How does facial recognition work

Facial recognition is an advanced technology that helps in discerning and identifying human faces from an image or video. A system employed to perform facial recognition uses biometrics to map facial features from the photo or video. It compares this information with a large database of recorded faces to find a correct match.

How does facial recognition work

Computer scientist Ross Micheals demonstrating the facial recognition setup of his organization (Photo Credit : National Institute of Standards and Technology
/Wikimedia Commons)

Facial recognition is touted to be one of the top 3 methods of biometric recognition to identify people by measuring some aspect of individual physiology or anatomy. Facial recognition is the fastest-growing biometric technology and is expected to grow to $7.7 billion by 2022. This is because facial recognition has a wide range of commercial applications and is relatively simple to set up. It can be used for everything from surveillance to targeted marketing.

History of Facial Recognition

Facial recognition technology gained popularity in the early 1990s when the United States Department of Defense was seeking a technology that could spot criminals who furtively crossed borders. The Defense Department roped in eminent university scientists and experts in the field of facial recognition for this purpose by providing them with research financing.

Facial recognition made bold headlines in early 2001 immediately after it was first used in a public space—at Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa—by the law enforcement authorities to search for criminals and terrorists among the crowd of thousands of spectators. Soon after that, facial recognition systems were installed in other sensitive parts of the US to keep track of felonious activities.

Although facial recognition is the fastest-growing biometric technology, it also happens to be the most controversial. After the 9/11 tragedy, many people supported the use of this new technology, but as the technology made deeper inroads to our lives, many realized that it could pose a threat to individual privacy and could also potentially lead to identity theft. No matter which side of this debate you’re on, it is worth knowing how this fast-growing technology works and what it can do.

How Facial Recognition Works

A facial recognition setup consists of advanced cameras that capture photos of people who pose or simply walk by, and sophisticated software working on those pictures will attempt to find the right match from the vast database to identify the person(s) in the image. Now, let’s take a closer look at the technical details of how these systems work.

Basic steps in facial identification

As mentioned earlier, facial recognition methods vary slightly, depending on the application and manufacturer, but they generally involve a series of steps that serve to capture, process, analyze and match the captured face to a database of recorded images. These basic steps are:

    Detection: When the facial recognition system is attached to a video surveillance system, the recognition software scans the field of view of the camera for what it detects as faces. Upon the detection of each face-like image on a head-shaped form, it sends the face to the system to process it further. The system then estimates the head’s position, orientation, and size. Generally, a face needs to be turned at least 35 degrees toward the camera for the camera to detect it.

How does facial recognition work

Face detection (Photo Credit : Sylenius/Wikimedia Commons)

How does facial recognition work

An illustration of face normalization (Photo credit: Pixabay)

Applications of Facial Recognition

A lot of organizations and businesses are using facial recognition, albeit for varying purposes. Governments across the globe are using facial recognition systems at airports to monitor people coming and going from their country. The US Department of Homeland Security, for instance, has a system to identify people who have overstayed their visas or may be under criminal investigation.

Apple’s iPhone first made facial recognition a household term. Since then, most mid-range to high-end smartphones come with a face unlock feature to authenticate the phone. Face unlock is a form of facial recognition that ensures that you are actually you when attempting to access your phone. Apple Face ID is arguably the most robust facial recognition feature out there when it comes to smartphones, with the chance of a random face unlocking the iPhone being just one in 1 million.

How does facial recognition work

Face unlock (Image Credit: Flickr)

Most popular social media companies these days use some form of facial recognition. Facebook uses an algorithm called DeepFace to detect faces when you upload a photo to its platform. Upon uploading the photos, it asks if you want to tag people in the uploaded photos. If you allow this, it automatically detects faces and creates a link to their profiles. Facebook claims that its facial recognition system is 98% accurate.

Interestingly, even some religious groups have started to use facial recognition technology to test the belief of their followers! Many churches are using a facial recognition system called Churchix to scan congregations and record the attendance of the individuals who are present. Facial recognition is helping church management keep track of people regarding the regularity of their church visits.

How does facial recognition work

– Here’s everything you need to know about Face ID

– Use it to unlock your device and authenticate payments

– You can also use it for animated emoji in Messages

(Pocket-lint) – Apple’s Face ID is a facial-recognition technology that launched on the iPhone X in 2017. The technology replaces Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanning system for the company’s latest iPhones, including the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max and it will likely be found on future iPhones too.

