Saying 'Cheese' for More Effective Border Security

November 25, 2008,
A graphical overlay can improve the quality of facial images obtained by facial recognition systems. Credit: NIST

Facial recognition systems perform some very challenging tasks such as checking an individual’s photo against a database of known or suspected criminals. The task can become nearly impossible when the systems acquire poor facial images—a situation that occurs all too often in real-world environments. Now, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have found that several simple steps can significantly improve the quality of facial images that are acquired at border entry points such as airports and seaports.

Better yet, the NIST recommendations for improving facial images can be implemented relatively easily with existing facial recognition technology.

Travelers entering the United States have their pictures taken and their fingerprints collected digitally as part of the US-VISIT program implemented by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). US-VISIT and NIST work together on an ongoing basis to improve processes and technology. A 2007 NIST study of facial images collected at border entry points, however, found that the captured facial images were not as clear and useful for automated recognition as they could be.

In usability and human factors research performed for US-VISIT as part of a large joint effort to improve facial recognition technology, NIST’s Mary Theofanos and her colleagues sought simple ways of obtaining better facial images in often hectic real-world conditions without having to deploy new technology. The NIST researchers first visited and observed a DHS border entry point at Dulles Airport in the Washington, D.C. area to see the facial-image capturing process.

As a result of these observations, the researchers identified and shared with US-VISIT a number of steps to take for acquiring better facial images. For example, the report recommends that operators should adjust camera settings to ensure the subject comes into sharp focus. The report also recommends using a traditional-looking camera in facial-recognition systems so that individuals could clearly recognize the camera and look into it.

Following the Dulles site visit, a study adopted these steps in taking facial images of 300 participants while mimicking the real-world conditions of a border entry point. In these tests, 100 percent of the images fully captured the participant's face; all of the participants faced the camera; and the researchers found additional improvements by using a graphical overlay to the camera display in order to better position the camera.

The researchers believe these steps will improve the performance of facial recognition systems in real-world settings using existing technology. A follow-up study is underway in which the researchers are incorporating the graphical overlay into the workflow of camera operators.

Report: M. Theofanos, B. Stanton, C. Sheppard, R. Micheals, J. Libert and S. Orandi. Assessing Face Acquisition. NIST Interagency Report (NISTIR) 7540, Sept. 2008. zing.ncsl.nist.gov/biousa/docs/face_IR-7540.pdf

Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

Explore further: Researchers in Japan are showing way to decode thoughts

Related Stories

Researchers in Japan are showing way to decode thoughts

January 15, 2018

Making news this month is a study by researchers the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) and Kyoto University in Japan, having built a neural network that not only reads but re-creates what ...

Facebook improves how blind can "see" images using AI

December 19, 2017

When Matt King first got on Facebook eight years ago, the blind engineer had to weigh whether it was worth spending an entire Saturday morning checking whether a friend of his was actually in his friend list. Such were the ...

Killer robots, free will and the illusion of control

January 3, 2018

Control. We all like to think we have it, but is it all just an illusion? It might seem like a very existential question but it plays an important part in our acceptance of new technologies, especially when it comes to robots.

Fitness system creates virtual avatars in 10 minutes

January 3, 2018

Avatars—virtual persons—are a core element of ICSpace, a virtual fitness and movement environment at Bielefeld University's Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC). The system makes it possible ...

DNA techniques could transform facial recognition technology

October 23, 2017

When police in London recently trialled a new facial recognition system, they made a worrying and embarrassing mistake. At the Notting Hill Carnival, the technology made roughly 35 false matches between known suspects and ...

Recommended for you

Cryptocurrency rivals snap at Bitcoin's heels

January 14, 2018

Bitcoin may be the most famous cryptocurrency but, despite a dizzying rise, it's not the most lucrative one and far from alone in a universe that counts 1,400 rivals, and counting.

Top takeaways from Consumers Electronics Show

January 13, 2018

The 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, which concluded Friday in Las Vegas, drew some 4,000 exhibitors from dozens of countries and more than 170,000 attendees, showcased some of the latest from the technology world.

Finnish firm detects new Intel security flaw

January 12, 2018

A new security flaw has been found in Intel hardware which could enable hackers to access corporate laptops remotely, Finnish cybersecurity specialist F-Secure said on Friday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.