New facial recognition can recognize faces BEHIND coronavirus masks

Chinese firm develops first facial recognition system that recognizes faces BEHIND coronavirus masks

  • ‘If connected to a temperature sensor, it measure body temperature while identifying the person’s name and then the system would process the results
  • The system was trained with a database of about 6 million unmasked faces
  • It can identify everyone in a crowd of up to 30 people ‘within a second’ 
  • It can identify people with 95% accuracy while wearing a mask – 99% without 

A Chinese company says it has developed the country’s 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.

China employs some of the world’s most sophisticated systems of electronic surveillance, including facial recognition.

But the coronavirus, which emerged in Hubei province late last year, has resulted in almost everyone wearing a surgical mask outdoors in the hope of warding off the virus – posing a particular problem for surveillance.

Now Hanwang Technology Ltd, which also goes by the English name Hanvon, said it has come up technology that can successfully recognize people even when they are wearing masks.

A Chinese company says it has developed the country’s 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

Researchers have been working on expanding facial recognition’s capabilities for several years, making it possible to identify people in glasses, wearing makeup, and with facial hair.

But the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, which has now spread around the world and is thought by medical experts to be on the brink of a pandemic, has accelerated the technology’s roll-out.

‘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,’ Hanwang Vice President Huang Lei told Reuters in an interview.

The Beijing-based firm 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

Hanwang Technology Ltd, which also goes by the English name Hanvon, said it has come up technology that can successfully recognize people even when they are wearing masks

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

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’.

It can identify everyone in a crowd of up to 30 people ‘within a second’, Huang says.

‘When wearing a mask, the recognition rate can reach about 95%, which can ensure that most people can be identified,’ Huang said, adding the success rate for people without mask is about 99.5%.

A big customer, not surprisingly, 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 said.

‘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.

The Beijing-based firm 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

When wearing a mask, the recognition rate can reach about 95%, which can ensure that most people can be identified,’ Huang said, adding the success rate for people without mask is about 99.5%

It is not immediately clear how Chinese citizens are reacting to this new technology.

When it comes to other surveillance tools being used in the fight against the coronavirus, there has been some grumbling on social media but most people seem to be accepting extra intrusion, or even embracing it, as a means to deal with the health emergency.

Although domestic customers have been driving Hanwang’s business, Huang also said he expected more foreign interest, as the virus spreads around the world and more people wear face masks.

‘It not only benefits Chinese people, but also, when the technology is applied globally, it can benefit the world,’ he said. 

Last month, SenseTime revealed it improved its facial recognition technology to identify people wearing masks as well.

Instead of relying on having to see a person’s mouth, the system is able to learn a person’s identify from just their eyes and upper nose region of their face.

These include thermal imaging cameras to identify people with a fever, a key indicator of coronavirus.

SenseTime told Quartz this was currently live in three public locations.

It has now also added the mask-proof algorithm to tighten its vice-like grip on the personal privacy of civilians.

HOW DOES FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY WORK?

Facial recognition software works by matching real time images to a previous photograph of a person. 

Each face has approximately 80 unique nodal points across the eyes, nose, cheeks and mouth which distinguish one person from another. 

A digital video camera measures the distance between various points on the human face, such as the width of the nose, depth of the eye sockets, distance between the eyes and shape of the jawline.

A different smart surveillance system (pictured) can scan 2 billion faces within seconds has been revealed in China. The system connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to pick out targets. The military is working on applying a similar version of this with AI to track people across the country 

This produces a unique numerical code that can then be linked with a matching code gleaned from a previous photograph.

A facial recognition system used by officials in China connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to pick out targets.

Experts believe that facial recognition technology will soon overtake fingerprint technology as the most effective way to identify people. 

 

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