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How Does Facial Recognition Work?


You may have unlocked your phone with your face multiple times today, but do you understand how the underlying biometric technology, facial recognition, works? In this article you’ll learn how using an individual’s physical characteristics proves a better choice than traditional security methods such as easily lost, stolen or forgotten ID cards, passwords/PINs, or keys.

While smartphones offer one of the most ubiquitous uses for facial recognition-based security, the possibilities extend far beyond personal mobile devices - with biometrics adding significant benefits to safety, security, and efficiency across a variety of industries. As a compelling, comprehensive, and rewarding biometric technology, it is vital to understand how facial recognition works, what sets it apart from other biometric modalities, how it can be deployed and optimized, the technical considerations and specifications, varied use cases, and its future potential.

1. What is facial recognition?

Facial recognition technology identifies facial vectors and features then matches them with pre-enrolled individuals.

AI algorithms run mathematical equations to create a unique template of an individual by measuring their facial variables. Measurements such as nose depth and width, forehead length, and eye shape are processed by the AI. Facial recognition technology then compares this newly generated template with existing templates in a database. If there is a match, it can confirm an individual’s identity.

CyberLink is the creator of FaceMe®, has created an AI-based facial recognition engine .. CyberLink has pushed the boundaries and is leveraging the latest in AI, such as deep learning and neural networks. The result is one of the world’s most accurate, secure, and flexible edge-based solutions.

What are the different types of biometric technologies?

Three of the main biometric technologies in use today are:

  1. Fingerprint Recognition: Unique fingerprint patterns are analyzed on a touch or optical sensor, and matched to an individual
  2. Iris Recognition: The unique patterns and colors in a person’s iris are scanned and used to verify identity
  3. Facial Recognition: A mix of unique facial vectors and features are used to match and identify an individual

The chart below compares the strengths and weaknesses of each biometric solution.

2D Facial Recognition
3D Facial Recognition









Special Hardware

Fingerprint sensor
Iris scanner
2D camera on device
3D depth camera

Hardware Cost


Remote Enrollment

Very Good

Block listed & Stranger Prevention


Very Good

Very Good

While it can be fast and highly accurate, Iris recognition requires specialized and expensive imaging equipment. The downside to fingerprint verification is the hygiene concerns associated with touch verification — in addition to dirt or oil from fingers interfering with the efficacy and integrity of these sensors. Facial recognition is recognized as a superior method of biometric security technology because it is affordable, hygienic, fast and flexible.

Facial recognition is the best choice

Facial recognition can be leveraged to perform tasks far beyond face detection and recognition – making it one of the most powerful and relevant AI enhanced biometric technologies. Moreover, thanks to the use of robust and feature-forward facial recognition platforms, such as FaceMe, the benefits for users continue to grow.

Find out how to integrate FaceMe SDK, a cross-platform AI facial recognition engine, into edge-based AIoT/IoT devices for all business scenarios.

How does facial recognition work?

A facial recognition engine performs several steps, as outlined below:

Step 1 Face detection

Face detection is the first step in any facial recognition process. The technology scans an area for any full or partial human faces within camera view. After faces are confirmed to be present, the technology can begin the face match using its AI-powered recognition processes. FaceMe can detect multiple faces at a time, and count how many faces are simultaneously present, making it a suitable engine for busy areas.

Step 2 Face feature extraction

Feature extraction is the next step. After a face has been detected, a template is generated. The engine extracts an n-dimensional vector set - a template - from the detected facial image. Achieving a precise template requires a high “n” value.

Face attribute detection is simply facial analysis for the purpose of identifying and analyzing customer characteristics such as age, gender, and mood, as well as head orientation or movements (e.g., nodding, shaking). Face analysis is an important feature in smart retail and digital signage, which allows for customized ads and messaging while collecting detailed visitor statistics.

Step 3 Face match and Face Search

1:1 Face Match

If the goal is to verify a person’s identity, the engine will then perform a face match. A match uses a 1:1 method. The newly extracted facial template is either matched with a facial template in the pre-enrolled database or cross-referenced with a piece of identification to perform a match. Some of the most common uses of face matching occur on mobile devices, such as Apple’s Face ID on iPhones, or in mobile banking apps where you log in to your financial service portal by authenticating with your face.

1:N Face search

For this function, the question progresses from “Is this person who they say they are?” to “Who is this person?” FaceMe can answer this question using a face search (or face image search). This time the AI-powered engine completes a 1:N search, comparing an individual’s template against pre-enrolled faces in the database to find the best match and confirm the person’s identity. To ensure privacy, no actual images of faces are stored on the platform — FaceMe only stores encrypted vector data. The most common use of face search is for security and surveillance camera systems, to verify that people on premises belong to a particular group or organization. In this example, if an individual's face has been pre-enrolled in the company’s database, face search will will look for a template that corresponds to the live capture and will grant access if there iws a match.

gender, age and mood facial recognition

For additional information about the key qualities required by a facial recognition system, please check out an executive summary of the technology, written for the US Department of Homeland Security.