Face ID uses a “TrueDepth camera system”, which consists of sensors, cameras, and a dot projector at the top of the iPhone display in the notch to create a detailed 3D map of your face. Every time you look at your phone, the system will conduct a secure authentication check, enabling your device to be unlocked or your payment to be authorised quickly and intuitively if it recognises you.

Here’s how Face ID works.

How does facial recognition work

How does Face ID work?

TrueDepth camera system

Each time you glance at your iPhone X (or newer), the TrueDepth camera system will detect your face with a flood illuminator, even in the dark.

An infrared camera will then take an image, and a dot projector will project out over 30,000 invisible infrared dots. This system uses the infrared image and the infrared dots, and pushes them through neural networks to create a mathematical model of your face.

Neural networks

Your iPhone X (or newer) will check scans (or mathematical models) of your face against the one you’ve setup and stored on your device to see if it’s a match, and if it is, it will unlock your phone or authorise a payment on Apple Pay.

This all happens in real-time and invisibly. Apple said it worked with thousands of people across the world and took over a billion images, and with that, it developed multiple neural networks to form its Face ID technology.

A11/A12/A13 Bionic neural engine

In order to process all the data needed for Face ID, via machine learning, Apple had to develop the A11 Bionic neural engine. This chip was upgraded to the A12 Bionic neural engine in the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR devices, offering further improvements to the Face ID technology, followed by the A13 in the latest iPhones.

In a nutshell, the chips are specialised hardware built for a set of machine learning algorithms. They can handle hundreds of billions of operations per second and can therefore be used for technology, such as real-time Face ID recognition.

You, of course, don’t really need to understand any of this, because as the user, Face ID is simple to use and works almost every time. It’s 30 per cent faster now than it was when it first launched too and more angles are also supported, allowing you to unlock your device when it is flat on the table so long as you’re close by whereas when Face ID first arrived, you had to pick your iPhone up.

How does facial recognition work

How do you set up Face ID?

Here’s how to set up Face ID:

  1. Tap Settings
  2. Tap Face ID & Passcode
  3. Enter your passcode
  4. Tap ‘Enroll Face’ (under Face ID)
  5. Tap ‘Get Started’ and follow the on-screen prompts
  6. You will be asked to position your face within a frame
  7. Move your head around so it can be properly scanned

When setting up Face ID, you’ll need to move your heard around slowly so that Face ID can fully recognise your face. The setup process will take two scans of your face and then that’s it.

The scans enable Face ID to learn your face, so if you change your hair style, put on sunglasses, or grow a beard, Face ID should be able to adapt and still work. It will work both during the day and night, too.

Does Face ID work for payments?

Yes, aside from unlocking your iPhone X or newer device, Face ID can be used to pay for things via Apple Pay.

You’ll need to double-tap the Power/Wake button on the side of your iPhone X or newer device as usual. You’ll then need to look at your device to authenticate, and once authenticated, hold it near the contactless payment terminal.

Does Face ID work with apps?

Yes, Face ID also works with numerous third-party apps, including many banking apps and apps including Mint, One Password, and E-trade.

Is Face ID secure?

When Face ID launched, Apple said it worked hard to ensure Face ID can’t be spoofed by things, like photographs. It even worked with professional mask-makers and make-up artists in Hollywood to train its neural networks and thus protect Face ID against those sort of bypass attempts.

Your face data is also protected by a secure enclave in the Bionic chips, and all the processing is done on the chips, whether that be the A11, A12 or A13. That means your face data is not sent to a server.

Face ID also requires your attention to unlock, so if your eyes are closed, or if you’re looking away, it’s not going to unlock. According to Apple, the chances of someone being able to unlock your iPhone X (or newer) using Face ID is one in one million – an improvement over Touch ID, which Apple claimed has a false-positive rating of one in 50,000.

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That statistic is lowered if you have a twin, so you will really need to set up a passcode in that instance.

How does facial recognition work

What if someone steals your iPhone?

According to Apple’s software engineering chief, Craig Federighi – who notably replied to an email from a developer, Keith Krimbel, who asked the company what would stop a thief from taking someone’s iPhone X (or newer), then pointing it at their face, and running off with the unlocked device – Apple made sure there were two mitigations in place: “If you don’t stare at the phone, it won’t unlock,” he said.

