Are consumers ready for Apple's facial recognition?

iPhone X, 3D sensors
Apple's new iPhone includes facial recognition technology. (Apple)

Earlier this week, Apple released its iPhone X, which included facial recognition capabilities that can be used for phone security and payment verification. 

Apple's Face ID uses a TrueDepth camera system made up of more than 30,000 invisible IR dots. The IR image and dot patterns create a mathematical model of a user's face and sends the data to a score platform to confirm a match. It even has the ability to adapt to physical changes in a person's appearance over time. The Face ID only unlocks the phone when customers look at it. 

"All saved facial information is protected by the secure enclave to keep data extremely secure, while all of the processing is done on-device and not in the cloud to protect user privacy," Apple explained in a press release.

Are consumers ready for this?

Facial recognition technology was originally envisioned as an authentication tool for payments and stock trading transactions, and then to identify terrorists in a crowds post 9/11, according to Sam Cinquegrani, founder and CEO of ObjectWave, a digital marketing and services provider. However, he applauded Apple's ability to incorporate the technology in a user-friendly way that enhances the experience.

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"I definitely think consumers are ready for this technology, and any that enhances their experience," he told FierceRetail. "And since Apple, a very trusted brand, is the one adopting it, I think consumers will embrace it even more."

Michael Levine, VP of marketing at Photon, agreed that as speed and convenience are a top priority with today's consumers, shoppers are ready for this technology. 

"Apple’s new Face ID removes the last trail of friction—touch—and brings even greater ease of use to authentication. While the immediate opportunity is with ApplePay, I would expect adoption (integration) across any authentication point for any conceivable service—of course—running on Apple's ecosystem. Ultimately, the applications are endless," he said. 

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In fact, Sean Maharaj, director in the retail practice of AArete, a global consultancy specializing in data-informed performance improvement, said that Apple is late to the game on releasing this technology, as Samsung had already pioneered it on its mobile devices. 

"Chinese company Face++, specializing in facial recognition, has employed its technology in a number of different apps," Mahraj said. "Alipay, an app that boasts over 120 million users, uses this technology to allow users to transfer money via facial recognition. But of course, Apple being the consummate marketer, they have a way of zooming to the head of the class."

Will consumers trust this method of security?

"Since so many brands—ubiquitous brands—have started to use facial recognition, for example MasterCard with its Selfie Pay, Facebook with its tagging of friends and Snapchat seeking to use the technology to protect personal privacy, it has become a technology used by the masses, and no longer considered fringe, or for highly specialized uses. With Apple’s further validation, I believe consumers will trust it to provide as high, or an even higher level of consumer protection than other authentication methods," Cinquegrani said. 

Maharaj is a bit more skeptical and said only time will tell as there are more hurdles for the technology here in the U.S. 

"With the recent Equifax breach of security, it’s hard not to expect that consumers, with the exception of younger audiences, may prolong adoption due to security risks," he said. 

But Maharaj said that the future is now and U.S. consumers will need to get ready for facial recognition.

"Alibaba launched a cashless store earlier this year that will be a perfect pilot location for the facial recognition payment technology," Maharaj said. "Companies like Amazon, through its purchase of Whole foods, will likely follow the trend as they seek to blaze a trail for others while keeping its name at the forefront of technology and innovation."

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