2023: The Year of Widespread Facial Recognition Adoption

Earlier this month, Delta Airlines announced Delta Sync, an industry-leading initiative to create unparalleled customer experiences. A cornerstone of this program is the deployment of facial recognition technology (FRT) to replace a boarding pass. Just as how Apple and Samsung Wallets spearheaded the adoption of on-device credentials in 2012, Delta’s recent announcement kick-starts the FRT era, normalizing the use of one’s face as a hands-free, no-chance-of-leaving-behind credential.

As travelers become accustomed to the ease of no longer needing anything on their person to move from one location to another, they will begin to second guess, and even become bothered by the requirements of key cards to get into their office, hotel room, or gym.

In 2023, there is no reason to need to reach into your pocket for a key card or phone in order to grant entry. The days of waiting in line for a credential (e.g., a driver’s license, passport or plane ticket) are over. For many of your patrons, relying on antiquated processes will become a growing source of frustration. 2023 is the year that FRT becomes widely embraced.

Facial recognition is not a new technology — it’s been around for over four decades — but 2023 is shaping up to be the technology’s greatest year yet in terms of mainstream adoption. A combination of technical breakthroughs, growing consumer confidence, and industry normalization points to a record-breaking year for FRT.

As many of our partners likely recognize, groundbreaking technologies are not always commercially successful. Sociologist, Everett Rogers, famously sought to explain this phenomenon. In his “diffusion of innovation” theory, Rogers attempts an answer to the question: why do certain innovations get adopted more quickly than others? He laid out five variables that influence a novel technology’s successful adoption: the innovation itself, the adopters, communication channels, time, and the social system. Over the past few years, all five variables have improved, making 2023 ripe for the widespread embracement of FRT. 

1. The Technology

One of the greatest barriers to FRT adoption has been the technology’s inconsistent history. We have talked to countless customers who often respond to the prospect of deploying facial recognition by saying, “ya, we trialed facial in 2008 … it just didn’t work.” Being burned by old, undeveloped, and likely inaccurate technologies is a valid reason to be skeptical, but 2008! The year the first-generation iPhone launched! A lot has changed in 15 years.

The advent of neural networks has fundamentally changed the way facial recognition technologies work. No longer do users need a perfect environment with nice lighting, a head-on angle, or all facial landmarks in the field of view; now the technology excels with backlight, facial occlusions, severe camera angles (when the camera is mounted high on a wall or ceiling), individuals wearing medical masks, and when there are multiple individuals in front of a camera.

Technology vendors also recognize successful FRT adoption is dependent on the presence of privacy features, allowing for an ethical deployment of the technology. Present day AI algorithms are trained to reduce gender or racial biases and FRT products provide built-in data protection features that limit and manage the amount and length of time data is retained. Leading vendors also provide capabilities to protect the identities of individuals not of interest. Because of these features, Oosto is able to deploy FRT solutions across the globe, complying with stringent regional privacy standards, including GDPR.

Not only has the algorithm fundamentally changed, so have the hardware requirements. Today, complex neural networks can process data on edge and near-edge devices (vs. expensive GPU-rich servers), significantly lowering a deployment’s total cost of ownership. Now, a multi-camera environment, using existing CCTV cameras, can instantaneously detect, alert upon, or grant access to thousands of individuals regularly walking through an end user’s environment. FRT goes beyond identity verification, and the core technology can be used in a multitude of use cases. The technology has gotten to a point where installation is truly plug-and-play, and operators of the technology are not inundated with false alarms.

FRT has moved past its adolescent years of being a niche, underdeveloped technology. The previous challenges inherent to widespread FRT adoption have been cleared as the technology has become accurate, easy to deploy, easy to learn, compatible with pre-existing camera, access control and VMS systems, and triable and testable.

2. Communication Channels and Time

Technological readiness is not the only variable that hampers widespread customer adoption. Over the years, communication channels and time have also matured, making FRT ready for the mainstream. Oosto has recognized that it is our channel partners who are best equipped to communicate the benefits of FRT to end users, and over the past few years, our partnership network has quickly been educating their customer base on the broad challenges FRT solves. As a result, the technology has become increasingly recognized and normalized, with some of the biggest fortune 500 organizations adopting the technology into their core business processes – everything from access control, watchlist alerting, perimeter security, loss prevention, and customer identification.

3. The Adopter and Social System

But it is not only commercial organizations that have welcomed FRT, the adopter archetype and sentiment around the technology have also positively shifted, further pointing to a record-breaking year for FRT. Previously, it was the early adopters—those willing to take on the risks of new technologies—who were attracted to FRT. Casinos, stadiums, and other operators who placed security as a top priority were most willing to embrace the technology. Admittedly, they were faced with a challenge: to address an influx of people entering a venue. It was practically impossible to rely on security guards to identify hundreds or even thousands of people who may be on a watchlist (e.g., known bad actors, felons, hooligans, card counters, banned patrons, etc.). But now we can see how this adoption is growing beyond this innovative group. Comfort with FRT is no longer siloed to the back rooms of security or surveillance offices.

Ethical facial recognition is now front and center with leading companies deploying the tech to create a premium customer and employee experience. Investing in new technologies, like FRT, are no longer nice-to-have features, they are necessary tools for organizations to sustain their leadership position as innovative, secure, and easy to work with institutions.

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About the Author

Shawn (Yujuico) Fontenot

Shawn is the Vice President of Global Marketing at Oosto, leading the company's strategic marketing initiatives and driving brand awareness.

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