Which job is AI going to eat next? Step forward, CCTV operators

NEC touts machine-learning system that can spot 'suspicious behavior'

NEC Corporation, one of Japan’s biggest IT providers, says it has built an AI that can rapidly search CCTV footage and spot a specific person out of a million or more faces.

The application – snappily titled NeoFace Image data mining – can find wanted criminals, missing kids, and so on, all from video surveillance. We're told "when searching video where roughly one million individual instances of facial data appear, the software is capable of conducting searches within approximately 10 seconds."

In other words, you can feed 24 hours of CCTV into NeoFace, and it could identify, say, a million faces in the video frames. Then when you need to find a sought-after person, the software will take just seconds to scan the database and locate them. NeoFace can also comb multiple video sources.

The code can identify when a particular individual appears at a given time and place, or if they're seen with others, according to NEC. This is supposed to help crimefighters investigate crimes or store owners spot specific customers and so on.

The classification system works by using a “tree-shaped data management structure” to rank camera-captured faces by similarity. Over time, as more footage is analyzed, an installation of the system should get better at identifying people and objects. As it adds these images to its database and improves itself through training, its operators will be able to search for faces in near real-time, we're told.

Yuichi Nakamura, general manager at NEC’s Green Platform Research Laboratories, said the technology allows computers to identify suspicious behavior: "This technology can help to prevent crime and speed up criminal investigations by detecting unauthorized people who appear frequently near restricted areas.”

China is getting in on the action too. Last week, Hikvision, a Chinese partially-state-owned surveillance company, announced a partnership with Movidiussoon to be acquired by Intel – on AI CCTV software.

Movidius specializes in machine vision and have been working on using AI for autonomous vehicles, drones and virtual reality headsets.

Its Myriad 2 Vision Processing Unit uses deep neural networks and a set of algorithms that scan footage to “detect anomalies such as suspicious packages, drivers distracted by mobile devices, and intruders trying to access secure locations.”

Hikivision’s cameras report up to 99 per cent accuracy for visual recognition. Hu Yangzhong, Hikivision’s CEO, said: “There are huge amounts of gains to be made when it comes to neural networks and intelligent camera systems.”

Huge amounts of gains – and also huge amounts of concern over privacy and policy. No one wants to be accused of wrongdoing by a computer just because they were seen near a known criminal, for example. ®

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