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Police use facial recognition technology to detect wanted criminals during beer festival in Chinese city of Qingdao

Chinese state media outlet, China Daily, reported that the local police bureau in the city of Qingdao in Shandong province of China, used facial recognition to detect and detain wanted criminals at the Qingdao International Beer Festival.  

Eighteen high-definition cameras were installed at four entrances to the beer festival, which ran from August 4 to August 27. The system is designed to sound an alarm if 85 per cent of a subject's face matches an image in the police database. Further inquiries are then made by police officers.

The system can find matches and identify suspects in less than a second as they pass by the cameras.

Over 50,000 people entered the beer festival venue every day, with 100,000 on peak days. But the crowd usually moves slowly through security checkpoints, guaranteeing high-quality facial images.

The police had also stationed six officers near each entrance, to be responsible for the image matching and follow-up queries, as well as to prevent suspects from sneaking in.

During the event, the system captured and analysed 2.3 million facial images. About 190 of them were flagged to police, who confirmed that 25 were wanted criminals.

In addition, with the help of the facial recognition technology, the police turned away 19 drug addicts, caught five would-be pickpockets (suspects with past police records whose photos were on file) and ejected 32 others.

The police had worked with the technology company to optimise the system. Wang Jianshun, director of the police branch in the Qingdao Development Zone said, "It was the first time we used the facial recognition system at such a big event. Correct matches were made 98.1 percent of the time."

Facial recognition is being adopted at a rapid pace for a range of applications by both the public and private sectors in China. It is being used by traffic management authorities in several Chinese cities across the provinces of Fujian, Jiangsu, Guangdong and Shandong to catch and publicly shame jaywalkers. The facial recognition equipment takes multiple snapshots and a 15-second video when it detects pedestrians crossing the intersection on a red light. The photographs appear on the screen immediately so the offender can see they have been caught. The photographs are then compared with the images in the provincial police department database and matches are checked by a police officer to confirm accuracy. Within 20 minutes, the offender's photograph and personal information such as their ID number and home address are displayed on the screen at the crossroad.

Thirty-two facial recognition devices have been installed in Wuhan Railway Station to speed the process of checking tickets. China Southern Airlines became the country's first carrier to use facial recognition, with the technology put into use Wednesday at Jiangying Airport in Nanyang city, Henan province. Facial recognition technology is being trialled at Beijing airport, in collaboration with Baidu, for the admission of ground crew and staff, and later verifying the identities of passengers. Beijing Normal University has installed a facial recognition security system in campus dorms. Students have to identify themselves before being granted access to residential buildings. If an intruder tries to get in, the system will trigger an alarm.

Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate of Alibaba, recently launched a facial-recognition payments technology for commercial use. With “Smile to Pay,” Alipay users can authenticate their payments through a combination of facial scanning and inputting their mobile phone numbers. It was debuted at a KFC restaurant in Hangzhou.

Facial recognition is one of the key applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. In July 2017, the State Council laid out an Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategy, with the aim of growing the country’s core AI industries over 1 trillion Yuan (USD 150 billion; a 100 times increase over the 2016 number), driving related industries to exceed more than 10 trillion Yuan by 2030.

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