“Also, if you grip the buttons on both sides of the phone when [you] hand it over, it will temporarily disable Face ID,” Federighi explained. So, squeezing the buttons on both sides of iPhone X (or newer) disables Face ID.

What else do you need to know?

Face ID also works with emoji. Apple developed a type of emoji called Animoji when it launched the iPhone X in 2017 and it’s since developed Memoji’s too. These are animated emoji. You control these with your face, as they actually match the motions of your face.

To create and share Animoji or Memoji, use Apple’s Messages app.

Fingerprint and touchpad IDs have been around for a few years, but facial recognition software on smartphones, like Apple’s Face ID, is relatively new technology. So how does facial recognition work? Simply put, it uses a biometric software application to identify and verify people by analyzing the unique features of their face. While cell phone manufacturers mostly use this software for security purposes, such as unlocking your smartphone, Apple has started using it for digital payments on Apple Pay as well.

It may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but facial recognition technology is becoming more and more popular. As you shop around for a new phone, consider the pros and cons of getting a smartphone with this cutting-edge technology.

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Facial recognition vs. touchpad ID

Facial recognition and fingerprint ID have their pros and cons. In theory, both are faster and more secure than simply entering a passcode.

Fingerprint recognition works by reading the differences in conductivity created by the tiny ridges in your finger, then compares it to the snapshot of your fingerprint it has memorized. It’s a widely accepted and trusted form of security, and smartphones have featured touchpad IDs for years — the iPhone 5s, introduced in 2013, was the first cell phone on a major U.S. carrier to have this technology. Touch ID can be extremely effective, but it has its flaws. Dirt, grease, gloves, or damage to the user’s finger can all affect how well it works, and the chances of someone else’s fingerprint being able to unlock your phone are one in 50,000.

Facial recognition uses nothing more than your face to unlock your phone. Facial recognition on phones has many benefits:

  • It’s fast and convenient — no buttons required.
  • It analyzes multiple parts of your face, including the placement of your eyes and the width of your nose, and combines all these features into a unique code that identifies you.
  • It can work with the built-in camera on your phone.
  • The chances of a random person being able to unlock your phone are one in a million.

Is facial recognition safe?

One in a million are safe odds, but using a face password isn’t 100% safe from hackers (or identical twins). Plus, there are some privacy concerns — where is Apple storing your face data and how accessible is that data to third parties? For now, Apple keeps it private by encrypting it on your smartphone.

Apple’s Face ID is considered the most secure — it uses an infrared camera, depth sensor, and dot projector to map 30,000 points on your face. From that, the software creates an artificial 3D scan that is secure enough to unlock your phone and verify digital payments through Apple Pay. Facial recognition software used by other companies isn’t as sophisticated; it creates a 2D map, sometimes coupled with an iris scanner, meaning it can potentially be hacked with a photo of the user. It doesn’t function well in poor lighting or if the angle of the phone isn’t right.

Devices that offer facial recognition

Apple’s iPhone X series and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 and 9 are the most popular devices with facial recognition right now. As other companies follow suit, it’s estimated that over one billion smartphones will use digital 3D face scanning in the next two years. In addition to Apple and Samsung, popular devices that offer this feature include Motorola Moto G6, OnePlus 6, Oppo Find X, Huawei Honor 7X, and LG G7. These devices scan faces using a 2D scanner, iris scanner, or a combination of the two. You can also download facial recognition applications like FaceLock, which lets you access or restrict other apps using facial recognition.

As facial recognition becomes more popular, it’s important to research the pros and cons as you consider getting a phone with this feature.

When you post a photo on Facebook, and the platform automatically tags the people in the image, you might not give much thought to the technology behind the convenience. However, when you discover that facial recognition technology could track you without your permission while you walk down a street in London, it might make you question the invasion of your privacy. Just like with any other new technology, facial recognition brings positives and negatives with it. Since it’s here to stay and expanding, it’s good to be aware of the pros and cons of facial recognition.

How does facial recognition work

Facial Recognition Technology: Here Are The Important Pros And Cons

What is facial recognition, and how does it work?

Facial recognition is a biometric technology that uses distinguishable facial features to identify a person. Allied Market Research expects the facial recognition market to grow to $9.6 billion by 2022. Today, it’s used in a variety of ways from allowing you to unlock your phone, go through security at the airport, purchase products at stores and in the case of entertainer and musician Taylor Swift it was used to identify if her known stalkers came through the gate at her Rose Bowl concert in May 2018.

