By: Jesse Davis West September 15, 2019

While face recognition has been around in one form or another since the 1960s, recent technological developments have led to a wide proliferation of this technology. This technology is no longer seen as something out of science fiction movies like Minority Report. With the release of the iPhone X, millions of people now literally have face recognition technology in the palms of their hands, protecting their data and personal information. While mobile phone access control might be the most recognizable way face recognition is being used, it is being employed for a wide range of use cases including preventing crime, protecting events and making air travel more convenient.

We’ve compiled a list of 21 ways that face recognition is currently being used to make the world safer, smarter and more convenient.

Retail Face Recognition

Prevent Retail Crime

Face recognition is currently being used to instantly identify when known shoplifters, organized retail criminals or people with a history of fraud enter retail establishments. Photographs of individuals can be matched against large databases of criminals so that loss prevention and retail security professionals can be instantly notified when a shopper enters a store that prevents a threat. Face recognition systems are already radically reducing retail crime. According to our data, face recognition reduces external shrink by 34% and, more importantly, reduces violent incidents in retail stores by up to 91%.

Apple Face ID

Unlock Phones

A variety of phones including the latest iPhone are now using face recognition to unlock phones. This technology is a powerful way to protect personal data and ensure that, if a phone is stolen, sensitive data remains inaccessible by the perpetrator.

face recognition

Smarter Advertising

Face recognition has the ability to make advertising more targeted by making educated guesses at people’s age and gender. Companies like Tesco are already planning on installing screens at gas stations with face recognition built in. It’s only a matter of time before face-recognition becomes an omni-present advertising technology.

Face recognition missing children

Find Missing Persons

Face recognition can be used to find missing children and victims of human trafficking. As long as missing individuals are added to a database, law enforcement can become alerted as soon as they are recognized by face recognition—be it an airport, retail store or other public space. In fact, 3000 missing children were discovered in just four days using face recognition in India!

face recognition for the blind

Help the Blind

Listerine has developed a groundbreaking facial recognition app that helps the blind using face recognition. The app recognizes when people are smiling and alerts the blind person with a vibration. This can help them better understand social situations.

Face recognition law enforcement

Protect Law Enforcement

Mobile face recognition apps, like the one offered by FaceFirst, are already helping police officers by helping them instantly identify individuals in the field from a safe distance. This can help by giving them contextual data that tells them who they are dealing with and whether they need to proceed with caution. As an example, if a police officer pulls over a wanted murderer at a routine traffic stop, the officer would instantly know that the suspect may be armed and dangerous, and could call for reinforcement.

forensic face recognition

Aid Forensic Investigations

Facial recognition can aid forensic investigations by automatically recognizing individuals in security footage or other videos. Face recognition software can also be used to identify dead or unconscious individuals at crime scenes.

facebook face recognition

Identify People on Social Media Platforms

Facebook uses face recognition technology to automatically recognize when Facebook members appear in photos. This makes it easier for people to find photos they are in and can suggest when particular people should be tagged in photos.

Diagnose Diseases Face Recognition

Diagnose Diseases

Face recognition can be used to diagnose diseases that cause detectable changes in appearance. As an example, the National Human Genome Institute Research Institute, uses face recognition to detect a rare disease called DiGeorge syndrome, in which there is a portion of the 22nd chromosome missing. Face recognition has helped diagnose the disease in 96% of cases. As algorithms get even more sophisticated, face recognition will become an invaluable diagnostic tool for all sorts of conditions.

Face recognition stadium security fan experience VIP

Recognize VIPs at Sporting Events

Face recognition can be used to provide fans with a better experience. Face recognition can instantly recognize when season ticketholders attend sporting events. Event venues can offer them swag, let them skip lines and other VIP perks that result in greater season ticketholder retention.

School Face Recognition

Protect Schools from Threats

Face recognition surveillance systems can instantly identify when expelled students, dangerous parents, drug dealers or other individuals that pose a threat to school safety enter school grounds. By alerting school security guards in real time, face recognition can reduce the risk of violent acts.

School Face Recognition

Track School Attendance

In addition to making schools safer, face recognition has the potential to track students’ attendance. Traditionally, attendance sheets can allow students to sign another student, who is ditching class, in. But China is already using face recognition to ensure students aren’t skipping class. Tablets are being used to scan students’ faces and match their photos against a database to validate their identities.

Casino Face Recognition


Face recognition can help casinos recognize the moment that a cheater or advantage gambler enters a casino. In addition, face recognition can recognize members of voluntary exclusion lists, who can cost casinos hefty fines if they’re caught gambling.

Stop Toilet Paper Thieves

In China, toilet paper theft in public restrooms is a big problem. Luckily face recognition has come to the rescue. China has installed machines in public restrooms that scan people’s faces before releasing toilet paper. It won’t release more paper to the same person until after 9 minutes have gone by.  

Ant Financial Face recognition

Facilitate Secure Transactions

In China, there is a financial services company called Ant Financial that enables customers to pay for meals by scanning their faces. Customers place orders through a digital menu, and then use face scan as a payment option. After providing their telephone number they can then purchase their meal.

ATM face recognition

Validate Identity at ATMs 

It seems likely that face scans will eventually replace ATM cards completely since face recognition is such a powerful identity authentication tool. But in the meantime, face recognition can be used to make sure that individuals using ATMs cards are who they say they are.  Face recognition is currently being used at ATMs in Macau to protect peoples’ identities. 

Airport Face Recognition

Make Air Travel More Convenient

Airlines have already started using face recognition to help people check bags, check into flights and board planes faster. It seems like we are quickly moving toward a future in which air travel is not only safer than ever before, but also more convenient than any period in history.

church face recognition

Track Attendance at Church

Churches have started using facial recognition to see which members of their congregation are showing up to church. This can help them identify who to ask for donations and which members to reach out to in order to get them to attend more often.

Lost Dog Face Recognition

Find Lost Pets

Finding Rover is an app that tries to help owners reunite with lost pets. The app uses face recognition (albeit it’s the face of an animal in this case) to match photos that pet owners upload to a database of photos of pets in shelters. The app can then instantly alert owners if their pets are found.

Car Face Recognition

Recognize Drivers

More car companies are experimenting with ways to use face recognition. One use of face recognition for automobiles is using a face to replace a key as a means of starting a car. Face recognition can also be used to change radio stations and seat preferences based on who is driving. Face recognition can even make drivers safer by recognizing and alerting drivers if they are drifting off or not focusing on the road.

Face Recognition Access Control

Control Access to Sensitive Areas

Face recognition can work as a means of access control to ensure that only authorized individuals get into facilities like labs, boardrooms, bank vaults, training centers for athletes and other sensitive locations.