Artem Oleshko/123RF

Chinese Police Testing Facial Recognition Body Cameras, Glasses

  • 11 February 2018
  • Sam Mire

China’s reputation as a state reliant on surveillance to monitor its many categorizations of crime is not going away anytime soon. In fact, with each passing day, stories of China’s near-constant monitoring of its citizens only seem to get stranger. It’s now been reported that the Chinese police are testing both sunglasses and body cameras with built-in facial recognition technology.

Local Chinese media reports confirm that police in the city of Zhengzhou are testing the facial-recognition glasses, primarily in train stations and airports. The glasses – which have been compared visually to a darker-tinted Google Glass – are linked to Chinese police databases, and use the facial recognition technology to identify wanted alleged criminals.

Though details of how the glasses work have been released, questions remain. It’s been reported that police must actively take a photograph of a ‘suspicious individual’ in order to run their face through the database, and that this process has already resulted in the apprehension of seven suspects wanted for alleged crimes, and 26 people alleged to have been using false identification.

The question is, in a city such as Zhengzhou, which is an ‘emerging megacity’ with 8.6 million residents plus hordes of tourists, how does an officer so effectively identify and photograph a ‘suspicious individual’? One would hope that civil rights parameters are being placed on the process of identity gathering, but it’s hard to imagine that such a system of presumed suspicion based upon the observation of non-criminal activity would be allowed by American courts.

It has been reported that the makers of the glasses are Beijing LLVision Technology Co., Ltd., a company for which there is little public record. The smart shades provide a police officer with an individual’s name and address if they are registered in the police database. But the facial-recognition glasses are just one of the new technologies police will be equipped with, as officers in Beijing and Tianjin will be testing body cameras that serve a similar purpose.

According to a report via the South China Morning Post, Beijing-based startup Nebula Science and Technology provided the cameras, which allow for “720-degree” panoramic footage that captures ‘aggressive’ behavior and are also connected to a police database to utilize face-recognition capability. There’s no word yet on whether these body cams automatically recognize faces and/or work in conjunction with glasses that require pictures to be taken from the officer’s perspective.

The latest iterations of tech for surveillance purposes fall in line with China’s general approach. It is a nation that is on pace to have more than 600 million CCTV cameras in operation by 2020, and routinely cracks down on VPNs while rigorously targeting individual, and especially minority, internet and telecommunications activity.

About Sam Mire

Sam is a Market Research Analyst at Disruptor Daily. He's a trained journalist with experience in the field of disruptive technology. He’s versed in the impact that blockchain technology is having on industries of today, from healthcare to cannabis. He’s written extensively on the individuals and companies shaping the future of tech, working directly with many of them to advance their vision. Sam is known for writing work that brings value to industry professionals and the generally curious – as well as an occasional smile to the face.