects of the business. When not involved in the business, Lynden is a keen performance car enthusiast.