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article imageDigital innovations in facial recognition: Interview Special

By Tim Sandle     Mar 17, 2018 in Technology
Face recognition is increasingly being used in crowded spaces, such as to replace a boarding pass and shorten time at customs or to identify terror suspects to prevent public threats. To see where the technology is heading next, we spoke with FaceFirst.
According to the company FaceFirst, which is a U.S. face recognition software provider, facial recognition can assist greatly in addressing security matters, such as streamlining the entry of athletes and officials during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, some public concerns remain and given the increased use of facial recognition platforms, it is important to identify these concerns and break down how technology works to enhance public safety.
FaceFirst taps into publicly-available databases to identify violent offenders and criminals in spaces including retail stores and airports. To understand more about facial recognition technology and its applications, and to learn about FaceFirst's own platform, Digital Journal spoke with Peter Trepp, CEO of FaceFirst.
FaceFirst s Peter Trepp.
FaceFirst's Peter Trepp.
Digital Journal: What are the main security concerns facing businesses, and how can facial recognition software help?
Peter Trepp: The concerns facing businesses, large facility managers and security personnel are, first, increasing violence crime; second, materials levels of theft (both internal and external); third, fraud from stolen identities, and, fourth, newly emerging terrorist threats, including the insider threat.
In the retail industry, for example, theft is reaching epidemic levels spurred by organized retail crime, which costs the industry approximately $30 billion annually in the United States each year. This crime trend is also associated with growing in-store violence and an increase in insurance costs.
Most large retail chains have data about known organized retail criminals that have stolen from them in the past, but natural limitations on both human memory and perception makes identifying them when they re-enter a store very difficult. Face recognition solves this problem by instantly identifying these individuals and alerting in-store personnel who can prevent theft or fraud from happening. That alone decreases theft and justifies having the technology on site. Because preventing a crime is far more effective than stopping a crime that is already in progress, we see in-store violence being reduced by an average of 91 percent.
In comparison, venue managers for professional sports teams face major challenges with fan violence and the threat of terrorism. When it comes to event management, a single pro sports team may ban hundreds of fans in a single season. Face recognition is the only effective solution for keeping unwanted fans out of their facility, which helps improve the overall experience for those who come to enjoy the event.
In both examples, existing technology and security personnel are only so effective at mitigating violence and crime. Facial recognition is a powerful tool that stops crime before it happens and makes for a safer environment for everyone involved.
DJ: What are the concerns that some businesses have about facial recognition, and how can these concerns be addressed?
Trepp: The primary concern businesses have about facial recognition is the public’s concern about privacy. Privacy is a matter to be taken very seriously and we, as a company, care a great deal about individual privacy. We employ several strategies to ensure that facial recognition data is both private and secure. First, our software is designed to focus on the criminal, their associates, and the crime they intend to commit. Non-criminals are not retained in databases and no person’s information is used for marketing or promotional purposes at any time.
Second, our policies and procedures ensure that we are supporting our customers with best practices around mitigating violent crime, theft and other criminal behavior. Criminals that are identified are usually approached and offered customer service before they commit a crime. Experience tells us that this approach alone is highly effective at thwarting crime. We do not advocate or support detaining individuals, or apprehending individuals at any time. If needed, police are contacted to take over a situation.
Third, non-criminals are not being tracked or compared against social media databases as some media has reported. While we see innovative solutions coming for valuable applications of facial recognition where consumers will opt-in to an improved shopping experience that includes facial recognition, it is virtually non-existent today.
DJ: But privacy remains an issue with some people?
Trepp: To put privacy into context, we have lived for years under the watchful eye of video surveillance. There are hundreds of millions of dome cameras watching all of us and recording video onto DVRs. These systems were designed to deter crime, but do not make a distinction between criminals and non-criminals. They have also proven to be ineffective at deterring crime. Yet virtually no one is concerned about these cameras and what they are recording. Comparatively, the Chinese government seeks to identify every citizen and know their location at all times. Our technology is not designed to track individuals in this way, is not nearly capable of doing that, and is run by people who seek to secure their facilities.
FaceFirst conducted several surveys to gauge the attitudes of both businesses and consumers toward facial recognition. A significant majority of consumers were in favor of implementing facial recognition to better guarantee their safety at retail outlets, sports venues, concert venues and airports, and would even feel less safe should surveillance be removed from these high-traffic settings.
DJ: How does the FaceFirst technology work?
Trepp: The FaceFirst platform consists of surveillance, mobile ID and access control capabilities, along with a unique underlying database technology. Our algorithm is trained using an AI, neural network and deep learning software. We use a demographically diverse and large database for maximum accuracy across a variety of global locations. In surveillance situations, for example, our software seeks to match individuals who come into view of our cameras against a database of up to millions of faces in real time. If there is a match, an alert is sent to security personnel (or anyone inside our customer’s organization, usually into a security center and/or onto a mobile device again in real time. This is why FaceFirst is highly effective at stopping crime before it happens.
DJ: Where has FaceFirst been deployed?
Trepp: FaceFirst is a global company spanning law enforcement, retail, transportation and many other industries across North America, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.
DJ: How do you ensure the technology is up-to-date?
Trepp: We deploy our software into both public and private clouds. Depending upon our customer needs, we will meet their security requirements. However, in all cases, we have designed the software to be easily upgraded and integrated with other platforms as needed.
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