Facial Recognition Looks to the Future

Big gains expected in next five years, but prices and standardization still big hurdles


Facial recognition isn't just for sci-fi shows anymore, says a new report from market research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Indeed the technology is pressing into Americans' lives faster than they might think. Already a staple with casinos who have barred card cheats, the technology has also seen tremendous gains in the law enforcement and corrections market, where corrections officers use the technology to ensure correct inmate processing and releases.

The technology of facial recognition got a big boost from the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) in 2003, when the ICAO makde facial recognition the primary biometric identifier in biometric passports. Many nation's passports and many government and corporate IDs are already preparing for this technology by including a digital file of a person's face on the ID or passport.

"Face recognition biometric technologies hold immense revenue-generating potential, especially in the government vertical," said Frost and Sullivan industry analyst Sapna Capoor in a summary of the newly released research. "Currently, one of the primary drivers of this market is the mandated adoption of face recognition biometric technologies for passports."

The research firm has even been able to put a number on the growth for this market. According to Frost & Sullivan, the facial recognition market had revenues of $186 million last year, and could grow revenues to over $1 billion by 2012. The firm is predicting a compound annual growth rate of 27.5 percent.

Despite the seemingly cheery outlook on facial recognition, the technology has still been mired by two challenges. The first is that the industry has flip-flopped between two dimensional and three dimensional facial recognition, which has made standardization nearly impossible except by government orders.

Secondly, the cost of facial recognition has stayed well above the cost of biometric systems like fingerprint recognition systems. That cost, said Frost & Sullivan's research team, "is likely to pose a major challenge" and has subsequently kept facial recognition from landing the major government projects that it needs to earn industry credibility.