Today, we are inundated with data of all kinds, but the plethora of photo and video data available provides the dataset required to make facial recognition technology work. Facial recognition systems analyze the visual data and millions of images and videos created by high-quality Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras installed in our cities for security, smartphones, social media, and other online activity. Machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities in the software map distinguishable facial features mathematically, look for patterns in the visual data, and compare new images and videos to other data stored in facial recognition databases to determine identity.

Pros of facial recognition

One of the major advantages of facial recognition technology is safety and security. Law enforcement agencies use the technology to uncover criminals or to find missing children or seniors. In New York, police were able to apprehend an accused rapist using facial recognition technology within 24 hours of an incident where he threatened a woman with rape at knifepoint. In cities where police don’t have time to help fight petty crime, business owners are installing facial-recognition systems to watch people and identify subjects of interest when they come in their stores.

Airports are increasingly adding facial recognition technology to security checkpoints; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security predicts that it will be used on 97 percent of travelers by 2023. When people know they are being watched, they are less likely to commit crimes so the possibility of facial recognition technology being used could deter crime.

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Since there is no contact required for facial recognition like there is with fingerprinting or other security measures, facial recognition offers a quick, automatic, and seamless verification experience. There is nothing such as a key or I.D. that can be lost or stolen.

Facial recognition can add conveniences. In addition to helping you tag photos in Facebook or your cloud storage via Apple and Google, you will start to be able to check-out at stores without pulling out money or credit cards—your face will be scanned. At the A.I. Bar, facial recognition technology is used to add patrons who approach the bar to a running queue to get served their drinks more efficiently.

Although possible, it’s hard to fool facial recognition technology so it can also help prevent fraud.

Cons of facial recognition

The biggest drawback for facial recognition technology in most people’s opinions is the threat to an individual’s privacy. In fact, several cities have considered or will ban real-time facial recognition surveillance use by law enforcement, including San Francisco, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and more. These municipalities determined the risks of using the technology outweighed the benefits. Police can still use footage from personally owned devices such as Nest cameras to find criminals; it’s just not allowing the government entities to use live facial recognition software.

While London’s King’s Cross is using facial recognition, London is also at the forefront of democratic societies in its testing of the technology. In test events, the city hopes to determine the accuracy of the systems while grappling with how to deal with individuals who cover up to hide their identity from cameras and other issues. Additionally, democratic societies must define the legal basis to live facial-recognition of the general population, and when blanket use of the technology is justified.

The technology isn’t as effective at identifying people of color and women as it is white males. One reason for this is the data set the algorithms are trained on is not as robust for people of color and women. Until this is rectified, there are concerns about the ramifications for misidentifying people with the technology.

In addition, there are issues that need to be resolved that can throw off the technology when a person changes appearance or the camera angle isn’t quite right (although they are working on being able to identify a person by only their earlobe). It’s dramatically improving; according to independent tests by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) facial recognition systems got 20 times better at finding a match in a database over a period that covered 2014 to 2018.

Another potential downside is the storage of sensitive personal data and the challenges that come with it. Just last week, we have had the news that a database containing facial scans used by banks, police forces, and defense firms where breached.

In order to benefit from the positive aspects of facial recognition, our society is going to have to work through some significant challenges to our privacy and civil liberties. Will individuals accept the invasion of their privacy as a proper cost to being more secure and for the conveniences facial recognition provides?

July 29, 2019 by Adam Smith

You have seen it in the movies a camera scans someone’s face and it opens a door or starts a computer system or car. You probably thought wow that is cool we need to create this technology. Well, it has actually been around for some time now. Facial recognition software is now used in smartphones and other technology that we use on a daily basis.

What is facial recognition software?

Facial recognition is a software-based application designed to identify and verify a person’s facial features. Software from the category biometrics maps and stores the data as a faceprint.

How to does Facial recognition software work?

Have you heard of nodal points? If not let me explain this part first. Nodal points on a human face are endpoints that the software uses to measure certain variables of the persons face. There are 80 nodal points used. Some of those are as follows:

  • Lenght of someone’s nose
  • Width of someone’s nose
  • Eye socket depth
  • Cheekbone shape

This data is captured and stored in a digital image of the persons face. Keep in mind that this recognition software works well from an unobscured frontal face view. If someone is from a side view or obstructed some the recognition becomes less accurate. The power of some biometric software is data for the program to learn.

