China’s extensive biometric surveillance apparatus is poised to expand even further through the efforts of a major cell tower company: China Tower has established a new subsidiary called Smart Tower that is aimed at offering video surveillance services.
As Light Reading reports, China Tower is jointly owned by China’s three major telecoms, and has 1.9 million sites across the country. It established Smart Tower in June with registered capital of about $130 million, and has been pitching its capabilities in leveraging cell tower sites for security services such as forest fire and earthquake monitoring, and tracking human and vehicle traffic.
Its expansion into biometric surveillance is being facilitated by a new partnership with Sensetime, a China-based facial recognition specialist that has established itself as one of the world’s biggest AI startups.
It isn’t yet clear exactly how Smart Tower will deploy SenseTime’s face scanning technology, but the potential for large-scale surveillance enabled by China Tower’s massive cell tower network and SenseTime’s biometric technology seems clear. What’s more, this partnership is taking shape in a fairly unique cultural and regulatory landscape, with China’s government already supporting a massive state surveillance apparatus that has not faced threatening challenges from the kinds of privacy and civil rights groups that have been mobilized against facial recognition in the US and other Western countries.
Biometric surveillance is not all that Smart Tower is doing; the company is also offering power backup and battery exchange services based on its experience in powering cellular base stations. To some extent, this illustrates that China Tower’s interest here is really in monetizing the technologies and infrastructure already at its disposal, rather than pivoting into biometric security as a new core business. Sensetime, as a bone fide biometric surveillance specialist, will likely prove indispensable in that effort.
Source: Light Reading
October 1, 2019 – by Alex Perala