For the past month, FindBiometrics has been putting the spotlight on what is perhaps the most high-profile biometric modality today: face biometrics. Now, with Face Biometrics Month coming to a close, it’s time to look back at our featured coverage and take stock of some of its key insights.
A High-Profile Modality
We started at the beginning, with our first feature examining exactly how face biometrics has accumulated so much buzz over the last few years. The seed of this excitement came from Apple: just as the company had sparked the mobile biometrics revolution with its launch of Touch ID in an iPhone from 2013, the American tech giant prompted another industry shift with its launch of Face ID on 2017’s iPhone X. The move sent a seismic shift across the mobile sector, with rival smartphone makers scrambling to implement their own face authentication systems.
Meanwhile, facial recognition technology was garnering a different kind of media attention through its use by law enforcement organizations. In America in particular, concerns about intrusive surveillance were mixed with a renewed focus on police violence toward Black citizens, prompting major tech companies like Microsoft and IBM to publicly distance themselves from the technology even as Amazon notably stuck to its guns in serving surveillance tech to police.
And then came COVID-19, which propelled people and organizations away from contact-based technologies, and generated further interest in touchless solutions like those offered by face biometrics.
A Selfie-centric Time
From there, we returned to the selfie authentication trend catalyzed by Apple. Our next feature used the rise of so-called ‘face unlock’ smartphone security systems as a springboard to delve into one of the most prominent trends in financial services and adjacent sectors today: biometric remote onboarding. A number of vendors are now offering software-based solutions that are essentially designed to match an end user’s selfie photo against their image on a legitimate, government-issued identity document using facial recognition.
It’s a highly secure approach to remote onboarding, but there are still serious threats in the form of presentation attacks – also known as spoofing – in which a malicious actor attempts to mimic a legitimate user’s biometric credentials to fool an authentication system. Fortunately, as our featured detailed, there are now highly sophisticated ‘liveness detection’ systems that are specifically designed to look for signs of spoofing during the authentication process, reinforcing the security of selfie authentication and helping to drive demand for these biometric onboarding solutions.
And then there’s COVID-19, which has further reinforced the trend toward remote, biometric onboarding and authentication over the course of 2020. Notice a trend here?
Contactless Scanning Takes Off
Yes, it’s hard to escape the impact of COVID-19 – though in the case of face biometrics, the pandemic has served to accelerate progressive trends in adoption of the technology. And a big part of the reason for this is the fact that facial recognition supports contactless authentication sessions, in which there’s no need for end users to touch the shared surfaces of kiosks and other devices.
Our final feature for Face Biometrics Month looked at some of the most prominent use cases of contactless facial recognition, all of which have been seeing increased interest in the wake of the pandemic. Airport administrators and border authorities around the world are embracing face scanning to identify and process passengers. Businesses and large venues are adopting biometric face scanning to get high numbers of people through their doors in a highly efficient fashion. And we’re even starting to see deployments of face-based payment systems designed to let consumers make purchases without the need to handle payment hardware like POS terminals or even credit cards.
An Ongoing Evolution
These are long-term trends that are poised to continue for some time, even after COVID-19 is behind us. But we can also get a strong sense of the present excitement about face biometrics with a quick review of developments over the past few weeks. NXP announced a low-cost microcontroller to help OEMs cheaply integrate facial recognition into their products. Truface entered into a partnership to enhance its facial recognition tech with Modzy’s sophisticated AI models. Exadel announced the launch of its open-source facial recognition application. And multinational security giant IDEMIA announced a mobile travel credential designed to let travelers seamlessly pass through airport security screening with a face scan.
All of which is to say that the technological innovation in face biometrics is ongoing, and the excitement is palpable – with further evidence available in a recent interview with top executives from Aware, Inc. on the ID Talk Podcast. It’s not hard to see why face biometrics is enjoying such a high profile right now, and there’s every reason to expect even more big news to come from this space in the year to come, so stay tuned to FindBiometrics for more updates and analysis beyond Face Biometrics Month.
November 27, 2020 – by Alex Perala