How facial recognition is transforming holiday travel in China
Police and transport services scan faces to track citizens
Managing the Lunar New Year travel rush in China, described as the world’s largest annual human migration, is not an easy task. This year, authorities are getting help -- from face-scanning machines and surveillance sunglasses.
Facial recognition is taking off quickly in China. Companies are investing heavily in ways to track people in a country where surveillance is a way of life. Tencent’s new campus has a security system built by its own AI lab, and staff have to scan their faces to enter the premise. Part of it is that unlike the United States, personal privacy is a fairly recent concept in China.
At a railway station in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, the South China Morning Post says police are equipped with smart glasses to locate faces matching their criminal database. Officials told local media several human trafficking suspects and hit-and-run fugitives have already been caught.
But the technology is not limited to criminals. Law-abiding citizens are making use of face recognition to speed up check-ins at airports and train stations. In the northwest city of Lanzhou, flight passengers no longer have to worry about losing their boarding passes or passports because their faces act as travel documents.
Right now, it’s not that fast: It’s said the airport’s system takes at most 10 seconds to read a face. A train station in the southern island Hainan says it’s faster, taking three seconds. That might seem slow to people used to facial recognition on the iPhone X, but remember that Face ID only needs to learn one face -- while these systems need to find a match among millions of people.