Such is the rise of facial recognition technology, that smartphones that don’t offer it as a method to unlock the device are becoming increasingly uncommon.
But despite being more secure than a traditional password or PIN, facial recognition technology still has flaws, with many phone users reporting the ability to use a photograph of themselves, or even their twin sibling to unlock their smart device.
Facial recognition software is of course not only being used in the smartphone market, but also to fight crime. Recently, the Metropolitan Police have been trialling facial recognition software throughout various London boroughs, using cameras to scan passers-by to find matches on watch lists. During one trial day alone, three arrests were made.
But some people aren’t happy with the use of facial recognition technology in public spaces.
Since its inception, concerns have been raised over the use of facial recognition technology; in particular, the lack of a specific legal framework being in place to protect the public’s rights. At present, private companies can start using the technology without declaring the move publicly or notifying the authorities. There are also questions as to how companies store such sensitive data.
Another major concern regarding the use of the technology in fighting crime is the possibility of misidentification, wrongful conviction and abuse of power. Currently, some governments are using facial recognition technology to constantly watch the public. For instance, in the United States, this has led to members of the public being arrested for jaywalking and other petty crimes. This has sparked a debate between basic civil rights, privacy and protecting the public.
Some criminals have even appeared to go to extraordinary lengths to go under the radar, with stories cropping up of individuals wearing realistic face masks to hide from facial recognition software.
As far as new technology goes, facial recognition can be revolutionary, potentially making our lives easier and safer, but it does have its flaws.
However, from 2021, fooling facial recognition software could become increasingly challenging with the introduction of skin-detection.
Trinamix, a subsidiary of German chemical company BASF SE, has been developing a solution which would enable skin-detection within facial recognition tech. Combining an infrared dot projector, camera sensor and new algorithms, Trinamix’s technology can sense a variety of materials for example, living skin.
How does it work?
Facial recognition works by firing an array of infrared dots at a face to build a 2D or 3D map of facial features. This includes the geometry of one’s face for example, the distance between a person’s eyes, and the length of their forehead. Once a map of a face has been created (called a facial signature), the infrared dots will rescan a face and determine whether the map matches the previously saved one, or a photograph of the person.
Trinamix’s skin-detection works in the same way; however, there is an extra layer of analysis in the backscatter of infrared that is bounced off the scan. Trinamix’s technology measures the distance of the backscatter of each individual infrared dot, which differs between materials.
Trinamix’s technology can currently identify around 1,000 materials, which means the application of skin-detection technology could be used for a variety of purposes and in different industries.
The combined use of skin-detection and facial recognition technology in smart phones would help protect the data held on a user’s device as it could no longer be unlocked with a photograph or look-a-like.
It could also help police identify criminals who wear realistic facemasks in public to conceal their identify; as the backscatter of infrared dots would differ to that of living skin.
Due to its ability to distinguish between more than just skin, it has been suggested the technology could be adopted in cars with a self-driving function to ensure the driver is wearing a seatbelt and is awake behind the wheel, in case manual intervention is required.
It is clear that this technology could help create a safer and more secure world; however, governments must first address the prominent issues and concerns surrounding this technology and introduce laws which protect the rights of the public.
We are excited to follow the progression of this technology and see how and where it will be applied in the future.