For instance, if a program is run to show someone wearing a green hat then if that program is fed millions of photos of a someone wearing a green hat it will become smarter because it has a lot of data to run against to know what to look for when searching someone wearing a green hat.

What is facial recognition used for?

Facial recognition is used for many different things. Although you may be most familiar with this technology in newer smartphones the technology is used many things you may not be familiar with. Below are some benefits of facial recognition:

Smartphone access: The technology allows the device to store a faceprint within your phone that when matched can unlock your device.

Security and law enforcement: The technology allows law enforcement to scan crowds to identify threats and criminals.

Casinos: Casinos use this technology to stop people that should not be inside casinos for whatever reason. Facial recognition scans can help identify these people among a crowd.

Social Media Platforms: Social giant Facebook uses face recognition to know when users appear in photos.

Secure transactions: China already uses this type of technology to allow customers to pay for food by scanning faces.

Schools: Schools can use this technology to allow a face to be scanned before entering a building. It can also be used to scan a child’s attention and body language to know if they are focused or distracted.

Can you do a face search on Google?

You can use google image search. If you are saying to yourself image search on Google? Yes, that’s right not only can you search in the typical manner you are accustom to, but you can also search for images as well. The image search feature will allow you to paste the image URL from a website or upload an image from your computer. Google will then find similar images.

Biometric software and school students in China

China uses biometric software within the school to monitor if a child is focusing or distracted among other things that can help that child succeed. Although this is a hot topic the software itself knows when a child could be struggling with a topic that would allow the teacher to focus more on that piece with the child. It is also used to scan to allow the child’s face to even allow them to enter gates to get to the school. This is an added security measure in the wake of all too common school shootings.

Future of facial recognition

Biometric technology in terms of facial recognition is going to be a massive player in our society in our opinions. As more and more faces are introduced and stored as faceprints the more valuable this type of technology becomes.

Computers and recognition software will become smarter as these programs build up and learn what to look for. It is already changing the way we do business, interact at school, and in our social lives directly online. As advancements in technology grow so will the recognition apps and software.

The future of facial recognition will only increase worldwide. This technology is very beneficial to many corporations large and small.

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Facial recognition technology uses a database of photos, such as mugshots and driver’s license photos to identify people in security photos and videos. It uses biometrics to map facial features and help verify identity through key features of the face. The most key feature is the geometry of a face such as the distance between a person’s eyes and the distance from their forehead to their chin. This then creates what is called a “facial signature.” It is a mathematical formula that is then compared to a database of known faces.

The market for this technology is growing exponentially. According to a research report “Facial Recognition Market” by Component, the facial recognition industry is expected to grow $3.2 billion in 2019 to $7.0 billion by 2024 in the U.S. The most significant uses for the technology being for surveillance and marketing. This, however, raises concerns for many people.

The main reason for concerns amongst citizens is the lack of federal regulations surrounding the use of facial recognition technology. Many are worried about how accurate the technology is and if there are biases and misinformation in these technologies. One issue, for example, is that the technology has been proven in multiple studies to be inaccurate at identifying people of color, especially black women.

Another major concern is the use of facial recognition for law enforcement purposes. Today, many police departments in the U.S., including New York City, Chicago, Detroit and Orlando, have begun utilizing the technology. According to a May 2018 report, the FBI has access to 412 million facial images for searches.

Not only is this a concern with the possibility of misidentifying someone and leading to wrongful convictions, it can also be very damaging to our society by being abused by law enforcement for things like constant surveillance of the public. Currently, the Chinese government is already using facial recognition to arrest jaywalkers and other petty crimes that cause debate amongst what is considered basic civil rights and privacy issues versus protecting the public. Accuracy and accountability are necessary when it comes to the use of technology, especially regarding the justice system.

The concerns have not gone unnoticed by politicians and many cities have started to create legislation around these issues. Oregon and New Hampshire have banned the use of facial recognition in body cameras for police officers. California cities, such as San Francisco and Oakland, and some cities in Massachusetts have outlawed certain uses of facial recognition technology for city officials including law enforcement.

The Utah Department of Public Safety has also put forth some bans on the use of facial recognition for active criminal cases. Law enforcement in Utah claim that the use of facial recognition software helps keep dangerous criminals off the streets, but advocates say that there is no checks and balances when it comes to the system. Recent pushes from Portland, Oregon show that they are soon to follow suit.

