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New face ID system from China

Coolltech | February 21 2006

A biometric face recognition system has been approved in China and will be used in the country for ID purposes, which includes surveillance and security.

Inventor Su Guangda, an electronics professor at Beijing's Tsinghua University, says his system reduces the chances of mismatching identities by using multi-camera technology. Its other strong point, reports 'China Daily' is the ability to capture moving facial images accurately.

The system, approved by the Ministry of Public Security, is expected to be used at airports, customs entrances, banks, post offices, residential areas and other public places in the near future.

"It has a very promising future for the public use," said Su Guangda.

"It has a superior advantage compared with fingerprint identification because the country doesn't have a fingerprint database for the general public," he said.

However, the country's ID cards do feature the person's photograph, which could facilitate the creation of a facial database, said Su Guangda.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, facial recognition — automatically detecting and identifying human faces — has become a talking point.

Systems are currently in use in some countries, including China where it is limited to police use, to find missing children and criminal suspects in cases ranging from child abduction to supermarket blackmail.

Extracting the human face from its surroundings, the system measures such distinguishing features as the shape of the cheekbones and distance between the eyes. These so-called nodal points are then compared to those obtained from a picture database, until a match is found.

It is prone to error, though, if the facial features are altered (for example by lighting, camera angles, expressions or ageing). Other problems could occur if the picture's too vague, while the margin of error is likely to increase as the picture database grows.

The angle problem has been tackled by the use of several cameras, although Su Guangda is working on ironing out the other problems.

He is also facing concerns from those who consider the technology a threat to privacy.

"As long as you don't save the picture in the computer and just scan individual faces quickly, the privacy violation is not an issue," Su countered.

"And we could realise that by avoiding adding a picture saving function to the technology," he added.

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