When a face rings a bell

Video soft­ware that can iden­tify con­victed shoplifter­s be­fore they com­mit an­other crime may of­fer se­cu­rity for shop­ping malls

Financial Mail - - FACIAL RECOGNITIO­N - Nick Hed­ley hed­leyn@busi­nesslive.co.za

When a three-year-old was re­cently kid­napped in Shen­zhen, China, it took a mat­ter of hours for the of­fender to be tracked down and the child to be re­united with his par­ents. Un­known to the kid­nap­per, her jour­ney to a town more than 1,000 km away was be­ing au­to­mat­i­cally tracked by “in­tel­li­gent” cam­eras.

“Through a fa­cial-recog­ni­tion video sys­tem the po­lice could quickly iden­tify the three-year-old and the kid­nap­per,” Huawei En­ter­prise global pub­lic safety ex­pert Pe­ter Gould­ing says.

“The kid­nap­per was iden­ti­fied in an­other part of the city, and we then saw a video of her in a build­ing col­lect­ing a bag.

“We picked up an­other video of her go­ing to a rail­way sta­tion, where she checked through with her ID,” Gould­ing says.

By the time the kid­nap­per ar­rived in a town about 2½ hours’ fly­ing dis­tance away, po­lice were wait­ing to ar­rest her.

“It was all done by city-wide closed-cir­cuit TV (CCTV) us­ing fa­cial recog­ni­tion. It’s about pre­ven­tion and also about pros­e­cut­ing and find­ing of­fend­ers and vic­tims,” Gould­ing says.

Fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy is ubiq­ui­tous in China, which mon­i­tors its cit­i­zens closely.

Now, in SA, a grow­ing num­ber of com­pa­nies are turn­ing to fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy to se­cure their premises and stamp out crime, says Colleen Glaeser, MD for South­ern Africa and the SADC re­gion at Axxon­soft.

Moscow-head­quar­tered Axxon­soft sells its fa­cial recog­ni­tion soft­ware to shop­ping malls and hous­ing es­tates, and to air­port, min­ing, bank­ing and trans­port op­er­a­tors.

Glaeser says it’s a mod­ern sub­sti­tute for pri­vate se­cu­rity guards, who ac­count for large chunks of com­pa­nies’ costs but are of­ten an im­po­tent so­lu­tion.

“The pri­vate sec­tor is spend­ing huge amounts of money on the em­ploy­ment of guards and on se­cu­rity. Com­pa­nies could use that money to cre­ate other jobs — rather than spend­ing R200,000/month on se­cu­rity, they could em­ploy more staff.”

By ap­ply­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to its grow­ing data­base of im­ages, the com­pany can au­to­mat­i­cally no­tify a shop­ping cen­tre when, for in­stance, a recog­nised crim­i­nal is shown on a video screen en­ter­ing the premises.

The re­tail sec­tor is a prime tar­get mar­ket, as crime syn­di­cates tend to hop from mall to mall across the coun­try, says Glaeser.

Axxon­soft has run a fa­cial recog­ni­tion pilot programme from a fa­cil­ity in the Kwazulu Natal Mid­lands that mon­i­tors 3,500 cam­eras across SA, some of which are in SA’S larger shop­ping malls.

In part­ner­ship with a Jse-listed com­pany whose name Glaeser says she is not at lib­erty to dis­close, the firm is mov­ing its “in­ci­dent man­age­ment cen­tre” to a full-scale fa­cil­ity in Cen­tu­rion.

It will mon­i­tor about 60,000 cam­eras that iden­tify faces and num­ber plates, she says. “Axxon­soft has im­ple­mented more than 150 ‘safe city’ projects glob­ally, and this is a pri­vate-sec­tor repli­ca­tion of that model.”

Glaeser says that while fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy is used mainly to curb crime, fit­ness chains and other pri­vate sec­tor op­er­a­tors are in­ter­ested in us­ing it for ac­cess-con­trol pur­poses.

Axxon­soft ap­plies its soft­ware to ex­ist­ing CCTV cam­eras that are pro­vided by Huawei, Sam­sung, Bosch, Hikvi­sion, Dahua and other tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies.

Ac­cord­ing to Gould­ing,

Huawei’s video sur­veil­lance hard­ware is also used in Kenyan cities.

The com­pany is work­ing with SA cities and gov­ern­ment de­part­ments on “safe city so­lu­tions” that en­com­pass crime, cri­sis and dis­as­ter man­age­ment, Gould­ing says.

Mean­while, Glaeser says Axxon­soft has also de­vel­oped soft­ware to re­duce theft in the re­tail sec­tor.

If se­cu­rity guards who man store­fronts and pa­trol aisles can be seen as the last line of de­fence that re­tail­ers have in their fight against sho­plift­ing, cashiers are the sec­ond last. The prob­lem, says Glaeser, is that this safety net is por­ous: re­tail-

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