“Face ID” refers to the facial recognition system that could be integrated into the next iPhone. Renee Ritchie, an Apple analyst, who is sometimes regarded as an “unofficial spokesperson” for the Cupertino firm, is dithyrambic even before holding the device in his hands. This rumor poses more questions than answers. As described by these familiar sources of the subject, Face ID would go backward of the path traced by Apple in the field of security. According to rumors, the iPhone 8 might have face ID.
iPhone 8 Face ID
The next iPhone will have a facial recognition system. It’s safe and certain: Face ID, which uses a pair of sensors on the front, unless it uses only one, is based on a 3D laser scanner unless it is an infrared system. It will support the new Touch ID sensor below the screen unless it completely replaces it. This will be the flagship feature of the “iPhone 8”. Analysts and other rumor mills say everything and its opposite, and their divergences deepen rather than narrow. This is a proof that the veil of secrecy surrounding Apple is not quite torn. Still, the rumor is not far-fetched: it can be confirmed that several Apple teams have been working on different aspects of a facial recognition mechanism, some for years.
In March, Apple had ordered flight time 3D images from STMicroelectronics , a piece of information confirmed by L’Usine Nouvelle (but which could be for the camera, another vendor would provide the Module for the front sensor). Several suppliers of laser diodes VCSEL, a component in the design of miniaturized 3D capture modules, have recently filled their order books. The question is no longer if, but how Apple will approach face recognition.
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What are the others doing? Samsung provides an excellent example with the Galaxy S8, which offers not only facial recognition but also iris recognition. Two mechanisms that promise to accelerate the unlocking of the smartphone, except when they slow down. The wearers of glasses must fight with reflections, the lens wearers might have to remove their lens, and the bearded men might also face a dilemma. Another problem is that the recognition algorithms were designed in California and Korean laboratories of companies that are ignorant of the definition of the word “diversity”. Their reliability collapses in the face of very dark skin or unusual features. A too strong light, or, on the contrary, a half-light, opposes recognition. And above all, these systems require lifting the device at the level of the face, which is not always desirable or possible.
To these problems of use are added major security problems. Samsung presents facial recognition as a “practical” solution, limited to unlocking the device because it knows that it can be duped by a simple photo. The Korean firm asks to use iris recognition to unlock functions like Samsung Pay, except that it can be tricked with extremely simple means. The Microsoft system, which uses two cameras and an infrared sensor, is more reliable, but not infallible. This does not mean rejecting the hypothesis of a Face ID because it would be much less reliable than Touch ID is. Face recognition or iris systems work very similar to fingerprint recognition systems: Touch ID is nothing but an 88-pixel CCD sensor that takes a picture of the tip of the finger and creates a mathematical model of the imprint without retaining its image. Same causes, same consequences: Touch ID can be duped by a “synthetic finger” created from a photograph in high definition. The fact is that all biometric recognition systems are relatively small, and mostly have the enormous disadvantage that their support can not be changed, unlike a code or a password. The challenge is elsewhere: the recognition of fingerprints requires a conscious act, the laying of the finger on the sensor, which shows the consent of the user.
How to prevent an Apple Pay payment, or prevent unlocking of its smartphone strength, if using facial recognition? Close your eyes? The vast majority of commentators responds with the example of Samsung and more broadly Android, which classifies the different authentication methods on a convenience/security axis, and restricts the use of certain methods to certain functions. Apple could adopt the same strategy. It is because its security model is based on the rejection of the opposition between convenience and security: it considers that security requires ease of use. While only 49% of iPhone users were protecting their device by a code in 2013, they are now 89% doing so, largely through Touch ID. It’s easier to put your finger on the Touch ID sensor than entering a four-digit code, so users have improved their security by adopting the most convenient solution, which masks the code behind the fingerprint.
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Apple will not add facial recognition because it is simpler, but because it is simpler and safer. Now in the current state of technology and iOS, this is simply not possible. Face ID requires a software jump, to ensure the user’s consent in all interactions with the device, and especially a material jump, perhaps easier to describe because it is more tangible. Apple turned to world class providers, therefore, and surrounded itself with the very best specialists in the field. APple brought in Polar Rose and Faceschift, among other companies specializing in facial recognition. In particular, it acquired PrimeSense, whose technologies allowed the design of the Microsoft Kinect sensor, and can be applied to augmented reality, stand-alone behavior, or face recognition. Remember that Apple had gone to search for the Touch ID technology at Authentec, bought for $ 365 million in 2012, barely more than the amount disbursed for PrimeSense. Not that the engineers of the house are lying: according to information, a team has worked on the recognition of blood vessels, which could make the difference between a “living face” and the head of a mannequin, and another has resulted in new face recognition algorithms in photos, with a great deal of machine learning.
By combining everything we know, and keeping in mind that we do not know much, it is not hard to imagine how Apple could make this double qualitative leap. Touch ID was (and remains, in many respects) the best fingerprint recognition system, Face ID will be the best facial recognition system or it might not be, only time will tell. This is the sine qua non for combining convenience and security and adding a new floor to Apple’s secure building, rather than undermining its foundations.