Privacy advocates, brace yourselves! Japan has developed a new surveillance device that identifies faces by scanning millions of images per second.
The Hitachi Kokusai Electric has demonstrated how this new system can compare an image captured with a mobile phone or from hidden cameras or other video surveillance systems, such as 3G spy camera, with 36 million images per second, until a perfect matching of faces.
While the minimum resolution required for identification is at least 40×40 pixels, the provided software allows facial recognition even in the case faces are inclined horizontally or vertically up to 30 degrees.
The software also enables to identify faces in already registered or old videos, which means that users will see what the wanted person was doing before and after the freeze-frame.
What does this mean? That the greatest barrier of video surveillance has been exceeded. No more need to watch gruelling hours of video recorded by hidden cameras to find what you want.
The power of this system lies in the ability of its algorithm to group similar faces together, returning the results as thumbnails arranged in a grid, from which you can easily remove results considered wrong, or which do not perfectly match.
It is easy to see how the scenarios that open for its use are endless. The police, for example, could find it useful to trap criminals from old videos, or find them in the midst of large crowds. Moreover it will be easier to catch in the act a thief which has committed several burglaries in the same business and to discover very quickly how many times that person has been in that store.
The company said that the product will be available by the next fiscal year and it will be up to the company itself to ensure customers make an appropriate use. Customized to specific customer’s needs , the product shall be restricted mainly to the police, shopping centers or large companies.
This news should make anyone concerned about privacy shudder, but the fact that competing systems like this will follow requires legislators to define how the technology can be used legally, as with other surveillance systems, like license-plate recognition cameras.