Although the use of facial recognition technology is under intense scrutiny at the moment due to concerns about privacy and civil liberties, Bill Hobbs, Global Vice President at our sister company 3xLOGIC, believes that the advantages it offers far outweigh the disadvantages.
The use of biometric technology has gathered momentum over the last decade and we are now at a point where the ability to identify and analyse human body characteristics is considered the norm. However, the use of facial recognition technology still elicits strong reactions in certain countries.
Many of the concerns surrounding this issue are reminiscent of that directed at CCTV in the early years of its introduction and, when considering facial recognition, it is worth bearing in mind that people around the world are already monitored and recorded by a huge network of overt and covert surveillance technology. According to the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) there are up to six million CCTV surveillance cameras in the UK alone – this works out at around one for every 11 people. Just as noteworthy is the fact that the use of this technology is generally accepted, with a study by the CCTV User Group revealing that 86 per cent of people back its use in public spaces so long as adequate safeguards are in place.
As opposed to early efforts with facial recognition, which attempted to classify physical characteristics such as race or ethnicity, the modern-day technology looks to identify an individual who is part of a Person of Interest (POI) database. Non-matches can be quickly disregarded, and the images discarded as not of interest, while a POI match can be used to alert the right party of their presence in a specified area or region of interest.
While the debate rumbles on, there is more than meets the eye with facial recognition technology and it is proving to have significant benefits across a wide range of applications – such as the healthcare sector.
Within hospitals and other healthcare environments, as well as making these types of buildings more secure, facial recognition is also having a positive impact on patient care. It can be used to identify, locate and track staff, patients and visitors, ensuring that only authorised personnel have access to certain areas and restricted locations. Facial Recognition can also be used to verify who is in a room before displaying patient health information on video screens - thus avoiding privacy concerns and regulations.
With such a high percentage of vulnerable people in a healthcare setting, security personnel can use this technology to monitor any individuals entering a building. They can compare them with those on a pre-defined POI list to detect anyone who might pose a threat, such as drug abusers or imposters posing as patients. Similarly, known disruptive individuals that are no longer admitted to a hospital due to their behaviour can be stopped at the door. Just as importantly, facial recognition can be used to improve operational processes such as the patient checking-in process, which can provide relevant on-screen information, reduce paperwork and free up valuable human resources.
Patient monitoring and diagnosis is an area where things are getting very exciting. Technology has been developed by Yokohama City University Hospital to monitor patients with high-risk behaviour and detect when they have carried out a potentially self-harmful action, such as accidentally removing a cannula.
It could also help could address issues around limited staff resources that make it difficult to physically observe a high number of critically ill patients.
Meanwhile, facial recognition is also being used to diagnose diseases and genetic conditions through the analysis of facial expressions.
Another good example of where facial recognition is thriving is data centres. Data centres are the hidden heroes of our connected world and protecting the information stored within them is vital in the battle against cybercrime. Without proper security measures in place, if data is lost or stolen organisations may face heavy fines through the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as well as loss of revenue and immeasurable reputational damage.
A data centre security strategy usually takes the form of a multi-layered approach that includes a range of technology that monitors and controls access both into and within the premises. Many data centre managers require a means of protecting equipment access using something more than just a password, which is why facial recognition is proving popular to ensure only authorised individuals gain access to restricted areas. This technology also enables organisations to introduce dual authentication to legacy access control systems, without needing a wholesale upgrade of their existing reader infrastructure. Strengthening employee and third-party visitor identification procedures through the implementation of facial recognition technology in this way also mitigates against the risks of card pass-back, card loss and access by unauthorised individuals.
The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) 2019 Retail Crime Survey revealed that in the course of the previous year 115 employees were attacked at work every day. Not only does this trend mean that retail staff are under increasing danger while carrying out their duties, the negative publicity surrounding such incidents can deter law abiding customers from visiting certain shops with high rates of violence.
There is no room for error when it comes to employee safety and, as part of a defined corporate social responsibility strategy and occupational health and safety management system, measures should be put in place to tackle the risk of violence. Facial recognition technology can help with the early identification of known offenders, allowing in-store manned guarding personnel to act quickly and effectively.
The rise in experiential retailing means that shoppers who still choose to visit stores are increasingly looking for an end-to-end connected experience. Facial recognition means that tailored electronic advertisements and relevant points of sale can be created to fashion a personalised retail experience. Identifying high value customers quickly can lead to enhanced customer service thereby improving the customer experience and increasing sales. Facial Recognition technology can also assist in validating other shopper analytics such as footfall, customer movement through a store, and traffic hot-spots in the retail environment.
Calm and measured
These types of applications have lead to significant growth trends for facial recognition and this was highlighted in a recent study by MarketsandMarkets, which stated that the global facial recognition market is expected to grow from $3.2bn in 2019 to $7bn by 2024, at a CAGR of 16.6 per cent during this period. Consequently, it’s important to ensure that innovation is not stifled in order for this technology to reach its full potential.
There are, of course, justifiable concerns about the use of facial recognition technology, which must be addressed. As a result, those manufacturing, installing and using it must do more to address the prevailing negative perception amongst the public and allay fears about how personal data is collected, processed, stored and distributed. As the examples outlined clearly demonstrate, it has massive potential in terms of not only creating safe and secure environments, but also keeping people happier and healthier. Security installers therefore have a pivotal role to play in creating a positive framework for its use that will drive consent and acceptance.
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