Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero once famously said, “The face is a picture of the mind with the eyes as its interpreter.” Even though it might have been a metaphorical statement in the context that Cicero made it, today facial recognition technology has made this a reality. Our faces have not only become our keys to a number of places, they have also become our guides through various technology related processes and systems.
To give you a larger perspective on how this technology is soon going to dominate our existence, let’s have a look at some numbers. The global facial recognition market is estimated to grow from $1.92 billion in 2013 to $6.50 billion in 2018. This represents a Compound Annual Growth rate of 27.7% from 2013 to 2018. Over the next five years, APAC will experience increased market traction to become the biggest facial recognition market globally, according to a report titled Facial Recognition Market: Global Advancements, Emerging Applications, Business Models and Worldwide Market Forecasts and Analysis.
The technology has become far more accurate and less expensive than it used to be in the last few years. So far, the main sectors leveraging this technology have been surveillance and government, however, it is bound to gain traction in the consumer electronics and cloud based services segments too, according to the report. Examples include Facebook’s acquisition of the face recognition company face.com early this year and Amazon’s Dynamic Perspective, a facial-recognition and tracking technology, for its new Fire phone.
Banking is another sector which could hugely benefit from this technology.
Picture this. Need to withdraw cash? Just stand in front of your ATM machine and give a nod instead of inserting your card and then punching in those often-hard-to-remember PIN numbers, and you are all set. Now let’s take a step further. In the mood for shopping? Take a stroll in the store, pick up all that you want, head to the check-out counter and just show your face to a machine. That’s it. You are done. The machine would have scanned your face to get your biometrics and then your account details and would have directly deducted money from there.
Face recognition technology has the potential to make the entire banking experience even more convenient and safe. Many companies have been working on fine-tuning the technology and creating prototypes so that various transactions can be conducted through this technology. Finland based company Uniqul has created an authentication system which, when installed at places, can allow people to shop and then just pay with their faces. It deploys the face recognition technology which scans the person’s biometrics, matches it to the database and links it to their bank account. All that a customer needs to do is press ‘OK’ at the end of his/her transaction.
Diebold Millennial ATM prototype does a similar thing with ATM machines, through the cloud network. People can use their face, along with scanning a QR code from their phone, to authenticate various transactions. In Kenya, Dr. Waweru Mwangi, director of the Institute of Computer Science and Information Technology at Jomo Kenyatta University, had also developed a prototype called ‘Basic Intelligent Automated Teller Machine’ in 2010, which can be inserted into ATMs to function as a face recognition tool. Though both these techniques only eliminate the usage of the card, as the person still has to feed in a PIN number or a one-time authentication code or answer a question.
Experts feel that two of the biggest advantages that Facial Recognition technique can offer are convenience and security. The entire process of transaction, of any kind, can be done in about 5 seconds (as compared to say 15-20 seconds via the cards). In terms of security, this technology can help prevent fraudulent transactions as well. The biggest concern is the high cost involved in implementing this technology at a large scale and in some cases, like the Uniqul concept, an added cost to the customers. Another area of concern is the storage of biometrics details by third party companies.
When it comes to Facial Recognition technology, the ideal situation would be when the role of cards and pin numbers is completely eliminated for carrying out transactions. Imagine a future where our face becomes the currency with which we transacts. With various prototypes already underway, soon we should know how much it can impact our financial lives.