Mask requirements for COVID-19 vary throughout the country, but many people still prefer to wear them in public, and some venues require them. In high-risk environments where security is essential, such as casinos, masks make it difficult to identify bad actors. But with facial recognition technology and proper policies in place, identifying criminals and self-excluding individuals is possible.
Facial recognition technology uses algorithms to identify an individual’s face by comparing images against others in its database. The software is transforming the world in grocery stores, airports, casinos, and beyond. Of course, now everyone’s wearing masks that block facial recognition—or are they? Technology is advancing rapidly. Learn how the world is responding to the facial recognition mask challenge.
How Facial Recognition Technology Can Still Identify People with Masks
Facial recognition and identity management are making strides, but there’s no perfect system—yet. Think about how your phone has struggled to identify your face and unlock itself when you’re wearing a mask. Technology usually needs more facial markers to go off of than head and eyes.
Research on adapting facial recognition technology to identify masked individuals has been underway for a few years. That’s because in some countries, they’ve been wearing masks since before the COVID-19 pandemic rattled the world—like when they have colds or allergies—to prevent the spread of germs. Add a mysterious new virus to the mix, and suddenly everyone’s masked up, making it even harder to identify faces.
Benefits of Facial Recognition That Accounts for Masks
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, better tech could make it easier to unlock your phone with a mask on or eventually track virus cases. For our part, eConnect’s technology has the sophistication to take initial enrollment photos of maskless patrons and still be able to recognize each of them with their masks on. And although it’s hard to quantify the full spectrum of benefits of facial recognition systems that work with masks, there are a few that immediately stand out.
It’s important to keep yourself and others safe in high-traffic spaces. Masked facial recognition can provide enhanced security at points of entry, ranging from entrances in casinos or transit systems to security checkpoints at airports.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has seen early success with facial recognition technologies. The tech could provide a way to prove identification without requiring people to remove masks at airports.
Replace Touch-Based Authentication
Touch-based interaction in everyday life has been on a downward trend since the pandemic began, from grocery stores going cashless to curbside shopping. Today’s researchers see potential for facial recognition with masks to replace touch-based authentication methods, too, such as fingerprint scanners, keypads, and even paper ticketing.
Disney World conducted a facial recognition test during March and April 2021 as an alternative to traditional tickets. Guests entering the Magic Kingdom could voluntarily have their images captured—with face masks still on—to be converted into a number and associated with their admission.
How eConnect Is Tackling Facial Recognition with Masks
Despite the consistent advancements in facial recognition technology, there are limitations, and rollout across casinos takes time—especially when each venue has specific policies to follow. eConnect works to enhance your operations.
Tightening the Entrance
It takes expertise to protect the high volume of assets that flows through a bustling venue like a casino or resort, and eConnect understands the magnitude of this responsibility. Countless patrons—regulars and casual gamblers—pass through each day. That’s why one of the main goals of our facial recognition technology is to capture the anonymous guest. By enrolling each person in the system, our technology enables casinos and resorts to strengthen their security as soon as guests enter their establishments.
Capturing Identities During Transactions
Most casinos and resorts are still requiring masks for entry, and guests must lower their masks to enroll in facial recognition. But because of how eConnect’s identity management suite is designed, we can accurately identify masked patrons as they interact with your facility. Whether they’re checking in, cashing out at the cage, or paying for food, eConnect captures patrons’ identities during each transaction. That's because our facial recognition engine measures 42 points above the nose—exactly the data our intelligent AI needs to match faces against those already known and enrolled.
Combating Facial Recognition Limitations
Of course, it’s important to note that although facial recognition technology can recognize someone with a mask, the more obscured a person is, the more challenging it is to make an accurate ID. If someone walks in with their mask on, plus sunglasses and a hat, it’s impossible to identify them—no matter how sophisticated your technology is. In these cases, casinos and resorts have a couple of options: ban additional facial coverings altogether (similar to banking policies) or add security personnel who can check guests in by requiring them to lower their additional coverings at the door.
Trust in Identity Management for Your Operations
All over the world, improvements are being made to facial recognition technology for security, authentication, and hygienic reasons. eConnect’s Identity Management suite combats facial recognition challenges brought on by masks, from improving security to tracking transactions. We’re inspired by the advances across our industry, and we constantly strive to meet your ever-changing needs.
Secure your operations with identity management tools from eConnect. Reach out to our experts to learn more.
About the Author
Chris Swanger is currently the Chief Safety & Security Officer at eConnect. After starting in the casino industry at Barona Valley Ranch in 2001 he has helped hundreds of gaming properties deploy technology solutions that helped the operation automate processes, become more efficient and increase profitability. Before eConnect, Chris worked with Agilysys, Shooter Detection Systems and OfferCraft. Chris is an entrepreneur and has successfully started and sold multiple technology companies. Prior to his gaming career, Chris was a decorated chef, with a multitude of awards for culinary excellence. He currently resides in Florida with his wife and two kids.