Surveillance systems are becoming a critical part of our everyday lives. These systems are used in bus stations, train stations and platforms, and other large public areas to maintain public safety. Video cameras have proven a critical resource in aiding investigations, like the recent Boston bombing, by helping to apprehend criminals and expedite the identification of suspects. As surveillance technology continues to advance, we are now seeing the development of facial recognition capabilities.
Facial recognition technology, including face searching and face matching, has been in development for decades, but its real-life applications have been limited. As the technology matures, we’re seeing growing interest from industry customers of all types looking to adopt these fascinating, cutting-edge capabilities in a variety of different ways.
Recently, The New York Times took a look at new facial scanning capabilities being developed for the Department of Homeland Security’s crowd-scanning project called Biometric Optical Surveillance System (BOSS). This system is aiming to use cameras and computers to scan large crowds of people and identify individuals by their face. Research for this project originally began as an aid for military officials to detect suicide bombers and other terrorists in large crowds. However in 2010 the BOSS project was instead transferred to the Department of Homeland Security to be used by police officers in the United States. While BOSS is still not ready for use in the field, there have been significant advancements to the technology.
Facial scanning breakthroughs are continuing to emerge as these capabilities become a critical asset in surveillance solutions. This technology can provide effective solutions to a variety of problems from locating a lost child to identifying a suspect and even in other applications such as facility access control.
In its most recent developments, face search technology has been designed to conduct high-speed searches of recorded video for a specific face based on a single reference face. The ability to quickly conduct a face search through video footage will enable security personnel to act more efficiently in critical moments of an investigation. For example, this would allow police to pull up past instances of a shoplifter entering a store. Beyond crime investigations, face searching applications can also be programmed to recognize when a reference face passes in front of a live camera. It can allow business to unlock a door or access point for recognized employees or to alert security personnel when a prohibited person attempts to enter the business facility.
Our face search capabilities are combined with some of our most advanced technologies to provide maximum results. Facial recognition capabilities can only go so far without clear and precise image quality. Our powerful HD surveillance cameras provide crisp images for indisputable courtroom evidence, and easy identification for security personnel who need to identify and review footage. Many of these products also offer low light/nighttime viewing capabilities for better image quality in the dark and poorly lighted areas.
Another similar breakthrough of Facial Recognition technology is age and gender estimation, which is most often used in the retail and food service markets. Recorders are connected to security cameras which can determine a customer’s age and gender and in turn communicate with the business’ digital signage to display an advertisement or menu item most relevant for that person. For example, a restaurant can use this technology to predict the relative age and gender of the person standing in front of it to prompt menu choices and promotions accordingly.
Face searching, face matching and other facial recognition technology can be an incredibly valuable tool in a variety of applications, but these capabilities can naturally spark privacy concerns for some. In October 2012, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a staff report “Facing Facts: Best Practices for Common Uses of Facial Recognition Technologies” to guide companies leveraging facial recognition technologies and to help protect consumers’ privacy. The report discusses important considerations, such as how and where the technology is used, data security protections, and transparency with customers and consumers. Any deployment of facial recognition technology must be done responsibly, and Panasonic recommends that organizations looking at these capabilities work closely with their vendors and distributors to follow best practices with privacy in mind.
Facial recognition technology, including face searching and face matching, is quickly moving out of the realm of science fiction and into the commercial marketplace. Its applications in public safety, customer service and many other arenas can drive new innovations, and when used appropriately consumer privacy interests can remain protected. As one of the global leaders in research and development in this field, developing solutions that integrate facial recognition capabilities is just one of the ways Panasonic is connecting data with decision makers to improve outcomes and address our customers’ unique business challenges.