Art inspires life as life inspires art. Sometimes, technology inspires art too. Bollywood had made a song and dance sequence on face-recognition technology way back in the 90s. It never was a hypothetical question, “Kitabein bahut sii padhi hongii tumne, kabhi koi chehra kya tumne padha hai?”. Like a truly visionary AI, the song talks about identifying emotions and also establishes the superiority of a face-recognition based password as opposed to a text-based password.
Cut to 2020, the disaster of a year has accelerated the acceptance of facial-recognition technology for its accuracy, scalability and absence of bias as opposed to its human counterpart. The only glitch being, in the race to survival, the ethics of using AI has been ignored, at least for the time being. Using live camera feed, facial recognition technology can be used in real-time for identifying face mask usage and contact tracing.
Technology does not have a moral compass, the humans using it do. Facial recognition does exactly as its name suggests – accurately identifies a person. This identification is primarily used for safety and security by law enforcement agencies and for building a user profile by retail chains. The adoption of this technology is growing every day.
With deeper penetration of the internet, the advent of 5G, advancement of internet and greater demand for smart homes and smart cities facial recognition technologies are being used in banking, financial services, insurance, manufacturing, retail, and education. In a report by Allied Market Research, the global facial recognition technology market is projected to generate an estimated $9.6 billion in revenue with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.3 percent by 2022.
Safety And Security: Helping Law Enforcing Agencies
Facial recognition has played a very important role in digital healthcare, disease outbreak prevention, identifying people with protective headgear, and even temperature detection. Airport security, border checks, cyber-security, and healthcare have greatly benefitted by facial recognition. Specifically, when lockdown because of Corona is lifted, the police or private security guards receive real-time information on violation of guidelines like not wearing a mask or not maintaining social distancing.
Facial recognition also helps in contact-tracing to build a map of primary contacts who came close to an infected person. The ability to process videos faster and with higher accuracy saves critical time as opposed to humans watching the camera footage.
Facial recognition is easy to deploy and is considered less intrusive than other forms of biometrics as people are familiar with it. Several enterprises have adopted facial recognition solutions for monitoring and enforcing mask usage and social distancing and to improve productivity with a limited workforce.
The fact that most facial recognition solutions can work with existing CCTV networks also adds to its fast adoption. Facial recognition is a great enabler in providing increased security based on biometric attendance, specifically to places that limit the entry of people owing to sensitive information, biohazard zone or hazardous machinery.
For example, a manufacturing complex could install a face-recognition based entry in a zone with specific machinery that should only be used by a pre-determined set of qualified and trained people. Constant, automated monitoring ensures that no untrained staff enters that area and runs a machine that could be a hazard to his safety and that of other personnel.
Helping The Police Force
Facial recognition is very helpful in identifying missing people – criminal suspects, dead bodies, young children and older people with a medical condition like dementia. In 2018, Dehli Police had a trial run of facial recognition on around 45,000 children and was able to identify almost 3000 missing children in just 4 days.
2013 data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows 138 police personnel per lakh of population in India, one of the lowest in the world. Managing crime is a huge strain for the severely understaffed police force. Being helped by facial recognition, our forces will be able to function more efficiently and will also be able to combat the bias that creeps in the system.
In May 2020, the Central Government approved the deployment of Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) across the nation. This is going to be one of the world’s largest facial recognition systems. Among other things, it will be able to extract an image from a video and match it with the image of an individual whose record is already in an existing database of the National Crime Records Bureau.
Retail Chains: Building A Real Customer Profile
Most people have experienced the personal touch of a small retailer in their day-to-day business deals. We are creatures of habit, often going to the same cafe and ordering the same cinnamon cappuccino. A personal connect is built in several years of trust, often generations buying from the same place and from the same set of people. There is unmatched attention to detail by an attentive shop owner – at a grocery shop, bookstore, cafe or vegetable vendor. They know how you like your coffee or the particular seasonal fruit that is available in only a short window of time. They smile because they recognise you.
Larger retail stores cannot replicate the format because it is impossible for the staff to remember the profile of each individual customer. For several years retail chains have used CRM tools for better understanding of their customers by integrating emails, phone calls and sales data to get a picture of what their ideal customer looks like. Facial recognition takes profiling to the next level.
By analysing camera feeds a facial recognition solution can provide age and sex of the customer as well as analyse the emotions they felt while entering the store, while shopping and while exiting the store.
Facial recognition technology harnesses the power of AI to find patterns in a vastly diverse consumer base, automating the process of customer profiling. AI is able to sift through seemingly unrelated data and find patterns – in what most customers buy, which areas of the store they spend most time in and which areas need improvement. Insights gained from processing several key parameters help in creating a very real image of the repeat customer enabling retail stores to customise their wares in order to appeal to a specific customer segment.
A better customer profiling also helps a retail chain in a more targeted advertising and planning of events and promotions. Tailored text messages can be sent with recommendations, discounts, new season collections, and others. This saves a retail store from bombarding its consumer with messages or mails about the deals that a consumer has never expressed interest in and, for most parts, has no intention of availing.
A retail store can identify a VIP customer to provide them with a personalised shopping experience that comes close to what a person has experienced with smaller shops. Making a proactive use of face recognition technology helps in preventing the problem of poor customer service that can become a silent business killer. Survey reports suggest that 91% of customers who have experienced a bad service simply leave without complaining to any of the staff members and never return.
The biggest retail chain in the world, Walmart, has been using facial recognition technology on a pilot basis to improve customer service and recognize an “unhappy” shopper. Similarly, Walgreens pharmacy chain is also leveraging the facial recognition technology to estimate their customer’s gender and approximate age for delivering targeted messages.
Facial recognition technology helps in preventing shop-lifting. Walmart loses 1% of its $3 Bn every year to theft. Face recognition software can play a major role in alerting retailers when a known shoplifter enters the store. An employee who has received the alert can offer customer service to the identified person. This clear monitoring will deter them from shoplifting.
Your face is a minefield of data for the facial recognition algorithm. This data will keep you safe, it will make shopping easy for you, it will keep others around you safe too. So, next time when you see a sticker on a CCTV camera that says, ‘Smile, you are on camera’, do smile.