Facing the future


At the beginning of this year few people would have associated a prominent Hong Kong pop star with advances in facial recognition technology. However, as we pointed out in WiC410, that all changed when Jacky Cheung’s concerts led to the arrest of three fugitives in three separate cities in China. The criminals were fans of the aging crooner, but got nabbed by police when cameras at his concerts matched their faces with a database of wanted men.

It was a sign of how far the country’s adoption of facial recognition software had progressed. And according to the South China Morning Post, the advances continue at Beijing’s second airport, where passengers’ faces will be scanned to ease bottlenecks at security and immigration counters.

The $12 billion airport will serve the capital, as well as the new administrative city of Xiongan, handling as many as 100 million passengers a year.­­ Passengers will be matched against a national database to speed identity verification and the SCMP says that Sensetime (the three year-old Alibaba-invested AI firm; see WiC405) is one of those hoping to win the airport contract.

Already worth around $4.5 billion, Sensetime has installed its face recognition software at airports in Chengdu and Haikou and at 30 train stations across China. Shanghai-based Yitu is also reported to be bidding for the contract.

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