Whether you manage a series of large residential buildings or commercial buildings, security is a constant concern. Knowing who is coming and going from the premises at any given time is the best way to protect one’s tenants and property. Alongside human security staff, technology has longed played a role in building security. From video surveillance to swipe cards, technology is already part of the security landscape, but over the coming decade, a new era of security is about to arise. As automated facial recognition technologies become increasingly powerful and affordable, they seem likely to transform the security industry, but what should building owners and managers consider before investing in this new security solution?
What is automated facial recognition?
Automated facial recognition is just one form of biometrics. Facial recognition software can detect faces in images and match the faces against stored information in a database. Law enforcement agencies have been using facial recognition software for several years. Among other things, they rely on the software to spot wanted individuals in photographs and video images, even of large crowds. But law enforcement agencies aren’t the only organizations already relying on facial recognition.
How and where automated facial recognition is already being used
When Delta Air Lines opened its new international terminal at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) in 2018, they also unveiled the first biometric terminal in the United States (a similar airport already exists in Singapore). The new biometric facility means that customers flying direct to an international destination on Delta, Aeromexico, Air France, KLM or Virgin Atlantic Airways can use facial recognition technology to do anything one needs to do when boarding an international flight. This includes checking in, dropping one’s bags, moving through the TSA checkpoint, and boarding the flight. For travelers coming back to the United States, the technology also enables one to go through the required Customs and Border Protection process.
While the type of facial recognition software required to run an international airport terminal remains complex and costly, for the average residential or commercial building, the technology is already well within reach. In summer 2018, for example, Forbes Magazine decided to try out Amazon’s Rekognition (an affordable facial recognition solution) in their Jersey City and London offices. An article by staffer Thomas Brewster reported, “Based on photos staff consensually provided, and with footage shot across our Jersey City and London offices, we discovered it took just a few hours, some loose change [about $10] and a little technical knowledge to establish a super-accurate facial recognition operation.”
In most buildings, visitors are signed in, but visitors don’t always sign out. Likewise, employees with access cards may tag in when they arrive at work but leave through another exit without tagging out. As a result, knowing exactly who is in a building at any given time is often difficult, if not impossible, to determine. Whether you’re managing a residential or commercial building, facial recognition addresses this ongoing security problem.
With installation costs already low, especially if you opt for an affordable option such as Amazon’s Rekognition, there may also be considerable cost savings connected to adopting this biometric solution. If, for example, the need for human security officers declines, building owner and managers can expect to see high returns.
Finally, from a tenant perspective, facial recognition technologies also offer at least two key benefits. First, they facilitate greater ease of access. After all, these technologies ensure no one needs to waste time signing or swiping in and out of their own building multiple times each day. Perhaps most surprisingly, there is even hope that as this new security technology evolves, it will do more than simply keep track of who is in a building at any given moment. Combined with advanced emotion detection software, one’s security cameras will soon also be able to help identify people in distress or even spot someone acting in a suspicious manner.
While there is no question that automated facial recognition holds many potential benefits, the technology also comes with several notable downsides, or at least concerns. First, facial recognition continues to raise widespread privacy concerns. Second, there is compelling evidence that the software may also perpetuate certain biases.
In 2018, the ACLU issued a warning about facial recognition technologies, specifically Amazon’s Rekognition software. As stated in their briefing, among other concerns, the ACLU worries that facial recognition is just not yet accurate enough to be put into use. For example, the ACLU conducted at test of Rekognition, and as reported, “In the test, the software incorrectly matched 28 members of Congress, identifying them as other people who have been arrested for a crime.” Worse yet, in the ACLU test, “The false matches were disproportionately of people of color, including six members of the Congressional Black Caucus, among them civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).”
So, should buildings invest in automated facial recognition technologies? Moving forward, it seems nearly inevitable that building security will be radically transformed by biometrics, including facial recognition. However, until the technology is refined and ethical concerns, including those flagged by the ACLU, are addressed, it seems prudent to either wait to adopt facial recognition security solutions or to only rely on facial recognition as a supplement to one’s established security system.
Lead image via Pexels