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How to Include Facial Recognition in your Next App


Facial recognition technology is rapidly becoming a part of everyday life. From military use for recognizing terrorists and authentication for your banking app to light-hearted emotion recognition apps and emoji placers for kids, the possibilities are endless. If you’re thinking of creating a mobile app, facial recognition is a very popular feature that should attract a lot of downloads if positioned correctly. Let’s look at how it works, a few different ways mobile apps can feature this technology, and what it would it take to use it in yours.

How It Works

While facial recognition is technically complicated, we’ll try to explain it in an easy-to-understand manner. Basically, the software reads an image of a face, and plots multiple measurements; for example, the distance from forehead to chin or between eyes. Some software uses only a few measurements, while others use over 50. This creates a facial signature, which is translated to a digital formula. Next, this formula is entered into a database. It may be the first time it is entered, but it’s more likely that it will be able to be matched to an existing image. Databases are compiled in various ways, many of which are taken from state driver licenses and social media sites.

Who’s Using It Now

As we mentioned above, there are many ways that facial recognition can be utilized. While it’s essentially the same technology throughout, the variety of applications is amazing.

  •         Public Safety: Massive organizations like the federal government, military, various law enforcement agencies, and large corporations use facial recognition to identify and potentially capture known terrorists, fugitives, or other security threats. The FBI has over 412 million faces in its database, according to this report, so you can see the potential impact that might have. While there are occasionally privacy concerns, legitimate security applications can help secure airports, government facilities, and other sensitive areas.
  •         Biometric Authentication: This is a feature that can be a part of multiple types of mobile apps. For banking and healthcare apps, where privacy and security are crucial, it’s a powerful authentication tool, especially when combined with other measures like fingerprint ID or passwords. With other more casual apps, it can serve as a quick way to access or start the app or device without longer sign-ins.
  •        FinTech Apps: Obviously, when you’re in the digital financial world, security is of utmost importance. In a blink, you could lose all of your money…or thousands of users could also. A FinTech mobile app won’t survive in today’s ultra-competitive market if it doesn’t have the absolute latest and best in security features. Combining biometric authentication, like facial recognition, with constantly changing passwords and text alerts for unauthorized transactions helps with user fraud, while comprehensive end-to-end encryption and fiercely protected servers on the back end keeps users confident that their data and money are safe.
  •         Big Data: The value of data has never been higher. Many marketing and sales departments for a wide variety of companies are starved for data, and facial recognition software can fill that void. Using this technology on a crowd at a music festival or food court, for example, could help identify various demographics present, which could then give a marketing team a precise set of statistics relating to their brand. Again, this app would have to have access to a database that would help with identification, and go through the proper channels, but it could be very valuable, indeed.
  •         MedTech Apps: There are certain diseases and conditions that can be identified or diagnosed based on certain facial features and anomalies. Various genetic disorders have particular facial markers, as well as other more common issues like obesity, high blood pressure, and even stress. This sort of diagnostic tool could both identify present conditions and at-risk patients, even with largely diverse populations. Other medical applications include verification for prescriptions and monitoring of patients in the intensive care unit.
  •         Just for Fun: The entertainment possibilities with facial recognition are endless. Some mobile apps use basic software to try to analyze and guess what mood the subject is in, based on universal expressions that correspond to those emotions. Others help the user create a 3D avatar for various gaming and online purposes, while some let you “try on” different hair styles or facial hair. A very recent popular app let users look at an image that shows what they might look like in old age. That said, this could be a very subtle but effective way of capturing facial images for various databases, and children and non-tech savvy folks might not be aware that this is happening.

Should You Include Facial Recognition in Your App?

There are several reasons you should include facial recognition in your soon-to-be-developed app, and also a few concerns if you do. This is obviously an appealing feature to have; it’s got the “shiny new gadget” appeal that folks clamor for, and its versatility as a security measure, identifier, and just plain fun feature is clear. It’s also becoming increasingly affordable, as with most popular technology that can be made by multiple producers in a competitive market. Talking to a business analyst at a app development partner will give you a much better idea of if and how you should include this sort of technology.

There are also several issues to consider when you are researching facial recognition software. The first, obviously, is context; while it’s getting more affordable, it’s still fairly expensive to adopt, especially if it’s an unnecessary or out of place feature. Next, you’ll have to have a database to work with. This might come with the software, but, depending on the size or power of what you need, you’ll need to look closely at various costs, privacy issues, and the professional reputation of the company providing it.

Keep in mind, also, that it’s your responsibility to protect all the user data, including facial recognition formulas, that might be stored and transmitted within your app. While many people are willing to share their personal information and images for these purposes, many more might be very uncomfortable with it. And if it happens to be a MedTech mobile app, you may have to conform with HIPAA regulations, as well.

It’s an exciting time to be developing an app, and facial recognition features might just be the part that launches your idea into success.

Do you have any questions about facial recognition in app development? We’d love to hear from you on Twitter @Koombea



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