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Facial Authentication vs. Facial Recognition

Written by Aly Beach & Tiana Benoit Tuesday, October 10, 2023 Posted in General

With the rise of new access control and NVR options hitting the market, come questions about their AI systems and concerns about privacy and facial recognition. Many systems have implemented various forms of facial scanning to increase security and make the system more convenient - a facial scan is much quicker than manually entering a password, after all. 

But what is involved in that process? Are your photos kept somewhere? Who has access to them? These questions hold a lot of implications, but the simplest way to answer them would be to distinguish facial recognition from facial authentication/authorization. 


What is the difference between facial authentication and facial recognition? 

The short answer is that facial recognition observes facial features and, depending on the type, can also keep snapshots in a database, whereas facial authentication is set up to distinguish certain faces already established in a database to allow entry into access-controlled spaces. 

Facial authentication, also known as authorization, is a one-to-one matching process used to verify an individual's identity. 

Many new access control systems, like the SIMA system offered by Active Witness, offer the ability to save a photo of an individual's face in the database and give them specific access to the property. This method can pair with fob/keypad access, so when the individual scans their access key, they also have their facial features scanned and compared to the face on file. This is beneficial if there is concern about fob/code sharing or tailgating (when someone else follows behind someone unlocking a door) and can be set up to send an alert if a non-registered or mismatched face uses a fob that isn't theirs. 

Facial recognition is more broad, as it doesn't have a database that it searches from but instead gathers information throughout the day. These systems can keep snapshots of individuals' faces in a database to make it easier to search through if going through footage is needed - for example, a robbery with a witness description. This feature can often be modern smart analytic security surveillance setups. 


Different Methods - Different Benefits

Overall, both facial AI systems are beneficial in their own ways. Facial recognition is more widely used in security cameras that monitor open busy areas, and facial authentication is directly bonded with access control systems. 

Each method has its own benefit for specific situations - One would not need facial authentication on a camera in a busy mall, and one would find facial recognition not as useful in access control applications. When used in the right situation, however, they both provide powerful and helpful security measures. 


In short:  

Facial Recognition

  • Constantly recording and capturing faces
  • Stores snapshots of faces in a database
  • Has the ability to lock onto facial features and zoom in*
  • Commonly used in security surveillance applications 

Facial Authentication/Authorization

  • Only recording when prompted by fob/keypad use
  • Compares snapshot of face to one on file
  • Provides entry access if a face is authorized
  • Sends an alert/alarm when a face does not match