Which FaceMe solution works best for you?

Are you a developer who just needs a facial recognition SDK or API to start developing your own applications? Or are you a business owner or decision-maker that wants an out-of-the-box facial recognition solution?

For developers: SDK or API

FaceMe has two different types of solutions for developers, depending on the development and coding requirements of their facial recognition application.

  • FaceMe SDK : FaceMe SDK is a top-ranking, cross-platform engine that integrates edge-based AI facial recognition in many IoT and AIoT devices. It is compatible with a wide variety of hardware configurations and operating systems.
  • FaceMe Platform : This web-based service includes facial recognition APIs, a console, testing tools, and system services so that developers can flexibly deploy facial recognition in virtually any connected scenario. It offers ensured high service availability with load balancing and failover functions.
Find out how to integrate FaceMe SDK, a cross-platform AI facial recognition engine, into edge-based AIoT/IoT devices for all business scenarios.

For business decision-makers: ready-to-deploy solutions

  • FaceMe Security : FaceMe Security is a value-added solution for smart surveillance that runs on PCs, workstations, and servers. It also integrates into existing VMS (video management systems). FaceMe Security detects individuals within a crowd and identifies them by face matching the live capture with profiles in a pre-enrolled database — even if they are wearing health or safety gear. The solution is extendable to display an individual's body temperature, can detect anyone not properly wearing a mask over their nose and mouth, and highlights block-listed people. It can also send real-time alerts to security personnel or other designated people within your organization.

    Related articles: Building a Security & Surveillance System with Facial Recognition

  • FaceMe eKYC & Fintech : This solution offers the banking, financial services, and insurance industry (BFSI) secure, real-time biometric verification that can be deployed at the edge or on the cloud. Financial institutions can protect customers against biometric fraud by deploying eKYC (electronic Know Your Customer) solutions that match a person's photo to their ID.

    Related articles: With Facial Recognition for the BFSI Industry KYC Becomes eKYC

  • FaceMe TimeClock : This timekeeping solution allows employees to use their faces to clock-in/out via a device as simple as a laptop or tablet with a built-in webcam and a web browser. It also provides an intuitive web-based interface for administrators to enroll employees, manage databases, check attendance rates, and more.

    Related articles: FaceMe TimeClock: Combining Facial Recognition with Attendance Systems in the Workplace

  • FaceMe Smart Retail : FaceMe Smart Retail is a web-based customer analytics solution that obtains information from facial recognition cameras to provide insight into guest demographics, behavior, emotions, and trends.

    Related articles: How Facial Recognition Will Change Smart Retail

What’s the future of facial recognition?

Facial recognition has a significant role to play in the future of AI biometric sensing technology. In the past 5 years, the use of AI has brought levels of flexibility affordability and accuracy that were unthinkable until now and makes it a core lever to process and workflow improvements everywhere, from industrial plans and mines to customer experience and financial transactions . Businesses are adding facial recognition to automated door systems to control access. Retailers are enhancing customer experiences in their stores. Manufacturers are adding it to their processes. Banks and fintech companies are introducing enhanced face matching, anti-spoofing authentication and cutting-edge security controls. And these are just a few examples where facial recognition technology is starting to gain traction.

Without a doubt, the ethical deployment of facial recognition technology is on track to make the world a better place.

FaceMe facial recognition FAQ

Yes. CyberLink’s FaceMe facial recognition technology works almost as fast and as accurately when an individual is masked, as when they are mask-less. Our face identification system is also optimized to detect whether a mask is being worn correctly, in order to ensure employee safety.
Yes. CyberLink’s FaceMe facial recognition technology works almost as fast and as accurately when an individual is masked, as when they are mask-less. Our face identification system is also optimized to detect whether a mask is being worn correctly, in order to ensure employee safety.
There are a multitude of uses for facial recognition in businesses. At the time of writing, CyberLink has created several tailored FaceMe solutions for what we have identified as segments with the best initial growth potential, security, timeclock systems, Fintech, and smart retail solutions. Both we and our customers are continuing to develop new innovative use cases, and our blog shares case studies highlighting some of the most insightful uses of facial recognition in business.
CyberLink FaceMe includes tried and tested anti-spoofing technology to prevent attempts to use the identity of another individual to gain unauthorized access to controlled areas or services. The most common way someone will try and fool a face identification system is by presenting a photo (2D) of an authorized person. FaceMe includes various technologies to prevent both 2D and 3D identity spoofing methods, and has passed industry standard tests verifying its superior resistance to such attacks.

FaceMe®: CyberLink’s Complete Facial Recognition Solution

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