Facial recognition technology (FRT) has certainly come a long way. Its prominence, however, truly skyrocketed back in 2018 with the introduction of “Face ID” on the iPhone X, an innovation that revolutionized how we unlock our devices. 

Cut to the present, and FRT is everywhere. Both Google and Apple now feature face unlock functionality on their smartphones, making it an everyday convenience for users. Moreover, its adoption has expanded well beyond the realm of mobile technology. Various industries, including healthcare, retail, banking, marketing, and even public spaces like airports, have enthusiastically incorporated FRT into their workflows. Not to mention its integration into governmental operations.

The global FRT market is projected to generate $15.4 billion by 2042, with a growth rate of 21.4% since 2016.

How Does Facial Recognition Technology Work?

facial recognition technology

Facial recognition technology is commonly used in consumer devices like iPhone X. It captures an image of your face, reads the geometry of your facial features, and creates a unique facial signature. This signature is then compared to a database of known faces, often powered by police and government security services. If a match is found, it can be used to investigate and apprehend individuals. The technology can accurately identify faces even in crowds and public places. It adds an extra layer of security to traditional identification methods.

Real-Life Applications of Facial Recognition Technology 

1. Airports

Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly airports have been implementing FRT to improve the airport boarding process. In 2009, fingerprint recognition technology was introduced, but only 4% of passengers could use it due to restricted access within passport chips. In 2017, the airports upgraded to facial recognition systems provided by Gemalto.

 Due to the widespread adoption of facial biometrics, almost half of travelers now possess passports that are compatible with this technology. Facial recognition offers a seamless experience for passengers, requiring minimal effort on their part, and significantly reduces processing times compared to fingerprint scanning. In fact, in pilot studies, boarding times were reduced by an impressive 30% to 40%. Airlines in both the US and Europe have already begun implementing facial recognition technology as a means to expedite and enhance the boarding process, ensuring increased efficiency and enhanced security for all passengers.

2. ATMs

While facial identification has become typical for unlocking mobile apps, ATMs still rely on plastic cards and PINs, leading to increased fraud through skimming devices. National Australia Bank and Microsoft collaborated in 2018 to test a face scan system for unlocking ATMs. This system did not store images and erased all biometric data after the experiment. This led to seamless customer experiences by revolutionizing how banking products and services are accessed.

3. Face-Based Payment Systems at Fast Food Restaurants

Fast food outlets have been replacing human cashiers with self-service kiosks, and the next step could be ordering through face scans. CaliBurger in California is already testing this setup, allowing customers to use kiosks for ordering, paying, and accessing loyalty programs. CEO John Miller aims to replace credit card swipes with face-based payments. Biometric payments have gained popularity in China, with many restaurants adopting digital technologies to improve customer experiences, drive business growth, and increase operational efficiency.

4. Event entrances 

At the 2019 Brit Awards, facial recognition technology was utilized to bolster event security. This technology was deployed to screen attendees at various entrances of the O2 in London. By linking the system to mobile apps, trained staff members could conduct secondary identity verification checks in person.

5. Unlocking your car without a key

The automotive industry, which has seen incremental changes for a century, is now experiencing a wave of innovation. Facial recognition technology has caught the attention of car manufacturers. Byton, a newer player in the industry, has showcased a concept model that allows drivers to unlock the car with a face scan. As the industry moves towards a shared model, facial recognition holds promise. It can help to secure vehicles by locking doors and engines until the registered user needs access, and even customize car settings based on individual preferences. 

Final Thoughts

Facial recognition technology has faced criticism regarding its legality and ethics. It has raised concerns about the potential for misuse. When individuals sign away ownership rights, their digital images can be collected and sold as data. The technology is not infallible and can result in mistaken identities, disproportionately affecting people of color. It also raises questions about privacy rights and government intrusion. While facial recognition has the potential for public safety, without proper regulation, there is a risk of abuse. The ongoing debate surrounding this technology will continue as it evolves and enters new markets.