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Recognizing more than 100 people a minute to avoid congestion:
Gateless access control system using biometric recognition

Featured Technologies

May 8, 2023

With the world's fastest and most accurate face recognition engine*1 at the core, NEC has developed a range of leading biometric authentication technologies, such as walk-through face recognition and multimodal biometrics. Recently, NEC developed a gateless access control system using biometric recognition, which recognizes multiple pedestrians in parallel. We interviewed the researchers working on this revolutionary system that may overturn the conventional concept of flapper gates and ticket gates.

  • *1:
    Ranked No. 1 several times in face recognition benchmark tests conducted by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Recognizing individuals in parallel from many on camera

Biometrics Research Laboratories
Yusuke Morishita

― What kind of system is the gateless access control system using biometric recognition?

Morishita: This system repeatedly detects individuals on camera and performs face recognition once their faces are visible. The application of this system saves users from having to do certain actions, such as touching an IC card on an authentication device, getting in a specific line, or facing a camera. You just need to walk through the area captured by a camera, so there is no need to even install authentication devices or gates. I believe it's a system with a revolutionary concept that completely changes the notion of access control.

I expect that it can prevent congestion in settings such as entry to and exit from theme parks, railway ticket gates, offices, and factories and achieve smooth and comfortable access control.

It has two key points.
The first key point is that it repeatedly detects humans captured on camera in real time. This enables the identification of whether or not authentication of people in the images is completed, ensuring face recognition of all individuals.

The other key factor is the quick and accurate face recognition completed with even only a glimpse of the face. Even in cases where the face is slightly hidden behind other people, this technology can instantaneously recognize the face. Empowered by these two features, the gateless access control system can accurately identify multiple people in real-time. As a rough guide, it can recognize more than 100 people in one minute with one camera.

Orchestrating NEC's biometric authentication technologies for the development of the new technology

Biometrics Research Laboratories
Jun'ichi Kamimura

― How does this technology achieve the repeated detection of individuals?

Kamimura: It takes the approach of repeatedly detecting the heads of each person. Faces are easily affected by orientation, which makes them unsuitable for detection. Another method uses full-body information, but it has a problem distinguishing bodies when they are hidden by other objects or overlapped. On the other hand, as cameras installed at facilities usually look down from above to capture images, the heads are relatively not prone to overlapping. Therefore, we worked on developing a repeatedly detecting technology using heads. This made it possible to follow people even when they were facing sideways or turned to face backward without losing detection. Furthermore, even when a head disappears behind another person or obstacle, this method adopts a technology that matches clothing when it reappears, enabling continuous detection of individuals with high accuracy.

― What kinds of technologies are used to achieve quick recognition with high accuracy?

Morishita: NEC's face recognition boasts world-class accuracy, along with its excellent robustness and features tolerance for face orientation and blockages. Face recognition is possible even when people are masked. Drawing on the benefits of this face recognition engine, we achieve the system with high-accuracy recognition even when the detected heads are facing sideways or partially hidden behind things.

Kamimura: We consider quick, real-time recognition as a critical aspect and pay attention to details when building the technology. We must instantaneously process face information once recognized because that person will walk past and away. In addition to face recognition, this system integrates other engines such as repeatedly detecting technology and person re-identification technology. Real-time processing is ensured by not only the creative crafting of the processes of each engine but also by careful implementation of the combined use of CPU and GPU.

Morishita: Having said that, a simple merger of face recognition and other technologies would not have given this system its current shape. There was a need to solidly distinguish people for whom face recognition is completed and those for whom it is not, achieve chronological processing while repeatedly detecting, and know the behavior of each technology well. Only NEC, with various top-notch biometric authentication technologies, could have devised this system through close in-house collaboration.

Exploring new access control systems through demonstration experiments

― What future plans and prospects do you have for this system?

Morishita: First, we will work with different clients to experiment and verify the value and application of the gateless access control system using biometric recognition. Fortunately, we received inquiries from potential users in a wide range of fields following the press release. This year, we will enhance this technology in cooperation with multiple customers.

Kamimura: While the system concept is finalized, we still need to work on substantiation and application. We need to consider a more realistic system configuration. For example, how to stop people who are not authorized from entering when conventional station ticket gates and office entrance flapper gates are replaced with this system. With our customers, we need to look for new ways of allowing entry and exit.

Morishita: Yes. In that sense, we may need to collaborate with other systems. As Mr. Kamimura mentioned, our current demo system lights up the floor or shows some indication if authentication fails. Based on innate goodness in human nature, this approach relies on the user realizing that authentication failed. However, this approach is only a concept. There are other possible operations, such as smartphone notifications and security guards stopping entries. 

Alternatively, for places like theme parks, an application where conventional flapper gates are left only at the entrance gate but using the gateless access control system using biometric recognition inside may be an option. Combining conventional gates and our new technology may turn out realistic and convenient solutions. We want to explore new possibilities in this regard through discussions with customers.

The gateless access control system using biometric recognition is a system developed based on NEC's face recognition engine featuring world-class accuracy and speed. NEC has developed unique, leading biometric authentication technologies, including walk-through face recognition. Still, this system is a new approach that recognizes multiple individuals captured on the same camera in parallel. In addition to face recognition, the system comprises an organic combination of head detection technology, person re-identification technology, and other biometric authentication developed by NEC.