Facial fiction becoming fact

Facial recognition tecnhologies continue to improve in performance

     Thomas Zielke, vice president of biometrics for Cross Match Technologies Inc., believes the cameras used in the field need to change. "The [camera] technology today is still sensitive to changes in the face," he says. "The quality from the police record is sharp, but the camera image isn't the same quality." One solution is to use a lower-quality camera image then utilize software to sharpen the quality and a filter to help identify the face.

     Cross Match of West Palm Beach, Florida, offers two law enforcement products. FaceSnap Recorder is an intelligent media recorder. "Since many images from surveillance cameras have low quality, at the base level FaceSnap helps filter out faces, which is very useful if there are only a few people you are interested in analyzing," Zielke explains. At the advanced level, the product has tools and systems that can analyze video footage and help match faces against a database.

     The second product is FaceCheck Server. This program matches faces against a database and can help analyze images over an extended period of time. The software can determine if there is any pattern in the images, such as one person who appears repeatedly at a certain location.

     FaceCheck Server works best with a high-resolution image but has the ability to make adjustments in post- processing to improve image quality. This feature is available in commercial products such as Photoshop, but is not at that level of quality yet. "Photoshop shows us what is possible, but it is done manually," Zielke says. "With facial recognition technology, these adjustments need to be done automatically."

     L-1 Identity Solutions offers two products for the law enforcement community. Viisage is a rapid, on-demand, facial identification system used by the Pinellas County (Florida) Sheriff's Office. And Identix is currently used by the U.S. State Department and houses 75 million images. Both products help professionals identify faces within a controlled or stable background.

     Identix has access to the Avis search engine, which allows a rapid search to match a face against images in a database. The State Department's system processes 2,000 to 5,000 requests per hour.

     The newest entry in the L-1 product line is HIIDE, which can analyze biometrics of the face, iris and finger. It uses an image capture device that is no bigger than a SLR camera. "With HIIDE an officer can match a suspect against all of the variables," Atick says. Currently approximately 1,000 U.S. Department of Defense agents use HIIDE, and Atick believes this is the future of this technology.

     Facial recognition technology has come a long way. Experts and designers believe it must become a mainstay of biometrics and law enforcement. The ability to identify a subject by face in the field is critical when a suspect refuses to cooperate or is dangerous. At stationary locations, such as correctional facilities or borders, the technology can help improve security and prevent false entry or release.

     Atick sums it up, saying, "Facial recognition is the next frontier for law enforcement. It took some time, but we are at the point where the technology works robustly and it gives value to the officer in the field."

     Andrew Langerman is a business and freelance writer who lives in New Jersey. He may be reached at andrew@gotwriter.com.

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