The latest legislation push to put limitations on facial recognition technology is a California bill, AB 1215, also referred to as the Body Camera Accountability Act. This bill will temporarily stop California law enforcement from adding face and other biometric surveillance technology to officer-worn body cameras for use against the public in California.

According to the ACLU of Southern California, “AB 1215 is a common-sense bill that rightly concludes that keeping our communities safe doesn’t have to come at the expense of our fundamental freedoms. We should all be able to safely live our lives without being watched and targeted by the government.”

Governor Gavin Newsom must decide whether or not to sign it into law by October 13. If he does, it will go into effect in January.

Law enforcement isn’t the only issue with the technology that is of concern. U.S. Customs and Border Protection in partnership with Delta have added facial scanning to the Atlanta airport’s Concourse E, its Detroit hub, boarding gates in Minneapolis and Salt Lake City, and this month to Los Angeles International Airport. The use of this technology causes concerns about how much people are being watched and if hackers can access this data causing more harm than good.

An activist group called Fight for the Future said facial recognition is an invasive technology that can be used for surveillance.

“Facial recognition really doesn’t have a place in society,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future. “It’s deeply invasive, and from our perspective, the potential harm to society and human liberties far outweigh the potential benefits.”

How does facial recognition work

Professionals define face recognition as a biometric software app that is able to uniquely identify or verify a person through comparison and analysis patterns based on the person’s facial contours. Each person has a unique facial structure. Special software can analyze it, comparing it with information in a database for subsequent identification of who you are.

How Does it Work?

There are several methods to create an algorithm for facial recognition.

An empirical approach was used at the very beginning of the development of computer vision. It is similar to how humans use their brains to detect a face. For instance, the forehead is usually brighter than the central part of the face, which, in turn, is uniform in brightness and color. Another sign is the presence of parts of the face in the image – nose, mouth, eyes. This approach is easy to implement but is practically useless when there are any foreign objects in the background, several faces in the frame, or when the angle changes.

Another approach uses invariant features characteristic of the face image. As in the previous method, it is based on an attempt by the system to “think” like a human being. The method shows the characteristic parts of a face; its borders, changes in shape, contrast, etc., combines all these features and verifies. This method can be used even when the head is turned, but recognition becomes impossible in the presence of other faces or a non-uniform background.

All modern face recognition systems use systems that learn using test images. For training, bases with and without images containing faces are used. Fragments of the image are characterized as a vector of features, with which algorithms for determining an object in a frame determine whether a part of an image is a face or not.

Technologically, systems can sometimes be very different in terms of face recognition, but they all have roughly universal principles of operation:


For starters, the camera will detect a person’s face, whether they are alone or in a crowd. The face is best recognized when a person is looking directly into the camera. Modern technological advances also make it possible to detect a face in situations where a person is not looking directly into the camera (of course, within certain limits).


When a photo of a face is taken, analysis begins. Most face recognition solutions use 2D images instead of 3D volumetric images because they can more easily match 2D photos with publicly available images or photos in a database. Each face is made up of distinguishable features or anchor points. Each human face has 80 nodal points. Facial recognition software analyzes nodes like the distance between your eyes or the shape of your cheekbones.

Image-to-Data Conversion

After that, the analysis of your face turns into a mathematical formula. Your facial features become a numeric code. Such a numeric code is called a faceprint. Similar to the unique structure of the thumbprint, each person has their facial print.

Where is Facial Recognition Used?

Face recognition technologies are used in a wide variety of areas:

  • Security in crowded places
  • Avoidance of illegal entry, intruder search
  • Face control in the catering and entertainment segment, search for suspicious and potentially dangerous visitors
  • Verification of bank cards
  • Online payments
  • Contextual advertising, digital marketing
  • Forensics
  • Teleconferences
  • Mobile applications
  • Search for photos in large databases
  • Tagging people on photos on social networks, and many others

While facial recognition technologies may seem futuristic, they are already actively used in a variety of ways. Here are some great uses for this technology.

Identification of genetic disorders

There are special medical applications such as Face2Gene and DeepGestalt that use facial recognition to detect genetic abnormalities. They analyze faces and compare them to a database of faces of people with various disabilities.


