20Face: Access control and wander detection.

“We now have a patented technique that does not depend on specific cameras”
Edwin Hek

The UT spinoff 20Face, founded in 2017, developed a facial recognition algorithm combined with a unique self-enrollment system for the registration. Recently the company decided to devote all its attention to the business market. With two of its key technologies: access control and wander detection. In addition to that, a different structure, 11 employees in R&D, and a new focus. Since 2020 20Face also introduced face mask recognition. We spoke to CCO Edwin Hek about the latest developments and ethical concerns. 


“We recently focused all our efforts on access control for the business market,” Edwin Hek says. He became 20Face’s new CCO eighteen months ago and has since been working on its growth from The Gallery. “Think of, for example, doors that use facial recognition technology to open automatically for registered users,” Edwin continues. This form of registration grants people contact-free access because cameras can recognize the vectors in their faces. “We now have a patented technique that does not depend on specific cameras. Any company can use this technology,” Edwin explains. The access control technology is used by, e.g., FC Twente and the UT’s sports center and organizations where security is a key concern, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the port of Rotterdam. The platform is privacy-proof and therefore meets the requirements of the GDPR.


Another one of 20Face’s developments is ‘wander detection’. It is the opposite of access control since this technology is designed to stop people from getting in or out of a place. “We are currently working on a pilot program for a care facility for people who have dementia. They wander around the buildings, but it is important to stop them from going outside unsupervised when their caretakers are not around. Our facial recognition technology can prevent people from leaving, and it is less stigmatizing than putting a chip in their clothing or forcing them to wear a wrist or ankle bracelet.”


Face mask detection was a unique development in 2020. Until recently, it was challenging to identify people wearing face masks. Given the current state of the world, that poses a problem. “20Face’s technology can now detect face masks and recognize the face of the person wearing a face mask. We are quite proud of this development,” Edwin says.

The face mask detection also offers hope in other areas, for example, with heavy disguise. For this detection, 20Face works closely with Raymond Veldhuis and Luke Spreeuwer from the department of biometrics and data management. “We will soon be working on a unique project together. In the meantime, we are working on further improving the algorithm,” says Edwin.


Can you use facial recognition technology anywhere you want? What about people’s privacy? 20Face gets those questions all the time. “You have to have permission from the user, the product must be privacy-by-design, and you must be able to offer people an alternative solution. We can do all that, which allows us to protect users’ privacy,” Edwin says. By now, 20Face has extensive experience with privacy regulations and supports other organizations with similar issues. Nevertheless, not everyone is a proponent of facial recognition. “We know there is growing interest in facial recognition technology, but we want to deal with this issue ethically. This year, 20Face will form a partnership with an ethical board to help us solve the ethical problems we encounter. That ensures the technology we offer is not only secure but also ethical,” Edwin concludes.

 20Face is working hard on new developments and innovations. Do you have a technology that is ready for the market? Then take a look at the Bootcamp Entrepreneurial Researcher. Or read more about the company 20Face.


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