Not even masks can stop China’s surveillance as this startup helps the government to deploy new AI facial recognition technology
Coronavirus, which started in Wuhan, China, continues to spread around the world. The outbreak is forcing Chinese citizens to wear face masks to prevent further spread of the disease. However, face masks now posed a problem for the government to properly recognize people using the current surveillance systems used at airports and other public places. Now, one startup has come to the rescue with the first facial recognition technology that can identify people when they are wearing a mask, as most are these days because of the coronavirus, and help in the fight against the disease.
Hanwang Technology Ltd, also known as Hanvon, said it has come up technology that can successfully recognize people even when they are wearing masks. “If connected to a temperature sensor, it can measure body temperature while identifying the person’s name, and then the system would process the result, say, if it detects a temperature over 38 degrees,” according to a report from Reuters, citing an interview with Hanwang Vice President Huang Lei.
The Beijing-based tech startup said a team of 20 staff used core technology developed over the past 10 years, a sample database of about 6 million unmasked faces and a much smaller database of masked faces, to develop the technology, The team began work on the system in January, as the coronavirus outbreak gathered pace, and began rolling it out to the market after just a month.
It sells two main types of products that use the technology. One performs “single channel” recognition that is best used at, for example, entrances to office buildings. The other, more powerful, product is a “multi-channel” recognition system that uses “multiple surveillance cameras”.
Founded in 1998, Hanvon has a number of autonomy in the fields of handwriting recognition, optical character recognition (OCR), and handwriting input. The core technology of its intellectual property rights and comprehensive technical level used in China and abroad. Huang says the new AI-power facial recognition technology can identify everyone in a crowd of up to 30 people “within a second.” The success rate for people without mask is about 99.5%. “When wearing a mask, the recognition rate can reach about 95%, which can ensure that most people can be identified,” Huang added.
The Chinese government is working to combine its 170+ million security cameras with artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology to create a vast surveillance state. One of Hanvon’s big customer is the Ministry of Public Security, which runs the police. Using Hanwang’s technology, the ministry can cross-reference images with its own database of names and other information and then identify and track people as they move about, Huang said.
“It can detect crime suspects, terrorists or make reports or warnings,” he said. But the system struggles to identify people with both a mask and sunglasses, he added.
“In this situation, all of the key facial information is lost. In such cases recognition is tough,” Huang said. The company has about 200 clients in Beijing using the technology, including the police, and expect scores more across 20 provinces to start installing it soon, Huang said.