Many stores are equipped with facial recognition systems that distinguish people as a threat if they steal something from stores. Such systems can identify a shoplifter and notify the store owner, even if the thief has never been to the store before. While such a system can provide significant benefits to store owners, such systems’ effectiveness is often called into question.

School Safety

Facial recognition is also introduced in schools. One school in Sweden tried to use FRT to check attendance in class. Schools in the United States, especially New York, are beginning to test the use of facial recognition technology as an “early warning system” against threats from individuals such as sex offenders. The technology can also recognize ten weapons to prevent acts of violence in schools.


Airlines such as Delta and JetBlue use facial recognition to identify passengers. Biometric facial scanning is optional but allows passengers to use their faces as a ticket, saving time, and reducing ticket verification costs.

Final Thoughts

Now you know the basics of facial recognition technology, and why it is important to use it in some every day, but in very different areas. What are the upcoming trends for facial recognition usage in your opinion? Feel free to share in the comments section.

Using your face to unlock your phone or tablet or buy something at the store feels like you’re living in the future.

How does facial recognition work

Apple’s Face ID is used to unlock your iPhone or iPad.

When it launched Face ID in September 2017 , Apple turned your close-up into the key that unlocks your iPhone . Since then, Apple has continued to expand the number and type of devices with Face ID, including the iPhone models of the last two years and the current-generation iPad Pro .

By transitioning to Face ID, Apple killed off its home button and fingerprint reader. The initial shock of relying on gestures to use your display is jarring enough, but when you add in learning how to use Face ID, the rest of the nuances of using your phone can be frustrating.

My advice? After upgrading from a Touch ID-equipped iPhone , be patient. It may take a week or two to adjust to no longer using a home button, but once you get used to Face ID, you’ll forget all about it.

Before we dive into the setup process, here are the Apple devices that have Face ID, followed by a quick (and not all that nerdy) look at how it works.

Which Apple devices have Face ID?

Here are the current iPhone and iPad models that have Face ID:

Apple’s TrueDepth camera system is the magic behind Face ID.

Apple/Screenshot by CNET

A simplified version of how Face ID works

Located at the top of your iPhone or iPad, Apple’s TrueDepth camera system is made up of several components. Working in tandem, the sensors and components project 30,000 infrared dots onto your face, which they then use to map your curves and wrinkles. On an iPhone you can use Face ID only when you hold the iPhone vertically. On an iPad Pro, Face ID works in any orientation.

During the initial setup of Face ID, it converts your face map to a 2D image that it uses as a master key. Every time you wake the screen on your device after that, Face ID maps your face by projecting dos, which it compares with the master key it created during setup.

If Face ID has a match, your device unlocks. If not, you’re asked to try again or enter a passcode. And all of that happens in milliseconds.

When is Face ID used?

Face ID is used to unlock your phone, for Apple Pay and to make purchases in the App Store, among other things.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

The most common use case for Face ID is unlocking your device. Activate it by tapping on the display or picking your phone up to view notifications.

But that’s not all. Whenever you see the Face ID logo at the bottom of the screen (like in the screenshot above), it’s actively trying to scan your face. Outside of unlocking your iPhone, Face ID is used to:

  • Authorize Apple Pay
  • Approve purchases in the App Store, iTunes, iBooks
  • Auto-fill passwords in Safari
  • Sign in to third-party apps, such as banking or password manager apps

Note that when your appearance changes slightly — say your hair is done differently or you shaved your beard — Face ID might fail. But Face ID feature has a cool feature in store. When you enter your passcode after it failed to recognize you, it uses that scan to learn that your appearance has changed slightly. Next time, it should recognize you without issue.

Setting up Face ID feels weird, but also kind of fun?

How to set up Face ID

When setting up an Apple device with Face ID for the first time, you’ll be asked if you want to use Face ID. If you chose not to, you can enable it through the Settings app later. Regardless of when you set up the feature, the process is the same.

First, you’ll be asked to set a passcode for use as a fallback authentication method if Face ID has trouble recognizing you. You’ll also need a passcode after your your phone or tablet restarts, or it hasn’t been unlocked in 48 hours.

To register your face, hold your device between 10 and 20 inches away from you. With your face centered in the circle, move your head around until the scan is complete. It’s easiest to slowly move in a circle. You’ll be asked to complete a second scan, after which Face ID setup will be complete.

Face ID settings are how you can take control of when and where the feature works.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

A closer look at Face ID settings

On your iPhone or iPad, open the Settings app and select Face ID & Passcode. Enter your passcode when prompted.

