COVID-19's boost for the facial recognition market has helped the access control segment this year. But will the demand for face recognition continue after the pandemic?
COVID-19's impact on facial recognition demand has been one of the most discussed topics in the security industry this year. From the early months of the pandemic, businesses have searched for touchless solutions to ensure their customers' and employees' safety while continuing regular operations. Biometric companies were quick to sense an opportunity
and began marketing facial recognition as the best contactless alternative to fingerprints and traditional RFID card readers.
But will this demand for facial recognition solutions
continue after COVID-19? That's a billion-dollar question that companies must answer to drive their business further. On the one hand, customers who have already upgraded to facial recognition would want to maintain it. Still, on the other, several customers have been waiting to see how long the pandemic would last to take a decision. This second group is presumably larger, and their decision could ultimately decide the future of the market.
The problem is that industry professionals themselves remain divided on this. Young Moon, CEO of Suprema, believes that demand for fingerprint will bounce back once we get COVID-19 under control. But facial recognition will continue to remain popular because of its unique advantages.
"I expect the demand for fingerprint recognition to recover after COVID-19, but facial recognition to also remain popular," Moon said. "Contactless interface of facial recognition technology provides advantages not only in terms of hygiene but also convenience (It frees people's hands). Also, facial recognition can be used to combine health safety features like masks and elevated temperature detection. Facial recognition's shortcomings such as user capacity and high price are being overcome as well due to COVID-19 and surge in demand."
On the other hand, Steven Humphreys, CEO of Identiv, believes that demand for facial recognition will only increase in the coming days. He cites three reasons for this.
Affordability of facial recognition solutions
COVID-19 has definitely increased the popularity of facial recognition, but customers wouldn't have adopted the technology if solutions weren't becoming increasingly affordable. Humphreys explained that the technology is now better and cheaper, both on the algorithm side and on the sensor side, whether it's a camera or its other form of LIDAR or some other sensor.
The second factor that could increase the demand for facial recognition is the convenience of being contactless. During pandemics, contactless solutions are useful to maintain hygiene, but they are also more comfortable than fingerprint readers any day. You don't need to free your hands if you are holding things and are in a rush to enter a place.
Humphreys explained that his company is starting to see a trend of multi-factor authentications, which he believes will dominate in the days to come as it makes solutions more reliable. Most people carry smartphones these days, which have green check communication capabilities that allow easy multi-factor authentication.
"Costs are going down, and algorithms are getting better, making more people willing to try it," Humphreys said. "In our company's next-generation door reader, we're going to have both the fingerprint reader and a camera for facial biometric. It's so cheap that you can get an off the shelf fingerprint reader, slide it up onto the faceplate, and boom, you've got fingerprints. Cameras and CCD modules cost almost nothing, and they don't have to be super high-end anymore, especially if you're doing one-to-one verification. So, from a hardware perspective, we're practically going to give away solutions for free, and then you sell it as an upsell from a software perspective. And that's where you start to get markets grabbing."
The industry remains divided on the question of whether facial recognition will overtake fingerprint after the pandemic. However, experts across the board agree that regardless of which modality becomes the most popular, demand for facial recognition will continue to grow in the coming years.