18 May 2022

Facial recognition to play a key role in the future of smart cities

Rob Watts, CEO at Corsight AI, explores the real-world benefits AI-powered technology can provide society as we enter a new era of innovation with smart cities.

Smart cities are touted as the future for connectivity and digital innovation. In the UK alone, regions up and down the country are embracing smart city projects and investing in the infrastructure that will make this possible. Advanced sensors, cameras, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), are all going to play a huge role in making these environments smarter, safer and more efficient. One emerging technology that is becoming more important for smart cities is Facial Recognition Technology (FRT). Both public and private sector organisations can enhance operational productivity and improve public safety by integrating FRT capabilities.

Impactful customer experiences

We have already seen vast deployments of FRT in airports to enhance safety and speed up passenger boarding. However, the use of this technology will soon become wide-reaching, providing citizens with seamless and impactful experiences throughout the city environment – particularly in relation to mobility.

Indeed, the pandemic has made it clear that conventional mobility needs to be re-imagined. For passengers today this must go beyond simple contactless mobile ticketing. With facial recognition, passengers can use their face as their ticket and walk-through ticket barriers onto trains, with the knowledge that facial recognition cameras will charge them for the right journey. It is also possible to integrate this with a ride-hailing app, so that passengers can simply jump in and ride. This will be essential for cities with large populations moving forward.

Facial recognition will also become an invaluable tool to boost and re-energise the night-time economy. For example, an integrated facial recognition system deployed within a night club setting, will allow attendees to use their biometric signature as their identification rather than an ID – which can authenticate age, as well as act as a method of payment. This will in turn help streamline entry into venues, eliminate queues and make ordering drinks faster.

These applications will not only enhance the customer experience but will lead to an increase in revenue for business owners. In order for this to be rolled out successfully, however, organisations will need to be transparent with its use and use on an opt-in basis, so that there is no breach of privacy.

Seamless access

Workplaces are beginning to understand the true value of FRT to enable a seamless flow of people. Building sites, maternity wards and critical national infrastructure can all benefit from facial recognition software, as it can enable the seamless flow of people and facilitate the protection of sensitive locations by restricting access to approved individuals only.

When used for access control purposes, FRT compares an individual’s face presented at the point of access to a database of authorised persons to determine whether there is a match. If a match is identified, access is granted and if there is no match, access is denied, and an alarm can be triggered.

Moreover, FRT can enhance the safety of those inside buildings/facilities that have a heavy footfall. By implementing LFR cameras at entry points, the digital signatures of those entering the facility can be scanned against strictly compiled watchlists. Those on the watchlist will either be individuals that have been previously banned from the venue, or those known to the police as a genuine threat to others. These watchlists should never be impermissibly wide and those operating Facial Recognition must be well trained to operate and fully comprehend how to put privacy and ethics at the centre of all operations.

When operating, users must enable privacy settings that blur the faces of individuals not detected within a watch-list. The trained human operator must manually delete the data if a false positive result occurs, as quickly as humanly possible. This means the privacy of those that pose no danger to others will be protected.

Help for vulnerable citizens

One of the central pillars of developing a smart city is making it a better place for those most vulnerable. Facial recognition can and should be used as a force for good, identifying those at risk and ensuring they can get help when they need it the most. An example in this case, is an individual with Alzheimer’s disease. Patients in a smart city environment could opt-in to a secure database, that will act as a support system. In a situation where this individual goes missing and becomes disorientated, law enforcement agencies can use FRT to identify them, get in touch with a next of kin and take them home. The technology would significantly reduce the stress of an already confusing ordeal, whilst simultaneously relieving pressure on emergency services.

Safer streets

There is a particular concern about the safety of public streets, especially for women. In the last few years, there have been calls for safer streets, with more street lighting and CCTV to deter criminals and make the general public feel more comfortable travelling alone at night. FRT can prove particularly useful for recognising unusual behaviour and identifying and flagging known offenders throughout the city environment, in areas where police presence may be scarce. In Cardiff for example, South Wales police were able to identify a sex offender just days after an attack – using FRT on CCTV images taken on a local bus. As long as this technology is used with a framework of best practice, then it can only make society a safer place.

Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) is set to play a key role in the future of global urban development and improving the experience of smart citizens. From personal convenience, to enhanced public safety, the range of applications are wide-ranging.

Company info: Corsight