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Kenya could implement face recognition technology for ATMs

May 4, 2010 • Security, Top Stories

Kenyans might draw money from ATMs without using a credit or debit card in the near future.

Dr. Waweru Mwangi, director of the Institute of Computer Science and Information Technology at Jomo Kenyatta University, has developed a device called Basic Intelligent Automated Teller Machine, which can be inserted into ATMs to function as a face recognition tool.

According to Kenya’s publication Daily Nation, the invention is on display at the national scientific conference in Nairobi.

“We realised that many people feel uncomfortable with the card, which in some cases is retained by the machine”, said Dr Mwangi. The smart ATM helps to remove the need to use cards to access money, making banking a friendly experience, he added.

The most important benefit of Mwangi’s smart ATM is its security features, which prevents hijackers or cyber criminals to use stolen PIN codes and cards to access money directly.

A camera recognizes the customer’s face using 3D biometrics (no life-size photographs can be used), sending details to a database and once verified, the customer is advised to enter the PIN number and ask a very personal question before using the ATM as usual.

Mwangi said that although twins could pass the face test, the PIN or the question stage would be the final test in this case.

Face recognition technology is widely used worldwide to access buildings, however it hasn’t been used in ATMs, which would help address potential security threats, added Mwangi, who plans to test the prototype in the following six months and then promote it to various banks in the country.

According to some experts though, face recognition doesn’t perform well under certain conditions such as poor lighting, wearing sunglasses or having other objects partially covering the face, needing complementary technology in case of recognition failure.

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