Chinese Police Use Facial Recognition Glasses to Track Suspects

The Chinese police have included glasses fitted with facial recognition technology to add to their growing arsenal of surveillance devices. The facial recognition solution shall be connected to a database of 10,000 suspects wanted in connection with serious crimes and help the police identify them from a crowd of millions of people that gather at train stations and airports as part of upcoming new year celebrations.

The Chinese official media agency, People’s Daily, are publicising the surveillance spectacles as a key tool that would aid authorities during massive public events. The facial recognition technology that the eyeglass-mounted camera is equipped with, is quite effective in screening of crowds and can even detect fugitives that are traveling under different masquerades.

The great advantage with this technology is that it provides an effective alternative to blurry images provided by CCTV cameras, as the scanned image is connected directly to a database of criminals hosted on central server. LLVision, the company that has manufactured these devices, claims that they’ve been able to identify suspects by verifying them against a database of 10,000 suspects in as less as 10 msecs. This is quite fast as compared to the fast-camera systems installed currently across public places. In the initial success, reported after the deployment of these devices, police at Zhengzhou’s East Railway Station was able to nab seven suspects and 26 people that were traveling using forged identities.

Borrowing other people’s identities for travel has been long-standing problem with authorities trying to use new and innovative technology tools to get around such offenders. William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, told People’s Daily that the new surveillance tool would also provide Chinese authorities the ability to track political dissidents and to profile ethnic minorities.

The glasses are based on wearable video cameras and actually don’t have facial recognition capability themselves. That non-facial recognition model, which sells for 3,999 yuan ($636), is sold to businesses and consumers. Then there’s the surveillance model, or, as the company says, the model that can be used for “identification purposes”. LLVision can’t provide a price for that model, Wu said, given that they’re part of larger, custom-designed systems that vary in cost.