New Japanese facial recognition system identifies masked faces

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Face Recognition
Japan-based NEC Corp has launched a facial recognition system that identifies people even when wearing masks.

Japan-based information technology company NEC Corp has launched an innovative facial recognition system that identifies people even when they are wearing masks, moving with the new necessity of face-covering to protect from the coronavirus.

The safety and security solution provider had already been developing a system to meet the needs of allergy sufferers who wear masks, a common practice in Japan and the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the firm to accelerate development.

“Needs grew even more due to the coronavirus situation as the state of emergency (last year) was continuing for a long time, and so we’ve now introduced this technology to the market,” Shinya Takashima, assistant manager of NEC’s digital platform division, said.

Face Recognition
The system recognizes a face by examining the non-covered parts like the eyes.

Face recognition operates by extracting feature points, such as the position, shape, and size of a subject’s eyes, nose, and mouth and matching and identifying detected faces. The new system developed by NEC determines a person when he/she is wearing a mask by precisely examining other parts that are not covered up like the eyes and surrounding areas, to verify the subject’s identity. The users will have to register a photo of their uncovered face in advance.

The Tokyo-headquartered company claims that face recognition takes less than one second and it is 99.9 percent accurate. The system can be used at security gates in office buildings and other facilities. NEC is also trialing the technology for automated payments at an unmanned convenience store in their office.

The company is targeting $970 million in sales for the fiscal year 2021 for its biometrics and video analysis business, which includes its facial technology systems. However, NEC refused to disclose the price of their new system. The facial recognition system went on sale in October and customers include Lufthansa and Swiss International Airlines.

Face Recognition
The users will have to register their uncovered-facial image initially to get an accurate result.

Touchless verification has become extremely important due to the impact of the coronavirus. Facial recognition means not having to produce a security card, which can help prevent the spread of germs from touching surfaces. “Going forward we hope to contribute to safety and peace of mind by strengthening efforts in that area,” Takashima said.