Facial recognition ATMs: leave your card at home and take your cash by showing your face

26 May 2017

Modern ATMs represent a critically important channel of interaction with customers, which produces wide self-service opportunities and reduces their dependence on banks. ATMs have ceased to be a tool exclusively for cash withdrawal. To date, cash machines allow purchasing prepaid cards, replenishing accounts in mobile networks and even buying movie tickets. ATM functions, such as interactive video, contactless device support and biometric authentication, namely facial recognition technology are becoming more popular.

Biometrics: the art of recognition

Why do banks need biometrics? ATM designers have been trying to introduce a facial recognition technology over the past years, adapting for peaceful purposes this invention, originally used in the military sphere to control the missiles. As in the case of guided missiles, built-in ATM camera focuses on its goal (user’s face), and then compares it with images in the bank’s database. The developers claim that the system looks at the biological characteristics of a person and can identify people, even if their facial features have been changed. These unique human data replace the PIN-code entry or complement it. In comparison with conventional ATMs, biometric cash machines have more reliable protection against unauthorized access to customer accounts.

biometrics cash

How the system works? It analyzes relative position, shape and size of the facial features – distance between the eyes, proportional ratio of the nose to the lips, and location of the cheekbones. This data is applied to search for other images with similar parameters that are available in the database profiles of the bank customers. Face recognition algorithms use one of two main approaches: geometric, when only the distinctive features of a face are evaluated; and photometric, when data is read from the image, which then is compared with data read from other images. Recently, a new trend has emerged – 3D facial recognition. It allows identifying people by their faces even more precisely. Unlike traditional methods, this one is not affected by lighting, as well as it is able to analyze the face, for example, in profile.

Prospects of facial recognition ATMs

The banking experts say that the biometric parameters at the current level of technology development are indeed quite reliable, as they are almost impossible to forge. They are more convenient to use (no need to remember passwords, the “ID” is always with person, it cannot be lost), and are capable of carrying out the identification process quickly and efficiently.

The technology allows customers to withdraw money without a bank card. At the same time, more traditional authentication mechanisms to ensure security are also left in the system. Cash cannot be obtained before the user enters his/her phone number and password. In addition, the system is protected from attempts to deceive it with the help of masks, photos of someone else’s face and videos.

Access can be denied!

However, along with the positive moments of using such “smart” cash machines, there are some unresolved issues. Thus, any recognition system based on biometrics has a so-called “False Acceptance Rate”, which determines the probability that one person could be mistaken for another, as well as “False Rejection Rate” – if the customer’s face has undergone significant changes, for example, in the case of age-related changes, accidents, operations, etc.

Cybercriminals do not miss any promising technological trend. Using the application to modify images of human faces, the cyber fraudsters can, for example, use photos of real people from social networks to deceive the face recognition system.


In addition, the main problem of biometric technologies is still the price – even large international banks are not willing to bear the costs for more sophisticated equipment and its maintenance.

The market for biometric technologies is growing rapidly. Probably, in the future conventional ATMs with a card reader will completely give place to high-tech devices with 3D holograms instead of words on the screen, using contactless technologies or user’s biological characteristics. Therefore, most experts agree that biometric data will be further developing at a great lick, and, perhaps, it will not become the only method of authentication, but it, at least, may be a part of the customer’s identity recognition system.

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