The Japanese company NEC has unveiled a facial recognition system that can verify the identity of a person even when he is masked, in a move it claims will promote “the revival of economic activities in the shadow of the new situation.”
The company claims that the system was originally designed to meet the needs of people with allergies, as wearing masks was common in Japan before the Corona virus pandemic, but it has gained more importance with the spread of the disease in 2020.
“The needs have grown further due to the Coronavirus situation as the emergency (last year) has lasted for a long time, so we have brought this technology to the market,” said Shinya Takashima, Assistant Director of Digital Platforms Division at NEC.
© NEC Corporation
The system focuses on the exposed parts of a person’s head, including the eyes and cheekbone areas, to verify a person’s identity when compared to a face record. For it to work, people must submit an image in advance to use the system.
The tech company claims the verification takes less than one second and has an accuracy rate of more than 99.9%.
The system allows offline access to the muzzle through security gates at multiple facilities, and the company is also experimenting with using it in automatic payments at a small number of small stores in NEC headquarters.
Takashima added, “Verification without contact has become critical due to the impact of the Coronavirus. Going forward, we hope to contribute to achieving safety and peace of mind by strengthening (efforts) in this area.”
The system, which is also integrated with thermal imaging cameras at traffic gates, protects people ostensibly by not forcing them to remove their masks to enter, while also preventing them from needing a security pass or from touching any surfaces and possible contact with germs and pathogens.
NEC Corp has not yet disclosed the price of the system, which is certain to raise eyebrows among privacy advocates around the world, but customers do include Lufthansa and Swiss International Airlines, who began using the identity verification platform in December at Frankfurt and Munich airports, under the name “ Star Alliance Biometrics “.
Passengers must record their face photos and passport information, using the mobile applications of each company, before they arrive at the airports.
NEC Corp claims that customer names are not archived, but facial photos and passenger personal information are encrypted and stored securely on its platform.