RealNetworks gives away facial recognition solution to US schools
17 July 2018 15:45 GMT

A RealNetworks' programme called SAFR, was released Tuesday for free download on the company's website for kindergarten through 12th grade schools in the US and Canada.

The move to facial recognition marks a radical transformation for RealNetworks, formerly a streaming-music service.

The software is intended to combat a dramatic rise in school shootings, as a fierce debate continues over how to keep children safe from on-campus gun violence.

"When tragedies like the Parkland [shooting] happened, it just seemed to us as parents that we can do something good for society [with this technology],"  Rob Glaser, CEO of RealNetworks and former Microsoft executive.

"One of the things we heard from the schools was that [they] don't have a lot of budget, so we say let's just create a version for free that any school can use."

The program isn't intended to interact with the children. It's for adults, specifically staff and parents. It's been in testing for the past six months, guarding students at the University Child Development School in Seattle, where Glaser's own children attend.

The software is mainly used during school time when entrance is restricted to protect students' safety. After adults register their face and name at an iPad kiosk, school gates automatically open when connected cameras verify their identity in the school's database. Adults can opt out of the system and buzz in manually, but Glaser said that roughly 300 to 400 people voluntarily registered in the system.

The school's front desk used to monitor cameras and buzz people in, but the process usually took a long time, said Paula Smith, head of school at UCDS.

"Our school is in a very urban area and huge density [of population] come into this neighborhood. We weren't able to give families badges and have them be lost," Smith said. "It's nice to have this software and have access [for staff and parents]. It also frees up the front desk to take care of the kids."

SAFR encrypts all facial data and images to ensure privacy. When used locally, no personal or facial data is ever transmitted over the Internet. 

"Privacy concerns are paramount in our design thinking," said Reza Rassool, CTO of RealNetworks. "SAFR can be deployed securely in the cloud or purely on-premises, where all face and event data remains on site. In both cases private data is encrypted in transit and at rest."

SAFR supports numerous secure access use cases where facial recognition can replace the use of an ID badge, securely automate entry to facilities, trigger notifications, and log events for analytics. SAFR provides facial detection and tracking of many faces in a single camera feed. Each face can be selectively analyzed for age, gender, sentiment, and liveness. Faces are rapidly matched to a database of enrolled faces, returning each identity with a recognition confidence score. SAFR works with off-the-shelf IP cameras and runs on mobile devices and readily available computers.

Lasse Andresen, ForgeRock's chief technology officer, said, "At ForgeRock, our focus is to enable organizations of all sizes to build trusted digital relationships, and nothing can be more notable than protecting the bond between schools and its students. We congratulate RealNetworks in delivering the SAFR platform and look forward to working together to advance this exciting initiative." 

Building on its legacy and leadership in streaming media—including compression, media delivery, digital rights management, and efficient scalability—RealNetworks' expertise now extends to AI, machine learning and deep neural networks: the foundation of SAFR.