Second-gen facial recognition tech aims to improve biometric security

Facial recognition technology is getting a second look from solutions vendors, though legal frameworks for how biometrics are used are out of date.

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Facial recognition technology, such as Apple's Face ID, falls far short of perfect. Of course, "short of perfect" for security technology leaves users at risk. However, as facial recognition is still in its infancy, it would be premature to declare the entire modality as busted.

Lithuanian biometrics firm Neurotechnology announced the release of their new Face Verification SDK on Thursday. The SDK aims to provide an easy-to-use authentication platform for implementing facial recognition for payment authentication and logins for online services. The Face Verification SDK is a subset of the company's VeriLook SDK, which it advertises as being capable of simultaneous multiple face processing in live video, as well as gender classification, age detection, emotion recognition, and facial feature points and attributes detection.

In a press release, the company notes, "The new Face Verification SDK also inherits from VeriLook the ability to perform ICAO face image checks in accordance with the ISO 19794-5 standard. The checks may be used by the integrators to ensure the quality of the captured face image and used in combination with liveness detection to reinforce anti-spoofing measures." The SDK also permits face verification to be performed offline.

SEE: Mobile device security: A guide for business leaders (Tech Pro Research)

While advances in recognition algorithms are important, improvements are more pressing on the sensor side to provide higher quality input for the algorithms to analyze. In an interview with Bloomberg last month, Sony's sensor head Satoshi Yoshihara indicated that 3D camera sensors with advanced depth sensing are coming in 2019. Sony's depth sensing method relies on measuring the time it takes for invisible laser pulses to travel to the target and back to the handset.

Sony already controls roughly half of the camera chip market, according to Bloomberg. In addition to being used in Sony's own Xperia smartphone line, the chips are also used in iPhones, in Samsung's flagship Galaxy S and Note series, and in Google's Pixel phones, in addition to other Android smartphones.

With sales of smartphones down, increased reliability and security for facial recognition may be used to drive interest in newer models.

Despite these advances, legal frameworks for biometric security are still inadequate, with neither apparent interest or desire for policymakers to address the problems. While legal protections exist against forcing suspects to disclose passwords to, or unlock devices for the convenience of law enforcement, biometric authentication can be exploited by anyone with physical hardware access. In 2018, police in Ohio unlocked an iPhone X by forcing a suspect to put their face in front of the phone. The same year, police in Florida attempted to unlock a dead suspect's iPhone by pressing his fingertips against the fingerprint sensor of his phone.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Lithuanian biometrics firm Neurotechnology announced the release of their new Face Verification SDK on Thursday. It can be used offline as well.
  • Sony, which controls half the image sensor market, is releasing 3D sensors to smartphone manufacturers in 2019.

Also see

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By James Sanders

James Sanders is a technology writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI, and 5G, as well as cloud, security, open source, mobility, and the impact of globalization on the industry, with a focus on Asia.