Download PDF version Contact company

While the application of facial recognition within both public and private spheres continues to draw criticism from those who see it as a threat to civil rights, this technology has become extremely commonplace in the lives of iPhone users. It is so prevalent, in fact, that by 2024 it is predicted that 90% of smartphones will use biometric facial recognition hardware.

CCTV surveillance cameras 

Similarly, CCTV is a well-established security measure that many of us are familiar with, whether through spotting images displayed on screens in shops, hotels and offices, or noticing cameras on the side of buildings. It is therefore necessary we ask the question of why, when facial recognition is integrated with security surveillance technology, does it become such a source of contention?

It is not uncommon for concerns to be voiced against innovation. History has taught us that it is human nature to fear the unknown, especially if it seems that it may change life as we know it. Yet technology is an ever-changing, progressive part of the 21st century and it is important we start to shift the narrative away from privacy threats, to the force for good that LFR (Live Facial Recognition) represents.

Live Facial Recognition (LFR)

We understand the arguments from those that fear the ethics of AI and the data collection within facial recognition

Across recent weeks, we have seen pleas from UK organizations to allow better police access to facial recognition technology in order to fight crime. In the US, there are reports that LAPD is the latest police force to be properly regulating its use of facial recognition to aid criminal investigations, which is certainly a step in the right direction. While it is understandable that society fears technology that they do not yet understand, this lack of knowledge is exactly why the narrative needs to shift.

We understand the arguments from those that fear the ethics of AI and the data collection within facial recognition, we respect these anxieties. However, it is time to level the playing field of the facial recognition debate and communicate the plethora of benefits it offers society.

Facial recognition technology - A force for good

Facial recognition technology has already reached such a level of maturity and sophistication that there are huge opportunities for it to be leveraged as a force for good in real-world scenarios. As well as making society safer and more secure, I would go as far to say that LFR is able to save lives.

One usage that could have a dramatic effect on reducing stress in people with mental conditions is the ability for facial recognition to identify those with Alzheimer’s. If an older individual is seemingly confused, lost or distressed, cameras could alert local medical centers or police stations of their identity, condition and where they need to go (a home address or a next of kin contact).

Granted, this usage would be one that does incorporate a fair bit of personal data, although this information would only be gathered with consent from each individual. Vulnerable people could volunteer their personal data to local watchlists in order to ensure their safety when out in society, as well as to allow quicker resolutions of typically stressful situations.

Tracking and finding missing persons

Another possibility for real world positives to be drawn from facial recognition is to leverage the technology to help track or find missing persons, a lost child for instance. The most advanced forms of LFR in the market are now able to recognize individuals even if up to 50% of their face is covered and from challenging or oblique angles.

Therefore, there is a significant opportunity not only to return people home safely, more quickly, but also reduce police hours spent on analyzing CCTV footage.

Rapid scanning of images

Facial recognition technology can rapidly scan images for a potential match

Facial recognition technology can rapidly scan images for a potential match, as a more reliable and less time-consuming option than the human alternative. Freed-up officers could also then work more proactively on the ground, patrolling their local areas and increasing community safety and security twofold.

It is important to understand that these facial recognition solutions should not be applied to every criminal case, and the technology must be used responsibly. However, these opportunities to use LFR as force for good are undeniable.  

Debunking the myths

One of the central concerns around LFR is the breach of privacy that is associated with ‘watchlists’. There is a common misconception, however, that the data of every individual that passes a camera is processed and then stored. The reality is that watch lists are compiled with focus on known criminals, while the general public can continue life as normal.

The very best facial recognition will effectively view a stream of blurred faces, until it detects one that it has been programmed to recognize. For example, an individual that has previously shoplifted from a local supermarket may have their biometric data stored, so when they return to that location the employees are alerted to a risk of further crimes being committed.

Considering that the cost of crime prevention to retailers in recent years has been around £1 billion, which therefore impacts consumer prices and employee wages, security measures to tackle this issue are very much in the public interest. Most importantly, the average citizen has no need to fear being ‘followed’ by LFR cameras. If data is stored, it is for a maximum of 0.6 seconds before being deleted.


Privacy is ingrained in facial recognition solutions, yet it seems the debate often ignores this side of the story

Privacy is ingrained in facial recognition solutions, yet it seems the debate often ignores this side of the story. It is essential we spend more time and effort communicating exactly why watchlists are made, who they are made for and how they are being used, if we want to de-bunk myths and change the narrative.

As science and technology professionals, heading up this exciting innovation, we must put transparency and accountability at the center of what we do. Tony Porter, former Surveillance Camera Commissioner and current CPO at Corsight AI, has previously worked on developing processes that audit and review watch lists. Such restrictions are imperative in order for AI and LFR to be used legally, as well as ethically and responsibly.

Biometrics, mask detection and contactless payments

Nevertheless, the risks do not outweigh the benefits. Facial recognition should and can be used for good in so many more ways than listed above, including biometric, contactless payments, detecting whether an individual is wearing a facemask and is therefore, safe to enter a building, identifying a domestic abuse perpetrator returning to the scene of a crime and alerting police.

