A face in the crowd
Police are already using frontier technologies such as drones, 3-D printing and cloud computing in the fight against crime, and now it’s the turn of face-recognition technology. While criminals are busy using technology to try and hack into bank accounts, the police are watching them via cameras distributed throughout cities.
“If you have watched the US TV series Person of Interest, you may have been astonished by face-recognition technology that can recognize a mobile image in an open environment in real time. Although the current technology is still limited to the amount of light that falls on the monitored object and its orientation, real-time monitoring technology as described on the program is not far-fetched,” said Mei Lin, director of the Cyber Physical System R&D Center at the Ministry of Public Security’s Third Research Institute.
In October, the use of facerecognition technology allowed police in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province, to detain a suspected thief in
just 10 minutes.
In August, police in Kunshan, a city in Jiangsu province, used the technology to identify and arrest a suspect who had been on the run for eight years. Meanwhile, cameras in Shanghai identified a man suspected of embezzling 90 million yuan ($13 million) before fleeing the country in 1999, when he returned to the city last year using a fake identity.
“With several years’ accumulation of technology, we have developed a set of practical experiences that even some multinational tech companies don’t possess,” Mei said, adding that the institute is concentrating on technologies such as information security and the internet of things.
“Video surveillance has been fully implemented in areas such as public security, urban traffic, hydrologic monitoring and others. China’s large population provides us with a broad testing ground,” he said.
Mei and his colleagues at the institute are developing a super-large database for public security applications to serve the mutual interests of police, researchers and companies.
On Nov 28, the Ministry of Public Security published an exposure draft to regulate the collection, transfer, use, storage and processing of public video images.
The draft also bans surveillance in areas that may violate personal privacy.
Wang Xiaoling, a professor at the School of Computer Science and Software Engineering at East China Normal University, said public video images will be subjected to classified processing before being released to government departments.
“The data is stored in a cloud that allows different levels of access, depending on the person. For example, classified videos that contain State secrets have the highest level of protection. Videos that contain trade secrets are subject to limited controls, and general surveillance video footage is processed to erase personal features and protect people’s privacy,” she said.
According to a document published last year, video surveillance will cover all key public areas and businesses in the country, and the coverage of high-definition monitoring will be expanded during the next few years.