Face Recognition - Computing Euclidean distance in PostgreSQL

In this article, we are going to discuss about implementing Euclidean distance in PostgreSQL database. Before getting into actual implementation, let me give you a quick background to understand the need for writing this article. I have been working on Face Authentication system and to perform Face Verification task, we need to compute the distance between two faces. There are a lot of implementations out there to achieve this using Python, however it did not help in my case, so I have implemented the Euclidean distance computation in PostgreSQL. Let's see about the challenges and solutions in detail.

Face Recognition System:

In simple terms, my implementation of Face Recognition systems consist of two parts:

  • Face Registration
  • Face Verification

Face Registration:

This part contains below steps:

  • Users will register their faces with name and image
  • The registered photos will be stored in folder with name as folder name
  • The user images will be feed to Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) model and extract 128 measurements for each image.
  • Using a K-Nearest Neighbour classifier to train a classifier with name and their corresponding 128 dimension encodings.
  • Save the classifier as pickle file on application directory.
The CNN model we are using here is ResNet network with 29 layers and trained with about 3 million images - thanks to Davis King (dlib) for this great work and making this available to public. Refer this page for understanding more about this model.

Face Verification:

This part contains below steps:

  • When a new user try to login with their image, it will be feed to same Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) and extract 128 dimension number vector.
  • This 128 dimension vector is passed to classifier and it will be compared against all the pre-trained face encodings.
  • The classifier will return name of the encodings where distance comparison value is less than 0.3 (as I defined threshold as 0.3)
To learn more about this Face Recognition system, please refer this series of insightful article from Adam Geitgey. Thanks to Adam for this awesome github repository, great place to start, if you are looking for open source Face Recognition system code.

The Challenges: 

This system works well, however challenges begins when we want to add new user to Face Recognition system. When a new user is registered, the encodings and name of the user should be appended to existing pre-trained data to verify user using classifier. To do this, we have to re-train the entire data - all the registered users and save the new classifier. This approach is not scalable due to following reasons:

  • Adding new users to system is complicated as it requires training for every users.
  • Each time we add new user, need to train all the existing registered user images, generating 128 dimension number vector for all the images during training is time & resource consuming process, it requires higher GPU processing and doing this for each new users is not the right way.
  • Deleting existing user is complicated as it deals with classifier object as pickle file.
  • Parallelising to multiple servers with this approach is not feasible, as classifier stored as pickle file, we need to keep moving this file to all the servers, every-time we make changes to training data.
  • Cannot add multiple images for a person as it increases the computation.

The Solution:

After dealing with these issues for sometime, I have changed my approach to overcome above mentioned challenges. The current implementation works as follows:

Face Recognition - Computing Euclidean distance in PostgreSQL
Face Recognition - Computing Euclidean distance in PostgreSQL

Face Registration:

  • User registers with name and image
  • Extract the 128 dimension number vector by feeding into Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) model with pre-trained weights.
  • Store name and encoding in PostgreSQL database (you can store it in any database, I will explain the reason for storing it in PostgreSQL later in the post, keep reading)

Face Verification:

  • User login with Image
  • Extract the 128 dimension number vector by feeding into Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) model with pre-trained weights.
  • Compute the Euclidean distance between the new user encoding with existing encodings stored in PostgreSQL using SQL statement.
  • Authenticate the user based on the distance value (true, if d < 03)

So how this solution helps?

  • We removed training part completely, as adding a new user is now INSERT operation.
  • We can add any number of images per user as it's going to be inserted as new records in a table.
  • We can remove/delete/update individual user records without additional overhead with DELETE & UPDATE operation.
  • Computations in PostgreSQL is faster as compared to Python implementation.
  • We parallelise and scale this architecture to any number of users in future - currently I am performing inference with 25K encodings, that is 1:25K (this is not a big thing in database!!!)

Why PostgreSQL?

By now, you will be wondering why PostgreSQL specifically, as this can be done in any SQL database. Let me give you my reasons for going with PostgreSQL.

  • CUBE datatype - yes I can store entire 128 dimension number vector in a single column (this is really awesome 😎 )
  • In-built function for Euclidean distance computation (<->)

If you are trying to do this in any other database, please mention the query in comment section, it will be helpful to others. Formula for computing euclidean distance is given below:

Euclidean Distance:

Euclidean distance for higher dimension
Euclidean distance for higher dimension

Refer this wikipedia page for more details. Okay, let's jump into implementation.

Installing PostgreSQL from source:

If you have installed PostgreSQL binary, you will not be able to achieve this as the default max dimension of CUBE datatype is 100 in binary installation. To change the CUBE max dimension to 128, we need to modify the source code file and install it.

