China’s fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech gain­ing ground

Huge de­mand, abun­dance of data driv­ing rapid ex­pan­sion: ex­perts

Global Times - - Front Page - By Chen Qingqing

Fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy is now widely used in dif­fer­ent sec­tors in China and the coun­try has de­vel­oped an edge in the in­dus­try, partly thanks to govern­ment sup­port.

If lo­cal res­i­dents in Wuhan, cap­i­tal of Cen­tral China’s Hubei Province, for­get to bring their iden­tity cards to process pass­port applications, of­fi­cials can process their applications by scan­ning their faces, the Wuhan Morn­ing Post re­ported on Tues­day.

An­other ap­pli­ca­tion sce­nario is in a sports store in Nan­jing, cap­i­tal of East China’s Jiangsu Province, where con­sumers can pay by “face swap­ping” with­out tak­ing out their wal­lets, ac­cord­ing to the Xin­hua News Agency. The store was opened by Chi­nese re­tailer Sun­ing Com­merce Group on Mon­day.

Fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy is also used at a rail­way sta­tion in Wuhan, where 16 ma­chines were set up at the check­points on Mon­day. It takes less than two sec­onds to pass through them, ac­cord­ing to the fi­nan­cial news site caixin. com.

Fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy has been de­vel­op­ing rapidly in China since 2015, as de­mand for the ap­pli­ca­tion has driven more in­vest­ment in the sec­tor, Zhou Xi, pres­i­dent of Chongqing- based vis­ual recog­ni­tion firm CloudWalk, told the Global Times on Mon­day. Like Zhou, many Chi­nese en­trepreneurs with an aca­demic back- ground and work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence overseas have re­turned to China to de­velop fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy.

“I used to work at Mi­crosoft’s speech recog­ni­tion group, and some peo­ple who rec­og­nized the po­ten­tial of China’s ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence ( AI) sec­tor have come back to the coun­try in re­cent years, which is a boon for the in­dus­try,” Zhou said.

The fa­cial recog­ni­tion mar­ket scale is ex­pected to reach $ 6.84 bil­lion by 2021, with a com­pound an­nual growth rate ( CAGR) of 15.3 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased by the global mar­ket con­sul­tancy Mar­ket­sandMar­kets in Novem­ber 2016.

The mar­ket is ex­pected to be given fur­ther im­pe­tus from huge gov­ern­men­tal in­vest­ments in se­cu­rity and sur­veil­lance in­fras­truc­ture, as well as in­creased public aware­ness, the re­port noted.

In China, the mar­ket scale for fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy sur­passed 1 bil- lion yuan ($ 152 mil­lion) in 2016, and the CAGR will reach 25 per­cent, push­ing the mar­ket to a scale of 5.1 bil­lion yuan by 2021, ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished by Bei­jing- based mar­ket re­search firm Qianzhan.

The rapid growth in China has also at­tracted Yin Qi, an­other Chi­nese en­tre­pre­neur with work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in the US, to come back home to start a fa­cial recog­ni­tion com­pany. Yin, co- founder of Megvii Tech­nol­ogy Inc, also known as Face++, has come up with dif­fer­ent fa­cial recog­ni­tion so­lu­tions not only for con­sumer prod­ucts but also for lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

Big data ad­van­tage

Although Western com­pa­nies and re­search in­sti­tu­tions started work­ing on fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy ear­lier, when Chi­nese play­ers tapped into the mar­ket, they were more in­no­va­tive and came up with more ap­pli­ca­tion so­lu­tions rang­ing from se­cu­rity to fi­nance, Zhang Zhuo, an in­dus­try ex­pert with IDC, told the Global Times in an ear­lier in­ter­view.

For in­stance, dur­ing the 2017 SouthSouth­east Asia Com­mod­ity Expo and In­vest­ment Fair held in Kun­ming, cap­i­tal of South­west China’s Yun­nan Province from June 12 to 18, by us­ing Hikvi­sion face de­tec­tion tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped by Hangzhou Hikvi­sion Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Co, the po­lice were able to use a data­base of 973,661 images to de­tain five crim­i­nal sus­pects, ac­cord­ing to a doc­u­ment the com­pany sent to the Global Times on Mon­day.

Com­pared to the de­vel­op­ment of the tech­nol­ogy in Western coun­tries, re­search and de­vel­op­ment teams in China can tap into a more abun­dant data­base, Zhou noted.

“In the AI sec­tor, the abun­dance of data and the depth of AI re­search are equally im­por­tant,” he said, not­ing that big data helps to im­prove both the ac­cu­racy and speed of recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy.

For­eign ri­vals

Be­sides Mi­crosoft, other tech gi­ants in­clud­ing Google and Face­book are also push­ing for­ward with their fa­cial recog­ni­tion apps.

For in­stance, Google’s cloud vi­sion ap­pli­ca­tion pro­gram­ming in­ter­face pro­vides a com­pre­hen­sive set of ca­pa­bil­i­ties in­clud­ing ob­ject de­tec­tion and face de­tec­tion. “De­vel­op­ers have to test apps based on hun­dreds of mil­lions of images. Google has a data­base of more than 1 bil­lion images, which gives it an ad­van­tage in the sec­tor,” Zhou ex­plained.

The ex­pert noted that though China still lags be­hind the US in AI tech­nol­ogy, the coun­try has sur­passed the US in fa­cial recog­ni­tion.

“Con­sid­er­ing the large mar­ket de­mand, our com­pany set up an R& D team with over 200 peo­ple,” he said.

“In the AI sec­tor, the abun­dance of data and the depth of AI re­search are equally im­por­tant.” Zhou Xi Pres­i­dent of Chongqing- based vis­ual recog­ni­tion firm CloudWalk

A cus­tomer makes a pay­ment us­ing fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy at the first in­tel­li­gent self- ser­vice store launched by ap­pli­ance re­tail chain Sun­ing in Nan­jing, cap­i­tal of East China’s Jiangsu Province on Mon­day.

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