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China's bullet trains to get face-invading cameras

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Chinese police will soon be able to use face recognition technology to catch crims, with cameras to be installed at several stations on the Beijing to Shanghai high speed railway.

The technology, which was used widely at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, will be installed at Shanghai Hongqiao station, Tianjin West and Jinan West, according to Shanghai Daily.

"The quick identification system will enable the police to recognise faces via surveillance cameras and comb criminal databases on computers for the final match," the paper quotes unnamed ‘authorities’ as saying.

According to the reports, the fixed cameras can spot the faces of evil-doers even when they are on the move and can also see through cosmetic surgery procedures which some criminals use to avoid detection.

China’s high speed rail network also compels travellers to show ID when buying tickets, in a system kick-started last year to clamp down on train ticket touts but which also reportedly helped cops nab over 300 fugitives in the Chinese New Year period alone.

Facial recognition has become pretty popular in the People’s Republic, being used not only to identify visitors to stadiums during the Beijing Olympics but also in use cases as diverse as college entrance exams, airports and hospitals.

Companies will be invited to bid for the project from later this week, but any western firms hoping to profit from China’s paranoid predilection for snooping on its citizens may be disappointed.

A China Daily report last month quoted government officials as arguing that the country’s reliance on foreign firms for surveillance technology could threaten China’s national security.

It also cites Frost and Sullivan research claiming that 80 per cent of the nation’s video snooping kit comes from foreign providers such as Cisco, Samsung and Sony.

It would seem inevitable that, just as in virtually every other sphere of technology and engineering, China will create its own standards and products once it has the requisite know-how. ®

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