RealNetworks has released a new MaskCheck app to help public health officials measure mask compliance rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new app is built with SAFR’s computer vision technology, and is available for free for iOS and Android devices. It can also be integrated into municipal CCTV applications.
MaskCheck is being released in collaboration with the COVID-19 International Research Team, which is hoping to use the data generated through the app to gain a better sense of people’s behavioral responses to COVID-19. That information can then be used to predict the spread of the disease and enable more informed policy decisions. For example, public officials could impose lockdowns in places where compliance is low (and the risk of an outbreak is high), or encourage re-openings in places where people are covering their faces.
MaskCheck does not gather any personal information, nor does it store any facial images. Instead, the app simply observes people as they walk in front of the camera, and then determines whether or not they are wearing masks, and if those masks are being worn properly. If the answer is no, the app will offer a visual prompt to encourage proper usage. However, civilians do not need to interact with the app in any way.
The data from any devices running the app is aggregated on the back-end, and will be used to generate a map of mask activity in real time. The data is fully anonymous, but will be classified based on the geographic location, the type of facility, and certain non-identifying demographic details. The map itself will be accessible to the public under a free creative commons license, and can be viewed by anyone with the appropriate API. That means that people will know where masks are being worn, and can avoid establishments where they will be unsafe.
RealNetworks is hoping that the app will address a major information shortfall during the pandemic. The company noted that much of the current mask data is self-reported, and is therefore prone to bias, inaccuracy, and latency that limits its utility in policy discussions.
The app is being offered for free to boost adoption rates and improve the quality of the data. MaskCheck has already been deployed at two Seattle-area schools and at a retail establishment in Washington, D.C., though RealNetworks indicated that multiple state agencies have expressed interest in the solution. The app can be installed at virtually any public or private venue with a large volume of foot traffic.
SAFR is a RealNetworks subsidiary. The company added mask detection capabilities to its facial recognition platform in October, and has since integrated the technology into access control systems from Setelsa Security and EPM.
December 17, 2020 – by Eric Weiss