Face ID’s settings allow you to enable or disable the feature, as well as add an alternate face (for when you give someone else access to your phone, for example). If Face ID can’t recognize you when you’re wearing sunglasses, you can disable Require Attention for Face ID, which makes it possible to unlock your phone even when the TrueDepth camera can’t see your eyes.

Because Face ID features controls access to your phone and the security of your personal information, take a few minutes to double-check these security settings to make sure your data stays secure. If you’re new to an iPhone that lacks a home button, we have a guide to the most common iPhone gestures you’ll need to master . And, off course, we also have a gestures guide for iPad Pro users .

Apple iOS 13: Top new features

How does facial recognition work

How does facial recognition work

Originally published year before last. Updated with new information.

Facial Recognition in a Crowd

How does facial recognition work

There are different methods used for matching facial biometrics. The simplest method measures various features of a person’s face, such as the distance between the eyes, or the position of the mouth to the nose. These geometric measurements or vectors are then coded and stored in a database for later comparison. This type of system is usually used in biometric door access control readers.

The second method is more complex. It uses IP cameras to capture the full facial image and uses as much information as it can. The software then uses various computer algorithms, including machine learning, to build a set of definition data. This statistical database increases the reliability of the facial recognition system. The more complicated face recognition algorithm is used to identify a person in a crowd.

Facial recognition used to identify a person’s face in a crowd is different than biometric access control systems. They have different requirements and challenges.

Door control systems capture the face in a controlled environment. There is a relatively small database of faces to compare. The subsequent comparison is also made in a controlled environment. The lighting conditions and face position are the same for both capture and comparison.

Recognizing a person in a crowd is much more complicated. The faces in a crowd can be oriented differently than the initial picture. The illumination can be different, there could be different facial expressions, and shadows that modify the images detected. The face could be partially obscured by other people of the environment they are in.

How 3D Facial Recognition Works

How does facial recognition work

3D facial recognition extends the traditional methods of facial recognition to live-stream accurate capture and identification. In this system, the three-dimensional geometry of the human face is used.

There are several techniques for capturing the 3D faces. One method uses multiple sensors to create a 3D model of the face. Another method captures the 2D face and then converts it to a 3D image. This transformational process reduces the cost of capture yet maintains reliability.

A standard high-resolution IP camera can be used for capture. The full frame-rate search process has increased levels of difficulty when compared to a controlled environment. The high-performance algorithm used for 3D identification must work even when there is a cluttered background. Subjects are not only in motion, but the direction they are moving is not optimal for face matching purposes. A sophisticated 3D facial recognition system can identify people even when there is motion blurring. It does this by tracking faces through time. The system operates even when there are busy backgrounds, variations in lighting and the possibility of faces being hidden (occluded) by objects or other people.

In the real world, there are multiple people present and each one requires simultaneous detection, tracking, and matching. Faces must be recognized even when there is degradation of facial details because of lossy compression that is present in almost all video transmission and storage.

The better 3D-facial recognition systems are constantly learning how to perform better by utilizing convolutional neural networks which allow them to train the algorithms to deliver ever-increasing performance.

IP Camera System Integration

An IP camera can be used to capture faces in a crowd. The IP camera must be positioned to capture the faces correctly and to provide a minimum of 30 to 35 pixels across the face. To maximize performance the lighting should be well controlled. Cameras that include good wide dynamic range (WDR) are best when there is a large variation of lighting. When it’s dark, the cameras should have enough low-light sensitivity to operate without introducing a lot of noise.

Some video management software (VMS have options for integrated facial recognition. For example, Ocularis from OnSSI integrates a high-performance 3D facial recognition system. This allows the security person to be notified when a person of interest is detected. It also allows the recorded video to be searched for all the instances when a certain person has been recorded. The biometric integration with Ocularis utilizes the C2P software. This combination allows the user to see the recorded video along with the information about the identified individual.

Summary of Facial Recognition

Facial recognition is a challenging biometric. It is especially difficult when recognizing a face in a crowd. 3D facial recognition systems are one of the most reliable ways to provide facial recognition in a crowd. An IP camera and new software algorithms have become available that reliably recognize faces in a crowd.

If you would like help selecting the right facial recognition system for your application, please contact us at 800-431-1658 in the USA, and at 914-944-3425 everywhere else, or use our contact form .

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