Thursday, 6 April 2017

Face reality! Patents for facial recognition are on the way up

In the wake of our recent and well-received posts on the spread of patents for encryption and cryptography ["Encryption, cryptography and the current state of patents", here, and "Encryption and Enigma", here], here's a follow-up on a specific aspect of security that has been quietly gaining momentum for some while: facial recognition. With the aid of the Aistemos Cipher tool, we have put together a few facts and observations for your interest and edification.

Active Facial Recognition patent families over time


Active Facial Recognition patent families over time


• For the purposes of this blogpost, a facial recognition system is, quite simply, a computer application that is capable of identifying a person from a digital image or video;
• As the technology has evolved, its areas of application have spread from being mainly security-related to those which involve online dating, payments, greeting hotel guests, checking attendance or even to catch toilet paper thieves in China [on which see Fortune and CBS News];
• The growth of active Facial Recognition patents has been almost exponential throughout the first decade of this century, as the chart above shows.
Facial Recognition technology by country


Facial Recognition technology by country


• As is so often the case, China leads the pack by a long way, with almost as many patents as the rest of the top ten nations put together;
• Most of the other countries listed in the table above are the "usual suspects", but the inclusion of Ireland may come as something of a surprise since this small jurisdiction -- while it is known to have a strong software community -- does not normally come close to generating large numbers of patents in other software-related fields.
The biggest Facial Recognition players


The biggest Facial Recognition players


• In the boxes above, the size of the box represents the number of Facial recognition-related patents owned by each company in relation to the entire technology field in 2017, while the colour represents the extent to which that company's share of patents has increased (red = biggest increase) or decreased (green = biggest drop) between 2007-2017;
• The chart above shows a good mix of actors within the field, ranging through regular tech, imaging, automotive and aviation/defence industries. An indication of how facial recognition systems will play an increasingly important role in a variety of different industries in the future.
We do hope that you find this presentation interesting, useful or at least thought-provoking. If there are other fields in which you would like us to take a look and generate a blogpost based on what we see, do contact Aistemos [contact details can be accessed here] and let us know.

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