The future is nigh: FST21 launches new, somewhat dystopic identification software

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on August 28, 2013

From The News Desk

Dystopic films like "Minority Report" -- where the protagonist walks into a building to save the day, and video cameras sense his face to register that an intruder has entered -- are by now a part of our cultural heritage. We're an advanced enough civilization that I no longer think "that's never going to happen." Instead, I generally contemplate the bizarre surveillance and political landscape through which my grandchildren will have to navigate.

Well, I'm wrong. It's here. Say hello.

Launching today is the brainchild of Israeli Major General Aharon Zeevi Farkash, a man with nearly 40 years of military experience. His company, FST21, is launching its new facial recognition software called SafeRise along with a new $5 million investment from L.V. Holdings.

Identification technology is nothing new. There are numerous facial recognition softwares out there, along with growing databases of irises and fingerprints. Most of the facial recognition technology used now is implemented by government entities like the FBI, the police, or traffic courts. But facial recognition software is also used for more benign activity, like gauging the average age of patrons at a bar. Even Facebook has started using it to more easily tag photos. Relying just on facial structure, however, isn't always the most accurate metric for identification.

What makes FST21 interesting (and a bit scary) is its three-fold technology, which takes into account facial recognition, voice recognition, and bodily behavior -- this in addition to the fact that it's being used for commercial and residential security.

The software is able to take these three piece of data and conclude who it is that is entering a building. So users can enter into a building and the software is able to correctly estimate ID based on your gait, face, and voice. It's meant to substitute IDs, by creating a running list of "enrolled" people in the software's database which contains your physical information tied with your credentials. And supposedly it works; FST21 claims it to be the only software on the market that's 99 percent accurate.

As the company's CTO Shahar Belkin explained to me, creating a database of people "enrolled" in the system makes it easier for bigger companies to keep track of who can gain access to buildings. Take, for example, a large bank with branches in numerous cities. If these banks adopts FST21's software, every employee will be enrolled and can therefore enter any affiliated building without jumping through hoops.

According to Farkash, he sees this technology as a necessary safeguard for the insecure modern world. Farkash explained to me that his company's technology is a way to prevent both crime and terror. He sees cities becoming more and more populated every year, and with that comes the potential for more large-scale crime. Of course, crime in cities like New York does appears to be on a decline, but you get Farkash's point. He sees this technology as the way both public and private spaces can identify the "good people from the bad people."

And supposedly businesses are taking notice. Already a few buildings are beginning to implement it -- and not only businesses, but even affordable housing complexes. This surprised Belkin, but also made some sense. Large housing projects are inhabited by thousands of people, so it's difficult to keep track of who does or does not live in those spaces. In addition, they are known for being epicenters of criminal activity. Of course, it's not for sure that this kind of technology will necessarily help the problem at hand.

For the time being FST21 is focusing on private customers, because it sees a need for better security solutions. Farkash does see a future of SafeRise becoming a ubiquitous technology used in public spaces like airports. But to get that kind of statewide approval takes time and political clout, so Farkash is trying to prove SafeFast as a viable private security option.

He tells me that the funding will be used to increase US distribution. So maybe we'll be seeing SafeFast as a new security norm. If so, I'll inform Tom Cruise.