Facial recognition coming to a smartphone near you

Facial recognition for the masses was once relegated to the pages of science fiction novels and futuristic dystopian worlds shown on the big screen.

Nevertheless, by the end of 2012, almost 20% of annual smartphone shipments will include facial recognition capabilities.

In five years, sales of smartphones and tablets with the technology is predicted to increase to some 665 million units on an annual basis. 

“Currently, only Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean mobile operating systems support the technology in significant volumes,” explained ABI Research senior analyst Josh Flood.

“The Samsung Galaxy SIII is one of the most notable smartphones to feature this technology. Over the next two to three years, many more operating systems and mobile OEMs will incorporate the technology.”

According to Flood, facial recognition tech has actually been around for some time, albeit in labs, as it was developed  in the 1960s by three scientists: Woody Bledsoe, Helen Chan Wolf and Charles Bisson.

“Historically, the major challenge for facial recognition in mobile devices has been incorporating an accurate enough sensor (camera) and a powerful enough processor to undertake the complex algorithms while limiting power consumption. Thanks to major technology advancements, this has changed, with accuracy almost always above 90%,” said Flood.

“That said, lighting conditions and facial expressions can sometimes cause problems with the recognition. However, the improvements in camera resolution and processing power utilized by mobile devices has helped greatly.”

Despite the above-mentioned limitations, facial recognition technology is already being actively marketed and implemented in smart TVs, and, as noted above, in a relatively limited number of smartphones and tablets.

“[We] project a steady adoption of the technology in mobile devices and numerous mobile device application processor makers have [already] begun drawing [up] plans and benefits for the technology,” added Flood.