NEC’s New Facial Recognition System Works Well With Masked Persons

By Bill Toulas / January 7, 2021

NEC has launched a new facial recognition system and claims that it works well even if the scanned person is wearing a mask. This is the only facial recognition system that could work today and in the new reality that we’re living in, as most countries in the world have made the wearing of a respiratory mask mandatory. This is a very challenging situation that not even Apple has managed to tackle, having iPhone users who were unable to unlock their devices via Face ID resorting to PINs.

NEC says they were working on such a system even before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, as many allergy sufferers are wearing masks when outside anyway. When the novel Coronavirus made it clear that this would apply to the entire population, though, the development of the new system was accelerated.

This new system first checks if a person wears a mask or not, and if it detects one, focuses on facial features that are not covered up like the eyes, upper nose part, and the forehead. All other things are disregarded from being used as inputs, so the system isn’t tricked by the mask. NEC says the verification of the identity of a mask-wearing user in the database reaches an accuracy rate of more than 99.9% and takes less than a single second.

NEC hopes that there will be a strong adoption initiative in Tokyo, especially in unmanned convenience stores featuring automated payment machines, similar to Amazon Go stores. NEC has been pushing for facial recognition solutions inside grocery stores since at least 2018 and has developed complete technological solutions to support this. Of course, as the firm points out, the new facial recognition system may be used at security gates, office buildings, or any other facility that needs it.

This pioneering system's cost remained undisclosed, but some of the first clients were revealed and included Lufthansa and Swiss International Airlines. As an NEC spokesperson said, airlines are interested in keeping germ and virus spread in check, and not having to produce cards and documents on boarding gates is an amazing way to achieve this.

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