Mask or no mask, Idemia wins face recognition contest

Lebone Mano
By Lebone Mano, junior journalist
Johannesburg, 14 May 2021
Paul Jeremias, Idemia’s SA country manager.
Paul Jeremias, Idemia’s SA country manager.

Biometric solutions company Idemia, recently announced a top-tier finish during the 2020 Biometric Technology Rally, hosted by the US Department of Homeland Security.

Due to the pandemic, the 2020 rally challenged the biometric industry to design new algorithms that could correctly identify or match individuals wearing face masks.

Consistently ranking amongst the top three vendors, Idemia’s algorithms (code-named West and Fray) achieved the best accuracy with and without a mask and was also ranked as the easiest system to use by the rally’s test volunteers. Biometric acquisition systems collected biometric images from a demographically diverse set of volunteers. The images were then processed by matching systems. This challenge was specifically designed to see how these systems would hold up in real-world life settings, including at airports or ports of entry.

Idemia’s algorithm achieved a ‘true identification rate’ (TIR) of over 99.5% on people not wearing a mask while its acquisition technology displayed over 95% accuracy on masked people. The company’s newest algorithm was also placed first in the US’s National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Face Recognition Vendor Test in March 2021

Bridge over troubled water

Locally, Idemia has been tasked with migrating the Department of Home Affairs’ National Identification System – which at the moment only records photographs and fingerprints – to a new ‘Automated Biometric Identification System’ (ABIS).

ABIS was first announced in 2018 by then home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba. The migration of the system has however been delayed and there have been claims of tender irregularities.

Asked when we can expect Idemia's eGates solutions to be installed in South Africa, Idemia’s local country manager and public security and identity director for Southern Africa, Paul Jeremias, told ITWeb, “The system isn’t ready to be deployed. It’s coming but other priorities have been flagged for the country.

“A great example of what we can do is in the UAE where we’re using iris and face capturing to enable touchless e-border clearance. It takes less than two seconds to process each traveller.”

First launched in 2011, today the e-borders process up to 15 000 travellers per hour, he added.

In Singapore’s Changi airport (voted the world’s best airport for eight years running), Idemia’s end-to-end MorphoPass Airport Solution uses facial recognition at all departure points. The system’s centralised platform allows the airport to authenticate and identify millions of passengers annually through the airport’s ‘Fast And Seamless Travel at Changi’ self-service options.

“Changi has grown contactless over the years...and with the coronavirus floating around in one way or the other for a number of years now, this enforces the contactless travel trend,” said Jeremias.

Idemia’s Samantha Koo-Keck , Communications Director (MEA) said: “We have a white-label app that allows travellers to self-enrol remotely using a selfie/fingerprints and their passport picture; and while the push right now is to give travellers a seamless, contactless experience, the idea is to expand contactless biometry beyond just border control.”