“Hanvon says its biometric technology can identify everyone in a crowd of up to 30 people within one second.”
As the impact of COVID-19 continues to have ripple effects in China, a domestic AI specialist has launched a new biometric facial recognition system tailored to identify people even when they’re wearing face masks.
As Reuters reports, Hanvon – officially known as Hanwang Technology Ltd. – began developing its technology in January as the novel coronavirus was beginning to spread. The company claims that its facial recognition system can achieve an accuracy rate of 95 percent when used on people wearing masks, and 99.5 percent for the unmasked. What’s more, it can be connected to a temperature sensor to assess whether subjects have a fever, and therefore may be infected with COVID-19, while also identifying the individuals.
That echoes similar efforts that have begun to emerge elsewhere in the world, and suggests that Hanvon’s aim is to help authorities mitigate the spread of COVID-19. But the company is also very interested in being another tech supplier in China’s broader apparatus of state surveillance, in which the use of facial recognition is already extensive. One of Hanvon’s major customers is the Ministry of Public Security, which is responsible for police forces.
Hanvon says its biometric technology can identify everyone in a crowd of up to 30 people within one second. And it says that it already has about 200 client in Beijing, and expects to get many more across 20 provinces in the near future. The company is also hoping to attract business from foreign markets.
While China’s prolific use of facial recognition to surveil its population has prompted outcries from Human Rights Watch and other organizations and governments concerned about abuses – government efforts to police the country’s Uighur Muslim minority have been particularly oppressive – its application of the technology to containing the coronavirus outbreak is likely to further reinforce government authorities interest in biometric surveillance technologies.
March 9, 2020 – by Alex Perala