Georgia To Roll Out Tens Of Thousands Of CCTV Cameras With Real-Time Facial Recognition Capabilities
from the are-you-a-sheep-or-a-goat? dept
Surveillance using CCTV cameras is old hat these days, even for locations outside the world’s CCTV capital, London. But there’s an important step-change taking place in the sector, as operators move from simply observing and recording, to analyzing video feeds automatically using facial recognition software. Techdirt has written about this area a few times, but these examples have all been fairly small-scale and exploratory. News from Georgia — the one in the Caucasus, not the State — shows that things are moving fast in this field:
NEC Corporation today announced that it has provided an advanced surveillance system for cities utilizing facial recognition to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, in cooperation with Capital Systems LLC, a leading system developer. The system began operation in June of this year, and works in combination with 400 CCTV surveillance cameras installed in Georgia’s major cities, including the capital, Tbilisi.
The system utilizes NeoFace Watch, NEC’s real-time facial recognition software for video, featuring the world’s highest recognition precision. It checks images captured by CCTV cameras against pictures of suspects and others registered in a watch list, making it possible to identify figures rapidly and accurately.
This system was introduced as part of Georgia’s “Safe City, Safe Region, Safe Country” program aiming to improve public safety. Georgia also plans to install tens of thousands of additional cameras nationwide in the future.
It’s not clear whether those tens of thousands of CCTV systems will all be equipped with real-time facial recognition, or only some of them. But even the immediate roll out of facial recognition to 400 CCTV cameras is substantial, especially for a country with fewer than four million inhabitants. It’s hard not to see this as a test-bed for other, much bigger countries, which will doubtless be watching Georgia’s experience with interest. Some have already started their own trials: ZDNet reports that at least two of Australia’s police forces — the Northern Territory Police and South Australia Police — have 100s of CCTV cameras with real-time facial recognition features. There’s also a small-scale trial employing vehicle-mounted cameras with similar capabilities being conducted by UK police in Wales. All of the examples mentioned here use the NeoFace Watch system from NEC, which the company claims is able to process multiple camera feeds, and to extract and match thousands of faces per minute.
NEC also emphasizes that its product is “suitable for the detection of both undesirables and VIPs.” That’s an important point. CCTV systems are currently fairly egalitarian, spying on and recording everyone equally. But the addition of facial recognition allows a crowd’s sheep and goats to be distinguished, and then dealt with appropriately. While beefy security guards preemptively — and discreetly — remove the “undesirables” who might lower the tone of a venue, exquisite hospitality experts can meet and greet the VIPs as they approach. One of the unexpected results of adding facial recognition to CCTV is that it brings out the “servile” in “surveillance”.