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Friday
Jan162009

What’s Working and What’s Not in Facial Surveillance

Facial recognition technology has certainly been a hot topic in 2008 – and one that will likely only continue to make headlines as more companies and organizations recognize its unique value within their security infrastructures.

When most people think of facial surveillance, however, what often comes to mind is the technology’s very public failure at the Super Bowl and other large-scale public venues over the past several years. Though the technology has certainly improved, we are still not much closer to being able to spot a bad guy in a crowd than we were then, and this points to the fact that it is facial recognition’s role within the larger security platform that allows the technology to function most effectively, and ultimately most accurately.

Nonetheless, there have been some important facial rec successes over the past year that deserve mentioning – let’s take a look at what’s working, what’s not, and most importantly, why.

Identifying Suspects: Using Facial Rec to Compare Captured Images to Police Database Mugshots

The Sagem Morpho MorphoFace Investigate (MFI) system has scored its first arrest in Pierce County, Washington. The Pierce County Sheriff's Department used the MFI biometric facial recognition application to identify a suspect by comparing an automatic teller machine (ATM) photograph against the department's digital database of 350,000 mug shots.

In the past, the only way police could conduct these types of investigations was to endlessly flip through mugshot books -- this is a major improvement and compelling evidence of the next generation of crimefighting taking place.

Identifying a Suspect Using Commercial Surveillance and Transaction Records

Just the other month I learned about the following incident from a 3VR customer. A man had been followed home from a large African bank and subsequently robbed after making a large withdrawl. While the victim didn't recognize the thief, he was able to point him out in bank surveillance footage leaving the bank after the victim. Normally, this is where the investigation would have become difficult; actually identifying the suspect. However, in this instance, the bank was able to perform a facial search against it's own surveillance archives using its 3VR system. The thief, it turns out, was actually a bank customer. Even though he was not in any police database, they were able to identify him using bank transaction records. You see, this robber's tactic was to spend a lot of time in the bank doing small transactions and other petty business while he watched and waited for his victims to withdraw a large amount of money. But once even a single image was of him was captured, the robber's face led bank officials and law enforcement right back to those trasactions...and the theif's real identity.



Alerting Security When the Bad Guys Arrive

Though an uncontrolled venue such as the Super Bowl may provide too difficult a context to do real-time facial alerting, in more controlled venues like banks and some retail establishments and using relatively targeted top-quality watch lists, it is now possible to use facial alerting successfully.

Only two days after pilot installation of the 3VR platform at another large international bank, a person wanted for check fraud entered the bank accompanied by an accomplice, approached the teller and began a transaction. The 3VR system being utilized in the branch recognized the person and immediately sent an alert to the bank’s security personnel, who compared the image to photos in order to confirm that it was indeed the suspected fraudster.

The bank’s security personnel were able to quickly contact the police, apprehend the woman at the branch and question her. She ultimately admitted to the fraud — case closed.

Looking Ahead

Facial surveillance has developed significantly with new technology and new approaches making up for many past failures. And while still certainly not perfect, modern "facial surveillance" represents a quantum leap forward from they days when all police had to go on were “WANTED” posters, mug shot books, and their own eyes and energy.

Reader Comments (1)

Wow, that's a thought-provoker!

May 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHipolito M. Wiseman

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