Don’t worry, if you have not done this before, it is a simple task, follow the below steps correctly, you will be done in no time.

I will show you on how to do it on Linux/MacOS machine, if you are doing it on Windows, please mention the steps in comment section, it will be helpful to other readers.

make install
adduser postgres
mkdir /usr/local/pgsql/data
chown postgres /usr/local/pgsql/data
su - postgres
/usr/local/pgsql/bin/initdb -D /usr/local/pgsql/data
/usr/local/pgsql/bin/pg_ctl -D /usr/local/pgsql/data -l  
\logfile start
/usr/local/pgsql/bin/createdb test
/usr/local/pgsql/bin/psql test

Now you are done with PostgreSQL installations, we need to add CUBE extension to get this CUBE datatype feature. 

Go to the contrib/cube directory and install the extension by running the below commands:


make install

Lets create a database and user for our Face Recognition system:

su - postgres
/usr/local/pgsql/bin/createdb facedb
/usr/local/pgsql/bin/psql facedb

To use CUBE extension from facedb we need to create the extension under this database, to do that, run the following SQL statement:


Create a table for storing Employee ID, Name, Encoding - you can skip the employeeid column - I am adding it to get Employee ID in addition with Name at the Face Verification:

CREATE TABLE encodings
    encodeId serial,
    employeeid char(8) default '00000000',
    employeename varchar,
    encodevector cube

Also create an index on CUBE column to retrieve the data faster, as follows:

CREATE INDEX encodevector_idx ON encodings(encodevector);

Great!!!, we are done with database part, lets create Python function to call from registration and verification code:

Import the required packages:

from psycopg2.pool import SimpleConnectionPool
from contextlib import contextmanager

Define the database and connection parameters:

hostname = 'localhost'
dbname = 'facedb'
dbuser = 'face'
dbpass = 'face'

db = SimpleConnectionPool(1, 10,host=hostname,database=dbname,user=dbuser,  

def get_connection():
    con = db.getconn()
        yield con

Define the function to INSERT encodings, name to PostgreSQL table:

def saveDb(employeeId, name, face_encodings):

    with get_connection() as conn:
            cursor = conn.cursor()
            query = "INSERT INTO encodings(employeeid, employeename, encodevector) VALUES ('{}','{}', CUBE(array[{}]))".format(employeeId, name, ','.join(str(s) for s in face_encodings))
            return 1
            return 0

Function to compare the encoding with existing encodings from table and returns the corresponding name and employee ID

def findDb(face_encodings, threshold=0.4):

    with get_connection() as conn:


            name = 'Unknown'

            empid = '0000000'

            cursor = conn.cursor()            

            query = "SELECT employeename, employeeid FROM encodings WHERE sqrt(power(CUBE(array[{}]) <-> encodevector, 2)) <= {} ".format(','.join(str(s) for s in face_encodings), threshold) + "ORDER BY sqrt(power(CUBE(array[{}]) <-> encodevector, 2)) ASC LIMIT 1".format(','.join(str(s) for s in face_encodings))


            data = cursor.fetchone()

            if data == None:

                return name, empid


                return data

        except Exception as e:

            return e

I hope this article is helpful to you. Please write in the comment section, if you are facing any challenges with this implementation. I will be glad to assist you.


  1. Wow, Good Thought You Are Sharing With Us Great Post And Thought We Need To Work On Also And managing The All-Round Software Solutions

  2. Is this possible for MS SQL server?

    1. Not sure, why name was showing as unknown - let me know, if it works for you, thanks.

      Rathish Kumar B

  3. Hi!
    Great solutions! I work a lot with postgres, first time with face recognition data.
    I Try to analyze select query and its not using index scan, instead uses seq scan.. Can You help to create correct index?

  4. Hi,
    i am following your project in C#, but stuck in sql text can you please post a sample of format for insert encoding, this will help lot

  5. Hello, thanks for the tutorial. I am trying to do the same, however I will use appropriate k-means since it is faster. Is it possible you can show the implementation done in C/C++? thanks.

  6. cursor.execute(query)
    psycopg2.errors.SyntaxError: syntax error at or near "0.13080576"
    LINE 1: ...('FG1M_UOVUAI2JFY0.jpg', CUBE(array[[ 0.06245649 0.13080576...

  7. cursor.execute(query)
    psycopg2.errors.SyntaxError: syntax error at or near "0.13080576"
    LINE 1: ...('FG1M_UOVUAI2JFY0.jpg', CUBE(array[[ 0.06245649 0.13080576...