By: Jesse Davis West April 25, 2017

Each day, over two million people board commercial aircraft worldwide. Some are returning to their hometowns to visit family, others are embarking on global adventures, and others still are traveling for business. While air travel is still statistically one of the safest means of travel on Earth, after 9/11, the world became keenly aware of the importance of heightened security.

Luckily, airports are starting to employ a new security technology with the power to prevent criminals and terrorists from boarding planes. That technology is called facial recognition, and it’s designed to catch the bad guys before they put innocent lives at risk. Face recognition has already transformed security for some of the world’s largest retail chains and law enforcement agencies. And airports such as Panama’s Tocumen International Airport have already rolled out wide-sweeping facial recognition installations. It’s only a matter of time before this technology will be used in every airport on the planet.

Facial Recognition Prevents Profiling

One of the most common complaints leveled against airport security is that they engage in profiling, subjecting certain groups of people to searches more frequently than others. Face recognition is designed to prevent profiling. The best facial recognition algorithms can establish identity based on hundreds of points on an individual’s face, completely agnostic of race, age, gender or national origin. Because of this, biometric surveillance systems have to power to prevent profiling.

Facial Recognition Data Can Aid in Forensic Investigations

Airport visitor data, such as match history, is instantly available for use in forensic investigations, automating the typically arduous task of searching through traditional surveillance footage. By using FaceFirst, for example, you can search for matches against historical surveillance footage by image or keyword, effortlessly uncovering dates, times and locations of prior visits.

Face Recognition Helps Accelerate Customs

Humans can typically recall just a few hundred faces on demand, resulting in slow customs processes, and rendering terror watch lists issued by federal and local authorities of little practical use. But facial recognition can be used to identify travelers in checkpoints against a vast image database in just seconds. The result is safer and expedited border crossings.

How Face Recognition Works at Airports

To start with, high-quality, affordable cameras are installed in discrete locations around the airport, enabling images to be captured at long distances. As crowds walk through the airport, a facial recognition system scans each person’s face, intelligently evaluating hundreds of individual video frames while choosing the most optimal angle, lighting, facial expression and other classifications critical to determining identity. Once determined, the system compares it with a database of known images to see if an individual matches a known terrorist or wanted criminal. This whole process typically takes just seconds.

The moment matches are found, facial recognition can quickly mobilize airport security with instant email, text or SMS alerts about encroaching threats, delivering actionable instructions to security personnel at the exact moment they need it.

A Proven Track Record of Success

Facial recognition at airports has a proven track record for preventing crime. FaceFirst’s facial recognition solution detects an average of 30 people each day with a police background or who are wanted by Interpol. These individuals can be either apprehended or closely monitored to maximize airport security. Knowing exactly who to watch empowers security personnel to proactively focus on the right individuals, rather than having to simply rely on their intuition or memory to identify criminals.