Two-faced tech

FR technology can transform businesses. But, don’t miss the devil in the details


God, they say, is all-knowing. S/he/it knows if you are wishing your neighbour well, or are wishing them dandruff. That said, a Brazilian church (which trusts divine intelligence) thought there’s no harm in seeking help from artificial intelligence. Therefore, it has installed facial recognition (FR) software that can tell if the faithful are feeling sad, happy or guilty, besides tracking their attendance. When God buys into a technology, you know it is formidable.

Globally, the FR market is expected to more than double — from $3.02 billion in 2019 to $6.91 billion in 2023. India’s FR market, too, may double from $251 million to $632 million, over the same period (See: Much more than face value). The technology is already widely used in India. You may not have realised it, but the bots are reading your faces in supermarkets and bus stations, and apartment elevators and even childcare centres. In fact, our country will soon implement the world’s biggest FR system, called the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS). It will be used, says the National Crime Records Bureau or NCRB, which conceptualised the system, to identify criminals and the dead, and locate missing people.

Of course, there are privacy concerns. “Facial recognition as a technology inspires awe and fear, at the same time. Despite the growing attention to its broad applications across industry and geography, there is still concern surrounding facial recognition’s ethical applications and privacy restrictions,” says Ashvin Vellody, partner, Deloitte India. So FR technology, as promising as it looks, has in it the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good 

A large part of the FR market is geared towards security and surveillance solutions. Many start-ups, such as Gurugram-based Staqu Technologies, are already working on AFRS products. Founded in 2015, the start-up has created an app by collating data from the NCRB website. It is called Police Artificial Intelligence System (PAIS), which the state police have access to. Here’s how it works: Say a police official has nabbed a suspect in a case of chain snatching. He can take a photo of the suspect, upload it on the app and see if the person is a repeat offender. Or, the police can also run CCTV footage collected from ground zero and browse the app for category-wise offenders. “From solving a murder case in Amritsar to recovering a robb


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