One phone in five to have facial recognition capability by the end of 2012

August 09, 2012 // By Julien Happich
​By the end of 2012, almost 20% of annual smartphone shipments will include facial recognition capabilities, according to new data from ABI Research.

In five years' time, shipments of smartphones and tablets with the technology will increase to 665 million annually. Currently, only Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean mobile operating systems support the technology in significant volumes. The Samsung Galaxy SIII is one of the most notable smartphones to feature this technology. Over the next two to three years, many more operating systems and mobile OEMs will incorporate the technology.

Facial recognition has been on the technology radar for some time. It was developed in the 1960s by three scientists: Woody Bledsoe, Helen Chan Wolf, and Charles Bisson. Historically, the major challenge for the technology in mobile devices has been incorporating an accurate enough sensor (camera) and a powerful enough processor to undertake the complex algorithms while limiting power consumption. Thanks to major technology advancements, this has changed, notes ABI Research.

“Facial recognition technology has improved drastically over the last 10 years and accuracy is almost always above 90%,” says ABI Research senior analyst Josh Flood. “That said, lighting conditions and facial expressions can sometimes cause problems with the recognition. However, the improvements in camera resolution and processing power utilized by mobile devices has helped greatly.”

The technology is already being actively marketed and implemented in smart TVs with the ability to identify the user (watcher) having numerous advantages in this sector. Furthermore, more advanced 3D cameras that are larger than the 2D cameras typically used in mobile devices can be used, while power consumption is not such a critical factor either. Nevertheless, ABI Research projects a steady adoption of the technology in mobile devices and numerous mobile device application processor makers have begun drawing plans and benefits for the technology.

ABI Research's new “Facial Recognition for Mobile Devices” report provides further details on the market for facial recognition in smartphones, tablets, and portable game players in addition to a discussion on leading players in this market.