​Apple has promised to release 3 new iPhone models by the fall of 2018. Each of them will have a facial recognition function called Face ID and the A12 processor. As more smartphones with facial recognition are released to the market, the faster biometrical identification technology will become widely used. The facial recognition market is awaiting something like “Big bang”. Nowadays banks, shops, and transportation companies are testing these systems, and the most interesting of the cases are included in this digest.

By the way, Apple has published a new video on its YouTube channel that is dedicated to the new iPhone X flagman. In this video, the company makes fun of standard smartphones and promotes Face ID technology. A common user attempts to remember the password for his mobile banking app without success. The audience in the video jeers him on. But then suddenly he finds himself in a café, puts his iPhone X in front of him, and his iPhone successfully identifies him  – without requiring him to enter a password. The slogan is “Your face is your passport.”

Other vendors are seemingly keeping up with the leader - Apple. Samsung has just patented a biometrical cam which could be the equivalent of Apple’s Face ID. Huawei, Honor and others are also working on similar technologies. When Facebook rolled out its facial recognition tools in the European Union this year, it promoted the technology as a way to help people safeguard their online identities.

The First Line Software team has already gained experience with this exciting technology by developing a computer vision solution for a large industrial client. Live streaming video from CCTV cameras had to be continuously monitored and analyzed to determine whether the staff was wearing mandatory safety devices such as protective helmets or gas masks in designated areas. The detection of the dangerous zones is dependent on receiving signals from sensors embedded in the equipment or the movements identified by computer vision algorithms.

There were three specific challenges with the project:

  • Visual recognition systems are typically educated by observing sets of publicly available videos that replicate live situations. No videos for observing compliance with staff wearing mandatory safety devices existed.
  • The capability for real-time video analysis was required.
  • Specific sequences of movement needed to be analyzed:
    • The employee places a hard-hat on their head - which is required.
    • Then the employee places a jacket hood over the top of the hard-hat, which is OK, but the algorithm can not see the hard-hat.

First Line addressed these challenges to deliver a computer vision solution that fully met the client’s technology requirements and reduced costs associated with safety-related injuries of the staff.

Traditionally the most active experiments with new technologies are conducted by banks and retailers. On July 4, 2018, Alibaba launched a pilot FashionAI concept shop on the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) campus, pairing the extensive retail knowledge and latest collections of Guess with Alibaba’s advanced AI and other technologies. Besides the FashionAI concept store’s futuristic appeal, the project was aimed at providing a better retail experience for shoppers and helping brands tap into the use of analytics for ordering and maintaining inventory.

Casual clothing company Stripe International has announced plans to open a "smart store" in China in partnership with leading online retailer Alibaba Group Holding as early as October. They have an objective to collect and merge data from virtual malls and real-world technologies like sensor-equipped hangers. The partnership may be the first of its kind between Alibaba and a Japanese clothing retailer.

Separately, Alibaba is testing payments that are initiated with a smile. When a customer enters the store their face is scanned for identification and when they leave, the facial recognition confirms the identity to process a payment. They even offer discounts for smiling while shopping via the “Happy Go” happiness meter.

China is even more innovative and advanced in using facial recognition than the West. French food retailer Carrefour has introduced a new shopping format in their shop in Shanghai. The products are scanned by the popular Chinese app We-chat payment then placed in a virtual basket and paid for later via ‘scan and go’ and facial recognition payment technology.

“Smile to Pay” technology already works. Diners at a KFC store in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou have a
new way to pay for their meal. Just smile. Diners scan their faces when they place their order at a kiosk. They also enter a phone number - which guards against people cheating the system.

Marriott and Alibaba have started an experiment with facial recognition at two Marriott hotels in China to shorten the time it takes to check-in. In this experiment guests will scan their faces and passports instead of filling out a form. Then they will be presented with a key-card for their room. The entire process takes less than a minute, while the usual process for registration takes about 3 minutes.

User identification is also a core task for banks. This is not just about efficiency, but is also necessary for the security of financial operations. According to LifeLock, in 2017 alone there were 16.5 million identity theft and fraud victims who lost a total of 16.8 billion dollars. That’s why facial recognition could rescue the financial services industry from incurring these significant losses.

Thanks to a new partnership with FacePhi, HSBC customers will soon be able to log in to their mobile apps via facial recognition. The FacePhi system is designed so end users can authenticate themselves with a selfie. MasterCard has issued the app Identity Check Mobile, which also uses biometric identification and lets users securely shop on the internet. The app is available for users in USA and Europe. Customers who use the Bank of America Merrill Lynch mobile app, CashPro Mobile,  can identify themselves with fingerprint or facial recognition.

In the future, banks and retailers will form partnerships to implement facial recognition. Spanish bank BBVA has announced the deployment of a facial recognition payment system that supports a previously announced initiative  – to deliver payment methods based on biometric data which makes paying for things at stores ‘invisible.’

In September of 2017 several Chinese banks, including Agricultural Bank of China and China Merchants Bank, equipped ATMs with facial recognition scanners. While the system uses biometric data, users must also enter their ID number or phone number and the account password to use the ATMs for cash withdrawals.

Facial recognition technologies could also be used in the future for security purposes and on transportation systems. A bio-ID surveillance framework that can recognize subway users may be used in Beijing – to help ease congestion of the 10 million daily commuters and reduce fare evasion. Two forms of bio-recognition are being considered  – palm touch and facial recognition.

Qantas recently launched a landmark trial. Passengers on selected international flights will test facial recognition software at the airport in Sydney, Australia. The expectation is that passengers will enjoy a more seamless airport experience. Once the software is fully tested and implemented, passengers will be able to use their face as identification for a majority of their flight travel. It’s been reported that up to 90% of flight passengers in Australia will be processed automatically in the future.

Passengers can expect the same in Paris airports.  Groupe ADP, the operator of Paris’s airports, has begun testing facial-recognition software at Charles de Gaulle airport with the objective of reducing delays in immigration that resulted from tighter security after terrorist attacks. A passenger will enter a special cabin to have their face scanned and compared to the photo in their passport. The systems will complete this operation in 10-15 seconds compared to the usual control of a border guard checking fingerprints which requires at least 30-45 seconds.

Facial recognition is all the rage, and a recent report from Research and Markets confirms it. In 2017, the worldwide facial recognition market was valued at $3.85 billion. This market is expected to continue its expansion to reach value of $9.78 billion by 2023.

Using facial recognition promises never-before-possible efficiencies to an array of businesses.

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David Tedford
VICE PRESIDENT