Police in China will use AI face recognition to identify ‘lost’ elderly

china lost elderly facial recognition face ai artificial intelligence surveillance chinese

Ryan is a senior editor at TechForge Media with over a decade of experience covering the latest technology and interviewing leading industry figures. He can often be sighted at tech conferences with a strong coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other. If it's geeky, he’s probably into it. Find him on Twitter (@Gadget_Ry) or Mastodon (@gadgetry@techhub.social)

Chinese police hope to use AI-powered facial recognition, in combination with the nation’s mass surveillance network, to identify lost elderly people.

The country’s surveillance network is often scrutinised for being invasive, but the ability to detect potentially vulnerable people helps to shift the perception that it primarily benefits the government.

Public data suggests around 500,000 elderly people get lost each year, the equivalent of around 1,370 per day. About 72 percent of the missing persons were reported mentally challenged, requiring extra policing effort to identify them and ensure they get home safe.

China is home to many pioneering facial recognition companies. SenseTime became the world’s most funded AI startup in April last year, and launched another $2 billion funding round in January.

Part of the attraction for investors in SenseTime is due to providing technology for the Chinese government’s vast surveillance network. SenseTime’s so-called Viper system aims to process and analyse over 100,000 simultaneous real-time streams from traffic cameras, ATMs, and more to automatically tag and keep track of individuals.

SenseTime claims to have experienced around 400 percent growth in recent years, evidence of the appetite for facial recognition technology.

Despite being such a major player in facial recognition technology, SenseTime CEO Xu Li has called for facial recognition standards to be established for a ‘healthier’ industry.

Public distrust in facial recognition systems remains high. Earlier this year, AI News reported on the findings of the American Civil Liberties Union which found Amazon’s facial recognition AI erroneously labelled those with darker skin colours as criminals more often when matching against mugshots.

A later report from the Algorithmic Justice League tested facial recognition algorithms from Microsoft, Face++, and IBM. All of the algorithms tested struggled most with darker-skinned females, with as low as just 65.3 percent accuracy.

Following the findings, IBM said it would improve its algorithm. When reassessed, IBM’s accuracy for darken-skinned females jumped from 65.3 percent to 83.5 percent.

Algorithmic Justice League founder Joy Buolamwini said: “So for everybody who watched my TED Talk and said: ‘Isn’t the reason you weren’t detected because of, you know, physics? Your skin reflectance, contrast, et cetera,’ — the laws of physics did not change between December 2017, when I did the study, and 2018, when they launched the new results.”

“What did change is they made it a priority.”

In June, Face++ introduced a smart city AI called Wisdom Community in the Haidian district of Beijing. Wisdom Community also helps to detect and track down elderly persons who had been reported missing.

Face++’s technology has already been assisting with missing person cases elsewhere in the country. In October last year, a man in his 70s with Alzheimer’s disease was identified at Changle Middle Road Police Station in Xincheng District, Xi’an and sent home in less than a hour.

While there are still huge concerns around facial recognition things such as accuracy and privacy invasion, the use of the technology by the Chinese police to help find vulnerable people shows a positive use case that could save lives and reunite families.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and their use cases? Attend the co-located AI & Big Data Expo events with upcoming shows in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam to learn more. Co-located with the IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo.

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