There are even opportunities for good that we have not thought of yet. It is therefore not only a waste not to use this technology where we can, prioritising making society a safer place, it is immoral to stand by and let crimes continue while we have effective, reliable mitigation solutions.  

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Rob Watts Chief Executive Officer (CEO), CorsightAI Inc.

In case you missed it

What Is The Impact Of Remote Working On Security?
What Is The Impact Of Remote Working On Security?

During the coronavirus lockdown, employees worked from home in record numbers. But the growing trend came with a new set of security challenges. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What is the impact of the transition to remote working/home offices on the security market?

The Future Of Accommodation: When Coliving And PropTech Combine
The Future Of Accommodation: When Coliving And PropTech Combine

As technology develops at an ever-faster rate, the possibilities for where and how new innovations can be used are endless. The property sector is one such area where new technology, such as smarter video surveillance, is being used to improve the quality of life for families and communities by increasing security as well as implementing changes based on new insights. Specifically for the coliving movement, cloud-based video surveillance is helping operators to improve the communal spaces for their tenants in ways that on-premises surveillance never could. From tighter security measures to better social spaces, here’s how coliving is benefitting from the PropTech (property technology) boom. What is coliving? The coliving movement is the latest iteration of a recurring human trend. The act of communally sharing space and resources while benefiting from a supportive community is something we’ve seen time and again throughout history. A place that everyone can call home addresses multiple needs. With the concept of shared spaces, and the possibility to work and socialize together, it’s no longer simply a trend. Specifically for the coliving movement, cloud-based video surveillance is helping operators to improve the communal spaces for their tenants in ways that on-premises surveillance never could. As living expenses become ever higher, for many – particularly younger – people getting on the property ladder is difficult, and renting an apartment alone can feel isolating. Coliving spaces offer a ready-built community, and many responsibilities – like maintenance, for example – lie with the building owners, and the cost is included. Where does PropTech come in? PropTech is dramatically changing the way people research, rent, buy, sell and manage property. The combination of the internet, huge compute power, cloud platforms and artificial intelligence (AI) have all combined to create technologies that are transforming the way the entire property sector works. Whether that’s helping buildings to operate more efficiently or even become more sustainable, PropTech is a sector that’s on the rise. When it comes to coliving, PropTech is helping to make these environments safer and smarter for the people who live there. One of the fundamental areas of building design is people’s safety. Following the past year where health has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds, PropTech is enabling entrance systems with touchless doorways and innovative ventilation systems, for example. And even without taking the pandemic into consideration, people living in shared spaces need to be confident that the security is well-managed, and the management wants to ensure that only tenants and their guests can enter the premises. How cloud video surveillance drives better coliving Once seen as an ‘add-on’ to building design, video surveillance and access control are now becoming increasingly important elements of the PropTech movement, and they are equally as desirable for coliving too. Surveillance cameras are essentially sensors that can monitor activity, patterns, and any other changes in a given environment. Analysis of video data can occur in real-time to effect changes immediately, or video can be stored and evaluated at a later date. In a co-living environment, a cloud-based video surveillance system can help operators to understand how tenants use their space, and implement changes to benefit them. Traditionally, video surveillance data stored on-premises had limited uses, as it was often only accessed after a security incident, such as a break-in. The video therefore wouldn’t be used frequently and the camera and storage system would just be another cost not yielding any ROI. Cloud technology has had a dramatic impact on video surveillance. Remote management delivers the ability to modify, adjust and perfect the system without needing to be present at the site, while remote monitoring alerts operators to any unusual incidents such as an equipment malfunction or breakage. In a co-living environment, a cloud-based video surveillance system can help operators to understand how tenants use their space, and implement changes to benefit them. For example, surveillance can show operators which areas in the communal spaces are frequented the most and at what times, including areas such as the laundry room or gym where space might be limited. By using AI to analyze the video, operators can use insights from it to improve the existing set up wherever possible, and also learn lessons about how to better design future coliving spaces. In today’s world, this technology can also help to keep everyone safe and healthy. Cameras can identify if someone is wearing a face mask as they go to enter a building and deny entry until they put one on. Thermal cameras are another easy tool to screen people for an elevated temperature before they even enter a communal space. Though a raised temperature does not mean you have COVID-19, the technology can provide an initial screening, so that individuals with elevated temperature readings can be checked manually for other symptoms or possibly be recommended for a test. The future of smart living Coliving is not a new phenomenon – humans have been living in communal places for many years, working and socializing together for the benefit of everyone. What makes today’s coliving movement unique is the range of rapidly developing technology that is being implemented to improve the environments for tenants. As an arguably lower cost and higher quality way of life, coliving spaces are certainly here to stay, and so the PropTech surge is no doubt going to grow with it.

How Have Security Solutions Failed Our Schools?
How Have Security Solutions Failed Our Schools?

School shootings are a high-profile reminder of the need for the highest levels of security at our schools and education facilities. Increasingly, a remedy to boost the security at schools is to use more technology. However, no technology is a panacea, and ongoing violence and other threats at our schools suggest some level of failure. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: How have security solutions failed our schools and what is the solution?