How Face Recognition Can Secure Airport Facilities

Facial recognition software is finding a home in a variety of places such as public transportation facilities, sporting events, retail businesses, banks, offices, and online. Organizations like Alibaba, MasterCard, and Amazon offer facial recognition payment methods known as “selfie pay,” and social media platforms like Facebook use facial recognition technology to guess if individuals appear in multiple photographs for the purpose of “tagging” them.  But perhaps nowhere is facial recognition more valuable than in airport facilities.

The threat of terrorism in airports is real, and the air transit industry has been considered a prime target since the beginning of the modern era of terrorism. From a terrorist’s perspective, the vulnerability of victims is at a premium where hundreds of people are trapped inside a pressurized tube at 30,3000 feet. This makes passengers ideal targets not only because of their vulnerability but also because considerable media coverage is leveraged. As such, airport facilities remain serious targets.  

Security measures often consist of only the minimum required by state, national or international organizations. But many airports are looking to provide a synergetic solution to security threats, which involve custom-made policies, procedures, and technology that will help them combat the potential for loss of human life. At the center of this initiative is finding ways to stop terrorists and criminals before they attack.

Simply placing a perimeter fence with or without electronic measures and Closed Caption Television (CCTV) around the airside of terminals is proving to be insufficient. In order to control or detain a suspicious person, current worldwide common practice falls short. Security personnel needs to be armed with more information at a faster, real-time rate in order to make important and relevant decisions. Terrorists, despite security improvements, have continued to adapt and find new ways to avoid detection, leading to disasters such as the 2015 bomb explosion aboard the Metrojet flight from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt to St. Petersburg, Russia, where 224 passengers perished.

Airport facial recognition software, a GDPR compliant technology, allows government bureaus to automatically detect suspicious and potentially dangerous individuals. The unique features of the platform can save law enforcement and investigative bureaus countless hours of manual video analysis. It can capture and evaluate dozens of facial profiles in a single image, and its real-time analytics provides information regarding the locations and times where suspicious individuals are the most active. This, in turn, allows officials to make informed decisions about preventative actions.

Facial recognition, as a form of artificial intelligence, enables applications to learn on their own, deduce patterns, and determine what to do in the future. The software can capture images of individual faces, differentiate them from the background, and then translate the picture into a numeric code that helps it determine one individual face from others. The biometric analysis makes a note of facial structure, including things like the distance between the eyes, the width of the nose, the depth of the eye sockets, and the shape of their cheekbones.  

While more traditional security methods like radiation scanning and older versions of facial recognition technology may plateau in their performance, deep learning applications of newer models scale upwards when data increase. They use “neural networks,” such as natural language processing and speech recognition, instead of task-specific algorithms. Deep learning applications allow facial recognition technology to gain insight into the facial demographics, learning more over time as new data are included in the system. The mission? To “create a safer and better tomorrow.”

While this may seem far-fetched, the truth is that such technology and the algorithms it employs are already commonplace in many aspects of our lives. It is part of the software that used to tag people on Facebook and to unlock iPhones,  Most adult Americans, whether they are aware of it or not, are already in a facial recognition database of some sort. From the use of driver’s license data to the photos collected on passports, many law enforcement agencies are developing or using databases like this and have been for years.

While most individuals are concerned with their personal safety and are interested in public security, this does not mean that tragedies that make world news without the assistance of a service like Social Gone Viral can be simply or easily averted. What is more, many people have raised concerns over privacy issues, potential civil rights violations, and racial profiling.  Still, facial recognition software, propelled by artificial intelligence can be a useful tool for securing airport facilities and arming their security officials with important and timely data.


What do you see as the benefit of facial recognition software? Feel free to comment.

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